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Title: Critical and Historical Essays — Volume 1
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron
Language: English
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CRITICAL AND HISTORICAL ESSAYS, VOLUME ONE

By Thomas Babbington Macaulay



EDITOR’S NOTE


By A. J. Grieve

A French student of English letters (M. Paul Oursel) has written the
following lines:

“Depuis deux siècles les Essais forment une branche importante de la
littérature anglaise; pour designer un écrivain de cette classe, nos
voisins emploient un mot qui n’a pas d’équivalent en francais; ils
disent: un essayiste. Quo’est-ce qu’un essayiste? L’essayiste se distingue
du moraliste, de l’historien, du critique littéraire, du biographe, de
l’écrivain politique; et pourtant il emprunte quelque trait a chacun
d’eux; il ressemble tour a tour a l’un ou a l’autre; il est aussi
philosophe, il est satirique, humoriste a ses heures; il remit en sa
personne des qualités multiples; il offre dans ses écrits un
spécimen de tous les genres. On voit qu’il n’est pas facile de définir
l’essayiste; mais l’exemple suppléera a la définition. On connaîtra
exactement le sens du mot quand on aura étudie l’écrivain qui, d’après
le jugement de ces compatriotes, est l’essayiste par excellence, ou,
comme on disait dans les anciens cours de littérature, le Prince des
essayistes.”

Macaulay is indeed the prince of essayists, and his reign is
unchallenged. “I still think--says Professor Saintsbury (Corrected
Impressions, p. 89 f.)--that on any subject which Macaulay has touched,
his survey is unsurpassable for giving a first bird’s-eye view, and
for creating interest in the matter.... And he certainly has not his
equal anywhere for covering his subject in the pointing-stick fashion.
You need not--you had much better not--pin your faith on his details,
but his Pisgah sights are admirable. Hole after hole has been picked
in the “Clive” and the “Hastings,” the “Johnson” and the “Addison,”
the “Frederick” and the “Horace Walpole,” yet every one of these papers
contains sketches, summaries, precis, which have not been made obsolete
or valueless by all the work of correction in detail.

Two other appreciations from among the mass of critical literature that
has accumulated round Macaulay’s work may be fitly cited, This from Mr.
Frederic Harrison:--

“How many men has Macaulay succeeded in reaching, to whom all other
history and criticism is a sealed book, or a book in an unknown tongue!
If he were a sciolist or a wrongheaded fanatic, this would be a serious
evil. But, as he is substantially right in his judgments, brimful of
saying common-sense and generous feeling, and profoundly well read in
his own periods and his favourite literature, Macaulay has conferred
most memorable services on the readers of English throughout the world.
He stands between philosophic historians and the public very much as
journals and periodicals stand between the masses and great libraries.
Macaulay is a glorified journalist and reviewer, who brings the matured
results of scholars to the man in the street in a form that he can
remember and enjoy, when he could not make use of a merely learned book.
He performs the office of the ballad-maker or story-teller in an age
before books were known or were common. And it is largely due to his
influence that the best journals and periodicals of our day are written
in a style so clear, so direct, so resonant.”

And this from Mr. Cotter Morison

“Macaulay did for the historical essay what Haydn did for the sonata,
and Watt for the steam engine; he found it rudimentary and unimportant,
and left it complete and a thing of power.... To take a bright period
or personage of history, to frame it in a firm outline, to conceive it
at once in article-size, and then to fill in this limited canvas
with sparkling anecdote, telling bits of colour, and facts, all fused
together by a real genius for narrative, was the sort of genre-painting
which Macaulay applied to history.... And to this day his essays
remain the best of their class, not only in England, but in Europe....
The best would adorn any literature, and even the less successful have
a picturesque animation, and convey an impression of power that will not
easily be matched. And, again, we need to bear in mind that they were
the productions of a writer immersed in business, written in his
scanty moments of leisure, when most men would have rested or sought
recreation. Macaulay himself was most modest in his estimate of their
value.... It was the public that insisted on their re-issue, and few
would be bold enough to deny that the public was right.”

It is to Mr. Morison that the plan followed in the present edition of
the Essays is due. In his monograph on Macaulay (English Men of Letters
series) he devotes a chapter to the Essays and “with the object of
giving as much unity as possible to a subject necessarily wanting it,”
classifies the Essays into four groups, (1)English history, (2)Foreign
history, (3)Controversial, (4)Critical and Miscellaneous. The articles
in the first group are equal in bulk to those of the three other groups
put together, and are contained in the first volume of this issue.
They form a fairly complete survey of English history from the time of
Elizabeth to the later years of the reign of George III, and are fitly
introduced by the Essay on Hallam’s History, which forms a kind of
summary or microcosm of the whole period.

The scheme might be made still more complete by including certain
articles (and especially the exquisite biographies contributed by
Macaulay to the Encyclopaedia Britannica) which are published in the
volume of “Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches.” Exigencies of space
have, however, compelled the limitation of the present edition to
the “Essays” usually so-called. These have also been reprinted in the
chronological arrangement ordinarily followed (see below) in The Temple
Classics (5 vols. 1900), where an exhaustive bibliography, etc., has
been appended to each Essay.

Chief dates in the life of Thomas Babington Macaulay, afterwards Baron
Macaulay:--

1800 (Oct. 25). Birth at Rothley Temple, Leicestershire. 1818-1825.
Life at Cambridge (Fellow of Trinity, 1824). 1825. Essay on Milton
contributed to Edinburgh Review. 1826. Joined the Northern Circuit. 1830
M.P. for Calne (gift of the Marquis of Lansdowne). 1833. M.P. for Leeds.
1834-38. Legal Adviser to the Supreme Council of India. Work at the
Indian Penal Code. 1839. M.P. for Edinburgh, and Secretary at War In
Melbourne’s Cabinet. 1842. Lays of Ancient Rome. 1843. Collected edition
of the Essays. 1847. Rejected at the Election of M.P. for Edinburgh.
1848. England from the Accession of James II. vols. i. and ii. 1852.
M.P. for Edinburgh; serious illness. 1855. History of England, vols.
iii. and iv. 1857. Raised to the peerage. 1859 (Dec. 28). Death at Holly
Lodge, Kensington. (Buried in Westminster Abbey, 9th January 1860.)

The following are the works of Thomas Babington Macaulay:

Pompeii (Prize poem), 1819; Evening (prize poem), 1821; Lays of Ancient
Rome (1842); Ivry and the Armada (Quarterly Magazine), added to Edition
of 1848; Critical and Historical Essays (Edinburgh Review), 1843.

The Essays originally appeared as follows:

Milton, August 1825; Machiavelli, March 1827; Hallam’s “Constitutional
History,” September 1828; Southey’s “Colloquies,” January 1830; R.
Montgomery’s Poems, April 1830; Civil Disabilities of Jews, January
1831; Byron, June 1831; Croker’s “Boswell,” September 1831; Pilgrim’s
Progress, December 1831; Hampden, December 1831; Burleigh, April 1832;
War of Succession in Spain, January 1833; Horace Walpole, October 1833;
Lord Chatham, January 1834; Mackintosh’s “History of Revolution,” July
1835; Bacon, July 1837; Sir William Temple, October 1838; “Gladstone on
Church and State,” April 1839; Clive, January 1840; Ranke’s “History of
the Popes,” October 1840; Comic Dramatists, January 1841; Lord Holland,
July 1841; Warren Hastings, October 1841; Frederick the Great, April
1842; Madame D’Arblay, January 1843; Addison, July 1843; Lord Chatham
(2nd Art.), October 1844.

History of England, vols. i. and ii., 1848; vols. iii. and iv., 1855;
vol. v., Ed. Lady Trevelyan, 1861; Ed. 8 vols., 1858-62 (Life by Dean
Milman); Ed. 4 vols., People’s Edition, with Life by Dean Milman,
1863-4; Inaugural Address (Glasgow), 1849; Speeches corrected by
himself, 1854 (unauthorized version, 1853, by Vizetelly); Miscellaneous
Writings, 2 vols. 1860 (Ed. T. F. Ellis). These include poems, lives
(Encyclo. Britt. 8th ed.), and contributions to Quarterly Magazine, and
the following from Edinburgh Review:

Dryden, January 1828; History, May 1828; Mill on Government, March 1829;
Westminster Reviewer’s Defence of Mill, June 1829; Utilitarian Theory
of Government, October 1829; Sadler’s “Law of Population,” July 1830;
Sadler’s “Refutation Refuted,” January 1831 Mirabeau, July 1832; Barere,
April 1844.

Complete Works (Ed. Lady Trevelyan), 8 vols., 1866.



BOOKS OF REFERENCE

Sir G.O. Trevelyan: The Life and Letters Of Lord Macaulay (2 vols. 8vo.,
1876, 2nd ed. with additions, 1877, subsequent editions 1878 and 1881).

J. Cotter Morison: Macaulay [English Men of Letters], (1882).

Mark Pattison: Art. “Macaulay” in Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Leslie Stephen: Hours in a Library [new ed. 1892], ii. 243-376. Art.
“Macaulay” in Dictionary of National Biography.

Frederic Harrison: Macaulay’s Place in Literature (1894). Studies in
Early Victorian Literature, chap. iii. (1895).

G. Saintsbury: Corrected Impressions, chaps. ix. x. (189,5). A History
of Nineteenth Century Literature, pp. 224-232 (1896).

P. Oursel: Les Essais de Lord Macaulay (1882).

D.H. Macgregor: Lord Macaulay (1901).

Sir R.C. Jebb: Macaulay (1900).

F.C. Montague. Macaulay’s Essays (3 vols. 1901).

A. J. G. August 1907.



HALLAM


(September 1828)
_The Constitutional History of England, from the Accession of Henry VII.
to the Death of George II. By HENRY HALLAM. In 2 vols. 1827_


HISTORY, at least in its state of ideal perfection, is a compound of
poetry and philosophy. It impresses general truths on the mind by a
vivid representation of particular characters and incidents. But, in
fact, the two hostile elements of which it consists have never been
known to form a perfect amalgamation; and at length, in our own time,
they have been completely and professedly separated. Good histories, in
the proper sense of the word, we have not. But we have good historical
romances, and good historical essays. The imagination and the reason,
if we may use a legal metaphor, have made partition of a province of
literature of which they were formerly seized per my et per tout; and
now they hold their respective portions in severalty, instead of holding
the whole in common.

To make the past present, to bring the distant near, to place us in the
society of a great man or on the eminence which overlooks the field of
a mighty battle, to invest with the reality of human flesh and blood
beings whom we are too much inclined to consider as personified
qualities in an allegory, to call up our ancestors before us with all
their peculiarities of language, manners, and garb, to show us over
their houses, to seat us at their tables, to rummage their old-fashioned
ward-robes, to explain the uses of their ponderous furniture, these
parts of the duty which properly belongs to the historian have been
appropriated by the historical novelist. On the other hand, to extract
the philosophy of history, to direct on judgment of events and men,
to trace the connection of cause and effects, and to draw from the
occurrences of former time general lessons of moral and political
wisdom, has become the business of a distinct class of writers.

Of the two kinds of composition into which history has been thus
divided, the one may be compared to a map, the other to a painted
landscape. The picture, though it places the country before us, does not
enable us to ascertain with accuracy the dimensions, the distances, and
the angles. The map is not a work of imitative art. It presents no scene
to the imagination; but it gives us exact information as to the bearings
of the various points, and is a more useful companion to the traveller
or the general than the painted landscape could be, though it were the
grandest that ever Rosa peopled with outlaws, or the sweetest over which
Claude ever poured the mellow effulgence of a setting sun.

It is remarkable that the practice of separating the two ingredients of
which history is composed has become prevalent on the Continent as well
as in this country. Italy has already produced a historical novel, of
high merit and of still higher promise. In France, the practice has been
carried to a length somewhat whimsical. M. Sismondi publishes a grave
and stately history of the Merovingian Kings, very valuable, and a
little tedious. He then sends forth as a companion to it a novel, in
which he attempts to give a lively representation of characters and
manners. This course, as it seems to us, has all the disadvantages of
a division of labour, and none of its advantages. We understand the
expediency of keeping the functions of cook and coachman distinct. The
dinner will be better dressed, and the horses better managed. But where
the two situations are united, as in the Maitre Jacques of Moliere, we
do not see that the matter is much mended by the solemn form with which
the pluralist passes from one of his employments to the other.

We manage these things better in England. Sir Walter Scott gives us
a novel; Mr. Hallam a critical and argumentative history. Both are
occupied with the same matter. But the former looks at it with the eye
of a sculptor. His intention is to give an express and lively image of
its external form. The latter is an anatomist. His task is to dissect
the subject to its inmost recesses, and to lay bare before us all the
springs of motion and all the causes of decay.

Mr. Hallam is, on the whole, far better qualified than any other
writer of our time for the office which he has undertaken. He has great
industry and great acuteness. His knowledge is extensive, various, and
profound. His mind is equally distinguished by the amplitude of its
grasp, and by the delicacy of its tact. His speculations have none of
that vagueness which is the common fault of political philosophy. On
the contrary, they are strikingly practical, and teach us not only the
general rule, but the mode of applying it to solve particular cases. In
this respect they often remind us of the Discourses of Machiavelli.

The style is sometimes open to the charge of harshness. We have also
here and there remarked a little of that unpleasant trick, which
Gibbon brought into fashion, the trick, we mean, of telling a story by
implication and allusion. Mr. Hallam however, has an excuse which Gibbon
had not. His work is designed for readers who are already acquainted
with the ordinary books on English history, and who can therefore
unriddle these little enigmas without difficulty. The manner of the book
is, on the whole, not unworthy of the matter. The language, even where
most faulty, is weighty and massive, and indicates strong sense in every
line. It often rises to an eloquence, not florid or impassioned,
but high, grave, and sober; such as would become a state paper, or a
judgment delivered by a great magistrate, a Somers or a D’Aguesseau.

In this respect the character of Mr. Hallam’s mind corresponds
strikingly with that of his style. His work is eminently judicial. Its
whole spirit is that of the bench, not that of the bar. He sums up with
a calm, steady impartiality, turning neither to the right nor to the
left, glossing over nothing, exaggerating nothing, while the advocates
on both sides are alternately biting their lips to hear their
conflicting misstatements and sophisms exposed. On a general survey,
we do not scruple to pronounce the Constitutional History the most
impartial book that we ever read. We think it the more incumbent on us
to bear this testimony strongly at first setting out, because, in the
course of our remarks, we shall think it right to dwell principally on
those parts of it from which we dissent.

There is one peculiarity about Mr. Hallam which, while it adds to the
value of his writings, will, we fear, take away something from their
popularity. He is less of a worshipper than any historian whom we can
call to mind. Every political sect has its esoteric and its exoteric
school, its abstract doctrines for the initiated, its visible symbols,
its imposing forms, its mythological fables for the vulgar. It assists
the devotion of those who are unable to raise themselves to the
contemplation of pure truth by all the devices of Pagan or Papal
superstition. It has its altars and its deified heroes, its relics and
pilgrimages, its canonized martyrs and confessors, its festivals and its
legendary miracles. Our pious ancestors, we are told, deserted the High
Altar of Canterbury, to lay all their oblations on the shrine of St.
Thomas. In the same manner the great and comfortable doctrines of the
Tory creed, those particularly which relate to restrictions on worship
and on trade, are adored by squires and rectors in Pitt Clubs, under the
name of a minister who was as bad a representative of the system which
has been christened after him as Becket of the spirit of the Gospel. On
the other hand, the cause for which Hampden bled on the field and Sidney
on the scaffold is enthusiastically toasted by many an honest radical
who would be puzzled to explain the difference between Ship-money and
the Habeas Corpus Act. It may be added that, as in religion, so in
politics, few even of those who are enlightened enough to comprehend the
meaning latent under the emblems of their faith can resist the contagion
of the popular superstition. Often, when they flatter themselves that
they are merely feigning a compliance with the prejudices of the vulgar,
they are themselves under the influence of those very prejudices. It
probably was not altogether on grounds of expediency that Socrates
taught his followers to honour the gods whom the state honoured, and
bequeathed a cock to Esculapius with his dying breath. So there is often
a portion of willing credulity and enthusiasm in the veneration which
the most discerning men pay to their political idols. From the very
nature of man it must be so. The faculty by which we inseparably
associate ideas which have often been presented to us in conjunction
is not under the absolute control of the will. It may be quickened into
morbid activity. It may be reasoned into sluggishness. But in a certain
degree it will always exist. The almost absolute mastery which Mr.
Hallam has obtained over feelings of this class is perfectly astonishing
to us, and will, we believe, be not only astonishing but offensive to
many of his readers. It must particularly disgust those people who, in
their speculations on politics, are not reasoners but fanciers; whose
opinions, even when sincere, are not produced, according to the
ordinary law of intellectual births, by induction or inference, but
are equivocally generated by the heat of fervid tempers out of the
overflowing of tumid imaginations. A man of this class is always
in extremes. He cannot be a friend to liberty without calling for
a community of goods, or a friend to order without taking under his
protection the foulest excesses of tyranny. His admiration oscillates
between the most worthless of rebels and the most worthless of
oppressors, between Marten, the disgrace of the High Court of justice,
and Laud, the disgrace of the Star-Chamber. He can forgive anything but
temperance and impartiality. He has a certain sympathy with the violence
of his opponents, as well as with that of his associates. In every
furious partisan he sees either his present self or his former self,
the pensioner that is, or the Jacobin that has been. But he is unable to
comprehend a writer who, steadily attached to principles, is indifferent
about names and badges, and who judges of characters with equable
severity, not altogether untinctured with cynicism, but free from the
slightest touch of passion, party spirit, or caprice.

We should probably like Mr. Hallam’s book more if, instead of pointing
out with strict fidelity the bright points and the dark spots of both
parties, he had exerted himself to whitewash the one and to blacken the
other. But we should certainly prize it far less. Eulogy and invective
may be had for the asking. But for cold rigid justice, the one weight
and the one measure, we know not where else we can look.

No portion of our annals has been more perplexed and misrepresented by
writers of different parties than the history of the Reformation. In
this labyrinth of falsehood and sophistry, the guidance of Mr. Hallam
is peculiarly valuable. It is impossible not to admire the even-handed
justice with which he deals out castigation to right and left on the
rival persecutors.

It is vehemently maintained by some writers of the present day that
Elizabeth persecuted neither Papists nor Puritans as such, and that the
severe measures which she occasionally adopted were dictated, not by
religious intolerance, but by political necessity. Even the excellent
account of those times which Mr. Hallam has given has not altogether
imposed silence on the authors of this fallacy. The title of the Queen,
they say, was annulled by the Pope; her throne was given to another; her
subjects were incited to rebellion; her life was menaced; every Catholic
was bound in conscience to be a traitor; it was therefore against
traitors, not against Catholics, that the penal laws were enacted.

In order that our readers may be fully competent to appreciate the
merits of this defence, we will state, as concisely as possible, the
substance of some of these laws.

As soon as Elizabeth ascended the throne, and before the least hostility
to her government had been shown by the Catholic population, an act
passed prohibiting the celebration of the rites of the Romish Church on
pain of forfeiture for the first offence, of a year’s imprisonment for
the second, and of perpetual imprisonment for the third.

A law was next made in 1562, enacting, that all who had ever graduated
at the Universities or received holy orders, all lawyers, and all
magistrates, should take the oath of supremacy when tendered to them, on
pain of forfeiture and imprisonment during the royal pleasure. After the
lapse of three mouths, the oath might again be tendered to them; and
if it were again refused, the recusant was guilty of high treason. A
prospective law, however severe, framed to exclude Catholics from the
liberal professions, would have been mercy itself compared with this
odious act. It is a retrospective statute; it is a retrospective penal
statute; it is a retrospective penal statute against a large class. We
will not positively affirm that a law of this description must always,
and under all circumstances, be unjustifiable. But the presumption
against it is most violent; nor do we remember any crisis either in our
own history, or in the history of any other country, which would
have rendered such a provision necessary. In the present case,
what circumstances called for extraordinary rigour? There might be
disaffection among the Catholics. The prohibition of their worship would
naturally produce it. But it is from their situation, not from their
conduct, from the wrongs which they had suffered, not from those which
they had committed, that the existence of discontent among them must be
inferred. There were libels, no doubt, and prophecies, and rumours and
suspicions, strange grounds for a law inflicting capital penalties, ex
post facto, on a large body of men.

Eight years later, the bull of Pius deposing Elizabeth produced a third
law. This law, to which alone, as we conceive, the defence now under our
consideration can apply, provides that, if any Catholic shall convert
a Protestant to the Romish Church, they shall both suffer death as for
high treason.

We believe that we might safely content ourselves with stating the
fact, and leaving it to the judgment of every plain Englishman. Recent
controversies have, however, given so much importance to this subject,
that we will offer a few remarks on it.

In the first place, the arguments which are urged in favour of Elizabeth
apply with much greater force to the case of her sister Mary. The
Catholics did not, at the time of Elizabeth’s accession, rise in arms
to seat a Pretender on her throne. But before Mary had given, or could
give, provocation, the most distinguished Protestants attempted to
set aside her rights in favour of the Lady Jane. That attempt, and the
subsequent insurrection of Wyatt, furnished at least as good a plea
for the burning of Protestants, as the conspiracies against Elizabeth
furnish for the hanging and embowelling of Papists.

The fact is that both pleas are worthless alike. If such arguments are
to pass current, it will be easy to prove that there was never such a
thing as religious persecution since the creation. For there never was
a religious persecution in which some odious crime was not, justly
or unjustly, said to be obviously deducible from the doctrines of the
persecuted party. We might say, that the Caesars did not persecute the
Christians; that they only punished men who were charged, rightly or
wrongly, with burning Rome, and with committing the foulest abominations
in secret assemblies; and that the refusal to throw frankincense on the
altar of Jupiter was not the crime, but only evidence of the crime.
We might say, that the massacre of St. Bartholomew was intended to
extirpate, not a religious sect, but a political party. For, beyond all
doubt, the proceedings of the Huguenots, from the conspiracy of Amboise
to the battle of Moncontour, had given much more trouble to the French
monarchy than the Catholics have ever given to the English monarchy
since the Reformation; and that too with much less excuse.

The true distinction is perfectly obvious. To punish a man because he
has committed a crime, or because he is believed, though unjustly, to
have committed a crime, is not persecution. To punish a man, because
we infer from the nature of some doctrine which he holds, or from the
conduct of other persons who hold the same doctrines with him, that he
will commit a crime is persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and
wicked.

When Elizabeth put Ballard and Babington to death, she was not
persecuting. Nor should we have accused her government of persecution
for passing any law, however severe, against overt acts of sedition. But
to argue that, because a man is a Catholic, he must think it right to
murder a heretical sovereign, and that because he thinks it right, he
will attempt to do it, and then, to found on this conclusion a law for
punishing him as if he had done it, is plain persecution.

If, indeed, all men reasoned in the same manner on the same data,
and always did what they thought it their duty to do, this mode of
dispensing punishment might be extremely judicious. But as people who
agree about premises often disagree about conclusions, and as no man in
the world acts up to his own standard of right, there are two enormous
gaps in the logic by which alone penalties for opinions can be defended.
The doctrine of reprobation, in the judgment of many very able men,
follows by syllogistic necessity from the doctrine of election. Others
conceive that the Antinomian heresy directly follows from the doctrine
of reprobation; and it is very generally thought that licentiousness and
cruelty of the worst description are likely to be the fruits, as they
often have been the fruits, of Antinomian opinions. This chain of
reasoning, we think, is as perfect in all its parts as that which makes
out a Papist to be necessarily a traitor. Yet it would be rather a
strong measure to hang all the Calvinists, on the ground that if they
were spared, they would infallibly commit all the atrocities of Matthias
and Knipperdoling. For, reason the matter as we may, experience shows
us that a man may believe in election without believing in reprobation,
that he may believe in reprobation without being an Antinomian, and that
he may be an Antinomian without being a bad citizen. Man, in short,
is so inconsistent a creature that it is impossible to reason from his
belief to his conduct, or from one part of his belief to another.

We do not believe that every Englishman who was reconciled to the
Catholic Church would, as a necessary consequence, have thought himself
justified in deposing or assassinating Elizabeth. It is not sufficient
to say that the convert must have acknowledged the authority of the
Pope, and that the Pope had issued a bull against the Queen. We know
through what strange loopholes the human mind contrives to escape,
when it wishes to avoid a disagreeable inference from an admitted
proposition. We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe the
Pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe
doctrines which he pronounced to be heretical. Let it pass, however,
that every Catholic in the kingdom thought that Elizabeth might be
lawfully murdered. Still the old maxim, that what is the business of
everybody is the business of nobody, is particularly likely to hold good
in a case in which a cruel death is the almost inevitable consequence of
making any attempt.

Of the ten thousand clergymen of the Church of England, there is
scarcely one who would not say that a man who should leave his country
and friends to preach the Gospel among savages, and who should, after
labouring indefatigably without any hope of reward, terminate his life
by martyrdom, would deserve the warmest admiration. Yet we can doubt
whether ten of the ten thousand ever thought of going on such an
expedition. Why should we suppose that conscientious motives, feeble as
they are constantly found to be in a good cause, should be omnipotent
for evil? Doubtless there was many a jolly Popish priest in the old
manor-houses of the northern counties, who would have admitted, in
theory, the deposing power of the Pope, but who would not have been
ambitious to be stretched on the rack, even though it were to be used,
according to the benevolent proviso of Lord Burleigh, “as charitably
as such a thing can be,” or to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, even
though, by that rare indulgence which the Queen, of her special grace,
certain knowledge, and mere motion, sometimes extended to very mitigated
cases, he were allowed a fair time to choke before the hangman began to
grabble in his entrails.

But the laws passed against the Puritans had not even the wretched
excuse which we have been considering. In this case, the cruelty was
equal, the danger, infinitely less. In fact, the danger was created
solely by the cruelty. But it is superfluous to press the argument.
By no artifice of ingenuity can the stigma of persecution, the
worst blemish of the English Church, be effaced or patched over. Her
doctrines, we well know, do not tend to intolerance. She admits the
possibility of salvation out of her own pale. But this circumstance, in
itself honourable to her, aggravates the sin and the shame of those
who persecuted in her name. Dominic and De Montfort did not, at least,
murder and torture for differences of opinion which they considered as
trifling. It was to stop an infection which, as they believed, hurried
to certain perdition every soul which it seized, that they employed
their fire and steel. The measures of the English government with
respect to the Papists and Puritans sprang from a widely different
principle. If those who deny that the founders of the Church were guilty
of religious persecution mean only that the founders of the Church were
not influenced by any religious motive, we perfectly agree with them.
Neither the penal code of Elizabeth, nor the more hateful system by
which Charles the Second attempted to force Episcopacy on the Scotch,
had an origin so noble. The cause is to be sought in some circumstances
which attended the Reformation in England, circumstances of which the
effects long continued to be felt, and may in some degree be traced even
at the present day.

In Germany, in France, in Switzerland, and in Scotland, the contest
against the Papal power was essentially a religious contest. In all
those countries, indeed, the cause of the Reformation, like every
other great cause, attracted to itself many supporters influenced by no
conscientious principle, many who quitted the Established Church
only because they thought her in danger, many who were weary of her
restraints, and many who were greedy for her spoils. But it was not
by these adherents that the separation was there conducted. They were
welcome auxiliaries; their support was too often purchased by unworthy
compliances; but, however exalted in rank or power, they were not the
leaders in the enterprise. Men of a widely different description,
men who redeemed great infirmities and errors by sincerity,
disinterestedness, energy and courage, men who, with many of the vices
of revolutionary chiefs and of polemic divines, united some of the
highest qualities of apostles, were the real directors. They might
be violent in innovation and scurrilous in controversy. They might
sometimes act with inexcusable severity towards opponents, and sometimes
connive disreputably at the vices of powerful allies. But fear was not
in them, nor hypocrisy, nor avarice, nor any petty selfishness. Their
one great object was the demolition of the idols and the purification of
the sanctuary. If they were too indulgent to the failings of eminent men
from whose patronage they expected advantage to the church, they
never flinched before persecuting tyrants and hostile armies. For that
theological system to which they sacrificed the lives of others without
scruple, they were ready to throw away their own lives without fear.
Such were the authors of the great schism on the Continent and in the
northern part of this island. The Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave
of Hesse, the Prince of Conde and the King of Navarre, the Earl of Moray
and the Earl of Morton, might espouse the Protestant opinions, or might
pretend to espouse them; but it was from Luther, from Calvin, from Knox,
that the Reformation took its character.

England has no such names to show; not that she wanted men of sincere
piety, of deep learning, of steady and adventurous courage. But these
were thrown into the background. Elsewhere men of this character were
the principals. Here they acted a secondary part. Elsewhere worldliness
was the tool of zeal. Here zeal was the tool of worldliness. A King,
whose character may be best described by saying that he was despotism
itself personified, unprincipled ministers, a rapacious aristocracy,
a servile Parliament, such were the instruments by which England was
delivered from the yoke of Rome. The work which had been begun by Henry,
the murderer of his wives, was continued by Somerset, the murderer of
his brother, and completed by Elizabeth, the murderer of her guest.
Sprung from brutal passion, nurtured by selfish policy, the Reformation
in England displayed little of what had, in other countries,
distinguished it; unflinching and unsparing devotion, boldness of
speech, and singleness of eye. These were indeed to be found; but it was
in the lower ranks of the party which opposed the authority of Rome, in
such men as Hooper, Latimer, Rogers, and Taylor. Of those who had any
important share in bringing the Reformation about, Ridley was perhaps
the only person who did not consider it as a mere political job. Even
Ridley did not play a very prominent part. Among the statesmen and
prelates who principally gave the tone to the religious changes, there
is one, and one only, whose conduct partiality itself can attribute to
any other than interested motives. It is not strange, therefore, that
his character should have been the subject of fierce controversy. We
need not say that we speak of Cranmer.

Mr. Hallam has been severely censured for saying with his usual placid
severity, that, “if we weigh the character of this prelate in an equal
balance, he will appear far indeed removed from the turpitude imputed to
him, by his enemies; yet not entitled to any extraordinary veneration.”
We will venture to expand the sense of Mr. Hallam, and to comment on it
thus:--If we consider Cranmer merely as a statesman, he will not appear
a much worse man than Wolsey, Gardiner, Cromwell, or Somerset. But, when
an attempt is made to set him up as a saint, it is scarcely possible
for any man of sense who knows the history of the times to preserve his
gravity. If the memory of the archbishop had been left to find its own
place, he would have soon been lost among the crowd which is mingled


                        “A quel cattivo coro

               Degli angeli, che non furon ribelli,

               Ne fur fedelia Dio, per se foro.”


And the only notice which it would have been necessary to take of his
name would have been

               “Non ragioniam di lui; ma guarda, e passa.”

But, since his admirers challenge for him a place in the noble army of
martyrs, his claims require fuller discussion.

The origin of his greatness, common enough in the scandalous chronicles
of courts, seems strangely out of place in a hagiology. Cranmer rose
into favour by serving Henry in the disgraceful affair of his first
divorce. He promoted the marriage of Anne Boleyn with the King. On
a frivolous pretence he pronounced that marriage null and void. On a
pretence, if possible still more frivolous, he dissolved the ties which
bound the shameless tyrant to Anne of Cleves. He attached himself to
Cromwell while the fortunes of Cromwell flourished. He voted for cutting
off Cromwell’s head without a trial, when the tide of royal favour
turned. He conformed backwards and forwards as the King changed his
mind. He assisted, while Henry lived, in condemning to the flames those
who denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. He found out, as soon as
Henry was dead, that the doctrine was false. He was, however, not at a
loss for people to burn. The authority of his station and of his grey
hairs was employed to overcome the disgust with which an intelligent and
virtuous child regarded persecution. Intolerance is always bad. But the
sanguinary intolerance of a man who thus wavered in his creed excites
a loathing, to which it is difficult to give vent without calling foul
names. Equally false to political and to religious obligations,
the primate was first the tool of Somerset, and then the tool of
Northumberland. When the Protector wished to put his own brother
to death, without even the semblance of a trial, he found a ready
instrument in Cranmer. In spite of the canon law, which forbade a
churchman to take any part in matters of blood, the archbishop signed
the warrant for the atrocious sentence. When Somerset had been in his
turn destroyed, his destroyer received the support of Cranmer in a
wicked attempt to change the course of the succession.

The apology made for him by his admirers only renders his conduct more
contemptible. He complied, it is said, against his better judgment,
because he could not resist the entreaties of Edward. A holy prelate
of sixty, one would think, might be better employed by the bedside of
a dying child, than in committing crimes at the request of the young
disciple. If Cranmer had shown half as much firmness when Edward
requested him to commit treason as he had before shown when Edward
requested him not to commit murder, he might have saved the country from
one of the greatest misfortunes that it ever underwent. He became, from
whatever motive, the accomplice of the worthless Dudley. The virtuous
scruples of another young and amiable mind were to be overcome. As
Edward had been forced into persecution, Jane was to be seduced into
treason. No transaction in our annals is more unjustifiable than this.
If a hereditary title were to be respected, Mary possessed it. If a
parliamentary title were preferable, Mary possessed that also. If
the interest of the Protestant religion required a departure from the
ordinary rule of succession, that interest would have been best served
by raising Elizabeth to the throne. If the foreign relations of the
kingdom were considered, still stronger reasons might be found for
preferring Elizabeth to Jane. There was great doubt whether Jane or the
Queen of Scotland had the better claim; and that doubt would, in all
probability, have produced a war both with Scotland and with France, if
the project of Northumberland had not been blasted in its infancy.
That Elizabeth had a better claim than the Queen of Scotland was
indisputable. To the part which Cranmer, and unfortunately some better
men than Cranmer, took in this most reprehensible scheme, much of the
severity with which the Protestants were afterwards treated must in
fairness be ascribed.

The plot failed; Popery triumphed; and Cranmer recanted. Most people
look on his recantation as a single blemish on an honourable life, the
frailty of an unguarded moment. But, in fact, his recantation was in
strict accordance with the system on which he had constantly acted. It
was part of a regular habit. It was not the first recantation that he
had made; and, in all probability, if it had answered its purpose, it
would not have been the last. We do not blame him for not choosing to be
burned alive. It is no very severe reproach to any person that he does
not possess heroic fortitude. But surely a man who liked the fire
so little should have had some sympathy for others. A persecutor who
inflicts nothing which he is not ready to endure deserves some respect.
But when a man who loves his doctrines more than the lives of his
neighbours, loves his own little finger better than his doctrines, a
very simple argument a fortiori will enable us to estimate the amount of
his benevolence.

But his martyrdom, it is said, redeemed everything. It is extraordinary
that so much ignorance should exist on this subject. The fact is that,
if a martyr be a man who chooses to die rather than to renounce his
opinions, Cranmer was no more a martyr than Dr. Dodd. He died solely
because he could not help it. He never retracted his recantation till
he found he had made it in vain. The Queen was fully resolved that,
Catholic or Protestant, he should burn. Then he spoke out, as people
generally speak out when they are at the point of death and have nothing
to hope or to fear on earth. If Mary had suffered him to live, we
suspect that he would have heard mass and received absolution, like a
good Catholic, till the accession of Elizabeth, and that he would then
have purchased, by another apostasy, the power of burning men better and
braver than himself.

We do not mean, however, to represent him as a monster of wickedness.
He was not wantonly cruel or treacherous. He was merely a supple, timid,
interested courtier, in times of frequent and violent change. That which
has always been represented as his distinguishing virtue, the facility
with which he forgave his enemies, belongs to the character. Slaves of
his class are never vindictive, and never grateful. A present interest
effaces past services and past injuries from their minds together. Their
only object is self-preservation; and for this they conciliate those who
wrong them, just as they abandon those who serve them. Before we extol
a man for his forgiving temper, we should inquire whether he is above
revenge, or below it.

Somerset had as little principle as his coadjutor. Of Henry, an orthodox
Catholic, except that he chose to be his own Pope, and of Elizabeth, who
certainly had no objection to the theology of Rome, we need say nothing.
These four persons were the great authors of the English Reformation.
Three of them had a direct interest in the extension of the royal
prerogative. The fourth was the ready tool of any who could frighten
him. It is not difficult to see from what motives, and on what plan,
such persons would be inclined to remodel the Church. The scheme
was merely to transfer the full cup of sorceries from the Babylonian
enchantress to other hands, spilling as little as possible by the way.
The Catholic doctrines and rites were to be retained in the Church of
England. But the King was to exercise the control which had formerly
belonged to the Roman Pontiff. In this Henry for a time succeeded. The
extraordinary force of his character, the fortunate situation in which
he stood with respect to foreign powers, and the vast resources which
the suppression of the monasteries placed at his disposal, enabled
him to oppress both the religious factions equally. He punished with
impartial severity those who renounced the doctrines of Rome, and those
who acknowledged her jurisdiction. The basis, however, on which he
attempted to establish his power was too narrow to be durable. It would
have been impossible even for him long to persecute both persuasions.
Even under his reign there had been insurrections on the part of the
Catholics, and signs of a spirit which was likely soon to produce
insurrection on the part of the Protestants. It was plainly necessary,
therefore, that the Crown should form an alliance with one or with the
other side. To recognise the Papal supremacy, would have been to abandon
the whole design. Reluctantly and sullenly the government at last joined
the Protestants. In forming this junction, its object was to procure
as much aid as possible for its selfish undertaking, and to make the
smallest possible concessions to the spirit of religious innovation.

From this compromise the Church of England sprang. In many respects,
indeed, it has been well for her that, in an age of exuberant zeal, her
principal founders were mere politicians. To this circumstance she owes
her moderate articles, her decent ceremonies, her noble and pathetic
liturgy. Her worship is not disfigured by mummery. Yet she has
preserved, in a far greater degree than any of her Protestant sisters,
that art of striking the senses and filling the imagination in which
the Catholic Church so eminently excels. But, on the other hand, she
continued to be, for more than a hundred and fifty years, the servile
handmaid of monarchy, the steady enemy of public liberty. The divine
right of kings, and the duty of passively obeying all their commands,
were her favourite tenets. She held those tenets firmly through times
of oppression, persecution, and licentiousness; while law was trampled
down; while judgment was perverted; while the people were eaten as
though they were bread. Once, and but once, for a moment, and but for
a moment, when her own dignity and property were touched, she forgot to
practise the submission which she had taught.

Elizabeth clearly discerned the advantages which were to be derived from
a close connection between the monarchy and the priesthood. At the
time of her accession, indeed, she evidently meditated a partial
reconciliation with Rome; and, throughout her whole life, she leaned
strongly to some of the most obnoxious parts of the Catholic system.
But her imperious temper, her keen sagacity, and her peculiar situation,
soon led her to attach herself completely to a church which was all
her own. On the same principle on which she joined it, she attempted to
drive all her people within its pale by persecution. She supported it by
severe penal laws, not because she thought conformity to its discipline
necessary to salvation; but because it was the fastness which arbitrary
power was making strong for itself, because she expected a more
profound obedience from those who saw in her both their civil and their
ecclesiastical chief than from those who, like the Papists, ascribed
spiritual authority to the Pope, or from those who, like some of the
Puritans, ascribed it only to Heaven. To dissent from her establishment
was to dissent from an institution founded with an express view to the
maintenance and extension of the royal prerogative.

This great Queen and her successors, by considering conformity and
loyalty as identical at length made them so. With respect to the
Catholics, indeed, the rigour of persecution abated after her death.
James soon found that they were unable to injure him, and that the
animosity which the Puritan party felt towards them drove them of
necessity to take refuge under his throne. During the subsequent
conflict, their fault was anything but disloyalty. On the other hand,
James hated the Puritans with more than the hatred of Elizabeth. Her
aversion to them was political; his was personal. The sect had plagued
him in Scotland, where he was weak; and he was determined to be even
with them in England, where he was powerful. Persecution gradually
changed a sect into a faction. That there was anything in the religious
opinions of the Puritans which rendered them hostile to monarchy has
never been proved to our satisfaction. After our civil contests, it
became the fashion to say that Presbyterianism was connected with
Republicanism; just as it has been the fashion to say, since the time of
the French Revolution, that Infidelity is connected with Republicanism.
It is perfectly true that a church constituted on the Calvinistic model
will not strengthen the hands of the sovereign so much as a hierarchy
which consists of several ranks, differing in dignity and emolument, and
of which all the members are constantly looking to the Government for
promotion. But experience has clearly shown that a Calvinistic church,
like every other church, is disaffected when it is persecuted, quiet
when it is tolerated, and actively loyal when it is favoured and
cherished. Scotland has had a Presbyterian establishment during a
century and a half. Yet her General Assembly has not, during that
period, given half so much trouble to the government as the Convocation
of the Church of England gave during the thirty years which followed
the Revolution. That James and Charles should have been mistaken in this
point is not surprising. But we are astonished, we must confess,
that men of our own time, men who have before them the proof of what
toleration can effect, men who may see with their own eyes that the
Presbyterians are no such monsters when government is wise enough to
let them alone, should defend the persecutions of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries as indispensable to the safety of the church and
the throne.

How persecution protects churches and thrones was soon made manifest.
A systematic political opposition, vehement, daring, and inflexible,
sprang from a schism about trifles, altogether unconnected with the real
interests of religion or of the state. Before the close of the reign of
Elizabeth this opposition began to show itself. It broke forth on the
question of the monopolies. Even the imperial Lioness was compelled
to abandon her prey, and slowly and fiercely to recede before the
assailants. The spirit of liberty grew with the growing wealth and
intelligence of the people. The feeble struggles and insults of James
irritated instead of suppressing it; and the events which immediately
followed the accession of his son portended a contest of no common
severity, between a king resolved to be absolute, and a people resolved
to be free.

The famous proceedings of the third Parliament of Charles, and the
tyrannical measures which followed its dissolution, are extremely well
described by Mr. Hallam. No writer, we think, has shown, in so clear
and satisfactory a manner, that the Government then entertained a fixed
purpose of destroying the old parliamentary constitution of England, or
at least of reducing it to a mere shadow. We hasten, however, to a part
of his work which, though it abounds in valuable information and in
remarks well deserving to be attentively considered, and though it is,
like the rest, evidently written in a spirit of perfect impartiality,
appears to us, in many points, objectionable.

We pass to the year 1640. The fate of the short Parliament held in
that year clearly indicated the views of the king. That a Parliament so
moderate in feeling should have met after so many years of oppression
is truly wonderful. Hyde extols its loyal and conciliatory spirit. Its
conduct, we are told, made the excellent Falkland in love with the very
name of Parliament. We think, indeed, with Oliver St. John, that its
moderation was carried too far, and that the times required sharper
and more decided councils. It was fortunate, however, that the king
had another opportunity of showing that hatred of the liberties of his
subjects which was the ruling principle of all his conduct. The sole
crime of the Commons was that, meeting after a long intermission of
parliaments, and after a long series of cruelties and illegal imposts,
they seemed inclined to examine grievances before they would vote
supplies. For this insolence they were dissolved almost as soon as they
met.

Defeat, universal agitation, financial embarrassments, disorganisation
in every part of the government, compelled Charles again to convene the
Houses before the close of the same year. Their meeting was one of the
great eras in the history of the civilised world. Whatever of political
freedom exists either in Europe or in America has sprung, directly or
indirectly, from those institutions which they secured and reformed.
We never turn to the annals of those times without feeling increased
admiration of the patriotism, the energy, the decision, the consummate
wisdom, which marked the measures of that great Parliament, from the day
on which it met to the commencement of civil hostilities.

The impeachment of Strafford was the first, and perhaps the greatest
blow. The whole conduct of that celebrated man proved that he had formed
a deliberate scheme to subvert the fundamental laws of England. Those
parts of his correspondence which have been brought to light since his
death, place the matter beyond a doubt. One of his admirers has, indeed,
offered to show “that the passages which Mr. Hallam has invidiously
extracted from the correspondence between Laud and Strafford, as proving
their design to introduce a thorough tyranny, refer not to any such
design, but to a thorough reform in the affairs of state, and the
thorough maintenance of just authority.” We will recommend two or three
of these passages to the especial notice of our readers.

All who know anything of those times, know that the conduct of Hampden
in the affair of the ship-money met with the warm approbation of every
respectable Royalist in England. It drew forth the ardent eulogies
of the champions of the prerogative and even of the Crown lawyers
themselves. Clarendon allows Hampden’s demeanour through the whole
proceeding to have been such, that even those who watched for an
occasion against the defender of the people, were compelled to
acknowledge themselves unable to find any fault in him. That he was
right in the point of law is now universally admitted. Even had it been
otherwise, he had a fair case. Five of the judges, servile as our Courts
then were, pronounced in his favour. The majority against him was the
smallest possible. In no country retaining the slightest vestige of
constitutional liberty can a modest and decent appeal to the laws be
treated as a crime. Strafford, however, recommends that, for taking
the sense of a legal tribunal on a legal question, Hampden should be
punished, and punished severely, “whipt,” says the insolent apostate,
“whipt into his senses. If the rod,” he adds, “be so used that it smarts
not, I am the more sorry.” This is the maintenance of just authority.

In civilised nations, the most arbitrary governments have generally
suffered justice to have a free course in private suits. Strafford
wished to make every cause in every court subject to the royal
prerogative. He complained that in Ireland he was not permitted to
meddle in cases between party and party. “I know very well,” says he,
“that the common lawyers will be passionately against it, who are wont
to put such a prejudice upon all other professions, as if none were to
be trusted, or capable to administer justice, but themselves: yet how
well this suits with monarchy, when they monopolise all to be governed
by their year-books, you in England have a costly example.” We are
really curious to know by what arguments it is to be proved, that the
power of interfering in the law-suits of individuals is part of the just
authority of the executive government.

It is not strange that a man so careless of the common civil rights,
which even despots have generally respected, should treat with scorn the
limitations which the constitution imposes on the royal prerogative. We
might quote pages: but we will content ourselves with a single specimen:
“The debts of the Crown being taken off, you may govern as you please:
and most resolute I am that may be done without borrowing any help forth
of the King’s lodgings.”

Such was the theory of that thorough reform in the state which Strafford
meditated. His whole practice, from the day on which he sold himself to
the court, was in strict conformity to his theory. For his accomplices
various excuses may be urged; ignorance, imbecility, religious bigotry.
But Wentworth had no such plea. His intellect was capacious. His early
prepossessions were on the side of popular rights. He knew the whole
beauty and value of the system which he attempted to deface. He was the
first of the Rats, the first of those statesmen whose patriotism has
been only the coquetry of political prostitution, and whose profligacy
has taught governments to adopt the old maxim of the slave-market,
that it is cheaper to buy than to breed, to import defenders from an
Opposition than to rear them in a Ministry. He was the first Englishman
to whom a peerage was a sacrament of infamy, a baptism into the
communion of corruption. As he was the earliest of the hateful list,
so was he also by far the greatest; eloquent, sagacious, adventurous,
intrepid, ready of invention, immutable of purpose, in every talent
which exalts or destroys nations pre-eminent, the lost Archangel,
the Satan of the apostasy. The title for which, at the time of his
desertion, he exchanged a name honourably distinguished in the cause of
the people, reminds us of the appellation which, from the moment of the
first treason, fixed itself on the fallen Son of the Morning,

                   “Satan;--so call him now--

                   His former name

                   Is heard no more in heaven.”

The defection of Strafford from the popular party contributed mainly to
draw on him the hatred of his contemporaries. It has since made him an
object of peculiar interest to those whose lives have been spent, like
his, in proving that there is no malice like the malice of a renegade;
Nothing can be more natural or becoming than that one turncoat should
eulogize another.

Many enemies of public liberty have been distinguished by their private
virtues. But Strafford was the same throughout. As was the statesman,
such was the kinsman and such the lover. His conduct towards Lord
Mountmorris is recorded by Clarendon. For a word which can scarcely be
called rash, which could not have been made the subject of an ordinary
civil action, the Lord Lieutenant dragged a man of high rank, married to
a relative of that saint about whom he whimpered to the peers, before a
tribunal of slaves. Sentence of death was passed. Everything but death
was inflicted. Yet the treatment which Lord Ely experienced was still
more scandalous. That nobleman was thrown into prison, in order
to compel him to settle his estate in a manner agreeable to his
daughter-in-law, whom, as there is every reason to believe, Strafford
had debauched. These stories do not rest on vague report. The historians
most partial to the minister admit their truth, and censure them in
terms which, though too lenient for the occasion, was too severe. These
facts are alone sufficient to justify the appellation with which Pym
branded him “the wicked Earl.”

In spite of all Strafford’s vices, in spite of all his dangerous
projects, he was certainly entitled to the benefit of the law; but of
the law in all its rigour; of the law according to the utmost strictness
of the letter, which killeth. He was not to be torn in pieces by a mob,
or stabbed in the back by an assassin. He was not to have punishment
meted out to him from his own iniquitous measure. But if justice, in the
whole range of its wide armoury, contained one weapon which could pierce
him, that weapon his pursuers were bound, before God and man, to employ.

                        “If he may

               Find mercy in the law, ‘tis his: if none,

               Let him not seek’t of us.”

Such was the language which the Commons might justly use.

Did then the articles against Strafford strictly amount to high treason?
Many people, who know neither what the articles were, nor what high
treason is, will answer in the negative, simply because the accused
person, speaking for his life, took that ground of defence. The journals
of the Lords show that the judges were consulted. They answered, with
one accord, that the articles on which the earl was convicted amounted
to high treason. This judicial opinion, even if we suppose it to
have been erroneous, goes far to justify the Parliament. The judgment
pronounced in the Exchequer Chamber has always been urged by the
apologists of Charles in defence of his conduct respecting ship-money.
Yet on that occasion there was but a bare majority in favour of the
party at whose pleasure all the magistrates composing the tribunal were
removable. The decision in the case of Strafford was unanimous; as far
as we can judge, it was unbiassed; and, though there may be room for
hesitation, we think, on the whole, that it was reasonable. “It may
be remarked,” says Mr. Hallam, “that the fifteenth article of the
impeachment, charging Strafford with raising money by his own authority,
and quartering troops on the people of Ireland, in order to compel their
obedience to his unlawful requisitions, upon which, and upon one other
article, not upon the whole matter, the Peers voted him guilty, does,
at least, approach very nearly, if we may not say more, to a substantive
treason within the statute of Edward the Third, as a levying of war
against the King.” This most sound and just exposition has provoked
a very ridiculous reply. “It should seem to be an Irish construction
this,” says, an assailant of Mr. Hallam, “which makes the raising money
for the King’s service, with his knowledge, and by his approbation, to
come under the head of levying war on the King, and therefore to be high
treason.” Now, people who undertake to write on points of constitutional
law should know, what every attorney’s clerk and every forward schoolboy
on an upper form knows, that, by a fundamental maxim of our polity, the
King can do no wrong; that every court is bound to suppose his conduct
and his sentiments to be, on every occasion, such as they ought to be;
and that no evidence can be received for the purpose of setting aside
this loyal and salutary presumption. The Lords therefore, were bound to
take it for granted that the King considered arms which were unlawfully
directed against his people as directed against his own throne.

The remarks of Mr. Hallam on the bill of attainder, though, as
usual, weighty and acute, do not perfectly satisfy us. He defends the
principle, but objects to the severity of the punishment. That, on great
emergencies, the State may justifiably pass a retrospective act against
an offender, we have no doubt whatever. We are acquainted with only one
argument on the other side, which has in it enough of reason to bear an
answer. Warning, it is said, is the end of punishment. But a punishment
inflicted, not by a general rule, but by an arbitrary discretion, cannot
serve the purpose of a warning. It is therefore useless; and useless
pain ought not to be inflicted. This sophism has found its way into
several books on penal legislation. It admits however of a very simple
refutation. In the first place, punishments ex post facto are not
altogether useless even as warnings. They are warnings to a particular
class which stand in great need of warnings to favourites and ministers.
They remind persons of this description that there maybe a day of
reckoning for those who ruin and enslave their country in all forms
of the law. But this is not all. Warning is, in ordinary cases, the
principal end of punishment; but it is not the only end. To remove
the offender, to preserve society from those dangers which are to be
apprehended from his incorrigible depravity, is often one of the ends.
In the case of such a knave as Wild, or such a ruffian as Thurtell, it
is a very important end. In the case of a powerful and wicked statesman,
it is infinitely more important; so important, as alone to justify the
utmost severity, even though it were certain that his fate would not
deter others from imitating his example. At present, indeed, we should
think it extremely pernicious to take such a course, even with a worse
minister than Strafford, if a worse could exist; for, at present,
Parliament has only to withhold its support from a Cabinet to produce an
immediate change of hands. The case was widely different in the reign of
Charles the First. That Prince had governed during eleven years without
any Parliament; and, even when Parliament was sitting, had supported
Buckingham against its most violent remonstrances.

Mr. Hallam is of opinion that a bill of pains and penalties ought to
have been passed; but he draws a distinction less just, we think, than
his distinctions usually are. His opinion, so far as we can collect
it, is this, that there are almost insurmountable objections to
retrospective laws for capital punishment, but that, where the
punishment stops short of death, the objections are comparatively
trifling. Now the practice of taking the severity of the penalty into
consideration, when the question is about the mode of procedure and the
rules of evidence, is no doubt sufficiently common. We often see a
man convicted of a simple larceny on evidence on which he would not be
convicted of a burglary. It sometimes happens that a jury, when there
is strong suspicion, but not absolute demonstration, that an act,
unquestionably amounting to murder, was committed by the prisoner before
them, will find him guilty of manslaughter. But this is surely very
irrational. The rules of evidence no more depend on the magnitude of the
interests at stake than the rules of arithmetic. We might as well say
that we have a greater chance of throwing a size when we are playing for
a penny than when we are playing for a thousand pounds, as that a form
of trial which is sufficient for the purposes of justice, in a matter
affecting liberty and property, is insufficient in a matter affecting
life. Nay, if a mode of proceeding be too lax for capital cases, it is,
a fortiori, too lax for all others; for in capital cases, the principles
of human nature will always afford considerable security. No judge is so
cruel as he who indemnifies himself for scrupulosity in cases of blood,
by licence in affairs of smaller importance. The difference in tale on
the one side far more than makes up for the difference in weight on the
other.

If there be any universal objection to retrospective punishment, there
is no more to be said. But such is not the opinion of Mr. Hallam. He
approves of the mode of proceeding. He thinks that a punishment, not
previously affixed by law to the offences of Strafford, should have
been inflicted; that Strafford should have been, by act of Parliament,
degraded from his rank, and condemned to perpetual banishment. Our
difficulty would have been at the first step, and there only. Indeed
we can scarcely conceive that any case which does not call for capital
punishment can call for punishment by a retrospective act. We can
scarcely conceive a man so wicked and so dangerous that the whole course
of law must be disturbed in order to reach him, yet not so wicked as to
deserve the severest sentence, nor so dangerous as to require the last
and surest custody, that of the grave. If we had thought that Strafford
might be safely suffered to live in France, we should have thought it
better that he should continue to live in England, than that he should
be exiled by a special act. As to degradation, it was not the Earl, but
the general and the statesman, whom the people had to fear. Essex said,
on that occasion, with more truth than elegance, “Stone dead hath no
fellow.” And often during the civil wars the Parliament had reason to
rejoice that an irreversible law and an impassable barrier protected
them from the valour and capacity of Wentworth.

It is remarkable that neither Hyde nor Falkland voted against the bill
of attainder. There is, indeed, reason to believe that Falkland spoke in
favour of it. In one respect, as Mr. Hallam has observed, the proceeding
was honourably distinguished from others of the same kind. An act was
passed to relieve the children of Strafford from the forfeiture and
corruption of blood which were the legal consequences of the sentence.
The Crown had never shown equal generosity in a case of treason. The
liberal conduct of the Commons has been fully and most appropriately
repaid. The House of Wentworth has since that time been as much
distinguished by public spirit as by power and splendour, and may at
the present moment boast of members with whom Say and Hampden would have
been proud to act.

It is somewhat curious that the admirers of Strafford should also be,
without a single exception, the admirers of Charles; for, whatever
we may think of the conduct of the Parliament towards the unhappy
favourite, there can be no doubt that the treatment which he received
from his master was disgraceful. Faithless alike to his people and to
his tools, the King did not scruple to play the part of the cowardly
approver, who hangs his accomplice. It is good that there should be such
men as Charles in every league of villainy. It is for such men that the
offer of pardon and reward which appears after a murder is intended.
They are indemnified, remunerated and despised. The very magistrate who
avails himself of their assistance looks on them as more contemptible
than the criminal whom they betray. Was Strafford innocent? Was he a
meritorious servant of the Crown? If so, what shall we think of the
Prince, who having solemnly promised him that not a hair of his head
should be hurt, and possessing an unquestioned constitutional right to
save him, gave him up to the vengeance of his enemies? There were some
points which we know that Charles would not concede, and for which he
was willing to risk the chances of the civil war. Ought not a King, who
will make a stand for anything, to make a stand for the innocent blood?
Was Strafford guilty? Even on this supposition, it is difficult not to
feel disdain for the partner of his guilt, the tempter turned punisher.
If, indeed, from that time forth, the conduct of Charles had been
blameless, it might have been said that his eyes were at last opened to
the errors of his former conduct, and that, in sacrificing to the wishes
of his Parliament a minister whose crime had been a devotion too zealous
to the interests of his prerogative, he gave a painful and deeply
humiliating proof of the sincerity of his repentance. We may describe
the King’s behaviour on this occasion in terms resembling those which
Hume has employed when speaking of the conduct of Churchill at the
Revolution. It required ever after the most rigid justice and sincerity
in the dealings of Charles with his people to vindicate his conduct
towards his friend. His subsequent dealings with his people, however,
clearly showed, that it was not from any respect for the Constitution,
or from any sense of the deep criminality of the plans in which
Strafford and himself had been engaged, that he gave up his minister to
the axe. It became evident that he had abandoned a servant who, deeply
guilty as to all others, was guiltless to him alone, solely in order to
gain time for maturing other schemes of tyranny, and purchasing the aid
of the other Wentworths. He, who would not avail himself of the power
which the laws gave him to save an adherent to whom his honour was
pledged, soon showed that he did not scruple to break every law and
forfeit every pledge, in order to work the ruin of his opponents.

“Put not your trust in princes!” was the expression of the fallen
minister, when he heard that Charles had consented to his death. The
whole history of the times is a sermon on that bitter text. The defence
of the Long Parliament is comprised in the dying words of its victim.

The early measures of that Parliament Mr. Hallam in general approves.
But he considers the proceedings which took place after the recess in
the summer of 1641 as mischievous and violent. He thinks that, from
that time, the demands of the Houses were not warranted by any imminent
danger to the Constitution and that in the war which ensued they were
clearly the aggressors. As this is one of the most interesting questions
in our history, we will venture to state, at some length, the reasons
which have led us to form an opinion on it contrary to that of a writer
whose judgment we so highly respect.

We will premise that we think worse of King Charles the First than even
Mr. Hallam appears to do. The fixed hatred of liberty which was the
principle of the King’s public conduct the unscrupulousness with which
he adopted any means which might enable him to attain his ends, the
readiness with which he gave promises, the impudence with which he broke
them, the cruel indifference with which he threw away his useless or
damaged tools, made him, at least till his character was fully exposed,
and his power shaken to its foundations, a more dangerous enemy to the
Constitution than a man of far greater talents and resolution might
have been. Such princes may still be seen, the scandals of the southern
thrones of Europe, princes false alike to the accomplices who have
served them and to the opponents who have spared them, princes who, in
the hour of danger, concede everything, swear everything, hold out their
cheeks to every smiter, give up to punishment every instrument of their
tyranny, and await with meek and smiling implacability the blessed day
of perjury and revenge.

We will pass by the instances of oppression and falsehood which
disgraced the early part of the reign of Charles. We will leave out of
the question the whole history of his third Parliament, the price which
he exacted for assenting to the Petition of Right, the perfidy with
which he violated his engagements, the death of Eliot, the barbarous
punishments inflicted by the Star-Chamber, the ship-money, and all the
measures now universally condemned, which disgraced his administration
from 1630 to 1640. We will admit that it might be the duty of the
Parliament after punishing the most guilty of his creatures, after
abolishing the inquisitorial tribunals which had been the instruments
of his tyranny, after reversing the unjust sentences of his victims to
pause in its course. The concessions which had been made were great, the
evil of civil war obvious, the advantages even of victory doubtful. The
former errors of the King might be imputed to youth, to the pressure of
circumstances, to the influence of evil counsel, to the undefined state
of the law. We firmly believe that if, even at this eleventh hour,
Charles had acted fairly towards his people, if he had even acted fairly
towards his own partisans, the House of Commons would have given him a
fair chance of retrieving the public confidence. Such was the opinion of
Clarendon. He distinctly states that the fury of opposition had abated,
that a reaction had begun to take place, that the majority of those
who had taken part against the King were desirous of an honourable
and complete reconciliation and that the more violent or, as it soon
appeared, the more judicious members of the popular party were fast
declining in credit. The Remonstrance had been carried with great
difficulty. The uncompromising antagonists of the court such as
Cromwell, had begun to talk of selling their estates and leaving
England. The event soon showed that they were the only men who
really understood how much inhumanity and fraud lay hid under the
constitutional language and gracious demeanour of the King.

The attempt to seize the five members was undoubtedly the real cause of
the war. From that moment, the loyal confidence with which most of the
popular party were beginning to regard the King was turned into hatred
and incurable suspicion. From that moment, the Parliament was compelled
to surround itself with defensive arms. From that moment, the city
assumed the appearance of a garrison. From that moment, in the phrase
of Clarendon, the carriage of Hampden became fiercer, that he drew the
sword and threw away the scabbard. For, from that moment, it must
have been evident to every impartial observer, that, in the midst
of professions, oaths, and smiles, the tyrant was constantly looking
forward to an absolute sway, and to a bloody revenge.

The advocates of Charles have very dexterously contrived to conceal from
their readers the real nature of this transaction. By making concessions
apparently candid and ample, they elude the great accusation. They allow
that the measure was weak and even frantic, an absurd caprice of Lord
Digby, absurdly adopted by the King. And thus they save their client
from the full penalty of his transgression, by entering a plea of guilty
to the minor offence. To us his conduct appears at this day as at the
time it appeared to the Parliament and the city. We think it by no
means so foolish as it pleases his friends to represent it, and far more
wicked.

In the first place, the transaction was illegal from beginning to end.
The impeachment was illegal. The process was illegal. The service was
illegal. If Charles wished to prosecute the five members for treason, a
bill against them should have been sent to a grand jury. That a commoner
cannot be tried for high treason by the Lords at the suit of the Crown,
is part of the very alphabet of our law. That no man can be arrested by
the King in person is equally clear. This was an established maxim of
our jurisprudence even in the time of Edward the Fourth. “A subject,”
said Chief Justice Markham to that Prince, “may arrest for treason:
the King cannot; for, if the arrest be illegal, the party has no remedy
against the King.”

The time at which Charles took his step also deserves consideration. We
have already said that the ardour which the Parliament had displayed at
the time of its first meeting had considerably abated, that the leading
opponents of the court were desponding, and that their followers were in
general inclined to milder and more temperate measures than those which
had hitherto been pursued. In every country, and in none more than
in England, there is a disposition to take the part of those who are
unmercifully run down, and who seem destitute of all means of defence.
Every man who has observed the ebb and flow of public feeling in our own
time will easily recall examples to illustrate this remark. An English
statesman ought to pay assiduous worship to Nemesis, to be most
apprehensive of ruin when he is at the height of power and popularity,
and to dread his enemy most when most completely prostrated. The fate of
the Coalition Ministry in 1784 is perhaps the strongest instance in
our history of the operation of this principle. A few weeks turned
the ablest and most extended Ministry that ever existed into a feeble
Opposition, and raised a King who was talking of retiring to Hanover to
a height of power which none of his predecessors had enjoyed since the
Revolution. A crisis of this description was evidently approaching in
1642. At such a crisis, a Prince of a really honest and generous nature,
who had erred, who had seen his error, who had regretted the lost
affections of his people, who rejoiced in the dawning hope of regaining
them, would be peculiarly careful to take no step which could give
occasion of offence, even to the unreasonable. On the other hand, a
tyrant, whose whole life was a lie, who hated the Constitution the more
because he had been compelled to feign respect for it, and to whom his
own honour and the love of his people were as nothing, would select such
a crisis for some appalling violation of the law, for some stroke which
might remove the chiefs of an Opposition, and intimidate the herd. This
Charles attempted. He missed his blow; but so narrowly, that it would
have been mere madness in those at whom it was aimed to trust him again.

It deserves to be remarked that the King had, a short time before,
promised the most respectable Royalists in the House of Commons,
Falkland, Colepepper, and Hyde, that he would take no measure in which
that House was concerned, without consulting them. On this occasion he
did not consult them. His conduct astonished them more than any other
members of the Assembly. Clarendon says that they were deeply hurt by
this want of confidence, and the more hurt, because, if they had been
consulted, they would have done their utmost to dissuade Charles from so
improper a proceeding. Did it never occur to Clarendon, will it not at
least occur to men less partial, that there was good reason for this?
When the danger to the throne seemed imminent, the King was ready to put
himself for a time into the hands of those who, though they disapproved
of his past conduct, thought that the remedies had now become worse than
the distempers. But we believe that in his heart he regarded both the
parties in the Parliament with feelings of aversion which differed only
in the degree of their intensity, and that the awful warning which
he proposed to give, by immolating the principal supporters of the
Remonstrance, was partly intended for the instruction of those who
had concurred in censuring the ship-money and in abolishing the
Star-Chamber.

The Commons informed the King that their members should be forthcoming
to answer any charge legally brought against them. The Lords refused
to assume the unconstitutional office with which he attempted to invest
them. And what was then his conduct? He went, attended by hundreds of
armed men, to seize the objects of his hatred in the House itself. The
party opposed to him more than insinuated that his purpose was of the
most atrocious kind. We will not condemn him merely on their suspicions.
We will not hold him answerable for the sanguinary expressions of the
loose brawlers who composed his train. We will judge of his act by
itself alone. And we say, without hesitation, that it is impossible
to acquit him of having meditated violence, and violence which might
probably end in blood. He knew that the legality of his proceedings was
denied. He must have known that some of the accused members were men not
likely to submit peaceably to an illegal arrest. There was every reason
to expect that he would find them in their places, that they would
refuse to obey his summons, and that the House would support them in
their refusal. What course would then have been left to him? Unless we
suppose that he went on this expedition for the sole purpose of making
himself ridiculous, we must believe that he would have had recourse to
force. There would have been a scuffle; and it might not, under such
circumstances, have been in his power, even if it had been in his
inclination, to prevent a scuffle from ending in a massacre. Fortunately
for his fame, unfortunately perhaps for what he prized far more, the
interests of his hatred and his ambition, the affair ended differently.
The birds, as he said, were flown, and his plan was disconcerted.
Posterity is not extreme to mark abortive crimes; and thus the King’s
advocates have found it easy to represent a step, which, but for a
trivial accident, might have filled England with mourning and dismay, as
a mere error of judgment, wild and foolish, but perfectly innocent.
Such was not, however, at the time, the opinion of any party. The most
zealous Royalists were so much disgusted and ashamed that they suspended
their opposition to the popular party, and, silently at least, concurred
in measures of precaution so strong as almost to amount to resistance.

From that day, whatever of confidence and loyal attachment had survived
the misrule of seventeen years was, in the great body of the people,
extinguished, and extinguished for ever. As soon as the outrage
had failed, the hypocrisy recommenced. Down to the very eve of this
flagitious attempt Charles had been talking of his respect for the
privileges of Parliament and the liberties of his people. He began again
in the same style on the morrow; but it was too late. To trust him now
would have been, not moderation, but insanity. What common security
would suffice against a Prince who was evidently watching his season
with that cold and patient hatred which, in the long-run, tires out
every other passion?

It is certainly from no admiration of Charles that Mr. Hallam
disapproves of the conduct of the Houses in resorting to arms. But
he thinks that any attempt on the part of that Prince to establish a
despotism would have been as strongly opposed by his adherents as by his
enemies, and that therefore the Constitution might be considered as out
of danger, or, at least that it had more to apprehend from the war than
from the King. On this subject Mr. Hallam dilates at length, and with
conspicuous ability. We will offer a few considerations which lead us to
incline to a different opinion.

The Constitution of England was only one of a large family. In all the
monarchies of Western Europe, during the middle ages, there existed
restraints on the royal authority, fundamental laws, and representative
assemblies. In the fifteenth century, the government of Castile seems to
have been as free as that of our own country. That of Arragon was beyond
all question more so. In France, the sovereign was more absolute. Yet
even in France, the States-General alone could constitutionally impose
taxes; and, at the very time when the authority of those assemblies
was beginning to languish, the Parliament of Paris received such an
accession of strength as enabled it, in some measure, to perform
the functions of a legislative assembly. Sweden and Denmark had
constitutions of a similar description.

Let us overleap two or three hundred years, and contemplate Europe at
the commencement of the eighteenth century. Every free constitution,
save one, had gone down. That of England had weathered the danger,
and was riding in full security. In Denmark and Sweden, the kings had
availed themselves of the disputes which raged between the nobles and
the commons, to unite all the powers of government in their own hands.
In France the institution of the States was only mentioned by lawyers as
a part of the ancient theory of their government. It slept a deep sleep,
destined to be broken by a tremendous waking. No person remembered the
sittings of the three orders, or expected ever to see them renewed.
Louis the Fourteenth had imposed on his parliament a patient silence
of sixty years. His grandson, after the War of the Spanish Succession,
assimilated the constitution of Arragon to that of Castile, and
extinguished the last feeble remains of liberty in the Peninsula. In
England, on the other hand, the Parliament was infinitely more powerful
than it had ever been. Not only was its legislative authority fully
established; but its right to interfere, by advice almost equivalent
to command, in every department of the executive government, was
recognised. The appointment of ministers, the relations with foreign
powers, the conduct of a war or a negotiation, depended less on the
pleasure of the Prince than on that of the two Houses.

