Gateway to the Classics: Charles II by Jacob Abbott
Charles II by  Jacob Abbott

The Restoration

A S the readers of a tale are generally inclined to sympathize with the hero of it, both in his joys and in his sorrows, whether he is deserving of sympathy or not, they who follow the adventures of Charles in his wanderings in England after the unfortunate battle of Worcester, feel ordinarily quite a strong sensation of pleasure at finding him at last safely landed on the French shore. Charles himself doubtless experienced at first an overwhelming emotion of exultation and joy at having thus saved himself from the desperate dangers of his condition in England. On cool reflection, however, he soon perceived that there was but little cause for rejoicing in his condition and prospects. There were dangers and sufferings enough still before him, different, it is true, from those in which he had been involved, but still very dark and threatening in character. He had now, in fact, ten years of privation, poverty, and exile before him, full of troubles from beginning to end.

The new series of troubles began to come upon him, too, very soon. When he and his companion went up to the inn, on the morning of their landing, dressed as they were in the guise of Englishmen of humble rank, and having been put ashore, too, from a vessel which immediately afterward sailed away, they were taken for English thieves, or fugitives from justice, and refused admission to the inn. They sent to some gentlemen of the neighborhood, to whom they made themselves known, so that this difficulty was removed, their urgent wants were supplied, and they were provided with the means of transportation to Paris. Of course, the mother of the fugitive monarch, yet almost a boy, was rejoiced to welcome him, but he received no very cordial welcome from any one else. Now that Charles had finally abandoned England, his adherents there gave up his cause, of course, as totally lost. The Republicans, with Cromwell at their head, established a very firm and efficient government, which the nations of the Continent soon began to find that it would be incumbent on them to respect. For any foreign court to harbor a pretender to the British crown, when there was an established government in England based on a dtermination of the people to abrogate royalty altogether, was to incur very considerable political danger. Charles soon found that, under these circumstances, he was not likely to be long a very welcome guest in the French palaces.

He remained, however, in Paris for a short time, endeavoring to find some way to retrieve his ruined fortunes. Anne Maria was still there, and he attempted to renew his suit to her. She listened to the entertaining stories which he told of his dangers and escapes in England, and for a time, as Charles thought, encouraged his attentions. In fact, at one time he really believed that the affair was all settled, and began to assume that it was so in speaking with her upon the subject. She, however, at length undeceived him, in a conversation which ended with her saying that she thought he had better go back to England, and "either get his head broken, or else have a crown upon it." The fact was, that Anne Maria was now full of a new scheme for being married to Louis XIV. himself, who, though much younger than she, had attained now to a marriageable age, and she had no intention of regarding Charles in any other light than as one of the ordinary crowd of her admirers. She finally extinguished all his hopes by coolly requesting him not to visit her so frequently.

In addition to his other sources of discomfort. Charles disagreed with his mother. She was a very decided Catholic, and he a Protestant, from policy it is true, and not principle, but he was none the less rigid and inflexible on that account. He and his mother disagreed in respect to the education of the younger children. They were both restricted in their means, too, and subject to a thousand mortifications from this cause, in the proud and haughty circle in which they moved. Finally, the king decided to leave Paris altogether, and try to find a more comfortable refuge in Holland.

His sister and her husband, the Prince of Orange, had always treated him, as well as all the rest of the family, with great kindness and attention; but now, to complete the catalogue of his disasters, the Prince of Orange died, the power of the government passed into other hands, and Mary found herself deprived of influence and honor, and reduced all at once to a private station. She would have been glad to continue her protection to her brother, but the new government feared the power of Cromwell. Cromwell sent word to them that England would consider their harboring of the fugitive as tantamount to a declaration of war; so they notified Charles that he must leave their dominions, and find, if he could, some other place of retreat. He went up the Rhine to the city of Cologne, where it is said he found a widow woman, who received him as a lodger without pay, trusting to his promise to recompense her at some future time. There is generally little risk in giving credit to European monarchs, expelled by the temporary triumph of Republicanism from their native realms. They are generally pretty certain of being sooner or later restored to their thrones.

At any rate, Charles was restored, and his restoration was effected in a manner wholly unexpected to all mankind. In order that the circumstances may be clearly understood, the reader must recall it to mind that Charles the First had been deposed and beheaded by the action of a Parliament, and that this Parliament was, of course, at his death the depository of sovereign power in England. In a short time, however, the army, with Cromwell at its head, became too strong for the Parliament. Cromwell assumed the supreme power under the name of the Protector. He dissolved Parliament, and expelled the members from their seats. He governed the country as protector for many years, and when at length he died, his son Richard Cromwell attempted to take his place. Richard did not, however, possess the talent and energy of his father, and he soon found himself totally inadequate to manage the affairs of government in such stormy times. He was deposed, and the old Parliament which Cromwell had broken up was restored.

