Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/407

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

his majesty annoyance; he informed him of his approaching marriage, and also that he had secured his naturalisation as a Dutch subject (Burnet Tracts, Brit. Mus. 699, f. 6). In his second letter, dated 27 May, the citation having now been received, he insists upon reparation being made him, and offers a fortnight's delay before printing his own justification, which he again intimates will give James no case for satisfaction. The citation had declared that he had had correspondence, treasonably, with Argyll during 1682–5, and with Ferguson, Stuart, and others during 1685–7.

The expressions of his first letter angered James so much that he set on foot another prosecution on the strength of them. Burnet was outlawed, and D'Albeville was instructed to demand his surrender, which the States, of course, after examination, refused. In a third letter of 17 June he explains the phrases objected to. It is at this time that Burnet says he received trustworthy information of a plot for his murder (ib.) He shortly afterwards married his second wife, Mary Scott, a wealthy Dutch lady of Scotch extraction. She seems to have been exceptionally accomplished and beautiful. An autograph prayer on the occasion of his marriage, dated 25 May 1687, is extant in manuscript (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. 460 a). To his firstborn child the prince and princess stood sponsors on 2 April 1688 (ib. 5th Rep. 319). He had meanwhile written, among many other pamphlets, a severe and acrimonious reply to Parker's book on the ‘Reasons for abrogating the Test Act.’ He says of it: ‘It was thought that it helped to put an end to the life of the worst-tempered man I ever knew.’

Burnet was kept fully aware of all William's preparations. He gave an early intimation to the Princess Sophia, and was acute enough to do this without William's previous knowledge, to his great satisfaction. At the same time he was in the full confidence of the revolution party in England. He was responsible for the text of William's declaration; and with regard to Scotland he induced him to alter the passage in which he had by implication, upon the urgency of the Scotch exiles, declared for presbyterianism. On 5 Nov. he landed with William at Torbay, this place being selected at the last moment instead of Exmouth, at his suggestion (Egerton MSS. 2621, Brit. Mus.). There is extant, in Burnet's handwriting, his ‘Meditation on my Voyage for England, intending it for my last words in case this expedition should prove either unsuccessful in general or fatal to myself in my own particular’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. 460 a). On the march to Exeter he was entrusted with the duty of preventing violence by the soldiers on the road; and he drew up the engagement which was signed by all the noblemen who came in. A curious instance of his want of delicacy, when at Salisbury Cathedral, is quoted from Clarendon's Diary by Macaulay (History, i. 297). Letters are extant in manuscript from him to Admiral Herbert, full of interesting details, written during the march to London (Egerton MSS. 2621, Brit. Mus.) When Halifax came with the commissioners from James to treat with William, Burnet urged that the king should be allowed to leave the kingdom, and when he was detained at Feversham expressed his vexation at the blunder, and advised William at once to take steps for securing his good treatment. He describes these two events himself in letters written on 9 Dec. and Christmas day. He was most useful, too, in securing indulgence for the papists and Jacobites in London, thus avoiding the danger of a reaction founded on a charge of oppression of Englishmen. His political wisdom was shown in his consistent opposition to Halifax's proposal that the crown should be given to the prince without regard to Mary, and his watchfulness warded off all attempts to cause a difference between them. It was probably during these months that he published a vigorous and useful pamphlet on the question whether the country was bound to treat with James or call him back.

On 23 Dec. he preached at St. James's on the text ‘It is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes,’ and on 1 Feb. was thanked by the House of Commons for the ‘Thanksgiving Sermon’ of 31 Jan. (Burnet Tracts, 699, f. 2). Burnet was soon rewarded by the bishopric of Salisbury. He had previously refused that of Durham, as the conditions were that Crew, who then held it, should resign and receive 1,000l. a year during life from the revenue. It is stated, moreover, that when Salisbury fell vacant Burnet asked that it might be given to Lloyd. Sancroft refused to consecrate him, but was prevailed upon to grant a commission for the purpose to the bishops of the province. Burnet's presence in the House of Lords was of immediate service, for the question of toleration, of comprehension, and of the oaths came on at once. On the third of these points he spoke for the clergy, but acquiesced in the imposition when he found that they were busily opposing the crown. His pastoral letter to his clergy, in which he urged them to take the oaths, was afterwards ordered to be burnt by the hangman, on account of a claim on William's behalf to the crown by right of conquest, and because Burnet