What then made us to differ? Why was it that, in that epidemic malady of
constitutions, ours escaped the destroying influence; or rather that, at
the very crisis of the disease, a favourable turn took place in England,
and in England alone? It was not surely without a cause that so many
kindred systems of government, having flourished together so long,
languished and expired at almost the same time.

It is the fashion to say that the progress of civilisation is favourable
to liberty. The maxim, though in some sense true, must be limited by
many qualifications and exceptions. Wherever a poor and rude nation,
in which the form of government is a limited monarchy, receives a great
accession of wealth and knowledge, it is in imminent danger of falling
under arbitrary power.

In such a state of society as that which existed all over Europe during
the middle ages, very slight checks sufficed to keep the sovereign in
order. His means of corruption and intimidation were very scanty. He had
little money, little patronage, no military establishment. His armies
resembled juries. They were drawn out of the mass of the people:
they soon returned to it again: and the character which was habitual
prevailed over that which was occasional. A campaign of forty days was
too short, the discipline of a national militia too lax, to efface from
their minds the feelings of civil life. As they carried to the camp the
sentiments and interests of the farm and the shop, so they carried back
to the farm and the shop the military accomplishments which they had
acquired in the camp. At home the soldier learned how to value his
rights, abroad how to defend them.

Such a military force as this was a far stronger restraint on the regal
power than any legislative assembly. The army, now the most formidable
instrument of the executive power, was then the most formidable check on
that power. Resistance to an established government, in modern times
so difficult and perilous an enterprise, was in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries the simplest and easiest matter in the world.
Indeed, it was far too simple and easy. An insurrection was got up then
almost as easily as a petition is got up now. In a popular cause, or
even in an unpopular cause favoured by a few great nobles, a force of
ten thousand armed men was raised in a week. If the King were, like our
Edward the Second and Richard the Second, generally odious, he could not
procure a single bow or halbert. He fell at once and without an effort.
In such times a sovereign like Louis the Fifteenth or the Emperor Paul
would have been pulled down before his misgovernment had lasted for a
month. We find that all the fame and influence of our Edward the Third
could not save his Madame de Pompadour from the effects of the public
hatred.

Hume and many other writers have hastily concluded, that, in the
fifteenth century, the English Parliament was altogether servile,
because it recognised, without opposition, every successful usurper.
That it was not servile its conduct on many occasions of inferior
importance is sufficient to prove. But surely it was not strange that
the majority of the nobles, and of the deputies chosen by the commons,
should approve of revolutions which the nobles and commons had effected.
The Parliament did not blindly follow the event of war, but participated
in those changes of public sentiment on which the event of war depended.
The legal check was secondary and auxiliary to that which the nation
held in its own hands.

There have always been monarchies in Asia, in which the royal authority
has been tempered by fundamental laws, though no legislative body exists
to watch over them. The guarantee is the opinion of a community of
which every individual is a soldier. Thus, the king of Cabul, as Mr.
Elphinstone informs us, cannot augment the land revenue, or interfere
with the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals.

In the European kingdoms of this description there were representative
assemblies. But it was not necessary that those assemblies should meet
very frequently, that they should interfere with all the operations
of the executive government, that they should watch with jealousy, and
resent with prompt indignation, every violation of the laws which the
sovereign might commit. They were so strong that they might safely be
careless. He was so feeble that he might safely be suffered to encroach.
If he ventured too far, chastisement and ruin were at hand. In fact,
the people generally suffered more from his weakness than from his
authority. The tyranny of wealthy and powerful subjects was the
characteristic evil of the times. The royal prerogatives were not even
sufficient for the defence of property and the maintenance of police.

The progress of civilisation introduced a great change. War became a
science, and, as a necessary consequence, a trade. The great body of the
people grew every day more reluctant to undergo the inconveniences of
military service, and better able to pay others for undergoing them.
A new class of men, therefore, dependent on the Crown alone, natural
enemies of those popular rights which are to them as the dew to the
fleece of Gideon, slaves among freemen, freemen among slaves, grew into
importance. That physical force which in the dark ages had belonged to
the nobles and the commons, and had, far more than any charter, or any
assembly, been the safeguard of their privileges, was transferred
entire to the King. Monarchy gained in two ways. The sovereign was
strengthened, the subjects weakened. The great mass of the population,
destitute of all military discipline and organisation, ceased to
exercise any influence by force on political transactions. There have,
indeed, during the last hundred and fifty years, been many popular
insurrections in Europe: but all have failed except those in which the
regular army has been induced to join the disaffected.

Those legal checks which, while the sovereign remained dependent on his
subjects, had been adequate to the purpose for which they were designed,
were now found wanting. The dikes which had been sufficient while the
waters were low were not high enough to keep out the springtide. The
deluge passed over them and, according to the exquisite illustration of
Butler, the formal boundaries, which had excluded it, now held it in.
The old constitutions fared like the old shields and coats of mail. They
were the defences of a rude age; and they did well enough against the
weapons of a rude age. But new and more formidable means of destruction
were invented. The ancient panoply became useless; and it was thrown
aside, to rust in lumber-rooms, or exhibited only as part of an idle
pageant.

Thus absolute monarchy was established on the Continent. England
escaped; but she escaped very narrowly. Happily our insular situation,
and the pacific policy of James, rendered standing armies unnecessary
here, till they had been for some time kept up in the neighbouring
kingdoms. Our public men, had therefore an opportunity of watching the
effects produced by this momentous change on governments which bore a
close analogy to that established in England. Everywhere they saw the
power of the monarch increasing, the resistance of assemblies which were
no longer supported by a national force gradually becoming more and more
feeble, and at length altogether ceasing. The friends and the enemies of
liberty perceived with equal clearness the causes of this general decay.
It is the favourite theme of Strafford. He advises the King to procure
from the judges a recognition of his right to raise an army at his
pleasure. “This place well fortified,” says he, “for ever vindicates the
monarchy at home from under the conditions and restraints of subjects.”
We firmly believe that he was in the right. Nay; we believe that, even
if no deliberate scheme, of arbitrary government had been formed, by
the sovereign and his ministers, there was great reason to apprehend
a natural extinction of the Constitution. If, for example, Charles had
played the part of Gustavus Adolphus, if he had carried on a popular war
for the defence of the Protestant cause in Germany, if he had gratified
the national pride by a series of victories, if he had formed an army of
forty or fifty thousand devoted soldiers, we do not see what chance the
nation would have had of escaping from despotism. The judges would
have given as strong a decision in favour of camp-money as they gave in
favour of ship-money. If they had been scrupulous, it would have made
little difference. An individual who resisted would have been treated
as Charles treated Eliot, and as Strafford wished to treat Hampden.
The Parliament might have been summoned once in twenty years, to
congratulate a King on his accession, or to give solemnity to some great
measure of state. Such had been the fate of legislative assemblies as
powerful, as much respected, as high-spirited, as the English Lords and
Commons.

The two Houses, surrounded by the ruins of so many free constitutions
overthrown or sapped by the new military system, were required to
intrust the command of an army and the conduct of the Irish war to a
King who had proposed to himself the destruction of liberty as the great
end of his policy. We are decidedly of opinion that it would have been
fatal to comply. Many of those who took the side of the King on this
question would have cursed their own loyalty, if they had seen him
return from war; at the head of twenty thousand troops, accustomed to
carriage and free quarters in Ireland.

We think with Mr. Hallam that many of the Royalist nobility and gentry
were true friends to the Constitution, and that, but for the solemn
protestations by which the King bound himself to govern according to
the law for the future, they never would have joined his standard. But
surely they underrated the public danger. Falkland is commonly selected
as the most respectable specimen of this class. He was indeed a man of
great talents and of great virtues but, we apprehend, infinitely too
fastidious for public life. He did not perceive that, in such times as
those on which his lot had fallen, the duty of a statesman is to choose
the better cause and to stand by it, in spite of those excesses by which
every cause, however good in itself, will be disgraced. The present
evil always seemed to him the worst. He was always going backward and
forward; but it should be remembered to his honour that it was always
from the stronger to the weaker side that he deserted. While Charles was
oppressing the people, Falkland was a resolute champion of liberty.
He attacked Strafford. He even concurred in strong measures against
Episcopacy. But the violence of his party annoyed him, and drove him to
the other party, to be equally annoyed there. Dreading the success of
the cause which he had espoused, disgusted by the courtiers of Oxford,
as he had been disgusted by the patriots of Westminster, yet bound by
honour not to abandon the cause, for which he was in arms, he pined
away, neglected his person, went about moaning for peace, and at last
rushed desperately on death, as the best refuge in such miserable times.
If he had lived through the scenes that followed, we have little doubt
that he would have condemned himself to share the exile and beggary of
the royal family; that he would then have returned to oppose all their
measures; that he would have been sent to the Tower by the Commons as
a stifler of the Popish Plot, and by the King as an accomplice in the
Rye-House Plot; and that, if he had escaped being hanged, first by
Scroggs, and then by Jeffreys, he would, after manfully opposing James
the Second through years of tyranny, have been seized with a fit of
compassion, at the very moment of the Revolution, have voted for a
regency, and died a non-juror.

We do not dispute that the royal party contained many excellent men and
excellent citizens. But this we say, that they did not discern those
times. The peculiar glory of the Houses of Parliament is that, in the
great plague and mortality of constitutions, they took their stand
between the living and the dead. At the very crisis of our destiny, at
the very moment when the fate which had passed on every other nation was
about to pass on England, they arrested the danger.

Those who conceive that the parliamentary leaders were desirous merely
to maintain the old constitution, and those who represent them as
conspiring to subvert it, are equally in error. The old constitution,
as we have attempted to show, could not be maintained. The progress
of time, the increase of wealth, the diffusion of knowledge, the great
change in the European system of war, rendered it impossible that any
of the monarchies of the middle ages should continue to exist on the old
footing. The prerogative of the crown was constantly advancing. If the
privileges of the people were to remain absolutely stationary, they
would relatively retrograde. The monarchical and democratical parts of
the government were placed in a situation not unlike that of the two
brothers in the Fairy Queen, one of whom saw the soil of his inheritance
daily, washed away by the tide and joined to that of his rival. The
portions had at first been fairly meted out. By a natural and constant
transfer, the one had been extended; the other had dwindled to nothing.
A new partition, or a compensation, was necessary to restore the
original equality.

It was now, therefore, absolutely necessary to violate the formal part
of the constitution, in order to preserve its spirit. This might have
been done, as it was done at the Revolution, by expelling the reigning
family, and calling to the throne princes who, relying solely on an
elective title, would find it necessary to respect the privileges and
follow the advice of the assemblies to which they owed everything, to
pass every bill which the Legislature strongly pressed upon them, and
to fill the offices of state with men in whom the Legislature confided.
But, as the two Houses did not choose to change the dynasty, it was
necessary that they should do directly what at the Revolution was done
indirectly. Nothing is more usual than to hear it said that, if the
Houses had contented themselves with making such a reform in the
government under Charles as was afterwards made under William, they
would have had the highest claim to national gratitude; and that in
their violence they overshot the mark. But how was it possible to make
such a settlement under Charles? Charles was not, like William and the
princes of the Hanoverian line, bound by community of interests and
dangers to the Parliament. It was therefore necessary that he should be
bound by treaty and statute.

Mr. Hallam reprobates, in language which has a little surprised us, the
nineteen propositions into which the Parliament digested its scheme.
Is it possible to doubt that, if James the Second had remained in the
island, and had been suffered, as he probably would in that case have
been suffered, to keep his crown, conditions to the full as hard would
have been imposed on him? On the other hand, we fully admit that, if the
Long Parliament had pronounced the departure of Charles from London an
abdication, and had called Essex or Northumberland to the throne,
the new prince might have safely been suffered to reign without such
restrictions. His situation would have been a sufficient guarantee.

In the nineteen propositions we see very little to blame except the
articles against the Catholics. These, however, were in the spirit of
that age; and to some sturdy churchmen in our own, they may seem
to palliate even the good which the Long Parliament effected. The
regulation with respect to new creations of Peers is the only other
article about which we entertain any doubt. One of the propositions is
that the judges shall hold their offices during good behaviour. To this
surely no exception will be taken. The right of directing the education
and marriage of the princes was most properly claimed by the Parliament,
on the same ground on which, after the Revolution, it was enacted, that
no king, on pain of forfeiting, his throne, should espouse a Papist.
Unless we condemn the statesmen of the Revolution, who conceived
that England could not safely be governed by a sovereign married to a
Catholic queen, we can scarcely condemn the Long Parliament because,
having a sovereign so situated, they thought it necessary to place him
under strict restraints. The influence of Henrietta Maria had already
been deeply felt in political affairs. In the regulation of her family,
in the education and marriage of her children, it was still more likely
to be felt; There might be another Catholic queen; possibly a Catholic
king. Little, as we are disposed to join in the vulgar clamour on this
subject, we think that such an event ought to be, if possible, averted;
and this could only be done, if Charles was to be left on the throne, by
placing his domestic arrangements under the control of Parliament.

A veto on the appointment of ministers was demanded. But this veto
Parliament has virtually possessed ever since the Revolution. It is
no doubt very far better that this power of the Legislature should be
exercised as it is now exercised, when any great occasion calls for
interference, than that at every change the Commons should have to
signify their approbation or disapprobation in form. But, unless a new
family had been placed on the throne, we do not see how this power could
have been exercised as it is now exercised. We again repeat that no
restraints which could be imposed on the princes who reigned after the
Revolution could have added to the security, which their title afforded.
They were compelled to court their parliaments. But from Charles nothing
was to be expected which was not set down in the bond.

It was not stipulated that the King should give up his negative on acts
of Parliament. But the Commons, had certainly shown a strong disposition
to exact this security also. “Such a doctrine,” says Mr. Hallam, “was
in this country as repugnant to the whole history of our laws, as it was
incompatible with the subsistence of the monarchy in anything more than
a nominal preeminence.” Now this article has been as completely carried
into elect by the Revolution as if it had been formally inserted in the
Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. We are surprised, we confess,
that Mr. Hallam should attach so much importance to a prerogative which
has not been exercised for a hundred and thirty years, which probably
will never be exercised again, and which can scarcely, in any
conceivable case, be exercised for a salutary purpose.

But the great security, the security without which every other would
have been insufficient, was the power of the sword. This both parties
thoroughly understood. The Parliament insisted on having the command
of the militia and the direction of the Irish war. “By God, not for an
hour!” exclaimed the King. “Keep the militia,” said the Queen, after
the defeat of the royal party. “Keep the militia; that will bring back
everything.” That, by the old constitution, no military authority was
lodged in the Parliament, Mr. Hallam has clearly shown. That it is a
species of authority which ought, not to be permanently lodged in
large and divided assemblies, must, we think in fairness be conceded.
Opposition, publicity, long discussion, frequent compromise; these
are the characteristics of the proceedings of such assemblies. Unity,
secrecy, decision, are the qualities which military arrangements
require. There were, therefore, serious objections to the proposition
of the Houses on this subject. But, on the other hand, to trust such
a King, at such a crisis, with the very weapon which, in hands less
dangerous, had destroyed so many free constitutions, would have been the
extreme of rashness. The jealousy with which the oligarchy of Venice and
the States of Holland regarded their generals and armies induced them
perpetually to interfere in matters of which they were incompetent to
judge. This policy secured them against military usurpation, but placed
them, under great disadvantages in war. The uncontrolled power which
the King of France exercised over his troops enabled him to conquer
his enemies, but enabled him also to oppress his people. Was there any
intermediate course? None, we confess altogether free from objection.
But on the whole, we conceive that the best measure would have been that
which the Parliament over and over proposed, namely, that for a limited
time the power of the sword should be left to the two Houses, and that
it should revert to the Crown when the constitution should be firmly
established, and when the new securities of freedom should be so far
strengthened by prescription that it would be difficult to employ even a
standing army for the purpose of subverting them.

Mr. Hallam thinks that the dispute might easily have been compromised,
by enacting that, the King should have no power to keep a standing army
on foot without the consent of Parliament. He reasons as if the question
had been merely theoretical, and as if at that time no army had been
wanted. “The kingdom,” he says, “might have well dispensed, in that age,
with any military organisation.” Now, we think that Mr. Hallam overlooks
the most important circumstance in the whole case. Ireland was actually
in rebellion; and a great expedition would obviously be necessary to
reduce that kingdom to obedience. The Houses had therefore to consider,
not at abstract question of law, but an urgent practical question,
directly involving the safety of the state. They had to consider the
expediency of immediately giving a great army to a King who was, at
least, as desirous to put down the Parliament of England as to conquer
the insurgents of Ireland.

Of course we do not mean to defend all the measures of the Houses. Far
from it. There never was a perfect man. It would, therefore, be the
height of absurdity to expect a perfect party or a perfect assembly. For
large bodies are far more likely to err than individuals. The passions
are inflamed by sympathy; the fear of punishment and the sense of shame
are diminished by partition. Every day we see men do for their faction
what they would die rather than do for themselves.

Scarcely any private quarrel ever happens, in which the right and wrong
are so exquisitely divided that all the right lies on one side, and all
the wrong on the other. But here was a schism which separated a great
nation into two parties. Of these parties, each was composed of many
smaller parties. Each contained many members, who differed far less from
their moderate opponents than from their violent allies. Each reckoned
among its supporters many who were determined in their choice by some
accident of birth, of connection, or of local situation. Each of them
attracted to itself in multitudes those fierce and turbid spirits,
to whom the clouds and whirlwinds of the political hurricane are
the atmosphere of life. A party, like a camp, has its sutlers and
camp-followers, as well as its soldiers. In its progress it collects
round it a vast retinue, composed of people who thrive by its custom
or are amused by its display, who may be sometimes reckoned, in an
ostentatious enumeration, as forming a part of it, but who give no aid
to its operations, and take but a languid interest in its success, who
relax its discipline and dishonour its flag by their irregularities, and
who, after a disaster, are perfectly ready to cut the throats and rifle
the baggage of their companions.

Thus it is in every great division; and thus it was in our civil war. On
both sides there was, undoubtedly, enough of crime and enough of error
to disgust any man who did not reflect that the whole history of the
species is made up of little except crimes and errors. Misanthropy is
not the temper which qualifies a man to act in great affairs, or to
judge of them.

“Of the Parliament,” says Mr. Hallam, “it may be said I think, with not
greater severity than truth, that scarce two or three public acts of
justice, humanity, or generosity, and very few of political wisdom or
courage, are recorded of them, from their quarrel with the King, to
their expulsion by Cromwell.” Those who may agree with us in the opinion
which we have expressed as to the original demands of the Parliament
will scarcely concur in this strong censure. The propositions which the
Houses made at Oxford, at Uxbridge, and at Newcastle, were in strict
accordance with these demands. In the darkest period of the war, they
showed no disposition to concede any vital principle. In the fulness
of their success, they showed no disposition to encroach beyond these
limits. In this respect we cannot but think that they showed justice and
generosity, as well as political wisdom and courage.

The Parliament was certainly far from faultless. We fully agree with
Mr. Hallam in reprobating their treatment of Laud. For the individual,
indeed, we entertain a more unmitigated contempt than, for any other
character in our history. The fondness with which a portion of the
church regards his memory, can be compared only to that perversity of
affection which sometimes leads a mother to select the monster or the
idiot of the family as the object of her especial favour, Mr. Hallam
has incidentally observed, that, in the correspondence of Laud with
Strafford, there are no indications of a sense of duty towards God or
man. The admirers of the Archbishop have, in consequence, inflicted upon
the public a crowd of extracts designed to prove the contrary. Now, in
all those passages, we see nothing, which a prelate as wicked as Pope
Alexander or Cardinal Dubois might not have written. Those passages
indicate no sense of duty to God or man, but simply a strong interest in
the prosperity and dignity of the order to which the writer belonged;
an interest which, when kept within certain limits, does not deserve
censure, but which can never be considered as a virtue. Laud is anxious
to accommodate satisfactorily the disputes in the University of Dublin.
He regrets to hear that a church is used as a stable, and that the
benefices of Ireland are very poor. He is desirous that, however small a
congregation may be, service should be regularly performed. He expresses
a wish that the judges of the court before which questions of tithe are
generally brought should be selected with a view to the interest of the
clergy. All this may be very proper; and it may be very proper that an
alderman should stand up for the tolls of his borough, and an East India
director for the charter of his Company. But it is ridiculous to say
that these things indicate piety and benevolence. No primate, though he
were the most abandoned of mankind, could wish to see the body, with
the influence of which his own influence was identical, degraded in the
public estimation by internal dissensions, by the ruinous state of its
edifices, and by the slovenly performance of its rites. We willingly
acknowledge that the particular letters in question have very little
harm in them; a compliment which cannot often be paid either to the
writings or to the actions of Laud.

Bad as the Archbishop was, however, he was not a traitor within the
statute. Nor was he by any means so formidable as to be a proper subject
for a retrospective ordinance of the legislature. His mind had not
expansion enough to comprehend a great scheme, good or bad. His
oppressive acts were not, like those of the Earl of Strafford, parts
of an extensive system. They were the luxuries in which a mean and
irritable disposition indulges itself from day to day, the excesses
natural to a little mind in a great place. The severest punishment which
the two Houses could have inflicted on him would have been to set him at
liberty and send him to Oxford. There he might have stayed, tortured by
his own diabolical temper, hungering for Puritans to pillory and mangle,
plaguing the Cavaliers, for want of somebody else to plague with
his peevishness and absurdity, performing grimaces and antics in the
cathedral, continuing that incomparable diary, which we never see
without forgetting the vices of his heart. In the imbecility of his
intellect minuting down his dreams, counting the drops of blood which
fell from his nose, watching the direction of the salt, and listening
for the note of the screech-owls. Contemptuous mercy was the only
vengeance which it became the Parliament to take on such a ridiculous
old bigot.

The Houses, it must be acknowledged, committed great errors in the
conduct of the war, or rather one great error, which brought their
affairs into a condition requiring the most perilous expedients. The
parliamentary leaders of what may be called the first generation, Essex,
Manchester, Northumberland, Hollis, even Pym, all the most eminent men
in short, Hampden excepted, were inclined to half measures. They dreaded
a decisive victory almost as much as a decisive overthrow. They wished
to bring the King into a situation which might render it necessary
for him to grant their just and wise demands, but not to subvert the
constitution or to change the dynasty. They were afraid of serving the
purposes of those fierce and determined enemies of monarchy, who now
began to show themselves in the lower ranks of the party. The war was,
therefore, conducted in a languid and inefficient manner. A resolute
leader might have brought it to a close in a month. At the end of three
campaigns, however, the event was still dubious; and that it had not
been decidedly unfavourable to the cause of liberty was principally
owing to the skill and energy which the more violent roundheads had
displayed in subordinate situations. The conduct of Fairfax and Cromwell
at Marston had, exhibited a remarkable contrast to that of Essex at
Edgehill, and to that of Waller at Lansdowne.

If there be any truth established by the universal experience of
nations, it is this; that to carry the spirit of peace into war is weak
and cruel policy. The time for negotiation is the time for deliberation
and delay. But when an extreme case calls for that remedy which is in
its own nature most violent, and which, in such cases, is a remedy only
because it is violent, it is idle to think of mitigating and diluting.
Languid war can do nothing which negotiation or submission will not
do better: and to act on any other principle is, not to save blood and
money, but to squander them.

This the parliamentary leaders found. The third year of hostilities was
drawing to a close; and they had not conquered the King. They had not
obtained even those advantages which they had expected from a policy
obviously erroneous in a military point of view. They had wished to
husband their resources. They now found that in enterprises like
theirs, parsimony is the worst profusion. They had hoped to effect a
reconciliation. The event taught them that the best way to conciliate
is to bring the work of destruction to a speedy termination. By their
moderation many lives and much property had been wasted. The angry
passions which, if the contest had been short, would have died away
almost as soon as they appeared, had fixed themselves in the form of
deep and lasting hatred. A military caste had grown up. Those who had
been induced to take up arms by the patriotic feelings of citizens had
begun to entertain the professional feelings of soldiers. Above all, the
leaders of the party had forfeited its confidence, If they had, by their
valour and abilities, gained a complete victory, their influence might
have been sufficient to prevent their associates from abusing it. It
was now necessary to choose more resolute and uncompromising commanders.
Unhappily the illustrious man who alone united in himself all the
talents and virtues which the crisis required, who alone could have
saved his country from the present dangers without plunging her into
others, who alone could have united all the friends of liberty in
obedience to his commanding genius and his venerable name, was no more.
Something might still be done. The Houses might still avert that worst
of all evils, the triumphant return of an imperious and unprincipled
master. They might still preserve London from all the horrors of rapine,
massacre, and lust. But their hopes of a victory as spotless as their
cause, of a reconciliation which might knit together the hearts of
all honest Englishmen for the defence of the public good, of durable
tranquillity, of temperate freedom, were buried in the grave of Hampden.

The self-denying ordinance was passed, and the army was remodelled.
These measures were undoubtedly full of danger. But all that was left to
the Parliament was to take the less of two dangers. And we think that,
even if they could have accurately foreseen all that followed, their
decision ought to have been the same. Under any circumstances, we should
have preferred Cromwell to Charles. But there could be no comparison
between Cromwell and Charles victorious, Charles restored, Charles
enabled to feed fat all the hungry grudges of his smiling rancour
and his cringing pride. The next visit of his Majesty to his faithful
Commons would have been more serious than that with which he last
honoured them; more serious than that which their own General paid them
some years after. The King would scarce have been content with praying
that the Lord would deliver him from Vane, or with pulling Marten by
the cloak. If, by fatal mismanagement, nothing was left to England but
a choice of tyrants, the last tyrant whom she should have chosen was
Charles.

From the apprehension of this worst evil the Houses were soon delivered
by their new leaders. The armies of Charles were everywhere routed, his
fastnesses stormed, his party humbled and subjugated. The King himself
fell into the hands of the Parliament; and both the King and the
Parliament soon fell into the hands of the army. The fate of both the
captives was the same. Both were treated alternately with respect and
with insult. At length the natural life of one, and the political life
of the other, were terminated by violence; and the power for which both
had struggled was united in a single hand. Men naturally sympathise with
the calamities of individuals; but they are inclined to look on a fallen
party with contempt rather than with pity. Thus misfortune turned the
greatest of Parliaments into the despised Rump, and the worst of Kings
into the Blessed Martyr.

Mr. Hallam decidedly condemns the execution of Charles; and in all that
he says on that subject we heartily agree. We fully concur with him in
thinking that a great social schism, such as the civil war, is not to be
confounded with an ordinary treason, and that the vanquished ought to be
treated according to the rules, not of municipal, but of international
law. In this case the distinction is of the less importance, because
both international and municipal law were in favour of Charles. He was a
prisoner of war by the former, a King by the latter. By neither was he a
traitor. If he had been successful, and had put his leading opponents to
death, he would have deserved severe censure; and this without reference
to the justice or injustice of his cause. Yet the opponents of Charles,
it must be admitted, were technically guilty of treason. He might have
sent them to the scaffold without violating any established principle
of jurisprudence. He would not have been compelled to overturn the whole
constitution in order to reach them. Here his own case differed widely
from theirs. Not only was his condemnation in itself a measure which
only the strongest necessity could vindicate; but it could not be
procured without taking several previous steps, every one of which would
have required the strongest necessity to vindicate it. It could not be
procured without dissolving the Government by military force, without
establishing precedents of the most dangerous description, without
creating difficulties which the next ten years were spent in removing,
without pulling down institutions which it soon became necessary to
reconstruct, and setting up others which almost every man was soon
impatient to destroy. It was necessary to strike the House of Lords
out of the constitution, to exclude members of the House of Commons by
force, to make a new crime, a new tribunal, a new mode of procedure.
The whole legislative and judicial systems were trampled down for
the purpose of taking a single head. Not only those parts of the
constitution which the republicans were desirous to destroy, but those
which they wished to retain and exalt, were deeply injured by these
transactions. High Courts of justice began to usurp the functions of
juries. The remaining delegates of the people were soon driven from
their seats by the same military violence which had enabled them to
exclude their colleagues.

If Charles had been the last of his line, there would have been an
intelligible reason for putting him to death. But the blow which
terminated his life at once transferred the allegiance of every Royalist
to an heir, and an heir who was at liberty. To kill the individual was,
under such circumstances, not to destroy, but to release the King.

We detest the character of Charles; but a man ought not to be removed by
a law ex post facto, even constitutionally procured, merely because he
is detestable. He must also be very dangerous. We can scarcely conceive
that any danger which a state can apprehend from any individual could
justify the violent, measures which were necessary to procure a sentence
against Charles. But in fact the danger amounted to nothing. There was
indeed, danger from the attachment of a large party to his office. But
this danger his execution only increased. His personal influence was
little indeed. He had lost the confidence of every party. Churchmen,
Catholics, Presbyterians, Independents, his enemies, his friends, his
tools, English, Scotch, Irish, all divisions and subdivisions of his
people had been deceived by him. His most attached councillors turned
away with shame and anguish from his false and hollow policy, plot
intertwined with plot, mine sprung beneath mine, agents disowned,
promises evaded, one pledge given in private, another in public.
“Oh, Mr. Secretary,” says Clarendon, in a letter to Nicholas, “those
stratagems have given me more sad hours than all the misfortunes in war
which have befallen the King, and look like the effects of God’s anger
towards us.”

The abilities of Charles were not formidable. His taste in the fine arts
was indeed exquisite; and few modern sovereigns have written or spoken
better. But he was not fit for active life. In negotiation he was always
trying to dupe others, and duping only himself. As a soldier, he was
feeble, dilatory, and miserably wanting, not in personal courage, but in
the presence of mind which his station required. His delay at Gloucester
saved the parliamentary party from destruction. At Naseby, in the very
crisis of his fortune, his want of self-possession spread a fatal panic
through his army. The story which Clarendon tells of that affair reminds
us of the excuses by which Bessus and Bobadil explain their cudgellings.
A Scotch nobleman, it seems, begged the King not to run upon his death,
took hold of his bridle, and turned his horse round. No man who had much
value for his life would have tried to perform the same friendly office
on that day for Oliver Cromwell.

One thing, and one alone, could make Charles dangerous--a violent death.
His tyranny could not break the high spirit of the English people.
His arms could not conquer, his arts could not deceive them; but his
humiliation and his execution melted them into a generous compassion.
Men who die on a scaffold for political offences almost always die well.
The eyes of thousands are fixed upon them. Enemies and admirers are
watching their demeanour. Every tone of voice, every change of colour,
is to go down to posterity. Escape is impossible. Supplication is vain.
In such a situation pride and despair have often been known to nerve
the weakest minds with fortitude adequate to the occasion. Charles died
patiently and bravely; not more patiently or bravely, indeed, than many
other victims of political rage; not more patiently or bravely than his
own judges, who were not only killed, but tortured; or than Vane, who
had always been considered as a timid man. However, the king’s conduct
during his trial and at his execution made a prodigious impression.
His subjects began to love his memory as heartily as they had hated his
person; and posterity has estimated his character from his death rather
than from his life.

To represent Charles as a martyr in the cause of Episcopacy is absurd.
Those who put him to death cared as little for the Assembly of Divines,
as for the Convocation, and would, in all probability, only have hated
him the more if he had agreed to set up the Presbyterian discipline.
Indeed, in spite of the opinion of Mr. Hallam, we are inclined to think
that the attachment of Charles to the Church of England was altogether
political. Human nature is, we admit, so capricious that there may be
a single, sensitive point, in a conscience which everywhere else is
callous. A man without truth or humanity may have some strange scruples
about a trifle. There was one devout warrior in the royal camp whose
piety bore a great resemblance to that which is ascribed to the King.
We mean Colonel Turner. That gallant Cavalier was hanged, after the
Restoration, for a flagitious burglary. At the gallows he told the crowd
that his mind received great consolation from one reflection: he had
always taken off his hat when he went into a church. The character of
Charles would scarcely rise in our estimation, if we believed that he
was pricked in conscience after the manner of this worthy loyalist, and
that while violating all the first rules of Christian morality, he was
sincerely scrupulous about church-government. But we acquit him of such
weakness. In 1641 he deliberately confirmed the Scotch Declaration which
stated that the government of the church by archbishops and bishops was
contrary to the word of God. In 1645, he appears to have offered to set
up Popery in Ireland. That a King who had established the Presbyterian
religion in one kingdom, and who was willing to establish the Catholic
religion in another, should have insurmountable scruples about the
ecclesiastical constitution of the third, is altogether incredible. He
himself says in his letters that he looks on Episcopacy as a stronger
support of monarchical power than even the army. From causes which we
have already considered, the Established Church had been, since the
Reformation, the great bulwark of the prerogative. Charles wished,
therefore, to preserve it. He thought himself necessary both to the
Parliament and to the army. He did not foresee, till too late, that by
paltering with the Presbyterians, he should put both them and himself
into the power of a fiercer and more daring party. If he had foreseen
it, we suspect that the royal blood which still cries to Heaven every
thirtieth of January, for judgments only to be averted by salt-fish and
egg-sauce, would never have been shed. One who had swallowed the Scotch
Declaration would scarcely strain at the Covenant.

The death of Charles and the strong measures which led to it raised
Cromwell to a height of power fatal to the infant Commonwealth. No
men occupy so splendid a place in history as those who have founded
monarchies on the ruins of republican institutions. Their glory, if not
of the purest, is assuredly of the most seductive and dazzling kind. In
nations broken to the curb, in nations long accustomed to be transferred
from one tyrant to another, a man without eminent qualities may easily
gain supreme power. The defection of a troop of guards, a conspiracy of
eunuchs, a popular tumult, might place an indolent senator or a brutal
soldier on the throne of the Roman world. Similar revolutions have often
occurred in the despotic states of Asia. But a community which has heard
the voice of truth and experienced the pleasures of liberty, in which
the merits of statesmen and of systems are freely canvassed, in which
obedience is paid, not to persons, but to laws, in which magistrates are
regarded, not as the lords, but as the servants of the public, in which
the excitement of a party is a necessary of life, in which political
warfare is reduced to a system of tactics; such a community is not
easily reduced to servitude. Beasts of burden may easily be managed by a
new master. But will the wild ass submit to the bonds? Will the unicorn
serve and abide by the crib? Will leviathan hold out his nostrils to the
book? The mythological conqueror of the East, whose enchantments reduced
wild beasts to the tameness of domestic cattle, and who harnessed
lions and tigers to his chariot, is but an imperfect type of those
extraordinary minds which have thrown a spell on the fierce spirits of
nations unaccustomed to control, and have compelled raging factions to
obey their reins and swell their triumph. The enterprise, be it good
or bad, is one which requires a truly great man. It demands courage,
activity, energy, wisdom, firmness, conspicuous virtues, or vices so
splendid and alluring as to resemble virtues.

Those who have succeeded in this arduous undertaking form a very small
and a very remarkable class. Parents of tyranny, heirs of freedom,
kings among citizens, citizens among kings, they unite in themselves the
characteristics of the system which springs from them, and those of the
system from which they have sprung. Their reigns shine with a double
light, the last and dearest rays of departing freedom mingled with the
first and brightest glories of empire in its dawn. The high qualities
of such a prince lend to despotism itself a charm drawn from the
liberty under which they were formed, and which they have destroyed.
He resembles an European who settles within the Tropics, and carries
thither the strength and the energetic habits acquired in regions more
propitious to the constitution. He differs as widely from princes nursed
in the purple of imperial cradles, as the companions of Gama from their
dwarfish and imbecile progeny, which, born in a climate unfavourable to
its growth and beauty, degenerates more and more, at every descent, from
the qualities of the original conquerors.

In this class three men stand pre-eminent, Caesar, Cromwell, and
Bonaparte. The highest place in this remarkable triumvirate belongs
undoubtedly to Caesar. He united the talents of Bonaparte to those of
Cromwell; and he possessed also, what neither Cromwell nor Bonaparte
possessed, learning, taste, wit, eloquence, the sentiments and the
manners of an accomplished gentleman.

Between Cromwell and Napoleon Mr. Hallam has instituted a parallel,
scarcely less ingenious than that which Burke has drawn between Richard
Coeur de Lion and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden. In this parallel,
however, and indeed throughout his work, we think that he hardly gives
Cromwell fair measure. “Cromwell,” says he, “far unlike his antitype,
never showed any signs of a legislative mind, or any desire to place his
renown on that noblest basis, the amelioration of social institutions.”
The difference in this respect, we conceive, was not in the character of
the men, but in the character of the revolutions by means of which they
rose to power. The civil war in England had been undertaken to defend
and restore; the republicans of France set themselves to destroy. In
England, the principles of the common law had never been disturbed, and
most even of its forms had been held sacred. In France, the law and
its ministers had been swept away together. In France, therefore,
legislation necessarily became the first business of the first settled
government which rose on the ruins of the old system. The admirers of
Inigo Jones have always maintained that his works are inferior to those
of Sir Christopher Wren, only because the great fire of London gave
Wren such a field for the display of his powers as no architect in the
history of the world ever possessed. Similar allowance must be made for
Cromwell. If he erected little that was new, it was because there had
been no general devastation to clear a space for him. As it was, he
reformed the representative system in a most judicious manner. He
rendered the administration of justice uniform throughout the island.
We will quote a passage from his speech to the Parliament in September
1656, which contains, we think, simple and rude as the diction is,
stronger indications of a legislative mind, than are to be found in the
whole range of orations delivered on such occasions before or since.

“There is one general grievance in the nation. It is the law. I think,
I may say it, I have as eminent judges in this land as have been had,
or that the nation has had for these many years. Truly, I could be
particular as to the executive part, to the administration; but
that would trouble you. But the truth of it is, there are wicked and
abominable laws that will be in your power to alter. To hang a man for
sixpence, threepence, I know not what,--to hang for a trifle, and pardon
murder, is in the ministration of the law through the ill framing of it.
I have known in my experience abominable murders quitted; and to see men
lose their lives for petty matters! This is a thing that God will reckon
for; and I wish it may not lie upon this nation a day longer than you
have an opportunity to give a remedy; and I hope I shall cheerfully join
with you in it.”

Mr. Hallam truly says that, though it is impossible to rank Cromwell
with Napoleon as a general, “yet his exploits were as much above
the level of his contemporaries, and more the effects of an original
uneducated capacity.” Bonaparte was trained in the best military
schools; the army which he led to Italy was one of the finest that ever
existed. Cromwell passed his youth and the prime of his manhood in a
civil situation. He never looked on war till he was more than forty
years old. He had first to form himself, and then to form his troops.
Out of raw levies he created an army, the bravest and the best
disciplined, the most orderly in peace, and the most terrible in war,
that Europe had seen. He called this body into existence. He led it to
conquest. He never fought a battle without gaining it. He never gained a
battle without annihilating the force opposed to him. Yet his victories
were not the highest glory of his military system. The respect which his
troops paid to property, their attachment to the laws and religion of
their country, their submission to the civil power, their temperance,
their intelligence, their industry, are without parallel. It was after
the Restoration that the spirit which their great leader had infused
into them was most signally displayed. At the command of the established
government, an established government which had no means of enforcing
obedience, fifty thousand soldiers whose backs no enemy had ever seen,
either in domestic or in continental war, laid down their arms, and
retired into the mass of the people, thenceforward to be distinguished
only by superior diligence, sobriety, and regularity in the pursuits, of
peace, from the other members of the community which they had saved.

In the general spirit and character of his administration, we think
Cromwell far superior to Napoleon. “In the civil government,” says Mr.
Hallam, “there can be no adequate parallel between one who had sucked
only the dregs of a besotted fanaticism, and one to whom the stores of
reason and philosophy were open.” These expressions, it seems to
us, convey the highest eulogium on our great countryman. Reason
and philosophy did not teach the conqueror of Europe to command his
passions, or to pursue, as a first object, the happiness of his people.
They did not prevent him from risking his fame and his power in a
frantic contest against the principles of human nature and the laws of
the physical world, against the rage of the winter and the liberty
of the sea. They did not exempt him from the influence of that most
pernicious of superstitions, a presumptuous fatalism. They did not
preserve him from the inebriation of prosperity, or restrain him from
indecent querulousness in adversity. On the other hand, the fanaticism
of Cromwell never urged him on impracticable undertakings, or confused
his perception of the public good. Our countryman, inferior to Bonaparte
in invention, was far superior to him in wisdom. The French Emperor is
among conquerors what Voltaire is among writers, a miraculous child.
His splendid genius was frequently clouded by fits of humour as absurdly
perverse as those of the pet of the nursery, who quarrels with his food,
and dashes his playthings to pieces. Cromwell was emphatically a man.
He possessed, in an eminent degree, that masculine and full-grown
robustness of mind, that equally diffused intellectual health, which,
if our national partiality does not mislead us, has peculiarly
characterised the great men of England. Never was any ruler so
conspicuously born for sovereignty. The cup which has intoxicated almost
all others, sobered him. His spirit, restless from its own buoyancy in
a lower sphere, reposed in majestic placidity as soon as it had reached
the level congenial to it. He had nothing in common with that large
class of men who distinguish themselves in subordinate posts, and whose
incapacity becomes obvious as soon as the public voice summons them
to take the lead. Rapidly as his fortunes grew, his mind expanded
more rapidly still. Insignificant as a private citizen, he was a great
general; he was a still greater prince. Napoleon had a theatrical
manner, in which the coarseness of a revolutionary guard-room was
blended with the ceremony of the old Court of Versailles. Cromwell,
by the confession even of his enemies, exhibited in his demeanour the
simple and natural nobleness of a man neither ashamed of his origin
nor vain of his elevation, of a man who had found his proper place in
society, and who felt secure that he was competent to fill it. Easy,
even to familiarity, where his own dignity was concerned, he was
punctilious only for his country. His own character he left to take care
of itself; he left it to be defended by his victories in war, and his
reforms in peace. But he was a jealous and implacable guardian of the
public honour. He suffered a crazy Quaker to insult him in the gallery
of Whitehall, and revenged himself only by liberating him and giving him
a dinner. But he was prepared to risk the chances of war to avenge the
blood of a private Englishman.

No sovereign ever carried to the throne so large a portion of the best
qualities of the middling orders, so strong a sympathy with the feelings
and interests of his people. He was sometimes driven to arbitrary
measures; but he had a high, stout, honest, English heart. Hence it was
that he loved to surround his throne with such men as Hale and Blake.
Hence it was that he allowed so large a share of political liberty to
his subjects, and that, even when an opposition dangerous to his power
and to his person almost compelled him to govern by the sword, he was
still anxious to leave a germ from which, at a more favourable season,
free institutions might spring. We firmly believe that, if his first
Parliament had not commenced its debates by disputing his title, his
government would have been as mild at home as it was energetic and able
abroad. He was a soldier; he had risen by war. Had his ambition been of
an impure or selfish kind, it would have been easy for him to plunge his
country into continental hostilities on a large scale, and to dazzle
the restless factions which he ruled, by the splendour of his victories.
Some of his enemies have sneeringly remarked, that in the successes
obtained under his administration he had no personal share; as if a man
who had raised himself from obscurity to empire solely by his military
talents could have any unworthy reason for shrinking from military
enterprise. This reproach is his highest glory. In the success of the
English navy he could have no selfish interest. Its triumphs added
nothing to his fame; its increase added nothing to his means of
overawing his enemies; its great leader was not his friend. Yet he took
a peculiar pleasure in encouraging that noble service which, of all the
instruments employed by an English government, is the most impotent
for mischief, and the most powerful for good. His administration was
glorious, but with no vulgar glory. It was not one of those periods of
overstrained and convulsive exertion which necessarily produce debility
and languor. Its energy was natural, healthful, temperate. He placed
England at the head of the Protestant interest, and in the first rank of
Christian powers. He taught every nation to value her friendship and
to dread her enmity. But he did not squander her resources in a vain
attempt to invest her with that supremacy which no power, in the modern
system of Europe, can safely affect, or can long retain.

This noble and sober wisdom had its reward. If he did not carry the
banners of the Commonwealth in triumph to distant capitals, if he did
not adorn Whitehall with the spoils of the Stadthouse and the Louvre, if
he did not portion out Flanders and Germany into principalities for his
kinsmen and his generals, he did not, on the other hand, see his country
overrun by the armies of nations which his ambition had provoked. He did
not drag out the last years of his life an exile and a prisoner, in
an unhealthy climate and under an ungenerous gaoler, raging with the
impotent desire of vengeance, and brooding over visions of departed
glory. He went down to his grave in the fulness of power and fame; and
he left to his son an authority which any man of ordinary firmness and
prudence would have retained.

But for the weakness of that foolish Ishbosheth, the opinions which we
have been expressing would, we believe, now have formed the orthodox
creed of good Englishmen. We might now be writing under the government
of his Highness Oliver the Fifth or Richard the Fourth, Protector, by
the grace of God, of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland,
and the dominions thereto belonging. The form of the great founder of
the dynasty, on horseback, as when he led the charge at Naseby or on
foot, as when he took the mace from the table of the Commons, would
adorn our squares and over look our public offices from Charing Cross;
and sermons in his praise would be duly preached on his lucky day, the
third of September, by court-chaplains, guiltless of the abomination of
the surplice.

But, though his memory has not been taken under the patronage of any
party, though every device has been used to blacken it, though to praise
him would long have been a punishable crime, truth and merit at last
prevail. Cowards who had trembled at the very sound of his name, tools
of office, who, like Downing, had been proud of the honour of lacqueying
his coach, might insult him in loyal speeches and addresses. Venal poets
might transfer to the king the same eulogies little the worse for wear,
which they had bestowed on the Protector. A fickle multitude might crowd
to shout and scoff round the gibbeted remains of the greatest Prince
and Soldier of the age. But when the Dutch cannon startled an effeminate
tyrant in his own palace, when the conquests which had been won by the
armies of Cromwell were sold to pamper the harlots of Charles, when
Englishmen were sent to fight under foreign banners, against the
independence of Europe and the Protestant religion, many honest hearts
swelled in secret at the thought of one who had never suffered his
country to be ill-used by any but himself. It must indeed have been
difficult for any Englishman to see the salaried viceroy of France, at
the most important crisis of his fate, sauntering through his haram,
yawning and talking nonsense over a despatch, or beslobbering his
brother and his courtiers in a fit of maudlin affection, without a
respectful and tender remembrance of him before whose genius the young
pride of Louis and the veteran craft of Mazarine had stood rebuked, who
had humbled Spain on the land and Holland on the sea, and whose imperial
voice had arrested the sails of the Libyan pirates and the persecuting
fires of Rome. Even to the present day his character, though constantly
attacked, and scarcely ever defended, is popular with the great body of
our countrymen.

The most blameable act of his life was the execution of Charles. We have
already strongly condemned that proceeding; but we by no means consider
it as one which attaches any peculiar stigma of infamy to the names of
those who participated in it. It was an unjust and injudicious display
of violent party spirit; but it was not a cruel or perfidious measure.
It had all those features which distinguish the errors of magnanimous
and intrepid spirits from base and malignant crimes.

From the moment that Cromwell is dead and buried, we go on in almost
perfect harmony with Mr. Hallam to the end of his book. The times which
followed the Restoration peculiarly require that unsparing impartiality
which is his most distinguishing virtue. No part of our history,
during the last three centuries, presents a spectacle of such general
dreariness. The whole breed of our statesmen seems to have degenerated;
and their moral and intellectual littleness strikes us with the more
disgust, because we see it placed in immediate contrast with the high
and majestic qualities of the race which they succeeded. In the great
civil war, even the bad cause had been rendered respectable and amiable
by the purity and elevation of mind which many of its friends displayed.
Under Charles the Second, the best and noblest of ends was disgraced by
means the most cruel and sordid. The rage of faction succeeded to the
love of liberty. Loyalty died away into servility. We look in vain among
the leading politicians of either side for steadiness of principle,
or even for that vulgar fidelity to party which, in our time, it is
esteemed infamous to violate. The inconsistency, perfidy, and baseness,
which the leaders constantly practised, which their followers defended,
and which the great body of the people regarded, as it seems, with
little disapprobation, appear in the present age almost incredible. In
the age of Charles the First, they would, we believe, have excited as
much astonishment.

Man, however, is always the same. And when so marked a difference
appears between two generations, it is certain that the solution may be
found in their respective circumstances. The principal statesmen of the
reign of Charles the Second were trained during the civil war and the
revolutions which followed it. Such a period is eminently favourable to
the growth of quick and active talents. It forms a class of men, shrewd,
vigilant, inventive; of men whose dexterity triumphs over the most
perplexing combinations of circumstances, whose presaging instinct no
sign of the times can elude. But it is an unpropitious season for the
firm and masculine virtues. The statesman who enters on his career at
such a time, can form no permanent connections, can make no accurate
observations on the higher parts of political science. Before he can
attach himself to a party, it is scattered. Before he can study the
nature of a government, it is overturned. The oath of abjuration comes
close on the oath of allegiance. The association which was subscribed
yesterday is burned by the hangman to-day. In the midst of the constant
eddy and change, self-preservation becomes the first object of the
adventurer. It is a task too hard for the strongest head to keep itself
from becoming giddy in the eternal whirl. Public spirit is out of the
question. A laxity of principle, without which no public man can be
eminent or even safe, becomes too common to be scandalous; and the whole
nation looks coolly on instances of apostasy which would startle the
foulest turncoat of more settled times.

The history of France since the Revolution affords some striking
illustrations of these remarks. The same man was a servant of the
Republic, of Bonaparte, of Lewis the Eighteenth, of Bonaparte again
after his return from Elba, of Lewis again after his return from Ghent.
Yet all these manifold treasons by no means seemed to destroy his
influence, or even to fix any peculiar stain of infamy on his character.
We, to be sure, did not know what to make of him; but his countrymen
did not seem to be shocked; and in truth they had little right to be
shocked: for there was scarcely one Frenchman distinguished in the state
or in the army, who had not, according to the best of his talents and
opportunities, emulated the example. It was natural, too, that this
should be the case. The rapidity and violence with which change followed
change in the affairs of France towards the close of the last century
had taken away the reproach of inconsistency, unfixed the principles
of public men, and produced in many minds a general scepticism and
indifference about principles of government.

No Englishman who has studied attentively the reign of Charles the
Second, will think himself entitled to indulge in any feelings of
national superiority over the Dictionnaire des Girouttes. Shaftesbury
was surely a far less respectable man than Talleyrand; and it would
be injustice even to Fouche to compare him with Lauderdale. Nothing,
indeed, can more clearly show how low the standard of political
morality had fallen in this country than the fortunes of the two British
statesmen whom we have named. The government wanted a ruffian to carry
on the most atrocious system of misgovernment with which any nation
was ever cursed, to extirpate Presbyterianism by fire and sword, by the
drowning of women, by the frightful torture of the boot. And they
found him among the chiefs of the rebellion and the subscribers of the
Covenant. The opposition looked for a chief to head them in the most
desperate attacks ever made, under the forms of the Constitution, on
any English administration; and they selected the minister who had the
deepest share in the worst acts of the Court, the soul of the Cabal, the
counsellor who had shut up the Exchequer and urged on the Dutch war. The
whole political drama was of the same cast. No unity of plan, no decent
propriety of character and costume, could be found in that wild
and monstrous harlequinade. The whole was made up of extravagant
transformations and burlesque contrasts; Atheists turned Puritans;
Puritans turned Atheists; republicans defending the divine right of
kings; prostitute courtiers clamouring for the liberties of the people;
judges inflaming the rage of mobs; patriots pocketing bribes from
foreign powers; a Popish prince torturing Presbyterians into Episcopacy
in one part of the island; Presbyterians cutting off the heads of Popish
noblemen and gentlemen in the other. Public opinion has its natural flux
and reflux. After a violent burst, there is commonly a reaction. But
vicissitudes so extraordinary as those which marked the reign of Charles
the Second can only be explained by supposing an utter want of principle
in the political world. On neither side was there fidelity enough to
face a reverse. Those honourable retreats from power which, in later
days, parties have often made, with loss, but still in good order, in
firm union, with unbroken spirit and formidable means of annoyance, were
utterly unknown. As soon as a check took place a total rout followed:
arms and colours were thrown away. The vanquished troops, like the
Italian mercenaries of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, enlisted
on the very field of battle, in the service of the conquerors. In a
nation proud of its sturdy justice and plain good sense, no party could
be found to take a firm middle stand between the worst of oppositions
and the worst of courts. When on charges as wild as Mother Goose’s
tales, on the testimony of wretches who proclaimed themselves to be
spies and traitors, and whom everybody now believes to have been also
liars and murderers, the offal of gaols and brothels, the leavings of
the hangman’s whip and shears, Catholics guilty of nothing but their
religion were led like sheep to the Protestant shambles, where were the
loyal Tory gentry and the passively obedient clergy? And where, when the
time of retribution came, when laws were strained and juries packed
to destroy the leaders of the Whigs, when charters were invaded, when
Jeffreys and Kirke were making Somersetshire what Lauderdale and
Graham had made Scotland, where were the ten thousand brisk boys of
Shaftesbury, the members of ignoramus juries, the wearers of the Polish
medal? All-powerful to destroy others, unable to save themselves, the
members of the two parties oppressed and were oppressed, murdered and
were murdered, in their turn. No lucid interval occurred between the
frantic paroxysms of two contradictory illusions.

To the frequent changes of the government during the twenty years which
had preceded the Restoration, this unsteadiness is in a great measure to
be attributed. Other causes had also been at work. Even if the country
had been governed by the house of Cromwell or by the remains of the Long
Parliament, the extreme austerity of the Puritans would necessarily have
produced a revulsion. Towards the close of the Protectorate many signs
indicated that a time of licence was at hand. But the restoration of
Charles the Second rendered the change wonderfully rapid and violent.
Profligacy became a test of orthodoxy, and loyalty a qualification for
rank and office. A deep and general taint infected the morals of the
most influential classes, and spread itself through every province
of letters. Poetry inflamed the passions; philosophy undermined the
principles; divinity itself, inculcating an abject reverence for the
Court, gave additional effect to the licentious example of the Court.
We look in vain for those qualities which lend a charm to the errors
of high and ardent natures, for the generosity, the tenderness, the
chivalrous delicacy, which ennoble appetites into passions, and impart
to vice itself a portion of the majesty of virtue. The excesses of that
age remind us of the humours of a gang of footpads, revelling with their
favourite beauties at a flash-house In the fashionable libertinism there
is a hard, cold ferocity, an impudence, a lowness, a dirtiness, which
can be paralleled only among the heroes and heroines of that filthy
and heartless literature which encouraged it. One nobleman of great
abilities wanders about as a Merry-Andrew. Another harangues the mob
stark naked from a window. A third lays an ambush to cudgel a man who
has offended him. A knot of gentlemen of high rank and influence combine
to push their fortunes at Court by circulating stories intended to ruin
an innocent girl, stones which had no foundation, and which, if they had
been true, would never have passed the lips of a man of honour. A dead
child is found in the palace, the offspring of some maid of honour
by some courtier, or perhaps by Charles himself. The whole flight of
pandars and buffoons pounce upon it, and carry it in triumph to the
royal laboratory, where his Majesty, after a brutal jest, dissects it
for the amusement of the assembly, and probably of its father among
the rest. The favourite Duchess stamps about Whitehall, cursing and
swearing. The ministers employ their time at the council-board in
making mouths at each other and taking off each other’s gestures for the
amusement of the King. The Peers at a conference begin to pommel each
other and to tear collars and periwigs. A speaker in the House of
Commons gives offence to the Court. He is waylaid by a gang of bullies,
and his nose is cut to the bone. This ignominious dissoluteness, or
rather, if we may venture to designate it by the only proper word,
blackguardism of feeling and manners, could not but spread from private
to public life. The cynical sneers, and epicurean sophistry, which had
driven honour and virtue from one part of the character, extended their
influence over every other. The second generation of the statesmen of
this reign were worthy pupils of the schools in which they had been
trained, of the gaming-table of Grammont, and the tiring-room of Nell.
In no other age could such a trifler as Buckingham have exercised any
political influence. In no other age could the path to power and glory
have been thrown open to the manifold infamies of Churchill.

The history of Churchill shows, more clearly perhaps than that of any
other individual, the malignity and extent of the corruption which had
eaten into the heart of the public morality. An English gentleman of
good family attaches himself to a Prince who has seduced his sister, and
accepts rank and wealth as the price of her shame and his own. He then
repays by ingratitude the benefits which he has purchased by ignominy,
betrays his patron in a manner which the best cause cannot excuse, and
commits an act, not only of private treachery, but of distinct military
desertion. To his conduct at the crisis of the fate of James, no service
in modern times has, as far as we remember, furnished any parallel. The
conduct of Ney, scandalous enough no doubt, is the very fastidiousness
of honour in comparison of it. The perfidy of Arnold approaches it
most nearly. In our age and country no talents, no services, no party
attachments, could bear any man up under such mountains of infamy. Yet,
even before Churchill had performed those great actions which in some
degree redeem his character with posterity, the load lay very lightly on
him. He had others in abundance to keep him in countenance. Godolphin,
Orford, Danby, the trimmer Halifax, the renegade Sunderland, were all
men of the same class.

Where such was the political morality of the noble and the wealthy, it
may easily be conceived that those professions which, even in the best
times, are peculiarly liable to corruption, were in a frightful state.
Such a bench and such a bar England has never seen. Jones, Scroggs,
Jeffreys, North, Wright, Sawyer, Williams, are to this day the spots
and blemishes of our legal chronicles. Differing in constitution and
in situation, whether blustering or cringing, whether persecuting
Protestant or Catholics, they were equally unprincipled and inhuman. The
part which the Church played was not equally atrocious; but it must have
been exquisitely diverting to a scoffer. Never were principles so loudly
professed, and so shamelessly abandoned. The Royal prerogative had been
magnified to the skies in theological works. The doctrine of passive
obedience had been preached from innumerable pulpits. The University of
Oxford had sentenced the works of the most moderate constitutionalists
to the flames. The accession of a Catholic King, the frightful cruelties
committed in the west of England, never shook the steady loyalty of
the clergy. But did they serve the King for nought? He laid his hand
on them, and they cursed him to his face. He touched the revenue of a
college and the liberty of some prelates; and the whole profession set
up a yell worthy of Hugh Peters himself. Oxford sent her plate to an
invader with more alacrity than she had shown when Charles the First
requested it. Nothing was said about the wickedness of resistance till
resistance had done its work, till the anointed vicegerent of Heaven had
been driven away, and till it had become plain that he would never be
restored, or would be restored at least under strict limitations. The
clergy went back, it must be owned, to their old theory, as soon as they
found that it would do them no harm.

It is principally to the general baseness and profligacy of the times
that Clarendon is indebted for his high reputation. He was, in every
respect, a man unfit for his age, at once too good for it and too bad
for it. He seemed to be one of the ministers of Elizabeth, transplanted
at once to a state of society widely different from that in which the
abilities of such ministers had been serviceable. In the sixteenth
century, the Royal prerogative had scarcely been called in question. A
Minister who held it high was in no danger, so long as he used it
well. That attachment to the Crown, that extreme jealousy of popular
encroachments, that love, half religious half political, for the Church,
which, from the beginning of the second session of the Long Parliament,
showed itself in Clarendon, and which his sufferings, his long residence
in France, and his high station in the government, served to strengthen,
would a hundred years earlier, have secured to him the favour of his
sovereign without rendering him odious to the people. His probity, his
correctness in private life, his decency of deportment, and his
general ability, would not have misbecome a colleague of Walsingham and
Burleigh. But, in the times on which he was cast, his errors and his
virtues were alike out of place. He imprisoned men without trial. He was
accused of raising unlawful contributions on the people for the support
of the army. The abolition of the act which ensured the frequent holding
of Parliaments was one of his favourite objects. He seems to have
meditated the revival of the Star-Chamber and the High Commission Court.
His zeal for the prerogative made him unpopular; but it could not secure
to him the favour of a master far more desirous of ease and pleasure
than of power. Charles would rather have lived in exile and privacy,
with abundance of money, a crowd of mimics to amuse him, and a score of
mistresses, than have purchased the absolute dominion of the world by
the privations and exertions to which Clarendon was constantly urging
him. A councillor who was always bringing him papers and giving him
advice, and who stoutly refused to compliment Lady Castlemaine and to
carry messages to Mistress Stewart, soon became more hateful to him than
ever Cromwell had been. Thus, considered by the people as an oppressor,
by the Court as a censor, the Minister fell from his high office with a
ruin more violent and destructive than could ever have been his fate, if
he had either respected the principles of the Constitution or flattered
the vices of the King.

Mr. Hallam has formed, we think, a most correct estimate of the
character and administration of Clarendon. But he scarcely makes
a sufficient allowance for the wear and tear which honesty almost
necessarily sustains in the friction of political life, and which, in
times so rough as those through which Clarendon passed, must be very
considerable. When these are fairly estimated, we think that his
integrity may be allowed to pass muster. A high-minded man he certainly
was not, either in public or in private affairs. His own account of his
conduct in the affair of his daughter is the most extraordinary passage
in autobiography. We except nothing even in the Confessions of Rousseau.
Several writers have taken a perverted and absurd pride in representing
themselves as detestable; but no other ever laboured hard to make
himself despicable and ridiculous. In one important particular Clarendon
showed as little regard to the honour of his country as he had shown to
that of his family. He accepted a subsidy from France for the relief of
Portugal. But this method of obtaining money was afterwards practised to
a much greater extent and for objects much less respectable, both by the
Court and by the Opposition.

These pecuniary transactions are commonly considered as the most
disgraceful part of the history of those times: and they were no doubt
highly reprehensible. Yet, in justice to the Whigs and to Charles
himself, we must admit that they were not so shameful or atrocious as at
the present day they appear. The effect of violent animosities between
parties has always been an indifference to the general welfare
and honour of the State. A politician, where factions run high, is
interested not for the whole people, but for his own section of it.
The rest are, in his view, strangers, enemies, or rather pirates. The
strongest aversion which he can feel to any foreign power is the ardour
of friendship, when compared with the loathing which he entertains
towards those domestic foes with whom he is cooped up in a narrow space,
with whom he lives in a constant interchange of petty injuries and
insults, and from whom, in the day of their success, he has to expect
severities far beyond any that a conqueror from a distant country would
inflict. Thus, in Greece, it was a point of honour for a man to cleave
to his party against his country. No aristocratical citizen of Samos
or Corcyra would have hesitated to call in the aid of Lacedaemon. The
multitude, on the contrary, looked everywhere to Athens. In the Italian
states of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, from the same cause,
no man was so much a Pisan or a Florentine as a Ghibelline or a Guelf.
It may be doubted whether there was a single individual who would have
scrupled to raise his party from a state of depression, by opening
the gates of his native city to a French or an Arragonese force. The
Reformation, dividing almost every European country into two parts,
produced similar effects. The Catholic was too strong for the
Englishman, the Huguenot for the Frenchman. The Protestant statesmen of
Scotland and France called in the aid of Elizabeth; and the Papists of
the League brought a Spanish army into the very heart of France. The
commotions to which the French Revolution gave rise were followed by the
same consequences. The Republicans in every part of Europe were eager to
see the armies of the National Convention and the Directory appear among
them, and exalted in defeats which distressed and humbled those whom
they considered as their worst enemies, their own rulers. The princes
and nobles of France, on the other hand, did their utmost to bring
foreign invaders to Paris. A very short time has elapsed since the
Apostolical party in Spain invoked, too successfully, the support of
strangers.

The great contest which raged in England during the seventeenth century
extinguished, not indeed in the body of the people, but in those classes
which were most actively engaged in politics, almost all national
feelings. Charles the Second and many of his courtiers had passed a
large part of their lives in banishment, living on the bounty of foreign
treasuries, soliciting foreign aid to re-establish monarchy in their
native country. The King’s own brother had fought in Flanders, under the
banners of Spain, against the English armies. The oppressed Cavaliers in
England constantly looked to the Louvre and the Escurial for deliverance
and revenge. Clarendon censures the continental governments with great
bitterness for not interfering in our internal dissensions. It is not
strange, therefore, that, amidst the furious contests which followed the
Restoration, the violence of party feeling should produce effects which
would probably have attended it even in an age less distinguished by
laxity of principle and indelicacy of sentiment. It was not till a
natural death had terminated the paralytic old age of the Jacobite
party that the evil was completely at an end. The Whigs long looked to
Holland, the High Tories to France. The former concluded the Barrier
Treaty; the latter entreated the Court of Versailles to send an
expedition to England. Many men, who, however erroneous their political
notions might be, were unquestionably honourable in private life,
accepted money without scruple from the foreign powers favourable to the
Pretender.

Never was there less of national feeling among the higher orders than
during the reign of Charles the Second. That Prince, on the one side,
thought it better to be the deputy of an absolute king than the King
of a free people. Algernon Sydney, on the other hand, would gladly have
aided France in all her ambitious schemes, and have seen England reduced
to the condition of a province, in the wild hope that a foreign despot
would assist him to establish his darling republic. The King took the
money of France to assist him in the enterprise which he meditated
against the liberty of his subjects, with as little scruple as Frederic
of Prussia or Alexander of Russia accepted our subsidies in time of war.
The leaders of the Opposition no more thought themselves disgraced by
the presents of Lewis, than a gentleman of our own time thinks himself
disgraced by the liberality of powerful and wealthy members of his party
who pay his election bill. The money which the King received from France
had been largely employed to corrupt members of Parliament. The enemies
of the court might think it fair, or even absolutely necessary, to
encounter bribery with bribery. Thus they took the French gratuities,
the needy among them for their own use, the rich probably for the
general purposes of the party, without any scruple. If we compare their
conduct not with that of English statesmen in our own time, but with
that of persons in those foreign countries which are now situated as
England then was, we shall probably see reason to abate something of the
severity of censure with which it has been the fashion to visit those
proceedings. Yet when every allowance is made, the transaction is
sufficiently offensive. It is satisfactory to find that Lord Russell
stands free from any imputation of personal participation in the spoil.
An age so miserably poor in all the moral qualities which render public
characters respectable can ill spare the credit which it derives from a
man, not indeed conspicuous for talents or knowledge, but honest even
in his errors, respectable in every relation of life, rationally pious,
steadily and placidly brave.

The great improvement which took place in our breed of public men is
principally to be ascribed to the Revolution. Yet that memorable event,
in a great measure, took its character from the very vices which it
was the means of reforming. It was assuredly a happy revolution, and
a useful revolution; but it was not, what it has often been called, a
glorious revolution. William, and William alone, derived glory from it.
The transaction was, in almost every part, discreditable to England.
That a tyrant who had violated the fundamental laws of the country, who
had attacked the rights of its greatest corporations, who had begun to
persecute the established religion of the state, who had never respected
the law either in his superstition or in his revenge, could not be
pulled down without the aid of a foreign army, is a circumstance not
very grateful to our national pride. Yet this is the least degrading
part of the story. The shameless insincerity of the great and noble,
the warm assurances of general support which James received, down to
the moment of general desertion, indicate a meanness of spirit and a
looseness of morality most disgraceful to the age. That the enterprise
succeeded, at least that it succeeded without bloodshed or commotion,
was principally owing to an act of ungrateful perfidy, such as no
soldier had ever before committed, and to those monstrous fictions
respecting the birth of the Prince of Wales which persons of the highest
rank were not ashamed to circulate. In all the proceedings of the
convention, in the conference particularly, we see that littleness of
mind which is the chief characteristic of the times. The resolutions on
which the two Houses at last agreed were as bad as any resolutions for
so excellent a purpose could be. Their feeble and contradictory language
was evidently intended to save the credit of the Tories, who were
ashamed to name what they were not ashamed to do. Through the whole
transaction no commanding talents were displayed by any Englishman;
no extraordinary risks were run; no sacrifices were made for the
deliverance of the nation, except the sacrifice which Churchill made of
honour, and Anne of natural affection.

It was in some sense fortunate, as we have already said, for the Church
of England, that the Reformation in this country was effected by men who
cared little about religion. And, in the same manner, it was fortunate
for our civil government that the Revolution was in a great measure
effected by men who cared little about their political principles. At
such a crisis, splendid talents and strong passions might have done more
harm than good. There was far greater reason to fear that too much
would be attempted, and that violent movements would produce an equally
violent reaction, than that too little would be done in the way of
change. But narrowness of intellect, and flexibility of principle,
though they may be serviceable, can never be respectable.

If in the Revolution itself, there was little that can properly be
called glorious, there was still less in the events which followed. In
a church which had as one man declared the doctrine of resistance
unchristian, only four hundred persons refused to take the oath of
allegiance to a government founded on resistance. In the preceding
generation, both the Episcopal and the Presbyterian clergy, rather than
concede points of conscience not more important, had resigned their
livings by thousands.

