Young Folks' History of England HTML version

39. William III. And Mary II, 1689—1702
When James II. proved to be entirely gone, the Parliament agreed to offer
the crown to William of Orange—the next heir after James's children—and
Mary, his wife, James's eldest daughter; but not until there had been new
conditions made, which would prevent the kings from ever being so powerful
again as they had been since the time of Henry VII. Remember, Magna Carta,
under King John, gave the power to the nobles. They lost it by the wars of
the Roses, and the Tudor kings gained it; but the Stuart kings could not keep
it, and the House of Commons became the strongest power in the kingdom,
by the Revolution of 1688.
The House of Commons is made up of persons chosen—whenever there is a
general election—by the men who have a certain amount of property in each
county and large town. There must be a fresh election, or choosing again
every seven years; also, whenever the sovereign dies; and the sovereign can
dissolve the Parliament—that is, break it up— and have a fresh election
whenever it is thought right. But above the House of Commons stands the
House of Lords, or Peers. These are not chosen, but the eldest son, or next
heir of each lord, succeeds to his seat upon his death; and fresh peerages are
given as rewards to great generals, great lawyers, or people who have
deserved well of their country. When a law has to be made, it has first to be
agreed to by a majority—that is, the larger number—of the Commons, then
by a majority of the Lords, and lastly, by the king or queen. The sovereign's
council are called the ministers, and if the Houses of Parliament do not
approve of their way of carrying on the government they vote against their
proposals, and this generally makes them resign, that others may be chosen
in their place who may please the country better.
This arrangement has gone on ever since William and Mary came in.
However, James II. still had many friends, only they had been out of reach at
the first alarm. The Latin word for James is Jacobus, and, therefore, they
were called Jacobites. All Roman Catholics were, of course, Jacobites; and
there were other persons who, though grieved at the king's conduct, did not
think it right to rise against him and drive him away; and, having taken an
oath to obey him, held that it would be wrong to swear obedience to anyone
else while he was alive. Archbishop Sancroft was one of these. He thought it
wrong in the new queen, Mary, to consent to take her father's place; and
when she sent to ask his blessing, he told her to ask her father's first, as,
without that, his own would do her little good. Neither he nor Bishop Ken, nor
some other bishops, nor a good many more of the clergy, would take the
oaths to William, or put his name instead of that of James in the prayers at
church. They rather chose to be turned out of their bishoprics and parishes,
and to live in poverty. They were called the non-jurors, or not-swearers.