There followed, then, a new contest between the Parliament and the army, with an officer named Lambert at the head of the latter. The army proved the strongest. Lambert stationed guards in the streets leading to the Parliament House one day when the members were about to assemble, and turned the members all back as they came. When the speaker arrived in his carriage, he ordered his soldiers to take hold of the horses' heads and turn them round, and lead them home again. Thus there was no actual outward violence, but the members of Parliament were intimidated, and gave up the attempt to exercise their power, though they still reserved their claim, and their party was busy all over the kingdom in attempting to restore them to their functions. In the mean time, the army appointed a sort of council, which they invested with supreme authority.

It does not come within the scope and design of this volume to give a full account of the state of public affairs during the interregnum between the death of Charles I. and the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II., nor of the points of controversy at issue among the various parties formed. The reader, however, must not suppose that, during this period, there was at any time what could, with any propriety, be called a republic. A true republic exists only where the questions of government are fairly and honorably submitted to the whole population, with a universal disposition to acquiesce peaceably in the decision of the majority, when that is ascertained. There probably has never been any such state of things as this in any country of Europe since the Christian era. There certainly was no such state of things in England in the time of the Commonwealth. There were a great many persons who wished to have it so, and who called themselves Republicans; but their plan, if that were indeed their plan, was never tried. Very likely it was not practicable to try it. At any rate, it certainly was not tried. The sovereignty taken from the Stuart dynasty in the person of Charles I. was never vested in the people at large. It was seized forcibly by the various powers already existing in the state, as they found themselves, one after another, able to seize it. The Parliament took it from Charles. The army took it from Parliament. Then Oliver Cromwell took it from the army. He found himself strong enough to hold it as long as he lived, and when he died he delivered it to his son Richard. Richard could not hold it. The Parliament rose to a sort of supplementary existence, and took it from Richard, and then the army took it from Parliament again. Finally, General Monk appeared upon the stage in Scotland, as we shall presently see, marched down through England, and, with the help of thousands and thousands who were tired of these endless changes, took it from the army and restored it once more to the Parliament, on condition of their placing it back again in the hands of the king. Thus there was no republic at all, from beginning to end.

Nor is it at all certain that there ought to have been. The difficulties of really, truly, and honestly laying the national sovereignty in the hands of the whole population of such a realm as England, and of so organizing the population that its decisions shall actually control the legislation of the country and the public administration of its affairs, are all but insuperable. The English people found the tyranny and oppression of royalty intolerable. They arose and set royalty aside. It devolved, then, on the next strongest power in the state to assume the authority thus divested; this was the Parliament, who governed, just as the king had done, by the exercise of their own superior power, keeping the mass of the community just where they were before. It is true that many individuals of very low rank rose to positions of great power; but they represented only a party, and the power they wielded was monarchical power usurped, not Republican power fairly conferred upon them. Thus, though in the time of the Commonwealth there were plenty of Republicans, there was never a republic. It has always been so in all European revolutions. In America, Legislatures and executive officers of state are only agents, through whom the great population itself quietly executes its will, the two millions of votes in the great elections being the real power by which every thing is controlled. But Cromwell, Napoleon, Lamartine, Cavaignac, and all the others, whatever formalities of voting may have attended their induction into office, have always really held their power by force of bayonets, not of ballots. There is great danger that it will continue so in Europe for a long time to come.

But to return. It was in 1659 when the army, with Lambert at its head, expelled the Parliament. All England was now divided into parties, some for the Parliament, some for the army, some for the king. There was a distinguished general in Scotland at this time named Monk. He had been left there by Cromwell in command of the military forces in that country. He was a man considerably advanced in life, and of great circumspection, prudence, and steadiness of character. All parties wished to gain his influence, but he kept his own counsel, and declared openly for neither.

He, however, began to get together his forces, and to make preparations to march into England. People asked him what he intended to do, but he would give no definite answer. He was six weeks getting ready for his expedition, during which time many deputations were sent to him from the various parties, making different propositions to him, each party being eager to obtain his adhesion to their cause. He received all their deputations, heard what they had to say, made no definite reply to any of them, but went on quietly with his work. He got the various divisions of his army at length together, made provisional arrangements for the government of Scotland during his absence, and set out on his march.

He entered England in January, 1660, and advanced toward London. The English army was scattered all over the kingdom; but Monk opened negotiations with the leaders of it, and also with the members of Parliament, and, without committing himself absolutely to either party, he managed to have the Parliament restored. They assembled peaceably in London, and resumed their functions. A part of the English army was there for their protection. Monk, as he approached London, sent word to Parliament asking that quarters might be provided for him and his army there. Parliament, desirous of conciliating him and securing his co-operation in sustaining their power, acceded to this request. The other troops were removed; Monk entered London in triumph, and took possession of all the strong holds there, holding them nominally under Parliamentary authority.

Monk still kept his ultimate designs profoundly secret. No party very strongly opposed him, for no party knew whether to regard him as an enemy or a friend. The Royalists, however, all over the kingdom, took new courage, and a general expectation began to pervade the minds of men that the monarchy was to be restored. The Parliament rescinded the votes which had been most decisive against the house of Stuart and monarchical rule. The most prominent Republicans were dismissed from office under various pretexts, and men known to be loyal were appointed in their place. Finally, the Parliament itself was dissolved, and writs were issued for the election of a new one, more in accordance with the ancient forms.