The churchmen, at the time of the Revolution, justified their conduct by
all those profligate sophisms which are called Jesuitical, and which are
commonly reckoned among the peculiar sins of Popery, but which, in fact,
are everywhere the anodynes employed by minds rather subtle than strong,
to quiet those internal twinges which they cannot but feel and which
they will not obey. As the oath taken by the clergy was in the teeth of
their principles, so was their conduct in the teeth of their oath. Their
constant machinations against the Government to which they had sworn
fidelity brought a reproach on their order and on Christianity itself. A
distinguished prelate has not scrupled to say that the rapid increase
of infidelity at that time was principally produced by the disgust which
the faithless conduct of his brethren excited in men not sufficiently
candid or judicious to discern the beauties of the system amidst the
vices of its ministers.

But the reproach was not confined to the Church. In every political
party in the Cabinet itself, duplicity and perfidy abounded. The very
men whom William loaded with benefits and in whom he reposed most
confidence, with his seals of office in their hands, kept up a
correspondence with the exiled family. Orford, Leeds, and Shrewsbury
were guilty of this odious treachery. Even Devonshire is not altogether
free from suspicion. It may well be conceived that, at such a time,
such a nature as that of Marlborough would riot in the very luxury of
baseness. His former treason, thoroughly furnished with all that makes
infamy exquisite, placed him under the disadvantage which attends every
artist from the time that he produces a masterpiece. Yet his second
great stroke may excite wonder, even in those who appreciate all the
merit of the first. Lest his admirers should be able to say that at
the time of the Revolution he had betrayed his King from any other
than selfish motives, he proceeded to betray his country. He sent
intelligence to the French Court of a secret expedition intended to
attack Brest. The consequence was that the expedition failed, and that
eight hundred British soldiers lost their lives from the abandoned
villainy of a British general. Yet this man has been canonized by
so many eminent writers that to speak of him as he deserves may seem
scarcely decent.

The reign of William the Third, as Mr. Hallam happily says, was the
Nadir of the national prosperity. It was also the Nadir of the national
character. It was the time when the rank harvest of vices sown during
thirty years of licentiousness and confusion was gathered in; but it was
also the seed-time of great virtues.

The press was emancipated from the censorship soon after the Revolution;
and the Government immediately fell under the censorship of the press.
Statesmen had a scrutiny to endure which was every day becoming more and
more severe. The extreme violence of opinions abated. The Whigs learned
moderation in office; the Tories learned the principles of liberty
in opposition. The parties almost constantly approximated, often met,
sometimes crossed each other. There were occasional bursts of violence;
but, from the time of the Revolution, those bursts were constantly
becoming less and less terrible. The severity with which the Tories, at
the close of the reign of Anne, treated some of those who had directed
the public affairs during the war of the Grand Alliance, and the
retaliatory measures of the Whigs, after the accession of the House of
Hanover, cannot be justified; but they were by no means in the style
of the infuriated parties, whose alternate murders had disgraced our
history towards the close of the reign of Charles the Second. At the
fall of Walpole far greater moderation was displayed. And from that
time it has been the practice, a practice not strictly according to the
theory of our Constitution, but still most salutary, to consider the
loss of office, and the public disapprobation, as punishments sufficient
for errors in the administration not imputable to personal corruption.
Nothing, we believe, has contributed more than this lenity to raise
the character of public men. Ambition is of itself a game sufficiently
hazardous and sufficiently deep to inflame the passions without adding
property, life, and liberty to the stake. Where the play runs so
desperately high as in the seventeenth century, honour is at an end.
Statesmen instead of being, as they should be, at once mild and steady,
are at once ferocious and inconsistent. The axe is for ever before their
eyes. A popular outcry sometimes unnerves them, and sometimes makes them
desperate; it drives them to unworthy compliances, or to measures of
vengeance as cruel as those which they have reason to expect. A Minister
in our times need not fear either to be firm or to be merciful. Our old
policy in this respect was as absurd as that of the king in the Eastern
tale who proclaimed that any physician who pleased might come to court
and prescribe for his diseases, but that if the remedies failed the
adventurer should lose his head. It is easy to conceive how many able
men would refuse to undertake the cure on such conditions; how much the
sense of extreme danger would confuse the perceptions, and cloud the
intellect of the practitioner, at the very crisis which most called for
self-possession, and how strong his temptation would be, if he found
that he had committed a blunder, to escape the consequences of it by
poisoning his patient.

But in fact it would have been impossible, since the Revolution, to
punish any Minister for the general course of his policy, with the
slightest semblance of justice; for since that time no Minister has been
able to pursue any general course of policy without the approbation of
the Parliament. The most important effects of that great change were,
as Mr. Hallam has most truly said, and most ably shown, those which
it indirectly produced. Thenceforward it became the interest of the
executive government to protect those very doctrines which an executive
government is in general inclined to persecute. The sovereign, the
ministers, the courtiers, at last even the universities and the clergy,
were changed into advocates of the right of resistance. In the theory of
the Whigs, in the situation of the Tories, in the common interest of all
public men, the Parliamentary constitution of the country found perfect
security. The power of the House of Commons, in particular, has been
steadily on the increase. Since supplies have been granted for short
terms and appropriated to particular services, the approbation of that
House has been as necessary in practice to the executive administration
as it has always been in theory to taxes and to laws.

Mr. Hallam appears to have begun with the reign of Henry the Seventh, as
the period at which what is called modern history, in contradistinction
to the history of the middle ages, is generally supposed to commence. He
has stopped at the accession of George the Third, “from unwillingness”
as he says, “to excite the prejudices of modern politics, especially
those connected with personal character.” These two eras, we think,
deserved the distinction on other grounds. Our remote posterity, when
looking back on our history in that comprehensive manner in which remote
posterity alone can, without much danger of error, look back on it, will
probably observe those points with peculiar interest. They are, if we
mistake not, the beginning and the end of an entire and separate chapter
in our annals. The period which lies between them is a perfect cycle, a
great year of the public mind.

In the reign of Henry the Seventh, all the political differences which
had agitated England since the Norman conquest seemed to be set at
rest. The long and fierce struggle between the Crown and the Barons had
terminated. The grievances which had produced the rebellions of Tyler
and Cade had disappeared. Villanage was scarcely known. The two royal
houses, whose conflicting claims had long convulsed the kingdom, were
at length united. The claimants whose pretensions, just or unjust, had
disturbed the new settlement, were overthrown. In religion there was no
open dissent, and probably very little secret heresy. The old subjects
of contention, in short, had vanished; those which were to succeed had
not yet appeared.

Soon, however, new principles were announced; principles which were
destined to keep England during two centuries and a half in a state of
commotion. The Reformation divided the people into two great parties.
The Protestants were victorious. They again subdivided themselves.
Political factions were engrafted on theological sects. The mutual
animosities of the two parties gradually emerged into the light of
public life. First came conflicts in Parliament; then civil war; then
revolutions upon revolutions, each attended by its appurtenance of
proscriptions, and persecutions, and tests; each followed by severe
measures on the part of the conquerors; each exciting a deadly and
festering hatred in the conquered. During the reign of George the
Second, things were evidently tending to repose. At the close of that
reign, the nation had completed the great revolution which commenced in
the early part of the sixteenth century, and was again at rest, The fury
of sects had died away. The Catholics themselves practically enjoyed
toleration; and more than toleration they did not yet venture even to
desire. Jacobitism was a mere name. Nobody was left to fight for
that wretched cause, and very few to drink for it. The Constitution,
purchased so dearly, was on every side extolled and worshipped. Even
those distinctions of party which must almost always be found in a free
state could scarcely be traced. The two great bodies which, from the
time of the Revolution, had been gradually tending to approximation,
were now united in emulous support of that splendid Administration which
smote to the dust both the branches of the House of Bourbon. The great
battle for our ecclesiastical and civil polity had been fought and
won. The wounds had been healed. The victors and the vanquished were
rejoicing together. Every person acquainted with the political writers
of the last generation will recollect the terms in which they generally
speak of that time. It was a glimpse of a golden age of union and
glory, a short interval of rest, which had been preceded by centuries of
agitation, and which centuries of agitation were destined to follow.

How soon faction again began to ferment is well known. The Letters of
Junius, in Burke’s Thoughts on the Cause of the Discontents, and in many
other writings of less merit, the violent dissensions which speedily
convulsed the country are imputed to the system of favouritism which
George the Third introduced, to the influence of Bute, or to the
profligacy of those who called themselves the King’s friends. With
all deference to the eminent writers to whom we have referred, we may
venture to say that they lived too near the events of which they treated
to judge correctly. The schism which was then appearing in the nation,
and which has been from that time almost constantly widening, had little
in common with those schisms which had divided it during the reigns of
the Tudors and the Stuarts. The symptoms of popular feeling, indeed,
will always be in a great measure the same; but the principle which
excited that feeling was here new. The support which was given to
Wilkes, the clamour for reform during the American war, the disaffected
conduct of large classes of people at the time of the French Revolution,
no more resembled the opposition which had been offered to the
government of Charles the Second, than that opposition resembled the
contest between the Roses.

In the political as in the natural body, a sensation is often referred
to a part widely different from that in which it really resides. A man
whose leg is cut off fancies that he feels a pain in his toe. And in the
same manner the people, in the earlier part of the late reign, sincerely
attributed their discontent to grievances which had been effectually
lopped off. They imagined that the prerogative was too strong for the
Constitution, that the principles of the Revolution were abandoned, that
the system of the Stuarts was restored. Every impartial man must now
acknowledge that these charges were groundless. The conduct of the
Government with respect to the Middlesex election would have been
contemplated with delight by the first generation of Whigs. They would
have thought it a splendid triumph of the cause of liberty that the
King and the Lords should resign to the lower House a portion of the
legislative power, and allow it to incapacitate without their consent.
This, indeed, Mr. Burke clearly perceived. “When the House of Commons,”
says he, “in an endeavour to obtain new advantages at the expense of the
other orders of the state, for the benefit of the commons at large, have
pursued strong measures, if it were not just, it was at least natural,
that the constituents should connive at all their proceedings; because
we ourselves were ultimately to profit. But when this submission is
urged to us in a contest between the representatives and ourselves, and
where nothing can be put into their scale which is not taken from
ours, they fancy us to be children when they tell us that they are our
representatives, our own flesh and blood, and that all the stripes they
give us are for our good.” These sentences contain, in fact, the whole
explanation of the mystery. The conflict of the seventeenth century
was maintained by the Parliament against the Crown. The conflict which
commenced in the middle of the eighteenth century, which still remains
undecided, and in which our children and grandchildren will probably be
called to act or to suffer, is between a large portion of the people on
the one side, and the Crown and the Parliament united on the other.

The privileges of the House of Commons, those privileges which, in
1642, all London rose in arms to defend, which the people considered
as synonymous with their own liberties, and in comparison of which they
took no account of the most precious and sacred principles of English
jurisprudence, have now become nearly as odious as the rigours of
martial law. That power of committing which the people anciently loved
to see the House of Commons exercise, is now, at least when employed
against libellers, the most unpopular power in the Constitution. If the
Commons were to suffer the Lords to amend money-bills, we do not believe
that the people would care one straw about the matter. If they were to
suffer the Lords even to originate money-bills, we doubt whether such
a surrender of their constitutional rights would excite half so much
dissatisfaction as the exclusion of strangers from a single important
discussion. The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth
estate of the realm. The publication of the debates, a practice which
seemed to the most liberal statesmen of the old school full of danger to
the great safeguards of public liberty, is now regarded by many persons
as a safeguard tantamount, and more than tantamount, to all the rest
together.

Burke, in a speech on parliamentary reform which is the more remarkable
because it was delivered long before the French Revolution, has
described, in striking language, the change in public feeling of which
we speak. “It suggests melancholy reflections,” says he, “in consequence
of the strange course we have long held, that we are now no longer
quarrelling about the character, or about the conduct of men, or the
tenor of measures; but we are grown out of humour with the English
Constitution itself; this is become the object of the animosity of
Englishmen. This constitution in former days used to be the envy of the
world; it was the pattern for politicians; the theme of the eloquent;
the meditation of the philosopher in every part of the world. As to
Englishmen, it was their pride, their consolation. By it they lived, and
for it they were ready to die. Its defects, if it had any, were partly
covered by partiality, and partly borne by prudence. Now all its
excellencies are forgot, its faults are forcibly dragged into day,
exaggerated by every artifice of misrepresentation. It is despised and
rejected of men; and every device and invention of ingenuity or idleness
is set up in opposition, or in preference to it.” We neither adopt nor
condemn the language of reprobation which the great orator here employs.
We call him only as a witness to the fact. That the revolution of public
feeling which he described was then in progress is indisputable; and it
is equally indisputable, we think, that it is in progress still.

To investigate and classify the causes of so great a change would
require far more thought, and far more space, than we at present have
to bestow. But some of them are obvious. During the contest which the
Parliament carried on against the Stuarts, it had only to cheek and
complain. It has since had to govern. As an attacking body, it could
select its points of attack, and it naturally chose those on which it
was likely to receive public support. As a ruling body, it has neither
the same liberty of choice, nor the same motives to gratify the people.
With the power of an executive government, it has drawn to itself some
of the vices, and all the unpopularity of an executive government. On
the House of Commons above all, possessed as it is of the public purse,
and consequently of the public sword, the nation throws all the blame
of an ill-conducted war, of a blundering negotiation, of a disgraceful
treaty, of an embarrassing commercial crisis. The delays of the Court of
Chancery, the misconduct of a judge at Van Diemen’s Land, any thing,
in short, which in any part of the administration any person feels as a
grievance, is attributed to the tyranny, or at least to the negligence,
of that all-powerful body. Private individuals pester it with their
wrongs and claims. A merchant appeals to it from the Courts of Rio
Janeiro or St. Petersburg. A historical painter complains to it that
his department of art finds no encouragement. Anciently the Parliament
resembled a member of opposition, from whom no places are expected, who
is not expected to confer favours and propose measures, but merely
to watch and censure, and who may, therefore, unless he is grossly
injudicious, be popular with the great body of the community. The
Parliament now resembles the same person put into office, surrounded by
petitioners whom twenty times his patronage would not satisfy, stunned
with complaints, buried in memorials, compelled by the duties of his
station to bring forward measures similar to those which he was formerly
accustomed to observe and to check, and perpetually encountered by
objections similar to those which it was formerly his business to raise.

Perhaps it may be laid down as a general rule that a legislative
assembly, not constituted on democratical principles, cannot be popular
long after it ceases to be weak. Its zeal for what the people, rightly
or wrongly, conceive to be their interests, its sympathy with their
mutable and violent passions, are merely the effects of the particular
circumstances in which it is placed. As long as it depends for existence
on the public favour, it will employ all the means in its power
to conciliate that favour. While this is the case, defects in its
constitution are of little consequence. But, as the close union of such
a body with the nation is the effect of an identity of interests not
essential but accidental, it is in some measure dissolved from the time
at which the danger which produced it ceases to exist.

Hence, before the Revolution, the question of Parliamentary reform was
of very little importance. The friends of liberty had no very ardent
wish for reform. The strongest Tories saw no objections to it. It is
remarkable that Clarendon loudly applauds the changes which Cromwell
introduced, changes far stronger than the Whigs of the present day
would in general approve. There is no reason to think, however, that the
reform effected by Cromwell made any great difference in the conduct of
the Parliament. Indeed, if the House of Commons had, during the reign
of Charles the Second, been elected by universal suffrage, or if all the
seats had been put up to sale, as in the French Parliaments, it would,
we suspect, have acted very much as it did. We know how strongly the
Parliament of Paris exerted itself in favour of the people on many
important occasions; and the reason is evident. Though it did not
emanate from the people, its whole consequence depended on the support
of the people.

From the time of the Revolution the House of Commons has been gradually
becoming what it now is, a great council of state, containing many
members chosen freely by the people, and many others anxious to acquire
the favour of the people; but, on the whole, aristocratical in its
temper and interest. It is very far from being an illiberal and stupid
oligarchy; but it is equally far from being an express image of the
general feeling. It is influenced by the opinion of the people,
and influenced powerfully, but slowly and circuitously. Instead of
outrunning the public mind, as before the Revolution it frequently did,
it now follows with slow steps and at a wide distance. It is therefore
necessarily unpopular; and the more so because the good which it
produces is much less evident to common perception than the evil which
it inflicts. It bears the blame of all the mischief which is done, or
supposed to be done, by its authority or by its connivance. It does not
get the credit, on the other hand, of having prevented those innumerable
abuses which do not exist solely because the House of Commons exists.

A large part of the nation is certainly desirous of a reform in the
representative system. How large that part may be, and how strong its
desires on the subject may be, it is difficult to say. It is only at
intervals that the clamour on the subject is loud and vehement. But it
seems to us that, during the remissions, the feeling gathers strength,
and that every successive burst is more violent than that which preceded
it. The public attention may be for a time diverted to the Catholic
claims or the Mercantile code but it is probable that at no very distant
period, perhaps in the lifetime of the present generation, all other
questions will merge in that which is, in a certain degree, connected
with them all.

Already we seem to ourselves to perceive the signs of unquiet times the
vague presentiment of something great and strange which pervades the
community, the restless and turbid hopes of those who have everything to
gain, the dimly hinted forebodings of those who have everything to
lose. Many indications might be mentioned, in themselves indeed as
insignificant as straws; but even the direction of a straw, to borrow
the illustration of Bacon, will show from what quarter the storm in
setting in.

A great statesman might, by judicious and timely reformations by
reconciling the two great branches of the natural aristocracy, the
capitalists and the landowners, and by so widening the base of the
government as to interest in its defence the whole of the middle class
that brave, honest, and sound-hearted class, which is as anxious for the
maintenance of order and the security of property, as it is hostile to
corruption and oppression, succeed in averting a struggle to which no
rational friend of liberty or of law can look forward without great
apprehensions. There are those who will be contented with nothing but
demolition; and there are those who shrink from all repair. There are
innovators who long for a President and a National Convention; and there
are bigots who, while cities larger and richer than the capitals of many
great kingdoms are calling out for representatives to watch over their
interests, select some hackneyed jobber in boroughs, some peer of the
narrowest and smallest mind, as the fittest depository of a forfeited
franchise. Between these extremes there lies a more excellent way. Time
is bringing round another crisis analogous to that which occurred in the
seventeenth century. We stand in a situation similar to that in which
our ancestors stood under the reign of James the First. It will
soon again be necessary to reform that we may preserve, to save the
fundamental principles of the Constitution by alterations in the
subordinate parts. It will then be possible, as it was possible two
hundred years ago, to protect vested rights, to secure every useful
institution, every institution endeared by antiquity and noble
associations, and, at the same time, to introduce into the system
improvements harmonizing with the original plan. It remains to be seen
whether two hundred years have made us wiser.

We know of no great revolution which might not have been prevented by
compromise early and graciously made. Firmness is a great virtue
in public affairs; but it has its proper sphere. Conspiracies and
insurrections in which small minorities are engaged, the outbreakings of
popular violence unconnected with any extensive project or any durable
principle, are best repressed by vigour and decision. To shrink from
them is to make them formidable. But no wise ruler will confound the
pervading taint with the slight local irritation. No wise ruler will
treat the deeply seated discontents of a great party, as he treats the
fury of a mob which destroys mills and power-looms. The neglect of this
distinction has been fatal even to governments strong in the power of
the sword. The present time is indeed a time of peace and order. But
it is at such a time that fools are most thoughtless and wise men most
thoughtful. That the discontents which have agitated the country during
the late and the present reign, and which, though not always noisy, are
never wholly dormant, will again break forth with aggravated symptoms,
is almost as certain as that the tides and seasons will follow their
appointed course. But in all movements of the human mind which tend to
great revolutions there is a crisis at which moderate concession may
amend, conciliate, and preserve. Happy will it be for England if, at
that crisis her interests be confided to men for whom history has not
recorded the long series of human crimes and follies in vain.



BURLEIGH AND HIS TIMES


(April 1832)
_Memoirs of the Life and Administration of the Right Honourable William
Cecil Lord Burghley, Secretary of State in the Reign of King Edward
the Sixth, and Lord High Treasurer, of England in the Reign of Queen
Elizabeth. Containing an historical View of the Times in which he
lived, and of the many eminent and illustrious Persons with whom he was
connected; with Extracts from his Private and Official Correspondence
and other Papers, now first published from the Originals. By the
Reverend EDWARD NARES, D.D., Regius Professor of Modern History in the
University of Oxford. 3 vols. 4to. London: 1828, 1832._


THE work of Dr. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to that
which Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brobdingnag,
and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large
as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and every
component part of it, is on a gigantic scale. The title is as long as
an ordinary preface: the prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary
book; and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library.
We cannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass of paper which lies
before us better than by saying that it consists of about two thousand
closely printed quarto pages, that it occupies fifteen hundred inches
cubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. Such a book
might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading by Hilpa
and Shallum. But unhappily the life of man is now three-score years and
ten; and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares to demand
from us so large a portion of so short an existence.

Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all
other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in
factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is an agreeable recreation.
There was, it is said, a criminal in Italy, who was suffered to make his
choice between Guicciardini and the galleys. He chose the history. But
the war of Pisa was too much for him. He changed his mind, and went to
the oar. Guicciardini, though certainly not the most amusing of writers,
is a Herodotus or a Froissart, when compared with Dr. Nares, It is not
merely in bulk, but in specific gravity also, that these memoirs exceed
all other human compositions. On every subject which the Professor
discusses, he produces three times as many pages as another man; and one
of his pages is as tedious as another man’s three. His book is swelled
to its vast dimensions by endless repetitions, by episodes which have
nothing to do with the main action, by quotations from books which are
in every circulating library, and by reflections which, when they happen
to be just, are so obvious that they must necessarily occur to the mind
of every reader. He employs more words in expounding and defending a
truism than any other writer would employ in supporting a paradox. Of
the rules of historical perspective, he has not the faintest notion.
There is neither foreground nor background in his delineation. The wars
of Charles the Fifth in Germany are detailed at almost as much length as
in Robertson’s life of that prince. The troubles of Scotland are related
as fully as in M’Crie’s Life of John Knox. It would be most unjust to
deny that Dr. Nares is a man of great industry and research; but he is
so utterly incompetent to arrange the materials which he has collected
that he might as well have left them in their original repositories.

Neither the facts which Dr. Nares has discovered, nor the arguments
which he urges, will, we apprehend, materially alter the opinion
generally entertained by judicious readers of history concerning his
hero. Lord Burleigh can hardly be called a great man. He was not one
of those whose genius and energy change the fate of empires. He was by
nature and habit one of those who follow, not one of those who lead.
Nothing that is recorded, either of his words or of his actions,
indicates intellectual or moral elevation. But his talents, though not
brilliant, were of an eminently useful kind; and his principles, though
not inflexible, were not more relaxed than those of his associates and
competitors. He had a cool temper, a sound judgement, great powers of
application, and a constant eye to the main chance. In his youth he was,
it seems, fond of practical jokes. Yet even out of these he contrived
to extract some pecuniary profit. When he was studying the law at Gray’s
Inn, he lost all his furniture and books at the gaming table to one of
his friends. He accordingly bored a hole in the wall which separated his
chambers from those of his associate, and at midnight bellowed through
this passage threats of damnation and calls to repentance in the ears
of the victorious gambler, who lay sweating with fear all night, and
refunded his winnings on his knees next day. “Many other the like merry
jest,” says his old biographer, “I have heard him tell, too long to be
here noted.” To the last, Burleigh was somewhat jocose; and some of
his sportive sayings have been recorded by Bacon. They show much more
shrewdness than generosity, and are, indeed, neatly expressed reasons
for exacting money rigorously, and for keeping it carefully. It must,
however, be acknowledged that he was rigorous and careful for the public
advantage as well as for his own. To extol his moral character as Dr.
Nares has extolled it is absurd. It would be equally absurd to represent
him as a corrupt, rapacious, and bad-hearted man. He paid great
attention to the interests of the state, and great attention also to the
interest of his own family. He never deserted his friends till it was
very inconvenient to stand by them, was an excellent Protestant, when it
was not very advantageous to be a Papist, recommended a tolerant policy
to his mistress as strongly as he could recommend it without hazarding
her favour, never put to the rack any person from whom it did not seem
probable that useful information might be derived, and was so moderate
in his desires that he left only three hundred distinct landed estates,
though he might, as his honest servant assures us, have left much more,
“if he would have taken money out of the Exchequer for his own use, as
many Treasurers have done.”

Burleigh, like the old Marquess of Winchester, who preceded him in the
custody of the White Staff, was of the willow, and not of the oak. He
first rose into notice by defending the supremacy of Henry the Eighth.
He was subsequently favoured and promoted by the Duke of Somerset. He
not only contrived to escape unhurt when his patron fell, but became
an important member of the administration of Northumberland. Dr. Nares
assures us over and over again that there could have been nothing base
in Cecil’s conduct on this occasion; for, says he, Cecil continued to
stand well with Cranmer. This, we confess, hardly satisfies us. We are
much of the mind of Falstaff’s tailor. We must have better assurance for
Sir John than Bardolph’s. We like not the security.

Through the whole course of that miserable intrigue which was carried on
round the dying bed of Edward the Sixth, Cecil so demeaned himself as
to avoid, first, the displeasure of Northumberland, and afterwards the
displeasure of Mary. He was prudently unwilling to put his hand to the
instrument which changed the course of the succession. But the furious
Dudley was master of the palace. Cecil, therefore, according to his own
account, excused himself from signing as a party, but consented to sign
as a witness. It is not easy to describe his dexterous conduct at this
most perplexing crisis in language more appropriate than that which is
employed by old Fuller. “His hand wrote it as secretary of state,” says
that quaint writer; “but his heart consented not thereto. Yea, he openly
opposed it; though at last yielding to the greatness of Northumberland,
in an age when it was present drowning not to swim with the stream. But
as the philosopher tells us, that though the planets be whirled about
daily from east to west, by the motion of the primum mobile, yet have
they also a contrary proper motion of their own from west to east, which
they slowly, though surely, move, at their leisure; so Cecil had secret
counter-endeavours against the strain of the court herein, and privately
advanced his rightful intentions, against the foresaid duke’s ambition.”

This was undoubtedly the most perilous conjuncture of Cecil’s life.
Wherever there was a safe course, he was safe. But here every course
was full of danger. His situation rendered it impossible for him to be
neutral. If he acted on either side, if he refused to act at all, he ran
a fearful risk. He saw all the difficulties of his position. He sent
his money and plate out of London, made over his estates to his son, and
carried arms about his person. His best arms, however, were his sagacity
and his self-command. The plot in which he had been an unwilling
accomplice ended, as it was natural that so odious and absurd a plot
should end, in the ruin of its contrivers. In the meantime, Cecil
quietly extricated himself and, having been successively patronised by
Henry, by Somerset, and by Northumberland, continued to flourish under
the protection of Mary.

He had no aspirations after the crown of martyrdom. He confessed
himself, therefore, with great decorum, heard mass in Wimbledon Church
at Easter, and, for the better ordering of his spiritual concerns, took
a priest into his house. Dr. Nares, whose simplicity passes that of any
casuist with whom we are acquainted, vindicates his hero by assuring us
that this was not superstition, but pure unmixed hypocrisy. “That he did
in some manner conform, we shall not be able, in the face of existing
documents, to deny; while we feel in our own minds abundantly satisfied,
that, during this very trying reign, he never abandoned the prospect of
another revolution in favour of Protestantism.” In another place, the
Doctor tells us, that Cecil went to mass “with no idolatrous intention.”
Nobody, we believe, ever accused him of idolatrous intentions. The
very ground of the charge against him is that he had no idolatrous
intentions. We never should have blamed him if he had really gone to
Wimbledon Church, with the feelings of a good Catholic, to worship
the host. Dr. Nares speaks in several places with just severity of the
sophistry of the Jesuits, and with just admiration of the incomparable
letters of Pascal. It is somewhat strange, therefore, that he should
adopt, to the full extent, the jesuitical doctrine of the direction of
intentions.

We do not blame Cecil for not choosing to be burned. The deep stain upon
his memory is that, for differences of opinion for which he would risk
nothing himself, he, in the day of his power, took away without scruple
the lives of others. One of the excuses suggested in these Memoirs for
his conforming, during the reign of Mary to the Church of Rome, is that
he may have been of the same mind with those German Protestants who
were called Adiaphorists, and who considered the popish rites as
matters indifferent. Melanchthon was one of these moderate persons,
and “appears,” says Dr. Nares, “to have gone greater lengths than any
imputed to Lord Burleigh.” We should have thought this not only an
excuse, but a complete vindication, if Cecil had been an Adiaphorist for
the benefit of others as well as for his own. If the popish rites
were matters of so little moment that a good Protestant might lawfully
practise them for his safety, how could it be just or humane that a
Papist should be hanged, drawn, and quartered, for practising them from
a sense of duty? Unhappily these non-essentials soon became matters of
life and death just at the very time at which Cecil attained the highest
point of power and favour, an Act of Parliament was passed by which the
penalties of high treason were denounced against persons who should do
in sincerity what he had done from cowardice.

Early in the reign of Mary, Cecil was employed in a mission scarcely
consistent with the character of a zealous Protestant. He was sent to
escort the Papal Legate, Cardinal Pole, from Brussels to London. That
great body of moderate persons who cared more for the quiet of the
realm than for the controverted points which were in issue between the
Churches seem to have placed their chief hope in the wisdom and humanity
of the gentle Cardinal. Cecil, it is clear, cultivated the friendship
of Pole with great assiduity, and received great advantage from the
Legate’s protection.

But the best protection of Cecil, during the gloomy and disastrous reign
of Mary, was that which he derived from his own prudence and from his
own temper, a prudence which could never be lulled into carelessness, a
temper which could never be irritated into rashness. The Papists could
find no occasion against him. Yet he did not lose the esteem even of
those sterner Protestants who had preferred exile to recantation. He
attached himself to the persecuted heiress of the throne, and entitled
himself to her gratitude and confidence. Yet he continued to receive
marks of favour from the Queen. In the House of Commons, he put himself
at the head of the party opposed to the Court. Yet, so guarded was
his language that, even when some of those who acted with him were
imprisoned by the Privy Council, he escaped with impunity.

At length Mary died: Elizabeth succeeded; and Cecil rose at once to
greatness. He was sworn in Privy-councillor and Secretary of State
to the new sovereign before he left her prison of Hatfield; and he
continued to serve her during forty years, without intermission, in the
highest employments. His abilities were precisely those which keep men
long in power. He belonged to the class of the Walpoles, the Pelhams,
and the Liverpools, not to that of the St. Johns, the Carterets, the
Chathams, and the Cannings. If he had been a man of original genius and
of an enterprising spirit, it would have been scarcely possible for him
to keep his power or even his head. There was not room in one government
for an Elizabeth and a Richelieu. What the haughty daughter of Henry
needed, was a moderate, cautious, flexible minister, skilled in the
details of business, competent to advise, but not aspiring to command.
And such a minister she found in Burleigh. No arts could shake the
confidence which she reposed in her old and trusty servant. The courtly
graces of Leicester, the brilliant talents and accomplishments of Essex,
touched the fancy, perhaps the heart, of the woman; but no rival could
deprive the Treasurer of the place which he possessed in the favour of
the Queen. She sometimes chid him sharply; but he was the man whom she
delighted to honour. For Burleigh, she forgot her usual parsimony
both of wealth and of dignities. For Burleigh, she relaxed that severe
etiquette to which she was unreasonably attached. Every other person to
whom she addressed her speech, or on whom the glance of her eagle eye
fell, instantly sank on his knee. For Burleigh alone, a chair was set
in her presence; and there the old minister, by birth only a plain
Lincolnshire esquire, took his ease, while the haughty heirs of the
Fitzalans and the De Veres humbled themselves to the dust around him.
At length, having, survived all his early coadjutors and rivals, he
died full of years and honours. His royal mistress visited him on his
deathbed, and cheered him with assurances of her affection and esteem;
and his power passed, with little diminution, to a son who inherited his
abilities, and whose mind had been formed by his counsels.

The life of Burleigh was commensurate with one of the most important
periods in the history of the world. It exactly measures the time during
which the House of Austria held decided superiority and aspired to
universal dominion. In the year in which Burleigh was born, Charles the
Fifth obtained the imperial crown. In the year in which Burleigh died,
the vast designs which had, during near a century, kept Europe in
constant agitation, were buried in the same grave with the proud and
sullen Philip.

The life of Burleigh was commensurate also with the period during which
a great moral revolution was effected, a revolution the consequences of
which were felt, not only in the cabinets of princes, but at half the
firesides in Christendom. He was born when the great religious schism
was just commencing. He lived to see that schism complete, and to see
a line of demarcation, which, since his death, has been very little
altered, strongly drawn between Protestant and Catholic Europe.

The only event of modern times which can be properly compared with the
Reformation is the French Revolution, or, to speak more accurately, that
great revolution of political feeling which took place in almost every
part of the civilised world during the eighteenth century, and which
obtained in France its most terrible and signal triumph. Each of these
memorable events may be described as a rising up of the human reason
against a Caste. The one was a struggle of the laity against the clergy
for intellectual liberty; the other was a struggle of the people against
princes and nobles for political liberty. In both cases, the spirit of
innovation was at first encouraged by the class to which it was likely
to be most prejudicial. It was under the patronage of Frederic, of
Catherine, of Joseph, and of the grandees of France, that the philosophy
which afterwards threatened all the thrones and aristocracies of Europe
with destruction first became formidable. The ardour with which men
betook themselves to liberal studies, at the close of the fifteenth and
the beginning of the sixteenth century, was zealously encouraged by the
heads of that very church to which liberal studies were destined to be
fatal. In both cases, when the explosion came, it came with a violence
which appalled and disgusted many of those who had previously been
distinguished by the freedom of their opinions. The violence of the
democratic party in France made Burke a Tory and Alfieri a courtier. The
violence of the chiefs of the German schism made Erasmus a defender
of abuses, and turned the author of Utopia into a persecutor. In both
cases, the convulsion which had overthrown deeply seated errors, shook
all the principles on which society rests to their very foundations.
The minds of men were unsettled. It seemed for a time that all order and
morality were about to perish with the prejudices with which they had
been long and intimately associated. Frightful cruelties were committed.
Immense masses of property were confiscated. Every part of Europe
swarmed with exiles. In moody and turbulent spirits zeal soured into
malignity, or foamed into madness. From the political agitation of the
eighteenth century sprang the Jacobins. From the religious agitation
of the sixteenth century sprang the Anabaptists. The partisans of
Robespierre robbed and murdered in the name of fraternity and equality.
The followers of Kniperdoling robbed and murdered in the name of
Christian liberty. The feeling of patriotism was in many parts of
Europe, almost wholly extinguished. All the old maxims of foreign policy
were changed. Physical boundaries were superseded by moral boundaries.
Nations made war on each other with new arms, with arms which no
fortifications, however strong by nature or by art, could resist, with
arms before which rivers parted like the Jordan, and ramparts fell down
like the walls of Jericho. The great masters of fleets and armies were
often reduced to confess, like Milton’s warlike angel, how hard they
found it

               ”--To exclude Spiritual substance with corporeal bar.”

Europe was divided, as Greece had been divided during the period
concerning which Thucydides wrote. The conflict was not, as it is in
ordinary times, between state and state, but between two omnipresent
factions, each of which was in some places dominant and in other places
oppressed, but which, openly or covertly, carried on their strife in
the bosom of every society. No man asked whether another belonged to
the same country with himself, but whether he belonged to the same sect.
Party-spirit seemed to justify and consecrate acts which, in any other
times, would have been considered as the foulest of treasons. The French
emigrant saw nothing disgraceful in bringing Austrian and Prussian
hussars to Paris. The Irish or Italian democrat saw no impropriety in
serving the French Directory against his own native government. So, in
the sixteenth century, the fury of theological factions suspended all
national animosities and jealousies. The Spaniards were invited into
France by the League; the English were invited into France by the
Huguenots.

We by no means intend to underrate or to palliate the crimes and
excesses which, during the last generation, were produced by the spirit
of democracy. But, when we hear men zealous for the Protestant religion,
constantly represent the French Revolution as radically and essentially
evil on account of those crimes and excesses, we cannot but remember
that the deliverance of our ancestors from the house of their spiritual
bondage was effected “by plagues and by signs, by wonders and by war.”
We cannot but remember that, as in the case of the French Revolution, so
also in the case of the Reformation, those who rose up against tyranny
were themselves deeply tainted with the vices which tyranny engenders.
We cannot but remember that libels scarcely less scandalous than those
of Hebert, mummeries scarcely less absurd than those of Clootz, and
crimes scarcely less atrocious than those of Marat, disgrace the early
history of Protestantism. The Reformation is an event long past. That
volcano has spent its rage. The wide waste produced by its outbreak is
forgotten. The landmarks which were swept away have been replaced. The
ruined edifices have been repaired. The lava has covered with a rich
incrustation the fields which it once devastated, and, after having
turned a beautiful and fruitful garden into a desert, has again turned
the desert into a still more beautiful and fruitful garden. The second
great eruption is not yet over. The marks of its ravages are still all
around us. The ashes are still hot beneath our feet. In some directions
the deluge of fire still continues to spread. Yet experience surely
entitles us to believe that this explosion, like that which preceded it,
will fertilise the soil which it has devastated. Already, in those parts
which have suffered most severely, rich cultivation and secure dwellings
have begun to appear amidst the waste. The more we read of the history
of past ages, the more we observe the signs of our own times, the more
do we feel our hearts filled and swelled up by a good hope for the
future destinies of the human race.

The history of the Reformation in England is full of strange problems.
The most prominent and extraordinary phaenomenon which it presents to
us is the gigantic strength of the government contrasted with the
feebleness of the religious parties. During the twelve or thirteen years
which followed the death of Henry the Eighth, the religion of the
state was thrice changed. Protestantism was established by Edward;
the Catholic Church was restored by Mary; Protestantism was again
established by Elizabeth. The faith of the nation seemed to depend
on the personal inclinations of the sovereign. Nor was this all. An
established church was then, as a matter of course, a persecuting
church. Edward persecuted Catholics. Mary persecuted Protestants.
Elizabeth persecuted Catholics again. The father of those three
sovereigns had enjoyed the pleasure of persecuting both sects at once,
and had sent to death, on the same hurdle, the heretic who denied the
real presence, and the traitor who denied the royal supremacy. There
was nothing in England like that fierce and bloody opposition which,
in France, each of the religious factions in its turn offered to the
government. We had neither a Coligny nor a Mayenne, neither a Moncontour
nor an Ivry. No English city braved sword and famine for the reformed
doctrines with the spirit of Rochelle, or for the Catholic doctrines
with the spirit of Paris. Neither sect in England formed a League.
Neither sect extorted a recantation from the sovereign. Neither sect
could obtain from an adverse sovereign even a toleration. The English
Protestants, after several years of domination, sank down with scarcely
a struggle under the tyranny of Mary. The Catholics, after having
regained and abused their old ascendency submitted patiently to the
severe rule of Elizabeth. Neither Protestants nor Catholics engaged
in any great and well-organized scheme of resistance. A few wild and
tumultuous risings, suppressed as soon as they appeared, a few dark
conspiracies in which only a small number of desperate men engaged, such
were the utmost efforts made by these two parties to assert the most
sacred of human rights, attacked by the most odious tyranny.

The explanation of these circumstances which has generally been given is
very simple but by no means satisfactory. The power of the crown, it is
said, was then at its height, and was in fact despotic. This solution,
we own, seems to us to be no solution at all. It has long been the
fashion, a fashion introduced by Mr. Hume, to describe the English
monarchy in the sixteenth century as an absolute monarchy. And such
undoubtedly it appears to a superficial observer. Elizabeth, it is true,
often spoke to her parliaments in language as haughty and imperious
as that which the Great Turk would use to his divan. She punished with
great severity members of the House of Commons who, in her opinion,
carried the freedom of debate too far. She assumed the power of
legislating by means of proclamations. She imprisoned her subjects
without bringing them to a legal trial. Torture was often employed,
in defiance of the laws of England, for the purpose of extorting
confessions from those who were shut up in her dungeons. The authority
of the Star-Chamber and of the Ecclesiastical Commission was at its
highest point. Severe restraints were imposed on political and religious
discussion. The number of presses was at one time limited. No man could
print without a licence; and every work had to undergo the scrutiny
of the Primate, or the Bishop of London. Persons whose writings were
displeasing to the Court, were cruelly mutilated, like Stubbs, or put
to death, like Penry. Nonconformity was severely punished. The Queen
prescribed the exact rule of religious faith and discipline; and whoever
departed from that rule, either to the right or to the left, was in
danger of severe penalties.

Such was this government. Yet we know that it was loved by the great
body of those who lived under it. We know that, during the fierce
contests of the seventeenth century, both the hostile parties spoke of
the time of Elizabeth as of a golden age. That great Queen has now been
lying two hundred and thirty years in Henry the Seventh’s chapel. Yet
her memory is still dear to the hearts of a free people.

The truth seems to be that the government of the Tudors was, with a
few occasional deviations, a popular government, under the forms
of despotism. At first sight, it may seem that the prerogatives of
Elizabeth were not less ample than those of Lewis the Fourteenth, and
her parliaments were as obsequious as his parliaments, that her warrant
had as much authority as his lettre de cachet. The extravagance with
which her courtiers eulogized her personal and mental charms went
beyond the adulation of Boileau and Moliere. Lewis would have blushed
to receive from those who composed the gorgeous circles of Marli and
Versailles such outward marks of servitude as the haughty Britoness
exacted of all who approached her. But the authority of Lewis rested on
the support of his army. The authority of Elizabeth rested solely on the
support of her people. Those who say that her power was absolute do not
sufficiently consider in what her power consisted. Her power consisted
in the willing obedience of her subjects, in their attachment to her
person and to her office, in their respect for the old line from which
she sprang, in their sense of the general security which they enjoyed
under her government. These were the means, and the only means, which
she had at her command for carrying her decrees into execution, for
resisting foreign enemies, and for crushing domestic treason. There was
not a ward in the city, there was not a hundred in any shire in England,
which could not have overpowered the handful of armed men who composed
her household. If a hostile sovereign threatened invasion, if an
ambitious noble raised the standard of revolt, she could have recourse
only to the trainbands of her capital and the array of her counties,
to the citizens and yeomen of England, commanded by the merchants and
esquires of England.

Thus, when intelligence arrived of the vast preparations which Philip
was making for the subjugation of the realm, the first person to whom
the government thought of applying for assistance was the Lord Mayor of
London. They sent to ask him what force the city would engage to furnish
for the defence of the kingdom against the Spaniards. The Mayor and
Common Council, in return desired to know what force the Queen’s
Highness wished them to furnish. The answer was, fifteen ships, and five
thousand men. The Londoners deliberated on the matter, and, two days
after, “humbly intreated the council, in sign of their perfect love and
loyalty to prince and country, to accept ten thousand men, and thirty
ships amply furnished.”

People who could give such signs as these of their loyalty were by no
means to be misgoverned with impunity. The English in the sixteenth
century were, beyond all doubt, a free people. They had not, indeed, the
outward show of freedom; but they had the reality. They had not as good
a constitution as we have; but they had that without which the best
constitution is as useless as the king’s proclamation against vice and
immorality, that which, without any constitution, keeps rulers in awe,
force, and the spirit to use it. Parliaments, it is true, were rarely
held, and were not very respectfully treated. The great charter
was often violated. But the people had a security against gross and
systematic misgovernment, far stronger than all the parchment that was
ever marked with the sign-manual, and than all the wax that was ever
pressed by the great seal.

It is a common error in politics to confound means with ends.
Constitutions, charters, petitions of right, declarations of right,
representative assemblies, electoral colleges, are not good government;
nor do they, even when most elaborately constructed, necessarily produce
good government. Laws exist in vain for those who have not the courage
and the means to defend them. Electors meet in vain where want makes
them the slaves of the landlord, or where superstition makes them the
slaves of the priest. Representative assemblies sit in vain unless they
have at their command, in the last resort the physical power which is
necessary to make their deliberations free, and their votes effectual.

The Irish are better represented in parliament than the Scotch, who
indeed are not represented at all. But are the Irish better governed
than the Scotch? Surely not. This circumstance has of late been used as
an argument against reform. It proves nothing against reform. It proves
only this, that laws have no magical, no supernatural, virtue; that
laws do not act like Aladdin’s lamp or Prince Ahmed’s apple; that
priestcraft, that ignorance, that the rage of contending factions, may
make good institutions useless; that intelligence, sobriety, industry,
moral freedom, firm union, may supply in a great measure the defects of
the worst representative system. A people whose education and habits
are such that, in every quarter of the world they rise above the mass of
those with whom they mix, as surely as oil rises to the top of water,
a people of such temper and self-government that the wildest popular
excesses recorded in their history partake of the gravity of judicial
proceedings, and of the solemnity of religious rites, a people whose
national pride and mutual attachment have passed into a proverb, a
people whose high and fierce spirit, so forcibly described in
the haughty motto which encircles their thistle, preserved their
independence, during a struggle of centuries, from the encroachments
of wealthier and more powerful neighbours, such a people cannot be
long oppressed. Any government, however constituted, must respect their
wishes and tremble at their discontents. It is indeed most desirable
that such a people should exercise a direct influence on the conduct
of affairs, and should make their wishes known through constitutional
organs. But some influence, direct or indirect, they will assuredly
possess. Some organ, constitutional or unconstitutional, they will
assuredly find. They will be better governed under a good constitution
than under a bad constitution. But they will be better governed under
the worst constitution than some other nations under the best. In any
general classification of constitutions, the constitution of Scotland
must be reckoned as one of the worst, perhaps as the worst, in Christian
Europe. Yet the Scotch are not ill governed. And the reason is simply
that they will not bear to be ill governed.

In some of the Oriental monarchies, in Afghanistan for example,
though there exists nothing which an European publicist would call a
Constitution, the sovereign generally governs in conformity with certain
rules established for the public benefit; and the sanction of those
rules is, that every Afghan approves them, and that every Afghan is a
soldier.

The monarchy of England in the sixteenth century was a monarchy of this
kind. It is called an absolute monarchy, because little respect was paid
by the Tudors to those institutions which we have been accustomed to
consider as the sole checks on the power of the sovereign. A modern
Englishman can hardly understand how the people can have had any real
security for good government under kings who levied benevolences, and
chid the House of Commons as they would have chid a pack of dogs. People
do not sufficiently consider that, though the legal cheeks were feeble,
the natural checks were strong. There was one great and effectual
limitation on the royal authority, the knowledge that, if the patience
of the nation were severely tried, the nation would put forth its
strength, and that its strength would be found irresistible. If a large
body of Englishmen became thoroughly discontented, instead of presenting
requisitions, holding large meetings, passing resolutions, signing
petitions, forming associations and unions, they rose up; they
took their halberds and their bows; and, if the sovereign was not
sufficiently popular to find among his subjects other halberds and other
bows to oppose to the rebels, nothing remained for him but a repetition
of the horrible scenes of Berkeley and Pomfret, He had no regular army
which could, by its superior arms and its superior skill, overawe
or vanquish the sturdy Commons of his realm, abounding in the native
hardihood of Englishmen, and trained in the simple discipline of the
militia.

It has been said that the Tudors were as absolute as the Caesars. Never
was parallel so unfortunate. The government of the Tudors was the direct
opposite to the government of Augustus and his successors. The Caesars
ruled despotically, by means of a great standing army, under the decent
forms of a republican constitution. They called themselves citizens.
They mixed unceremoniously with other citizens. In theory they were only
the elective magistrates of a free commonwealth. Instead of arrogating
to themselves despotic power, they acknowledged allegiance to the
senate. They were merely the lieutenants of that venerable body. They
mixed in debate. They even appeared as advocates before the courts of
law. Yet they could safely indulge in the wildest freaks of cruelty
and rapacity, while their legions remained faithful. Our Tudors, on the
other hand, under the titles and forms of monarchical supremacy,
were essentially popular magistrates. They had no means of protecting
themselves against the public hatred; and they were therefore compelled
to court the public favour. To enjoy all the state and all the personal
indulgences of absolute power, to be adored with Oriental prostrations,
to dispose at will of the liberty and even of the life of ministers and
courtiers, this nation granted to the Tudors. But the condition on which
they were suffered to be the tyrants of Whitehall was that they should
be the mild and paternal sovereigns of England. They were under the same
restraints with regard to their people under which a military despot is
placed with regard to his army. They would have found it as dangerous to
grind their subjects with cruel taxation as Nero would have found it to
leave his praetorians unpaid. Those who immediately surrounded the royal
person, and engaged in the hazardous game of ambition, were exposed
to the most fearful dangers. Buckingham, Cromwell, Surrey, Seymour of
Sudeley, Somerset, Northumberland, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, perished
on the scaffold. But in general the country gentleman hunted and the
merchant traded in peace. Even Henry, as cruel as Domitian, but far more
politic, contrived, while reeking with the blood of the Lamiae, to be a
favourite with the cobblers.

The Tudors committed very tyrannical acts. But in their ordinary
dealings with the people they were not, and could not safely be,
tyrants. Some excesses were easily pardoned. For the nation was proud
of the high and fiery blood of its magnificent princes, and saw in many
proceedings which a lawyer would even then have condemned, the outbreak
of the same noble spirit which so manfully hurled foul scorn at Parma
and at Spain. But to this endurance there was a limit. If the
government ventured to adopt measures which the people really felt to be
oppressive, it was soon compelled to change its course. When Henry the
Eighth attempted to raise a forced loan of unusual amount by proceedings
of unusual rigour, the opposition which he encountered was such as
appalled even his stubborn and imperious spirit. The people, we are
told, said that, if they were treated thus, “then were it worse than the
taxes Of France; and England should be bond, and not free.” The county
of Suffolk rose in arms. The king prudently yielded to an opposition
which, if he had persisted, would, in all probability, have taken
the form of a general rebellion. Towards the close of the reign of
Elizabeth, the people felt themselves aggrieved by the monopolies. The
Queen, proud and courageous as she was, shrank from a contest with the
nation, and, with admirable sagacity, conceded all that her subjects
had demanded, while it was yet in her power to concede with dignity and
grace.

It cannot be imagined that a people who had in their own hands the means
of checking their princes would suffer any prince to impose upon them a
religion generally detested. It is absurd to suppose that, if the nation
had been decidedly attached to the Protestant faith, Mary could have
re-established the Papal supremacy. It is equally absurd to suppose
that, if the nation had been zealous for the ancient religion, Elizabeth
could have restored the Protestant Church. The truth is, that the people
were not disposed to engage in a struggle either for the new or for the
old doctrines. Abundance of spirit was shown when it seemed likely that
Mary would resume her father’s grants of church property, or that
she would sacrifice the interests of England to the husband whom she
regarded with unmerited tenderness. That queen found that it would be
madness to attempt the restoration of the abbey lands. She found that
her subjects would never suffer her to make her hereditary kingdom a
fief of Castile. On these points she encountered a steady resistance,
and was compelled to give way. If she was able to establish the Catholic
worship and to persecute those who would not conform to it, it was
evidently because the people cared far less for the Protestant religion
than for the rights of property and for the independence of the English
crown. In plain words, they did not think the difference between
the hostile sects worth a struggle. There was undoubtedly a zealous
Protestant party and a zealous Catholic party. But both these parties
were, we believe, very small. We doubt, whether both together made
up, at the time of Mary’s death, the twentieth part of the nation. The
remaining nineteen twentieths halted between the two opinions, and were
not disposed to risk a revolution in the government, for the purpose of
giving to either of the extreme factions an advantage over the other.

We possess no data which will enable us to compare with exactness the
force of the two sects. Mr. Butler asserts that, even at the accession
of James the First, a majority of the population of England were
Catholics. This is pure assertion; and is not only unsupported by
evidence, but, we think, completely disproved by the strongest evidence.
Dr. Lingard is of opinion that the Catholics were one-half of the
nation in the middle of the reign of Elizabeth. Rushton says that,
when Elizabeth came to the throne, the Catholics were two-thirds of
the nation, and the Protestants only one-third. The most judicious and
impartial of English historians, Mr. Hallam, is, on the contrary, of
opinion, that two-thirds were Protestants and only one-third Catholics.
To us, we must confess, it seems, incredible that, if the Protestants
were really two to one, they should have borne the government of Mary,
or that, if the Catholics were really two to one, they should have
borne the government of Elizabeth. We are at a loss to conceive how a
sovereign who has no standing army, and whose power rests solely on the
loyalty of his subjects, can continue for years to persecute a religion
to which the majority of his subjects are sincerely attached. In fact,
the Protestants did rise up against one sister, and the Catholics
against the other. Those risings clearly showed how small and feeble
both the parties were. Both in the one case and in the other the nation
ranged itself on the side of the government, and the insurgents were
speedily put down and punished. The Kentish gentlemen who took up arms
for the reformed doctrines against Mary, and the great Northern Earls
who displayed the banner of the Five Wounds against Elizabeth, were
alike considered by the great body of their countrymen as wicked
disturbers of the public peace.

The account which Cardinal Bentivoglio gave of the state of religion in
England well deserves consideration. The zealous Catholics he reckoned
at one-thirtieth part of the nation. The people who would without
the least scruple become Catholics, if the Catholic religion were
established, he estimated at four-fifths of the nation. We believe this
account to have been very near the truth. We believe that people,
whose minds were made up on either side, who were inclined to make any
sacrifice or run any risk for either religion, were very few. Each side
had a few enterprising champions, and a few stout-hearted martyrs; but
the nation, undetermined in its opinions and feelings, resigned itself
implicitly to the guidance of the government, and lent to the sovereign
for the time being an equally ready aid against either of the extreme
parties.

We are very far from saying that the English of that generation were
irreligious. They held firmly those doctrines which are common to the
Catholic and to the Protestant theology. But they had no fixed opinion
as to the matters in dispute between the churches. They were in a
situation resembling that of those Borderers whom Sir Walter Scott has
described with so much spirit,

“_Who sought the beeves that made their broth In England and in Scotland
both_.”

And who

“_Nine times outlawed had been By England’s king and Scotland’s queen_.”

They were sometimes Protestants, sometimes Catholics; sometimes half
Protestants half Catholics.

The English had not, for ages, been bigoted Papists. In the fourteenth
century, the first and perhaps the greatest of the reformers, John
Wicliffe, had stirred the public mind to its inmost depths. During the
same century, a scandalous schism in the Catholic Church had diminished,
in many parts of Europe, the reverence in which the Roman pontiffs were
held. It is clear that, a hundred years before the time of Luther, a
great party in this kingdom was eager for a change at least as extensive
as that which was subsequently effected by Henry the Eighth. The House
of Commons, in the reign of Henry the Fourth, proposed a confiscation of
ecclesiastical property, more sweeping and violent even than that which
took place under the administration of Thomas Cromwell; and, though
defeated in this attempt, they succeeded in depriving the clerical order
of some of its most oppressive privileges. The splendid conquests of
Henry the Fifth turned the attention of the nation from domestic reform.
The Council of Constance removed some of the grossest of those scandals
which had deprived the Church of the public respect. The authority of
that venerable synod propped up the sinking authority of the Popedom. A
considerable reaction took place. It cannot, however, be doubted, that
there was still some concealed Lollardism in England; or that many who
did not absolutely dissent from any doctrine held by the Church of Rome
were jealous of the wealth and power enjoyed by her ministers. At the
very beginning of the reign of Henry the Eighth, a struggle took place
between the clergy and the courts of law, in which the courts of law
remained victorious. One of the bishops, on that occasion, declared
that the common people entertained the strongest prejudices against
his order, and that a clergyman had no chance of fair play before a lay
tribunal. The London juries, he said, entertained such a spite to the
Church that, if Abel were a priest, they would find him guilty of the
murder of Cain. This was said a few months before the time when Martin
Luther began to preach at Wittenburg against indulgences.

As the Reformation did not find the English bigoted Papists, so neither
was it conducted in such a manner as to make them zealous Protestants.
It was not under the direction of men like that fiery Saxon who swore
that he would go to Worms, though he had to face as many devils as there
were tiles on the houses, or like that brave Switzer who was struck down
while praying in front of the ranks of Zurich. No preacher of religion
had the same power here which Calvin had at Geneva and Knox in Scotland.
The government put itself early at the head of the movement, and thus
acquired power to regulate, and occasionally to arrest, the movement.

To many persons it appears extraordinary that Henry the Eighth should
have been able to maintain himself so long in an intermediate position
between the Catholic and Protestant parties. Most extraordinary it would
indeed be, if we were to suppose that the nation consisted of none but
decided Catholics and decided Protestants. The fact is that the great
mass of the people was neither Catholic nor Protestant, but was, like
its sovereign, midway between the two sects. Henry, in that very part
of his conduct which has been represented as most capricious and
inconsistent, was probably following a policy far more pleasing to the
majority of his subjects than a policy like that of Edward, or a policy
like that of Mary, would have been. Down even to the very close of the
reign of Elizabeth, the people were in a state somewhat resembling that
in which, as Machiavelli says, the inhabitants of the Roman empire were,
during the transition from heathenism to Christianity; “sendo la maggior
parte di loro incerti a quale Dio dovessero ricorrere.” They were
generally, we think, favourable to the royal supremacy. They disliked
the policy of the Court of Rome. Their spirit rose against the
interference of a foreign priest with their national concerns. The bull
which pronounced sentence of deposition against Elizabeth, the plots
which were formed against her life, the usurpation of her titles by
the Queen of Scotland, the hostility of Philip, excited their strongest
indignation. The cruelties of Bonner were remembered with disgust. Some
parts of the new system, the use of the English language, for example,
in public worship, and the communion in both kinds, were undoubtedly
popular. On the other hand, the early lessons of the nurse and the
priest were not forgotten. The ancient ceremonies were long remembered
with affectionate reverence. A large portion of the ancient theology
lingered to the last in the minds which had been imbued with it in
childhood.

The best proof that the religion of the people was of this mixed kind
is furnished by the Drama of that age. No man would bring unpopular
opinions prominently forward in a play intended for representation. And
we may safely conclude, that feelings and opinions which pervade the
whole Dramatic Literature of a generation, are feelings and opinions of
which the men of that generation generally partook.

The greatest and most popular dramatists of the Elizabethan age treat
religious subjects in a very remarkable manner. They speak respectfully
of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But they speak neither
like Catholics nor like Protestants, but like persons who are wavering
between the two systems, or who have made a system for themselves out of
parts selected from both. They seem to hold some of the Romish rites and
doctrines in high respect. They treat the vow of celibacy, for example,
so tempting, and, in later times, so common a subject for ribaldry, with
mysterious reverence. Almost every member of a religious order whom
they introduce is a holy and venerable man. We remember in their plays
nothing resembling the coarse ridicule with which the Catholic religion
and its ministers were assailed, two generations later, by dramatists
who wished to please the multitude. We remember no Friar Dominic, no
Father Foigard, among the characters drawn by those great poets. The
scene at the close of the Knight of Malta might have been written by a
fervent Catholic. Massinger shows a great fondness for ecclesiastics of
the Romish Church, and has even gone so far as to bring a virtuous and
interesting Jesuit on the stage. Ford, in that fine play which it is
painful to read and scarcely decent to name, assigns a highly creditable
part to the Friar. The partiality of Shakspeare for Friars is well
known. In Hamlet, the Ghost complains that he died without extreme
unction, and, in defiance of the article which condemns the doctrine of
purgatory, declares that he is

               “Confined to fast in fires,

               Till the foul crimes, done in his days of nature,

               Are burnt and purged away.”

These lines, we suspect, would have raised a tremendous storm In the
theatre at any time during the reign of Charles the Second. They were
clearly not written by a zealous Protestant, or for zealous Protestants.
Yet the author of King John and Henry the Eighth was surely no friend to
papal supremacy.

There is, we think, only one solution of the phaenomena which we find
in the history and in the drama of that age. The religion of the English
was a mixed religion, like that of the Samaritan settlers, described in
the second book of Kings, who “feared the Lord, and served their
graven images”; like that of the Judaizing Christians who blended the
ceremonies and doctrines of the synagogue with those of the church;
like that of the Mexican Indians, who, during many generations after
the subjugation of their race, continued to unite with the rites learned
from their conquerors the worship of the grotesque idols which had been
adored by Montezuma and Guatemozin.

These feelings were not confined to the populace. Elizabeth herself was
by no means exempt from them. A crucifix, with wax-lights burning round
it, stood in her private chapel. She always spoke with disgust and anger
of the marriage of priests. “I was in horror,” says Archbishop Parker,
“to hear such words to come from her mild nature and Christian learned
conscience, as she spake concerning God’s holy ordinance and institution
of matrimony.” Burleigh prevailed on her to connive at the marriages of
churchmen. But she would only connive; and the children sprung from such
marriages were illegitimate till the accession of James the First.

That which is, as we have said, the great stain on the character of
Burleigh is also the great stain on the character of Elizabeth. Being
herself an Adiaphorist, having no scruple about conforming to the Romish
Church when conformity was necessary to her own safety, retaining to the
last moment of her life a fondness for much of the doctrine and much
of the ceremonial of that church, yet she subjected that church to a
persecution even more odious than the persecution with which her sister
had harassed the Protestants. We say more odious. For Mary had at least
the plea of fanaticism. She did nothing for her religion which she was
not prepared to suffer for it. She had held it firmly under persecution.
She fully believed it to be essential to salvation. If she burned the
bodies of her subjects, it was in order to rescue their souls. Elizabeth
had no such pretext. In opinion, she was little more than half a
Protestant. She had professed, when it suited her, to be wholly a
Catholic. There is an excuse, a wretched excuse, for the massacres of
Piedmont and the Autos da fe of Spain. But what can be said in defence
of a ruler who is at once indifferent and intolerant?

If the great Queen, whose memory is still held in just veneration by
Englishmen, had possessed sufficient virtue and sufficient enlargement
of mind to adopt those principles which More, wiser in speculation than
in action, had avowed in the preceding generation, and by which
the excellent L’Hospital regulated his conduct in her own time, how
different would be the colour of the whole history of the last
two hundred and fifty years! She had the happiest opportunity ever
vouchsafed to any sovereign of establishing perfect freedom of
conscience throughout her dominions, without danger to her government,
without scandal to any large party among her subjects. The nation, as it
was clearly ready to profess either religion, would, beyond all doubt,
have been ready to tolerate both. Unhappily for her own glory and for
the public peace, she adopted a policy from the effects of which the
empire is still suffering. The yoke of the Established Church was
pressed down on the people till they would bear it no longer. Then
a reaction came. Another reaction followed. To the tyranny of the
establishment succeeded the tumultuous conflict of sects, infuriated
by manifold wrongs, and drunk with unwonted freedom. To the conflict of
sects succeeded again the cruel domination of one persecuting church.
At length oppression put off its most horrible form, and took a milder
aspect. The penal laws which had been framed for the protection of the
established church were abolished. But exclusions and disabilities still
remained. These exclusions and disabilities, after having generated the
most fearful discontents, after having rendered all government in one
part of the kingdom impossible, after having brought the state to
the very brink of ruin, have, in our times, been removed, but, though
removed have left behind them a rankling which may last for many years.
It is melancholy to think with what case Elizabeth might have united all
conflicting sects under the shelter of the same impartial laws and
the same paternal throne, and thus have placed the nation in the same
situation, as far as the rights of conscience are concerned, in which
we at last stand, after all the heart-burnings, the persecutions, the
conspiracies, the seditions, the revolutions, the judicial murders, the
civil wars, of ten generations.

This is the dark side of her character. Yet she surely was a great
woman. Of all the sovereigns who exercised a power which was seemingly
absolute, but which in fact depended for support on the love and
confidence of their subjects, she was by far the most illustrious.
It has often been alleged as an excuse for the misgovernment of her
successors that they only followed her example, that precedents might be
found in the transactions of her reign for persecuting the Puritans,
for levying money without the sanction of the House of Commons, for
confining men without bringing them to trial, for interfering with the
liberty of parliamentary debate. All this may be true. But it is no good
plea for her successors; and for this plain reason, that they were her
successors. She governed one generation, they governed another; and
between the two generations there was almost as little in common as
between the people of two different countries. It was not by looking at
the particular measures which Elizabeth had adopted, but by looking at
the great general principles of her government, that those who followed
her were likely to learn the art of managing untractable subjects. If,
instead of searching the records of her reign for precedents which
might seem to vindicate the mutilation of Prynne and the imprisonment of
Eliot, the Stuarts had attempted to discover the fundamental rules which
guided her conduct in all her dealings with her people, they would have
perceived that their policy was then most unlike to hers, when to a
superficial observer it would have seemed most to resemble hers.
Firm, haughty, sometimes unjust and cruel, in her proceedings towards
individuals or towards small parties, she avoided with care, or
retracted with speed, every measure which seemed likely to alienate the
great mass of the people. She gained more honour and more love by the
manner in which she repaired her errors than she would have gained by
never committing errors. If such a man as Charles the First had been in
her place when the whole nation was crying out against the monopolies,
he would have refused all redress. He would have dissolved the
Parliament, and imprisoned the most popular members. He would have
called another Parliament. He would have given some vague and delusive
promises of relief in return for subsidies. When entreated to fulfil
his promises, he would have again dissolved the Parliament, and again
imprisoned his leading opponents. The country would have become more
agitated than before. The next House of Commons would have been more
unmanageable than that which preceded it. The tyrant would have agreed
to all that the nation demanded. He would have solemnly ratified an act
abolishing monopolies for ever. He would have received a large supply
in return for this concession; and within half a year new patents, more
oppressive than those which had been cancelled, would have been issued
by scores. Such was the policy which brought the heir of a long line of
kings, in early youth the darling of his countrymen, to a prison and a
scaffold.

Elizabeth, before the House of Commons could address her, took out of
their mouths the words which they were about to utter in the name of the
nation. Her promises went beyond their desires. Her performance followed
close upon her promise. She did not treat the nation as an adverse
party, as a party which had an interest opposed to hers, as a party to
which she was to grant as few advantages as possible, and from which she
was to extort as much money as possible. Her benefits were given, not
sold; and, when once given, they were never withdrawn. She gave them too
with a frankness, an effusion of heart, a princely dignity, a motherly
tenderness, which enhanced their value. They were received by the sturdy
country gentlemen who had come up to Westminster full of resentment,
with tears of joy, and shouts of “God save the Queen.” Charles the
First gave up half the prerogatives of his crown to the Commons; and the
Commons sent him in return the Grand Remonstrance.

We had intended to say something concerning that illustrious group of
which Elizabeth is the central figure, that group which the last of
the bards saw in vision from the top of Snowdon, encircling the Virgin
Queen,

               “Many a baron bold,

               And gorgeous dames and statesmen old

               In bearded majesty.”

We had intended to say something concerning the dexterous Walsingham,
the impetuous Oxford, the graceful Sackville, the all-accomplished
Sydney; concerning Essex, the ornament of the court and of the camp, the
model of chivalry, the munificent patron of genius, whom great virtues,
great courage, great talents, the favour of his sovereign, the love of
his countrymen, all that seemed to ensure a happy and glorious life, led
to an early and an ignominious death, concerning Raleigh, the soldier,
the sailor, the scholar, the courtier, the orator, the poet, the
historian, the philosopher, whom we picture to ourselves, sometimes
reviewing the Queen’s guard, sometimes giving chase to a Spanish
galleon, then answering the chiefs of the country party in the House of
Commons, then again murmuring one of his sweet love-songs too near the
ears of her Highness’s maids of honour, and soon after poring over the
Talmud, or collating Polybius with Livy. We had intended also to
say something concerning the literature of that splendid period, and
especially concerning those two incomparable men, the Prince of Poets,
and the Prince of Philosophers, who have made the Elizabethan age a more
glorious and important era in the history of the human mind than the
age of Pericles, of Augustus, or of Leo. But subjects so vast require a
space far larger than we can at present afford. We therefore stop here,
fearing that, if we proceed, our article may swell to a bulk exceeding
that of all other reviews, as much as Dr. Nares’s book exceeds the bulk
of all other histories.



JOHN HAMPDEN


_(December 1831)
Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party, and his Times. By LORD
NUGENT. Two vols. 8vo. London: 1831._


WE have read this book with great pleasure, though not exactly with that
kind of pleasure which we had expected. We had hoped that Lord
Nugent would have been able to collect, from family papers and local
traditions, much new and interesting information respecting the life and
character of the renowned leader of the Long Parliament, the first of
those great English commoners whose plain addition of Mister has, to our
ears, a more majestic sound than the proudest of the feudal titles. In
this hope we have been disappointed; but assuredly not from any want of
zeal or diligence on the part of the noble biographer. Even at
Hampden, there are, it seems, no important papers relating to the
most illustrious proprietor of that ancient domain. The most valuable
memorials of him which still exist, belong to the family of his friend
Sir John Eliot. Lord Eliot has furnished the portrait which is engraved
for this work, together with some very interesting letters. The portrait
is undoubtedly an original, and probably the only original now in
existence. The intellectual forehead, the mild penetration of the eye,
and the inflexible resolution expressed by the lines of the mouth,
sufficiently guarantee the likeness. We shall probably make some
extracts from the letters. They contain almost all the new information
that Lord Nugent has been able to procure respecting the private
pursuits of the great man whose memory he worships with an enthusiastic,
but not extravagant veneration.

The public life of Hampden is surrounded by no obscurity. His history,
more particularly from the year 1640 to his death, is the history of
England. These Memoirs must be considered as Memoirs of the history of
England; and, as such, they well deserve to be attentively perused. They
contain some curious facts which, to us at least, are new, much spirited
narrative, many judicious remarks, and much eloquent declamation.

