The host of petitions which Shaftesbury procured from the counties was answered by a counter-host of addresses from thousands who declared their "abhorrence" of the plans against the Crown; and the country saw itself divided into two great factions of "petitioners" and "abhorrers," the germs of the two great parties which have played so prominent a part in our political history from the time of the Exclusion Bill.
Thus the nation came to be distinguished into petitioners and abhorrers. Factions indeed were at this time extremely animated against each other. The very names by which each party denominated its antagonist, discover the virulence and rancor which prevailed.
They would take care, they said, to choose representatives who should no more endure those who had been for the Exclusion Bill, than the last parliament had the abhorrers of the association; and thus not only endeavoured to keep up his majesty's resentment against a part of their fellow-subjects, but engaged themselves to imitate, for the purpose of retaliation, that part of the conduct of their adversaries which they considered as most illegal and oppressive.
Great numbers of the abhorrers, from all parts of England, were seized by order of the commons, and committed to custody. The liberty of the subject, which had been so carefully guarded by the Great Charter, and by the late law of habeas corpus, was every day violated by their arbitrary and capricious commitments.
Those who took the King's side were Antibirminghams, Abhorrers, and Tantivies. These appellations soon become obsolete: but at this time were first heard two nicknames which, though originally given in insult, were soon assumed with pride, which are still in daily use, which have spread as widely as the English race, and which will last as long as the English literature.
The common statement that our two great modern parties, the Whig and the Tory, date from the Petitioners and Abhorrers of the Exclusion Bill is true only in this sense, that then for the first time the masses of the people were stirred to a more prolonged and organized action in co-operation with the smaller groups of professed politicians than they had ever been stirred to before.
They voted, that it was the undoubted right of the subject to petition the king for the calling and sitting of parliament. Not content with this decision, which seems justifiable in a mixed monarchy, they fell with the utmost violence on all those abhorrers, who in their addresses to the crown, had expressed their disapprobation of those petitions.