The History of England Vol.8 Chapter 66 (David Hume)

The History of England Vol.8 Chapter 66 (David Hume)


OF we consider the projects of the 1674. famous cabal, it will appear hard to determine, whether the end which Schemes of those ministers pursued were more blamable and pernicious, or the means by which they were to effect it, more impolitic and imprudent. Though they might talk only of recovering or fixing the king’s authority, their intention could be no other than that of making him absolute; since it was not possible to regain or maintain, in opposition to the people, any of those powers of the crown abolished by late law or custom, without subduing the people, and rendering the royal prerogative entirely uncontrollable. Against such a scheme they might foresee that every part of the nation would declare themselves; not only the old parliamentary faction, which, though they kept not in a body, were still numerous, but even the greatest royalists, who were indeed attached to monarchy, but desired to see it limited and restrained bylaw.


It had appeared, that the present parliament, though elected during the greatest prevalence of the royal party, was yet tenacious of popular privileges, and retained a considerable jealousy of the crown, even before they had received any just ground of suspicion. The guards, therefore, together with a small army, new levied, and undisciplined, and composed too of Englishmen, were almost the only domestic resources which the king could depend on in the prosecution of these dangerous counsels.

The assistance of the French king was no doubt deemed by the cabal a considerable support in the schemes which they were forming; but it is not easily conceived that they could imagine themselves capable of directing and employing an associate of so domineering a character. They ought justly to have suspected, that it would be the sole intention of Lewis, as it evidently was his interest, to raise incurable jealousies between the king and .his people; and that he saw how much a steady uniform government in this island, whether free or absolute, would form invincible barriers to his ambition. Should his assistance be demanded; if he sent a small supply, it would serve only to enrage the people, and render the breach altogether irreparable; if he furnished a great force, sufficient to subdue the nation, there was little reason to trust his generosity with regard to the use which he would make of this advantage.