We are not sure that even the want of information respecting the private
character of Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as strikingly
characteristic as any which the most minute chronicler, O’Meara, Mrs.
Thrale, or Boswell himself, ever recorded concerning their heroes. The
celebrated Puritan leader is an almost solitary instance of a great man
who neither sought nor shunned greatness, who found glory only because
glory lay in the plain path of duty. During more than forty years he was
known to his country neighbours as a gentleman of cultivated mind, of
high principles, of polished address, happy in his family, and active
in the discharge of local duties; and to political men as an honest,
industrious, and sensible member of Parliament, not eager to display
his talents, stanch to his party and attentive to the interests of his
constituents. A great and terrible crisis came. A direct attack was made
by an arbitrary government on a sacred right of Englishmen, on a right
which was the chief security for all their other rights. The nation
looked round for a defender. Calmly and unostentatiously the plain
Buckinghamshire Esquire placed himself at the head of his countrymen,
and right before the face and across the path of tyranny. The times grew
darker and more troubled. Public service, perilous, arduous, delicate,
was required, and to every service the intellect and the courage of this
wonderful man were found fully equal. He became a debater of the first
order, a most dexterous manager of the House of Commons, a negotiator, a
soldier. He governed a fierce and turbulent assembly, abounding in
able men, as easily as he had governed his family. He showed himself as
competent to direct a campaign as to conduct the business of the petty
sessions. We can scarcely express the admiration which we feel for
a mind so great, and, at the same time, so healthful and so well
proportioned, so willingly contracting itself to the humblest duties,
so easily expanding itself to the highest, so contented in repose, so
powerful in action. Almost every part of this virtuous and blameless
life which is not hidden from us in modest privacy is a precious and
splendid portion of our national history. Had the private conduct of
Hampden afforded the slightest pretence for censure, he would have
been assailed by the same blind malevolence which, in defiance of the
clearest proofs, still continues to call Sir John Eliot an assassin.
Had there been even any weak part in the character of Hampden, had his
manners been in any respect open to ridicule, we may be sure that no
mercy would have been shown to him by the writers of Charles’s faction.
Those writers have carefully preserved every little circumstance which
could tend to make their opponents odious or contemptible. They have
made themselves merry with the cant of injudicious zealots. They have
told us that Pym broke down in speech, that Ireton had his nose pulled
by Hollis, that the Earl of Northumberland cudgelled Henry Martin,
that St. John’s manners were sullen, that Vane had an ugly face, that
Cromwell had a red nose. But neither the artful Clarendon nor the
scurrilous Denham could venture to throw the slightest imputation on
the morals or the manners of Hampden. What was the opinion entertained
respecting him by the best men of his time we learn from Baxter. That
eminent person, eminent not only for his piety and his fervid devotional
eloquence, but for his moderation, his knowledge of political affairs,
and his skill in judging of characters, declared in the Saint’s Rest,
that one of the pleasures which he hoped to enjoy in heaven was the
society of Hampden. In the editions printed after the Restoration, the
name of Hampden was omitted. “But I must tell the reader,” says Baxter,
“that I did blot it out, not as changing my opinion of the person....
Mr. John Hampden was one that friends and enemies acknowledged to be
most eminent for prudence, piety, and peaceable counsels, having the
most universal praise of any gentleman that I remember of that age.
I remember a moderate, prudent, aged gentleman, far from him, but
acquainted with him, whom I have heard saying, that if he might choose
what person he would be then in the world, he would be John Hampden.” We
cannot but regret that we have not fuller memorials of a man who, after
passing through the most severe temptations by which human virtue can be
tried, after acting a most conspicuous part in a revolution and a civil
war, could yet deserve such praise as this from such authority. Yet the
want of memorials is surely the best proof that hatred itself could find
no blemish on his memory.

The story of his early life is soon told. He was the head of a family
which had been settled in Buckinghamshire before the Conquest. Part of
the estate which he inherited had been bestowed by Edward the Confessor
on Baldwyn de Hampden, whose name seems to indicate that he was one of
the Norman favourites of the last Saxon king. During the contest between
the houses of York and Lancaster, the Hampdens adhered to the party of
the Red Rose, and were, consequently, persecuted by Edward the Fourth,
and favoured by Henry the Seventh. Under the Tudors, the family
was great and flourishing. Griffith Hampden, high sheriff of
Buckinghamshire, entertained Elizabeth with great magnificence at his
seat. His son, William Hampden, sate in the Parliament which that Queen
summoned in the year 1593. William married Elizabeth Cromwell, aunt of
the celebrated man who afterwards governed the British islands with more
than regal power; and from this marriage sprang John Hampden.

He was born in 1594. In 1597 his father died, and left him heir to a
very large estate. After passing some years at the grammar school of
Thame, young Hampden was sent, at fifteen, to Magdalen College, in the
University of Oxford. At nineteen, he was admitted a student of the
Inner Temple, where he made himself master of the principles of the
English law. In 1619 he married Elizabeth Symeon, a lady to whom he
appears to have been fondly attached. In the following year he was
returned to parliament by a borough which has in our time obtained a
miserable celebrity, the borough of Grampound.

Of his private life during his early years little is known beyond what
Clarendon has told us. “In his entrance into the world,” says that
great historian, “he indulged himself in all the licence in sports,
and exercises, and company, which were used by men of the most jolly
conversation.” A remarkable change, however, passed on his character.
“On a sudden,” says Clarendon, “from a life of great pleasure and
licence, he retired to extraordinary sobriety and strictness, to a more
reserved and melancholy society.” It is probable that this change took
place when Hampden was about twenty-five years old. At that age he was
united to a woman whom he loved and esteemed. At that age he entered
into political life. A mind so happily constituted as his would
naturally, under such circumstances, relinquish the pleasures of
dissipation for domestic enjoyments and public duties.

His enemies have allowed that he was a man in whom virtue showed itself
in its mildest and least austere form. With the morals of a Puritan, he
had the manners of an accomplished courtier. Even after the change
in his habits, “he preserved,” says Clarendon, “his own natural
cheerfulness and vivacity, and, above all, a flowing courtesy to all
men.” These qualities distinguished him from most of the members of his
sect and his party, and, in the great crisis in which he afterwards took
a principal part, were of scarcely less service to the country than his
keen sagacity and his dauntless courage.

In January 1621, Hampden took his seat in the House of Commons. His
mother was exceedingly desirous that her son should obtain a peerage.
His family, his possessions, and his personal accomplishments were such
as would, in any age, have justified him in pretending to that honour.
But in the reign of James the First there was one short cut to the House
of Lords. It was but to ask, to pay, and to have. The sale of titles was
carried on as openly as the sale of boroughs in our times.

Hampden turned away with contempt from the degrading honours with which
his family desired to see him invested, and attached himself to the
party which was in opposition to the court.

It was about this time, as Lord Nugent has justly remarked, that
parliamentary opposition began to take a regular form. From a very early
age, the English had enjoyed a far larger share of liberty than had
fallen to the lot of any neighbouring people. How it chanced that a
country conquered and enslaved by invaders, a country of which the soil
had been portioned out among foreign adventurers and of which the laws
were written in a foreign tongue, a country given over to that worst
tyranny, the tyranny of caste over caste, should have become the seat
of civil liberty, the object of the admiration and envy of surrounding
states, is one of the most obscure problems in the philosophy of
history. But the fact is certain. Within a century and a half after the
Norman conquest, the Great Charter was conceded. Within two centuries
after the Conquest, the first House of Commons met. Froissart tells us,
what indeed his whole narrative sufficiently proves, that of all the
nations of the fourteenth century, the English were the least disposed
to endure oppression. “C’est le plus périlleux peuple qui soit au monde,
et plus outrageux et orgueilleux.” The good canon probably did not
perceive that all the prosperity and internal peace which this dangerous
people enjoyed were the fruits of the spirit which he designates as
proud and outrageous. He has, however, borne ample testimony to the
effect, though he was not sagacious enough to trace it to its cause.
“En le royaume d’Angleterre,” says he, “toutes gens, laboureurs et
marchands, ont appris de vivre en paix, et à mener leurs marchandises
paisiblement, et les laboureurs labourer.” In the fifteenth century,
though England was convulsed by the struggle between the two branches
of the royal family, the physical and moral condition of the people
continued to improve. Villenage almost wholly disappeared. The
calamities of war were little felt, except by those who bore arms.
The oppressions of the government were little felt, except by the
aristocracy. The institutions of the country when compared with the
institutions of the neighbouring kingdoms, seem to have been not
undeserving of the praises of Fortescue. The government of Edward the
Fourth, though we call it cruel and arbitrary, was humane and liberal
when compared with that of Lewis the Eleventh, or that of Charles the
Bold. Comines, who had lived amidst the wealthy cities of Flanders, and
who had visited Florence and Venice, had never seen a people so well
governed as the English. “Or selon mon avis,” says he, “entre toutes
les seigneuries du monde, dont j’ay connoissance, ou la chose publique
est miel traitée, et ou règne moins de violence sur le peuple, et ou
il n’y a nuls édifices abbatus n’y démolis pour guerre, c’est Angleterre;
et tombe le sort et le malheur sur ceux qui font la guerre.”

About the close of the fifteenth and the commencement of the sixteenth
century, a great portion of the influence which the aristocracy had
possessed passed to the crown. No English king has ever enjoyed such
absolute power as Henry the Eighth. But while the royal prerogatives
were acquiring strength at the expense of the nobility, two great
revolutions took place, destined to be the parents of many revolutions,
the invention of Printing, and the reformation of the Church.

The immediate effect of the Reformation in England was by no means
favourable to political liberty. The authority which had been exercised
by the Popes was transferred almost entire to the King. Two formidable
powers which had often served to check each other were united in a
single despot. If the system on which the founders of the Church of
England acted could have been permanent, the Reformation would have
been, in a political sense, the greatest curse that ever fell on our
country. But that system carried within it the seeds of its own death.
It was possible to transfer the name of Head of the Church from Clement
to Henry; but it was impossible to transfer to the new establishment
the veneration which the old establishment had inspired. Mankind had not
broken one yoke in pieces only in order to put on another. The supremacy
of the Bishop of Rome had been for ages considered as a fundamental
principle of Christianity. It had for it everything that could make a
prejudice deep and strong, venerable antiquity, high authority, general
consent. It had been taught in the first lessons of the nurse. It was
taken for granted in all the exhortations of the priest. To remove it
was to break innumerable associations, and to give a great and perilous
shock to the principles. Yet this prejudice, strong as it was, could not
stand in the great day of the deliverance of the human reason. And it
was not to be expected that the public mind, just after freeing itself
by an unexampled effort, from a bondage which it had endured for ages,
would patiently submit to a tyranny which could plead no ancient title.
Rome had at least prescription on its side. But Protestant intolerance,
despotism in an upstart sect, infallibility claimed by guides who
acknowledged that they had passed the greater part of their lives in
error, restraints imposed on the liberty of private judgment at the
pleasure of rulers who could vindicate their own proceedings only by
asserting the liberty of private judgment, these things could not long
be borne. Those who had pulled down the crucifix could not long continue
to persecute for the surplice. It required no great sagacity to perceive
the inconsistency and dishonesty of men who, dissenting from almost all
Christendom, would suffer none to dissent from themselves, who
demanded freedom of conscience, yet refused to grant it, who execrated
persecution, yet persecuted, who urged reason against the authority of
one opponent, and authority against the reasons of another. Bonner acted
at least in accordance with his own principles. Cranmer could vindicate
himself from the charge of being a heretic only by arguments which made
him out to be a murderer.

Thus the system on which the English Princes acted with respect to
ecclesiastical affairs for some time after the Reformation was a system
too obviously unreasonable to be lasting. The public mind moved while
the government moved, but would not stop where the government stopped.
The same impulse which had carried millions away from the Church of Rome
continued to carry them forward in the same direction. As Catholics
had become Protestants, Protestants became Puritans; and the Tudors and
Stuarts were as unable to avert the latter change as the Popes had been
to avert the former. The dissenting party increased and became strong
under every kind of discouragement and oppression. They were a sect.
The government persecuted them; and they became an opposition. The old
constitution of England furnished to them the means of resisting the
sovereign without breaking the law. They were the majority of the House
of Commons. They had the power of giving or withholding supplies; and,
by a judicious exercise of this power, they might hope to take from the
Church its usurped authority over the consciences of men, and from the
Crown some part of the vast prerogative which it had recently acquired
at the expense of the nobles and of the Pope.

The faint beginnings of this memorable contest may be discerned early in
the reign of Elizabeth. The conduct of her last Parliament made it clear
that one of those great revolutions which policy may guide but cannot
stop was in progress. It was on the question of monopolies that the
House of Commons gained its first great victory over the throne. The
conduct of the extraordinary woman who then governed England is an
admirable study for politicians who live in unquiet times. It shows how
thoroughly she understood the people whom she ruled, and the crisis in
which she was called to act. What she held she held firmly. What she
gave she gave graciously. She saw that it was necessary to make a
concession to the nation; and she made it not grudgingly, not tardily,
not as a matter of bargain and sale, not, in a word, as Charles the
First would have made it, but promptly and cordially. Before a bill
could be framed or an address presented, she applied a remedy to the
evil of which the nation complained. She expressed in the warmest
terms her gratitude to her faithful Commons for detecting abuses
which interested persons had concealed from her. If her successors had
inherited her wisdom with her crown, Charles the First might have died
of old age, and James the Second would never have seen St. Germains.

She died; and the kingdom passed to one who was, in his own opinion, the
greatest master of king-craft that ever lived, but who was, in truth,
one of those kings whom God seems to send for the express purpose of
hastening revolutions. Of all the enemies of liberty whom Britain has
produced, he was at once the most harmless and the most provoking. His
office resembled that of the man who, in a Spanish bull-fight, goads the
torpid savage to fury, by shaking a red rag in the air, and by now and
then throwing a dart, sharp enough to sting, but too small to injure.
The policy of wise tyrants has always been to cover their violent acts
with popular forms. James was always obtruding his despotic theories
on his subjects without the slightest necessity. His foolish talk
exasperated them infinitely more than forced loans or benevolences would
have done. Yet, in practice, no king ever held his prerogatives less
tenaciously. He neither gave way gracefully to the advancing spirit of
liberty nor took vigorous measures to stop it, but retreated before
it with ludicrous haste, blustering and insulting as he retreated. The
English people had been governed during near a hundred and fifty years
by Princes who, whatever might be their frailties or their vices, had
all possessed great force of character, and who, whether beloved or
hated, had always been feared. Now, at length, for the first time since
the day when the sceptre of Henry the Fourth dropped from the hand of
his lethargic grandson, England had a king whom she despised.

The follies and vices of the man increased the contempt which was
produced by the feeble policy of the sovereign. The indecorous
gallantries of the Court, the habits of gross intoxication in which even
the ladies indulged, were alone sufficient to disgust a people whose
manners were beginning to be strongly tinctured with austerity.
But these were trifles. Crimes of the most frightful kind had been
discovered; others were suspected. The strange story of the Gowries was
not forgotten. The ignominious fondness of the King for his minions, the
perjuries, the sorceries, the poisonings, which his chief favourites
had planned within the walls of his palace, the pardon which, in direct
violation of his duty and of his word, he had granted to the mysterious
threats of a murderer, made him an object of loathing to many of his
subjects. What opinion grave and moral persons residing at a distance
from the Court entertained respecting him, we learn from Mrs.
Hutchinson’s Memoirs. England was no place, the seventeenth century no
time, for Sporus and Locusta.

This was not all. The most ridiculous weaknesses seemed to meet in the
wretched Solomon of Whitehall, pedantry, buffoonery, garrulity,
low curiosity, the most contemptible personal cowardice. Nature and
education had done their best to produce a finished specimen of all that
a king ought not to be. His awkward figure, his rolling eye, his rickety
walk, his nervous tremblings, his slobbering mouth, his broad Scotch
accent, were imperfections which might have been found in the best and
greatest man. Their effect, however, was to make James and his office
objects of contempt, and to dissolve those associations which had been
created by the noble bearing of preceding monarchs, and which were in
themselves no inconsiderable fence to royalty.

The sovereign whom James most resembled was, we think, Claudius Caesar.
Both had the same feeble vacillating temper, the same childishness, the
same coarseness, the same poltroonery. Both were men of learning; bath
wrote and spoke, not, indeed, well, but still in a manner in which
it seems almost incredible that men so foolish should have written or
spoken.

The follies and indecencies of James are well described in the words
which Suetonius uses respecting Claudius: “Multa talia, etiam privatis
deformia, nedum principi, neque infacundo, neque indocto, immo etiam
pertinaciter liberalibus studiis dedito.” The description given by
Suetonius of the manner in which the Roman prince transacted business
exactly suits the Briton. “In cognoscendo ac decernendo mira varietate
animi fuit, modo circumspectus et sagax, modo inconsultus ac praeceps,
nonnunquam frivolus amentique similis.” Claudius was ruled successively
by two bad women: James successively by two bad men. Even the
description of the person of Claudius, which we find in the ancient
memoirs, might, in many points, serve for that of James. “Ceterum et
ingredientem destituebant poplites minus firmi, et remisse quid vel
serio, agentem multa dehonestabant, risus indecens, ira turpior,
spumante rictu, praeterea linguae titubantia.”

The Parliament which James had called soon after his accession had been
refractory. His second Parliament, called in the spring of 1614, had
been more refractory still. It had been dissolved after a session of
two months; and during six years the King had governed without having
recourse to the legislature. During those six years, melancholy and
disgraceful events, at home and abroad, had followed one another in
rapid succession; the divorce of Lady Essex, the murder of Overbury, the
elevation of Villiers, the pardon of Somerset, the disgrace of Coke,
the execution of Raleigh, the battle of Prague, the invasion of the
Palatinate by Spinola, the ignominious flight of the son-in-law of the
English king, the depression of the Protestant interest all over the
Continent. All the extraordinary modes by which James could venture to
raise money had been tried. His necessities were greater than ever;
and he was compelled to summon the Parliament in which Hampden first
appeared as a public man.

This Parliament lasted about twelve months. During that time it visited
with deserved punishment several of those who, during the preceding six
years, had enriched themselves by peculation and monopoly. Mitchell, one
of the grasping patentees who had purchased of the favourite the power
of robbing the nation, was fined and imprisoned for life. Mompesson,
the original, it is said, of Massinger’s Overreach, was outlawed and
deprived of his ill-gotten wealth. Even Sir Edward Villiers, the brother
of Buckingham, found it convenient to leave England. A greater name is
to be added to the ignominious list. By this Parliament was brought
to justice that illustrious philosopher whose memory genius has half
redeemed from the infamy due to servility, to ingratitude, and to
corruption.

After redressing internal grievances, the Commons proceeded to take into
consideration the state of Europe. The King flew into a rage with them
for meddling with such matters, and, with characteristic judgment,
drew them into a controversy about the origin of their House and of its
privileges. When he found that he could not convince them, he dissolved
them in a passion, and sent some of the leaders of the Opposition to
ruminate on his logic in prison.

During the time which elapsed between this dissolution and the meeting
of the next Parliament, took place the celebrated negotiation respecting
the Infanta. The would-be despot was unmercifully browbeaten. The
would-be Solomon was ridiculously over-reached. Steenie, in spite of the
begging and sobbing of his dear dad and gossip, carried off baby Charles
in triumph to Madrid. The sweet lads, as James called them, came back
safe, but without their errand. The great master of king-craft, in
looking for a Spanish match, had found a Spanish war. In February 1624,
a Parliament met, during the whole sitting of which, James was a mere
puppet in the hands of his baby, and of his poor slave and dog. The
Commons were disposed to support the King in the vigorous policy which
his favourite urged him to adopt. But they were not disposed to place
any confidence in their feeble sovereign and his dissolute courtiers,
or to relax in their efforts to remove public grievances. They
therefore lodged the money which they voted for the war in the hands
of Parliamentary Commissioners. They impeached the treasurer, Lord
Middlesex, for corruption, and they passed a bill by which patents of
monopoly were declared illegal.

Hampden did not, during the reign of James, take any prominent part in
public affairs. It is certain, however, that he paid great attention to
the details of Parliamentary business, and to the local interests of
his own country. It was in a great measure owing to his exertions that
Wendover and some other boroughs on which the popular party could depend
recovered the elective franchise, in spite of the opposition of the
Court.

The health of the King had for some time been declining. On the
twenty-seventh of March 1625, he expired. Under his weak rule, the
spirit of liberty had grown strong, and had become equal to a great
contest. The contest was brought on by the policy of his successor.
Charles bore no resemblance to his father. He was not a driveller, or
a pedant, or a buffoon, or a coward. It would be absurd to deny that
he was a scholar and a gentleman, a man of exquisite tastes in the fine
arts, a man of strict morals in private life. His talents for business
were respectable; his demeanour was kingly. But he was false, imperious,
obstinate, narrow-minded, ignorant of the temper of his people,
unobservant of the signs of his times. The whole principle of his
government was resistance to public opinion; nor did he make any real
concession to that opinion till it mattered not whether he resisted or
conceded, till the nation, which had long ceased to love him or to trust
him, had at last ceased to fear him.

His first Parliament met in June 1625. Hampden sat in it as burgess for
Wendover. The King wished for money. The Commons wished for the redress
of grievances. The war, however, could not be carried on without funds.
The plan of the Opposition was, it should seem, to dole out supplies by
small sums, in order to prevent a speedy dissolution. They gave the King
two subsidies only, and proceeded to complain that his ships had been
employed against the Huguenots in France, and to petition in behalf of
the Puritans who were persecuted in England. The King dissolved them,
and raised money by Letters under his Privy Seal. The supply fell far
short of what he needed; and, in the spring of 1626, he called together
another Parliament. In this Parliament Hampden again sat for Wendover.

The Commons resolved to grant a very liberal supply, but to defer the
final passing of the act for that purpose till the grievances of the
nation should be redressed. The struggle which followed far exceeded in
violence any that had yet taken place. The Commons impeached Buckingham.
The King threw the managers of the impeachment into prison. The Commons
denied the right of the King to levy tonnage and poundage without their
consent. The King dissolved them. They put forth a remonstrance. The
King circulated a declaration vindicating his measures, and committed
some of the most distinguished members of the Opposition to close
custody. Money was raised by a forced loan, which was apportioned among
the people according to the rate at which they had been respectively
assessed to the last subsidy. On this occasion it was, that Hampden
made his first stand for the fundamental principle of the English
constitution. He positively refused to lend a farthing. He was required
to give his reasons. He answered, “that he could be content to lend
as well as others, but feared to draw upon himself that curse in Magna
Charta which should be read twice a year against those who infringe it.”
For this spirited answer, the Privy Council committed him close prisoner
to the Gate House. After some time, he was again brought up; but he
persisted in his refusal, and was sent to a place of confinement in
Hampshire.

The government went on, oppressing at home, and blundering in all its
measures abroad. A war was foolishly undertaken against France, and
more foolishly conducted. Buckingham led an expedition against Rhé, and
failed ignominiously. In the mean time soldiers were billeted on the
people. Crimes of which ordinary justice should have taken cognisance
were punished by martial law. Near eighty gentlemen were imprisoned for
refusing to contribute to the forced loan. The lower people who showed
any signs of insubordination were pressed into the fleet, or compelled
to serve in the army. Money, however, came in slowly; and the King was
compelled to summon another Parliament. In the hope of conciliating
his subjects, he set at liberty the persons who had been imprisoned
for refusing to comply with his unlawful demands. Hampden regained his
freedom, and was immediately re-elected burgess for Wendover.

Early in 1628 the Parliament met. During its first session, the Commons
prevailed on the King, after many delays and much equivocation, to
give, in return for five subsidies, his full and solemn assent to that
celebrated instrument, the second great charter of the liberties of
England, known by the name of the Petition of Right. By agreeing to this
act, the King bound himself to raise no taxes without the consent of
Parliament, to imprison no man except by legal process, to billet no
more soldiers on the people, and to leave the cognisance of offences to
the ordinary tribunals.

In the summer, this memorable Parliament was prorogued. It met again in
January 1629. Buckingham was no more. That weak, violent, and dissolute
adventurer, who, with no talents or acquirements but those of a mere
courtier, had, in a great crisis of foreign and domestic politics,
ventured on the part of prime minister, had fallen, during the recess of
Parliament, by the hand of an assassin. Both before and after his death
the war had been feebly and unsuccessfully conducted. The King had
continued, in direct violation of the Petition of Right, to raise
tonnage and poundage without the consent of Parliament. The troops had
again been billeted on the people; and it was clear to the Commons that
the five subsidies which they had given as the price of the national
liberties had been given in vain.

They met accordingly in no complying humour. They took into their most
serious consideration the measures of the government concerning tonnage
and poundage. They summoned the officers of the custom-house to their
bar. They interrogated the barons of the exchequer. They committed one
of the sheriffs of London. Sir John Eliot, a distinguished member of
the Opposition, and an intimate friend of Hampden, proposed a resolution
condemning the unconstitutional imposition. The Speaker said that
the King had commanded him to put no such question to the vote. This
decision produced the most violent burst of feeling ever seen within
the walls of Parliament. Hayman remonstrated vehemently against the
disgraceful language which had been heard from the chair. Eliot dashed
the paper which contained his resolution on the floor of the House.
Valentine and Hollis held the Speaker down in his seat by main force,
and read the motion amidst the loudest shouts. The door was locked. The
key was laid on the table. Black Rod knocked for admittance in vain.
After passing several strong resolutions, the House adjourned. On the
day appointed for its meeting it was dissolved by the King, and several
of its most eminent members, among whom were Hollis and Sir John Eliot,
were committed to prison.

Though Hampden had as yet taken little part in the debates of the House,
he had been a member of many very important committees, and had read and
written much concerning the law of Parliament. A manuscript volume of
Parliamentary cases, which is still in existence, contains many extracts
from his notes.

He now retired to the duties and pleasures of a rural life. During the
eleven years which followed the dissolution of the Parliament of 1628,
he resided at his seat in one of the most beautiful parts of the county
of Buckingham. The house, which has since his time been greatly altered,
and which is now, we believe, almost entirely neglected, was an old
English mansion, built in the days of the Plantagenets and the Tudors.
It stood on the brow of a hill which overlooks a narrow valley. The
extensive woods which surround it were pierced by long avenues. One of
those avenues the grandfather of the great statesman had cut for the
approach of Elizabeth; and the opening which is still visible for many
miles, retains the name of the Queen’s Gap. In this delightful retreat,
Hampden passed several years, performing with great activity all the
duties of a landed gentleman and a magistrate, and amusing himself with
books and with field sports.

He was not in his retirement unmindful of his persecuted friends. In
particular, he kept up a close correspondence with Sir John Eliot, who
was confined in the Tower. Lord Nugent has published several of the
Letters. We may perhaps be fanciful; but it seems to us that every one
of them is an admirable illustration of some part of the character of
Hampden which Clarendon has drawn.

Some of the correspondence relates to the two sons of Sir John Eliot.
These young men were wild and unsteady; and their father, who was now
separated from them, was naturally anxious about their conduct. He at
length resolved to send one of them to France, and the other to serve
a campaign in the Low Countries. The letter which we subjoin shows that
Hampden, though rigorous towards himself, was not uncharitable towards
others, and that his puritanism was perfectly compatible with the
sentiments and the tastes of an accomplished gentleman. It also
illustrates admirably what has been said of him by Clarendon: “He was of
that rare affability and temper in debate, and of that seeming humility
and submission of judgment, as if he brought no opinion of his own with
him, but a desire of information and instruction. Yet he had so subtle
a way of interrogating, and, under cover of doubts, insinuating his
objections, that he infused his own opinions into those from whom he
pretended to learn and receive them.”

The letter runs thus: “I am so perfectly acquainted with your clear
insight into the dispositions of men, and ability to fit them with
courses suitable, that, had you bestowed sons of mine as you have
done your own, my judgment durst hardly have called it into question,
especially when, in laying the design, you have prevented the
objections to be made against it. For if Mr. Richard Eliot will, in the
intermissions of action, add study to practice, and adorn that lively
spirit with flowers of contemplation, he will raise our expectations
of another Sir Edward Vere, that had this character--all summer in the
field, all winter in his study--in whose fall fame makes this kingdom a
greater loser; and, having taken this resolution from counsel with the
highest wisdom, as I doubt not you have, I hope and pray that the same
power will crown it with a blessing answerable to our wish. The way you
take with my other friend shows you to be none of the Bishop of Exeter’s
converts; [Hall, Bishop of Exeter, had written strongly, both in verse
and in prose, against the fashion of sending young men of quality to
travel.] of whose mind neither am I superstitiously. But had my opinion
been asked, I should, as vulgar conceits use me to do, have showed my
power rather to raise objections than to answer them. A temper between
France and Oxford might have taken away his scruples, with more
advantage to his years.... For although he be one of those that, if
his age were looked for in no other book but that of the mind, would
be found no ward if you should die tomorrow, yet it is a great hazard,
methinks, to see so sweet a disposition guarded with no more, amongst
a people whereof many make it their religion to be superstitious in
impiety, and their behaviour to be affected in all manners. But God,
who only knoweth the periods of life and opportunities to come, hath
designed him, I hope, for his own service betime, and stirred up your
providence to husband him so early for great affairs. Then shall he be
sure to find Him in France that Abraham did in Shechem and Joseph in
Egypt, under whose wing alone is perfect safety.”

Sir John Eliot employed himself, during his imprisonment, in writing a
treatise on government, which he transmitted to his friend. Hampden’s
criticisms are strikingly characteristic. They are written with all that
“flowing courtesy” which is ascribed to him by Clarendon. The objections
are insinuated with so much delicacy that they could scarcely gall
the most irritable author. We see too how highly Hampden valued in the
writings of others that conciseness which was one of the most striking
peculiarities of his own eloquence. Sir John Eliot’s style was, it
seems, too diffuse, and it is impossible not to admire the skill with
which this is suggested. “The piece,” says Hampden, “is as complete an
image of the pattern as can be drawn by lines, a lively character of
a large mind, the subject, method, and expression, excellent and
homogeneal, and, to say truth, sweetheart, somewhat exceeding my
commendations. My words cannot render them to the life. Yet, to show
my ingenuity rather than wit, would not a less model have given a full
representation of that subject, not by diminution but by contraction
of parts? I desire to learn. I dare not say. The variations upon each
particular seem many; all, I confess, excellent. The fountain was full,
the channel narrow; that may be the cause; or that the author resembled
Virgil, who made more verses by many than he intended to write. To
extract a just number, had I seen all his, I could easily have bid him
make fewer; but if he had bade me tell him which he should have spared,
I had been posed.”

This is evidently the writing not only of a man of good sense and
natural good taste, but of a man of literary habits. Of the studies of
Hampden little is known. But as it was at one time in contemplation to
give him the charge of the education of the Prince of Wales, it cannot
be doubted that his acquirements were considerable. Davila, it is said,
was one of his favourite writers. The moderation of Davila’s opinions
and the perspicuity and manliness of his style could not but recommend
him to so judicious a reader. It is not improbable that the parallel
between France and England, the Huguenots and the Puritans, had struck
the mind of Hampden, and that he already found within himself powers not
unequal to the lofty part of Coligni.

While he was engaged in these pursuits, a heavy domestic calamity fell
on him. His wife, who had borne him nine children, died in the summer
of 1634. She lies in the parish church of Hampden, close to the
manor-house. The tender and energetic language of her epitaph still
attests the bitterness of her husband’s sorrow, and the consolation
which he found in a hope full of immortality.

In the meantime, the aspect of public affairs grew darker and darker.
The health of Eliot had sunk under an unlawful imprisonment of several
years. The brave sufferer refused to purchase liberty, though liberty
would to him have been life, by recognising the authority which had
confined him. In consequence of the representations of his physicians,
the severity of restraint was somewhat relaxed. But it was in vain. He
languished and expired a martyr to that good cause for which his friend
Hampden was destined to meet a more brilliant, but not a more honourable
death.

All the promises of the king were violated without scruple or shame.
The Petition of Right to which he had, in consideration of moneys duly
numbered, given a solemn assent, was set at nought. Taxes were raised by
the royal authority. Patents of monopoly were granted. The old usages of
feudal times were made pretexts for harassing the people with exactions
unknown during many years. The Puritans were persecuted with cruelty
worthy of the Holy Office. They were forced to fly from the country.
They were imprisoned. They were whipped. Their ears were cut off. Their
noses were slit. Their cheeks were branded with red-hot iron. But
the cruelty of the oppressor could not tire out the fortitude of the
victims. The mutilated defenders of liberty again defied the vengeance
of the Star-Chamber, came back with undiminished resolution to the place
of their glorious infamy, and manfully presented the stumps of their
ears to be grubbed out by the hangman’s knife. The hardy sect grew up
and flourished in spite of everything that seemed likely to stunt it,
struck its roots deep into a barren soil, and spread its branches wide
to an inclement sky. The multitude thronged round Prynne in the pillory
with more respect than they paid to Mainwaring in the pulpit, and
treasured up the rags which the blood of Burton had soaked, with a
veneration such as mitres and surplices had ceased to inspire.

For the misgovernment of this disastrous period Charles himself is
principally responsible. After the death of Buckingham, he seems to
have been his own prime minister. He had, however, two counsellors who
seconded him, or went beyond him, in intolerance and lawless violence,
the one a superstitious driveller, as honest as a vile temper would
suffer him to be, the other a man of great valour and capacity, but
licentious, faithless, corrupt, and cruel.

Never were faces more strikingly characteristic of the individuals to
whom they belonged, than those of Laud and Strafford, as they still
remain portrayed by the most skilful hand of that age. The mean
forehead, the pinched features, the peering eyes, of the prelate, suit
admirably with his disposition. They mark him out as a lower kind of
Saint Dominic, differing from the fierce and gloomy enthusiast who
founded the Inquisition, as we might imagine the familiar imp of a
spiteful witch to differ from an archangel of darkness. When we read
His Grace’s judgments, when we read the report which he drew up, setting
forth that he had sent some separatists to prison, and imploring the
royal aid against others, we feel a movement of indignation. We turn to
his Diary, and we are at once as cool as contempt can make us. There we
learn how his picture fell down, and how fearful he was lest the fall
should be an omen; how he dreamed that the Duke of Buckingham came to
bed to him, that King James walked past him, that he saw Thomas Flaxney
in green garments, and the Bishop of Worcester with his shoulders
wrapped in linen. In the early part of 1627, the sleep of this great
ornament of the church seems to have been much disturbed. On the fifth
of January, he saw a merry old man with a wrinkled countenance, named
Grove, lying on the ground. On the fourteenth of the same memorable
month, he saw the Bishop of Lincoln jump on a horse and ride away. A
day or two after this he dreamed that he gave the King drink in a silver
cup, and that the King refused it, and called for glass. Then he dreamed
that he had turned Papist; of all his dreams the only one, we suspect,
which came through the gate of horn. But of these visions our favourite
is that which, as he has recorded, he enjoyed on the night of Friday,
the ninth of February 1627. “I dreamed,” says he, “that I had the
scurvy: and that forthwith all my teeth became loose. There was one in
especial in my lower jaw, which I could scarcely keep in with my finger
till I had called for help.” Here was a man to have the superintendence
of the opinions of a great nation!

But Wentworth,--who ever names him without thinking of those harsh dark
features, ennobled by their expression into more than the majesty of an
antique Jupiter; of that brow, that eye, that cheek, that lip, wherein,
as in a chronicle, are written the events of many stormy and disastrous
years, high enterprise accomplished, frightful dangers braved, power
unsparingly exercised, suffering unshrinkingly borne; of that fixed
look, so full of severity, of mournful anxiety, of deep thought, of
dauntless resolution, which seems at once to forebode and to defy a
terrible fate, as it lowers on us from the living canvas of Vandyke?
Even at this day the haughty earl overawes posterity as he overawed his
contemporaries, and excites the same interest when arraigned before the
tribunal of history which he excited at the bar of the House of Lords.
In spite of ourselves, we sometimes feel towards his memory a certain
relenting similar to that relenting which his defence, as Sir John
Denham tells us, produced in Westminster Hall.

This great, brave, bad man entered the House of Commons at the same time
with Hampden, and took the same side with Hampden. Both were among the
richest and most powerful commoners in the kingdom. Both were equally
distinguished by force of character and by personal courage. Hampden had
more judgment and sagacity than Wentworth. But no orator of that time
equalled Wentworth in force and brilliancy of expression. In 1626 both
these eminent men were committed to prison by the King, Wentworth, who
was among the leaders of the Opposition, on account of his parliamentary
conduct, Hampden, who had not as yet taken a prominent part in debate,
for refusing to pay taxes illegally imposed.

Here their path separated. After the death of Buckingham, the King
attempted to seduce some of the chiefs of the Opposition from their
party; and Wentworth was among those who yielded to the seduction. He
abandoned his associates, and hated them ever after with the deadly
hatred of a renegade. High titles and great employments were heaped upon
him. He became Earl of Strafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, President
of the Council of the North; and he employed all his power for the
purpose of crushing those liberties of which he had been the most
distinguished champion. His counsels respecting public affairs were
fierce and arbitrary. His correspondence with Laud abundantly proves
that government without parliaments, government by the sword, was his
favourite scheme. He was angry even that the course of justice between
man and man should be unrestrained by the royal prerogative. He grudged
to the courts of King’s Bench and Common Pleas even that measure
of liberty which the most absolute of the Bourbons allowed to the
Parliaments of France. In Ireland, where he stood in place of the King,
his practice was in strict accordance with his theory. He set up the
authority of the executive government over that of the courts of law.
He permitted no person to leave the island without his licence. He
established vast monopolies for his own private benefit. He imposed
taxes arbitrarily. He levied them by military force. Some of his acts
are described even by the partial Clarendon as powerful acts, acts which
marked a nature excessively imperious, acts which caused dislike and
terror in sober and dispassionate persons, high acts of oppression.
Upon a most frivolous charge, he obtained a capital sentence from a
court-martial against a man of high rank who had given him offence. He
debauched the daughter-in-law of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and
then commanded that nobleman to settle his estate according to the
wishes of the lady. The Chancellor refused. The Lord Lieutenant turned
him out of office and threw him into prison. When the violent acts of
the Long Parliament are blamed, let it not be forgotten from what a
tyranny they rescued the nation.

Among the humbler tools of Charles were Chief-Justice Finch and Noy
the Attorney-General. Noy had, like Wentworth, supported the cause of
liberty in Parliament, and had, like Wentworth, abandoned that cause for
the sake of office. He devised, in conjunction with Finch, a scheme
of exaction which made the alienation of the people from the throne
complete. A writ was issued by the King, commanding the city of London
to equip and man ships of war for his service. Similar writs were sent
to the towns along the coast. These measures, though they were direct
violations of the Petition of Right, had at least some show of precedent
in their favour. But, after a time, the government took a step for
which no precedent could be pleaded, and sent writs of ship-money to the
inland counties. This was a stretch of power on which Elizabeth herself
had not ventured, even at a time when all laws might with propriety
have been made to bend to that highest law, the safety of the state. The
inland counties had not been required to furnish ships, or money in
the room of ships, even when the Armada was approaching our shores. It
seemed intolerable that a prince who, by assenting to the Petition of
Right, had relinquished the power of levying ship-money even in the
out-ports, should be the first to levy it on parts of the kingdom where
it had been unknown under the most absolute of his predecessors.

Clarendon distinctly admits that this tax was intended, not only for the
support of the navy, but “for a spring and magazine that should have no
bottom, and for an everlasting supply of all occasions.” The nation well
understood this; and from one end of England to the other the public
mind was strongly excited.

Buckinghamshire was assessed at a ship of four hundred and fifty tons,
or a sum of four thousand five hundred pounds. The share of the tax
which fell to Hampden was very small; so small, indeed, that the sheriff
was blamed for setting so wealthy a man at so low a rate. But, though
the sum demanded was a trifle, the principle involved was fearfully
important. Hampden, after consulting the most eminent constitutional
lawyers of the time, refused to pay the few shillings at which he was
assessed, and determined to incur all the certain expense, and the
probable danger, of bringing to a solemn hearing, this great controversy
between the people and the Crown. “Till this time,” says Clarendon, “he
was rather of reputation in his own country than of public discourse or
fame in the kingdom; but then he grew the argument of all tongues, every
man inquiring who and what he was that durst, at his own charge, support
the liberty and prosperity of the kingdom.”

Towards the close of the year 1636 this great cause came on in the
Exchequer Chamber before all the judges of England. The leading counsel
against the writ was the celebrated Oliver St. John, a man whose temper
was melancholy, whose manners were reserved, and who was as yet little
known in Westminster Hall, but whose great talents had not escaped the
penetrating eye of Hampden. The Attorney-General and Solicitor-General
appeared for the Crown.

The arguments of the counsel occupied many days; and the Exchequer
Chamber took a considerable time for deliberation. The opinion of the
bench was divided. So clearly was the law in favour of Hampden that,
though the judges held their situations only during the royal pleasure,
the majority against him was the least possible. Five of the twelve
pronounced in his favour. The remaining seven gave their voices for the
writ.

The only effect of this decision was to make the public indignation
stronger and deeper. “The judgment,” says Clarendon, “proved of more
advantage and credit to the gentleman condemned than to the King’s
service.” The courage which Hampden had shown on this occasion, as
the same historian tells us, “raised his reputation to a great height
generally throughout the kingdom.” Even courtiers and crown-lawyers
spoke respectfully of him. “His carriage,” says Clarendon, “throughout
that agitation, was with that rare temper and modesty, that they who
watched him narrowly to find some advantage against his person, to
make him less resolute in his cause, were compelled to give him a just
testimony.” But his demeanour, though it impressed Lord Falkland
with the deepest respect, though it drew forth the praises of
Solicitor-General Herbert, only kindled into a fiercer flame the
ever-burning hatred of Strafford. That minister in his letters to Laud
murmured against the lenity with which Hampden was treated. “In good
faith,” he wrote, “were such men rightly served, they should be whipped
into their right wits.” Again he says, “I still wish Mr. Hampden, and
others to his likeness, were well whipped into their right senses. And
if the rod be so used that it smart not, I am the more sorry.”

The person of Hampden was now scarcely safe. His prudence and moderation
had hitherto disappointed those who would gladly have had a pretence for
sending him to the prison of Eliot. But he knew that the eye of a tyrant
was on him. In the year 1637 misgovernment had reached its height. Eight
years had passed without a Parliament. The decision of the Exchequer
Chamber had placed at the disposal of the Crown the whole property
of the English people. About the time at which that decision was
pronounced, Prynne, Bastwick, and Burton were mutilated by the sentence
of the Star-Chamber, and sent to rot in remote dungeons. The estate and
the person of every man who had opposed the court were at its mercy.

Hampden determined to leave England. Beyond the Atlantic Ocean a few of
the persecuted Puritans had formed, in the wilderness of Connecticut, a
settlement which has since become a prosperous commonwealth, and which,
in spite of the lapse of time and of the change of government, still
retains something of the character given to it by its first founders.
Lord Saye and Lord Brooke were the original projectors of this scheme of
emigration. Hampden had been early consulted respecting it. He was now,
it appears, desirous to withdraw himself beyond the reach of oppressors
who, as he probably suspected, and as we know, were bent on punishing
his manful resistance to their tyranny. He was accompanied by his
kinsman Oliver Cromwell, over whom he possessed great influence, and in
whom he alone had discovered, under an exterior appearance of coarseness
and extravagance, those great and commanding talents which were
afterwards the admiration and the dread of Europe.

The cousins took their passage in a vessel which lay in the Thames, and
which was bound for North America. They were actually on board, when
an order of council appeared, by which the ship was prohibited from
sailing. Seven other ships, filled with emigrants, were stopped at the
same time.

Hampden and Cromwell remained; and with them remained the Evil Genius
of the House of Stuart. The tide of public affairs was even now on the
turn. The King had resolved to change the ecclesiastical constitution
of Scotland, and to introduce into the public worship of that kingdom
ceremonies which the great body of the Scots regarded as Popish. This
absurd attempt produced, first discontents, then riots, and at length
open rebellion. A provisional government was established at Edinburgh,
and its authority was obeyed throughout the kingdom. This government
raised an army, appointed a general, and summoned an assembly of the
Kirk. The famous instrument called the Covenant was put forth at this
time, and was eagerly subscribed by the people.

The beginnings of this formidable insurrection were strangely neglected
by the King and his advisers. But towards the close of the year 1638 the
danger became pressing. An army was raised; and early in the following
spring Charles marched northward at the head of a force sufficient, as
it seemed, to reduce the Covenanters to submission.

But Charles acted at this conjuncture as he acted at every important
conjuncture throughout his life. After oppressing, threatening, and
blustering, he hesitated and failed. He was bold in the wrong place, and
timid in the wrong place. He would have shown his wisdom by being afraid
before the liturgy was read in St. Giles’s church. He put off his fear
till he had reached the Scottish border with his troops. Then, after a
feeble campaign, he concluded a treaty with the insurgents, and withdrew
his army. But the terms of the pacification were not observed. Each
party charged the other with foul play. The Scots refused to disarm.
The King found great difficulty in re-assembling his forces. His late
expedition had drained his treasury. The revenues of the next year had
been anticipated. At another time, he might have attempted to make up
the deficiency by illegal expedients; but such a course would clearly
have been dangerous when part of the island was in rebellion. It was
necessary to call a Parliament. After eleven years of suffering, the
voice of the nation was to be heard once more.

In April 1640, the Parliament met; and the King had another chance
of conciliating his people. The new House of Commons was, beyond all
comparison, the least refractory House of Commons that had been known
for many years. Indeed, we have never been able to understand how, after
so long a period of misgovernment, the representatives of the nation
should have shown so moderate and so loyal a disposition. Clarendon
speaks with admiration of their dutiful temper. “The House, generally,”
says he, “was exceedingly disposed to please the King, and to do him
service.” “It could never be hoped,” he observes elsewhere, “that more
sober or dispassionate men would ever meet together in that place, or
fewer who brought ill purposes with them.”

In this Parliament Hampden took his seat as member for Buckinghamshire,
and thenceforward, till the day of his death, gave himself up, with
scarcely any intermission, to public affairs. He took lodgings in Gray’s
Inn Lane, near the house occupied by Pym, with whom he lived in habits
of the closest intimacy. He was now decidedly the most popular man in
England. The Opposition looked to him as their leader, and the servants
of the King treated him with marked respect.

Charles requested the Parliament to vote an immediate supply, and
pledged his word that, if they would gratify him in this request, he
would afterwards give them time to represent their grievances to him.
The grievances under which the nation suffered were so serious, and
the royal word had been so shamefully violated, that the Commons could
hardly be expected to comply with this request. During the first week of
the session, the minutes of the proceedings against Hampden were laid on
the table by Oliver St. John, and a committee reported that the case was
matter of grievance. The King sent a message to the Commons, offering,
if they would vote him twelve subsidies, to give up the prerogative
of ship-money. Many years before, he had received five subsidies in
consideration of his assent to the Petition of Right. By assenting to
that petition, he had given up the right of levying ship-money, if he
ever possessed it. How he had observed the promises made to his third
Parliament, all England knew; and it was not strange that the Commons
should be somewhat unwilling to buy from him, over and over again, their
own ancient and undoubted inheritance.

His message, however, was not unfavourably received. The Commons were
ready to give a large supply; but they were not disposed to give it
in exchange for a prerogative of which they altogether denied the
existence. If they acceded to the proposal of the King, they recognised
the legality of the writs of ship-money.

Hampden, who was a greater master of parliamentary tactics than any
man of his time, saw that this was the prevailing feeling, and availed
himself of it with great dexterity. He moved that the question should
be put, “Whether the House would consent to the proposition made by the
King, as contained in the message.” Hyde interfered, and proposed that
the question should be divided; that the sense of the House should be
taken merely on the point whether there should be a supply or no
supply; and that the manner and the amount should be left for subsequent
consideration.

The majority of the House was for granting a supply, but against
granting it in the manner proposed by the King. If the House had divided
on Hampden’s question, the court would have sustained a defeat; if on
Hyde’s, the court would have gained an apparent victory. Some members
called for Hyde’s motion, others, for Hampden’s. In the midst of the
uproar, the secretary of state, Sir Harry Vane, rose and stated that the
supply would not be accepted unless it were voted according to the tenor
of the message. Vane was supported by Herbert, the Solicitor-General.
Hyde’s motion was therefore no further pressed, and the debate on the
general question was adjourned till the next day.

On the next day the King came down to the House of Lords, and dissolved
the Parliament with an angry speech. His conduct on this occasion has
never been defended by any of his apologists. Clarendon condemns it
severely. “No man,” says he, “could imagine what offence the Commons
had given.” The offence which they had given is plain. They had, indeed,
behaved most temperately and most respectfully. But they had shown a
disposition to redress wrongs and to vindicate the laws; and this was
enough to make them hateful to a king whom no law could bind, and whose
whole government was one system of wrong.

The nation received the intelligence of the dissolution with sorrow
and indignation, The only persons to whom this event gave pleasure were
those few discerning men who thought that the maladies of the state were
beyond the reach of gentle remedies. Oliver St. John’s joy was too great
for concealment. It lighted up his dark and melancholy features, and
made him, for the first time, indiscreetly communicative. He told Hyde
that things must be worse before they could be better, and that the
dissolved Parliament would never have done all that was necessary. St.
John, we think, was in the right. No good could then have been done by
any Parliament which did not fully understand that no confidence could
safely be placed in the King, and that, while he enjoyed more than the
shadow of power, the nation would never enjoy more than the shadow of
liberty.

As soon as Charles had dismissed the Parliament, he threw several
members of the House of Commons into prison. Ship-money was exacted
more rigorously than ever; and the Mayor and Sheriffs of London were
prosecuted before the Star-Chamber for slackness in levying it.
Wentworth, it is said, observed, with characteristic insolence and
cruelty, that things would never go right till the Aldermen were hanged.
Large sums were raised by force on those counties in which the troops
were quartered. All the wretched shifts of a beggared exchequer were
tried. Forced loans were raised. Great quantities of goods were bought
on long credit and sold for ready money. A scheme for debasing the
currency was under consideration. At length, in August, the King again
marched northward.

The Scots advanced into England to meet him. It is by no means
improbable that this bold step was taken by the advice of Hampden, and
of those with whom he acted; and this has been made matter of grave
accusation against the English Opposition. It is said that to call in
the aid of foreigners in a domestic quarrel is the worst of treasons,
and that the Puritan leaders, by taking this course, showed that they
were regardless of the honour and independence of the nation, and
anxious only for the success of their own faction. We are utterly unable
to see any distinction between the case of the Scotch invasion in
1640, and the case of the Dutch invasion in 1688; or rather, we see
distinctions which are to the advantage of Hampden and his friends. We
believe Charles to have been a worse and more dangerous king than his
son. The Dutch were strangers to us, the Scots a kindred people speaking
the same language, subjects of the same prince, not aliens in the eye of
the law. If, indeed, it had been possible that a Scotch army or a Dutch
army could have enslaved England, those who persuaded Leslie to cross
the Tweed, and those who signed the invitation to the Prince of Orange,
would have been traitors to their country. But such a result was out of
the question. All that either a Scotch or a Dutch invasion could do was
to give the public feeling of England an opportunity to show
itself. Both expeditions would have ended in complete and ludicrous
discomfiture, had Charles and James been supported by their soldiers
and their people. In neither case, therefore, was the independence of
England endangered; in both cases her liberties were preserved.

The second campaign of Charles against the Scots was short and
ignominious. His soldiers, as soon as they saw the enemy, ran away as
English soldiers have never run either before or since. It can scarcely
be doubted that their flight was the effect, not of cowardice, but of
disaffection. The four northern counties of England were occupied by the
Scotch army and the King retired to York.

The game of tyranny was now up. Charles had risked and lost his last
stake. It is not easy to retrace the mortifications and humiliations
which the tyrant now had to endure, without a feeling of vindictive
pleasure. His army was mutinous; his treasury was empty; his people
clamoured for a Parliament; addresses and petitions against the
government were presented. Strafford was for shooting the petitioners by
martial law; but the King could not trust the soldiers. A great council
of Peers was called at York; but the King could not trust even the
Peers. He struggled, evaded, hesitated, tried every shift, rather than
again face the representatives of his injured people. At length no shift
was left. He made a truce with the Scots, and summoned a Parliament.

The leaders of the popular party had, after the late dissolution,
remained in London for the purpose of organizing a scheme of opposition
to the Court. They now exerted themselves to the utmost. Hampden, in
particular, rode from county to county, exhorting the electors to give
their votes to men worthy of their confidence. The great majority of the
returns was on the side of the Opposition. Hampden was himself chosen
member both for Wendover and Buckinghamshire. He made his election to
serve for the county.

On the third of November 1640, a day to be long remembered, met that
great Parliament, destined to every extreme of fortune, to empire and
to servitude, to glory and to contempt; at one time the sovereign of its
sovereign, at another time the servant of its servants. From the first
day of meeting the attendance was great; and the aspect of the members
was that of men not disposed to do the work negligently. The dissolution
of the late Parliament had convinced most of them that half measures
would no longer suffice. Clarendon tells us, that “the same men who, six
months before, were observed to be of very moderate tempers, and to wish
that gentle remedies might be applied, talked now in another dialect
both of kings and persons; and said that they must now be of another
temper than they were the last Parliament.” The debt of vengeance was
swollen by all the usury which had been accumulating during many years;
and payment was made to the full.

This memorable crisis called forth parliamentary abilities such as
England had never before seen. Among the most distinguished members
of the House of Commons were Falkland, Hyde, Digby, young Harry Vane,
Oliver St. John, Denzil Hollis, Nathaniel Fiennes. But two men exercised
a paramount influence over the legislature and the country, Pym and
Hampden; and by the universal consent of friends and enemies, the first
place belonged to Hampden.

On occasions which required set speeches Pym generally took the lead.
Hampden very seldom rose till late in a debate. His speaking was of that
kind which has, in every age, been held in the highest estimation
by English Parliaments, ready, weighty, perspicuous, condensed. His
perception of the feelings of the House was exquisite, his temper
unalterably placid, his manner eminently courteous and gentlemanlike.
“Even with those,” says Clarendon, “who were able to preserve themselves
from his infusions, and who discerned those opinions to be fixed in him
with which they could not comply, he always left the character of an
ingenious and conscientious person.” His talents for business were as
remarkable as his talents for debate. “He was,” says Clarendon, “of
an industry and vigilance not to be tired out or wearied by the most
laborious, and of parts not to be imposed upon by the most subtle
and sharp.” Yet it was rather to his moral than to his intellectual
qualities that he was indebted for the vast influence which he
possessed. “When this parliament began”--we again quote Clarendon--“the
eyes of all men were fixed upon him, as their patriae pater, and the
pilot that must steer the vessel through the tempests and rocks which
threatened it. And I am persuaded his power and interest at that time
were greater to do good or hurt than any man’s in the kingdom, or than
any man of his rank hath had in any time; for his reputation of honesty
was universal, and his affections seemed so publicly guided, that no
corrupt or private ends could bias them.... He was indeed a very wise
man, and of great parts, and possessed with the most absolute spirit of
popularity, and the most absolute faculties to govern the people, of any
man I ever knew.”

It is sufficient to recapitulate shortly the acts of the Long Parliament
during its first session. Strafford and Laud were impeached and
imprisoned. Strafford was afterwards attainted by Bill, and executed.
Lord Keeper Finch fled to Holland, Secretary Windebank to France. All
those whom the King had, during the last twelve years, employed for the
oppression of his people, from the servile judges who had pronounced
in favour of the crown against Hampden, down to the sheriffs who had
distrained for ship-money, and the custom-house officers who had levied
tonnage and poundage, were summoned to answer for their conduct. The
Star-Chamber, the High Commission Court, the Council of York, were
abolished. Those unfortunate victims of Laud who, after undergoing
ignominious exposure and cruel manglings, had been sent to languish in
distant prisons, were set at liberty, and conducted through London in
triumphant procession. The King was compelled to give the judges patents
for life or during good behaviour. He was deprived of those oppressive
powers which were the last relics of the old feudal tenures. The Forest
Courts and the Stannary Courts were reformed. It was provided that the
Parliament then sitting should not be prorogued or dissolved without its
own consent, and that a Parliament should be held at least once every
three years.

Many of these measures Lord Clarendon allows to have been most salutary;
and few persons will, in our times, deny that, in the laws passed
during this session, the good greatly preponderated over the evil.
The abolition of those three hateful courts, the Northern Council, the
Star-Chamber, and the High Commission, would alone entitle the Long
Parliament to the lasting gratitude of Englishmen.

The proceeding against Strafford undoubtedly seems hard to people living
in our days. It would probably have seemed merciful and moderate to
people living in the sixteenth century. It is curious to compare the
trial of Charles’s minister with the trial, if it can be so called, of
Lord Seymour of Sudeley, in the blessed reign of Edward the Sixth. None
of the great reformers of our Church doubted the propriety of passing
an act of Parliament for cutting off Lord Seymour’s head without a legal
conviction. The pious Cranmer voted for that act; the pious Latimer
preached for it; the pious Edward returned thanks for it; and all the
pious Lords of the council together exhorted their victim to what they
were pleased facetiously to call “the quiet and patient suffering of
justice.”

But it is not necessary to defend the proceedings against Strafford by
any such comparison. They are justified, in our opinion, by that which
alone justifies capital punishment or any punishment, by that which
alone justifies war, by the public danger. That there is a certain
amount of public danger which will justify a legislature in sentencing
a man to death by retrospective law, few people, we suppose, will
deny. Few people, for example, will deny that the French Convention was
perfectly justified in placing Robespierre, St. Just, and Couthon under
the ban of the law, without a trial. This proceeding differed from the
proceeding against Strafford only in being much more rapid and violent.
Strafford was fully heard. Robespierre was not suffered to defend
himself. Was there, then, in the case of Strafford, a danger sufficient
to justify an act of attainder? We believe that there was. We believe
that the contest in which the Parliament was engaged against the King
was a contest for the security of our property, for the liberty of our
persons, for everything which makes us to differ from the subjects
of Don Miguel. We believe that the cause of the Commons was such as
justified them in resisting the King, in raising an army, in sending
thousands of brave men to kill and to be killed. An act of attainder is
surely not more a departure from the ordinary course of law than a civil
war. An act of attainder produces much less suffering than a civil
war. We are, therefore, unable to discover on what principle it can be
maintained that a cause which justifies a civil war will not justify an
act of attainder.

Many specious arguments have been urged against the retrospective law by
which Strafford was condemned to death. But all these arguments proceed
on the supposition that the crisis was an ordinary crisis. The attainder
was, in truth, a revolutionary measure. It was part of a system of
resistance which oppression had rendered necessary. It is as unjust to
judge of the conduct pursued by the Long Parliament towards Strafford on
ordinary principles, as it would have been to indict Fairfax for murder
because he cut down a cornet at Naseby. From the day on which the Houses
met, there was a war waged by them against the King, a war for all that
they held dear, a war carried on at first by means of parliamentary
forms, at last by physical force; and, as in the second stage of that
war, so in the first, they were entitled to do many things which, in
quiet times, would have been culpable.

We must not omit to mention that those who were afterwards the most
distinguished ornaments of the King’s party supported the bill of
attainder. It is almost certain that Hyde voted for it. It is quite
certain that Falkland both voted and spoke for it. The opinion of
Hampden, as far as it can be collected from a very obscure note of one
of his speeches, seems to have been that the proceeding by Bill was
unnecessary, and that it would be a better course to obtain judgment on
the impeachment.

During this year the Court opened a negotiation with the leaders of the
Opposition. The Earl of Bedford was invited to form an administration on
popular principles. St. John was made solicitor-general. Hollis was to
have been secretary of state, and Pym chancellor of the exchequer. The
post of tutor to the Prince of Wales was designed for Hampden. The death
of the Earl of Bedford prevented this arrangement from being carried
into effect; and it may be doubted whether, even if that nobleman’s
life had been prolonged, Charles would ever have consented to surround
himself with counsellors whom he could not but hate and fear.

Lord Clarendon admits that the conduct of Hampden during this year was
mild and temperate, that he seemed disposed rather to soothe than to
excite the public mind, and that, when violent and unreasonable motions
were made by his followers, he generally left the House before the
division, lest he should seem to give countenance to their extravagance.
His temper was moderate. He sincerely loved peace. He felt also great
fear lest too precipitate a movement should produce a reaction. The
events which took place early in the next session clearly showed that
this fear was not unfounded.

During the autumn the Parliament adjourned for a few weeks. Before the
recess, Hampden was despatched to Scotland by the House of Commons,
nominally as a commissioner, to obtain security for a debt which the
Scots had contracted during the last invasion; but in truth that he
might keep watch over the King, who had now repaired to Edinburgh, for
the purpose of finally adjusting the points of difference which remained
between him and his northern subjects. It was the business of Hampden to
dissuade the Covenanters from making their peace with the Court, at the
expense of the popular party in England.

While the King was in Scotland, the Irish rebellion broke out. The
suddenness and violence of this terrible explosion excited a strange
suspicion in the public mind. The Queen was a professed Papist. The King
and the Archbishop of Canterbury had not indeed been reconciled to the
See of Rome; but they had, while acting towards the Puritan party with
the utmost rigour, and speaking of that party with the utmost contempt,
shown great tenderness and respect towards the Catholic religion and
its professors. In spite of the wishes of successive Parliaments, the
Protestant separatists had been cruelly persecuted. And at the same
time, in spite of the wishes of those very Parliaments, laws which were
in force against the Papists, and which, unjustifiable as they were,
suited the temper of that age, had not been carried into execution. The
Protestant nonconformists had not yet learned toleration in the school
of suffering. They reprobated the partial lenity which the government
showed towards idolaters; and, with some show of reason, ascribed to bad
motives conduct which, in such a king as Charles, and such a prelate
as Laud, could not possibly be ascribed to humanity or to liberality
of sentiment. The violent Arminianism of the Archbishop, his childish
attachment to ceremonies, his superstitious veneration for altars,
vestments, and painted windows, his bigoted zeal for the constitution
and the privileges of his order, his known opinions respecting the
celibacy of the clergy, had excited great disgust throughout that large
party which was every day becoming more and more hostile to Rome, and
more and more inclined to the doctrines and the discipline of Geneva.
It was believed by many that the Irish rebellion had been secretly
encouraged by the Court; and, when the Parliament met again in November,
after a short recess, the Puritans were more intractable than ever.

But that which Hampden had feared had come to pass. A reaction had taken
place. A large body of moderate and well-meaning men, who had heartily
concurred in the strong measures adopted before the recess, were
inclined to pause. Their opinion was that, during many years the country
had been grievously misgoverned, and that a great reform had been
necessary; but that a great reform had been made, that the grievances of
the nation had been fully redressed, that sufficient vengeance had been
exacted for the past, that sufficient security had been provided for the
future, and that it would, therefore, be both ungrateful and unwise to
make any further attacks on the royal prerogative. In support of this
opinion many plausible arguments have been used. But to all these
arguments there is one short answer. The King could not be trusted.

At the head of those who may be called the Constitutional Royalists
were Falkland, Hyde, and Culpeper. All these eminent men had, during the
former year, been in very decided opposition to the Court. In some of
those very proceedings with which their admirers reproach Hampden, they
had taken a more decided part than Hampden. They had all been concerned
in the impeachment of Strafford. They had all, there is reason to
believe, voted for the Bill of Attainder. Certainly none of them voted
against it. They had all agreed to the act which made the consent of
the Parliament necessary to a dissolution or prorogation. Hyde had
been among the most active of those who attacked the Council of York.
Falkland had voted for the exclusion of the bishops from the Upper
House. They were now inclined to halt in the path of reform, perhaps to
retrace a few of their steps.

A direct collision soon took place between the two parties into which
the House of Commons, lately at almost perfect unity with itself, was
now divided. The opponents of the government moved that celebrated
address to the King which is known by the name of the Grand
Remonstrance. In this address all the oppressive acts of the preceding
fifteen years were set forth with great energy of language; and, in
conclusion, the King was entreated to employ no ministers in whom the
Parliament could not confide.

The debate on the Remonstrance was long and stormy. It commenced at nine
in the morning of the twenty-first of November, and lasted till after
midnight. The division showed that a great change had taken place in the
temper of the House. Though many members had retired from exhaustion,
three hundred voted and the Remonstrance was carried by a majority
of only nine. A violent debate followed, on the question whether
the minority should be allowed to protest against this decision. The
excitement was so great that several members were on the point of
proceeding to personal violence. “We had sheathed our swords in each
other’s bowels,” says an eye-witness, “had not the sagacity and great
calmness of Mr. Hampden, by a short speech, prevented it.” The House did
not rise till two in the morning.

The situation of the Puritan leaders was now difficult and full of
peril. The small majority which they still had might soon become a
minority. Out of doors, their supporters in the higher and middle
classes were beginning to fall off. There was a growing opinion that the
King had been hardly used. The English are always inclined to side with
a weak party which is in the wrong, rather than with a strong party
which is in the right. This may be seen in all contests, from contests
of boxers to contests of faction. Thus it was that a violent reaction
took place in favour of Charles the Second against the Whigs in 1681.
Thus it was that an equally violent reaction took place in favour of
George the Third against the coalition in 1784. A similar action was
beginning to take place during the second year of the Long Parliament.
Some members of the Opposition “had resumed” says Clarendon, “their old
resolution of leaving the kingdom.” Oliver Cromwell openly declared
that he and many others would have emigrated if they had been left in a
minority on the question of the Remonstrance.

Charles had now a last chance of regaining the affection of his people.
If he could have resolved to give his confidence to the leaders of the
moderate party in the House of Commons, and to regulate his proceedings
by their advice, he might have been, not, indeed, as he had been, a
despot, but the powerful and respected king of a free people. The nation
might have enjoyed liberty and repose under a government with Falkland
at its head, checked by a constitutional Opposition under the conduct
of Hampden. It was not necessary that, in order to accomplish this happy
end, the King should sacrifice any part of his lawful prerogative, or
submit to any conditions inconsistent with his dignity. It was necessary
only that he should abstain from treachery, from violence, from gross
breaches of the law. This was all that the nation was then disposed to
require of him. And even this was too much.

For a short time he seemed inclined to take a wise and temperate course.
He resolved to make Falkland secretary of state, and Culpeper chancellor
of the exchequer. He declared his intention of conferring in a short
time some important office on Hyde. He assured these three persons that
he would do nothing relating to the House of Commons without their joint
advice, and that he would communicate all his designs to them in the
most unreserved manner. This resolution, had he adhered to it, would
have averted many years of blood and mourning. But “in very few days,”
says Clarendon, “he did fatally swerve from it.”

On the third of January 1642, without giving the slightest hint of his
intention to those advisers whom he had solemnly promised to consult, he
sent down the attorney-general to impeach Lord Kimbolton, Hampden, Pym,
Hollis, and two other members of the House of Commons, at the bar of the
Lords, on a charge of High Treason. It is difficult to find in the whole
history of England such an instance of tyranny, perfidy, and folly. The
most precious and ancient rights of the subject were violated by this
act. The only way in which Hampden and Pym could legally be tried for
treason at the suit of the King, was by a petty jury on a bill found
by a grand jury. The attorney-general had no right to impeach them. The
House of Lords had no right to try them.

The Commons refused to surrender their members. The Peers showed no
inclination to usurp the unconstitutional jurisdiction which the King
attempted to force on them. A contest began, in which violence and
weakness were on the one side, law and resolution on the other. Charles
sent an officer to seal up the lodgings and trunks of the accused
members. The Commons sent their sergeant to break the seals. The tyrant
resolved to follow up one outrage by another. In making the charge, he
had struck at the institution of juries. In executing the arrest, he
struck at the privileges of Parliament. He resolved to go to the House
in person with an armed force, and there to seize the leaders of the
Opposition, while engaged in the discharge of their parliamentary
duties.

What was his purpose? Is it possible to believe that he had no definite
purpose, that he took the most important step of his whole reign without
having for one moment considered what might be its effects? Is it
possible to believe that he went merely for the purpose of making
himself a laughing-stock, that he intended, if he had found the accused
members, and if they had refused, as it was their right and duty to
refuse, the submission which he illegally demanded, to leave the House
without bringing them away? If we reject both these suppositions, we
must believe, and we certainly do believe, that he went fully determined
to carry his unlawful design into effect by violence, and, if necessary,
to shed the blood of the chiefs of the Opposition on the very floor of
the Parliament House.

Lady Carlisle conveyed intelligence of the design to Pym. The five
members had time to withdraw before the arrival of Charles. They left
the House as he was entering New Palace Yard. He was accompanied by
about two hundred halberdiers of his guard, and by many gentlemen of the
Court armed with swords. He walked up Westminster Hall. At the southern
end of the Hall his attendants divided to the right and left and formed
a lane to the door of the House of Commons. He knocked, entered, darted
a look towards the place which Pym usually occupied, and, seeing it
empty, walked up to the table. The Speaker fell on his knee. The members
rose and uncovered their heads in profound silence, and the King took
his seat in the chair. He looked round the House. But the five members
were nowhere to be seen. He interrogated the Speaker. The Speaker
answered, that he was merely the organ of the House, and had neither
eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, but according to their direction. The
King muttered a few feeble sentences about his respect for the laws of
the realm, and the privileges of Parliament, and retired. As he
passed along the benches, several resolute voices called out audibly
“Privilege!” He returned to Whitehall with his company of bravoes, who,
while he was in the House, had been impatiently waiting in the lobby for
the word, cocking their pistols, and crying, “Fall on.” That night he
put forth a proclamation, directing that the ports should be stopped,
and that no person should, at his peril, venture to harbour the accused
members.

