Their leader fled from the field, and after a vain effort to escape from the realm, was captured and sent pitilessly to the block.
Never had England shown a firmer loyalty; but its loyalty was changed into horror by the terrible measures of repression which followed on the victory of Sedgemoor. Even North, the Lord Keeper, a servile tool of the Crown, protested against the license and bloodshed m which the troops were suffered to indulge after the battle. His protest however was disregarded, and he withdrew broken-hearted from the Court to die. James was, in fact, resolved on a far more terrible vengeance; and the Chief-Justice Jeffreys, a man of great natural powers but of violent temper, was sent to earn the Seals by a series of judicial murders which have left his name a byword for cruelty. Three hundred and fifty rebels were hanged in the "Bloody Circuit," as Jeffreys made his way through Dorset and Somerset. More than eight hundred were sold into slavery beyond sea. A yet larger number were whipped and imprisoned. The Queen, the maids of honour, the courtiers, even the Judge himself, made shameless profit from the sale of pardons. What roused pity above all were the cruelties wreaked Upon women. Some were scourged from market-town to market-town. Mrs. Lisle, the wife of one of the Regicides, was sent to the block at Winchester for harbouring a rebel.
Elizabeth Gaunt, for the same act of womanly charity, was burned at Tyburn. Pity turned into horror when it was found that cruelty such as this was avowed and sanctioned by the King. Even the cold heart of General Churchill, to whose energy the victory at Sedgemoor had mainly been owing, revolted at the ruthlessness with which James turned away from all appeals for mercy. "This marble," he cried as he struck the chimney-piece on which he leant, "is not harder than the King's heart." But it was soon plain that the terror which the butchery was meant to strike into the people was part of a larger purpose. The revolt was made a pretext for a vast increase of the standing army. Charles, as we have seen, had silently and cautiously raised it to nearly ten thousand men; James raised it at one swoop to twenty-thousand. The employment of this force was to be at home, not abroad, for the hope of an English policy in foreign affairs had already faded away. In the designs which James had at heart he could look for no consent from Parliament; and however his pride revolted against a dependence on France, it was only by French gold and French soldiers that he could hope to hold the Parliament permanently at bay.
A week therefore after his accession he assured Lewis that his gratitude and devotion to him equalled that of Charles himself. " Tell your master," he said to the French ambassador, " that without his protection I can do nothing. He has a right to be consulted, and it is my wish to consult him, about everything." The pledge of subserviency was rewarded with the promise of a subsidy, and the promise was received with the strongest expressions of delight and servility.
Never had the secret league with France seemed so full of danger to English religion. Europe had long been trembling at the ambition of Lewis; it was trembling now at his bigotry. He had proclaimed warfare against civil liberty in his attack upon Holland; he declared war at this moment upon religious freedom by revoking the Edict of Nantes, the measure by which Henry the Fourth after his abandonment of Protestantism secured toleration and the free exercise of their worship for his Protestant subjects. It had been respected by Richelieu even in his victory over the Huguenots, and only lightly tampered with by Mazarin. But from the beginning of his reign Lewis had resolved to set aside its provisions, and his revocation of it in 1685 was only the natural close of a progressive system of persecution. The Revocation was followed by outrages more cruel than even the bloodshed of Alva. Dragoons were quartered on Protestant families, women were flung from their sick-beds into the streets, children were torn from their mothers' arms to be brought up in Catholicism, ministers were sent to the galleys.
In spite of the royal edicts, which forbade even flight to the victims of these horrible atrocities, a hundred thousand Protestants fled over the borders, and Holland, Switzerland, the Palatinate, were filled with French exiles. Thousands found refuge in England, and their industry founded in the fields east of London the silk trade of Spitalfields. But while Englishmen were looking with horror on these events in France, James drew from them new hopes. In defiance of the law he was filling his fresh regiments with Catholic officers. He dismissed Halifax from the Privy Council on his refusal to consent to a plan for repealing the Test Act. He met the Parliament with a haughty declaration that whether legal or no his grant of commissions to Catholics must not be questioned, and with a demand of supplies for his new troops. Loyal as was the temper of the Houses, their alarm for the Church, their dread of a standing army, was yet stronger than their loyalty. The Commons by the majority of a single vote deferred the grant of supplies till grievances were redressed, and demanded in their address the recall of the illegal commissions.
The Lords took a bolder tone; and the protest of the bishops against any infringement of the Test Act was backed by the eloquence of Halifax. But both Houses were at once prorogued. The King resolved to obtain from the judges what he could not obtain from Parliament. He remodelled the bench by dismissing four judges who refused to lend themselves to his plans; and their successors decided in the case of Sir Edward Hales, a Catholic officer in the army, that a royal dispensation could be pleaded in bar of the Test Act. The principle laid down by the judges asserted the right of the King to dispense with penal laws according to his own judgement, and it was applied by James with a reckless impatience of all decency and self-restraint. Catholics were admitted into civil and military offices without stint, and four Catholic peers were sworn as members of the Privy Council. The laws which forbade the presence of Catholic priests in the realm, or the open exercise of Catholic worship, were set at nought.