The public agitation increased, and even the catholic lords imprisoned in the Tower sent a message to James entreating him to withdraw into some neighbouring country, France excepted (Life, i. 536). The king himself finally ordered his brother's withdrawal, in a letter couched in affectionate terms (28 Feb. 1679; ib. i. 541–2; Kennett, iii. 369). After excusing himself to Barillon for not retiring to France (Les derniers Stuarts, i. 245), James sailed on 4 March for Antwerp, and thence to the Hague (Pepys, Correspondence, vi. 125).
James met with little civility at the Hague (Sidney, Diary, i. 41, 142, 179), but was well received at Brussels (Burnet, ii. 198 n.). A vote of distrust was hurled after him by the House of Commons (27 April), and three days later the king offered to compromise matters by strictly limiting the powers of a popish successor. But the commons were not satisfied, and the second reading of the Exclusion Bill, brought in for the first time on 5 May, was carried on 21 May by a large majority. The duke's satisfaction at the consequent prorogation and dissolution of parliament was marred, both by his inability to induce the king to order decisive measures of repression and by his jealousy of Monmouth (Dartmouth's note to Burnet, ii. 228; cf. Reresby, p. 172). His friends in England continued to urge his conversion (so the ‘old cavalier’ who published a letter under the signature ‘Philanax Verus;’ and cf. Clarendon Correspondence, i. 45, 46, 51; Life, i. 560; Sidney, Diary, i. 13); while a notion was started of making him king of the Romans (ib. i. 22, 23, 129). Charles continued to forbid his return. When in August 1679 Charles was unexpectedly seized by a succession of ague fits, he, at the suggestion of Halifax, Essex, and others, who feared the ascendency of Monmouth and Shaftesbury, sent for the duke (Temple ap. Sidney, Diary, i. 137 n.; Reresby, p. 177). The king was now much better, and it was agreed that Monmouth should be sent away from court and the Duke of York appointed high commissioner in Scotland. James returned to Brussels to fetch the duchess, and reached England in October (ib. p. 179; Sidney, Diary, i. 163, 171). On the 27th, notwithstanding the opposition of Shaftesbury (ib. p. 181), they left for Scotland.
In Scotland, where Lauderdale had organised a loyal reception, and where the duke took his seat on the privy council without being tendered the oath of allegiance, he bore himself impartially and moderately (see his letter ap. Sidney, Diary, i. 385, and cf. Life, i. 580, 587; Burnet, ii. 292). But the persistency of Monmouth and symptoms of a reaction against the whigs induced him to return to London, which he reached by sea on 24 Feb. 1680, and where he was well received (Reresby, p. 181; Silvius to Sidney ap. Sidney, Diary, i. 285–6; cf. ib. p. 303 n.). He now bore himself with much tact (ib. ii. 25), and visibly began to establish a commanding influence over the king (Reresby, pp. 182–3), which he used to prevent the meeting of parliament. Shaftesbury presented him as a recusant to the Middlesex grand jury (16 June), but Chief-justice North removed the indictment from the Old Bailey to the king's bench, ‘in order to a non pros.’ (Lives of the Norths, i. 399; Life, i. 675). Soon afterwards the Duchess of Portsmouth turned against him (Burnet, ii. 249); and when in August the king gave way to the cry for a parliament, James was obliged again to withdraw to Scotland (21 Oct.), having in vain sought to obtain from the king a pardon safeguarding him against the consequences of impeachment (Life, i. 597; cf. ‘Reasons for the Indictment of the Duke of York,’ &c., in State Papers, under Charles II, i. 466 seqq.). He was now willing to entertain a project of civil war, in which he was promptly encouraged by Louis XIV (Barillon ap. Dalrymple, ii. 334 seqq.). A resolution against a popish successor was passed by the commons, and an exclusion bill brought in (4 Nov.), and rapidly carried up to the lords, where it was finally thrown out on the second reading, through the influence of Halifax (Kennett, iii. 388). But on the following day (16 Nov.) Halifax proposed the banishment of the Duke of York, and important limitations in his royal authority should he succeed. These proposals were rejected as futile, but James never forgave Halifax (Historical MSS. of the House of Lords, 1678–88, p. 209; cf. Burnet, ii. 340; Life, i. 619; State Papers from 1660 to 1689, ii. 91–2). The commons retorted upon the lords by bringing in a bill for a protestant association, aimed directly against the duke's succession; and, in reply to a firm speech from the king, passed an address insisting on the principle of the exclusion (20 Dec.). On 18 Jan. 1681 the parliament was dissolved and a new one summoned to Oxford for 21 March. At Oxford the king made one more attempt at compromise by a bill of security, which would have entrusted the substance of power to the Prince of Orange, and in the meantime banished the Duke of York; but the commons adhering to the plan of simple exclusion, the parliament was dissolved on 28 March. In August 1681, after many representations had been made to the duke from his friends at home to declare himself a protestant (Life, i. 626 seqq., 657–8),