Hampden and his friends had taken refuge in Coleman Street. The city
of London was indeed the fastness of public liberty, and was, in those
times, a place of at least as much importance as Paris during the
French Revolution. The city, properly so called, now consists in a great
measure of immense warehouses and counting-houses, which are frequented
by traders and their clerks during the day, and left in almost total
solitude during the night. It was then closely inhabited by three
hundred thousand persons, to whom it was not merely a place of business,
but a place of constant residence. The great capital had as complete
a civil and military organization as if it had been an independent
republic. Each citizen had his company; and the companies, which now
seem to exist only for the sake of epicures and of antiquaries, were
then formidable brotherhoods, the members of which were almost as
closely bound together as the members of a Highland clan. How strong
these artificial ties were, the numerous and valuable legacies anciently
bequeathed by citizens to their corporations abundantly prove. The
municipal offices were filled by the most opulent and respectable
merchants of the kingdom. The pomp of the magistracy of the capital was
inferior only to that which surrounded the person of the sovereign. The
Londoners loved their city with that patriotic love which is found only
in small communities, like those of ancient Greece, or like those which
arose in Italy during the middle ages. The numbers, the intelligence,
the wealth of the citizens, the democratical form of their local
government, and their vicinity to the Court and to the Parliament, made
them one of the most formidable bodies in the kingdom. Even as soldiers
they were not to be despised. In an age in which war is a profession,
there is something ludicrous in the idea of battalions composed of
apprentices and shopkeepers, and officered by aldermen. But in the
early part of the seventeenth century, there was no standing army in the
island; and the militia of the metropolis was not inferior in training
to the militia of other places. A city which could furnish many
thousands of armed men, abounding in natural courage, and not absolutely
untinctured with military discipline, was a formidable auxiliary in
times of internal dissension. On several occasions during the civil war,
the trainbands of London distinguished themselves highly; and at the
battle of Newbury, in particular, they repelled the fiery onset of
Rupert, and saved the army of the Parliament from destruction.

The people of this great city had long been thoroughly devoted to the
national cause. Many of them had signed a protestation in which they
declared their resolution to defend the privileges of Parliament. Their
enthusiasm had, indeed, of late begun to cool. But the impeachment
of the five members, and the insult offered to the House of Commons,
inflamed them to fury. Their houses, their purses, their pikes, were at
the command of the representatives of the nation. London was in arms all
night. The next day the shops were closed; the streets were filled
with immense crowds; the multitude pressed round the King’s coach,
and insulted him with opprobrious cries. The House of Commons, in the
meantime, appointed a committee to sit in the city, for the purpose of
inquiring into the circumstances of the late outrage.

The members of the committee were welcomed by a deputation of the common
council. Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Goldsmiths’ Hall, and Grocers’ Hall,
were fitted up for their sittings. A guard of respectable citizens,
duly relieved twice a day, was posted at their doors. The sheriffs were
charged to watch over the safety of the accused members, and to escort
them to and from the committee with every mark of honour.

A violent and sudden revulsion of feeling, both in the House and out of
it, was the effect of the late proceedings of the King. The Opposition
regained in a few hours all the ascendency which it had lost. The
constitutional royalists were filled with shame and sorrow. They saw
that they had been cruelly deceived by Charles. They saw that they
were, unjustly, but not unreasonably, suspected by the nation. Clarendon
distinctly says that they perfectly detested the counsels by which the
King had been guided, and were so much displeased and dejected at the
unfair manner in which he had treated them that they were inclined to
retire from his service. During the debates on the breach of privilege,
they preserved a melancholy silence. To this day, the advocates of
Charles take care to say as little as they can about his visit to the
House of Commons, and, when they cannot avoid mention of it, attribute
to infatuation an act which, on any other supposition, they must admit
to have been a frightful crime.

The Commons, in a few days, openly defied the King, and ordered the
accused members to attend in their places at Westminster and to resume
their parliamentary duties. The citizens resolved to bring back the
champions of liberty in triumph before the windows of Whitehall. Vast
preparations were made both by land and water for this great festival.

The King had remained in his palace, humbled, dismayed, and bewildered,
“feeling,” says Clarendon, “the trouble and agony which usually attend
generous and magnanimous minds upon their having committed errors”;
feeling, we should say, the despicable repentance which attends the
man who, having attempted to commit a crime, finds that he has only
committed a folly. The populace hooted and shouted all day before the
gates of the royal residence. The tyrant could not bear to see
the triumph of those whom he had destined to the gallows and the
quartering-block. On the day preceding that which was fixed for their
return, he fled, with a few attendants, from that palace which he was
never to see again till he was led through it to the scaffold.

On the eleventh of January, the Thames was covered with boats, and
its shores with the gazing multitude. Armed vessels decorated with
streamers, were ranged in two lines from London Bridge to Westminster
Hall. The members returned upon the river in a ship manned by sailors
who had volunteered their services. The trainbands of the city, under
the command of the sheriffs, marched along the Strand, attended by a
vast crowd of spectators, to guard the avenues to the House of Commons;
and thus, with shouts, and loud discharges of ordnance, the accused
patriots were brought back by the people whom they had served, and
for whom they had suffered. The restored members, as soon as they had
entered the House, expressed, in the warmest terms, their gratitude to
the citizens of London. The sheriffs were warmly thanked by the Speaker
in the name of the Commons; and orders were given that a guard selected
from the trainbands of the city, should attend daily to watch over the
safety of the Parliament.

The excitement had not been confined to London. When intelligence of the
danger to which Hampden was exposed reached Buckinghamshire, it excited
the alarm and indignation of the people. Four thousand freeholders of
that county, each of them wearing in his hat a copy of the protestation
in favour of the Privileges of Parliament, rode up to London to defend
the person of their beloved representative. They came in a body to
assure Parliament of their full resolution to defend its privileges.
Their petition was couched in the strongest terms. “In respect,” said
they, “of that latter attempt upon the honourable House of Commons, we
are now come to offer our service to that end, and resolved, in their
just defence, to live and die.”

A great struggle was clearly at hand. Hampden had returned to
Westminster much changed. His influence had hitherto been exerted rather
to restrain than to animate the zeal of his party. But the treachery,
the contempt of law, the thirst for blood, which the King had now shown,
left no hope of a peaceable adjustment. It was clear that Charles must
be either a puppet or a tyrant, that no obligation of law or of honour
could bind him, and that the only way to make him harmless was to make
him powerless.

The attack which the King had made on the five members was not merely
irregular in manner. Even if the charges had been preferred legally,
if the Grand Jury of Middlesex had found a true bill, if the accused
persons had been arrested under a proper warrant and at a proper time
and place, there would still have been in the proceeding enough of
perfidy and injustice to vindicate the strongest measures which the
Opposition could take. To impeach Pym and Hampden was to impeach the
House of Commons. It was notoriously on account of what they had done as
members of that House that they were selected as objects of vengeance;
and in what they had done as members of that House the majority had
concurred. Most of the charges brought against them were common between
them and the Parliament. They were accused, indeed, and it may be with
reason, of encouraging the Scotch army to invade England. In doing this,
they had committed what was, in strictness of law, a high offence, the
same offence which Devonshire and Shrewsbury committed in 1688. But
the King had promised pardon and oblivion to those who had been the
principals in the Scotch insurrection. Did it then consist with his
honour to punish the accessaries? He had bestowed marks of his favour on
the leading Covenanters. He had given the great seal of Scotland to one
chief of the rebels, a marquisate to another, an earldom to Leslie, who
had brought the Presbyterian army across the Tweed. On what principle
was Hampden to be attainted for advising what Leslie was ennobled
for doing? In a court of law, of course, no Englishman could plead an
amnesty granted to the Scots. But, though not an illegal, it was
surely an inconsistent and a most unkingly course, after pardoning and
promoting the heads of the rebellion in one kingdom, to hang, draw, and
quarter their accomplices in another.

The proceedings of the King against the five members, or rather against
that Parliament which had concurred in almost all the acts of the
five members, was the cause of the civil war. It was plain that either
Charles or the House of Commons must be stripped of all real power in
the state. The best course which the Commons could have taken would
perhaps have been to depose the King, as their ancestors had deposed
Edward the Second and Richard the Second, and as their children
afterwards deposed James. Had they done this, had they placed on the
throne a prince whose character and whose situation would have been a
pledge for his good conduct, they might safely have left to that prince
all the old constitutional prerogatives of the Crown, the command of the
armies of the state, the power of making peers, the power of appointing
ministers, a veto on bills passed by the two Houses. Such prince,
reigning by their choice, would have been under the necessity of acting
in conformity with their wishes. But the public mind was not ripe for
such a measure. There was no Duke of Lancaster, no Prince of Orange, no
great and eminent person, near in blood to the throne, yet attached to
the cause of the people. Charles was then to remain King; and it was
therefore necessary that he should be king only in name. A William the
Third, or a George the First, whose title to the crown was identical
with the title of the people to their liberty, might safely be trusted
with extensive powers. But new freedom could not exist in safety under
the old tyrant. Since he was not to be deprived of the name of king,
the only course which was left was to make him a mere trustee, nominally
seised of prerogatives of which others had the use, a Grand Lama, a Roi
Faineant, a phantom resembling those Dagoberts and Childeberts who wore
the badges of royalty, while Ebroin and Charles Martel held the real
sovereignty of the state.

The conditions which the Parliament propounded were hard, but, we are
sure, not harder than those which even the Tories, in the Convention of
1689, would have imposed on James, if it had been resolved that James
should continue to be king. The chief condition was that the command of
the militia and the conduct of the war in Ireland should be left to the
Parliament. On this point was that great issue joined, whereof the two
parties put themselves on God and on the sword.

We think, not only that the Commons were justified in demanding for
themselves the power to dispose of the military force, but that it would
have been absolute insanity in them to leave that force at the disposal
of the King. From the very beginning of his reign, it had evidently been
his object to govern by an army. His third Parliament had complained,
in the Petition of Right, of his fondness for martial law, and of the
vexatious manner in which he billeted his soldiers on the people. The
wish nearest the heart of Strafford was, as his letters prove, that the
revenue might be brought into such a state as would enable the King to
keep a standing military establishment. In 1640 Charles had supported
an army in the northern counties by lawless exactions. In 1641 he had
engaged in an intrigue, the object of which was to bring that army to
London for the purpose of overawing the Parliament. His late conduct had
proved that, if he were suffered to retain even a small body-guard of
his own creatures near his person, the Commons would be in danger of
outrage, perhaps of massacre. The Houses were still deliberating under
the protection of the militia of London. Could the command of the whole
armed force of the realm have been, under these circumstances, safely
confided to the King? Would it not have been frenzy in the Parliament
to raise and pay an army of fifteen or twenty thousand men for the Irish
war, and to give to Charles the absolute control of this army, and the
power of selecting, promoting, and dismissing officers at his pleasure?
Was it not probable that this army might become, what it is the
nature of armies to become, what so many armies formed under much
more favourable circumstances have become, what the army of the Roman
republic became, what the army of the French republic became, an
instrument of despotism? Was it not probable that the soldiers might
forget that they were also citizens, and might be ready to serve their
general against their country? Was it not certain that, on the very
first day on which Charles could venture to revoke his concessions, and
to punish his opponents, he would establish an arbitrary government, and
exact a bloody revenge?

Our own times furnish a parallel case. Suppose that a revolution
should take place in Spain, that the Constitution of Cadiz should be
reestablished, that the Cortes should meet again, that the Spanish
Prynnes and Burtons, who are now wandering in rags round Leicester
Square, should be restored to their country. Ferdinand the Seventh
would, in that case, of course repeat all the oaths and promises which
he made in 1820, and broke in 1823. But would it not be madness in the
Cortes, even if they were to leave him the name of King, to leave him
more than the name? Would not all Europe scoff at them, if they were
to permit him to assemble a large army for an expedition to America, to
model that army at his pleasure, to put it under the command of
officers chosen by himself? Should we not say that every member of
the Constitutional party who might concur in such a measure would most
richly deserve the fate which he would probably meet, the fate of
Riego and of the Empecinado? We are not disposed to pay compliments to
Ferdinand; nor do we conceive that we pay him any compliment, when we
say that, of all sovereigns in history, he seems to us most to resemble,
in some very important points, King Charles the First. Like Charles,
he is pious after a certain fashion; like Charles, he has made large
concessions to his people after a certain fashion. It is well for him
that he has had to deal with men who bore very little resemblance to the
English Puritans.

The Commons would have the power of the sword; the King would not part
with it; and nothing remained but to try the chances of war. Charles
still had a strong party in the country. His august office, his
dignified manners, his solemn protestations that he would for the
time to come respect the liberties of his subjects, pity for fallen
greatness, fear of violent innovation, secured to him many adherents. He
had with him the Church, the Universities, a majority of the nobles and
of the old landed gentry. The austerity of the Puritan manners drove
most of the gay and dissolute youth of that age to the royal standard.
Many good, brave, and moderate men, who disliked his former conduct,
and who entertained doubts touching his present sincerity, espoused his
cause unwillingly and with many painful misgivings, because, though they
dreaded his tyranny much, they dreaded democratic violence more.

On the other side was the great body of the middle orders of England,
the merchants, the shopkeepers, the yeomanry, headed by a very large and
formidable minority of the peerage and of the landed gentry. The Earl of
Essex, a man of respectable abilities, and of some military experience,
was appointed to the command of the parliamentary army.

Hampden spared neither his fortune nor his person in the cause.
He subscribed two thousand pounds to the public service. He took a
colonel’s commission in the army, and went into Buckinghamshire to
raise a regiment of infantry. His neighbours eagerly enlisted under
his command. His men were known by their green uniform, and by their
standard, which bore on one side the watchword of the Parliament,
“God with us,” and on the other the device of Hampden, “Vestigia nulla
retrorsum.” This motto well described the line of conduct which he
pursued. No member of his party had been so temperate, while there
remained a hope that legal and peaceable measures might save the
country. No member of his party showed so much energy and vigour when it
became necessary to appeal to arms. He made himself thoroughly master
of his military duty, and “performed it,” to use the words of Clarendon,
“upon all occasions most punctually.” The regiment which he had raised
and trained was considered as one of the best in the service of the
Parliament. He exposed his person in every action with an intrepidity
which made him conspicuous even among thousands of brave men. “He was,”
says Clarendon, “of a personal courage equal to his best parts; so that
he was an enemy not to be wished wherever he might have been made a
friend, and as much to be apprehended where he was so, as any man could
deserve to be.” Though his military career was short, and his military
situation subordinate, he fully proved that he possessed the talents of
a great general, as well as those of a great statesman.

We shall not attempt to give a history of the war. Lord Nugent’s account
of the military operations is very animating and striking. Our abstract
would be dull, and probably unintelligible. There was, in fact, for some
time no great and connected system of operations on either side. The war
of the two parties was like the war of Arimanes and Oromasdes, neither
of whom, according to the Eastern theologians, has any exclusive domain,
who are equally omnipresent, who equally pervade all space, who carry on
their eternal strife within every particle of matter. There was a petty
war in almost every county. A town furnished troops to the Parliament
while the manor-house of the neighbouring peer was garrisoned for the
King. The combatants were rarely disposed to march far from their
own homes. It was reserved for Fairfax and Cromwell to terminate this
desultory warfare, by moving one overwhelming force successively against
all the scattered fragments of the royal party.

It is a remarkable circumstance that the officers who had studied
tactics in what were considered as the best schools, under Vere in the
Netherlands, and under Gustavus Adolphus in Germany, displayed far less
skill than those commanders who had been bred to peaceful employments,
and who never saw even a skirmish till the civil war broke out. An
unlearned person might hence be inclined to suspect that the military
art is no very profound mystery, that its principles are the principles
of plain good sense, and that a quick eye, a cool head, and a stout
heart, will do more to make a general than all the diagrams of Jomini.
This, however, is certain, that Hampden showed himself a far better
officer than Essex, and Cromwell than Leslie.

The military errors of Essex were probably in some degree produced by
political timidity. He was honestly, but not warmly, attached to the
cause of the Parliament; and next to a great defeat he dreaded a great
victory. Hampden, on the other hand, was for vigorous and decisive
measures. When he drew the sword, as Clarendon has well said, he threw
away the scabbard. He had shown that he knew better than any public man
of his time how to value and how to practise moderation. But he knew
that the essence of war is violence, and that moderation in war is
imbecility. On several occasions, particularly during the operations in
the neighbourhood of Brentford, he remonstrated earnestly with Essex.
Wherever he commanded separately, the boldness and rapidity of his
movements presented a striking contrast to the sluggishness of his
superior.

In the Parliament he possessed boundless influence. His employments
towards the close of 1642 have been described by Denham in some lines
which, though intended to be sarcastic, convey in truth the highest
eulogy. Hampden is described in this satire as perpetually passing
and repassing between the military station at Windsor and the House of
Commons at Westminster, as overawing the general, and as giving law to
that Parliament which knew no other law. It was at this time that he
organized that celebrated association of counties to which his party was
principally indebted for its victory over the King.

In the early part of 1643, the shires lying in the neighbourhood
of London, which were devoted to the cause of the Parliament, were
incessantly annoyed by Rupert and his cavalry. Essex had extended his
lines so far that almost every point was vulnerable. The young prince,
who, though not a great general, was an active and enterprising
partisan, frequently surprised posts, burned villages, swept away
cattle, and was again at Oxford before a force sufficient to encounter
him could be assembled.

The languid proceedings of Essex were loudly condemned by the troops.
All the ardent and daring spirits in the parliamentary party were eager
to have Hampden at their head. Had his life been prolonged, there
is every reason to believe that the supreme command would have been
intrusted to him. But it was decreed that, at this conjuncture, England
should lose the only man who united perfect disinterestedness to eminent
talents, the only man who, being capable of gaining the victory for her,
was incapable of abusing that victory when gained.

In the evening of the seventeenth of June, Rupert darted out of Oxford
with his cavalry on a predatory expedition. At three in the morning
of the following day, he attacked and dispersed a few parliamentary
soldiers who lay at Postcombe. He then flew to Chinnor, burned the
village, killed or took all the troops who were quartered there, and
prepared to hurry back with his booty and his prisoners to Oxford.

Hampden had, on the preceding day, strongly represented to Essex
the danger to which this part of the line was exposed. As soon as he
received intelligence of Rupert’s incursion, he sent off a horseman with
a message to the General. The cavaliers, he said, could return only by
Chiselhampton Bridge. A force ought to be instantly despatched in that
direction for the purpose of intercepting them. In the meantime, he
resolved to set out with all the cavalry that he could muster, for
the purpose of impeding the march of the enemy till Essex could take
measures for cutting off their retreat. A considerable body of horse and
dragoons volunteered to follow him. He was not their commander. He did
not even belong to their branch of the service. But “he was,” says Lord
Clarendon, “second to none but the General himself in the observance
and application of all men.” On the field of Chalgrove he came up with
Rupert. A fierce skirmish ensued. In the first charge Hampden was struck
in the shoulder by two bullets, which broke the bone, and lodged in
his body. The troops of the Parliament lost heart and gave way. Rupert,
after pursuing them for a short time, hastened to cross the bridge, and
made his retreat unmolested to Oxford.

Hampden, with his head drooping, and his hands leaning on his horse’s
neck, moved feebly out of the battle. The mansion which had been
inhabited by his father-in-law, and from which in his youth he had
carried home his bride Elizabeth, was in sight. There still remains an
affecting tradition that he looked for a moment towards that beloved
house, and made an effort to go thither to die. But the enemy lay in
that direction. He turned his horse towards Thame, where he arrived
almost fainting with agony. The surgeons dressed his wounds. But there
was no hope. The pain which he suffered was most excruciating. But he
endured it with admirable firmness and resignation. His first care
was for his country. He wrote from his bed several letters to London
concerning public affairs, and sent a last pressing message to the
head-quarters, recommending that the dispersed forces should be
concentrated. When his public duties were performed, he calmly prepared
himself to die. He was attended by a clergyman of the Church of England,
with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and by the chaplain of
the Buckinghamshire Greencoats, Dr. Spurton, whom Baxter describes as a
famous and excellent divine.

A short time before Hampden’s death the sacrament was administered to
him. He declared that though he disliked the government of the Church of
England, he yet agreed with that Church as to all essential matters of
doctrine. His intellect remained unclouded. When all was nearly over, he
lay murmuring faint prayers for himself, and for the cause in which,
he died. “Lord Jesus,” he exclaimed in the moment of the last agony,
“receive my soul. O Lord, save my country. O Lord, be merciful to--.” In
that broken ejaculation passed away his noble and fearless spirit.

He was buried in the parish church of Hampden. His soldiers, bareheaded,
with reversed arms and muffled drums and colours, escorted his body to
the grave, singing, as they marched, that lofty and melancholy psalm in
which the fragility of human life is contrasted with the immutability of
Him to whom a thousand years are as yesterday when it is past, and as a
watch in the night.

The news of Hampden’s death produced as great a consternation in his
party, according to Clarendon, as if their whole army had been cut off.
The journals of the time amply prove that the Parliament and all its
friends were filled with grief and dismay. Lord Nugent has quoted a
remarkable passage from the next Weekly Intelligencer. “The loss of
Colonel Hampden goeth near the heart of every man that loves the good
of his king and country, and makes some conceive little content to be
at the army now that he is gone. The memory of this deceased colonel is
such, that in no age to come but it will more and more be had in honour
and esteem; a man so religious, and of that prudence, judgment, temper,
valour, and integrity, that he hath left few his like behind.”

He had indeed left none his like behind him. There still remained,
indeed, in his party, many acute intellects, many eloquent tongues,
many brave and honest hearts. There still remained a rugged and clownish
soldier, half fanatic, half buffoon, whose talents, discerned as yet
only by one penetrating eye, were equal to all the highest duties of
the soldier and the prince. But in Hampden, and in Hampden alone, were
united all the qualities which, at such a crisis, were necessary to
save the state, the valour and energy of Cromwell, the discernment and
eloquence of Vane, the humanity and moderation of Manchester, the stern
integrity of Hale, the ardent public spirit of Sydney. Others might
possess the qualities which were necessary to save the popular party in
the crisis of danger; he alone had both the power and the inclination to
restrain its excesses in the hour of triumph. Others could conquer; he
alone could reconcile. A heart as bold as his brought up the cuirassiers
who turned the tide of battle on Marston Moor. As skilful an eye as his
watched the Scotch army descending from the heights over Dunbar. But
it was when to the sullen tyranny of Laud and Charles had succeeded
the fierce conflict of sects and factions, ambitious of ascendency and
burning for revenge, it was when the vices and ignorance which the old
tyranny had generated threatened the new freedom with destruction, that
England missed the sobriety, the self-command, the perfect soundness of
judgment, the perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of
revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington
alone.



MILTON


(August 1825)
_Joannis Miltoni, Angli, de Doctrina Christiana libri duo posthumi. A
Treatise on Christian Doctrine, compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone.
By JOHN MILTON, translated from the Original by Charles R. Sumner, M.A.,
etc., etc. 1825._


TOWARDS the close of the year 1823, Mr. Lemon, deputy keeper of the
state papers, in the course of his researches among the presses of his
office, met with a large Latin manuscript. With it were found corrected
copies of the foreign despatches written by Milton while he filled the
office of Secretary, and several papers relating to the Popish Trials
and the Rye-house Plot. The whole was wrapped up in an envelope,
superscribed To Mr. Skinner, Merchant. On examination, the large
manuscript proved to be the long-lost Essay on the Doctrines of
Christianity, which, according to Wood and Toland, Milton finished after
the Restoration, and deposited with Cyriac Skinner. Skinner, it is well
known, held the same political opinions with his illustrious friend. It
is therefore probable, as Mr. Lemon conjectures, that he may have fallen
under the suspicions of the Government during that persecution of the
Whigs which followed the dissolution of the Oxford parliament, and that,
in consequence of a general seizure of his papers, this work may have
been brought to the office in which it has been found. But whatever the
adventures of the manuscript may have been, no doubt can exist that it
is a genuine relic of the great poet.

Mr. Sumner who was commanded by his Majesty to edit and translate the
treatise, has acquitted himself of his task in a manner honourable to
his talents and to his character. His version is not indeed very easy or
elegant; but it is entitled to the praise of clearness and fidelity.
His notes abound with interesting quotations, and have the rare merit
of really elucidating the text. The preface is evidently the work of
a sensible and candid man, firm in his own religious opinions, and
tolerant towards those of others.

The book itself will not add much to the fame of Milton. It is, like all
his Latin works, well written, though not exactly in the style of the
prize essays of Oxford and Cambridge. There is no elaborate imitation
of classical antiquity, no scrupulous purity, none of the ceremonial
cleanness which characterises the diction of our academical Pharisees.
The author does not attempt to polish and brighten his composition into
the Ciceronian gloss and brilliancy. He does not in short sacrifice
sense and spirit to pedantic refinements. The nature of his subject
compelled him to use many words

               “That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp.”

But he writes with as much ease and freedom as if Latin were his mother
tongue; and, where he is least happy, his failure seems to arise from
the carelessness of a native, not from the ignorance of a foreigner.
We may apply to him what Denham with great felicity says of Cowley: “He
wears the garb, but not the clothes of the ancients.”

Throughout the volume are discernible the traces of a powerful and
independent mind, emancipated from the influence of authority, and
devoted to the search of truth. Milton professes to form his system from
the Bible alone; and his digest of scriptural texts is certainly among
the best that have appeared. But he is not always so happy in his
inferences as in his citations.

Some of the heterodox doctrines which he avows seemed to have excited
considerable amazement, particularly his Arianism, and his theory on the
subject of polygamy. Yet we can scarcely conceive that any person could
have read the Paradise Lost without suspecting him of the former; nor do
we think that any reader, acquainted with the history of his life, ought
to be much startled at the latter. The opinions which he has expressed
respecting the nature of the Deity, the eternity of matter, and the
observation of the Sabbath, might, we think, have caused more just
surprise.

But we will not go into the discussion of these points. The book, were
it far more orthodox or far more heretical than it is, would not much
edify or corrupt the present generation. The men of our time are not to
be converted or perverted by quartos. A few more days, and this essay
will follow the Defensio Populi to the dust and silence of the upper
shelf. The name of its author, and the remarkable circumstances
attending its publication, will secure to it a certain degree of
attention. For a month or two it will occupy a few minutes of chat in
every drawing-room, and a few columns in every magazine; and it will
then, to borrow the elegant language of the play-bills, be withdrawn to
make room for the forthcoming novelties.

We wish, however, to avail ourselves of the interest, transient as
it may be, which this work has excited. The dexterous Capuchins never
choose to preach on the life and miracles of a saint, until they have
awakened the devotional feelings of their auditors by exhibiting some
relic of him, a thread of his garment, a lock of his hair, or a drop
of his blood. On the same principle, we intend to take advantage of the
late interesting discovery, and, while this memorial of a great and
good man is still in the hands of all, to say something of his moral and
intellectual qualities. Nor, we are convinced, will the severest of
our readers blame us if, on an occasion like the present, we turn for a
short time from the topics of the day, to commemorate, in all love
and reverence, the genius and virtues of John Milton, the poet, the
statesman, the philosopher, the glory of English literature, the
champion and the martyr of English liberty.

It is by his poetry that Milton is best known; and it is of his poetry
that we wish first to speak. By the general suffrage of the civilised
world, his place has been assigned among the greatest masters of the
art. His detractors, however, though outvoted, have not been silenced.
There are many critics, and some of great name, who contrive in the
same breath to extol the poems and to decry the poet. The works they
acknowledge, considered in themselves, may be classed among the noblest
productions of the human mind. But they will not allow the author to
rank with those great men who, born in the infancy of civilisation,
supplied, by their own powers, the want of instruction, and, though
destitute of models themselves, bequeathed to posterity models which
defy imitation. Milton, it is said, inherited what his predecessors
created; he lived in an enlightened age; he received a finished
education, and we must therefore, if we would form a just estimate of
his powers, make large deductions in consideration of these advantages.

We venture to say, on the contrary, paradoxical as the remark may
appear, that no poet has ever had to struggle with more unfavourable
circumstances than Milton. He doubted, as he has himself owned, whether
he had not been born “an age too late.” For this notion Johnson has
thought fit to make him the butt of much clumsy ridicule. The poet, we
believe, understood the nature of his art better than the critic. He
knew that his poetical genius derived no advantage from the civilisation
which surrounded him, or from the learning which he had acquired; and he
looked back with something like regret to the ruder age of simple words
and vivid impressions.

We think that, as civilisation advances, poetry almost necessarily
declines. Therefore, though we fervently admire those great works of
imagination which have appeared in dark ages, we do not admire them the
more because they have appeared in dark ages. On the contrary, we hold
that the most wonderful and splendid proof of genius is a great poem
produced in a civilised age. We cannot understand why those who believe
in that most orthodox article of literary faith, that the earliest poets
are generally the best, should wonder at the rule as if it were
the exception. Surely the uniformity of the phaenomenon indicates a
corresponding uniformity in the cause.

The fact is, that common observers reason from the progress of the
experimental sciences to that of imitative arts. The improvement of the
former is gradual and slow. Ages are spent in collecting materials,
ages more in separating and combining them. Even when a system has been
formed, there is still something to add, to alter, or to reject. Every
generation enjoys the use of a vast hoard bequeathed to it by antiquity,
and transmits that hoard, augmented by fresh acquisitions, to future
ages. In these pursuits, therefore, the first speculators lie under
great disadvantages, and, even when they fail, are entitled to praise.
Their pupils, with far inferior intellectual powers, speedily surpass
them in actual attainments. Every girl who has read Mrs. Marcet’s little
dialogues on Political Economy could teach Montague or Walpole many
lessons in finance. Any intelligent man may now, by resolutely applying
himself for a few years to mathematics, learn more than the great Newton
knew after half a century of study and meditation.

But it is not thus with music, with painting, or with sculpture. Still
less is it thus with poetry. The progress of refinement rarely supplies
these arts with better objects of imitation. It may indeed improve the
instruments which are necessary to the mechanical operations of the
musician, the sculptor, and the painter. But language, the machine of
the poet, is best fitted for his purpose in its rudest state. Nations,
like individuals, first perceive, and then abstract. They advance
from particular images to general terms. Hence the vocabulary of an
enlightened society is philosophical, that of a half-civilised people is
poetical.

This change in the language of men is partly the cause and partly the
effect of a corresponding change in the nature of their intellectual
operations, of a change by which science gains and poetry loses.
Generalisation is necessary to the advancement of knowledge; but
particularity is indispensable to the creations of the imagination.
In proportion as men know more and think more, they look less at
individuals and more at classes. They therefore make better theories
and worse poems. They give us vague phrases instead of images, and
personified qualities instead of men. They may be better able to analyse
human nature than their predecessors. But analysis is not the business
of the poet. His office is to portray, not to dissect. He may believe in
a moral sense, like Shaftesbury; he may refer all human actions to
self-interest, like Helvetius; or he may never think about the matter at
all. His creed on such subjects will no more influence his poetry,
properly so called, than the notions which a painter may have conceived
respecting the lacrymal glands, or the circulation of the blood will
affect the tears of his Niobe, or the blushes of his Aurora. If
Shakespeare had written a book on the motives of human actions, it is by
no means certain that it would have been a good one. It is extremely
improbable that it would have contained half so much able reasoning on
the subject as is to be found in the Fable of the Bees. But could
Mandeville have created an Iago? Well as he knew how to resolve
characters into their elements, would he have been able to combine those
elements in such a manner as to make up a man, a real, living,
individual man?

Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a
certain unsoundness of mind, if anything which gives so much pleasure
ought to be called unsoundness. By poetry we mean not all writing in
verse, nor even all good writing in verse. Our definition excludes
many metrical compositions which, on other grounds, deserve the highest
praise. By poetry we mean the art of employing words in such a manner as
to produce an illusion on the imagination, the art of doing by means of
words what the painter does by means of colours. Thus the greatest of
poets has described it, in lines universally admired for the vigour and
felicity of their diction, and still more valuable on account of the
just notion which they convey of the art in which he excelled:

“As the imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s
pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation
and a name.”

These are the fruits of the “fine frenzy” which he ascribes to the
poet--a fine frenzy doubtless, but still a frenzy. Truth, indeed, is
essential to poetry; but it is the truth of madness. The reasonings are
just; but the premises are false. After the first suppositions have been
made, everything ought to be consistent; but those first suppositions
require a degree of credulity which almost amounts to a partial and
temporary derangement of the intellect. Hence of all people children are
the most imaginative. They abandon themselves without reserve to every
illusion. Every image which is strongly presented to their mental eye
produces on them the effect of reality. No man, whatever his sensibility
may be, is ever affected by Hamlet or Lear, as a little girl is affected
by the story of poor Red Riding-hood. She knows that it is all false,
that wolves cannot speak, that there are no wolves in England. Yet in
spite of her knowledge she believes; she weeps; she trembles; she dares
not go into a dark room lest she should feel the teeth of the monster at
her throat. Such is the despotism of the imagination over uncultivated
minds.

In a rude state of society men are children with a greater variety of
ideas. It is therefore in such a state of society that we may expect
to find the poetical temperament in its highest perfection. In an
enlightened age there will be much intelligence, much science, much
philosophy, abundance of just classification and subtle analysis,
abundance of wit and eloquence, abundance of verses, and even of good
ones; but little poetry. Men will judge and compare; but they will not
create. They will talk about the old poets, and comment on them, and to
a certain degree enjoy them. But they will scarcely be able to conceive
the effect which poetry produced on their ruder ancestors, the agony,
the ecstasy, the plenitude of belief. The Greek Rhapsodists, according
to Plato, could scarce recite Homer without falling into convulsions.
The Mohawk hardly feels the scalping knife while he shouts his
death-song. The power which the ancient bards of Wales and Germany
exercised over their auditors seems to modern readers almost miraculous.
Such feelings are very rare in a civilised community, and most rare
among those who participate most in its improvements. They linger
longest amongst the peasantry.

Poetry produces an illusion on the eye of the mind, as a magic lantern
produces an illusion on the eye of the body. And, as the magic lantern
acts best in a dark room, poetry effects its purpose most completely in
a dark age. As the light of knowledge breaks in upon its exhibitions, as
the outlines of certainty become more and more definite, and the shades
of probability more and more distinct, the hues and lineaments of the
phantoms which the poet calls up grow fainter and fainter. We cannot
unite the incompatible advantages of reality and deception, the clear
discernment of truth and the exquisite enjoyment of fiction.

He who, in an enlightened and literary society, aspires to be a great
poet must first become a little child, he must take to pieces the
whole web of his mind. He must unlearn much of that knowledge which has
perhaps constituted hitherto his chief title to superiority. His
very talents will be a hindrance to him. His difficulties will be
proportioned to his proficiency in the pursuits which are fashionable
among his contemporaries; and that proficiency will in general be
proportioned to the vigour and activity of his mind. And it is well
if, after all his sacrifices and exertions, his works do not resemble
a lisping man or a modern ruin. We have seen in our own time great
talents, intense labour, and long meditation, employed in this struggle
against the spirit of the age, and employed, we will not say absolutely
in vain, but with dubious success and feeble applause.

If these reasonings be just, no poet has ever triumphed over greater
difficulties than Milton. He received a learned education: he was a
profound and elegant classical scholar: he had studied all the mysteries
of Rabbinical literature: he was intimately acquainted with every
language of modern Europe, from which either pleasure or information was
then to be derived. He was perhaps the only great poet of later times
who has been distinguished by the excellence of his Latin verse. The
genius of Petrarch was scarcely of the first order; and his poems in the
ancient language, though much praised by those who have never read
them, are wretched compositions. Cowley, with all his admirable wit and
ingenuity, had little imagination: nor indeed do we think his classical
diction comparable to that of Milton. The authority of Johnson is
against us on this point. But Johnson had studied the bad writers of
the middle ages till he had become utterly insensible to the Augustan
elegance, and was as ill qualified to judge between two Latin styles as
a habitual drunkard to set up for a wine-taster.

Versification in a dead language is an exotic, a far-fetched, costly,
sickly, imitation of that which elsewhere may be found in healthful and
spontaneous perfection. The soils on which this rarity flourishes are in
general as ill suited to the production of vigorous native poetry as the
flower-pots of a hot-house to the growth of oaks. That the author of
the Paradise Lost should have written the Epistle to Manso was truly
wonderful. Never before were such marked originality and such exquisite,
mimicry found together. Indeed in all the Latin poems of Milton the
artificial manner indispensable to such works is admirably preserved,
while, at the same time, his genius gives to them a peculiar charm, an
air of nobleness and freedom, which distinguishes them from all other
writings of the same class. They remind us of the amusements of those
angelic warriors who composed the cohort of Gabriel:

“About him exercised heroic games The unarmed youth of heaven. But o’er
their heads Celestial armoury, shields, helms, and spears Hang high,
with diamond flaming, and with gold.”

We cannot look upon the sportive exercises for which the genius of
Milton ungirds itself, without catching a glimpse of the gorgeous and
terrible panoply which it is accustomed to wear. The strength of his
imagination triumphed over every obstacle. So intense and ardent was the
fire of his mind, that it not only was not suffocated beneath the weight
of fuel, but penetrated the whole superincumbent mass with its own heat
and radiance.

It is not our intention to attempt anything like a complete examination
of the poetry of Milton. The public has long been agreed as to the
merit of the most remarkable passages, the incomparable harmony of the
numbers, and the excellence of that style, which no rival has been able
to equal, and no parodist to degrade, which displays in their highest
perfection the idiomatic powers of the English tongue, and to which
every ancient and every modern language has contributed something of
grace, of energy, or of music. In the vast field of criticism on which
we are entering, innumerable reapers have already put their sickles.
Yet the harvest is so abundant that the negligent search of a straggling
gleaner may be rewarded with a sheaf.

The most striking characteristic of the poetry of Milton is the extreme
remoteness of the associations by means of which it acts on the reader.
Its effect is produced, not so much by what it expresses, as by what
it suggests; not so much by the ideas which it directly conveys, as
by other ideas which are connected with them. He electrifies the mind
through conductors. The most unimaginative man must understand the
Iliad. Homer gives him no choice, and requires from him no exertion, but
takes the whole upon himself, and sets the images in so clear a light,
that it is impossible to be blind to them. The works of Milton cannot be
comprehended or enjoyed, unless the mind of the reader co-operate with
that of the writer. He does not paint a finished picture, or play for
a mere passive listener. He sketches, and leaves others to fill up the
outline. He strikes the keynote, and expects his hearer to make out the
melody.

We often hear of the magical influence of poetry. The expression in
general means nothing: but, applied to the writings of Milton, it is
most appropriate. His poetry acts like an incantation. Its merit lies
less in its obvious meaning than in its occult power. There would seem,
at first sight, to be no more in his words than in other words. But they
are words of enchantment. No sooner are they pronounced, than the past
is present and the distant near. New forms of beauty start at once into
existence, and all the burial-places of the memory give up their
dead. Change the structure of the sentence; substitute one synonym for
another, and the whole effect is destroyed. The spell loses its power:
and he who should then hope to conjure with it would find himself as
much mistaken as Cassim in the Arabian tale, when he stood crying,
“Open Wheat,” “Open Barley,” to the door which obeyed no sound but “Open
Sesame.” The miserable failure of Dryden in his attempt to translate
into his own diction some parts of the Paradise Lost, is a remarkable
instance of this.

In support of these observations we may remark, that scarcely any
passages in the poems of Milton are more generally known or more
frequently repeated than those which are little more than muster-rolls
of names. They are not always more appropriate or more melodious than
other names. Every one of them is the first link in a long chain of
associated ideas. Like the dwelling-place of our infancy revisited in
manhood, like the song of our country heard in a strange land, they
produce upon us an effect wholly independent of their intrinsic value.
One transports us back to a remote period of history. Another places us
among the novel scenes avid manners of a distant region. A third evokes
all the dear classical recollections of childhood, the schoolroom, the
dog-eared Virgil, the holiday, and the prize. A fourth brings before
us the splendid phantoms of chivalrous romance, the trophied lists,
the embroidered housings, the quaint devices, the haunted forests, the
enchanted gardens, the achievements of enamoured knights, and the smiles
of rescued princesses.

In none of the works of Milton is his peculiar manner more happily
displayed than in the Allegro and the Penseroso. It is impossible
to conceive that the mechanism of language can be brought to a more
exquisite degree of perfection. These poems differ from others, as attar
of roses differs from ordinary rose water, the close packed essence
from the thin diluted mixture. They are indeed not so much poems, as
collections of hints, from each of which the reader is to make out a
poem for himself. Every epithet is a text for a stanza.

The Comus and the Samson Agonistes are works which, though of very
different merit, offer some marked points of resemblance. Both are
lyric poems in the form of plays. There are perhaps no two kinds of
composition so essentially dissimilar as the drama and the ode. The
business of the dramatist is to keep himself out of sight, and to let
nothing appear but his characters. As soon as he attracts notice to his
personal feelings, the illusion is broken. The effect is as unpleasant
as that which is produced on the stage by the voice of a prompter or the
entrance of a scene-shifter. Hence it was, that the tragedies of Byron
were his least successful performances. They resemble those pasteboard
pictures invented by the friend of children, Mr. Newbery, in which a
single moveable head goes round twenty different bodies, so that the
same face looks out upon us successively, from the uniform of a hussar,
the furs of a judge, and the rags of a beggar. In all the characters,
patriots and tyrants, haters and lovers, the frown and sneer of Harold
were discernible in an instant. But this species of egotism, though
fatal to the drama, is the inspiration of the ode. It is the part of the
lyric poet to abandon himself, without reserve, to his own emotions.

Between these hostile elements many great men have endeavoured to effect
an amalgamation, but never with complete success. The Greek Drama, on
the model of which the Samson was written, sprang from the Ode. The
dialogue was ingrafted on the chorus, and naturally partook of its
character. The genius of the greatest of the Athenian dramatists
cooperated with the circumstances under which tragedy made its first
appearance. Aeschylus was, head and heart, a lyric poet. In his time,
the Greeks had far more intercourse with the East than in the days of
Homer; and they had not yet acquired that immense superiority in war, in
science, and in the arts, which, in the following generation, led them
to treat the Asiatics with contempt. From the narrative of Herodotus it
should seem that they still looked up, with the veneration of disciples,
to Egypt and Assyria. At this period, accordingly, it was natural that
the literature of Greece should be tinctured with the Oriental style.
And that style, we think, is discernible in the works of Pindar and
Aeschylus. The latter often reminds us of the Hebrew writers. The book
of Job, indeed, in conduct and diction, bears a considerable resemblance
to some of his dramas. Considered as plays, his works are absurd;
considered as choruses, they are above all praise. If, for instance, we
examine the address of Clytemnestra to Agamemnon on his return, or the
description of the seven Argive chiefs, by the principles of dramatic
writing, we shall instantly condemn them as monstrous. But if we forget
the characters, and think only of the poetry, we shall admit that it
has never been surpassed in energy and magnificence. Sophocles made the
Greek Drama as dramatic as was consistent with its original form. His
portraits of men have a sort of similarity; but it is the similarity not
of a painting, but of a bas-relief. It suggests a resemblance; but it
does not produce an illusion. Euripides attempted to carry the reform
further. But it was a task far beyond his powers, perhaps beyond any
powers. Instead of correcting what was bad, he destroyed what was
excellent. He substituted crutches for stilts, bad sermons for good
odes.

Milton, it is well known, admired Euripides highly, much more highly
than, in our opinion, Euripides deserved. Indeed the caresses which
this partiality leads our countryman to bestow on “sad Electra’s poet,”
sometimes remind us of the beautiful Queen of Fairy-land kissing the
long ears of Bottom. At all events, there can be no doubt that this
veneration for the Athenian, whether just or not, was injurious to the
Samson Agonistes. Had Milton taken Aeschylus for his model, he would
have given himself up to the lyric inspiration, and poured out profusely
all the treasures of his mind, without bestowing a thought on those
dramatic proprieties which the nature of the work rendered it impossible
to preserve. In the attempt to reconcile things in their own nature
inconsistent he has failed, as every one else must have failed. We
cannot identify ourselves with the characters, as in a good play.
We cannot identify ourselves with the poet, as in a good ode. The
conflicting ingredients, like an acid and an alkali mixed, neutralise
each other. We are by no means insensible to the merits of this
celebrated piece, to the severe dignity of the style, the graceful
and pathetic solemnity of the opening speech, or the wild and barbaric
melody which gives so striking an effect to the choral passages. But
we think it, we confess, the least successful effort of the genius of
Milton.

The Comus is framed on the model of the Italian Masque, as the Samson
is framed on the model of the Greek Tragedy. It is certainly the noblest
performance of the kind which exists in any language. It is as far
superior to the Faithful Shepherdess as the Faithful Shepherdess is to
the Aminta, or the Aminta to the Pastor Fido. It was well for Milton
that he had here no Euripides to mislead him. He understood and loved
the literature of modern Italy. But he did not feel for it the same
veneration which he entertained for the remains of Athenian and Roman
poetry, consecrated by so many lofty and endearing recollections. The
faults, moreover, of his Italian predecessors were of a kind to which
his mind had a deadly antipathy. He could stoop to a plain style,
sometimes even to a bald style; but false brilliancy was his utter
aversion. His muse had no objection to a russet attire; but she turned
with disgust from the finery of Guarini, as tawdry and as paltry as the
rags of a chimney-sweeper on May-day. Whatever ornaments she wears are
of massive gold, not only dazzling to the sight, but capable of standing
the severest test of the crucible.

Milton attended in the Comus to the distinction which he afterwards
neglected in the Samson. He made his Masque what it ought to be,
essentially lyrical, and dramatic only in semblance. He has not
attempted a fruitless struggle against a defect inherent in the nature
of that species of composition; and he has therefore succeeded, wherever
success was not impossible. The speeches must be read as majestic
soliloquies; and he who so reads them will be enraptured with their
eloquence, their sublimity, and their music. The interruptions of the
dialogue, however, impose a constraint upon the writer, and break the
illusion of the reader. The finest passages are those which are lyric in
form as well as in spirit. “I should much commend,” says the excellent
Sir Henry Wotton in a letter to Milton, “the tragical part if the
lyrical did not ravish me with a certain Dorique delicacy in your songs
and odes, whereunto, I must plainly confess to, you, I have seen yet
nothing parallel in our language.” The criticism was just. It is when
Milton escapes from the shackles of the dialogue, when he is discharged
from the labour of uniting two incongruous styles, when he is at liberty
to indulge his choral raptures without reserve, that he rises even above
himself. Then, like his own good Genius bursting from the earthly form
and weeds of Thyrsis, he stands forth in celestial freedom and beauty;
he seems to cry exultingly,

                   “Now my task is smoothly done,

                   I can fly or I can run,”

to skim the earth, to soar above the clouds, to bathe in the Elysian dew
of the rainbow, and to inhale the balmy smells of nard and cassia, which
the musky winds of the zephyr scatter through the cedared alleys of the
Hesperides.

There are several of the minor poems of Milton on which we would
willingly make a few remarks. Still more willingly would we enter into
a detailed examination of that admirable poem, the Paradise Regained,
which, strangely enough, is scarcely ever mentioned except as an
instance of the blindness of the parental affection which men of letters
bear towards the offspring of their intellects. That Milton was mistaken
in preferring this work, excellent as it is, to the Paradise Lost, we
readily admit. But we are sure that the superiority of the Paradise Lost
to the Paradise Regained is not more decided, than the superiority of
the Paradise Regained to every poem which has since made its appearance.
Our limits, however, prevent us from discussing the point at length. We
hasten on to that extraordinary production which the general suffrage of
critics has placed in the highest class of human compositions.

The only poem of modern times which can be compared with the Paradise
Lost is the Divine Comedy. The subject of Milton, in some points,
resembled that of Dante; but he has treated it in a widely different
manner. We cannot, we think, better illustrate our opinion respecting
our own great poet, than by contrasting him with the father of Tuscan
literature.

The poetry of Milton differs from that of Dante, as the hieroglyphics
of Egypt differed from the picture-writing of Mexico. The images which
Dante employs speak for themselves; they stand simply for what they are.
Those of Milton have a signification which is often discernible only to
the initiated. Their value depends less on what they directly represent
than on what they remotely suggest. However strange, however grotesque,
may be the appearance which Dante undertakes to describe, he never
shrinks from describing it. He gives us the shape, the colour, the
sound, the smell, the taste; he counts the numbers; he measures the
size. His similes are the illustrations of a traveller. Unlike those of
other poets, and especially of Milton, they are introduced in a plain,
business-like manner; not for the sake of any beauty in the objects from
which they are drawn; not for the sake of any ornament which they may
impart to the poem; but simply in order to make the meaning of the
writer as clear to the reader as it is to himself. The ruins of the
precipice which led from the sixth to the seventh circle of hell were
like those of the rock which fell into the Adige on the south of Trent.
The cataract of Phlegethon was like that of Aqua Cheta at the monastery
of St. Benedict. The place where the heretics were confined in burning
tombs resembled the vast cemetery of Arles.

Now let us compare with the exact details of Dante the dim intimations
of Milton. We will cite a few examples. The English poet has never
thought of taking the measure of Satan. He gives us merely a vague
idea of vast bulk. In one passage the fiend lies stretched out huge in
length, floating many a rood, equal in size to the earth-born enemies
of Jove, or to the sea-monster which the mariner mistakes for an island.
When he addresses himself to battle against the guardian angels, he
stands like Teneriffe or Atlas: his stature reaches the sky. Contrast
with these descriptions the lines in which Dante has described the
gigantic spectre of Nimrod. “His face seemed to me as long and as
broad as the ball of St. Peter’s at Rome, and his other limbs were
in proportion; so that the bank, which concealed him from the waist
downwards, nevertheless showed so much of him, that three tall Germans
would in vain have attempted to reach to his hair.” We are sensible that
we do no justice to the admirable style of the Florentine poet. But Mr.
Cary’s translation is not at hand; and our version, however rude, is
sufficient to illustrate our meaning.

Once more, compare the lazar-house in the eleventh book of the Paradise
Lost with the last ward of Malebolge in Dante. Milton avoids the
loathsome details, and takes refuge in indistinct but solemn and
tremendous imagery. Despair hurrying from couch to couch to mock the
wretches with his attendance, Death shaking his dart over them, but, in
spite of supplications, delaying to strike. What says Dante? “There was
such a moan there as there would be if all the sick who, between July
and September, are in the hospitals of Valdichiana, and of the Tuscan
swamps, and of Sardinia, were in one pit together; and such a stench was
issuing forth as is wont to issue from decayed limbs.”

We will not take upon ourselves the invidious office of settling
precedency between two such writers, Each in his own department is
incomparable; and each, we may remark, has wisely, or fortunately,
taken a subject adapted to exhibit his peculiar talent to the greatest
advantage. The Divine Comedy is a personal narrative. Dante is the
eye-witness and ear-witness of that which he relates. He is the very
man who has heard the tormented spirits crying out for the second death,
who has read the dusky characters on the portal within which there is
no hope, who has hidden his face from the terrors of the Gorgon, who
has fled from the hooks and the seething pitch of Barbariccia and
Draghignazzo. His own hands have grasped the shaggy sides of Lucifer.
His own feet have climbed the mountain of expiation. His own brow has
been marked by the purifying angel. The reader would throw aside such a
tale in incredulous disgust, unless it were told with the strongest
air of veracity, with a sobriety even in its horrors, with the greatest
precision and multiplicity in its details. The narrative of Milton in
this respect differs from that of Dante, as the adventures of Amadis
differ from those of Gulliver. The author of Amadis would have made his
book ridiculous if he had introduced those minute particulars which
give such a charm to the work of Swift, the nautical observations, the
affected delicacy about names, the official documents transcribed at
full length, and all the unmeaning gossip and scandal of the court,
springing out of nothing, and tending to nothing. We are not shocked
at being told that a man who lived, nobody knows when, saw many very
strange sights, and we can easily abandon ourselves to the illusion of
the romance. But when Lemuel Gulliver, surgeon, resident at Rotherhithe,
tells us of pygmies and giants, flying islands, and philosophising
horses, nothing but such circumstantial touches could produce for a
single moment a deception on the imagination.

Of all the poets who have introduced into their works the agency of
supernatural beings, Milton has succeeded best. Here Dante decidedly
yields to him: and as this is a point on which many rash and
ill-considered judgments have been pronounced, we feel inclined to dwell
on it a little longer. The most fatal error which a poet can possibly
commit in the management of his machinery, is that of attempting to
philosophise too much. Milton has been often censured for ascribing to
spirits many functions of which spirits must be incapable. But these
objections, though sanctioned by eminent names, originate, we venture to
say, in profound ignorance of the art of poetry.

What is spirit? What are our own minds, the portion of spirit with which
we are best acquainted? We observe certain phaenomena. We cannot
explain them into material causes. We therefore infer that there exists
something which is not material. But of this something we have no idea.
We can define it only by negatives. We can reason about it only by
symbols. We use the word; but we have no image of the thing; and the
business of poetry is with images, and not with words. The poet uses
words indeed; but they are merely the instruments of his art, not its
objects. They are the materials which he is to dispose in such a manner
as to present a picture to the mental eye. And if they are not so
disposed, they are no more entitled to be called poetry than a bale of
canvas and a box of colours to be called a painting.

Logicians may reason about abstractions. But the great mass of men
must have images. The strong tendency of the multitude in all ages and
nations to idolatry can be explained on no other principle. The first
inhabitants of Greece, there is reason to believe, worshipped one
invisible Deity. But the necessity of having something more definite to
adore produced, in a few centuries, the innumerable crowd of Gods and
Goddesses. In like manner the ancient Persians thought it impious to
exhibit the Creator under a human form. Yet even these transferred to
the Sun the worship which, in speculation, they considered due only to
the Supreme Mind. The history of the Jews is the record of a continued
struggle between pure Theism, supported by the most terrible sanctions,
and the strangely fascinating desire of having some visible and tangible
object of adoration. Perhaps none of the secondary causes which Gibbon
has assigned for the rapidity with which Christianity spread over the
world, while Judaism scarcely ever acquired a proselyte, operated more
powerfully than this feeling. God, the uncreated, the incomprehensible,
the invisible, attracted few worshippers. A philosopher might admire
so noble a conception; but the crowd turned away in disgust from words
which presented no image to their minds. It was before Deity embodied in
a human form, walking among men, partaking of their infirmities, leaning
on their bosoms, weeping over their graves, slumbering in the manger,
bleeding on the cross, that the prejudices of the Synagogue, and the
doubts of the Academy, and the pride of the Portico, and the fasces of
the Lictor, and the swords of thirty legions, were humbled in the dust.
Soon after Christianity had achieved its triumph, the principle which
had assisted it began to corrupt it. It became a new Paganism. Patron
saints assumed the offices of household gods. St. George took the
place of Mars. St. Elmo consoled the mariner for the loss of Castor and
Pollux. The Virgin Mother and Cecilia succeeded to Venus and the Muses.
The fascination of sex and loveliness was again joined to that of
celestial dignity; and the homage of chivalry was blended with that of
religion. Reformers have often made a stand against these feelings;
but never with more than apparent and partial success. The men who
demolished the images in cathedrals have not always been able to
demolish those which were enshrined in their minds. It would not be
difficult to show that in politics the same rule holds good. Doctrines,
we are afraid, must generally be embodied before they can excite a
strong public feeling. The multitude is more easily interested for the
most unmeaning badge, or the most insignificant name, than for the most
important principle.

From these considerations, we infer that no poet, who should affect
that metaphysical accuracy for the want of which Milton has been blamed,
would escape a disgraceful failure. Still, however, there was another
extreme which, though far less dangerous, was also to be avoided. The
imaginations of men are in a great measure under the control of their
opinions. The most exquisite art of poetical colouring can produce
no illusion, when it is employed to represent that which is at once
perceived to be incongruous and absurd. Milton wrote in an age of
philosophers and theologians. It was necessary, therefore, for him to
abstain from giving such a shock to their understanding as might break
the charm which it was his object to throw over their imaginations. This
is the real explanation of the indistinctness and inconsistency with
which he has often been reproached. Dr. Johnson acknowledges that it
was absolutely necessary that the spirit should be clothed with material
forms. “But,” says he, “the poet should have secured the consistency
of his system by keeping immateriality out of sight, and seducing the
reader to drop it from his thoughts.” This is easily said; but what if
Milton could not seduce his readers to drop immateriality from their
thoughts? What if the contrary opinion had taken so full a possession
of the minds of men as to leave no room even for the half belief
which poetry requires? Such we suspect to have been the case. It
was impossible for the poet to adopt altogether the material or the
immaterial system. He therefore took his stand on the debatable ground.
He left the whole in ambiguity. He has doubtless, by so doing, laid
himself open to the charge of inconsistency. But, though philosophically
in the wrong, we cannot but believe that he was poetically in the right.
This task, which almost any other writer would have found impracticable,
was easy to him. The peculiar art which he possessed of communicating
his meaning circuitously through a long succession of associated ideas,
and of intimating more than he expressed, enabled him to disguise those
incongruities which he could not avoid.

Poetry which relates to the beings of another world ought to be at
once mysterious and picturesque. That of Milton is so. That of Dante
is picturesque indeed beyond any that ever was written. Its effect
approaches to that produced by the pencil or the chisel. But it is
picturesque to the exclusion of all mystery. This is a fault on the
right side, a fault inseparable from the plan of Dante’s poem, which,
as we have already observed, rendered the utmost accuracy of description
necessary. Still it is a fault. The supernatural agents excite an
interest; but it is not the interest which is proper to supernatural
agents. We feel that we could talk to the ghosts and daemons, without
any emotion of unearthly awe. We could, like Don Juan, ask them to
supper, and eat heartily in their company. Dante’s angels are good men
with wings. His devils are spiteful ugly executioners. His dead men are
merely living men in strange situations. The scene which passes between
the poet and Farinata is justly celebrated. Still, Farinata in the
burning tomb is exactly what Farinata would have been at an auto da
fe. Nothing can be more touching than the first interview of Dante and
Beatrice. Yet what is it, but a lovely woman chiding, with sweet austere
composure, the lover for whose affection she is grateful, but whose
vices she reprobates? The feelings which give the passage its charm
would suit the streets of Florence as well as the summit of the Mount of
Purgatory.

The spirits of Milton are unlike those of almost all other writers.
His fiends, in particular, are wonderful creations. They are not
metaphysical abstractions. They are not wicked men. They are not ugly
beasts. They have no horns, no tails, none of the fee-faw-fum of Tasso
and Klopstock. They have just enough in common with human nature to be
intelligible to human beings. Their characters are, like their forms,
marked by a certain dim resemblance to those of men, but exaggerated to
gigantic dimensions, and veiled in mysterious gloom.

Perhaps the gods and daemons of Aeschylus may best bear a comparison
with the angels and devils of Milton. The style of the Athenian had,
as we have remarked, something of the Oriental character; and the
same peculiarity may be traced in his mythology. It has nothing of the
amenity and elegance which we generally find in the superstitions of
Greece. All is rugged, barbaric, and colossal. The legends of Aeschylus
seem to harmonise less with the fragrant groves and graceful porticoes
in which his countrymen paid their vows to the God of Light and Goddess
of Desire, than with those huge and grotesque labyrinths of eternal
granite in which Egypt enshrined her mystic Osiris, or in which
Hindustan still bows down to her seven-headed idols. His favourite
gods are those of the elder generation, the sons of heaven and earth,
compared with whom Jupiter himself was a stripling and an upstart, the
gigantic Titans, and the inexorable Furies. Foremost among his creations
of this class stands Prometheus, half fiend, half redeemer, the friend
of man, the sullen and implacable enemy of Heaven. Prometheus bears
undoubtedly a considerable resemblance to the Satan of Milton. In both
we find the same impatience of control, the same ferocity, the same
unconquerable pride. In both characters also are mingled, though in
very different proportions, some kind and generous feelings. Prometheus,
however, is hardly superhuman enough. He talks too much of his chains
and his uneasy posture: he is rather too much depressed and agitated.
His resolution seems to depend on the knowledge which he possesses that
he holds the fate of his torturer in his hands, and that the hour of his
release will surely come. But Satan is a creature of another sphere.
The might of his intellectual nature is victorious over the extremity
of pain. Amidst agonies which cannot be conceived without horror, he
deliberates, resolves, and even exults. Against the sword of Michael,
against the thunder of Jehovah, against the flaming lake, and the
marl burning with solid fire, against the prospect of an eternity of
unintermitted misery, his spirit bears up unbroken, resting on its own
innate energies, requiring no support from anything external, nor even
from hope itself.

To return for a moment to the parallel which we have been attempting
to draw between Milton and Dante, we would add that the poetry of these
great men has in a considerable degree taken its character from their
moral qualities. They are not egotists. They rarely obtrude their
idiosyncrasies on their readers. They have nothing in common with those
modern beggars for fame, who extort a pittance from the compassion of
the inexperienced by exposing the nakedness and sores of their minds.
Yet it would be difficult to name two writers whose works have been more
completely, though undesignedly, coloured by their personal feelings.

The character of Milton was peculiarly distinguished by loftiness of
spirit, that of Dante by intensity of feeling. In every line of the
Divine Comedy we discern the asperity which is produced by pride
struggling with misery. There is perhaps no work in the world so deeply
and uniformly sorrowful. The melancholy of Dante was no fantastic
caprice. It was not, as far as at this distance of time can be judged,
the effect of external circumstances. It was from within. Neither love
nor glory, neither the conflicts of earth nor the hope of heaven could
dispel it. It turned every consolation and every pleasure into its own
nature. It resembled that noxious Sardinian soil of which the intense
bitterness is said to have been perceptible even in its honey. His mind
was, in the noble language of the Hebrew poet, “a land of darkness, as
darkness itself, and where the light was as darkness.” The gloom of
his character discolours all the passions of men, and all the face of
nature, and tinges with its own livid hue the flowers of Paradise
and the glories of the eternal throne. All the portraits of him are
singularly characteristic. No person can look on the features, noble
even to ruggedness, the dark furrows of the cheek, the haggard and
woeful stare of the eye, the sullen and contemptuous curve of the lip,
and doubt that they belong to a man too proud and too sensitive to be
happy.

Milton was, like Dante, a statesman and a lover; and, like Dante, he had
been unfortunate in ambition and in love. He had survived his health and
his sight, the comforts of his home, and the prosperity of his party.
Of the great men by whom he had been distinguished at his entrance into
life, some had been taken away from the evil to come; some had carried
into foreign climates their unconquerable hatred of oppression; some
were pining in dungeons; and some had poured forth their blood on
scaffolds. Venal and licentious scribblers, with just sufficient talent
to clothe the thoughts of a pandar in the style of a bellman, were
now the favourite writers of the Sovereign and of the public. It was a
loathsome herd, which could be compared to nothing so fitly as to the
rabble of Comus, grotesque monsters, half bestial, half human, dropping
with wine, bloated with gluttony, and reeling in obscene dances. Amidst
these that fair Muse was placed, like the chaste lady of the Masque,
lofty, spotless, and serene, to be chattered at, and pointed at, and
grinned at, by the whole rout of Satyrs and Goblins. If ever despondency
and asperity could be excused in any man, they might have been excused
in Milton. But the strength of his mind overcame every calamity. Neither
blindness, nor gout, nor age, nor penury, nor domestic afflictions, nor
political disappointments, nor abuse, nor proscription, nor neglect, had
power to disturb his sedate and majestic patience. His spirits do not
seem to have been high, but they were singularly equable. His temper was
serious, perhaps stern; but it was a temper which no sufferings could
render sullen or fretful. Such as it was when, on the eve of great
events, he returned from his travels, in the prime of health and manly
beauty, loaded with literary distinctions, and glowing with patriotic
hopes, such it continued to be when, after having experienced every
calamity which is in incident to our nature, old, poor, sightless and
disgraced, he retired to his hovel to die.

Hence it was that, though he wrote the Paradise Lost at a time of life
when images of beauty and tenderness are in general beginning to fade,
even from those minds in which they have not been effaced by anxiety
and disappointment, he adorned it with all that is most lovely and
delightful in the physical and in the moral world. Neither Theocritus
nor Ariosto had a finer or a more healthful sense of the pleasantness
of external objects, or loved better to luxuriate amidst sunbeams and
flowers, the songs of nightingales, the juice of summer fruits, and
the coolness of shady fountains. His conception of love unites all
the voluptuousness of the Oriental haram, and all the gallantry of
the chivalric tournament, with all the pure and quiet affection of
an English fireside. His poetry reminds us of the miracles of Alpine
scenery. Nooks and dells, beautiful as fairyland, are embosomed in
its most rugged and gigantic elevations. The roses and myrtles bloom
unchilled on the verge of the avalanche.

Traces, indeed, of the peculiar character of Milton may be found in
all his works; but it is most strongly displayed in the Sonnets.
Those remarkable poems have been undervalued by critics who have not
understood their nature. They have no epigrammatic point. There is
none of the ingenuity of Filicaja in the thought, none of the hard and
brilliant enamel of Petrarch in the style. They are simple but majestic
records of the feelings of the poet; as little tricked out for the
public eye as his diary would have been. A victory, an unexpected attack
upon the city, a momentary fit of depression or exultation, a jest
thrown out against one of his books, a dream which for a short time
restored to him that beautiful face over which the grave had closed for
ever, led him to musings, which without effort shaped themselves into
verse. The unity of sentiment and severity of style which characterise
these little pieces remind us of the Greek Anthology, or perhaps still
more of the Collects of the English Liturgy. The noble poem on the
Massacres of Piedmont is strictly a collect in verse.

The Sonnets are more or less striking, according as the occasions which
gave birth to them are more or less interesting. But they are, almost
without exception, dignified by a sobriety and greatness of mind to
which we know not where to look for a parallel. It would, indeed, be
scarcely safe to draw any decided inferences as to the character of a
writer from passages directly egotistical. But the qualities which we
have ascribed to Milton, though perhaps most strongly marked in
those parts of his works which treat of his personal feelings, are
distinguishable in every page, and impart to all his writings, prose and
poetry, English, Latin, and Italian, a strong family likeness.

His public conduct was such as was to be expected from a man of a spirit
so high and of an intellect so powerful. He lived at one of the most
memorable eras in the history of mankind, at the very crisis of the
great conflict between Oromasdes and Arimanes, liberty and despotism,
reason and prejudice. That great battle was fought for no single
generation, for no single land. The destinies of the human race were
staked on the same cast with the freedom of the English people. Then
were first proclaimed those mighty principles which have since worked
their way into the depths of the American forests, which have roused
Greece from the slavery and degradation of two thousand years, and
which, from one end of Europe to the other, have kindled an unquenchable
fire in the hearts of the oppressed, and loosed the knees of the
oppressors with an unwonted fear.

Of those principles, then struggling for their infant existence, Milton
was the most devoted and eloquent literary champion. We need not say how
much we admire his public conduct. But we cannot disguise from ourselves
that a large portion of his countrymen still think it unjustifiable. The
civil war, indeed, has been more discussed, and is less understood, than
any event in English history. The friends of liberty laboured under
the disadvantage of which the lion in the fable complained so bitterly.
Though they were the conquerors, their enemies were the painters. As a
body, the Roundheads had done their utmost to decry and ruin literature;
and literature was even with them, as, in the long-run, it always is
with its enemies. The best book on their side of the question is the
charming narrative of Mrs. Hutchinson. May’s History of the Parliament
is good; but it breaks off at the most interesting crisis of the
struggle. The performance of Ludlow is foolish and violent; and most
of the later writers who have espoused the same cause, Oldmixon for
instance, and Catherine Macaulay, have, to say the least, been more
distinguished by zeal than either by candour or by skill. On the other
side are the most authoritative and the most popular historical works
in our language, that of Clarendon, and that of Hume. The former is not
only ably written and full of valuable information, but has also an air
of dignity and sincerity which makes even the prejudices and errors with
which it abounds respectable. Hume, from whose fascinating narrative
the great mass of the reading public are still contented to take their
opinions, hated religion so much that he hated liberty for having been
allied with religion, and has pleaded the cause of tyranny with the
dexterity of an advocate, while affecting the impartiality of a judge.

The public conduct of Milton must be approved or condemned according
as the resistance of the people to Charles the First shall appear to
be justifiable or criminal. We shall therefore make no apology for
dedicating a few pages to the discussion of that interesting and most
important question. We shall not argue it on general grounds. We shall
not recur to those primary principles from which the claim of any
government to the obedience of its subjects is to be deduced. We are
entitled to that vantage ground; but we will relinquish it. We are, on
this point, so confident of superiority, that we are not unwilling to
imitate the ostentatious generosity of those ancient knights, who vowed
to joust without helmet or shield against all enemies, and to give
their antagonists the advantage of sun and wind. We will take the naked
constitutional question. We confidently affirm, that every reason which
can be urged in favour of the Revolution of 1688 may be urged with at
least equal force in favour of what is called the Great Rebellion.

In one respect, only, we think, can the warmest admirers of Charles
venture to say that he was a better sovereign than his son. He was not,
in name and profession, a Papist; we say in name and profession, because
both Charles himself and his creature Laud, while they abjured the
innocent badges of Popery, retained all its worst vices, a complete
subjection of reason to authority, a weak preference of form to
substance, a childish passion for mummeries, an idolatrous veneration
for the priestly character, and, above all, a merciless intolerance.
This, however, we waive. We will concede that Charles was a good
Protestant; but we say that his Protestantism does not make the
slightest distinction between his case and that of James.

