Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/126

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the tempers of the continental courts he knew more than all his Privy Council together. Some of his ministers were doubtless men of great ability, excellent orators in the House of Lords, and versed in our insular politics. But, in the deliberations of the Congress, Caermarthen and Nottingham would have been found as far inferior to him as he would have been found inferior to them in a parliamentary debate on a question purely English. The coalition against France was his work. He alone had joined together the parts of that great whole; and he alone could keep them together. If he had trusted that vast and complicated machine in the hands of any of his subjects, it would instantly have fallen to pieces.

Some things indeed were to be done which none of his subjects would have ventured to do. Pope Alexander was really, though not in name, one of the allies; it was of the highest importance to have him for a friend; and yet such was the temper of the English nation that an English minister might well shrink from having any dealings, direct or indirect, with the Vatican. The Secretaries of State were glad to leave a matter so delicate and so full of risk to their master, and to be able to protest with truth that not a line to which the most intolerant Protestant could object had ever gone out of their offices.

It must not be supposed however that William ever forgot that his especial, his hereditary, mission was to protect the Reformed Faith. His influence with Roman Catholic princes was constantly and strenuously exerted for the benefit of their Protestant subjects. In the spring of 1691, the Waldensian shepherds, long and cruelly persecuted, and weary of their lives, were surprised by glad tidings. Those who had been in prison for heresy returned to their homes. Children, who had been taken from their parents to be educated by priests, were sent back. Congregations, which had hitherto met only by stealth and with extreme peril, now worshipped God without molestation in the face of day. Those simple mountaineers probably never knew that their fate had been a subject of discussion at the Hague, and that they owed the happiness of their firesides,