AND RE-INSTATING JAMES II
" The Enigma of James II," by Malcolm V. Hay. (Sands, 8s. 6d.) Reviewed by OLIVER J. G. WELCH.
Treason never prospers. What's the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason. IT is diffieult to read the story of the great treason against James II without a sick feeling of indignation. This makes the moderation of tone of Mr Ifay's latest book all the more admirable and effective. He knows that it is the Whig-Protestant. historians who have indulged in viioperal ion, .sa pprtssi(s ve ri and s.uggc,tio falsi ahonl .11111teS 11, and that he only needs to display what really happened, to expose their version for the tissue of falsehood it The Whig -Protestant version of James II is familiar to all who know any English history. It is the version that has been disseminated from generation to generation of Englishmen, by Burnet via Macaulay to George
Macaulay Trevelyan and Winston Churchill. And it is humbug.
Now no one, be he Whig, Tory or Jacobite in sympathy, will dispute the critical importance of the Revolution of 1688. Why, then, has the history of this national crisis and its central victim been consistently and successfully falsified? The answer is simple:
There are few episodes in our history which involved so much hypocrisy and baseness as the Revolution of 1688. But It was the base hypocrites who won, and the best way of justifying themselves was to vilify their honest (though politically inept) victim. Further, as years passed, countless people innocent of the treason, having accepted the fait accompli, accepted also with relief an account of it which soothed their consciences.
And so was foisted on to us the fable that James II was a cruel, intolerant, unpatriotic, deceitful would-be despot.
MR HAY demonstrates that all the accusations in that sentence are either untrue of James II or else completely unproven. The charge of cruelty ith based on no reliable contemporary evidence. The charge of intolerance is the diametrical opposite of the truth. There is evidence from William Penn, and from James' governorship of New York, to show that he was consistent and in advance of contemporary opinion (Catholic and Protestant) in his belief in liberty of conscience. But that the Whigs could never admit, still less their heirs, the Liberals. So, disregarding evidence from his earlier career, they popularised the most euccessful lie of all—that his indulgence was not sincerely meant, but a, mere cloak for popish rnanceuvres.
James I) publicly and solemnly did what Liberals would have canonieed anyone else for doing—he proclaimed liberty of conscience as a principle of state. So they said. with no evidence, that he didn't mean it. Shaftesbury, supporter of the Test Act and Titus Oates, was accorded a place in the history of toleration.
The astounding thing about this charge of insincerity against James is its patent absurdity. For even the most Whiggish wrb'ers cannot deny that rather than hide his Catholic convictions James, as Duke of York, lost the Admiralty and came within a hair's breadth of losing the succession. Then, with the Stuart throne reeking in the storm of Popish Plot and Exclusion Bill, then, as his brother Charles urged, was the time for a little insincerity. But James wrote: "Think what a base mean thing it would be in me, besides the sin of it, to dissemble, to deny my religion; .1 have by God's grace resolved never to do such a damnable thing. . ."
If I am becoming heated, Mr Hay never does. Read his excellent book.