The principles of the Revolution have often been grossly misrepresented,
and never more than in the course of the present year. There is a
certain class of men, who, while they profess to hold in reverence the
great names and great actions of former times, never look at them for
any other purpose than in order to find in them some excuse for existing
abuses. In every venerable precedent they pass by what is essential, and
take only what is accidental: they keep out of sight what is beneficial,
and hold up to public imitation all that is defective. If, in any part
of any great example, there be any thing unsound, these flesh-flies
detect it with an unerring instinct, and dart upon it with a ravenous
delight. If some good end has been attained in spite of them, they feel,
with their prototype, that

               “Their labour must be to pervert that end,

               And out of good still to find means of evil.”

To the blessings which England has derived from the Revolution these
people are utterly insensible. The expulsion of a tyrant, the solemn
recognition of popular rights, liberty, security, toleration, all go for
nothing with them. One sect there was, which, from unfortunate temporary
causes, it was thought necessary to keep under close restraint. One part
of the empire there was so unhappily circumstanced, that at that time
its misery was necessary to our happiness, and its slavery to our
freedom. These are the parts of the Revolution which the politicians of
whom we speak love to contemplate, and which seem to them not indeed
to vindicate, but in some degree to palliate, the good which it has
produced. Talk to them of Naples, of Spain, or of South America. They
stand forth zealots for the doctrine of Divine Right which has now
come back to us, like a thief from transportation, under the alias of
Legitimacy. But mention the miseries of Ireland. Then William is a
hero. Then Somers and Shrewsbury are great men. Then the Revolution is a
glorious era. The very same persons, who, in this country never omit an
opportunity of reviving every wretched Jacobite slander respecting the
Whigs of that period, have no sooner crossed St. George’s Channel, than
they begin to fill their bumpers to the glorious and immortal memory.
They may truly boast that they look not at men, but at measures. So that
evil be done, they care not who does it; the arbitrary Charles, or the
liberal William, Ferdinand the Catholic, or Frederic the Protestant. On
such occasions their deadliest opponents may reckon upon their candid
construction. The bold assertions of these people have of late impressed
a large portion of the public with an opinion that James the Second was
expelled simply because he was a Catholic, and that the Revolution was
essentially a Protestant Revolution.

But this certainly was not the case; nor can any person who has acquired
more knowledge of the history of those times than is to be found
in Goldsmith’s Abridgement believe that, if James had held his own
religious opinions without wishing to make proselytes, or if, wishing
even to make proselytes, he had contented himself with exerting only his
constitutional influence for that purpose, the Prince of Orange would
ever have been invited over. Our ancestors, we suppose, knew their own
meaning; and, if we may believe them, their hostility was primarily not
to popery, but to tyranny. They did not drive out a tyrant because he
was a Catholic; but they excluded Catholics from the crown, because they
thought them likely to be tyrants. The ground on which they, in their
famous resolution, declared the throne vacant, was this, “that James had
broken the fundamental laws of the kingdom.” Every man, therefore,
who approves of the Revolution of 1688 must hold that the breach of
fundamental laws on the part of the sovereign justifies resistance. The
question, then, is this. Had Charles the First broken the fundamental
laws of England?

No person can answer in the negative, unless he refuses credit, not
merely to all the accusations brought against Charles by his opponents,
but to the narratives of the warmest Royalists, and to the confessions
of the King himself. If there be any truth in any historian of any
party, who has related the events of that reign, the conduct of Charles,
from his accession to the meeting of the Long Parliament, had been a
continued course of oppression and treachery. Let those who applaud
the Revolution and condemn the Rebellion, mention one act of James the
Second to which a parallel is not to be found in the history of
his father. Let them lay their fingers on a single article in the
Declaration of Right, presented by the two Houses to William and Mary,
which Charles is not acknowledged to have violated. He had, according
to the testimony of his own friends, usurped the functions of the
legislature, raised taxes without the consent of parliament, and
quartered troops on the people in the most illegal and vexatious
manner. Not a single session of parliament had passed without some
unconstitutional attack on the freedom of debate; the right of petition
was grossly violated; arbitrary judgments, exorbitant fines, and
unwarranted imprisonments were grievances of daily occurrence. If these
things do not justify resistance, the Revolution was treason; if they
do, the Great Rebellion was laudable.

But it is said, why not adopt milder measures? Why, after the King
had consented to so many reforms, and renounced so many oppressive
prerogatives, did the Parliament continue to rise in their demands at
the risk of provoking a civil war? The ship-money had been given up.
The Star-Chamber had been abolished. Provision had been made for the
frequent convocation and secure deliberation of parliaments. Why not
pursue an end confessedly good by peaceable and regular means? We recur
again to the analogy of the Revolution. Why was James driven from the
throne? Why was he not retained upon conditions? He too had offered to
call a free parliament and to submit to its decision all the matters
in dispute. Yet we are in the habit of praising our forefathers, who
preferred a revolution, a disputed succession, a dynasty of strangers,
twenty years of foreign and intestine war, a standing army, and a
national debt, to the rule, however restricted, of a tried and proved
tyrant. The Long Parliament acted on the same principle, and is entitled
to the same praise. They could not trust the King. He had no doubt
passed salutary laws; but what assurance was there that he would not
break them? He had renounced oppressive prerogatives but where was the
security that he would not resume them? The nation had to deal with a
man whom no tie could bind, a man who made and broke promises with equal
facility, a man whose honour had been a hundred times pawned, and never
redeemed.

Here, indeed, the Long Parliament stands on still stronger ground
than the Convention of 1688. No action of James can be compared to the
conduct of Charles with respect to the Petition of Right. The Lords and
Commons present him with a bill in which the constitutional limits of
his power are marked out. He hesitates; he evades; at last he bargains
to give his assent for five subsidies. The bill receives his solemn
assent; the subsidies are voted; but no sooner is the tyrant relieved,
than he returns at once to all the arbitrary measures which he had bound
himself to abandon, and violates all the clauses of the very Act which
he had been paid to pass.

For more than ten years the people had seen the rights which were theirs
by a double claim, by immemorial inheritance and by recent purchase,
infringed by the perfidious king who had recognised them. At length
circumstances compelled Charles to summon another parliament: another
chance was given to our fathers: were they to throw it away as they had
thrown away the former? Were they again to be cozened by le Roi le
veut? Were they again to advance their money on pledges which had been
forfeited over and over again? Were they to lay a second Petition of
Right at the foot of the throne, to grant another lavish aid in exchange
for another unmeaning ceremony, and then to take their departure, till,
after ten years more of fraud and oppression, their prince should again
require a supply, and again repay it with a perjury? They were compelled
to choose whether they would trust a tyrant or conquer him. We think
that they chose wisely and nobly.

The advocates of Charles, like the advocates of other malefactors
against whom overwhelming evidence is produced, generally decline
all controversy about the facts, and content themselves with calling
testimony to character. He had so many private virtues! And had James
the Second no private virtues? Was Oliver Cromwell, his bitterest
enemies themselves being judges, destitute of private virtues? And what,
after all, are the virtues ascribed to Charles? A religious zeal, not
more sincere than that of his son, and fully as weak and narrow-minded,
and a few of the ordinary household decencies which half the tombstones
in England claim for those who lie beneath them. A good father! A
good husband! Ample apologies indeed for fifteen years of persecution,
tyranny, and falsehood!

We charge him with having broken his coronation oath; and we are told
that he kept his marriage vow! We accuse him of having given up
his people to the merciless inflictions of the most hot-headed and
hard-hearted of prelates; and the defence is, that he took his little
son on his knee and kissed him! We censure him for having violated the
articles of the Petition of Right, after having, for good and valuable
consideration, promised to observe them; and we are informed that he was
accustomed to hear prayers at six o’clock in the morning! It is to such
considerations as these, together with his Vandyck dress, his handsome
face, and his peaked beard, that he owes, we verily believe, most of his
popularity with the present generation.

For ourselves, we own that we do not understand the common phrase, a
good man, but a bad king. We can as easily conceive a good man and an
unnatural father, or a good man and a treacherous friend. We cannot,
in estimating the character of an individual, leave out of our
consideration his conduct in the most important of all human relations;
and if in that relation we find him to have been selfish, cruel, and
deceitful, we shall take the liberty to call him a bad man, in spite of
all his temperance at table, and all his regularity at chapel.

We cannot refrain from adding a few words respecting a topic on which
the defenders of Charles are fond of dwelling. If, they say, he governed
his people ill, he at least governed them after the example of his
predecessors. If he violated their privileges, it was because those
privileges had not been accurately defined. No act of oppression has
ever been imputed to him which has not a parallel in the annals of
the Tudors. This point Hume has laboured, with an art which is as
discreditable in a historical work as it would be admirable in a
forensic address. The answer is short, clear, and decisive. Charles
had assented to the Petition of Right. He had renounced the oppressive
powers said to have been exercised by his predecessors, and he had
renounced them for money. He was not entitled to set up his antiquated
claims against his own recent release.

These arguments are so obvious, that it may seem superfluous to dwell
upon them. But those who have observed how much the events of that time
are misrepresented and misunderstood will not blame us for stating
the case simply. It is a case of which the simplest statement is the
strongest.

The enemies of the Parliament, indeed, rarely choose to take issue on
the great points of the question. They content themselves with exposing
some of the crimes and follies to which public commotions necessarily
give birth. They bewail the unmerited fate of Strafford. They execrate
the lawless violence of the army. They laugh at the Scriptural names
of the preachers. Major-generals fleecing their districts; soldiers
revelling on the spoils of a ruined peasantry; upstarts, enriched by
the public plunder, taking possession of the hospitable firesides and
hereditary trees of the old gentry; boys smashing the beautiful windows
of cathedrals; Quakers riding naked through the market-place;
Fifth-monarchy-men shouting for King Jesus; agitators lecturing from the
tops of tubs on the fate of Agag;--all these, they tell us, were the
offspring of the Great Rebellion.

Be it so. We are not careful to answer in this matter. These charges,
were they infinitely more important, would not alter our opinion of
an event which alone has made us to differ from the slaves who crouch
beneath despotic sceptres. Many evils, no doubt, were produced by the
civil war. They were the price of our liberty. Has the acquisition been
worth the sacrifice? It is the nature of the Devil of tyranny to
tear and rend the body which he leaves. Are the miseries of continued
possession less horrible than the struggles of the tremendous exorcism?

If it were possible that a people brought up under an intolerant and
arbitrary system could subvert that system without acts of cruelty
and folly, half the objections to despotic power would be removed.
We should, in that case, be compelled to acknowledge that it at least
produces no pernicious effects on the intellectual and moral character
of a nation. We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions.
But the more violent the outrages, the more assured we feel that a
revolution was necessary. The violence of those outrages will always
be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the people; and
the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the
oppression and degradation under which they have been accustomed to
live. Thus it was in our civil war. The heads of the church and state
reaped only that which they had sown. The Government had prohibited free
discussion: it had done its best to keep the people unacquainted with
their duties and their rights. The retribution was just and natural.
If our rulers suffered from popular ignorance, it was because they had
themselves taken away the key of knowledge. If they were assailed with
blind fury, it was because they had exacted an equally blind submission.

It is the character of such revolutions that we always see the worst of
them at first. Till men have been some time free, they know not how to
use their freedom. The natives of wine countries are generally sober. In
climates where wine is a rarity intemperance abounds. A newly liberated
people may be compared to a northern army encamped on the Rhine or the
Xeres. It is said that, when soldiers in such a situation first
find themselves able to indulge without restraint in such a rare and
expensive luxury, nothing is to be seen but intoxication. Soon, however,
plenty teaches discretion; and, after wine has been for a few months
their daily fare, they become more temperate than they had ever been in
their own country. In the same manner, the final and permanent fruits
of liberty are wisdom, moderation, and mercy. Its immediate effects are
often atrocious crimes, conflicting errors, scepticism on points the
most clear, dogmatism on points the most mysterious. It is just at
this crisis that its enemies love to exhibit it. They pull down the
scaffolding from the half-finished edifice. They point to the flying
dust, the falling bricks, the comfortless rooms, the frightful
irregularity of the whole appearance; and then ask in scorn where
the promised splendour and comfort is to be found. If such miserable
sophisms were to prevail, there would never be a good house or a good
government in the world.

Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mysterious law of
her nature, was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of a
foul and poisonous snake. Those who injured her during the period of
her disguise were for ever excluded from participation in the blessings
which she bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect,
pitied and protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the
beautiful and celestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their
steps, granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made
them happy in love and victorious in war. Such a spirit is Liberty. At
times she takes the form of a hateful reptile. She grovels, she hisses,
she stings. But woe to those who in disgust shall venture to crush her!
And happy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and
frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of her
beauty and her glory!

There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom
produces; and that cure is freedom. When a prisoner first leaves his
cell he cannot bear the light of day: he is unable to discriminate
colours, or recognise faces. But the remedy is, not to remand him into
his dungeon, but to accustom him to the rays of the sun. The blaze of
truth and liberty may at first dazzle and bewilder nations which have
become half blind in the house of bondage. But let them gaze on, and
they will soon be able to bear it. In a few years men learn to reason.
The extreme violence of opinion subsides. Hostile theories correct each
other. The scattered elements of truth cease to contend, and begin to
coalesce. And at length a system of justice and order is educed out of
the chaos.

Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a
self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are
fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old
story who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to
swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in
slavery, they may indeed wait for ever.

Therefore it is that we decidedly approve of the conduct of Milton and
the other wise and good men who, in spite of much that was ridiculous
and hateful in the conduct of their associates, stood firmly by the
cause of Public Liberty. We are not aware that the poet has been charged
with personal participation in any of the blameable excesses of that
time, The favourite topic of his enemies is the line of conduct which
he pursued with regard to the execution of the King. Of that celebrated
proceeding we by no means approve. Still we must say, in justice to
the many eminent persons who concurred in it, and in justice more
particularly to the eminent person who defended it, that nothing can be
more absurd than the imputations which, for the last hundred and sixty
years, it has been the fashion to cast upon the Regicides. We have,
throughout, abstained from appealing to first principles. We will
not appeal to them now. We recur again to the parallel case of the
Revolution. What essential distinction can be drawn between
the execution of the father and the deposition of the son? What
constitutional maxim is there which applies to the former and not to
the latter? The King can do no wrong. If so, James was as innocent as
Charles could have been. The minister only ought to be responsible for
the acts of the Sovereign. If so, why not impeach Jeffreys and
retain James? The person of a king is sacred. Was the person of James
considered sacred at the Boyne? To discharge cannon against an army
in which a king is known to be posted is to approach pretty near to
regicide. Charles, too, it should always be remembered, was put to death
by men who had been exasperated by the hostilities of several years,
and who had never been bound to him by any other tie than that which
was common to them with all their fellow-citizens. Those who drove James
from his throne, who seduced his army, who alienated his friends, who
first imprisoned him in his palace, and then turned him out of it, who
broke in upon his very slumbers by imperious messages, who pursued him
with fire and sword from one part of the empire to another, who hanged,
drew, and quartered his adherents, and attainted his innocent heir, were
his nephew and his two daughters. When we reflect on all these things,
we are at a loss to conceive how the same persons who, on the fifth of
November, thank God for wonderfully conducting his servant William, and
for making all opposition fall before him until he became our King and
Governor, can, on the thirtieth of January, contrive to be afraid that
the blood of the Royal Martyr may be visited on themselves and their
children.

We disapprove, we repeat, of the execution of Charles; not because the
constitution exempts the King from responsibility, for we know that all
such maxims, however excellent, have their exceptions; nor because
we feel any peculiar interest in his character, for we think that his
sentence describes him with perfect justice as “a tyrant, a traitor,
a murderer, and a public enemy”; but because we are convinced that the
measure was most injurious to the cause of freedom. He whom it removed
was a captive and a hostage: his heir, to whom the allegiance of every
Royalist was instantly transferred, was at large. The Presbyterians
could never have been perfectly reconciled to the father; they had
no such rooted enmity to the son. The great body of the people, also,
contemplated that proceeding with feelings which, however unreasonable,
no government could safely venture to outrage.

But though we think the conduct of the Regicides blameable, that of
Milton appears to us in a very different light. The deed was done. It
could not be undone. The evil was incurred; and the object was to render
it as small as possible. We censure the chiefs of the army for not
yielding to the popular opinion; but we cannot censure Milton for
wishing to change that opinion. The very feeling which would have
restrained us from committing the act would have led us, after it
had been committed, to defend it against the ravings of servility and
superstition. For the sake of public liberty, we wish that the thing had
not been done, while the people disapproved of it. But, for the sake of
public liberty, we should also have wished the people to approve of it
when it was done. If anything more were wanting to the justification
of Milton, the book of Salmasius would furnish it. That miserable
performance is now with justice considered only as a beacon to
word-catchers, who wish to become statesmen. The celebrity of the man
who refuted it, the “Aeneae magni dextra,” gives it all its fame with
the present generation. In that age the state of things was different.
It was not then fully understood how vast an interval separates the mere
classical scholar from the political philosopher. Nor can it be doubted
that a treatise which, bearing the name of so eminent a critic, attacked
the fundamental principles of all free governments, must, if suffered to
remain unanswered, have produced a most pernicious effect on the public
mind.

We wish to add a few words relative to another subject, on which
the enemies of Milton delight to dwell, his conduct during the
administration of the Protector. That an enthusiastic votary of liberty
should accept office under a military usurper seems, no doubt, at first
sight, extraordinary. But all the circumstances in which the country was
then placed were extraordinary. The ambition of Oliver was of no vulgar
kind. He never seems to have coveted despotic power. He at first fought
sincerely and manfully for the Parliament, and never deserted it, till
it had deserted its duty. If he dissolved it by force, it was not
till he found that the few members who remained after so many deaths,
secessions, and expulsions, were desirous to appropriate to themselves
a power which they held only in trust, and to inflict upon England the
curse of a Venetian oligarchy. But even when thus placed by violence
at the head of affairs, he did not assume unlimited power. He gave the
country a constitution far more perfect than any which had at that time
been known in the world. He reformed the representative system in a
manner which has extorted praise even from Lord Clarendon. For himself
he demanded indeed the first place in the commonwealth; but with powers
scarcely so great as those of a Dutch stadtholder, or an American
president. He gave the parliament a voice in the appointment of
ministers, and left to it the whole legislative authority, not even
reserving to himself a veto on its enactments; and he did not require
that the chief magistracy should be hereditary in his family. Thus far,
we think, if the circumstances of the time and the opportunities which
he had of aggrandising himself be fairly considered, he will not lose
by comparison with Washington or Bolivar. Had his moderation been met by
corresponding moderation, there is no reason to think that he would have
overstepped the line which he had traced for himself. But when he found
that his parliaments questioned the authority under which they met, and
that he was in danger of being deprived of the restricted power which
was absolutely necessary to his personal safety, then, it must be
acknowledged, he adopted a more arbitrary policy.

Yet, though we believe that the intentions of Cromwell were at first
honest, though we believe that he was driven from the noble course
which he had marked out for himself by the almost irresistible force of
circumstances, though we admire, in common with all men of all parties,
the ability and energy of his splendid administration, we are not
pleading for arbitrary and lawless power, even in his hands. We know
that a good constitution is infinitely better than the best despot.
But we suspect, that at the time of which we speak, the violence of
religious and political enmities rendered a stable and happy settlement
next to impossible. The choice lay, not between Cromwell and liberty,
but between Cromwell and the Stuarts. That Milton chose well, no man can
doubt who fairly compares the events of the Protectorate with those of
the thirty years which succeeded it, the darkest and most disgraceful
in the English annals. Cromwell was evidently laying, though in an
irregular manner, the foundations of an admirable system. Never before
had religious liberty and the freedom of discussion been enjoyed in a
greater degree. Never had the national honour been better upheld abroad,
or the seat of justice better filled at home. And it was rarely that any
opposition which stopped short of open rebellion provoked the resentment
of the liberal and magnanimous usurper. The institutions which he had
established, as set down in the Instrument of Government, and the Humble
Petition and Advice, were excellent. His practice, it is true, too often
departed from the theory of these institutions. But, had he lived a few
years longer, it is probable that his institutions would have survived
him, and that his arbitrary practice would have died with him. His power
had not been consecrated by ancient prejudices. It was upheld only by
his great personal qualities. Little, therefore, was to be dreaded from
a second protector, unless he were also a second Oliver Cromwell. The
events which followed his decease are the most complete vindication
of those who exerted themselves to uphold his authority. His death
dissolved the whole frame of society. The army rose against the
Parliament, the different corps of the army against each other. Sect
raved against sect. Party plotted against party, The Presbyterians, in
their eagerness to be revenged on the Independents, sacrificed their
own liberty, and deserted all their old principles. Without casting one
glance on the past, or requiring one stipulation for the future, they
threw down their freedom at the feet of the most frivolous and heartless
of tyrants.

Then came those days, never to be recalled without a blush, the days
of servitude without loyalty and sensuality without love, of dwarfish
talents and gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and narrow
minds, the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The King
cringed to his rival that he might trample on his people, sank into a
viceroy of France, and pocketed, with complacent infamy, her degrading
insults, and her more degrading gold. The caresses of harlots, and the
jests of buffoons, regulated the policy of the State. The Government had
just ability enough to deceive, and just religion enough to persecute.
The principles of liberty were the scoff of every grinning courtier,
and the Anathema Maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place,
worship was paid to Charles and James, Belial and Moloch; and England
propitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best and
bravest children. Crime succeeded to crime, and disgrace to disgrace,
till the race accursed of God and man was a second time driven forth,
to wander on the face of the earth, and to be a by-word and a shaking of
the head to the nations.

Most of the remarks which we have hitherto made on the public character
of Milton, apply to him only as one of a large body. We shall proceed
to notice some of the peculiarities which distinguished him from his
contemporaries. And, for that purpose, it is necessary to take a short
survey of the parties into which the political world was at that time
divided. We must premise, that our observations are intended to apply
only to those who adhered, from a sincere preference, to one or to the
other side. In days of public commotion, every faction, like an Oriental
army, is attended by a crowd of camp-followers, an useless and heartless
rabble, who prowl round its line of march in the hope of picking up
something under its protection, but desert it in the day of battle, and
often join to exterminate it after a defeat. England, at the time of
which we are treating, abounded with fickle and selfish politicians, who
transferred their support to every government as it rose, who kissed the
hand of the King in 1640, and spat in his face in 1649, who shouted with
equal glee when Cromwell was inaugurated in Westminster Hall, and when
he was dug up to be hanged at Tyburn, who dined on calves’ heads or
stuck-up oak-branches, as circumstances altered, without the slightest
shame or repugnance. These we leave out of the account. We take
our estimate of parties from those who really deserved to be called
partisans.

We would speak first of the Puritans, the most remarkable body of men,
perhaps, which the world has ever produced. The odious and ridiculous
parts of their character lie on the surface. He that runs may read them;
nor have there been wanting attentive and malicious observers to point
them out. For many years after the Restoration, they were the theme
of unmeasured invective and derision. They were exposed to the utmost
licentiousness of the press and of the stage, at the time when the press
and the stage were most licentious. They were not men of letters; they
were, as a body, unpopular; they could not defend themselves; and the
public would not take them under its protection. They were therefore
abandoned, without reserve, to the tender mercies of the satirists
and dramatists. The ostentatious simplicity of their dress, their sour
aspect, their nasal twang, their stiff posture, their long graces, their
Hebrew names, the Scriptural phrases which they introduced on every
occasion, their contempt of human learning, their detestation of polite
amusements, were indeed fair game for the laughers. But it is not from
the laughers alone that the philosophy of history is to be learnt.
And he who approaches this subject should carefully guard against the
influence of that potent ridicule which has already misled so many
excellent writers.

“Ecco il fonte del riso, ed ecco il rio Che mortali perigli in so
contiene: Hor qui tener a fren nostro desio, Ed esser cauti molto a noi
conviene.”

Those who roused the people to resistance, who directed their measures
through a long series of eventful years, who formed, out of the most
unpromising materials, the finest army that Europe had ever seen, who
trampled down King, Church, and Aristocracy, who, in the short intervals
of domestic sedition and rebellion, made the name of England terrible to
every nation on the face of the earth, were no vulgar fanatics. Most
of their absurdities were mere external badges, like the signs of
freemasonry, or the dresses of friars. We regret that these badges were
not more attractive. We regret that a body to whose courage and talents
mankind has owed inestimable obligations had not the lofty elegance
which distinguished some of the adherents of Charles the First, or
the easy good-breeding for which the court of Charles the Second was
celebrated. But, if we must make our choice, we shall, like Bassanio in
the play, turn from the specious caskets which contain only the Death’s
head and the Fool’s head, and fix on the plain leaden chest which
conceals the treasure.

The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from
the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not
content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence,
they habitually ascribed every event to the will of the Great Being, for
whose power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too
minute. To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great
end of existence. They rejected with contempt the ceremonious homage
which other sects substituted for the pure worship of the soul. Instead
of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil,
they aspired to gaze full on his intolerable brightness, and to commune
with him face to face. Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial
distinctions. The difference between the greatest and the meanest of
mankind seemed to vanish, when compared with the boundless interval
which separated the whole race from him on whom their own eyes were
constantly fixed. They recognised no title to superiority but
his favour; and, confident of that favour, they despised all the
accomplishments and all the dignities of the world. If they were
unacquainted with the works of philosophers and poets, they were
deeply read in the oracles of God. If their names were not found in the
registers of heralds, they were recorded in the Book of Life. If their
steps were not accompanied by a splendid train of menials, legions of
ministering angels had charge over them. Their palaces were houses not
made with hands; their diadems crowns of glory which should never fade
away. On the rich and the eloquent, on nobles and priests, they looked
down with contempt: for they esteemed themselves rich in a more precious
treasure, and eloquent in a more sublime language, nobles by the right
of an earlier creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier
hand. The very meanest of them was a being to whose fate a mysterious
and terrible importance belonged, on whose slightest action the spirits
of light and darkness looked with anxious interest, who had been
destined, before heaven and earth were created, to enjoy a felicity
which should continue when heaven and earth should have passed away.
Events which shortsighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes,
had been ordained on his account. For his sake empires had risen, and
flourished, and decayed. For his sake the Almighty had proclaimed his
will by the pen of the evangelist, and the harp of the prophet. He had
been wrested by no common deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He
had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by the blood of no
earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun had been darkened, that
the rocks had been rent, that the dead had risen, that all nature had
shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring God.

Thus the Puritan was made up of two different men, the one all
self-abasement, penitence, gratitude, passion; the other proud, calm,
inflexible, sagacious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his
Maker: but he set his foot on the neck of his king. In his devotional
retirement, he prayed with convulsions, and groans, and tears. He was
half-maddened by glorious or terrible illusions. He heard the lyres
of angels or the tempting whispers of fiends. He caught a gleam of the
Beatific Vision, or woke screaming from dreams of everlasting fire. Like
Vane, he thought himself intrusted with the sceptre of the millennial
year. Like Fleetwood, he cried in the bitterness of his soul that God
had hid his face from him. But when he took his seat in the council, or
girt on his sword for war, these tempestuous workings of the soul had
left no perceptible trace behind them. People who saw nothing of the
godly but their uncouth visages, and heard nothing from them but their
groans and their whining hymns, might laugh at them. But those had
little reason to laugh who encountered them in the hall of debate or
in the field of battle. These fanatics brought to civil and military
affairs a coolness of judgment and an immutability of purpose which some
writers have thought inconsistent with their religious zeal, but
which were in fact the necessary effects of it. The intensity of
their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on every other. One
overpowering sentiment had subjected to itself pity and hatred, ambition
and fear. Death had lost its terrors and pleasure its charms. They had
their smiles and their tears, their raptures and their sorrows, but
not for the things of this world. Enthusiasm had made them Stoics, had
cleared their minds from every vulgar passion and prejudice, and raised
them above the influence of danger and of corruption. It sometimes might
lead them to pursue unwise ends, but never to choose unwise means.
They went through the world, like Sir Artegal’s iron man Talus with
his flail, crushing and trampling down oppressors, mingling with human
beings, but having neither part nor lot in human infirmities, insensible
to fatigue, to pleasure, and to pain, not to be pierced by any weapon,
not to be withstood by any barrier.

Such we believe to have been the character of the Puritans. We perceive
the absurdity of their manners. We dislike the sullen gloom of their
domestic habits. We acknowledge that the tone of their minds was often
injured by straining after things too high for mortal reach: and we know
that, in spite of their hatred of Popery, they too often fell into the
worst vices of that bad system, intolerance and extravagant austerity,
that they had their anchorites and their crusades, their Dunstans and
their De Montforts, their Dominics and their Escobars. Yet, when all
circumstances are taken into consideration, we do not hesitate to
pronounce them a brave, a wise, an honest, and an useful body.

The Puritans espoused the cause of civil liberty mainly because it was
the cause of religion. There was another party, by no means numerous,
but distinguished by learning and ability, which acted with them on very
different principles. We speak of those whom Cromwell was accustomed
to call the Heathens, men who were, in the phraseology of that time,
doubting Thomases or careless Gallios with regard to religious subjects,
but passionate worshippers of freedom. Heated by the study of ancient
literature, they set up their country as their idol, and proposed to
themselves the heroes of Plutarch as their examples. They seem to have
borne some resemblance to the Brissotines of the French Revolution. But
it is not very easy to draw the line of distinction between them and
their devout associates, whose tone and manner they sometimes found
it convenient to affect, and sometimes, it is probable, imperceptibly
adopted.

We now come to the Royalists. We shall attempt to speak of them, as we
have spoken of their antagonists, with perfect candour. We shall not
charge upon a whole party the profligacy and baseness of the horseboys,
gamblers and bravoes, whom the hope of licence and plunder attracted
from all the dens of Whitefriars to the standard of Charles, and
who disgraced their associates by excesses which, under the stricter
discipline of the Parliamentary armies, were never tolerated. We will
select a more favourable specimen. Thinking as we do that the cause of
the King was the cause of bigotry and tyranny, we yet cannot refrain
from looking with complacency on the character of the honest old
Cavaliers. We feel a national pride in comparing them with the
instruments which the despots of other countries are compelled
to employ, with the mutes who throng their ante-chambers, and the
Janissaries who mount guard at their gates. Our royalist countrymen were
not heartless dangling courtiers, bowing at every step, and simpering
at every word. They were not mere machines for destruction dressed up in
uniforms, caned into skill, intoxicated into valour, defending
without love, destroying without hatred. There was a freedom in their
subserviency, a nobleness in their very degradation. The sentiment of
individual independence was strong within them. They were indeed misled,
but by no base or selfish motive. Compassion and romantic honour, the
prejudices of childhood, and the venerable names of history, threw over
them a spell potent as that of Duessa; and, like the Red-Cross Knight,
they thought that they were doing battle for an injured beauty, while
they defended a false and loathsome sorceress. In truth they scarcely
entered at all into the merits of the political question. It was not for
a treacherous king or an intolerant church that they fought, but for the
old banner which had waved in so many battles over the heads of their
fathers, and for the altars at which they had received the hands
of their brides. Though nothing could be more erroneous than their
political opinions, they possessed, in a far greater degree than their
adversaries, those qualities which are the grace of private life. With
many of the vices of the Round Table, they had also many of its virtues,
courtesy, generosity, veracity, tenderness, and respect for women. They
had far more both of profound and of polite learning than the Puritans.
Their manners were more engaging, their tempers more amiable, their
tastes more elegant, and their households more cheerful.

Milton did not strictly belong to any of the classes which we have
described. He was not a Puritan. He was not a freethinker. He was not
a Royalist. In his character the noblest qualities of every party were
combined in harmonious union. From the Parliament and from the Court,
from the conventicle and from the Gothic cloister, from the gloomy and
sepulchral circles of the Roundheads, and from the Christmas revel of
the hospitable Cavalier, his nature selected and drew to itself whatever
was great and good, while it rejected all the base and pernicious
ingredients by which those finer elements were defiled. Like the
Puritans, he lived

               “As ever in his great taskmaster’s eye.”

Like them, he kept his mind continually fixed on an Almighty judge and
an eternal reward. And hence he acquired their contempt of external
circumstances, their fortitude, their tranquillity, their inflexible
resolution. But not the coolest sceptic or the most profane scoffer was
more perfectly free from the contagion of their frantic delusions, their
savage manners, their ludicrous jargon, their scorn of science, and
their aversion to pleasure. Hating tyranny with a perfect hatred, he
had nevertheless all the estimable and ornamental qualities which were
almost entirely monopolised by the party of the tyrant. There was none
who had a stronger sense of the value of literature, a finer relish for
every elegant amusement, or a more chivalrous delicacy of honour
and love. Though his opinions were democratic, his tastes and his
associations were such as harmonise best with monarchy and aristocracy.
He was under the influence of all the feelings by which the gallant
Cavaliers were misled. But of those feelings he was the master and
not the slave. Like the hero of Homer, he enjoyed all the pleasures of
fascination; but he was not fascinated. He listened to the song of the
Syrens; yet he glided by without being seduced to their fatal shore. He
tasted the cup of Circe; but he bore about him a sure antidote against
the effects of its bewitching sweetness. The illusions which captivated
his imagination never impaired his reasoning powers. The statesman
was proof against the splendour, the solemnity, and the romance
which enchanted the poet. Any person who will contrast the sentiments
expressed in his treatises on Prelacy with the exquisite lines on
ecclesiastical architecture and music in the Penseroso, which was
published about the same time, will understand our meaning. This is an
inconsistency which, more than anything else, raises his character in
our estimation, because it shows how many private tastes and feelings he
sacrificed, in order to do what he considered his duty to mankind. It is
the very struggle of the noble Othello. His heart relents; but his
hand is firm. He does nought in hate, but all in honour. He kisses the
beautiful deceiver before he destroys her.

That from which the public character of Milton derives its great and
peculiar splendour, still remains to be mentioned. If he exerted himself
to overthrow a forsworn king and a persecuting hierarchy, he exerted
himself in conjunction with others. But the glory of the battle which he
fought for the species of freedom which is the most valuable, and which
was then the least understood, the freedom of the human mind, is all
his own. Thousands and tens of thousands among his contemporaries raised
their voices against Ship-money and the Star-Chamber. But there were few
indeed who discerned the more fearful evils of moral and intellectual
slavery, and the benefits which would result from the liberty of the
press and the unfettered exercise of private judgment. These were the
objects which Milton justly conceived to be the most important. He was
desirous that the people should think for themselves as well as tax
themselves, and should be emancipated from the dominion of prejudice
as well as from that of Charles. He knew that those who, with the best
intentions, overlooked these schemes of reform, and contented themselves
with pulling down the King and imprisoning the malignants, acted
like the heedless brothers in his own poem, who in their eagerness to
disperse the train of the sorcerer, neglected the means of liberating
the captive. They thought only of conquering when they should have
thought of disenchanting.

“Oh, ye mistook! Ye should have snatch’d his wand And bound him fast.
Without the rod reversed, And backward mutters of dissevering power, We
cannot free the lady that sits here Bound in strong fetters fix’d and
motionless.”

To reverse the rod, to spell the charm backward, to break the ties which
bound a stupefied people to the seat of enchantment, was the noble aim
of Milton. To this all his public conduct was directed. For this he
joined the Presbyterians; for this he forsook them. He fought their
perilous battle; but he turned away with disdain from their insolent
triumph. He saw that they, like those whom they had vanquished, were
hostile to the liberty of thought. He therefore joined the Independents,
and called upon Cromwell to break the secular chain, and to save free
conscience from the paw of the Presbyterian wolf. With a view to the
same great object, he attacked the licensing system, in that sublime
treatise which every statesman should wear as a sign upon his hand and
as frontlets between his eyes. His attacks were, in general, directed
less against particular abuses than against those deeply-seated errors
on which almost all abuses are founded, the servile worship of eminent
men and the irrational dread of innovation.

That he might shake the foundations of these debasing sentiments
more effectually, he always selected for himself the boldest literary
services. He never came up in the rear, when the outworks had been
carried and the breach entered. He pressed into the forlorn hope. At
the beginning of the changes, he wrote with incomparable energy and
eloquence against the bishops. But, when his opinion seemed likely to
prevail, he passed on to other subjects, and abandoned prelacy to the
crowd of writers who now hastened to insult a falling party. There is no
more hazardous enterprise than that of bearing the torch of truth into
those dark and infected recesses in which no light has ever shone. But
it was the choice and the pleasure of Milton to penetrate the noisome
vapours, and to brave the terrible explosion. Those who most disapprove
of his opinions must respect the hardihood with which he maintained
them. He, in general, left to others the credit of expounding and
defending the popular parts of his religious and political creed. He
took his own stand upon those which the great body of his countrymen
reprobated as criminal, or derided as paradoxical. He stood up for
divorce and regicide. He attacked the prevailing systems of education.
His radiant and beneficent career resembled that of the god of light and
fertility.

“Nitor in adversum; nec me, qui caetera, vincit Impetus, et rapido
contrarius evehor orbi.”

It is to be regretted that the prose writings of Milton should, in our
time, be so little read. As compositions, they deserve the attention
of every man who wishes to become acquainted with the full power of
the English language. They abound with passages compared with which
the finest declamations of Burke sink into insignificance. They are
a perfect field of cloth-of-gold. The style is stiff with gorgeous
embroidery. Not even in the earlier books of the Paradise Lost has the
great poet ever risen higher than in those parts of his controversial
works in which his feelings, excited by conflict, find a vent in bursts
of devotional and lyric rapture. It is, to borrow his own majestic
language, “a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies.”

We had intended to look more closely at these performances, to analyse
the peculiarities of the diction, to dwell at some length on the sublime
wisdom of the Areopagitica and the nervous rhetoric of the Iconoclast,
and to point out some of those magnificent passages which occur in the
Treatise of Reformation, and the Animadversions on the Remonstrant.
But the length to which our remarks have already extended renders this
impossible.

We must conclude. And yet we can scarcely tear ourselves away from the
subject. The days immediately following the publication of this relic of
Milton appear to be peculiarly set apart, and consecrated to his memory.
And we shall scarcely be censured if, on this his festival, we be found
lingering near his shrine, how worthless soever may be the offering
which we bring to it. While this book lies on our table, we seem to be
contemporaries of the writer. We are transported a hundred and fifty
years back. We can almost fancy that we are visiting him in his small
lodging; that we see him sitting at the old organ beneath the faded
green hangings; that we can catch the quick twinkle of his eyes, rolling
in vain to find the day; that we are reading in the lines of his
noble countenance the proud and mournful history of his glory and his
affliction. We image to ourselves the breathless silence in which we
should listen to his slightest word, the passionate veneration with
which we should kneel to kiss his hand and weep upon it, the earnestness
with which we should endeavour to console him, if indeed such a spirit
could need consolation, for the neglect of an age unworthy of his
talents and his virtues, the eagerness with which we should contest
with his daughters, or with his Quaker friend Elwood, the privilege
of reading Homer to him, or of taking down the immortal accents which
flowed from his lips.

These are perhaps foolish feelings. Yet we cannot be ashamed of them;
nor shall we be sorry if what we have written shall in any degree excite
them in other minds. We are not much in the habit of idolising either
the living or the dead. And we think that there is no more certain
indication of a weak and ill-regulated intellect than that propensity
which, for want of a better name, we will venture to christen
Boswellism. But there are a few characters which have stood the closest
scrutiny and the severest tests, which have been tried in the furnace
and have proved pure, which have been weighed in the balance and have
not been found wanting, which have been declared sterling by the general
consent of mankind, and which are visibly stamped with the image and
superscription of the Most High. These great men we trust that we know
how to prize; and of these was Milton. The sight of his books, the sound
of his name, are pleasant to us. His thoughts resemble those celestial
fruits and flowers which the Virgin Martyr of Massinger sent down from
the gardens of Paradise to the earth, and which were distinguished
from the productions of other soils, not only by superior bloom and
sweetness, but by miraculous efficacy to invigorate and to heal. They
are powerful, not only to delight, but to elevate and purify. Nor do we
envy the man who can study either the life or the writings of the great
poet and patriot, without aspiring to emulate, not indeed the sublime
works with which his genius has enriched our literature, but the zeal
with which he laboured for the public good, the fortitude with which he
endured every private calamity, the lofty disdain with which he looked
down on temptations and dangers, the deadly hatred which he bore to
bigots and tyrants, and the faith which he so sternly kept with his
country and with his fame.



SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE


(October 1838)
_Memoirs of the Life, Works, and Correspondence of Sir William Temple. By
the Right Hon. THOMAS PEREGRINE COURTENAY. Two vols. 8vo. London: 1836._


MR. COURTENAY has long been well known to politicians as an industrious
and useful official man, and as an upright and consistent member of
Parliament. He has been one of the most moderate, and, at the same time,
one of the least pliant members of the Conservative party. His conduct
has, indeed, on some questions been so Whiggish, that both those who
applauded and those who condemned it have questioned his claim to be
considered as a Tory. But his Toryism, such as it is, he has held fast
through all changes of fortune and fashion; and he has at last retired
from public life, leaving behind him, to the best of our belief, no
personal enemy, and carrying with him the respect and goodwill of many
who strongly dissent from his opinions.

This book, the fruit of Mr. Courtenay’s leisure, is introduced by a
preface in which he informs us that the assistance furnished to him
from various quarters “has taught him the superiority of literature
to politics for developing the kindlier feelings, and conducing to
an agreeable life.” We are truly glad that Mr. Courtenay is so well
satisfied with his new employment, and we heartily congratulate him on
having been driven by events to make an exchange which, advantageous as
it is, few people make while they can avoid it. He has little reason,
in our opinion, to envy any of those who are still engaged in a pursuit
from which, at most, they can only expect that, by relinquishing liberal
studies and social pleasures, by passing nights without sleep and
summers without one glimpse of the beauty of nature, they may attain
that laborious, that invidious, that closely watched slavery which is
mocked with the name of power.

The volumes before us are fairly entitled to the praise of diligence,
care, good sense, and impartiality; and these qualities are sufficient
to make a book valuable, but not quite sufficient to make it readable.
Mr. Courtenay has not sufficiently studied the arts of selection and
compression. The information with which he furnishes us, must still, we
apprehend, be considered as so much raw material. To manufacturers it
will be highly useful; but it is not yet in such a form that it can be
enjoyed by the idle consumer. To drop metaphor, we are afraid that this
work will be less acceptable to those who read for the sake of reading,
than to those who read in order to write.

We cannot help adding, though we are extremely unwilling to quarrel
with Mr. Courtenay about politics, that the book would not be at all the
worse if it contained fewer snarls against the Whigs of the present day.
Not only are these passages out of place in a historical work, but some
of them are intrinsically such that they would become the editor of a
third-rate party newspaper better than a gentleman of Mr. Courtenay’s
talents and knowledge. For example, we are told that, “it is a
remarkable circumstance, familiar to those who are acquainted with
history, but suppressed by the new Whigs, that the liberal politicians
of the seventeenth century and the greater part of the eighteenth, never
extended their liberality to the native Irish, or the professors of
the ancient religion.” What schoolboy of fourteen is ignorant of this
remarkable circumstance? What Whig, new or old, was ever such an idiot
as to think that it could be suppressed? Really we might as well say
that it is a remarkable circumstance, familiar to people well read
in history, but carefully suppressed by the Clergy of the Established
Church, that in the fifteenth century England was in communion with
Rome. We are tempted to make some remarks on another passage, which
seems to be the peroration of a speech intended to have been spoken
against the Reform Bill: but we forbear.

We doubt whether it will be found that the memory of Sir William Temple
owes much to Mr. Courtenay’s researches. Temple is one of those men whom
the world has agreed to praise highly without knowing much about them,
and who are therefore more likely to lose than to gain by a close
examination. Yet he is not without fair pretensions to the most
honourable place among the statesmen of his time. A few of them equalled
or surpassed him in talents; but they were men of no good repute for
honesty. A few may be named whose patriotism was purer, nobler, and more
disinterested than his; but they were of no eminent ability. Morally, he
was above Shaftesbury; intellectually, he was above Russell.

To say of a man that he occupied a high position in times of
misgovernment, of corruption, of civil and religious faction, that
nevertheless he contracted no great stain and bore no part in any great
crime, that he won the esteem of a profligate Court and of a turbulent
people, without being guilty of any disgraceful subserviency to either,
seems to be very high praise; and all this may with truth be said of
Temple.

Yet Temple is not a man to our taste. A temper not naturally good, but
under strict command; a constant regard to decorum; a rare caution in
playing that mixed game of skill and hazard, human life; a disposition
to be content with small and certain winnings rather than to go on
doubling the stake; these seem to us to be the most remarkable features
of his character. This sort of moderation, when united, as in him it
was, with very considerable abilities, is, under ordinary circumstances,
scarcely to be distinguished from the highest and purest integrity, and
yet may be perfectly compatible with laxity of principle, with coldness
of heart, and with the most intense selfishness. Temple, we fear, had
not sufficient warmth and elevation of sentiment to deserve the name
of a virtuous man. He did not betray or oppress his country: nay, he
rendered considerable services to her; but he risked nothing for her. No
temptation which either the King or the Opposition could hold out ever
induced him to come forward as the supporter either of arbitrary or
of factious measures. But he was most careful not to give offence by
strenuously opposing such measures. He never put himself prominently
before the public eye, except at conjunctures when he was almost certain
to gain, and could not possibly lose, at conjunctures when the interest
of the State, the views of the Court, and the passions of the multitude,
all appeared for an instant to coincide. By judiciously availing himself
of several of these rare moments, he succeeded in establishing a high
character for wisdom and patriotism. When the favourable crisis was
passed, he never risked the reputation which he had won. He avoided the
great offices of State with a caution almost pusillanimous, and confined
himself to quiet and secluded departments of public business, in which
he could enjoy moderate but certain advantages without incurring envy.
If the circumstances of the country became such that it was impossible
to take any part in politics without some danger, he retired to his
library and his orchard, and, while the nation groaned under oppression,
or resounded with tumult and with the din of civil arms, amused himself
by writing memoirs and tying up apricots. His political career bore some
resemblance to the military career of Lewis the Fourteenth. Lewis, lest
his royal dignity should be compromised by failure, never repaired to a
siege, till it had been reported to him by the most skilful officers in
his service, that nothing could prevent the fall of the place. When this
was ascertained, the monarch, in his helmet and cuirass, appeared among
the tents, held councils of war, dictated the capitulation, received the
keys, and then returned to Versailles to hear his flatterers repeat
that Turenne had been beaten at Mariendal, that Conde had been forced
to raise the siege of Arras, and that the only warrior whose glory had
never been obscured by a single check was Lewis the Great. Yet Conde and
Turenne will always be considered as captains of a very different order
from the invincible Lewis; and we must own that many statesmen who have
committed great faults, appear to us to be deserving of more esteem than
the faultless Temple. For in truth his faultlessness is chiefly to
be ascribed to his extreme dread of all responsibility, to his
determination rather to leave his country in a scrape than to run any
chance of being in a scrape himself. He seems to have been averse from
danger; and it must be admitted that the dangers to which a public man
was exposed, in those days of conflicting tyranny and sedition, were of
a most serious kind. He could not bear discomfort, bodily or mental. His
lamentations, when in the course of his diplomatic journeys he was put
a little out of his way, and forced, in the vulgar phrase, to rough it,
are quite amusing. He talks of riding a day or two on a bad Westphalian
road, of sleeping on straw for one night, of travelling in winter when
the snow lay on the ground, as if he had gone on an expedition to the
North Pole or to the source of the Nile. This kind of valetudinarian
effeminacy, this habit of coddling himself, appears in all parts of his
conduct. He loved fame, but not with the love of an exalted and generous
mind. He loved it as an end, not at all as a means; as a personal
luxury, not at all as an instrument of advantage to others. He scraped
it together and treasured it up with a timid and niggardly thrift; and
never employed the hoard in any enterprise, however virtuous and useful,
in which there was hazard of losing one particle. No wonder if such a
person did little or nothing which deserves positive blame. But much
more than this may justly be demanded of a man possessed of such
abilities, and placed in such a situation. Had Temple been brought
before Dante’s infernal tribunal, he would not have been condemned to
the deeper recesses of the abyss. He would not have been boiled with
Dundee in the crimson pool of Bulicame, or hurled with Danby into the
seething pitch of Malebolge, or congealed with Churchill in the eternal
ice of Giudecca; but he would perhaps have been placed in the dark
vestibule next to the shade of that inglorious pontiff

“Che fece per viltate il gran rifiuto.”

Of course a man is not bound to be a politician any more than he is
bound to be a soldier; and there are perfectly honourable ways of
quitting both politics and the military profession. But neither in the
one way of life, nor in the other, is any man entitled to take all the
sweet and leave all the sour. A man who belongs to the army only in time
of peace, who appears at reviews in Hyde Park, escorts the Sovereign
with the utmost valour and fidelity to and from the House of Lords,
and retires as soon as he thinks it likely that he may be ordered on an
expedition, is justly thought to have disgraced himself. Some portion of
the censure due to, such a holiday-soldier may justly fall on the mere
holiday-politician, who flinches from his duties as soon as those
duties become difficult and disagreeable, that is to say, as soon as it
becomes peculiarly important that he should resolutely perform them.

But though we are far indeed from considering Temple as a perfect
statesman, though we place him below many statesmen who have committed
very great errors, we cannot deny that, when compared with his
contemporaries, he makes a highly respectable appearance. The reaction
which followed the victory of the popular party over Charles the First,
had produced a hurtful effect on the national character; and this effect
was most discernible in the classes and in the places which had been
most strongly excited by the recent revolution. The deterioration was
greater in London than in the country, and was greatest of all in the
courtly and official circles. Almost all that remained of what had been
good and noble in the Cavaliers and Roundheads of 1642, was now to be
found in the middling orders. The principles and feelings which prompted
the Grand Remonstrance were still strong among the sturdy yeomen, and
the decent God-fearing merchants. The spirit of Derby and Capel still
glowed in many sequestered manor-houses; but among those political
leaders who, at the time of the Restoration, were still young or in the
vigour of manhood, there was neither a Southampton nor a Vane, neither
a Falkland nor a Hampden. The pure, fervent, and constant loyalty which,
in the preceding reign, had remained unshaken on fields of disastrous
battle, in foreign garrets and cellars, and at the bar of the High Court
of Justice, was scarcely to be found among the rising courtiers. As
little, or still less, could the new chiefs of parties lay claim to the
great qualities of the statesmen who had stood at the head of the Long
Parliament. Hampden, Pym, Vane, Cromwell, are discriminated from the
ablest politicians of the succeeding generation, by all the strong
lineaments which distinguish the men who produce revolutions from the
men whom revolutions produce. The leader in a great change, the man who
stirs up a reposing community, and overthrows a deeply-rooted system,
may be a very depraved man; but he can scarcely be destitute of some
moral qualities, which extort even from enemies a reluctant admiration,
fixedness of purpose, intensity of will, enthusiasm, which is not the
less fierce or persevering because it is sometimes disguised under the
semblance of composure, and which bears down before it the force of
circumstances and the opposition of reluctant minds. These qualities,
variously combined with all sorts of virtues and vices, may be found, we
think, in most of the authors of great civil and religious movements,
in Caesar, in Mahomet, in Hildebrand, in Dominic, in Luther, in
Robespierre; and these qualities were found, in no scanty measure, among
the chiefs of the party which opposed Charles the First. The character
of the men whose minds are formed in the midst of the confusion which
follows a great revolution is generally very different. Heat, the
natural philosophers tell us, produces rarefaction of the air; and
rarefaction of the air produces cold. So zeal makes revolutions; and
revolutions make men zealous for nothing. The politicians of whom we
speak, whatever may be their natural capacity or courage, are almost
always characterised by a peculiar levity, a peculiar inconstancy,
an easy, apathetic way of looking at the most solemn questions, a
willingness to leave the direction of their course to fortune and
popular opinion, a notion that one public cause is nearly as good as
another, and a firm conviction that it is much better to be the hireling
of the worst cause than to be a martyr to the best.

This was most strikingly the case with the English statesmen of
the generation which followed the Restoration. They had neither the
enthusiasm of the Cavalier nor the enthusiasm of the Republican. They
had been early emancipated from the dominion of old usages and feelings;
yet they had not acquired a strong passion for innovation. Accustomed to
see old establishments shaking, falling, lying in ruins all around them,
accustomed to live under a succession of constitutions of which
the average duration was about a twelvemonth, they had no religious
reverence for prescription, nothing of that frame of mind which
naturally springs from the habitual contemplation of immemorial
antiquity and immovable stability. Accustomed, on the other hand, to
see change after change welcomed with eager hope and ending in
disappointment, to see shame and confusion of face follow the
extravagant hopes and predictions of rash and fanatical innovators, they
had learned to look on professions of public spirit, and on schemes of
reform, with distrust and contempt. They sometimes talked the language
of devoted subjects, sometimes that of ardent lovers of their country.
But their secret creed seems to have been, that loyalty was one
great delusion and patriotism another. If they really entertained
any predilection for the monarchical or for the popular part of the
constitution, for episcopacy or for presbyterianism, that predilection
was feeble and languid, and instead of overcoming, as in the times of
their fathers, the dread of exile, confiscation, and death, was rarely
of power to resist the slightest impulse of selfish ambition or of
selfish fear. Such was the texture of the presbyterianism of Lauderdale,
and of the speculative republicanism of Halifax. The sense of political
honour seemed to be extinct. With the great mass of mankind, the test
of integrity in a public man is consistency. This test, though very
defective, is perhaps the best that any, except very acute or very near
observers, are capable of applying; and does undoubtedly enable the
people to form an estimate of the characters of the great, which on the
whole approximates to correctness. But during the latter part of the
seventeenth century, inconsistency had necessarily ceased to be a
disgrace; and a man was no more taunted with it, than he is taunted with
being black at Timbuctoo. Nobody was ashamed of avowing what was common
between him and the whole nation. In the short space of about seven
years, the supreme power had been held by the Long Parliament, by a
Council of Officers, by Barebones’ Parliament, by a Council of Officers
again, by a Protector according to the Instrument of Government, by
a Protector according to the Humble Petition and Advice, by the Long
Parliament again, by a third Council of Officers, by the Long Parliament
a third time, by the Convention, and by the King. In such times,
consistency is so inconvenient to a man who affects it, and to all who
are connected with him, that it ceases to be regarded as a virtue, and
is considered as impracticable obstinacy and idle scrupulosity. Indeed,
in such times, a good citizen may be bound in duty to serve a succession
of Governments. Blake did so in one profession, and Hale in another; and
the conduct of both has been approved by posterity. But it is clear that
when inconsistency with respect to the most important public questions
has ceased to be a reproach, inconsistency with respect to questions
of minor importance is not likely to be regarded as dishonourable. In a
country in which many very honest people had, within the space of a few
months, supported the government of the Protector, that of the Rump, and
that of the King, a man was not likely to be ashamed of abandoning his
party for a place, or of voting for a bill which he had opposed.

The public men of the times which followed the Restoration were by no
means deficient in courage or ability; and some kinds of talent appear
to have been developed amongst them to a remarkable, we might almost
say, to a morbid and unnatural degree. Neither Theramenes in ancient,
nor Talleyrand in modern times, had a finer perception of all the
peculiarities of character, and of all the indications of coming change,
than some of our countrymen in that age. Their power of reading
things of high import, in signs which to others were invisible or
unintelligible, resembled magic. But the curse of Reuben was upon them
all: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.”

This character is susceptible of innumerable modifications, according
to the innumerable varieties of intellect and temper in which it may be
found. Men of unquiet minds and violent ambition followed a fearfully
eccentric course, darted wildly from one extreme to another, served
and betrayed all parties in turn, showed their unblushing foreheads
alternately in the van of the most corrupt administrations and of the
most factious oppositions, were privy to the most guilty mysteries,
first of the Cabal, and then of the Rye-House Plot, abjured their
religion to win their sovereign’s favour while they were secretly
planning his overthrow, shrived themselves to Jesuits, with letters in
cypher from the Prince of Orange in their pockets, corresponded with
the Hague whilst in office under James, and began to correspond with St.
Germain’s as soon as they had kissed hands for office under William. But
Temple was not one of these. He was not destitute of ambition. But his
was not one of those souls in which unsatisfied ambition anticipates the
tortures of hell, gnaws like the worm which dieth not, and burns like
the fire which is not quenched. His principle was to make sure of safety
and comfort, and to let greatness come if it would. It came: he enjoyed
it: and, in the very first moment in which it could no longer be enjoyed
without danger and vexation, he contentedly let it go. He was not
exempt, we think, from the prevailing political immorality. His mind
took the contagion, but took it ad modum recipientis, in a form so mild
that an undiscerning judge might doubt whether it were indeed the same
fierce pestilence that was raging all around. The malady partook of the
constitutional languor of the patient. The general corruption, mitigated
by his calm and unadventurous temperament, showed itself in omissions
and desertions, not in positive crimes; and his inactivity, though
sometimes timorous and selfish, becomes respectable when compared
with the malevolent and perfidious restlessness of Shaftesbury and
Sunderland.

Temple sprang from a family which, though ancient and honourable, had,
before his time, been scarcely mentioned in our history, but which,
long after his death, produced so many eminent men, and formed
such distinguished alliances, that it exercised, in a regular and
constitutional manner, an influence in the state scarcely inferior to
that which, in widely different times, and by widely different arts, the
house of Neville attained in England, and that of Douglas in Scotland.
During the latter years of George the Second, and through the whole
reign of George the Third, members of that widely spread and powerful
connection were almost constantly at the head either of the Government
or of the Opposition. There were times when the cousinhood, as it was
once nicknamed, would of itself have furnished almost all the materials
necessary for the construction of an efficient Cabinet. Within the space
of fifty years, three First Lords of the Treasury, three Secretaries
of State, two Keepers of the Privy Seal, and four First Lords of the
Admiralty were appointed from among the sons and grandsons of the
Countess Temple.

So splendid have been the fortunes of the main stock of the Temple
family, continued by female succession. William Temple, the first of
the line who attained to any great historical eminence, was of a younger
branch. His father, Sir John Temple, was Master of the Rolls in Ireland,
and distinguished himself among the Privy Councillors of that kingdom
by the zeal with which, at the commencement of the struggle between the
Crown and the Long Parliament, he supported the popular cause. He was
arrested by order of the Duke of Ormond, but regained his liberty by an
exchange, repaired to England, and there sate in the House of Commons as
burgess for Chichester. He attached himself to the Presbyterian party,
and was one of those moderate members who, at the close of the year
1648, voted for treating with Charles on the basis to which that Prince
had himself agreed, and who were, in consequence, turned out of the
House, with small ceremony, by Colonel Pride. Sir John seems, however,
to have made his peace with the victorious Independents; for, in 1653,
he resumed his office in Ireland.

Sir John Temple was married to a sister of the celebrated Henry Hammond,
a learned and pious divine, who took the side of the King with
very conspicuous zeal during the Civil War, and was deprived of his
preferment in the church after the victory of the Parliament. On account
of the loss which Hammond sustained on this occasion, he has the honour
of being designated, in the cant of that new brood of Oxonian sectaries
who unite the worst parts of the Jesuit to the worst parts of the
Orangeman, as Hammond, Presbyter, Doctor, and Confessor.

William Temple, Sir John’s eldest son, was born in London in the year
1628. He received his early education under his maternal uncle, was
subsequently sent to school at Bishop-Stortford, and, at seventeen,
began to reside at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where the celebrated
Cudworth was his tutor. The times were not favourable to study. The
Civil War disturbed even the quiet cloisters and bowling-greens of
Cambridge, produced violent revolutions in the government and discipline
of the colleges, and unsettled the minds of the students. Temple
forgot at Emmanuel all the little Greek which he had brought from
Bishop-Stortford, and never retrieved the loss; a circumstance which
would hardly be worth noticing but for the almost incredible fact that,
fifty years later, he was so absurd as to set up his own authority
against that of Bentley on questions of Greek history and philology. He
made no proficiency either in the old philosophy which still lingered in
the schools of Cambridge, or in the new philosophy of which Lord Bacon
was the founder. But to the end of his life he continued to speak of the
former with ignorant admiration, and of the latter with equally ignorant
contempt.

After residing at Cambridge two years, he departed without taking a
degree, and set out upon his travels. He seems to have been then a
lively, agreeable young man of fashion, not by any means deeply read,
but versed in all the superficial accomplishments of a gentleman, and
acceptable in all polite societies. In politics he professed himself a
Royalist. His opinions on religious subjects seem to have been such as
might be expected from a young man of quick parts, who had received a
rambling education, who had not thought deeply, who had been disgusted
by the morose austerity of the Puritans, and who, surrounded from
childhood by the hubbub of conflicting sects, might easily learn to feel
an impartial contempt for them all.

On his road to France he fell in with the son and daughter of Sir Peter
Osborne. Sir Peter held Guernsey for the King, and the young people
were, like their father, warm for the royal cause. At an inn where they
stopped in the Isle of Wight, the brother amused himself with inscribing
on the windows his opinion of the ruling powers. For this instance
of malignancy the whole party were arrested, and brought before the
governor. The sister, trusting to the tenderness which, even in those
troubled times, scarcely any gentleman of any party ever failed to
show where a woman was concerned, took the crime on herself, and was
immediately set at liberty with her fellow-travellers.

This incident, as was natural, made a deep impression on Temple. He was
only twenty. Dorothy Osborne was twenty-one. She is said to have been
handsome; and there remains abundant proof that she possessed an ample
share of the dexterity, the vivacity, and the tenderness of her sex.
Temple soon became, in the phrase of that time, her servant, and she
returned his regard. But difficulties, as great as ever expanded a novel
to the fifth volume, opposed their wishes. When the courtship commenced,
the father of the hero was sitting in the Long Parliament; the father of
the heroine was commanding in Guernsey for King Charles. Even when the
war ended, and Sir Peter Osborne returned to his seat at Chicksands, the
prospects of the lovers were scarcely less gloomy. Sir John Temple had
a more advantageous alliance in view for his son. Dorothy Osborne was in
the meantime besieged by as many suitors as were drawn to Belmont by the
fame of Portia. The most distinguished on the list was Henry Cromwell.
Destitute of the capacity, the energy, the magnanimity of his
illustrious father, destitute also of the meek and placid virtues of
his elder brother, this young man was perhaps a more formidable rival in
love than either of them would have been. Mrs. Hutchinson, speaking the
sentiments of the grave and aged, describes him as an “insolent foole,”
and a “debauched ungodly cavalier.” These expressions probably mean that
he was one who, among young and dissipated people, would pass for a fine
gentleman. Dorothy was fond of dogs of larger and more formidable breed
than those which lie on modern hearth-rugs; and Henry Cromwell promised
that the highest functionaries at Dublin should be set to work
to procure her a fine Irish greyhound. She seems to have felt his
attentions as very flattering, though his father was then only
Lord-General, and not yet Protector. Love, however, triumphed over
ambition, and the young lady appears never to have regretted her
decision; though, in a letter written just at the time when all England
was ringing with the news of the violent dissolution of the Long
Parliament, she could not refrain from reminding Temple, with pardonable
vanity, “how great she might have been, if she had been so wise as to
have taken hold of the offer of H. C.”

Nor was it only the influence of rivals that Temple had to dread. The
relations of his mistress regarded him with personal dislike, and spoke
of him as an unprincipled adventurer, without honour or religion, ready
to render service to any party for the sake of preferment. This is,
indeed, a very distorted view of Temple’s character. Yet a character,
even in the most distorted view taken of it by the most angry and
prejudiced minds, generally retains something of its outline. No
caricaturist ever represented Mr. Pitt as a Falstaff, or Mr. Fox as a
skeleton; nor did any libeller ever impute parsimony to Sheridan, or
profusion to Marlborough. It must be allowed that the turn of mind
which the eulogists of Temple have dignified with the appellation of
philosophical indifference, and which, however becoming it may be in an
old and experienced statesman, has a somewhat ungraceful appearance in
youth, might easily appear shocking to a family who were ready to
fight or to suffer martyrdom for their exiled King and their persecuted
church. The poor girl was exceedingly hurt and irritated by these
imputations on her lover, defended him warmly behind his back, and
addressed to himself some very tender and anxious admonitions, mingled
with assurances of her confidence in his honour and virtue. On one
occasion she was most highly provoked by the way in which one of her
brothers spoke of Temple. “We talked ourselves weary,” she says; “he
renounced me, and I defied him.”

Near seven years did this arduous wooing continue. We are not accurately
informed respecting Temple’s movements during that time. But he seems
to have led a rambling life, sometimes on the Continent, sometimes in
Ireland, sometimes in London. He made himself master of the French and
Spanish languages, and amused himself by writing essays and romances, an
employment which at least served the purpose of forming his style. The
specimen which Mr. Courtenay has preserved of these early compositions
is by no means contemptible: indeed, there is one passage on Like
and Dislike which could have been produced only by a mind habituated
carefully to reflect on its own operations, and which reminds us of the
best things in Montaigne.

Temple appears to have kept up a very active correspondence with his
mistress. His letters are lost, but hers have been preserved; and many
of them appear in these volumes. Mr. Courtenay expresses some doubt
whether his readers will think him justified in inserting so large a
number of these epistles. We only wish that there were twice as many.
Very little indeed of the diplomatic correspondence of that generation
is so well worth reading. There is a vile phrase of which bad historians
are exceedingly fond, “the dignity of history.” One writer is in
possession of some anecdotes which would illustrate most strikingly the
operation of the Mississippi scheme on the manners and morals of the
Parisians. But he suppresses those anecdotes, because they are too low
for the dignity of history. Another is strongly tempted to mention
some facts indicating the horrible state of the prisons of England two
hundred years ago. But he hardly thinks that the sufferings of a dozen
felons, pigging together on bare bricks in a hole fifteen feet square,
would form a subject suited to the dignity of history. Another, from
respect for the dignity of history, publishes an account of the reign
of George the Second, without ever mentioning Whitefield’s preaching
in Moorfields. How should a writer, who can talk about senates, and
congresses of sovereigns, and pragmatic sanctions, and ravelines, and
counterscarps, and battles where ten thousand men are killed, and six
thousand men with fifty stand of colours and eighty guns taken, stoop to
the Stock Exchange, to Newgate, to the theatre, to the tabernacle?

Tragedy has its dignity as well as history; and how much the tragic art
has owed to that dignity any man may judge who will compare the majestic
Alexandrines in which the Seigneur Oreste and Madame Andromaque utter
their complaints, with the chattering of the fool in Lear and of the
nurse in Romeo and Juliet.

That a historian should not record trifles, that he should confine
himself to what is important, is perfectly true. But many writers seem
never to have considered on what the historical importance of an event
depends. They seem not to be aware that the importance of a fact, when
that fact is considered with reference to its immediate effects, and the
importance of the same fact, when that fact is considered as part of
the materials for the construction of a science, are two very different
things. The quantity of good or evil which a transaction produces is by
no means necessarily proportioned to the quantity of light which that
transaction affords, as to the way in which good or evil may hereafter
be produced. The poisoning of an emperor is in one sense a far more
serious matter than the poisoning of a rat. But the poisoning of a
rat may be an era in chemistry; and an emperor may be poisoned by such
ordinary means, and with such ordinary symptoms, that no scientific
journal would notice the occurrence. An action for a hundred thousand
pounds is in one sense a more momentous affair than an action for fifty
pounds. But it by no means follows that the learned gentlemen who report
the proceedings of the courts of law ought to give a fuller account of
an action for a hundred thousand pounds, than of an action for fifty
pounds. For a cause in which a large sum is at stake may be important
only to the particular plaintiff and the particular defendant. A cause,
on the other hand, in which a small sum is at stake, may establish some
great principle interesting to half the families in the kingdom. The
case is exactly the same with that class of subjects of which historians
treat. To an Athenian, in the time of the Peloponnesian war, the result
of the battle of Delium was far more important than the fate of the
comedy of The Knights. But to us the fact that the comedy of The Knights
was brought on the Athenian stage with success is far more important
than the fact that the Athenian phalanx gave way at Delium. Neither the
one event nor the other has now any intrinsic importance. We are in
no danger of being speared by the Thebans. We are not quizzed in The
Knights. To us the importance of both events consists in the value of
the general truth which is to be learned from them. What general truth
do we learn from the accounts which have come down to us of the battle
of Delium? Very little more than this, that when two armies fight, it
is not improbable that one of them will be very soundly beaten, a truth
which it would not, we apprehend, be difficult to establish, even if
all memory of the battle of Delium were lost among men. But a man who
becomes acquainted with the comedy of The Knights, and with the history
of that comedy, at once feels his mind enlarged. Society is presented to
him under a new aspect. He may have read and travelled much. He may have
visited all the countries of Europe, and the civilised nations of the
East. He may have observed the manners of many barbarous races. But here
is something altogether different from everything which he has seen,
either among polished men or among savages. Here is a community
politically, intellectually, and morally unlike any other community
of which he has the means of forming an opinion. This is the really
precious part of history, the corn which some threshers carefully sever
from the chaff, for the purpose of gathering the chaff into the garner,
and flinging the corn into the fire.

