JAMES II. OF ENGLAND AND VII. OF SCOTLAND—THE STORY OF THE SEVEN BISHOPS
 HAVING put down two rebellions, James made up his mind to
turn Britain into a Roman Catholic country once more. It was
against the law for a Roman Catholic to hold any public
office but, in spite of that James began to turn away
Protestants from many posts, and to put Roman Catholics in
their places. The people grew more and more angry, but still
James took his own way, growing bolder and bolder.
At last he issued what was called the Declaration of
Indulgence. In this Declaration he said that all the laws
against the Roman Catholics, and against all others who did
not belong to the Church of England, and who were called
Dissenters, were done away with.
James hated the Dissenters, that is the Puritans and
Presbyterians, but he thought that if he made them free they
would side with him and help him to free the Romish Church
also. But they did not do so. They knew that James was
breaking the laws of the land in issuing this Declaration,
and they would not accept freedom in an unlawful manner.
The King ordered the Declaration to be read in all London
churches on Sundays, 20th and 27th May, and in all country
churches on Sundays, 3rd and 10th of June.
 But nearly every clergyman in London and in the coun-try
refused to obey.
After a great deal of talking and consulting seven bishops
wrote out a paper, which they all signed. In this paper the
bishops told the King that they could not obey him, not
because they wished people who thought differently from
themselves to be cruelly and unkindly treated, but because
the laws against these people had been made by Parliament.
They had been passed by King, Lords, and Commons, and could
only be recalled by the consent of King, Lords, and Commons.
The King alone, they reminded him, had no power to recall a
law, and, in ordering the clergy to read the Declaration of
Indulgence in the churches, the King was ordering them to
break the law. This they refused to do.
By the time that this letter was written and signed, it was
late on Friday evening. There was no time to be lost, and
the bishops took it at once to the King.
He received them kindly, but when he read the letter his
face grew dark and angry. "This is rebellion," he said.
"Sire," said the bishops, "we are not rebels. We are true to
your Majesty. We wish to keep the laws of the land."
"I tell you it is rebellion," repeated James.
Then one of the bishops, who was called Trelawney, fell upon
his knees. "Sire," he cried, "do not say so hard a thing to
us. No Trelawney can be a rebel. Remember that my family has
fought for the crown. Remember how we served your Majesty
"We are ready to die at your Majesty's feet," cried another.
"We helped to put down one rebellion, why should we raise
 "This is rebellion! This is rebellion,
I will be obeyed!" replied the King,
growing more and more angry. "I will keep
this paper. I will remember you who have signed it. You are
The bishops went. But that very night copies of the letter
which they had written to the King were printed and sold to
thousands of joyful people, who in reading it knew that
seven brave men were fighting for their freedom.
On Sunday morning the excitement was great. People crowded
to the churches in thousands. Would the clergy read the
Declaration, or would they not, was the question which
everybody asked. It was soon answered. In only four of the
hundred London churches was it read. In these four churches,
as soon as the first words were heard the people rose and
streamed out, so that when the reading was at an end the
churches were silent and empty.
A week passed. The second Sunday came. Again thousands
thronged to the churches. Again the Declaration was unread.
Excitement grew. Another week passed. Would the country
churches read the Declaration, or would they not? That
question, too, was answered. The country clergy, like the
London clergy, refused, and the land from end to end seemed
to be filled with an outburst of joy.
Then the King ordered the seven bishops who had written the
letter, and who had set the brave example, to be sent to the
Tower. As soon as this became known the whole river was
crowded with boats, and the banks thronged with people eager
to see the bishops as they passed on their way to prison.
When the bishops appeared, the people fell upon their knees
begging for a blessing. All the way from Whitehall
 to the
Tower the air was full of shouts of "God bless your
Lordships!" It was like a royal procession, rather than like
rebels being led to prison. As the bishops entered the
Traitors' Gate, the guards knelt before them begging, too,
for a blessing, and in the guard-house the rough soldiers
drank to the health of the brave bishops.
All next day, to the anger of the King, great people crowded
to visit the bishops, to cheer and comfort them in prison.
And when ten of the chief Dissenters went to see them, his
anger knew no bounds. He called these Dissenters before him
to scold them, and ask what they meant by visiting their
enemies. "We are all Protestants," they replied, "it is our
duty to forget old quarrels, and stand by the men who are
fighting for the liberties of the Protestant religion."
For a week the bishops were kept in prison, while all over
the country people wondered anxiously what would happen to
them. Bishop Trelawney belonged to Cornwall. The people
there loved him very much, and they made a song about him of
which the chorus was:—
"And shall Trelawney die? and shall Trelawney die?
Then thirty thousand Cornish boys will know the reason why."
After being kept in prison for a week the bishops were
brought to court to be tried. The excitement was tremendous.
The King and his friends did all they could to have the
bishops punished. But it was in vain. The judges and the
jury said that the bishops had done no wrong, and they were
From street to street the joyful news spread like wildfire.
Bells rang, cannon boomed, bonfires blazed, people cheered
and wept and sang. Another battle had
 been fought for
freedom, another victory won, and all England seemed mad
with the joy of it.
At night, the houses were lit up; in nearly every window a
row of seven candles appeared, one candle for each bishop.
The streets were filled with rejoicing people, and not until
day dawned, and the bells began to ring for morning service,
did the weary, happy crowds go to their homes.