William Russell, Lord Russell - Exclusion Debates

Exclusion Debates

On 4 November 1678, Russell moved an address to the King to remove the Duke of York from his person and councils, including removal from the line of succession. Parliament's insistence on the impeachment of Danby led to it being prorogued on 30 December and dissolved in January. At the ensuing election, Russell was again elected to Parliament, this time as a representative for Bedfordshire, as well as for Hampshire (for which he chose not to sit). The success of the new Whig party in the elections of 1679 led to Danby being overthrown, and in April 1679 Russell became a member of the new Privy Council Ministry formed by Charles on the advice of Temple. Only six days after this, Russell moved for a committee to draw up a bill to secure religion and property in case of a popish successor, rather than advocating his exclusion from the succession. In June 1679, on the occasion of the Covenanters rising in Scotland, he attacked Lauderdale personally in full council.

In January 1680, Russell, along with Cavendish, Capell, Powle, and Essex, tendered his resignation to the king, which was received by Charles "with all my heart." On 16 June, he accompanied Shaftesbury when the latter indicted James at Westminster as a popish recusant; and on 26 October, he took the extreme step of moving to suppress popery and prevent a popish successor; while on 2 November, now at the height of his influence, he went still further by seconding the motion for exclusion in its most emphatic shape, and on the 19th carried the exclusion bill to the House of Lords. He opposed the limitation scheme on the ground that monarchy under its conditions would be an absurdity. Laurence Echard (History of England, ii.) stated that he opposed the indulgence shown by Charles to Lord Stafford (dispensing with the more horrible parts of the sentence of death – an indulgence afterwards shown to Russell himself), but this is disputed. On 18 December, he moved to refuse supplies until the king passed the Exclusion Bill. The Prince of Orange having come over at this time, the opposition leaders were open to a compromise on the exclusion question. Russell, however, refused to give way.

On 26 March 1681, in the parliament held at Oxford, Russell again seconded the Exclusion Bill. Upon the dissolution of parliament, he retired into privacy at his country seat of Stratton in Hampshire. It was probably at his wish that his chaplain wrote the Life of Julian the Apostate, in reply to Dr Hickes's sermons, defending the lawfulness of resistance in extreme cases.

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