Thinking thus, we are glad to learn so much, and would willingly
learn more, about the loves of Sir William and his mistress. In the
seventeenth century, to be sure, Lewis the Fourteenth was a much more
important person than Temple’s sweetheart. But death and time equalise
all things. Neither the great King, nor the beauty of Bedfordshire,
neither the gorgeous paradise of Marli nor Mistress Osborne’s favourite
walk “in the common that lay hard by the house, where a great many young
wenches used to keep sheep and cows and sit in the shade singing
of ballads,” is anything to us. Lewis and Dorothy are alike dust. A
cotton-mill stands on the ruins of Marli; and the Osbornes have ceased
to dwell under the ancient roof of Chicksands. But of that information
for the sake of which alone it is worth while to study remote events, we
find so much in the love letters which Mr. Courtenay has published,
that we would gladly purchase equally interesting billets with ten times
their weight in state-papers taken at random. To us surely it is as
useful to know how the young ladies of England employed themselves a
hundred and eighty years ago, how far their minds were cultivated, what
were their favourite studies, what degree of liberty was allowed to
them, what use they made of that liberty, what accomplishments they most
valued in men, and what proofs of tenderness delicacy permitted them to
give to favoured suitors, as to know all about the seizure of Franche
Comté and the treaty of Nimeguen. The mutual relations of the two sexes
seem to us to be at least as important as the mutual relations of any
two governments in the world; and a series of letters written by a
virtuous, amiable, and sensible girl, and intended for the eye of her
lover alone, can scarcely fail to throw some light on the relations of
the sexes; whereas it is perfectly possible, as all who have made any
historical researches can attest, to read bale after bale of despatches
and protocols, without catching one glimpse of light about the relations
of governments.

Mr. Courtenay proclaims that he is one of Dorothy Osborne’s devoted
servants, and expresses a hope that the publication of her letters will
add to the number. We must declare ourselves his rivals. She really
seems to have been a very charming young woman, modest, generous,
affectionate, intelligent, and sprightly; a royalist, as was to be
expected from her connections, without any of that political asperity
which is as unwomanly as a long beard; religious, and occasionally
gliding into a very pretty and endearing sort of preaching, yet not
too good to partake of such diversions as London afforded under the
melancholy rule of the Puritans, or to giggle a little at a ridiculous
sermon from a divine who was thought to be one of the great lights of
the Assembly at Westminster; with a little turn of coquetry, which was
yet perfectly compatible with warm and disinterested attachment, and
a little turn for satire, which yet seldom passed the bounds of
good-nature. She loved reading; but her studies were not those of Queen
Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey. She read the verses of Cowley and Lord
Broghill, French Memoirs recommended by her lover, and the Travels of
Fernando Mendez Pinto. But her favourite books were those ponderous
French romances which modern readers know chiefly from the pleasant
satire of Charlotte Lennox. She could not, however, help laughing at
the vile English into which they were translated. Her own style is very
agreeable; nor are her letters at all the worse for some passages in
which raillery and tenderness are mixed in a very engaging namby-pamby.

When at last the constancy of the lovers had triumphed over all the
obstacles which kinsmen and rivals could oppose to their union, a yet
more serious calamity befell them. Poor Mistress Osborne fell ill of the
small-pox, and, though she escaped with life, lost all her beauty. To
this most severe trial the affection and honour of the lovers of that
age was not unfrequently subjected. Our readers probably remember what
Mrs. Hutchinson tells of herself. The lofty Cornelia-like spirit of
the aged matron seems to melt into a long-forgotten softness when she
relates how her beloved Colonel “married her as soon as she was able to
quit the chamber, when the priest and all that saw her were affrighted
to look on her. But God,” she adds, with a not ungraceful vanity,
“recompensed his justice and constancy, by restoring her as well as
before.” Temple showed on this occasion the same justice and constancy
which did so much honour to Colonel Hutchinson. The date of the marriage
is not exactly known. But Mr. Courtenay supposes it to have taken place
about the end of the year 1654. From this time we lose sight of Dorothy,
and are reduced to form our opinion of the terms on which she and her
husband were from very slight indications which may easily mislead us.

Temple soon went to Ireland, and resided with his father, partly at
Dublin, partly in the county of Carlow. Ireland was probably then a more
agreeable residence for the higher classes, as compared with England,
than it has ever been before or since. In no part of the empire were the
superiority of Cromwell’s abilities and the force of his character
so signally displayed. He had not the power, and probably had not the
inclination, to govern that island in the best way. The rebellion of the
aboriginal race had excited in England a strong religious and national
aversion to them; nor is there any reason to believe that the Protector
was so far beyond his age as to be free from the prevailing sentiment.
He had vanquished them; he knew that they were in his power; and
he regarded them as a band of malefactors and idolaters, who were
mercifully treated if they were not smitten with the edge of the sword.
On those who resisted he had made war as the Hebrews made war on the
Canaanites. Drogheda was as Jericho; and Wexford as Ai. To the remains
of the old population the conqueror granted a peace, such as that
which Israel granted to the Gibeonites. He made them hewers of wood
and drawers of water. But, good or bad, he could not be otherwise than
great. Under favourable circumstances, Ireland would have found in him
a most just and beneficent ruler. She found in him a tyrant; not a small
teasing tyrant, such as those who have so long been her curse and her
shame, but one of those awful tyrants who, at long intervals, seem to
be sent on earth, like avenging angels, with some high commission of
destruction and renovation. He was no man of half measures, of mean
affronts and ungracious concessions. His Protestant ascendency was not
an ascendency of ribands, and fiddles, and statues, and processions. He
would never have dreamed of abolishing the penal code and withholding
from Catholics the elective franchise, of giving them the elective
franchise and excluding them from Parliament, of admitting them to
Parliament, and refusing to them a full and equal participation in all
the blessings of society and government. The thing most alien from his
clear intellect and his commanding spirit was petty persecution. He
knew how to tolerate; and he knew how to destroy. His administration in
Ireland was an administration on what are now called Orange principles,
followed out most ably, most steadily, most undauntedly, most
unrelentingly, to every extreme consequence to which those principles
lead; and it would, if continued, inevitably have produced the effect
which he contemplated, an entire decomposition and reconstruction of
society. He had a great and definite object in view, to make Ireland
thoroughly English, to make Ireland another Yorkshire or Norfolk. Thinly
peopled as Ireland then was, this end was not unattainable; and there
is every reason to believe that, if his policy had been followed
during fifty years, this end would have been attained. Instead of an
emigration, such as we now see from Ireland to England, there was, under
his government, a constant and large emigration from England to Ireland.
This tide of population ran almost as strongly as that which now runs
from Massachusetts and Connecticut to the states behind the Ohio. The
native race was driven back before the advancing van of the Anglo-Saxon
population, as the American Indians or the tribes of Southern Africa
are now driven back before the white settlers. Those fearful phaenomena
which have almost invariably attended the planting of civilised colonies
in uncivilised countries, and which had been known to the nations
of Europe only by distant and questionable rumour, were now publicly
exhibited in their sight. The words “extirpation,” “eradication,”
were often in the mouths of the English back-settlers of Leinster and
Munster, cruel words, yet, in their cruelty, containing more mercy than
much softer expressions which have since been sanctioned by universities
and cheered by Parliaments. For it is in truth more merciful to
extirpate a hundred thousand human beings at once and to fill the void
with a well-governed population, than to misgovern millions through
a long succession of generations. We can much more easily pardon
tremendous severities inflicted for a great object, than an endless
series of paltry vexations and oppressions inflicted for no rational
object at all.

Ireland was fast becoming English. Civilisation and wealth were making
rapid progress in almost every part of the island. The effects of
that iron despotism are described to us by a hostile witness in very
remarkable language. “Which is more wonderful,” says Lord Clarendon,
“all this was done and settled within little more than two years, to
that degree of perfection that there were many buildings raised for
beauty as well as use, orderly and regular plantations of trees, and
fences and inclosures raised throughout the kingdom, purchases made
by one from another at very valuable rates, and jointures made upon
marriages, and all other conveyances and settlements executed, as in a
kingdom at peace within itself, and where no doubt could be made of the
validity of titles.”

All Temple’s feelings about Irish questions were those of a colonist and
a member of the dominant caste. He troubled himself as little about
the welfare of the remains of the old Celtic population, as an English
farmer on the Swan River troubles himself about the New Hollanders, or
a Dutch boor at the Cape about the Caffres. The years which he passed in
Ireland, while the Cromwellian system was in full operation, he always
described as “years of great satisfaction.” Farming, gardening, county
business, and studies rather entertaining than profound, occupied his
time. In politics he took no part, and many years later he attributed
this inaction to his love of the ancient constitution, which, he said,
“would not suffer him to enter into public affairs till the way was
plain for the King’s happy restoration.” It does not appear, indeed,
that any offer of employment was made to him. If he really did refuse
any preferment, we may, without much breach of charity, attribute the
refusal rather to the caution which, during his whole life, prevented
him from running any risk, than to the fervour of his loyalty.

In 1660 he made his first appearance in public life. He sat in the
convention which, in the midst of the general confusion that preceded
the Restoration, was summoned by the chiefs of the army of Ireland
to meet in Dublin. After the King’s return an Irish parliament was
regularly convoked, in which Temple represented the county of Carlow.
The details of his conduct in this situation are not known to us. But we
are told in general terms, and can easily believe, that he showed great
moderation, and great aptitude for business. It is probable that he also
distinguished himself in debate; for many years afterwards he remarked
that “his friends in Ireland used to think that, if he had any talent at
all, it lay in that way.”

In May, 1663, the Irish parliament was prorogued, and Temple repaired to
England with his wife. His income amounted to about five hundred pounds
a-year, a sum which was then sufficient for the wants of a family mixing
in fashionable circles, He passed two years in London, where he seems to
have led that easy, lounging life which was best suited to his temper.

He was not, however, unmindful of his interest. He had brought with him
letters of introduction from the Duke of Ormond, then Lord-Lieutenant
of Ireland, to Clarendon, and to Henry Bennet, Lord Arlington, who was
Secretary of State. Clarendon was at the head of affairs. But his power
was visibly declining, and was certain to decline more and more every
day. An observer much less discerning than Temple might easily perceive
that the Chancellor was a man who belonged to a by-gone world, a
representative of a past age, of obsolete modes of thinking, of
unfashionable vices, and of more unfashionable virtues. His long exile
had made him a stranger in the country of his birth. His mind, heated by
conflict and by personal suffering, was far more set against popular and
tolerant courses than it had been at the time of the breaking out of the
civil war. He pined for the decorous tyranny of the old Whitehall; for
the days of that sainted king who deprived his people of their money and
their ears, but let their wives and daughters alone; and could scarcely
reconcile himself to a court with a seraglio and without a Star-Chamber.
By taking this course he made himself every day more odious, both to
the sovereign, who loved pleasure much more than prerogative, and to the
people, who dreaded royal prerogatives much more than royal pleasures;
and thus he was at last more detested by the Court than any chief of the
Opposition, and more detested by the Parliament than any pandar of the
Court.

Temple, whose great maxim was to offend no party, was not likely to
cling to the falling fortunes of a minister the study of whose life was
to offend all parties. Arlington, whose influence was gradually rising
as that of Clarendon diminished, was the most useful patron to whom a
young adventurer could attach himself. This statesman, without virtue,
wisdom, or strength of mind, had raised himself to greatness by
superficial qualities, and was the mere creature of the time, the
circumstances, and the company. The dignified reserve of manners which
he had acquired during a residence in Spain provoked the ridicule of
those who considered the usages of the French court as the only standard
of good breeding, but served to impress the crowd with a favourable
opinion of his sagacity and gravity. In situations where the solemnity
of the Escurial would have been out of place, he threw it aside without
difficulty, and conversed with great humour and vivacity. While the
multitude were talking of “Bennet’s grave looks,” [“Bennet’s grave looks
were a pretence” is a line in one of the best political poems of that
age,] his mirth made his presence always welcome in the royal closet.
While Buckingham, in the antechamber, was mimicking the pompous
Castilian strut of the Secretary, for the diversion of Mistress Stuart,
this stately Don was ridiculing Clarendon’s sober counsels to the King
within, till his Majesty cried with laughter, and the Chancellor with
vexation. There perhaps never was a man whose outward demeanour made
such different impressions on different people. Count Hamilton,
for example, describes him as a stupid formalist, who had been made
secretary solely on account of his mysterious and important looks.
Clarendon, on the other hand, represents him as a man whose “best
faculty was raillery,” and who was “for his pleasant and agreeable
humour acceptable unto the King.” The truth seems to be that, destitute
as Bennet was of all the higher qualifications of a minister, he had a
wonderful talent for becoming, in outward semblance, all things to all
men. He had two aspects, a busy and serious one for the public, whom he
wished to awe into respect, and a gay one for Charles, who thought that
the greatest service which could be rendered to a prince was to amuse
him. Yet both these were masks which he laid aside when they had
served their turn. Long after, when he had retired to his deer-park and
fish-ponds in Suffolk, and had no motive to act the part either of the
hidalgo or of the buffoon, Evelyn, who was neither an unpractised nor an
undiscerning judge, conversed much with him, and pronounced him to be a
man of singularly polished manners and of great colloquial powers.

Clarendon, proud and imperious by nature, soured by age and disease, and
relying on his great talents and services, sought out no new allies. He
seems to have taken a sort of morose pleasure in slighting and provoking
all the rising talent of the kingdom. His connections were almost
entirely confined to the small circle, every day becoming smaller, of
old cavaliers who had been friends of his youth or companions of his
exile. Arlington, on the other hand, beat up everywhere for recruits. No
man had a greater personal following, and no man exerted himself more
to serve his adherents. It was a kind of habit with him to push up his
dependants to his own level, and then to complain bitterly of their
ingratitude because they did not choose to be his dependants any longer.
It was thus that he quarrelled with two successive Treasurers, Gifford
and Danby. To Arlington Temple attached himself, and was not sparing of
warm professions of affection, or even, we grieve to say, of gross and
almost profane adulation. In no long time he obtained his reward.

England was in a very different situation with respect to foreign powers
from that which she had occupied during the splendid administration of
the Protector. She was engaged in war with the United Provinces, then
governed with almost regal power by the Grand Pensionary, John de Witt;
and though no war had ever cost the kingdom so much, none had ever been
more feebly and meanly conducted. France had espoused the interests of
the States-General. Denmark seemed likely to take the same side. Spain,
indignant at the close political and matrimonial alliance which Charles
had formed with the House of Braganza, was not disposed to lend him
any assistance. The great plague of London had suspended trade, had
scattered the ministers and nobles, had paralysed every department
of the public service, and had increased the gloomy discontent which
misgovernment had begun to excite throughout the nation. One continental
ally England possessed, the Bishop of Munster, a restless and ambitious
prelate, bred a soldier, and still a soldier in all his tastes and
passions. He hated the Dutch for interfering in the affairs of his see,
and declared himself willing to risk his little dominions for the
chance of revenge. He sent, accordingly, a strange kind of ambassador to
London, a Benedictine monk, who spoke bad English, and looked, says
Lord Clarendon, “like a carter.” This person brought a letter from the
Bishop, offering to make an attack by land on the Dutch territory. The
English ministers eagerly caught at the proposal, and promised a subsidy
of 500,000 rix-dollars to their new ally. It was determined to send
an English agent to Munster; and Arlington, to whose department the
business belonged, fixed on Temple for this post.

Temple accepted the commission, and acquitted himself to the
satisfaction of his employers, though the whole plan ended in nothing,
and the Bishop, finding that France had joined Holland, made haste,
after pocketing an instalment of his subsidy, to conclude a separate
peace. Temple, at a later period, looked back with no great satisfaction
to this part of his life; and excused himself for undertaking a
negotiation from which little good could result, by saying that he was
then young and very new to business. In truth, he could hardly have
been placed in a situation where the eminent diplomatic talents which he
possessed could have appeared to less advantage. He was ignorant of the
German language, and did not easily accommodate himself to the manners
of the people. He could not bear much wine; and none but a hard drinker
had any chance of success in Westphalian society. Under all these
disadvantages, however, he gave so much satisfaction that he was created
a Baronet, and appointed resident at the vice-regal court of Brussels.

Brussels suited Temple far better than the palaces of the boar-hunting
and wine-bibbing princes of Germany. He now occupied one of the
most important posts of observation in which a diplomatist could be
stationed. He was placed in the territory of a great neutral power,
between the territories of two great powers which were at war with
England. From this excellent school he soon came forth the most
accomplished negotiator of his age.

In the meantime the government of Charles had suffered a succession of
humiliating disasters. The extravagance of the court had dissipated all
the means which Parliament had supplied for the purpose of carrying on
offensive hostilities.

It was determined to wage only a defensive war; and even for defensive
war the vast resources of England, managed by triflers and public
robbers, were found insufficient. The Dutch insulted the British coasts,
sailed up the Thames, took Sheerness, and carried their ravages to
Chatham. The blaze of the ships burning in the river was seen at
London: it was rumoured that a foreign army had landed at Gravesend; and
military men seriously proposed to abandon the Tower. To such a depth
of infamy had a bad administration reduced that proud and victorious
country, which a few years before had dictated its pleasure to Mazarine,
to the States-General, and to the Vatican. Humbled by the events of the
war, and dreading the just anger of Parliament, the English Ministry
hastened to huddle up a peace with France and Holland at Breda.

But a new scheme was about to open. It had already been for some
time apparent to discerning observers, that England and Holland were
threatened by a common danger, much more formidable than any which
they had reason to apprehend from each other. The old enemy of their
independence and of their religion was no longer to be dreaded. The
sceptre had passed away from Spain. That mighty empire, on which the sun
never set, which had crushed the liberties of Italy and Germany, which
had occupied Paris with its armies, and covered the British seas with
its sails, was at the mercy of every spoiler; and Europe observed with
dismay the rapid growth of a new and more formidable power. Men looked
to Spain and saw only weakness disguised and increased by pride,
dominions of vast bulk and little strength, tempting, unwieldy, and
defenceless, an empty treasury, a sullen and torpid nation, a child
on the throne, factions in the council, ministers who served only
themselves, and soldiers who were terrible only to their countrymen. Men
looked to France, and saw a large and compact territory, a rich soil, a
central situation, a bold, alert, and ingenious people, large revenues,
numerous and well-disciplined troops, an active and ambitious prince, in
the flower of his age, surrounded by generals of unrivalled skill. The
projects of Lewis could be counteracted only by ability, vigour, and
union on the part of his neighbours. Ability and vigour had hitherto
been found in the councils of Holland alone, and of union there was no
appearance in Europe. The question of Portuguese independence
separated England from Spain. Old grudges, recent hostilities, maritime
pretensions, commercial competition separated England as widely from the
United Provinces.

The great object of Lewis, from the beginning to the end of his reign,
was the acquisition of those large and valuable provinces of the Spanish
monarchy, which lay contiguous to the eastern frontier of France.
Already, before the conclusion of the treaty of Breda, he had invaded
those provinces. He now pushed on his conquest with scarcely any
resistance. Fortress after fortress was taken. Brussels itself was in
danger; and Temple thought it wise to send his wife and children to
England. But his sister, Lady Giffard, who had been some time his
inmate, and who seems to have been a more important personage in his
family than his wife, still remained with him.

De Witt saw the progress of the French arms with painful anxiety. But
it was not in the power of Holland alone to save Flanders; and the
difficulty of forming an extensive coalition for that purpose appeared
almost insuperable. Lewis, indeed, affected moderation. He declared
himself willing to agree to a compromise with Spain. But these offers
were undoubtedly mere professions, intended to quiet the apprehensions
of the neighbouring powers; and, as his position became every day more
and more advantageous, it was to be expected that he would rise in his
demands.

Such was the state of affairs when Temple obtained from the English
Ministry permission to make a tour in Holland incognito. In company with
Lady Giffard he arrived at the Hague.

He was not charged with any public commission, but he availed himself of
this opportunity of introducing himself to De Witt. “My only business,
sir,” he said, “is to see the things which are most considerable in your
country, and I should execute my design very imperfectly if I went away
without seeing you.” De Witt, who from report had formed a high opinion
of Temple, was pleased by the compliment, and replied with a frankness
and cordiality which at once led to intimacy. The two statesmen talked
calmly over the causes which had estranged England from Holland,
congratulated each other on the peace, and then began to discuss the new
dangers which menaced Europe. Temple, who had no authority to say
any thing on behalf of the English Government, expressed himself very
guardedly. De Witt, who was himself the Dutch Government, had no reason
to be reserved. He openly declared that his wish was to see a general
coalition formed for the preservation of Flanders. His simplicity
and openness amazed Temple, who had been accustomed to the affected
solemnity of his patron, the Secretary, and to the eternal doublings and
evasions which passed for great feats of statesmanship among the Spanish
politicians at Brussels. “Whoever,” he wrote to Arlington, “deals
with M. de Witt must go the same plain way that he pretends to in his
negotiations, without refining or colouring or offering shadow for
substance.” Temple was scarcely less struck by the modest dwelling and
frugal table of the first citizen of the richest state in the world.
While Clarendon was amazing London with a dwelling more sumptuous than
the palace of his master, while Arlington was lavishing his ill-gotten
wealth on the decoys and orange-gardens and interminable conservatories
of Euston, the great statesman who had frustrated all their plans of
conquest, and the roar of whose guns they had heard with terror even in
the galleries of Whitehall, kept only a single servant, walked about the
streets in the plainest garb, and never used a coach except for visits
of ceremony.

Temple sent a full account of his interview with De Witt to Arlington,
who, in consequence of the fall of the Chancellor, now shared with the
Duke of Buckingham the principal direction of affairs. Arlington showed
no disposition to meet the advances of the Dutch minister. Indeed,
as was amply proved a few years later, both he and his masters were
perfectly willing to purchase the means of misgoverning England by
giving up, not only Flanders, but the whole Continent to France. Temple,
who distinctly saw that a moment had arrived at which it was possible
to reconcile his country with Holland, to reconcile Charles with the
Parliament, to bridle the power of Lewis, to efface the shame of the
late ignominious war, to restore England to the same place in Europe
which she had occupied under Cromwell, became more and more urgent in
his representations. Arlington’s replies were for some time couched in
cold and ambiguous terms. But the events which followed the meeting of
Parliament, in the autumn of 1667, appear to have produced an entire
change in his views. The discontent of the nation was deep and general.
The administration was attacked in all its parts. The King and the
ministers laboured, not unsuccessfully, to throw on Clarendon the blame
of past miscarriages; but though the Commons were resolved that the late
Chancellor should be the first victim, it was by no means clear that
he would be the last. The Secretary was personally attacked with great
bitterness in the course of the debates. One of the resolutions of the
Lower House against Clarendon was in truth a censure of the foreign
policy of the Government, as too favourable to France. To these events
chiefly we are inclined to attribute the change which at this crisis
took place in the measures of England. The Ministry seem to have felt
that, if they wished to derive any advantage from Clarendon’s downfall,
it was necessary for them to abandon what was supposed to be Clarendon’s
system, and by some splendid and popular measure to win the confidence
of the nation. Accordingly, in December 1667, Temple received a despatch
containing instructions of the highest importance. The plan which he had
so strongly recommended was approved; and he was directed to visit De
Witt as speedily as possible, and to ascertain whether the States were
willing to enter into an offensive and defensive league with England
against the projects of France. Temple, accompanied by his sister,
instantly set out for the Hague, and laid the propositions of the
English Government before the Grand Pensionary. The Dutch statesman
answered with characteristic straightforwardness, that he was fully
ready to agree to a defensive confederacy, but that it was the
fundamental principle of the foreign policy of the States to make no
offensive alliance under any circumstances whatever. With this answer
Temple hastened from the Hague to London, had an audience of the King,
related what had passed between himself and De Witt, exerted himself to
remove the unfavourable opinion which had been conceived of the Grand
Pensionary at the English Court, and had the satisfaction of succeeding
in all his objects. On the evening of the first of January, 1668, a
council was held, at which Charles declared his resolution to unite
with the Dutch on their own terms. Temple and his indefatigable sister
immediately sailed again for the Hague, and, after weathering a violent
storm in which they were very nearly lost, arrived in safety at the
place of their destination.

On this occasion, as on every other, the dealings between Temple and
De Witt were singularly fair and open. When they met, Temple began by
recapitulating what had passed at their last interview. De Witt, who was
as little given to lying with his face as with his tongue, marked his
assent by his looks while the recapitulation proceeded, and, when it
was concluded, answered that Temple’s memory was perfectly correct, and
thanked him for proceeding in so exact and sincere a manner. Temple then
informed the Grand Pensionary that the King of England had determined
to close with the proposal of a defensive alliance. De Witt had not
expected so speedy a resolution, and his countenance indicated surprise
as well as pleasure. But he did not retract; and it was speedily
arranged that England and Holland should unite for the purpose of
compelling Lewis to abide by the compromise which he had formerly
offered. The next object of the two statesmen was to induce another
government to become a party to their league. The victories of Gustavus
and Torstenson, and the political talents of Oxenstiern, had obtained
for Sweden a consideration in Europe, disproportioned to her real power:
the princes of Northern Germany stood in great awe of her; and De Witt
and Temple agreed that if she could be induced to accede to the league,
“it would be too strong a bar for France to venture on.” Temple went
that same evening to Count Dona, the Swedish Minister at the Hague, took
a seat in the most unceremonious manner, and, with that air of frankness
and goodwill by which he often succeeded in rendering his diplomatic
overtures acceptable, explained the scheme which was in agitation.
Dona was greatly pleased and flattered. He had not powers which would
authorise him to conclude a treaty of such importance. But he strongly
advised Temple and De Witt to do their part without delay, and seemed
confident that Sweden would accede. The ordinary course of public
business in Holland was too slow for the present emergency; and De Witt
appeared to have some scruples about breaking through the established
forms. But the urgency and dexterity of Temple prevailed. The
States-General took the responsibility of executing the treaty with
a celerity unprecedented in the annals of the federation, and indeed
inconsistent with its fundamental laws. The state of public feeling
was, however, such in all the provinces, that this irregularity was not
merely pardoned but applauded. When the instrument had been formally
signed, the Dutch Commissioners embraced the English Plenipotentiary
with the warmest expressions of kindness and confidence. “At Breda,”
exclaimed Temple, “we embraced as friends, here as brothers.”

This memorable negotiation occupied only five days. De Witt complimented
Temple in high terms on having effected in so short a time what must,
under other management, have been the work of months; and Temple, in his
despatches, spoke in equally high terms of De Witt. “I must add these
words, to do M. de Witt right, that I found him as plain, as direct and
square in the course of this business as any man could be, though often
stiff in points where he thought any advantage could accrue to his
country; and have all the reason in the world to be satisfied with him;
and for his industry, no man had ever more I am sure. For these five
days at least, neither of us spent any idle hours, neither day nor
night.”

Sweden willingly acceded to the league, which is known in history by the
name of the Triple Alliance; and, after some signs of ill-humour on the
part of France, a general pacification was the result.

The Triple Alliance may be viewed in two lights; as a measure of foreign
policy, and as a measure of domestic policy; and under both aspects it
seems to us deserving of all the praise which has been bestowed upon it.

Dr. Lingard, who is undoubtedly a very able and well-informed writer,
but whose great fundamental rule of judging seems to be that the popular
opinion on a historical question cannot possibly be correct, speaks
very slightingly of this celebrated treaty; and Mr. Courtenay, who by
no means regards Temple with that profound veneration which is generally
found in biographers, has conceded, in our opinion, far too much to Dr.
Lingard.

The reasoning of Dr. Lingard is simply this. The Triple Alliance only
compelled Lewis to make peace on the terms on which, before the alliance
was formed, he had offered to make peace. How can it then be said
that this alliance arrested his career, and preserved Europe from his
ambition? Now, this reasoning is evidently of no force at all, except on
the supposition that Lewis would have held himself bound by his former
offers, if the alliance had not been formed; and, if Dr. Lingard thinks
this is a reasonable supposition, we should be disposed to say to him,
in the words of that, great politician, Mrs. Western: “Indeed, brother,
you would make a fine plenipo to negotiate with the French. They
would soon persuade you that they take towns out of mere defensive
principles.” Our own impression is that Lewis made his offer only in
order to avert some such measure as the Triple Alliance, and adhered
to his offer only in consequence of that alliance. He had refused to
consent to an armistice. He had made all his arrangements for a winter
campaign. In the very week in which Temple and the States concluded
their agreement at the Hague, Franche Comte was attacked by the French
armies, and in three weeks the whole province was conquered. This prey
Lewis was compelled to disgorge. And what compelled him? Did the object
seem to him small or contemptible? On the contrary, the annexation of
Franche Comte to his kingdom was one of the favourite projects of his
life. Was he withheld by regard for his word? Did he, who never in any
other transaction of his reign showed the smallest respect for the
most solemn obligations of public faith, who violated the Treaty of the
Pyrenees, who violated the Treaty of Aix, who violated the Treaty of
Nimeguen, who violated the Partition Treaty, who violated the Treaty of
Utrecht, feel himself restrained by his word on this single occasion?
Can any person who is acquainted with his character and with his whole
policy doubt that, if the neighbouring powers would have looked quietly
on, he would instantly have risen in his demands? How then stands the
case? He wished to keep Franche Comte It was not from regard to his
word that he ceded Franche Comte. Why then did he cede Franche Comte?
We answer, as all Europe answered at the time, from fear of the Triple
Alliance.

But grant that Lewis was not really stopped in his progress by this
famous league; still it is certain that the world then, and long after,
believed that he was so stopped, and that this was the prevailing
impression in France as well as in other countries. Temple, therefore,
at the very least, succeeded in raising the credit of his country,
and in lowering the credit of a rival power. Here there is no room for
controversy. No grubbing among old state-papers will ever bring to light
any document which will shake these facts; that Europe believed the
ambition of France to have been curbed by the three powers; that
England, a few months before the last among the nations, forced to
abandon her own seas, unable to defend the mouths of her own rivers,
regained almost as high a place in the estimation of her neighbours as
she had held in the times of Elizabeth and Oliver; and that all this
change of opinion was produced in five days by wise and resolute
counsels, without the firing of a single gun. That the Triple Alliance
effected this will hardly be disputed; and therefore, even if it
effected nothing else, it must still be regarded as a masterpiece of
diplomacy.

Considered as a measure of domestic policy, this treaty seems to be
equally deserving of approbation. It did much to allay discontents,
to reconcile the sovereign with a people who had, under his wretched
administration, become ashamed of him and of themselves. It was a kind
of pledge for internal good government. The foreign relations of the
kingdom had at that time the closest connection with our domestic
policy. From the Restoration to the accession of the House of Hanover,
Holland and France were to England what the right-hand horseman and the
left-hand horseman in Burger’s fine ballad were to the Wildgraf, the
good and the evil counsellor, the angel of light and the angel of
darkness. The ascendency of France was as inseparably connected with the
prevalence of tyranny in domestic affairs. The ascendency of Holland was
as inseparably connected with the prevalence of political liberty and
of mutual toleration among Protestant sects. How fatal and degrading an
influence Lewis was destined to exercise on the British counsels, how
great a deliverance our country was destined to owe to the States, could
not be foreseen when the Triple Alliance was concluded. Yet even
then all discerning men considered it as a good omen for the English
constitution and the reformed religion, that the Government had attached
itself to Holland, and had assumed a firm and somewhat hostile attitude
towards France. The fame of this measure was the greater, because it
stood so entirely alone. It was the single eminently good act performed
by the Government during the interval between the Restoration and the
Revolution. [“The only good public thing that hath been done since the
King came into England.”--PEPYS’S Diary, February 14, 1667-8.] Every
person who had the smallest part in it, and some who had no part in
it at all, battled for a share of the credit. The most parsimonious
republicans were ready to grant money for the purpose of carrying into
effect the provisions of this popular alliance; and the great Tory poet
of that age, in his finest satires, repeatedly spoke with reverence of
the “triple bond.”

This negotiation raised the fame of Temple both at home and abroad to
a great height, to such a height, indeed, as seems to have excited the
jealousy of his friend Arlington. While London and Amsterdam resounded
with acclamations of joy, the Secretary, in very cold official language,
communicated to his friend the approbation of the King; and, lavish
as the Government was of titles and of money, its ablest servant was
neither ennobled nor enriched.

Temple’s next mission was to Aix-la-Chapelle, where a general congress
met for the purpose of perfecting the work of the Triple Alliance. On
his road he received abundant proofs of the estimation in which he was
held. Salutes were fired from the walls of the towns through which lie
passed; the population poured forth into the streets to see him; and the
magistrates entertained him with speeches and banquets. After the close
of the negotiations at Aix he was appointed Ambassador at the Hague. But
in both these missions he experienced much vexation from the rigid, and,
indeed, unjust parsimony of the Government. Profuse to many unworthy
applicants, the Ministers were niggardly to him alone. They secretly
disliked his politics; and they seem to have indemnified themselves for
the humiliation of adopting his measures, by cutting down his salary and
delaying the settlement of his outfit.

At the Hague he was received with cordiality by De Witt, and with the
most signal marks of respect by the States-General. His situation was
in one point extremely delicate. The Prince of Orange, the hereditary
chief of the faction opposed to the administration of De Witt, was
the nephew of Charles. To preserve the confidence of the ruling party,
without showing any want of respect to so near a relation of his own
master, was no easy task, But Temple acquitted himself so well that he
appears to have been in great favour, both with the Grand Pensionary and
with the Prince.

In the main, the years which he spent at the Hague seem, in spite of
some pecuniary difficulties occasioned by the ill-will of the English
Ministers, to have passed very agreeably. He enjoyed the highest
personal consideration. He was surrounded by objects interesting in the
highest degree to a man of his observant turn of mind. He had no wearing
labour, no heavy responsibility; and, if he had no opportunity of adding
to his high reputation, he ran no risk of impairing it.

But evil times were at hand. Though Charles had for a moment deviated
into a wise and dignified policy, his heart had always been with France;
and France employed every means of seduction to lure him back. His
impatience of control, his greediness for money, his passion for beauty,
his family affections, all his tastes, all his feelings, were practised
on with the utmost dexterity. His interior Cabinet was now composed of
men such as that generation, and that generation alone, produced; of men
at whose audacious profligacy the renegades and jobbers of our own time
look with the same sort of admiring despair with which our sculptors
contemplate the Theseus, and our painters the Cartoons. To be a real,
hearty, deadly enemy of the liberties and religion of the nation was,
in that dark conclave, an honourable distinction, a distinction which
belonged only to the daring and impetuous Clifford. His associates
were men to whom all creeds and all constitutions were alike; who were
equally ready to profess the faith of Geneva, of Lambeth, and of
Rome; who were equally ready to be tools of power without any sense of
loyalty, and stirrers of sedition without any zeal for freedom.

It was hardly possible even for a man so penetrating as De Witt
to foresee to what depths of wickedness and infamy this execrable
administration would descend. Yet, many signs of the great woe which was
coming on Europe, the visit of the Duchess of Orleans to her brother,
the unexplained mission of Buckingham to Paris, the sudden occupation of
Lorraine by the French, made the Grand Pensionary uneasy, and his alarm
increased when he learned that Temple had received orders to repair
instantly to London. De Witt earnestly pressed for an explanation.
Temple very sincerely replied that he hoped that the English Ministers
would adhere to the principles of the Triple Alliance. “I can answer,”
he said, “only for myself. But that I can do. If a new system is to be
adopted, I will never have any part in it. I have told the King so; and
I will make my words good. If I return you will know more: and if I do
not return you will guess more.” De Witt smiled, and answered that he
would hope the best, and would do all in his power to prevent others
from forming unfavourable surmises.

In October 1670, Temple reached London; and all his worst suspicions
were immediately more than confirmed. He repaired to the Secretary’s
house, and was kept an hour and a half waiting in the ante-chamber,
whilst Lord Ashley was closeted with Arlington. When at length the doors
were thrown open, Arlington was dry and cold, asked trifling questions
about the voyage, and then, in order to escape from the necessity of
discussing business, called in his daughter, an engaging little girl of
three years old, who was long after described by poets “as dressed in
all the bloom of smiling nature,” and whom Evelyn, one of the witnesses
of her inauspicious marriage, mournfully designated as “the sweetest,
hopefullest, most beautiful, child, and most virtuous too.” Any
particular conversation was impossible: and Temple, who with all his
constitutional or philosophical indifference, was sufficiently sensitive
on the side of vanity, felt this treatment keenly. The next day he
offered himself to the notice of the King, who was snuffing up the
morning air and feeding his ducks in the Mall. Charles was civil, but,
like Arlington, carefully avoided all conversation on politics. Temple
found that all his most respectable friends were entirely excluded from
the secrets of the inner council, and were awaiting in anxiety and dread
for what those mysterious deliberations might produce. At length he
obtained a glimpse of light. The bold spirit and fierce passions of
Clifford made him the most unfit of all men to be the keeper of a
momentous secret. He told Temple, with great vehemence, that the States
had behaved basely, that De Witt was a rogue and a rascal, that it was
below the King of England, or any other king, to have anything to do
with such wretches; that this ought to be made known to all the world,
and that it was the duty of the Minister of the Hague to declare it
publicly. Temple commanded his temper as well as he could, and replied
calmly and firmly, that he should make no such declaration, and that,
if he were called upon to give his opinion of the States and their
Ministers, he would say exactly what he thought.

He now saw clearly that the tempest was gathering fast, that the great
alliance which he had formed and over which he had watched with parental
care was about to be dissolved, that times were at hand when it would be
necessary for him, if he continued in public life, either to take part
decidedly against the Court, or to forfeit the high reputation which he
enjoyed at home and abroad. He began to make preparations for retiring
altogether from business. He enlarged a little garden which he had
purchased at Sheen, and laid out some money in ornamenting his house
there. He was still nominally ambassador to Holland; and the English
Ministers continued during some months to flatter the States with the
hope that he would speedily return. At length, in June 1671, the
designs of the Cabal were ripe. The infamous treaty with France had been
ratified. The season of deception was past, and that of insolence and
violence had arrived. Temple received his formal dismission, kissed
the King’s hand, was repaid for his services with some of those vague
compliments and promises which cost so little to the cold heart, the
easy temper, and the ready tongue of Charles, and quietly withdrew to
his little nest, as he called it, at Sheen.

There he amused himself with gardening, which he practised so
successfully that the fame of his fruit-trees soon spread far and wide.
But letters were his chief solace. He had, as we have mentioned, been
from his youth in the habit of diverting himself with composition. The
clear and agreeable language of his despatches had early attracted the
notice of his employers; and, before the peace of Breda, he had, at the
request of Arlington, published a pamphlet on the war, of which nothing
is now known, except that it had some vogue at the time, and that
Charles, not a contemptible judge, pronounced it to be very well
written. Temple had also, a short time before he began to reside at the
Hague, written a treatise on the state of Ireland, in which he showed
all the feelings of a Cromwellian. He had gradually formed a style
singularly lucid and melodious, superficially deformed, indeed, by
Gallicisms and Hispanicisms, picked up in travel or in negotiation, but
at the bottom pure English, which generally flowed along with careless
simplicity, but occasionally rose even into Ciceronian magnificence.
The length of his sentences has often been remarked. But in truth
this length is only apparent. A critic who considers as one sentence
everything that lies between two full stops will undoubtedly call
Temple’s sentences long. But a critic who examines them carefully will
find that they are not swollen by parenthetical matter, that their
structure is scarcely ever intricate, that they are formed merely by
accumulation, and that, by the simple process of now and then leaving
out a conjunction, and now and then substituting a full stop for a
semicolon, they might, without any alteration in the order of the words,
be broken up into very short periods with no sacrifice except that of
euphony. The long sentences of Hooker and Clarendon, on the contrary,
are really long sentences, and cannot be turned into short ones, without
being entirely taken to pieces.

The best known of the works which Temple composed during his first
retreat from official business are an Essay on Government, which seems
to us exceedingly childish, and an Account of the United Provinces,
which we value as a masterpiece in its kind. Whoever compares these two
treatises will probably agree with us in thinking that Temple was not a
very deep or accurate reasoner, but was an excellent observer, that he
had no call to philosophical speculation, but that he was qualified to
excel as a writer of Memoirs and Travels.

While Temple was engaged in these pursuits, the great storm which had
long been brooding over Europe burst with such fury as for a moment
seemed to threaten ruin to all free governments and all Protestant
churches. France and England, without seeking for any decent pretext,
declared war against Holland. The immense armies of Lewis poured across
the Rhine, and invaded the territory of the United Provinces. The Dutch
seemed to be paralysed by terror. Great towns opened their gates to
straggling parties. Regiments flung down their arms without seeing an
enemy. Guelderland, Overyssel, Utrecht were overrun by the conquerors.
The fires of the French camp were seen from the walls of Amsterdam.
In the first madness of despair the devoted people turned their rage
against the most illustrious of their fellow-citizens. De Ruyter was
saved with difficulty from assassins. De Witt was torn to pieces by an
infuriated rabble. No hope was left to the Commonwealth, save in the
dauntless, the ardent, the indefatigable, the unconquerable spirit which
glowed under the frigid demeanour of the young Prince of Orange.

That great man rose at once to the full dignity of his part, and
approved himself a worthy descendant of the line of heroes who had
vindicated the liberties of Europe against the house of Austria. Nothing
could shake his fidelity to his country, not his close connection with
the royal family of England, not the most earnest solicitations, not the
most tempting offers. The spirit of the nation, that spirit which had
maintained the great conflict against the gigantic power of Philip,
revived in all its strength. Counsels, such as are inspired by a
generous despair, and are almost always followed by a speedy dawn of
hope, were gravely concerted by the statesmen of Holland. To open their
dykes, to man their ships, to leave their country, with all its miracles
of art and industry, its cities, its canals, its villas, its pastures,
and its tulip gardens, buried under the waves of the German ocean, to
bear to a distant climate their Calvinistic faith and their old Batavian
liberties, to fix, perhaps with happier auspices, the new Stadthouse of
their Commonwealth, under other stars, and amidst a strange vegetation,
in the Spice Islands of the Eastern seas; such were the plans which they
had the spirit to form; and it is seldom that men who have the spirit to
form such plans are reduced to the necessity of executing them.

The Allies had, during a short period, obtained success beyond their
hopes. This was their auspicious moment. They neglected to improve it.
It passed away; and it returned no more. The Prince of Orange arrested
the progress of the French armies. Lewis returned to be amused and
flattered at Versailles. The country was under water. The winter
approached. The weather became stormy. The fleets of the combined kings
could no longer keep the sea. The republic had obtained a respite; and
the circumstances were such that a respite was, in a military view,
important, in a political view almost decisive.

The alliance against Holland, formidable as it was, was yet of such a
nature that it could not succeed at all, unless it succeeded at once.
The English Ministers could not carry on the war without money. They
could legally obtain money only from the Parliament and they were most
unwilling to call the Parliament together. The measures which Charles
had adopted at home were even more unpopular than his foreign policy.
He had bound himself by a treaty with Lewis to re-establish the Catholic
religion in England; and, in pursuance of this design, he had entered on
the same path which his brother afterwards trod with greater obstinacy
to a more fatal end. The King had annulled, by his own sole authority,
the laws against Catholics and other dissenters. The matter of the
Declaration of Indulgence exasperated one-half of his subjects, and
the manner the other half. Liberal men would have rejoiced to see
a toleration granted, at least to all Protestant sects. Many High
Churchmen had no objection to the King’s dispensing power. But a
tolerant act done in an unconstitutional way excited the opposition of
all who were zealous either for the Church or for the privileges of the
people, that is to say, of ninety-nine Englishmen out of a hundred. The
Ministers were, therefore, most unwilling to meet the Houses. Lawless
and desperate as their counsels were, the boldest of them had too much
value for his neck to think of resorting to benevolences, privy-seals,
ship-money, or any of the other unlawful modes of extortion which had
been familiar to the preceding age. The audacious fraud of shutting up
the Exchequer furnished them with about twelve hundred thousand pounds,
a sum which, even in better hands than theirs, would not have sufficed
for the war-charges of a single year. And this was a step which could
never be repeated, a step which, like most breaches of public faith, was
speedily found to have caused pecuniary difficulties greater than those
which it removed. All the money that could be raised was gone; Holland
was not conquered; and the King had no resource but in a Parliament.

Had a general election taken place at this crisis, it is probable that
the country would have sent up representatives as resolutely hostile to
the Court as those who met in November 1640; that the whole domestic and
foreign policy of the Government would have been instantly changed; and
that the members of the Cabal would have expiated their crimes on Tower
Hill. But the House of Commons was still the same which had been elected
twelve years before, in the midst of the transports of joy, repentance,
and loyalty which followed the Restoration; and no pains had been spared
to attach it to the Court by places, pensions, and bribes. To the great
mass of the people it was scarcely less odious than the Cabinet itself.
Yet, though it did not immediately proceed to those strong measures
which a new House would in all probability have adopted, it was sullen
and unmanageable, and undid, slowly indeed, and by degrees, but
most effectually, all that the Ministers had done. In one session it
annihilated their system of internal government. In a second session it
gave a death-blow to their foreign policy.

The dispensing power was the first object of attack. The Commons would
not expressly approve the war; but neither did they as yet expressly
condemn it; and they were even willing to grant the King a supply
for the purpose of continuing hostilities, on condition that he would
redress internal grievances, among which the Declaration of Indulgence
held the foremost place.

Shaftesbury, who was Chancellor, saw that the game was up, that he had
got all that was to be got by siding with despotism and Popery, and that
it was high time to think of being a demagogue and a good Protestant.
The Lord Treasurer Clifford was marked out by his boldness, by his
openness, by his zeal for the Catholic religion, by something which,
compared with the villainy of his colleagues, might almost be called
honesty, to be the scapegoat of the whole conspiracy. The King came
in person to the House of Peers for the purpose of requesting
their Lordships to mediate between him and the Commons touching the
Declaration of Indulgence. He remained in the House while his speech was
taken into consideration; a common practice with him; for the debates
amused his sated mind, and were sometimes, he used to say, as good as a
comedy. A more sudden turn his Majesty had certainly never seen in any
comedy of intrigue, either at his own play-house, or at the Duke’s, than
that which this memorable debate produced. The Lord Treasurer spoke with
characteristic ardour and intrepidity in defence of the Declaration.
When he sat down, the Lord Chancellor rose from the woolsack, and, to
the amazement of the King and of the House, attacked Clifford, attacked
the Declaration for which he had himself spoken in Council, gave up the
whole policy of the Cabinet, and declared himself on the side of the
House of Commons. Even that age had not witnessed so portentous a
display of impudence.

The King, by the advice of the French Court, which cared much more
about the war on the Continent than about the conversion of the English
heretics, determined to save his foreign policy at the expense of his
plans in favour of the Catholic church. He obtained a supply; and in
return for this concession he cancelled the Declaration of Indulgence,
and made a formal renunciation of the dispensing power before he
prorogued the Houses.

But it was no more in his power to go on with the war than to maintain
his arbitrary system at home. His Ministry, betrayed within, and
fiercely assailed from without, went rapidly to pieces. Clifford threw
down the white staff, and retired to the woods of Ugbrook, vowing, with
bitter tears, that he would never again see that turbulent city, and
that perfidious Court. Shaftesbury was ordered to deliver up the Great
Seal, and instantly carried over his front of brass and his tongue of
poison to the ranks of the Opposition. The remaining members of the
Cabal had neither the capacity of the late Chancellor, nor the courage
and enthusiasm of the late Treasurer. They were not only unable to carry
on their former projects, but began to tremble for their own lands and
heads. The Parliament, as soon as it again met, began to murmur against
the alliance with France and the war with Holland; and the murmur
gradually swelled into a fierce and terrible clamour. Strong resolutions
were adopted against Lauderdale and Buckingham. Articles of impeachment
were exhibited against Arlington. The Triple Alliance was mentioned with
reverence in every debate; and the eyes of all men were turned towards
the quiet orchard, where the author of that great league was amusing
himself with reading and gardening.

Temple was ordered to attend the King, and was charged with the office
of negotiating a separate peace with Holland. The Spanish Ambassador to
the Court of London had been empowered by the States-General to treat
in their name. With him Temple came to a speedy agreement; and in three
days a treaty was concluded.

The highest honours of the State were now within Temple’s reach. After
the retirement of Clifford, the white staff had been delivered to Thomas
Osborne, soon after created Earl of Danby, who was related to Lady
Temple, and had, many years earlier, travelled and played tennis with
Sir William. Danby was an interested and dishonest man, but by no means
destitute of abilities or of judgment. He was, indeed, a far better
adviser than any in whom Charles had hitherto reposed confidence.
Clarendon was a man of another generation, and did not in the least
understand the society which he had to govern. The members of the
Cabal were ministers of a foreign power, and enemies of the Established
Church; and had in consequence raised against themselves and their
master an irresistible storm of national and religious hatred. Danby
wished to strengthen and extend the prerogative; but he had the sense to
see that this could be done only by a complete change of system. He knew
the English people and the House of Commons; and he knew that the course
which Charles had recently taken, if obstinately pursued, might well end
before the windows of the Banqueting-House. He saw that the true policy
of the Crown was to ally itself, not with the feeble, the hated, the
downtrodden Catholics, but with the powerful, the wealthy, the popular,
the dominant Church of England; to trust for aid not to a foreign Prince
whose name was hateful to the British nation, and whose succours could
be obtained only on terms of vassalage, but to the old Cavalier party,
to the landed gentry, the clergy, and the universities. By rallying
round the throne the whole strength of the Royalists and High Churchmen,
and by using without stint all the resources of corruption, he flattered
himself that he could manage the Parliament. That he failed is to
be attributed less to himself than to his master. Of the disgraceful
dealings which were still kept up with the French Court, Danby deserved
little or none of the blame, though he suffered the whole punishment.

Danby, with great parliamentary talents, had paid little attention to
European politics, and wished for the help of some person on whom he
could rely in the foreign department. A plan was accordingly arranged
for making Temple Secretary of State. Arlington was the only member of
the Cabal who still held office in England. The temper of the House of
Commons made it necessary to remove him, or rather to require him to
sell out; for at that time the great offices of State were bought and
sold as commissions in the army now are. Temple was informed that he
should have the Seals if he would pay Arlington six thousand pounds. The
transaction had nothing in it discreditable, according to the notions of
that age, and the investment would have been a good one; for we imagine
that at that time the gains which a Secretary of State might make,
without doing any thing considered as improper, were very considerable.
Temple’s friends offered to lend him the money; but he was fully
determined not to take a post of so much responsibility in times so
agitated, and under a Prince on whom so little reliance could be placed,
and accepted the embassy to the Hague, leaving Arlington to find another
purchaser.

Before Temple left England he had a long audience of the King, to
whom he spoke with great severity of the measures adopted by the late
Ministry. The King owned that things had turned out ill. “But,” said he,
“if I had been well served, I might have made a good business of it.”
Temple was alarmed at this language, and inferred from it that the
system of the Cabal had not been abandoned, but only suspended. He
therefore thought it his duty to go, as he expresses it, “to the bottom
of the matter.” He strongly represented to the King the impossibility
of establishing either absolute government, or the Catholic religion in
England; and concluded by repeating an observation which he had heard at
Brussels from M. Gourville, a very intelligent Frenchman well known to
Charles: “A king of England,” said Gourville, “who is willing to be the
man of his people, is the greatest king in the world, but if he wishes
to be more, by heaven he is nothing at all!” The King betrayed some
symptoms of impatience during this lecture; but at last he laid his
hand kindly on Temple’s shoulder, and said, “You are right, and so is
Gourville; and I will be the man of my people.”

With this assurance Temple repaired to the Hague in July 1674. Holland
was now secure, and France was surrounded on every side by enemies.
Spain and the Empire were in arms for the purpose of compelling Lewis
to abandon all that he had acquired since the treaty of the Pyrenees.
A congress for the purpose of putting an end to the war was opened at
Nimeguen under the mediation of England in 1675; and to that congress
Temple was deputed. The work of conciliation however, went on very
slowly. The belligerent powers were still sanguine, and the mediating
power was unsteady and insincere.

In the meantime the Opposition in England became more and more
formidable, and seemed fully determined to force the King into a war
with France. Charles was desirous of making some appointments which
might strengthen the administration and conciliate the confidence of the
public. No man was more esteemed by the nation than Temple; yet he had
never been concerned in any opposition to any government. In July 1677,
he was sent for from Nimeguen. Charles received him with caresses,
earnestly pressed him to accept the seals of Secretary of State, and
promised to bear half the charge of buying out the present holder.
Temple was charmed by the kindness and politeness of the King’s manner,
and by the liveliness of his Majesty’s conversation; but his prudence
was not to be so laid asleep. He calmly and steadily excused himself.
The King affected to treat his excuses as mere jest, and gaily said,
“Go; get you gone to Sheen. We shall have no good of you till you have
been there; and when you have rested yourself, come up again.” Temple
withdrew and stayed two days at his villa, but returned to town in the
same mind; and the King was forced to consent at least to a delay.

But while Temple thus carefully shunned the responsibility of bearing a
part in the general direction of affairs, he gave a signal proof of
that never-failing sagacity which enabled him to find out ways of
distinguishing himself without risk. He had a principal share in
bringing about an event which was at the time hailed with general
satisfaction, and which subsequently produced consequences of the
highest importance. This was the marriage of the Prince of Orange and
the Lady Mary.

In the following year Temple returned to the Hague; and thence he was
ordered, in the close of 1678, to repair to Nimeguen, for the purpose of
signing the hollow and unsatisfactory treaty by which the distractions
of Europe were for a short time suspended. He grumbled much at being
required to affix his name to bad articles which he had not framed,
and still more at having to travel in very cold weather. After all, a
difficulty of etiquette prevented him from signing, and he returned to
the Hague. Scarcely had he arrived there when he received intelligence
that the King, whose embarrassments were now far greater than ever, was
fully resolved immediately to appoint him Secretary of State. He a
third time declined that high post, and began to make preparations for
a journey to Italy; thinking, doubtless, that he should spend his time
much more pleasantly among pictures and ruins than in such a whirlpool
of political and religious frenzy as was then raging in London.

But the King was in extreme necessity, and was no longer to be so easily
put off. Temple received positive orders to repair instantly to England.
He obeyed, and found the country in a state even more fearful than that
which he had pictured to himself.

Those are terrible conjunctures, when the discontents of a nation,
not light and capricious discontents, but discontents which have been
steadily increasing during a long series of years, have attained
their full maturity. The discerning few predict the approach of these
conjunctures, but predict in vain. To the many, the evil season comes as
a total eclipse of the sun at noon comes to a people of savages. Society
which, but a short time before, was in a state of perfect repose, is on
a sudden agitated with the most fearful convulsions, and seems to be
on the verge of dissolution; and the rulers who, till the mischief
was beyond the reach of all ordinary remedies, had never bestowed one
thought on its existence, stand bewildered and panic-stricken, without
hope or resource, in the midst of the confusion. One such conjuncture
this generation has seen. God grant that we may never see another! At
such a conjuncture it was that Temple landed on English ground in the
beginning of 1679.

The Parliament had obtained a glimpse of the King’s dealings with
France; and their anger had been unjustly directed against Danby, whose
conduct as to that matter had been, on the whole, deserving rather of
praise than of censure. The Popish plot, the murder of Godfrey, the
infamous inventions of Oates, the discovery of Colman’s letters, had
excited the nation to madness. All the disaffection which had been
generated by eighteen years of misgovernment had come to the birth
together. At this moment the King had been advised to dissolve that
Parliament which had been elected just after his restoration, and which,
though its composition had since that time been greatly altered, was
still far more deeply imbued with the old cavalier spirit than any that
had preceded, or that was likely to follow it. The general election had
commenced, and was proceeding with a degree of excitement never before
known. The tide ran furiously against the Court. It was clear that a
majority of the new House of Commons would be, to use a word which came
into fashion a few months later, decided Whigs. Charles had found it
necessary to yield to the violence of the public feeling. The Duke of
York was on the point of retiring to Holland. “I never,” says Temple,
who had seen the abolition of monarchy, the dissolution of the Long
Parliament, the fall of the Protectorate, the declaration of Monk
against the Rump, “I never saw greater disturbance in men’s minds.”

The King now with the utmost urgency besought Temple to take the
seals. The pecuniary part of the arrangement no longer presented any
difficulty; and Sir William was not quite so decided in his refusal
as he had formerly been. He took three days to consider the posture of
affairs, and to examine his own feelings; and he came to the conclusion
that “the scene was unfit for such an actor as he knew himself to be.”
Yet he felt that, by refusing help to the King at such a crisis, he
might give much offence and incur much censure. He shaped his course
with his usual dexterity. He affected to be very desirous of a seat in
Parliament; yet he contrived to be an unsuccessful candidate; and, when
all the writs were returned, he represented that it would be useless for
him to take the seals till he could procure admittance to the House of
Commons; and in this manner he succeeded in avoiding the greatness which
others desired to thrust upon him.

The Parliament met; and the violence of its proceedings surpassed all
expectation. The Long Parliament itself, with much greater provocation,
had at its commencement been less violent. The Treasurer was instantly
driven from office, impeached, sent to the Tower. Sharp and vehement
votes were passed on the subject of the Popish Plot. The Commons were
prepared to go much further, to wrest from the King his prerogative of
mercy in cases of high political crimes, and to alter the succession to
the Crown. Charles was thoroughly perplexed and dismayed. Temple saw him
almost daily and thought him impressed with a deep sense of his errors,
and of the miserable state into which they had brought him. Their
conferences became longer and more confidential; and Temple began to
flatter himself with the hope that he might be able to reconcile parties
at home as he had reconciled hostile States abroad; that he might be
able to suggest a plan which should allay all heats, efface the memory
of all past grievances, secure the nation from misgovernment, and
protect the Crown against the encroachments of Parliament.

Temple’s plan was that the existing Privy Council, which consisted of
fifty members, should be dissolved, that there should no longer be
a small interior council, like that which is now designated as the
Cabinet, that a new Privy Council of thirty members should be appointed,
and that the King should pledge himself to govern by the constant advice
of this body, to suffer all his affairs of every kind to be freely
debated there, and not to reserve any part of the public business for a
secret committee.

Fifteen of the members of this new council were to be great officers of
State. The other fifteen were to be independent noblemen and gentlemen
of the greatest weight in the country. In appointing them particular
regard was to be had to the amount of their property. The whole annual
income of the counsellors was estimated at £300,000. The annual income
of all the members of the House of Commons was not supposed to exceed
£400,000 The appointment of wealthy counsellors Temple describes as “a
chief regard, necessary to this constitution.”

This plan was the subject of frequent conversation between the King and
Temple. After a month passed in discussions to which no third person
appears to have been privy, Charles declared himself satisfied of
the expediency of the proposed measure, and resolved to carry it into
effect.

It is much to be regretted that Temple has left us no account of these
conferences. Historians have, therefore, been left to form their own
conjectures as to the object of this very extraordinary plan, “this
Constitution,” as Temple himself calls it. And we cannot say that any
explanation which has yet been given seems to us quite satisfactory.
Indeed, almost all the writers whom we have consulted appear to consider
the change as merely a change of administration, and so considering it,
they generally applaud it. Mr. Courtenay, who has evidently examined
this subject with more attention than has often been bestowed upon it,
seems to think Temple’s scheme very strange, unintelligible, and absurd.
It is with very great diffidence that we offer our own solution of what
we have always thought one of the great riddles of English history. We
are strongly inclined to suspect that the appointment of the new Privy
Council was really a much more remarkable event than has generally been
supposed, and that what Temple had in view was to effect, under colour
of a change of administration, a permanent change in the Constitution.

The plan, considered merely as a plan for the formation of a Cabinet,
is so obviously inconvenient, that we cannot easily believe this to have
been Temple’s chief object. The number of the new Council alone would be
a most serious objection. The largest Cabinets of modern times have not,
we believe, consisted of more than fifteen members. Even this number has
generally been thought too large. The Marquess Wellesley, whose judgment
on a question of executive administration is entitled to as much respect
as that of any statesman that England ever produced, expressed, during
the ministerial negotiations of the year 1812, his conviction that even
thirteen was an inconveniently large number. But in a Cabinet of
thirty members what chance could there be of finding unity, secrecy,
expedition, any of the qualities which such a body ought to possess?
If, indeed, the members of such a Cabinet were closely bound together
by interest, if they all had a deep stake in the permanence of the
Administration, if the majority were dependent on a small number of
leading men, the thirty might perhaps act as a smaller number would
act, though more slowly, more awkwardly, and with more risk of improper
disclosures. But the Council which Temple proposed was so framed that
if, instead of thirty members, it had contained only ten, it would still
have been the most unwieldy and discordant Cabinet that ever sat. One
half of the members were to be persons holding no office, persons who
had no motive to compromise their opinions, or to take any share of the
responsibility of an unpopular measure, persons, therefore, who might be
expected as often as there might be a crisis requiring the most cordial
co-operation, to draw off from the rest, and to throw every difficulty
in the way of the public business. The circumstance that they were men
of enormous private wealth only made the matter worse. The House of
Commons is a checking body; and therefore it is desirable that it
should, to a great extent, consist of men of independent fortune,
who receive nothing and expect nothing from the Government. But with
executive boards the case is quite different. Their business is not
to check, but to act. The very same things, therefore, which are the
virtues of Parliaments may be vices in Cabinets. We can hardly conceive
a greater curse to the country than an Administration, the members of
which should be as perfectly independent of each other, and as little
under the necessity of making mutual concessions, as the representatives
of London and Devonshire in the House of Commons are and ought to be.
Now Temple’s new Council was to contain fifteen members who were to
hold no offices, and the average amount of whose private estates was ten
thousand pounds a year, an income which, in proportion to the wants of a
man of rank of that period, was at least equal to thirty thousand a year
in our time. Was it to be expected that such men would gratuitously
take on themselves the labour and responsibility of Ministers, and the
unpopularity which the best Ministers must sometimes be prepared to
brave? Could there be any doubt that an Opposition would soon be formed
within the Cabinet itself, and that the consequence would be disunion,
altercation, tardiness in operations, the divulging of secrets,
everything most alien from the nature of an executive council?

Is it possible to imagine that considerations so grave and so obvious
should have altogether escaped the notice of a man of Temple’s sagacity
and experience? One of two things appears to us to be certain, either
that his project has been misunderstood, or that his talents for public
affairs have been overrated.

We lean to the opinion that his project has been misunderstood. His new
Council, as we have shown, would have been an exceedingly bad Cabinet.
The inference which we are inclined to draw is this, that he meant
his Council to serve some other purpose than that of a mere Cabinet.
Barillon used four or five words which contain, we think, the key of the
whole mystery. Mr. Courtenay calls them pithy words; but he does not,
if we are right, apprehend their whole force. “Ce sont,” said Barillon,
“des Etats, non des conseils.”

In order clearly to understand what we imagine to have been Temple’s
views, the reader must remember that the Government of England was at
that moment, and had been during nearly eighty years, in a state of
transition. A change, not the less real or the less extensive because
disguised under ancient names and forms, was in constant progress. The
theory of the Constitution, the fundamental laws which fix the powers
of the three branches of the legislature, underwent no material change
between the time of Elizabeth and the time of William the Third. The
most celebrated laws of the seventeenth century on those subjects, the
Petition of Right, the Declaration of Right, are purely declaratory.
They purport to be merely recitals of the old polity of England. They do
not establish free government as a salutary improvement, but claim it as
an undoubted and immemorial inheritance. Nevertheless, there can be
no doubt that, during the period of which we speak, all the mutual
relations of all the orders of the State did practically undergo an
entire change. The letter of the law might be unaltered; but, at the
beginning of the seventeenth century, the power of the Crown was, in
fact, decidedly predominant in the State; and at the end of that century
the power of Parliament, and especially of the Lower House, had become,
in fact, decidedly predominant. At the beginning of the century, the
sovereign perpetually violated, with little or no opposition, the clear
privileges of Parliament. At the close of the century, the Parliament
had virtually drawn to itself just as much as it chose of the
prerogative of the Crown. The sovereign retained the shadow of
that authority of which the Tudors had held the substance. He had
a legislative veto which he never ventured to exercise, a power of
appointing Ministers, whom an address of the Commons could at any
moment force him to discard, a power of declaring war which, without
Parliamentary support, could not be carried on for a single day. The
Houses of Parliament were now not merely legislative assemblies, not
merely checking assemblies; they were great Councils of State, whose
voice, when loudly and firmly raised, was decisive on all questions of
foreign and domestic policy. There was no part of the whole system
of Government with which they had not power to interfere by advice
equivalent to command; and, if they abstained from intermeddling with
some departments of the executive administration, they were withheld
from doing so only by their own moderation, and by the confidence which
they reposed in the Ministers of the Crown. There is perhaps no other
instance in history of a change so complete in the real constitution of
an empire, unaccompanied by any corresponding change in the theoretical
constitution. The disguised transformation of the Roman commonwealth
into a despotic monarchy, under the long administration of Augustus, is
perhaps the nearest parallel.

This great alteration did not take place without strong and constant
resistance on the part of the kings of the house of Stuart. Till 1642,
that resistance was generally of an open, violent, and lawless nature.
If the Commons refused supplies, the sovereign levied a benevolence.
If the Commons impeached a favourite minister, the sovereign threw the
chiefs of the Opposition into prison. Of these efforts to keep down the
Parliament by despotic force, without the pretext of law, the last, the
most celebrated, and the most wicked was the attempt to seize the five
members. That attempt was the signal for civil war, and was followed by
eighteen years of blood and confusion.

The days of trouble passed by; the exiles returned; the throne was again
set up in its high place; the peerage and the hierarchy recovered their
ancient splendour. The fundamental laws which had been recited in the
Petition of Right were again solemnly recognised. The theory of the
English constitution was the same on the day when the hand of Charles
the Second was kissed by the kneeling Houses at Whitehall as on the day
when his father set up the royal standard at Nottingham. There was a
short period of doting fondness, a hysterica passio of loyal repentance
and love. But emotions of this sort are transitory; and the interests
on which depends the progress of great societies are permanent.
The transport of reconciliation was soon over; and the old struggle
recommenced.

The old struggle recommenced; but not precisely after the old fashion.
The Sovereign was not indeed a man whom any common warning would have
restrained from the grossest violations of law. But it was no common
warning that he had received. All around him were the recent signs of
the vengeance of an oppressed nation, the fields on which the noblest
blood of the island had been poured forth, the castles shattered by
the cannon of the Parliamentary armies, the hall where sat the stern
tribunal to whose bar had been led, through lowering ranks of pikemen,
the captive heir of a hundred kings, the stately pilasters before which
the great execution had been so fearlessly done in the face of heaven
and earth. The restored Prince, admonished by the fate of his father,
never ventured to attack his Parliaments with open and arbitrary
violence. It was at one time by means of the Parliament itself, at
another time by means of the courts of law, that he attempted to regain
for the Crown its old predominance. He began with great advantages. The
Parliament of 1661 was called while the nation was still full of joy
and tenderness. The great majority of the House of Commons were zealous
royalists. All the means of influence which the patronage of the Crown
afforded were used without limit. Bribery was reduced to a system. The
King, when he could spare money from his pleasures for nothing else,
could spare it for purposes of corruption. While the defence of the
coasts was neglected, while ships rotted, while arsenals lay empty,
while turbulent crowds of unpaid seamen swarmed in the streets of the
seaports, something could still be scraped together in the Treasury
for the members of the House of Commons. The gold of France was largely
employed for the same purpose. Yet it was found, as indeed might have
been foreseen, that there is a natural limit to the effect which can be
produced by means like these. There is one thing which the most corrupt
senates are unwilling to sell; and that is the power which makes them
worth buying. The same selfish motives which induced them to take a
price for a particular vote induce them to oppose every measure of which
the effect would be to lower the importance, and consequently the price,
of their votes. About the income of their power, so to speak, they are
quite ready to make bargains. But they are not easily persuaded to part
with any fragment of the principal. It is curious to observe how, during
the long continuance of this Parliament, the Pensionary Parliament, as
it was nicknamed by contemporaries, though every circumstance seemed
to be favourable to the Crown, the power of the Crown was constantly
sinking, and that of the Commons constantly rising. The meetings of the
Houses were more frequent than in former reigns; their interference was
more harassing to the Government than in former reigns; they had begun
to make peace, to make war; to pull down, if they did not set up,
administrations. Already a new class of statesmen had appeared, unheard
of before that time, but common ever since. Under the Tudors and the
earlier Stuarts, it was generally by courtly arts, or by official skill
and knowledge, that a politician raised himself to power. From the
time of Charles the Second down to our own days a different species
of talent, parliamentary talent, has been the most valuable of all the
qualifications of an English statesman. It has stood in the place of all
other acquirements. It has covered ignorance, weakness, rashness,
the most fatal maladministration. A great negotiator is nothing when
compared with a great debater; and a Minister who can make a successful
speech need trouble himself little about an unsuccessful expedition.
This is the talent which has made judges without law, and diplomatists
without French, which has sent to the Admiralty men who did not know the
stern of a ship from her bowsprit, and to the India Board men who did
not know the difference between a rupee and a pagoda, which made a
foreign secretary of Mr. Pitt, who, as George the Second said, had
never opened Vattel, and which was very near making a Chancellor of the
Exchequer of Mr. Sheridan, who could not work a sum in long division.
This was the sort of talent which raised Clifford from obscurity to
the head of affairs. To this talent Osborne, by birth a simple country
gentleman, owed his white staff, his garter, and his dukedom. The
encroachment of the power of the Parliament on the power of the Crown
resembled a fatality, or the operation of some great law of nature. The
will of the individual on the throne, or of the individuals in the two
Houses, seemed to go for nothing. The King might be eager to encroach;
yet something constantly drove him back. The Parliament might be loyal,
even servile; yet something constantly urged them forward.

