Item of the Day: Hume’s History of England (1757)

Full Title:  The History of Great Britain.  Vol. II. Containing the Commonwealth, and the Reigns of Charles II. and James II. By David Hume, Esq; London: Printed for A. Millar, opposite Catharine-Street, in the Strand.  M.DCC.LVII.

Chap. VI.

17th of November. 1680.

One of the most innocent artifices, practiced by party-men at this time, was the additional ceremony, pomp, and expence, with which a pope-burning was celebrated in London: This spectacle served to entertain, and amuse, and enflame the populace. The duke of Monmouth likewise came over without leave, and made a triumphant procession thro’ many parts of the kingdom, extremely caressed and admired by the people.  All these arts seemed requisite to support the general prejudices, during the long interval of Parliament.  Great endeavors were also used to obtain the King [Charles II]’s consent for the meeting of that assembly.  Seventeen peers presented a petition to that purpose.  Many of the corporations imitated this example. Notwithstanding several marks of displeasure, and even a menacing proclamation from the King, petitions came from all parts, earnestly insisting on a session of Parliament.  The danger of popery, the terrors of the plot, were never forgot in any of these addresses.

Tumultuous petitioning was one of the chief artifices, by which the malecontents in the last reign had attacked the Crown: And tho’ the manner of subscribing and delivering petitions was now somewhat limited by act of Parliament, the thing itself still remained; and was an admirable expedient for infecting the Court, for spreading discontent, and for uniting the nation in any popular clamor.  As the King found no law, by which he could punish those importunate, and as he esteemed them, undutiful sollicitations; he was obliged to encounter them by popular applications of a contrary tendency.  Wherever the church and court party prevailed, addresses were framed, containing expressions of the highest regard to his Majesty, the most entire acquiescence in his wisdom, the most dutiful submission to his prerogative, and the deepest abhorrence of those, who endeavored to encroach on it, by prescribing to him any time for assembling the Parliament.  Thus the nation came to be distinguished into Petitioners and Abhorrers.  Factions indeed were at this time extremely animated against each other.  The very names, by which each party denominated its antagonist, discover the virulence and rancor, which prevailed.  For besides Petitioner and Abhorrer, appellations which were soon forgot; this year is remarkable for being the epoch of the well-known epithets of WHIG and TORY, by which, and sometimes without any very material difference, this island has been so long divided.  The court party reproached their antagonists with their affinity to the fanatical conventiclers of Scotland, who were known by the name of Whigs: The country party found a resemblance between the courtiers and the popish banditti in Ireland, to whom the appellation of Tory was affixed.  And after this manner, these foolish terms of reproach came into public and general use; and even at present seem not nearer their end than when they were first invented. 

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Filed under 1680's, 1750's, History, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams

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