Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/372

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bargain offered by the court was exhibited with a terseness which enabled the tract to be printed on a single sheet and so circulated in thousands through the post. Many of the dissenters were convinced, despite the twenty-four answers that appeared; such as ignored the writer's warning against a treacherous ally soon began to clamour in vain for an ‘equivalent’ for their complaisance. Their chagrin amused Halifax, who followed up the letter by his closely reasoned ‘Anatomy of an Equivalent’ (1688). How could they have dreamt, he asks, that infallibility would bear the indignity of an equivalent?

During this period, though Halifax met Shrewsbury, Nottingham, Danby, and many others of the nobles who signed the invitation to William, he repelled the overtures of Dykvelt and Sidney, and steadily refused to commit himself to the idea of revolution. The troubles, he said, would pass ‘like a shower of hail;’ the project of invasion he deemed impracticable. His inertness at this crisis is hard to reconcile with a statesmanlike appreciation of the situation. As a mid-course between absolutism and a republic, the intervention of William strongly recommended itself to an intellect whose axiom was always ‘in medio tutissimus ibis;’ but he preferred to await developments, in the hope that some strictly constitutional solution to the problem would present itself. His irresolution was unqualified by timidity. He had asserted in 1681 that Argyll was condemned on evidence upon which ‘not even a dog would be hung’ in a free country, and in June 1688 he visited the bishops in the Tower, and drafted for them a petition to the king. He was now reconciled to Sancroft, whom he had offended by the nickname of ‘Sede-Vacante,’ in reference to the primate's prolixity during the accession formalities of 1685.

In the middle of October 1688 James seems to have made some tardy efforts to conciliate Halifax, and he was present at the council on the 20th when James announced the threatened invasion. On 4 Nov. he solemnly declared, under much pressure from the king, that he had no responsibility for the invitation to William, and ten days later he framed a petition to the king demanding the summoning of a free parliament and the dismissal of Roman catholics from office. Halifax's views are given in a letter from Nottingham, who was completely under his influence (Hatton Corresp. ii. 103); but he abandoned the scheme when Rochester manifested a desire to take a part in it. He appeared, however, at the council held on the 26th, and addressed the king on the need for prompt concession and redress of grievances. At a private conference held after this meeting he expressed his views to the king with greater freedom, and James decided to send him, together with Godolphin and Nottingham, to interview William, and see if a compromise could not be arranged. Even if the negotiation had not been a feint on James's part, it is doubtful if it could have had any success; and how far Halifax was genuinely desirous of success must remain matter for conjecture.

On 8 Dec. Halifax and his colleagues arrived at Hungerford. William would only consent to see them in public, and forbade all about him to hold any private intercourse with them. Nevertheless, Halifax and Burnet found an opportunity for the exchange of a few highly significant words. ‘Were the invaders desirous of getting the king into their hands?’ Burnet denied it. ‘But,’ said Halifax, ‘what if he had a mind to go away?’ ‘Nothing was so much to be wished,’ replied Burnet.

William was still prepared to propose terms even less onerous than those which Halifax had indicated to James, and Halifax may have still been desirous to mediate, an operation for which he was specially fitted. When, however, he heard that James had sent him on a sham embassy and then fled the capital, Halifax may well have had a revulsion of feeling which destroyed all his remaining sense of obligation to James, and led him to place himself at the head of those who were bent on raising William to the throne. He ‘had not been privy,’ he told Reresby, ‘to the prince's coming, but now he was here, and on so good an occasion,’ it was necessary to uphold him. The suggestion that James was driven to flight by threatening letters from Halifax is unworthy of serious attention.

During James's absence Halifax presided over the council of the lords which provided for the safety of London. On the king's unexpected return he at once proceeded to William's headquarters at Windsor, and this time he accepted, together with Shrewsbury and Delamere, the commission of frightening James from Whitehall. Arriving at midnight on 17 Dec., he proceeded to the unfortunate king's bedside, and, with a harshness which contrasted with his habitual urbanity, found a ready answer for every expostulation. On 21 Dec. the peers were summoned by William, and next day they chose Halifax as their chairman. On the 24th, at his instance, addresses were presented request-