When at length this new Parliament assembled, the public mind was in a great fever of excitement, there being a vague expectation every where that the monarchy was to be restored, while yet the Restoration was openly spoken of by no one. The first votes which were taken in the House of Commons indicated a very favorable state of feeling toward monarchy; and at length, a few days after the opening of the session, it was announced that there was a messenger at the door with a communication from the king. The announcement was received with the wildest acclamations of joy. The messenger was immediately ordered to enter. The communication was read, the vast assembly listening with breathless attention.

It contained, in the first place, a letter, in which the king stated that, having heard that the people of England had restored the Parliament according to the ancient forms, he hoped that now the Parliament would go on and complete the good work which had been begun, and heal the distractions of the kingdom by reinstating him as sovereign in the ancient rights and prerogatives of the crown.

The second part of the king's communication, and by far the most important part, was what was called his Declaration, a document in which he announced formally what his intentions were in case he were restored to the throne. One of these assurances was, that he was ready to forgive and forget the past, so far as he might himself be supposed to have cause of complaint against any of his subjects for the part they had taken in the late transactions. He professed his readiness to grant a free pardon to all, excepting those who should be expressly excluded from such pardon by the Parliament itself.

The Declaration also set forth that, inasmuch as there was prevailing throughout the country a great diversity of religious opinion, the king, if restored to his throne, whatever his own religious views or those of his government might be, would agree that his subjects should be allowed full liberty of conscience in all respects, and that nobody should be molested in any way on account of his religious faith or usages of worship.

And, finally, the Declaration contained a covenant on the part of the king, that whereas there had been great changes of property, arising from fines and confiscations for political offenses during the period of the Revolution, he would not himself disturb the existing titles to property, but would leave them to be settled on such principles and in such a way as Parliament should direct.

The letter from the king, and especially the Declaration, gave the utmost satisfaction. The latter disarmed those who would otherwise have opposed the return of the king, by quieting their fears of being disturbed in respect to their liberty or their property. Immediately after these papers were read, they were ordered to be published, and were sent every where throughout the kingdom, awakening, wherever they went the greatest demonstrations of joy. The Parliament passed a vote that the ancient Constitution of the kingdom, of government by king, Lords, and Commons, ought to be restored, and they went forth in a body into the public places of the city to proclaim Charles II. king.

Parliament voted immediately a grant of fifty thousand pounds, a sum equal to more than two hundred thousand dollars, for the king's immediate use, with large sums besides for the other members of the family, and sent a committee of noblemen to Holland to carry the money and to invite the king back to his dominions. As soon as tidings of these events reached the Continent, every body hastened to pay their court to his majesty. From being neglected, destitute, and wretched, he suddenly found himself elevated to the highest pinnacle of prosperity and fame. Every body offered him their aid; his court was thronged, and all were ready to do him honor. The princely mother of one of the young ladies who had rejected the offer of his hand in the day of his adversity, sent him an intimation that the offer would be accepted if he would renew it now.

A fleet crossed the Channel to receive the king and convey him to London. His brother James, the Duke of York, was placed in command of it as Lord High Admiral of England. The fleet sailed for Dover. General Monk went to Dover to receive the king at his landing. He escorted him to London, where the monarch, returning from his long exile, arrived on the twenty-ninth of May, the very day when he became thirty years of age.


Charles the Second.

General Monk, whose talent, skill, and consummate management had been the means of effecting this great change without violence or bloodshed, was rewarded by being made Duke of Albermarle. This was a very great reward. In fact, no American imagination can conceive of the images of glory and grandeur which are connected in the mind of an Englishman with the idea of being made a duke. A duke lives in a palace; he is surrounded by a court; he expends princely revenues; he reigns, in fact, often, so far as the pomp and pleasure of reigning are concerned, over quite a little kingdom, and is looked up to by the millions beneath his grade with a reverence as great, at least, as that with which the ancients looked up to their gods. He is deprived of nothing which pertains to power but the mere toil, and care, and responsibility of ruling, so that he has all the sweetness and fragrance of sovereignty without its thorns. In a word, the seat of an English duke, so far as earthly greatness and glory are concerned, is undoubtedly the finest which ambition, wealth, and power combined have ever succeeded in carving out for man. It is infinitely better than a throne.

Some historians maintain that Monk acted on a secret understanding with Charles from the commencement; that the general was to restore the king, and was then to receive a dukedom for his reward. Others say that he acted from a simple sense of duty in all that he did, and that the lofty elevation to which he was raised was a very natural and suitable testimonial of the royal gratitude. The reader will embrace the one or the other of the two theories, according to the degree of readiness or of reluctance with which he believes in the existence of conscientious principles of patriotism and loyalty among the great men who rule the world.

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