A gorgeous chapel was opened in the palace of St. James for the worship of the King. Carmelites, Benedictines, Franciscans, appeared in their religious garb in the streets of London, and the Jesuits set up a crowded school in the Savoy.
The quick growth of discontent at these acts would have startled a wiser man into prudence, but James prided himself on an obstinacy which never gave way; and a riot which took place on the opening of a fresh Catholic chapel in the City was followed by the establishment of a camp of thirteen thousand men at Hounslow to overawe the capital. The course which James intended to follow in England was shown by the course he was following in the sister kingdoms. In Scotland he acted as a pure despot. He placed its government in the hands of two lords, Melfort and Perth, who had embraced his own religion, and put a Catholic in command of the Castle of Edinburgh. The Scotch Parliament had as yet been the mere creature of the Crown, but servile as were its members there was a point at which their servility stopped. When James boldly required them to legalize the toleration of Catholics, they refused to pass such an Act. It was in vain that the King tempted them to consent by the offer of a free trade with England. "Shall we sell our God?" was the indignant reply. James at once ordered the Scotch judges to treat all laws against Catholics as null and void, and his orders were obeyed. In Ireland his policy threw off even the disguise of law.
Catholics were admitted by the King's command to the Council and to civil offices. A Catholic, Lord Tyrconnell, was put at the head of the army, and set instantly about its re-organization by cashiering Protestant officers and by admitting two thousand Catholic natives into its ranks. Meanwhile James had begun in England a bold and systematic attack upon the Church. He regarded his ecclesiastical supremacy as a weapon providentially left to him for undoing the work which it had enabled his predecessors to do. Under Henry and Elizabeth it had been used to turn the Church of England from Catholic to Protestant. Under James it should be used to turn it back again from Protestant to Catholic. The High Commission indeed had been declared illegal by an Act of the Long Parliament, and this Act had been confirmed by the Parliament of the Restoration. But it was thought possible to evade this Act by omitting from the instructions on which the Commission acted the extraordinary powers and jurisdictions by which its predecessor had given offence.
With this reserve, seven commissioners were appointed for the government of the Church, with Jeffreys at their head; and the first blow of the Commission was at the Bishop of London. James had forbidden the clergy to preach against "the King's religion," and ordered Bishop Compton to suspend a London vicar who set this order at defiance. The Bishop's refusal was punished by his own suspension. But the pressure of the Commission only drove the clergy to a bolder defiance of the royal will. Sermons against superstition were preached from every pulpit; and the two most famous divines of the day, Tillotson and Stillingfleet, put themselves at the head of a host of controversialists who scattered pamphlets and tracts from every printing press.
It was in vain that the bulk of the Catholic gentry stood aloof and predicted the inevitable reaction his course must bring about, or that Rome itself counselled greater moderation. James was infatuated with what seemed to be the success of his enterprises. He looked on the opposition he experienced as due to the influence of the High Church Tories who had remained in power since the reaction of 1681, and these he determined "to chastise." The Duke of Oueensberry, the leader of this party in Scotland, was driven from office. Tyrconnell, as we have seen, was placed as a check on Ormond in Ireland. In England James resolved to show the world that even the closest ties of blood were as nothing to him if they conflicted with the demands of his faith. His earlier marriage with Anne Hyde, the daughter of Clarendon, bound both the Chancellor's sons to his fortunes; and on his accession he had sent his elder brother-in-law, Henry, Earl of Clarendon, as Lord Lieutenant to Ireland, and raised the younger, Laurence, Earl of Rochester, to the post of Lord Treasurer. But Rochester was now told that the King could not safely entrust so great a charge to any one who did not share his sentiments on religion, and on his refusal to abandon his faith he was deprived of the White Staff. His brother, Clarendon, shared his fall.
A Catholic, Lord Bellasys, became First Lord of the Treasury, which was put into commission after Rochester's removal; and another Catholic, Lord Arundel, became Lord Privy Seal, while Father Petre, a Jesuit, was called to the Privy Council. One official after another who refused to aid in the repeal of the Test Act was dismissed. In defiance of the law the Nuncio of the Pope was received in state at Windsor. But even James could hardly fail to perceive the growth of public discontent. If the great Tory nobles were staunch for the Crown, they were as resolute Englishmen in their hatred of mere tyranny as the Whigs themselves. James gave the Duke of Norfolk the sword of State to carry before him as he went to Mass. The Duke stopped at the Chapel door. "Your father would have gone further," said the King. " Your Majesty's father was the better man," replied the Duke, "and he would not have gone so far." The young Duke of Somerset was ordered to introduce the Nuncio into the Presence Chamber. "I am advised," he answered, " that I cannot obey your Majesty without breaking the law." " Do you not know that I am above the law? " James asked angrily. "Your Majesty may be, but I am not," retorted the Duke. He was dismissed from his post; but the spirit of resistance spread fast.
In spite of the King's letters the governors of the Charter House, who numbered among them some of the greatest English nobles, refused to admit a Catholic to the benefits of the foundation. The most devoted loyalists began to murmur when James demanded apostasy as a proof of their loyalty. He had soon in fact to abandon all hope of bringing the Church or the Tories over to his will. He turned, as Charles had turned, to the Nonconformists, and published in 1687 a Declaration of Indulgence which suspended the operation of the penal laws against Nonconformists and Catholics alike, and of every Act which imposed a test as a qualification for office in Church or State. The temptation to accept the Indulgence was great, for since the fall of Shaftesbury persecution had fallen heavily on the Protestant dissidents, and we can hardly wonder that the Nonconformists wavered for a time, or that numerous addresses of thanks were presented to James. But the great body of them, and all the more venerable names among them, remained true to the cause of freedom. Baxter, Howe, and Bunyan all refused an Indulgence which could only be purchased by the violent overthrow of the law.