These things were done in the green tree. What then was likely to be
done in the dry? The Popish Plot and the general election came together,
and found a people predisposed to the most violent excitation. The
composition of the House of Commons was changed. The Legislature
was filled with men who leaned to Republicanism in politics, and to
Presbyterianism in religion. They no sooner met than they commenced
an attack on the Government, which, if successful, must have made them
supreme in the State.

Where was this to end? To us who have seen the solution the question
presents few difficulties. But to a statesman of the age of Charles the
Second, to a statesman, who wished, without depriving the Parliament of
its privileges, to maintain the monarch in his old supremacy, it must
have appeared very perplexing.

Clarendon had, when Minister, struggled honestly, perhaps, but, as was
his wont, obstinately, proudly, and offensively, against the growing
power of the Commons. He was for allowing them their old authority, and
not one atom more. He would never have claimed for the Crown a right to
levy taxes from the people without the consent of Parliament. But
when the Parliament, in the first Dutch war, most properly insisted on
knowing how it was that the money which they had voted had produced so
little effect, and began to inquire through what hands it had passed,
and on what services it had been expended, Clarendon considered this as
a monstrous innovation. He told the King, as he himself says, “that
he could not be too indulgent in the defence of the privileges of
Parliament, and that he hoped he would never violate any of them; but
he desired him to be equally solicitous to prevent the excesses in
Parliament, and not to suffer them to extend their jurisdiction to cases
they have nothing to do with; and that to restrain them within their
proper bounds and limits is as necessary as it is to preserve them
from being invaded; and that this was such a new encroachment as had no
bottom.” This is a single instance. Others might easily be given.

The bigotry, the strong passions, the haughty and disdainful temper,
which made Clarendon’s great abilities a source of almost unmixed evil
to himself and to the public, had no place in the character of Temple.
To Temple, however, as well as to Clarendon, the rapid change which
was taking place in the real working of the Constitution gave
great disquiet; particularly as Temple had never sat in the English
Parliament, and therefore regarded it with none of the predilection
which men naturally feel for a body to which they belong, and for a
theatre on which their own talents have been advantageously displayed.

To wrest by force from the House of Commons its newly acquired powers
was impossible; nor was Temple a man to recommend such a stroke, even
if it had been possible. But was it possible that the House of Commons
might be induced to let those powers drop? Was it possible that, as a
great revolution had been effected without any change in the outward
form of the Government, so a great counter-revolution might be effected
in the same manner? Was it possible that the Crown and the Parliament
might be placed in nearly the same relative position in which they had
stood in the reign of Elizabeth, and that this might be done without one
sword drawn, without one execution, and with the general acquiescence of
the nation?

The English people--it was probably thus that Temple argued--will not
bear to be governed by the unchecked power of the Sovereign, nor ought
they to be so governed. At present there is no check but the Parliament.
The limits which separate the power of checking those who govern from
the power of governing are not easily to be defined. The Parliament,
therefore, supported by the nation, is rapidly drawing to itself all the
powers of Government. If it were possible to frame some other check on
the power of the Crown, some check which might be less galling to the
Sovereign than that by which he is now constantly tormented, and yet
which might appear to the people to be a tolerable security against
maladministration, Parliaments would probably meddle less; and they
would be less supported by public opinion in their meddling. That the
King’s hands may not be rudely tied by others, he must consent to tie
them lightly himself. That the executive administration may not be
usurped by the checking body, something of the character of a
checking body must be given to the body which conducts the executive
administration. The Parliament is now arrogating to itself every day
a larger share of the functions of the Privy Council. We must stop the
evil by giving to the Privy Council something of the constitution of a
Parliament. Let the nation see that all the King’s measures are directed
by a Cabinet composed of representatives of every order in the State,
by a Cabinet which contains, not placemen alone, but independent and
popular noblemen and gentlemen who have large estates and no salaries,
and who are not likely to sacrifice the public welfare in which they
have a deep stake, and the credit which they have obtained with the
country, to the pleasure of a Court from which they receive nothing.
When the ordinary administration is in such hands as these, the people
will be quite content to see the Parliament become, what it formerly
was, an extraordinary check. They will be quite willing that the House
of Commons should meet only once in three years for a short session, and
should take as little part in matters of state as it did a hundred years
ago.

Thus we believe that Temple reasoned: for on this hypothesis his scheme
is intelligible; and on any other hypothesis his scheme appears to us,
as it does to Mr. Courtenay, exceedingly absurd and unmeaning. This
Council was strictly what Barillon called it, an Assembly of States.
There are the representatives of all the great sections of the
community, of the Church, of the Law, of the Peerage, of the Commons.
The exclusion of one half of the counsellors from office under the
Crown, an exclusion which is quite absurd when we consider the Council
merely as an executive board, becomes at once perfectly reasonable when
we consider the Council as a body intended to restrain the Crown as well
as to exercise the powers of the Crown, to perform some of the functions
of a Parliament as well as the functions of a Cabinet. We see, too,
why Temple dwelt so much on the private wealth of the members, why he
instituted a comparison between their united incomes and the united
incomes of the members of the House of Commons. Such a parallel
would have been idle in the case of a mere Cabinet. It is extremely
significant in the case of a body intended to supersede the House of
Commons in some very important functions.

We can hardly help thinking that the notion of this Parliament on a
small scale was suggested to Temple by what he had himself seen in the
United Provinces. The original Assembly of the States-General consisted,
as he tells us, of above eight hundred persons. But this great body was
represented by a smaller Council of about thirty, which bore the name
and exercised the powers of the States-General. At last the real States
altogether ceased to meet; and their power, though still a part of the
theory of the Constitution, became obsolete in practice. We do not, of
course, imagine that Temple either expected or wished that Parliaments
should be thus disused; but he did expect, we think, that something like
what had happened in Holland would happen in England, and that a large
portion of the functions lately assumed by Parliament would be quietly
transferred to the miniature Parliament which he proposed to create.

Had this plan, with some modifications, been tried at an earlier period,
in a more composed state of the public mind, and by a better sovereign,
we are by no means certain that it might not have effected the purpose
for which it was designed. The restraint imposed on the King by the
Council of thirty, whom he had himself chosen, would have been feeble
indeed when compared with the restraint imposed by Parliament. But it
would have been more constant. It would have acted every year, and all
the year round; and before the Revolution the sessions of Parliament
were short and the recesses long. The advice of the Council would
probably have prevented any very monstrous and scandalous measures;
and would consequently have prevented the discontents which follow such
measures, and the salutary laws which are the fruit of such discontents.
We believe, for example, that the second Dutch war would never have been
approved by such a Council as that which Temple proposed. We are quite
certain that the shutting up of the Exchequer would never even have
been mentioned in such a Council. The people, pleased to think that Lord
Russell, Lord Cavendish, and Mr. Powle, unplaced and unpensioned, were
daily representing their grievances and defending their rights in the
Royal presence, would not have pined quite so much for the meeting of
Parliaments. The Parliament, when it met, would have found fewer and
less glaring abuses to attack. There would have been less misgovernment
and less reform. We should not have been cursed with the Cabal, or
blessed with the Habeas Corpus Act. In the mean time the Council,
considered as an executive Council, would, unless some at least of its
powers had been delegated to a smaller body, have been feeble, dilatory,
divided, unfit for everything that requires secrecy and despatch, and
peculiarly unfit for the administration of war.

The Revolution put an end, in a very different way, to the long contest
between the King and the Parliament. From that time, the House of
Commons has been predominant in the State. The Cabinet has really been,
from that time, a committee nominated by the Crown out of the prevailing
party in Parliament. Though the minority in the Commons are constantly
proposing to condemn executive measures, or to call for papers which may
enable the House to sit in judgment on such measures, these propositions
are scarcely ever carried; and, if a proposition of this kind is carried
against the Government, a change of Ministry almost necessarily follows.
Growing and struggling power always gives more annoyance and is
more unmanageable than established power. The House of Commons gave
infinitely more trouble to the Ministers of Charles the Second than to
any Ministers of later times; for, in the time of Charles the Second,
the House was checking Ministers in whom it did not confide. Now that
its ascendency is fully established, it either confides in Ministers or
turns them out. This is undoubtedly a far better state of things than
that which Temple wished to introduce. The modern Cabinet is a far
better Executive Council than his. The worst House of Commons that
has sate since the Revolution was a far more efficient check on
misgovernment than his fifteen independent counsellors would have been.
Yet, everything considered, it seems to us that his plan was the work of
an observant, ingenious, and fertile mind.

On this occasion, as on every occasion on which he came prominently
forward, Temple had the rare good fortune to please the public as well
as the Sovereign. The general exultation was great when it was known
that the old Council, made up of the most odious tools of power, was
dismissed, that small interior committees, rendered odious by the recent
memory of the Cabal, were to be disused, and that the King would adopt
no measure till it had been discussed and approved by a body, of which
one half consisted of independent gentlemen and noblemen, and in which
such persons as Russell, Cavendish, and Temple himself had seats. Town
and country were in a ferment of joy. The bells were rung; bonfires were
lighted; and the acclamations of England were echoed by the Dutch, who
considered the influence obtained by Temple as a certain omen of good
for Europe. It is, indeed, much to the honour of his sagacity that every
one of his great measures should, in such times, have pleased every
party which he had any interest in pleasing. This was the case with the
Triple Alliance, with the treaty which concluded the second Dutch
war, with the marriage of the Prince of Orange, and, finally, with the
institution of this new Council.

The only people who grumbled were those popular leaders of the House of
Commons who were not among the Thirty; and, if our view of the measure
be correct, they were precisely the people who had good reason to
grumble. They were precisely the people whose activity and whose
influence the new Council was intended to destroy.

But there was very soon an end of the bright hopes and loud applauses
with which the publication of this scheme had been hailed. The
perfidious levity of the King and the ambition of the chiefs of parties
produced the instant, entire, and irremediable failure of a plan which
nothing but firmness, public spirit, and self-denial on the part of all
concerned in it could conduct to a happy issue. Even before the project
was divulged, its author had already found reason to apprehend that it
would fail. Considerable difficulty was experienced in framing the list
of counsellors. There were two men in particular about whom the King and
Temple could not agree, two men deeply tainted with the vices common to
the English statesman of that age, but unrivalled in talents, address,
and influence. These were the Earl of Shaftesbury, and George Savile
Viscount Halifax.

It was a favourite exercise among the Greek sophists to write panegyrics
on characters proverbial for depravity. One professor of rhetoric sent
to Isocrates a panegyric on Busiris; and Isocrates himself wrote another
which has come down to us. It is, we presume, from an ambition of the
same kind that some writers have lately shown a disposition to eulogise
Shaftesbury. But the attempt is vain. The charges against him rest on
evidence not to be invalidated by any arguments which human wit can
devise, or by any information which may be found in old trunks and
escritoires.

It is certain that, just before the Restoration, he declared to the
Regicides that he would be damned, body and soul, rather than suffer a
hair of their heads to be hurt, and that, just after the Restoration, he
was one of the judges who sentenced them to death. It is certain that he
was a principal member of the most profligate Administration ever known,
and that he was afterwards a principal member oft the most profligate
Opposition ever known. It is certain that, in power, he did not scruple
to violate the great fundamental principle of the Constitution, in order
to exalt the Catholics, and that, out of power, he did not scruple to
violate every principle of justice, in order to destroy them. There were
in that age some honest men, such as William Penn, who valued toleration
so highly that they would willingly have seen it established even by
an illegal exertion of the prerogative. There were many honest men who
dreaded arbitrary power so much that, on account of the alliance between
Popery and arbitrary power, they were disposed to grant no toleration to
Papists. On both those classes we look with indulgence, though we think
both in the wrong. But Shaftesbury belonged to neither class. He united
all that was worst in both. From the misguided friends of toleration
he borrowed their contempt for the Constitution, and from the misguided
friends of civil liberty their contempt for the rights of conscience. We
never can admit that his conduct as a member of the Cabal was redeemed
by his conduct as a leader of Opposition. On the contrary, his life was
such that every part of it, as if by a skilful contrivance, reflects
infamy on every other. We should never have known how abandoned a
prostitute he was in place, if we had not known how desperate an
incendiary he was out of it. To judge of him fairly, we must bear in
mind that the Shaftesbury who, in office, was the chief author of the
Declaration of Indulgence, was the same Shaftesbury who, out of office,
excited and kept up the savage hatred of the rabble of London against
the very class to whom that Declaration of Indulgence was intended to
give illegal relief.

It is amusing to see the excuses that are made for him. We will give two
specimens. It is acknowledged that he was one of the Ministry which made
the alliance with France against Holland, and that this alliance was
most pernicious. What, then, is the defence? Even this, that he betrayed
his master’s counsels to the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, and
tried to rouse all the Protestant powers of Germany to defend the
States. Again, it is acknowledged that he was deeply concerned in the
Declaration of Indulgence, and that his conduct on this occasion was not
only unconstitutional, but quite inconsistent with the course which he
afterwards took respecting the professors of the Catholic faith. What,
then, is the defence? Even this, that he meant only to allure concealed
Papists to avow themselves, and thus to become open marks for the
vengeance of the public. As often as he is charged with one treason,
his advocates vindicate him by confessing two. They had better leave him
where they find him. For him there is no escape upwards. Every outlet
by which he can creep out of his present position, is one which lets
him down into a still lower and fouler depth of infamy. To whitewash
an Ethiopian is a proverbially hopeless attempt; but to whitewash an
Ethiopian by giving him a new coat of blacking is an enterprise more
extraordinary still. That in the course of Shaftesbury’s dishonest and
revengeful opposition to the Court he rendered one or two most useful
services to his country we admit. And he is, we think, fairly entitled,
if that be any glory, to have his name eternally associated with the
Habeas Corpus Act in the same way in which the name of Henry the Eighth
is associated with the reformation of the Church, and that of Jack
Wilkes with the most sacred rights of electors.

While Shaftesbury was still living, his character was elaborately
drawn by two of the greatest writers of the age, by Butler, with
characteristic brilliancy of wit, by Dryden, with even more than
characteristic energy and loftiness, by both with all the inspiration of
hatred. The sparkling illustrations of Butler have been thrown into the
shade by the brighter glory of that gorgeous satiric Muse, who comes
sweeping by in sceptred pall, borrowed from her most august sisters. But
the descriptions well deserve to be compared. The reader will at once
perceive a considerable difference between Butler’s

                        “politician,

               With more beads than a beast in vision,”

and the Achitophel of Dryden. Butler dwells on Shaftesbury’s
unprincipled versatility; on his wonderful and almost instinctive skill
in discerning the approach of a change of fortune; and on the dexterity
with which he extricated himself from the snares in which he left his
associates to perish.

“Our state-artificer foresaw Which way the world began to draw. For as
old sinners have all points O’ th’ compass in their bones and joints,
Can by their pangs and aches find All turns and changes of the wind,
And better than by Napier’s bones Feel in their own the age of moons:
So guilty sinners in a state Can by their crimes prognosticate, And
in their consciences feel pain Some days before a shower of rain. He,
therefore, wisely cast about All ways he could to ensure his throat.”

In Dryden’s great portrait, on the contrary, violent passion, implacable
revenge, boldness amounting to temerity, are the most striking features.
Achitophel is one of the “great wits to madness near allied.” And
again--

“A daring pilot in extremity, Pleased with the danger when the waves
went high, He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit, Would steer too
near the sands to boast his wit.”

[It has never, we believe, been remarked, that two of the most striking
lines in the description of Achitophel are borrowed from a most obscure
quarter. In Knolles’s History of the Turks, printed more than sixty
years before the appearance of Absalom and Achitophel, are the following
verses, under a portrait of the Sultan Mustapha the First:

               “Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not stand,

               And leaves for Fortune’s ice Vertue’s firme land.”

Dryden’s words are

               “But wild Ambition loves to slide, not stand,

               And Fortune’s ice prefers to Virtue’s land.”

The circumstance is the more remarkable, because Dryden has really no
couplet which would seem to a good critic more intensely Drydenian, both
in thought and expression, than this, of which the whole thought, and
almost the whole expression, are stolen.

As we are on this subject, we cannot refrain from observing that Mr.
Courtenay has done Dryden injustice by inadvertently attributing to him
some feeble lines which are in Tate’s part of Absalom and Achitophel.]

The dates of the two poems will, we think, explain this discrepancy.
The third part of Hudibras appeared in 1678, when the character of
Shaftesbury had as yet but imperfectly developed itself. He had,
indeed, been a traitor to every party in the State; but his treasons had
hitherto prospered. Whether it were accident or sagacity, he had timed
his desertions in such a manner that fortune seemed to go to and fro
with him from side to side. The extent of his perfidy was known; but it
was not till the Popish Plot furnished him with a machinery which seemed
sufficiently powerful for all his purposes, that the audacity of his
spirit, and the fierceness of his malevolent passions, became fully
manifest. His subsequent conduct showed undoubtedly great ability, but
not ability of the sort for which he had formerly been so eminent. He
was now headstrong, sanguine, full of impetuous confidence in his own
wisdom and his own good luck. He, whose fame as a political tactician
had hitherto rested chiefly on his skilful retreats, now set himself
to break down all the bridges behind him. His plans were castles in the
air: his talk was rhodomontade. He took no thought for the morrow: he
treated the Court as if the King were already a prisoner in his hands:
he built on the favour of the multitude, as if that favour were not
proverbially inconstant. The signs of the coming reaction were discerned
by men of far less sagacity than his, and scared from his side men more
consistent than he had ever pretended to be. But on him they were
lost. The counsel of Achitophel, that counsel which was as if a man had
inquired of the oracle of God, was turned into foolishness. He who
had become a by-word, for the certainty with which he foresaw and the
suppleness with which he evaded danger, now, when beset on every side
with snares and death, seemed to be smitten with a blindness as strange
as his former clear-sightedness, and, turning neither to the right nor
to the left, strode straight on with desperate hardihood to his doom.
Therefore, after having early acquired and long preserved the reputation
of infallible wisdom and invariable success, he lived to see a mighty
ruin wrought by his own ungovernable passions, to see the great party
which he had led vanquished, and scattered, and trampled down, to see
all his own devilish enginery of lying witnesses, partial sheriffs,
packed juries, unjust judges, bloodthirsty mobs, ready to be employed
against himself and his most devoted followers, to fly from that proud
city whose favour had almost raised him to be Mayor of the Palace,
to hide himself in squalid retreats, to cover his grey head with
ignominious disguises; and he died in hopeless exile, sheltered by the
generosity of a State which he had cruelly injured and insulted, from
the vengeance of a master whose favour he had purchased by one series of
crimes, and forfeited by another.

Halifax had, in common with Shaftesbury, and with almost all the
politicians of that age, a very loose morality where the public was
concerned; but in Halifax the prevailing infection was modified by
a very peculiar constitution both of heart and head, by a temper
singularly free from gall, and by a refining and sceptical
understanding. He changed his course as often as Shaftesbury; but he did
not change it to the same extent, or in the same direction. Shaftesbury
was the very reverse of a trimmer. His disposition led him generally to
do his utmost to exalt the side which was up, and to depress the side
which was down. His transitions were from extreme to extreme. While he
stayed with a party he went all lengths for it: when he quitted it
he went all lengths against it. Halifax was emphatically a trimmer; a
trimmer both by intellect and by constitution. The name was fixed on him
by his contemporaries; and he was so far from being ashamed of it that
he assumed it as a badge of honour. He passed from faction to faction.
But instead of adopting and inflaming the passions of those whom he
joined, he tried to diffuse among them something of the spirit of
those whom he had just left. While he acted with the Opposition he was
suspected of being a spy of the Court; and when he had joined the Court
all the Tories were dismayed by his Republican doctrines.

He wanted neither arguments nor eloquence to exhibit what was commonly
regarded as his wavering policy in the fairest light. He trimmed,
he said, as the temperate zone trims between intolerable heat and
intolerable cold, as a good government trims between despotism and
anarchy, as a pure church trims between the errors of the Papist and
those of the Anabaptist. Nor was this defence by any means without
weight; for though there is abundant proof that his integrity was not of
strength to withstand the temptations by which his cupidity and vanity
were sometimes assailed, yet his dislike of extremes, and a forgiving
and compassionate temper which seems to have been natural to him,
preserved him from all participation in the worst crimes of his time. If
both parties accused him of deserting them, both were compelled to admit
that they had great obligations to his humanity, and that, though an
uncertain friend, he was a placable enemy. He voted in favour of Lord
Stafford, the victim of the Whigs; he did his utmost to save Lord
Russell, the victim of the Tories; and, on the whole, we are inclined to
think that his public life, though far indeed from faultless, has as
few great stains as that of any politician who took an active part in
affairs during the troubled and disastrous period of ten years which
elapsed between the fall of Lord Danby and the Revolution.

His mind was much less turned to particular observations, and much more
to general speculations, than that of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury knew the
King, the Council, the Parliament, the City, better than Halifax; but
Halifax would have written a far better treatise on political science
than Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury shone more in consultation, and Halifax in
controversy: Shaftesbury was more fertile in expedients, and Halifax in
arguments. Nothing that remains from the pen of Shaftesbury will bear a
comparison with the political tracts of Halifax. Indeed, very little
of the prose of that age is so well worth reading as the Character of a
Trimmer and the Anatomy of an Equivalent. What particularly strikes
us in those works is the writer’s passion for generalisation. He was
treating of the most exciting subjects in the most agitated times he was
himself placed in the very thick of the civil conflict; yet there is no
acrimony, nothing inflammatory, nothing personal. He preserves an air of
cold superiority, a certain philosophical serenity, which is perfectly
marvellous. He treats every question as an abstract question, begins
with the widest propositions, argues those propositions on general
grounds, and often, when he has brought out his theorem, leaves the
reader to make the application, without adding an allusion to particular
men, or to passing events. This speculative turn of mind rendered him a
bad adviser in cases which required celerity. He brought forward,
with wonderful readiness and copiousness, arguments, replies to those
arguments, rejoinders to those replies, general maxims of policy, and
analogous cases from history. But Shaftesbury was the man for a prompt
decision. Of the parliamentary eloquence of these celebrated rivals,
we can judge only by report; and, so judging, we should be inclined
to think that, though Shaftesbury was a distinguished speaker, the
superiority belonged to Halifax. Indeed the readiness of Halifax in
debate, the extent of his knowledge, the ingenuity of his reasoning, the
liveliness of his expression, and the silver clearness and sweetness
of his voice, seems to have made the strongest impression on his
contemporaries. By Dryden he is described as

                   “of piercing wit and pregnant thought,
               Endued by nature and by learning taught
               To move assemblies.”

His oratory is utterly and irretrievably lost to us, like that of
Somers, of Bolingbroke, of Charles Townshend, of many others who were
accustomed to rise amid the breathless expectation of senates, and to
sit down amidst reiterated bursts of applause. But old men who lived to
admire the eloquence of Pulteney in its meridian, and that of Pitt in
its splendid dawn, still murmured that they had heard nothing like
the great speeches of Lord Halifax on the Exclusion Bill. The power of
Shaftesbury over large masses was unrivalled. Halifax was disqualified
by his whole character, moral and intellectual, for the part of a
demagogue. It was in small circles, and, above all, in the House of
Lords, that his ascendency was felt.

Shaftesbury seems to have troubled himself very little about theories
of government. Halifax was, in speculation, a strong republican, and did
not conceal it. He often made hereditary monarchy and aristocracy the
subjects of his keen pleasantry, while he was fighting the battles of
the Court, and obtaining for himself step after step in the peerage. In
this way, he tried to gratify at once his intellectual vanity and his
more vulgar ambition. He shaped his life according to the opinion of the
multitude, and indemnified himself by talking according to his own.
His colloquial powers were great; his perception of the ridiculous
exquisitely fine; and he seems to have had the rare art of preserving
the reputation of good breeding and good nature, while habitually
indulging a strong propensity to mockery.

Temple wished to put Halifax into the new Council, and leave out
Shaftesbury. The King objected strongly to Halifax, to whom he had taken
a great dislike, which is not accounted for, and which did not last
long. Temple replied that Halifax was a man eminent both by his station
and by his abilities, and would, if excluded, do everything against the
new arrangement that could be done by eloquence, sarcasm, and intrigue.
All who were consulted were of the same mind; and the King yielded, but
not till Temple had almost gone on his knees. This point was no sooner
settled than his Majesty declared that he would have Shaftesbury too.
Temple again had recourse to entreaties and expostulations. Charles told
him that the enmity of Shaftesbury would be at least as formidable as
that of Halifax, and this was true; but Temple might have replied that
by giving power to Halifax they gained a friend, and that by giving
power to Shaftesbury they only strengthened an enemy. It was vain to
argue and protest. The King only laughed and jested at Temple’s anger;
and Shaftesbury was not only sworn of the Council, but appointed Lord
President.

Temple was so bitterly mortified by this step that he had at one
time resolved to have nothing to do with the new Administration, and
seriously thought of disqualifying himself from sitting in council by
omitting to take the Sacrament. But the urgency of Lady Temple and Lady
Giffard induced him to abandon that intention.

The Council was organised on the twenty-first of April, 1679; and,
within a few hours, one of the fundamental principles on which it had
been constructed was violated. A secret committee, or, in the modern
phrase, a cabinet of nine members, was formed. But as this committee
included Shaftesbury and Monmouth, it contained within itself the
elements of as much faction as would have sufficed to impede all
business. Accordingly there soon arose a small interior cabinet,
consisting of Essex, Sunderland, Halifax, and Temple. For a time perfect
harmony and confidence subsisted between the four. But the meetings of
the thirty were stormy. Sharp retorts passed between Shaftesbury and
Halifax, who led the opposite parties, In the Council, Halifax generally
had the advantage. But it soon became apparent that Shaftesbury still
had at his back the majority of the House of Commons. The discontents
which the change of Ministry had for a moment quieted broke forth again
with redoubled violence; and the only effect which the late measures
appeared to have produced was that the Lord President, with all the
dignity and authority belonging to his high place, stood at the head of
the Opposition. The impeachment of Lord Danby was eagerly prosecuted.
The Commons were determined to exclude the Duke of York from the throne.
All offers of compromise were rejected. It must not be forgotten,
however, that, in the midst of the confusion, one inestimable law, the
only benefit which England has derived from the troubles of that period,
but a benefit which may well be set off against a great mass of evil,
the Habeas Corpus Act, was pushed through the Houses and received the
royal assent.

The King, finding the Parliament as troublesome as ever, determined to
prorogue it; and he did so, without even mentioning his intention to the
Council by whose advice he had pledged himself, only a month before, to
conduct the Government. The counsellors were generally dissatisfied; and
Shaftesbury swore, with great vehemence, that if he could find out who
the secret advisers were, he would have their heads.

The Parliament rose; London was deserted; and Temple retired to his
villa, whence, on council days, he went to Hampton Court. The post of
Secretary was again and again pressed on him by his master and by
his three colleagues of the inner Cabinet. Halifax, in particular,
threatened laughingly to burn down the house at Sheen. But Temple was
immovable. His short experience of English politics had disgusted him;
and he felt himself so much oppressed by the responsibility under which
he at present lay that he had no inclination to add to the load.

When the term fixed for the prorogation had nearly expired, it became
necessary to consider what course should be taken. The King and his four
confidential advisers thought that a new Parliament might possibly be
more manageable, and could not possibly be more refractory, than that
which they now had, and they therefore determined on a dissolution. But
when the question was proposed at council, the majority, jealous, it
should seem, of the small directing knot, and unwilling to bear the
unpopularity of the measures of Government, while excluded from all
power, joined Shaftesbury, and the members of the Cabinet were left
alone in the minority. The King, however, had made up his mind, and
ordered the Parliament to be instantly dissolved. Temple’s Council was
now nothing more than an ordinary Privy Council, if indeed it were not
something less; and, though Temple threw the blame of this on the King,
on Lord Shaftesbury, on everybody but himself, it is evident that
the failure of his plan is to be chiefly ascribed to its own inherent
defects. His Council was too large to transact business which required
expedition, secrecy, and cordial cooperation. A Cabinet was therefore
formed within the Council. The Cabinet and the majority of the Council
differed; and, as was to be expected, the Cabinet carried their point.
Four votes outweighed six-and-twenty. This being the case, the meetings
of the thirty were not only useless, but positively noxious.

At the ensuing election, Temple was chosen for the University of
Cambridge. The only objection that was made to him by the members
of that learned body was that, in his little work on Holland, he had
expressed great approbation of the tolerant policy of the States; and
this blemish, however serious, was overlooked, in consideration of his
high reputation, and of the strong recommendations with which he was
furnished by the Court.

During the summer he remained at Sheen, and amused himself with rearing
melons, leaving to the three other members of the inner Cabinet the
whole direction of public affairs. Some unexplained cause began about
this time, to alienate them from him. They do not appear to have
been made angry by any part of his conduct, or to have disliked him
personally. But they had, we suspect, taken the measure of his mind, and
satisfied themselves that he was not a man for that troubled time,
and that he would be a mere incumbrance to them. Living themselves for
ambition, they despised his love of ease. Accustomed to deep stakes
in the game of political hazard, they despised his piddling play. They
looked on his cautious measures with the sort of scorn with which the
gamblers at the ordinary, in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, regarded Nigel’s
practice of never touching a card but when he was certain to win. He
soon found that he was left out of their secrets. The King had, about
this time, a dangerous attack of illness. The Duke of York, on receiving
the news, returned from Holland. The sudden appearance of the detested
Popish successor excited anxiety throughout the country. Temple was
greatly amazed and disturbed. He hastened up to London and visited
Essex, who professed to be astonished and mortified, but could not
disguise a sneering smile. Temple then saw Halifax, who talked to him
much about the pleasures of the country, the anxieties of office, and
the vanity of all human things, but carefully avoided politics and when
the Duke’s return was mentioned, only sighed, shook his head, shrugged
his shoulders, and lifted up his eyes and hands. In a short time Temple
found that his two friends had been laughing at him, and that they had
themselves sent for the Duke, in order that his Royal Highness might,
if the King should die, be on the spot to frustrate the designs of
Monmouth.

He was soon convinced, by a still stronger proof, that, though he had
not exactly offended his master or his colleagues in the Cabinet, he had
ceased to enjoy their confidence. The result of the general election
had been decidedly unfavourable to the Government; and Shaftesbury
impatiently expected the day when the Houses were to meet. The King,
guided by the advice of the inner Cabinet, determined on a step of the
highest importance. He told the Council that he had resolved to prorogue
the new Parliament for a year, and requested them not to object; for he
had, he said, considered the subject fully, and had made up his mind.
All who were not in the secret were thunderstruck, Temple as much
as any. Several members rose, and entreated to be heard against
the prorogation. But the King silenced them, and declared that his
resolution was unalterable. Temple, much hurt at the manner in which
both himself and the Council had been treated, spoke with great spirit.
He would not, he said, disobey the King by objecting to a measure an
which his Majesty was determined to hear no argument; but he would most
earnestly entreat his Majesty, if the present Council was incompetent
to give advice, to dissolve it and select another; for it was absurd to
have counsellors who did not counsel, and who were summoned only to be
silent witnesses of the acts of others. The King listened courteously.
But the members of the Cabinet resented this reproof highly; and
from that day Temple was almost as much estranged from them as from
Shaftesbury.

He wished to retire altogether from business. But just at this time
Lord Russell, Lord Cavendish, and some other counsellors of the
popular party, waited on the King in a body, declared their strong
disapprobation of his measures, and requested to be excused from
attending any more at council. Temple feared that if, at this moment, he
also were to withdraw, he might be supposed to act in concert with
those decided opponents of the Court, and to have determined on taking
a course hostile to the Government. He, therefore, continued to go
occasionally to the board; but he had no longer any real share in the
direction of public affairs.

At length the long term of the prorogation expired. In October 1680,
the Houses met; and the great question of the Exclusion was revived.
Few parliamentary contests in our history appear to have called forth a
greater display of talent; none certainly ever called forth more violent
passions. The whole nation was convulsed by party spirit. The gentlemen
of every county, the traders of every town, the boys of every public
school, were divided into exclusionists and abhorrers. The book-stalls
were covered with tracts on the sacredness of hereditary right, on the
omnipotence of Parliament, on the dangers of a disputed succession, on
the dangers of a Popish reign. It was in the midst of this ferment that
Temple took his seat, for the first time, in the House of Commons.

The occasion was a very great one. His talents, his long experience of
affairs, his unspotted public character, the high posts which he had
filled, seemed to mark him out as a man on whom much would depend. He
acted like himself, He saw that, if he supported the Exclusion, he made
the King and the heir presumptive his enemies, and that, if he opposed
it, he made himself an object of hatred to the unscrupulous and
turbulent Shaftesbury. He neither supported nor opposed it. He quietly
absented himself from the House. Nay, he took care, he tells us,
never to discuss the question in any society whatever. Lawrence Hyde,
afterwards Earl of Rochester, asked him why he did not attend in his
place. Temple replied that he acted according to Solomon’s advice,
neither to oppose the mighty, nor to go about to stop the current of a
river. Hyde answered, “You are a wise and a quiet man.” And this might
be true. But surely such wise and quiet men have no call to be members
of Parliament in critical times.

A single session was quite enough for Temple. When the Parliament was
dissolved, and another summoned at Oxford, he obtained an audience of
the King, and begged to know whether his Majesty wished him to
continue in Parliament. Charles, who had a singularly quick eye for the
weaknesses of all who came near him, had no doubt seen through Temple,
and rated the parliamentary support of so cool and guarded a friend at
its proper value. He answered good-naturedly, but we suspect a little
contemptuously, “I doubt, as things stand, your coming into the House
will not do much good. I think you may as well let it alone.” Sir
William accordingly informed his constituents that he should not again
apply for their suffrages, and set off for Sheen, resolving never
again to meddle with public affairs. He soon found that the King was
displeased with him. Charles, indeed, in his usual easy way, protested
that he was not angry, not at all. But in a few days he struck Temple’s
name out of the list of Privy Councillors.

Why this was done Temple declares himself unable to comprehend. But
surely it hardly required his long and extensive converse with the world
to teach him that there are conjunctures when men think that all who
are not with them are against them, that there are conjunctures when a
lukewarm friend, who will not put himself the least out of his way, who
will make no exertion, who will run no risk, is more distasteful than
an enemy. Charles had hoped that the fair character of Temple would add
credit to an unpopular and suspected Government. But his Majesty soon
found that this fair character resembled pieces of furniture which we
have seen in the drawing-rooms of very precise old ladies, and which
are a great deal too white to be used. This exceeding niceness was
altogether out of season. Neither party wanted a man who was afraid
of taking a part, of incurring abuse, of making enemies. There were
probably many good and moderate men who would have hailed the appearance
of a respectable mediator. But Temple was not a mediator. He was merely
a neutral.

At last, however, he had escaped from public life, and found himself at
liberty to follow his favourite pursuits. His fortune was easy. He had
about fifteen hundred a year, besides the Mastership of the Rolls in
Ireland, an office in which he had succeeded his father, and which was
then a mere sinecure for life, requiring no residence. His reputation
both as a negotiator and a writer stood high. He resolved to be safe,
to enjoy himself, and to let the world take its course; and he kept his
resolution.

Darker times followed. The Oxford Parliament was dissolved. The Tories
were triumphant. A terrible vengeance was inflicted on the chiefs of the
Opposition. Temple learned in his retreat the disastrous fate of several
of his old colleagues in council. Shaftesbury fled to Holland. Russell
died on the scaffold. Essex added a yet sadder and more fearful story
to the bloody chronicles of the Tower. Monmouth clung in agonies of
supplication round the knees of the stern uncle whom he had wronged, and
tasted a bitterness worse than that of death, the bitterness of knowing
that he had humbled himself in vain. A tyrant trampled on the liberties
and religion of the realm. The national spirit swelled high under the
oppression. Disaffection spread even to the strongholds of loyalty,
to the Cloisters of Westminster, to the schools of Oxford, to the
guard-room of the household troops, to the very hearth and bed-chamber
of the Sovereign. But the troubles which agitated the whole country did
not reach the quiet orangery in which Temple loitered away several years
without once seeing the smoke of London. He now and then appeared in
the circle at Richmond or Windsor. But the only expressions which he is
recorded to have used during these perilous times were, that he would be
a good subject, but that he had done with politics.

The Revolution came: he remained strictly neutral during the short
struggle; and he then transferred to the new settlement the same languid
sort of loyalty which he had felt for his former masters. He paid court
to William at Windsor, and William dined with him at Sheen. But, in
spite of the most pressing solicitations, Temple refused to become
Secretary of State. The refusal evidently proceeded only from his
dislike of trouble and danger; and not, as some of his admirers would
have us believe, from any scruple of conscience or honour. For he
consented that his son should take the office of Secretary at War under
the new Sovereign. This unfortunate young man destroyed himself within a
week after his appointment from vexation at finding that his advice had
led the King into some improper steps with regard to Ireland. He seems
to have inherited his father’s extreme sensibility to failure, without
that singular prudence which kept his father out of all situations in
which any serious failure was to be apprehended. The blow fell heavily
on the family. They retired in deep dejection to Moor Park, [Mr.
Courtenay (vol. ii. p. 160) confounds Moor Park in Surrey, where Temple
resided, with the Moor Park in Hertfordshire, which is praised in the
Essay on Gardening.] which they now preferred to Sheen, on account of
the greater distance from London. In that spot, then very secluded,
Temple passed the remainder of his life. The air agreed with him.
The soil was fruitful, and well suited to an experimental farmer and
gardener. The grounds were laid out with the angular regularity which
Sir William had admired in the flower-beds of Haarlem and the Hague. A
beautiful rivulet, flowing from the hills of Surrey, bounded the domain.
But a straight canal which, bordered by a terrace, intersected the
garden, was probably more admired by the lovers of the picturesque
in that age. The house was small but neat, and well-furnished; the
neighbourhood very thinly peopled. Temple had no visitors, except a few
friends who were willing to travel twenty or thirty miles in order to
see him, and now and then a foreigner whom curiosity brought to have a
look at the author of the Triple Alliance.

Here, in May 1694, died Lady Temple. From the time of her marriage we
know little of her, except that her letters were always greatly admired,
and that she had the honour to correspond constantly with Queen Mary.
Lady Giffard, who, as far as appears, had always been on the best terms
with her sister-in-law, still continued to live with Sir William.

But there were other inmates of Moor Park to whom a far higher interest
belongs. An eccentric, uncouth, disagreeable young Irishman, who
had narrowly escaped plucking at Dublin, attended Sir William as an
amanuensis, for board and twenty pounds a year, dined at the second
table, wrote bad verses in praise of his employer, and made love to a
very pretty, dark-eyed young girl, who waited on Lady Giffard. Little
did Temple imagine that the coarse exterior of his dependant concealed
a genius equally suited to politics and to letters, a genius destined to
shake great kingdoms, to stir the laughter and the rage of millions, and
to leave to posterity memorials which can perish only with the English
language. Little did he think that the flirtation in his servants’ hall,
which he perhaps scarcely deigned to make the subject of a jest, was the
beginning of a long unprosperous love, which was to be as widely famed
as the passion of Petrarch or of Abelard. Sir William’s secretary was
Jonathan Swift. Lady Giffard’s waiting-maid was poor Stella.

Swift retained no pleasing recollection of Moor Park. And we may easily
suppose a situation like his to have been intolerably painful to a mind
haughty, irascible, and conscious of pre-eminent ability. Long after,
when he stood in the Court of Requests with a circle of gartered peers
round him, or punned and rhymed with Cabinet Ministers over Secretary
St. John’s Monte-Pulciano, he remembered, with deep and sore feeling,
how miserable he used to be for days together when he suspected that Sir
William had taken something ill. He could hardly believe that he, the
Swift who chid the Lord Treasurer, rallied the Captain General, and
confronted the pride of the Duke of Buckinghamshire with pride still
more inflexible, could be the same being who had passed nights of
sleepless anxiety, in musing over a cross look or a testy word of a
patron. “Faith,” he wrote to Stella, with bitter levity, “Sir William
spoiled a fine gentleman.” Yet, in justice to Temple, we must say that
there is no reason to think that Swift was more unhappy at Moor Park
than he would have been in a similar situation under any roof in
England. We think also that the obligations which the mind of Swift owed
to that of Temple were not inconsiderable. Every judicious reader must
be struck by the peculiarities which distinguish Swift’s political
tracts from all similar works produced by mere men of letters. Let any
person compare, for example, the Conduct of the Allies, or the Letter
to the October Club, with Johnson’s False Alarm, or Taxation no Tyranny,
and he will be at once struck by the difference of which we speak. He
may possibly think Johnson a greater man than Swift. He may possibly
prefer Johnson’s style to Swift’s. But he will at once acknowledge that
Johnson writes like a man who has never been out of his study. Swift
writes like a man who has passed his whole life in the midst of public
business, and to whom the most important affairs of state are as
familiar as his weekly bills.

“Turn him to any cause of policy, The Gordian knot of it he will
unloose, Familiar as his garter.”

The difference, in short, between a political pamphlet by Johnson and
a political pamphlet by Swift, is as great as the difference between an
account of a battle by Mr. Southey, and the account of the same battle
by Colonel Napier. It is impossible to doubt that the superiority of
Swift is to be, in a great measure, attributed to his long and close
connection with Temple.

Indeed, remote as were the alleys and flower-pots of Moor Park from the
haunts of the busy and the ambitious, Swift had ample opportunities of
becoming acquainted with the hidden causes of many great events. William
was in the habit of consulting Temple, and occasionally visited him. Of
what passed between them very little is known. It is certain, however,
that when the Triennial Bill had been carried through the two Houses,
his Majesty, who was exceedingly unwilling to pass it, sent the Earl of
Portland to learn Temple’s opinion. Whether Temple thought the bill in
itself a good one does not appear; but he clearly saw how imprudent
it must be in a prince, situated as William was, to engage in an
altercation with his Parliament, and directed Swift to draw up a paper
on the subject, which, however, did not convince the King.

The chief amusement of Temple’s declining years was literature. After
his final retreat from business, he wrote his very agreeable Memoirs,
corrected and transcribed many of his letters, and published several
miscellaneous treatises, the best of which, we think, is that on
Gardening. The style of his essays is, on the whole, excellent, almost
always pleasing, and now and then stately and splendid. The matter is
generally of much less value; as our readers will readily believe when
we inform them that Mr. Courtenay, a biographer, that is to say, a
literary vassal, bound by the immemorial law of his tenure to render
homage, aids, reliefs, and all other customary services to his lord,
avows that he cannot give an opinion about the essay on Heroic Virtue,
because he cannot read it without skipping; a circumstance which strikes
us as peculiarly strange, when we consider how long Mr. Courtenay was
at the India Board, and how many thousand paragraphs of the copious
official eloquence of the East he must have perused.

One of Sir William’s pieces, however, deserves notice, not, indeed, on
account of its intrinsic merit, but on account of the light which it
throws on some curious weaknesses of his character, and on account of
the extraordinary effects which it produced in the republic of letters.
A most idle and contemptible controversy had arisen in France touching
the comparative merit of the ancient and modern writers. It was
certainly not to be expected that, in that age, the question would be
tried according to those large and philosophical principles of criticism
which guided the judgments of Lessing and of Herder. But it might have
been expected that those who undertook to decide the point would at
least take the trouble to read and understand the authors on whose
merits they were to pronounce. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that,
among the disputants who clamoured, some for the ancients and some for
the moderns, very few were decently acquainted with either ancient or
modern literature, and hardly one was well acquainted with both. In
Racine’s amusing preface to the Iphigenie the reader may have noticed a
most ridiculous mistake into which one of the champions of the moderns
fell about a passage in the Alcestis of Euripides. Another writer is
so inconceivably ignorant as to blame Homer for mixing the four Greek
dialects, Doric, Ionic, Aeolic, and Attic, just, says he, as if a French
poet were to put Gascon phrases and Picard phrases into the midst of his
pure Parisian writing. On the other hand, it is no exaggeration to say
that the defenders of the ancients were entirely unacquainted with the
greatest productions of later times; nor, indeed, were the defenders of
the moderns better informed. The parallels which were instituted in the
course of this dispute are inexpressibly ridiculous. Balzac was selected
as the rival of Cicero. Corneille was said to unite the merits of
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. We should like to see a Prometheus
after Corneille’s fashion. The Provincial Letters, masterpieces
undoubtedly of reasoning, wit, and eloquence, were pronounced to be
superior to all the writings of Plato, Cicero, and Lucian together,
particularly in the art of dialogue, an art in which, as it happens,
Plato far excelled all men, and in which Pascal, great and admirable in
other respects, is notoriously very deficient.

This childish controversy spread to England; and some mischievous
daemon suggested to Temple the thought of undertaking the defence of the
ancients. As to his qualifications for the task, it is sufficient to
say that he knew not a word of Greek. But his vanity, which, when he was
engaged in the conflicts of active life and surrounded by rivals, had
been kept in tolerable order by his discretion, now, when he had long
lived in seclusion, and had become accustomed to regard himself as
by far the first man of his circle, rendered him blind to his own
deficiencies. In an evil hour he published an Essay on Ancient and
Modern Learning. The style of this treatise is very good, the matter
ludicrous and contemptible to the last degree. There we read how
Lycurgus travelled into India, and brought the Spartan laws from that
country; how Orpheus made voyages in search of knowledge, and attained
to a depth of learning which has made him renowned in all succeeding
ages; how Pythagoras passed twenty-two years in Egypt, and, after
graduating there, spent twelve years more at Babylon, where the Magi
admitted him ad eundem; how the ancient Brahmins lived two hundred
years; how the earliest Greek philosophers foretold earthquakes and
plagues, and put down riots by magic; and how much Ninus surpassed in
abilities any of his successors on the throne of Assyria. The moderns,
Sir William owns, have found out the circulation of blood; but, on
the other hand, they have quite lost the art of conjuring; nor can any
modern fiddler enchant fishes, fowls, and serpents by his performance.
He tells us that “Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Hippocrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and Epicurus made greater progresses in the several empires
of science than any of their successors have since been able to reach”;
which is just as absurd as if he had said that the greatest names in
British science are Merlin, Michael Scott, Dr. Sydenham, and Lord Bacon.
Indeed, the manner in which Temple mixes the historical and the fabulous
reminds us of those classical dictionaries, intended for the use of
schools, in which Narcissus the lover of himself and Narcissus the
freedman of Claudius, Pollux the son of Jupiter and Leda and Pollux
the author of the Onomasticon, are ranged under the same headings, and
treated as personages equally real.

The effect of this arrangement resembles that which would be produced
by a dictionary of modern names, consisting of such articles as the
following:-“Jones, William, an eminent Orientalist, and one of the
judges of the Supreme Court of judicature in Bengal--Davy, a fiend, who
destroys ships--Thomas, a foundling, brought up by Mr. Allworthy.” It is
from such sources as these that Temple seems to have learned all that
he knew about the ancients. He puts the story of Orpheus between the
Olympic games and the battle of Arbela; as if we had exactly the same
reasons for believing that Orpheus led beasts with his lyre, which we
have for believing that there were races at Pisa, or that Alexander
conquered Darius.

He manages little better when he comes to the moderns. He gives us a
catalogue of those whom he regards as the greatest writers of later
times. It is sufficient to say that, in his list of Italians, he has
omitted Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso; in his list of Spaniards,
Lope and Calderon; in his list of French, Pascal, Bossuet, Moliere,
Corneille, Racine, and Boileau; and in his list of English, Chaucer,
Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton.

In the midst of all this vast mass of absurdity one paragraph stands out
pre-eminent. The doctrine of Temple, not a very comfortable doctrine,
is that the human race is constantly degenerating, and that the oldest
books in every kind are the best in confirmation of this notion, he
remarks that the Fables of Aesop are the best Fables, and the Letters of
Phalaris the best Letters in the world. On the merit of the Letters of
Phalaris he dwells with great warmth and with extraordinary felicity of
language. Indeed we could hardly select a more favourable specimen of
the graceful and easy majesty to which his style sometimes rises than
this unlucky passage. He knows, he says, that some learned men, or men
who pass for learned, such as Politian, have doubted the genuineness of
these letters; but of such doubts he speaks with the greatest contempt.
Now it is perfectly certain, first, that the letters are very bad;
secondly, that they are spurious; and thirdly, that, whether they be bad
or good, spurious or genuine, Temple could know nothing of the matter;
inasmuch as he was no more able to construe a line of them than to
decipher an Egyptian obelisk.

This Essay, silly as it is, was exceedingly well received, both in
England and on the Continent. And the reason is evident. The classical
scholars who saw its absurdity were generally on the side of the
ancients, and were inclined rather to veil than to expose the blunders
of an ally; the champions of the moderns were generally as ignorant
as Temple himself; and the multitude was charmed by his flowing
and melodious diction. He was doomed, however, to smart, as he well
deserved, for his vanity and folly.

Christchurch at Oxford was then widely and justly celebrated as a place
where the lighter parts of classical learning were cultivated with
success. With the deeper mysteries of philology neither the instructors
nor the pupils had the smallest acquaintance. They fancied themselves
Scaligers, as Bentley scornfully said, if they could write a copy of
Latin verses with only two or three small faults. From this College
proceeded a new edition of the Letters of Phalaris, which were rare, and
had been in request since the appearance of Temple’s Essay. The nominal
editor was Charles Boyle, a young man of noble family and promising
parts; but some older members of the society lent their assistance.
While this work was in preparation, an idle quarrel, occasioned, it
should seem, by the negligence and misrepresentations of a bookseller,
arose between Boyle and the King’s Librarian, Richard Bentley. Boyle
in the preface to his edition, inserted a bitter reflection on Bentley.
Bentley revenged himself by proving that the Epistles of Phalaris
were forgeries, and in his remarks on this subject treated Temple, not
indecently, but with no great reverence.

Temple, who was quite unaccustomed to any but the most respectful usage,
who, even while engaged in politics, had always shrunk from all rude
collision, and had generally succeeded in avoiding it, and whose
sensitiveness had been increased by many years of seclusion and
flattery, was moved to most violent resentment, complained, very
unjustly, of Bentley’s foul-mouthed raillery, and declared that he had
commenced an answer, but had laid it aside, “having no mind to enter the
lists with such a mean, dull, unmannerly pedant” Whatever may be thought
of the temper which Sir William showed on this occasion, we cannot
too highly applaud his discretion in not finishing and publishing
his answer, which would certainly have been a most extraordinary
performance.

He was not, however, without defenders. Like Hector, when struck down
prostrate by Ajax, he was in an instant covered by a thick crowd of
shields.

Outis edunesato poimena laou Outasai oudi balein prin gar peribesan
aristoi Polubmas te, kai Aineias, kai dios Agenor, Sarpedon t’archos
Lukion, kai Glaukos amumon.

Christchurch was up in arms; and though that College seems then to have
been almost destitute of severe and accurate learning, no academical
society could show a greater array of orators, wits, politicians,
bustling adventurers who united the superficial accomplishments of the
scholar with the manners and arts of the man of the world; and this
formidable body resolved to try how far smart repartees, well-turned
sentences, confidence, puffing, and intrigue could, on the question
whether a Greek book were or were not genuine, supply the place of a
little knowledge of Greek.

Out came the Reply to Bentley, bearing the name of Boyle, but in truth
written by Atterbury with the assistance of Smalridge and others. A most
remarkable book it is, and often reminds us of Goldsmith’s observation,
that the French would be the best cooks in the world if they had any
butcher’s meat, for that they can make ten dishes out of a nettle-top.
It really deserves the praise, whatever that praise may be worth, of
being the best book ever written by any man on the wrong side of a
question of which he was profoundly ignorant. The learning of the
confederacy is that of a schoolboy, and not of an extraordinary
schoolboy; but it is used with the skill and address of most able,
artful, and experienced men; it is beaten out to the very thinnest leaf,
and is disposed in such a way as to seem ten times larger than it is.
The dexterity with which the confederates avoid grappling with those
parts of the subject with which they know themselves to be incompetent
to deal is quite wonderful. Now and then, indeed, they commit
disgraceful blunders, for which old Busby, under whom they had studied,
would have whipped them all round. But this circumstance only raises our
opinion of the talents which made such a fight with such scanty means.
Let readers who are not acquainted with the controversy imagine a
Frenchman, who has acquired just English enough to read the Spectator
with a dictionary, coming forward to defend the genuineness of Ireland’s
Vortigern against Malone; and they will have some notion of the feat
which Atterbury had the audacity to undertake, and which, for a time, it
was really thought that he had performed.

The illusion was soon dispelled. Bentley’s answer for ever settled the
question, and established his claim to the first place amongst classical
scholars. Nor do those do him justice who represent the controversy as
a battle between wit and learning. For though there is a lamentable
deficiency of learning on the side of Boyle, there is no want of wit on
the side of Bentley. Other qualities, too, as valuable as either wit or
learning, appear conspicuously in Bentley’s book, a rare sagacity, an
unrivalled power of combination, a perfect mastery of all the weapons
of logic. He was greatly indebted to the furious outcry which the
misrepresentations, sarcasms, and intrigues of his opponents had raised
against him, an outcry in which fashionable and political circles
joined, and which was echoed by thousands who did not know whether
Phalaris ruled in Sicily or in Siam. His spirit, daring even to
rashness, self-confident even to negligence, and proud even to insolent
ferocity, was awed for the first and for the last time, awed, not into
meanness or cowardice, but into wariness and sobriety. For once he ran
no risks; he left no crevice unguarded; he wantoned in no paradoxes;
above all, he returned no railing for the railing of his enemies. In
almost everything that he has written we can discover proofs of genius
and learning. But it is only here that his genius and learning appear to
have been constantly under the guidance of good sense and good temper.
Here, we find none of that besotted reliance on his own powers and on
his own luck, which he showed when he undertook to edit Milton; none of
that perverted ingenuity which deforms so many of his notes on Horace;
none of that disdainful carelessness by which he laid himself open to
the keen and dexterous thrust of Middleton; none of that extravagant
vaunting and savage scurrility by which he afterwards dishonoured his
studies and his profession, and degraded himself almost to the level of
De Pauw.

Temple did not live to witness the utter and irreparable defeat of
his champions. He died, indeed, at a fortunate moment, just after the
appearance of Boyle’s book, and while all England was laughing at the
way in which the Christchurch men had handled the pedant. In Boyle’s
book, Temple was praised in the highest terms, and compared to Memmius:
not a very happy comparison; for almost the only particular information
which we have about Memmius is that, in agitated times, he thought it
his duty to attend exclusively to politics, and that his friends could
not venture, except when the Republic was quiet and prosperous, to
intrude on him with their philosophical and poetical productions. It is
on this account that Lucretius puts up the exquisitely beautiful prayer
for peace with which his poem opens.

“Nam neque nos agere hoc patriai tempore iniquo Possumus aequo animo,
nec Memmi clara propago Talibus in rebus communi de esse saluti.”

This description is surely by no means applicable to a statesman who
had, through the whole course of his life, carefully avoided exposing
himself in seasons of trouble; who had repeatedly refused, in most
critical conjunctures, to be Secretary of State; and, who now, in the
midst of revolutions, plots, foreign and domestic wars, was quietly
writing nonsense about the visits of Lycurgus to the Brahmins and the
tunes which Arion played to the Dolphin.

We must not omit to mention that, while the controversy about Phalaris
was raging, Swift, in order to show his zeal and attachment, wrote the
Battle of the Books, the earliest piece in which his peculiar talents
are discernible. We may observe that the bitter dislike of Bentley,
bequeathed by Temple to Swift, seems to have been communicated by Swift
to Pope, to Arbuthnot, and to others, who continued to tease the great
critic long after he had shaken hands very cordially both with Boyle and
with Atterbury.

Sir William Temple died at Moor Park in January 1699. He appears to have
suffered no intellectual decay. His heart was buried under a sundial
which still stands in his favourite garden. His body was laid in
Westminster Abbey by the side of his wife; and a place hard by was set
apart for Lady Giffard, who long survived him. Swift was his literary
executor, superintended the publication of his Letters and Memoirs, and,
in the performance of this office, had some acrimonious contests with
the family.

Of Temple’s character little more remains to be said. Burnet accuses him
of holding irreligious opinions, and corrupting everybody who came near
him. But the vague assertion of so rash and partial a writer as Burnet,
about a man with whom, as far as we know, he never exchanged a word, is
of little weight. It is, indeed, by no means improbable that Temple may
have been a freethinker. The Osbornes thought him so when he was a very
young man. And it is certain that a large proportion of the gentlemen of
rank and fashion who made their entrance into society while the Puritan
party was at the height of power, and while the memory of the reign
of that party was still recent, conceived a strong disgust for all
religion. The imputation was common between Temple and all the most
distinguished courtiers of the age. Rochester, and Buckingham were open
scoffers, and Mulgrave very little better. Shaftesbury, though more
guarded, was supposed to agree with them in opinion. All the three
noblemen who were Temple’s colleagues during the short time of his
sitting in the Cabinet were of very indifferent repute as to orthodoxy.
Halifax, indeed, was generally considered as an atheist; but he solemnly
denied the charge; and, indeed, the truth seems to be that he was more
religiously disposed than most of the statesmen of that age, though two
impulses which were unusually strong in him, a passion for ludicrous
images, and a passion for subtle speculations, sometimes prompted him to
talk on serious subjects in a manner which gave grave and just offence.
It is not unlikely that Temple, who seldom went below the surface of
any question, may have been infected with the prevailing scepticism. All
that we can say on the subject is, that there is no trace of impiety in
his works, and that the case with which he carried his election for an
university, where the majority of the voters were clergymen, though
it proves nothing as to his opinions, must, we think, be considered as
proving that he was not, as Burnet seems to insinuate, in the habit of
talking atheism to all who came near him.

Temple, however, will scarcely carry with him any great accession of
authority to the side either of religion or of infidelity. He was
no profound thinker. He was merely a man of lively parts and quick
observation, a man of the world among men of letters, a man of letters
among men of the world. Mere scholars were dazzled by the Ambassador and
Cabinet counsellor; mere politicians by the Essayist and Historian. But
neither as a writer nor as a statesman can we allot to him any very high
place. As a man, he seems to us to have been excessively selfish, but
very sober, wary, and far-sighted in his selfishness; to have known
better than most people what he really wanted in life; and to have
pursued what he wanted with much more than ordinary steadiness and
sagacity, never suffering himself to be drawn aside either by bad or
by good feelings. It was his constitution to dread failure more than he
desired success, to prefer security, comfort, repose, leisure, to the
turmoil and anxiety which are inseparable from greatness; and this
natural languor of mind, when contrasted with the malignant energy of
the keen and restless spirits among whom his lot was cast, sometimes
appears to resemble the moderation of virtue. But we must own that he
seems to us to sink into littleness and meanness when we compare him,
we do not say with any high ideal standard of morality, but with many
of those frail men who, aiming at noble ends, but often drawn from
the right path by strong passions and strong temptations, have left to
posterity a doubtful and checkered fame.



SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH


(July 1835)
_History of the Revolution in England, in 1688. Comprising a View of the
Reign of James the Second from his Accession to the Enterprise of the
Prince of Orange, by the late Right Honourable Sir JAMES MACKINTOSH;
and completed to the Settlement of the Crown, by the Editor. To which
is prefixed a Notice of the Life, Writings, and Speeches of Sir James
Mackintosh. 4to. London: 1834._

[In this review, as it originally stood, the editor of the History of
the Revolution was attacked with an asperity which neither literary
defects nor speculative differences can justify, and which ought to
be reserved for offences against the laws of morality and honour. The
reviewer was not actuated by any feeling of personal malevolence: for
when he wrote this paper in a distant country, he did not know, or even
guess, whom he was assailing. His only motive was regard for the memory
of an eminent man whom he loved and honoured, and who appeared to him to
have been unworthily treated.

The editor is now dead; and, while living, declared that he had been
misunderstood, and that he had written in no spirit of enmity to Sir
James Mackintosh, for whom he professed the highest respect.

Many passages have therefore been softened, and some wholly omitted.
The severe censure passed on the literary execution of the “Memoir” and
“Continuation” could not be retracted without a violation of truth. But
whatever could be construed into an imputation on the moral character of
the editor has been carefully expunged.]


IT is with unfeigned diffidence that we venture to give our opinion of
the last work of Sir James Mackintosh. We have in vain tried to perform
what ought to be to a critic an easy and habitual act. We have in vain
tried to separate the book from the writer, and to judge of it as if it
bore some unknown name. But it is to no purpose. All the lines of that
venerable countenance are before us. All the little peculiar cadences
of that voice from which scholars and statesmen loved to receive the
lessons of a serene and benevolent wisdom are in our ears. We will
attempt to preserve strict impartiality. But we are not ashamed to own
that we approach this relic of a virtuous and most accomplished man
with feelings of respect and gratitude which may possibly pervert our
judgment.

It is hardly possible to avoid instituting a comparison between this
work and another celebrated Fragment. Our readers will easily guess that
we allude to Mr. Fox’s History of James the Second. The two books relate
to the same subject. Both were posthumously published. Neither had
received the last corrections. The authors belonged to the same
political party, and held the same opinions concerning the merits
and defects of the English constitution, and concerning most of the
prominent characters and events in English history. Both had
thought much on the principles of government; yet they were not mere
speculators. Both had ransacked the archives of rival kingdoms, and
pored on folios which had mouldered for ages in deserted libraries; yet
they were not mere antiquaries. They had one eminent qualification for
writing history: they had spoken history, acted history, lived history.
The turns of political fortune, the ebb and flow of popular feeling, the
hidden mechanism by which parties are moved, all these things were
the subjects of their constant thought and of their most familiar
conversation. Gibbon has remarked that he owed part of his success as
a historian to the observations which he had made as an officer in the
militia and as a member of the House of Commons. The remark is most
just. We have not the smallest doubt that his campaign, though he never
saw an enemy, and his parliamentary attendance, though he never made a
speech, were of far more use to him than years of retirement and study
would have been. If the time that he spent on parade and at mess in
Hampshire, or on the Treasury bench and at Brookes’s during the storms
which overthrew Lord North and Lord Shelburne, had been passed in the
Bodleian Library, he might have avoided some inaccuracies; he might have
enriched his notes with a greater number of references; but he would
never have produced so lively a picture of the court, the camp, and the
senate-house. In this respect Mr. Fox and Sir James Mackintosh had great
advantages over almost every English historian who has written since the
time of Burnet. Lord Lyttelton had indeed the same advantages; but he
was incapable of using them. Pedantry was so deeply fixed in his nature
that the hustings, the Treasury, the Exchequer, the House of Commons,
the House of Lords, left him the same dreaming schoolboy that they found
him.

When we compare the two interesting works of which we have been
speaking, we have little difficulty in giving the preference to that of
Sir James Mackintosh. Indeed, the superiority of Mr. Fox to Sir James as
an orator is hardly more clear than the superiority of Sir James to Mr.
Fox as a historian. Mr. Fox with a pen in his hand, and Sir James on
his legs in the House of Commons, were, we think, each out of his proper
element. They were men, it is true, of far too much judgment and ability
to fail scandalously in any undertaking to which they brought the whole
power of their minds. The History of James the Second will always keep
its place in our libraries as a valuable book; and Sir James
Mackintosh succeeded in winning and maintaining a high place among the
parliamentary speakers of his time. Yet we could never read a page of
Mr. Fox’s writing, we could never listen for a quarter of an hour to the
speaking of Sir James, without feeling that there was a constant effort,
a tug up hill. Nature, or habit which had become nature, asserted its
rights. Mr. Fox wrote debates. Sir James Mackintosh spoke essays.

As far as mere diction was concerned, indeed, Mr. Fox did his best
to avoid those faults which the habit of public speaking is likely
to generate. He was so nervously apprehensive of sliding into some
colloquial incorrectness, of debasing his style by a mixture of
parliamentary slang, that he ran into the opposite error, and purified
his vocabulary with a scrupulosity unknown to any purist. “Ciceronem
Allobroga dixit.” He would not allow Addison, Bolingbroke, or Middleton
to be a sufficient authority for an expression. He declared that he
would use no word which was not to be found in Dryden. In any other
person we should have called this solicitude mere foppery; and, in spite
of all our admiration for Mr. Fox, we cannot but think that his extreme
attention to the petty niceties of language was hardly worthy of so
manly and so capacious an understanding. There were purists of this
kind at Rome; and their fastidiousness was censured by Horace, with that
perfect good sense and good taste which characterise all his writings.
There were purists of this kind at the time of the revival of letters;
and the two greatest scholars of that time raised their voices, the one
from within, the other from without the Alps, against a scrupulosity so
unreasonable. “Carent,” said Politian, “quae scribunt isti viribus et
vita, carent actu, carent effectu, carent indole... Nisi liber ille
praesto sit ex quo quid excerpant, colligere tria verba non possunt...
Horum semper igitur oratio tremula, vacillans, infirma... Quaeso ne
ista superstitione te alliges... Ut bene currere non potest qui pedem
ponere studet in alienis tantum vestigiis, ita nec bene scribere qui
tanquam de praetscripto non audet egredi.”--“Posthac,” exclaims Erasmus,
“non licebit episcopos appellare patres reverendos, nec in calce
literarum scribere annum a Christo nato, quod id nusquam faciat Cicero.
Quid autem ineptius quam, toto seculo novato, religione, imperiis,
magistratibus, locorum vocabulis, aedificiis, cultu, moribus, non aliter
audere loqui quam locutus est Cicero? Si revivisceret ipse Cicero,
rideret hoc Ciceronianorum genus.”

While Mr. Fox winnowed and sifted his phraseology with a care which
seems hardly consistent with the simplicity and elevation of his mind,
and of which the effect really was to debase and enfeeble his style,
he was little on his guard against those more serious improprieties of
manner into which a great orator who undertakes to write history is
in danger of falling. There is about the whole book a vehement,
contentious, replying manner. Almost every argument is put in the form
of an interrogation, an ejaculation, or a sarcasm. The writer seems
to be addressing himself to some imaginary audience, to be tearing in
pieces a defence of the Stuarts which has just been pronounced by an
imaginary Tory. Take, for example, his answer to Hume’s remarks on the
execution of Sydney; and substitute “the honourable gentleman” or
“the noble Lord” for the name of Hume. The whole passage sounds like a
powerful reply, thundered at three in the morning from the Opposition
Bench. While we read it, we can almost fancy that we see and hear the
great English debater, such as he has been described to us by the
few who can still remember the Westminster scrutiny and the Oczakow
Negotiations, in the full paroxysm of inspiration, foaming, screaming,
choked by the rushing multitude of his words.

It is true that the passage to which we have referred, and several other
passages which we could point out, are admirable when considered merely
as exhibitions of mental power. We at once recognise in them that
consummate master of the whole art of intellectual gladiatorship, whose
speeches, imperfectly as they have been transmitted to us, should be
studied day and night by every man who wishes to learn the science of
logical defence. We find in several parts of the History of James the
Second fine specimens of that which we conceive to have been the great
characteristic Demosthenes among the Greeks, and of Fox among the
orators of England, reason penetrated, and, if we may venture on
the expression, made red-hot by passion. But this is not the kind of
excellence proper to history; and it is hardly too much to say that
whatever is strikingly good in Mr. Fox’s Fragment is out of place.

With Sir James Mackintosh the case was reversed. His proper place
was his library, a circle of men of letters, or a chair of moral and
political philosophy. He distinguished himself in Parliament. But
nevertheless Parliament was not exactly the sphere for him. The effect
of his most successful speeches was small when compared with the
quantity of ability and learning which was expended on them. We could
easily name men who, not possessing a tenth part of his intellectual
powers, hardly ever address the House of Commons without producing a
greater impression than was produced by his most splendid and elaborate
orations. His luminous and philosophical disquisition on the Reform
Bill was spoken to empty benches. Those, indeed, who had the wit to keep
their seats, picked up hints which, skilfully used, made the fortune
of more than one speech. But “it was caviare to the general.” And even
those who listened to Sir James with pleasure and admiration could not
but acknowledge that he rather lectured than debated. An artist who
should waste on a panorama, or a scene, or on a transparency, the
exquisite finishing which we admire in some of the small Dutch
interiors, would not squander his powers more than this eminent man too
often did. His audience resembled the boy in the Heart of Midlothian,
who pushes away the lady’s guineas with contempt, and insists on
having the white money. They preferred the silver with which they were
familiar, and which they were constantly passing about from hand to
hand, to the gold which they had never before seen, and with the value
of which they were unacquainted.

It is much to be regretted, we think, that Sir James Mackintosh did not
wholly devote his later years to philosophy and literature. His talents
were not those which enable a speaker to produce with rapidity a series
of striking but transitory impressions, and to excite the minds of five
hundred gentlemen at midnight, without saying anything that any one of
them will be able to remember in the morning. His arguments were of a
very different texture from those which are produced in Parliament at a
moment’s notice, which puzzle a plain man who, if he had them before him
in writing, would soon detect their fallacy, and which the great debater
who employs them forgets within half an hour, and never thinks of again.
Whatever was valuable in the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh was
the ripe fruit of study and of meditation. It was the same with his
conversation. In his most familiar talk there was no wildness, no
inconsistency, no amusing nonsense, no exaggeration for the sake of
momentary effect. His mind was a vast magazine, admirably arranged.
Everything was there; and everything was in its place. His judgments
on men, on sects, on books, had been often and carefully tested and
weighed, and had then been committed, each to its proper receptacle,
in the most capacious and accurately constructed memory that any human
being ever possessed. It would have been strange indeed if you had asked
for anything that was not to be found in that immense storehouse. The
article which you required was not only there. It was ready. It was in
its own proper compartment. In a moment it was brought down, unpacked,
and displayed. If those who enjoyed the privilege--for a privilege
indeed it was--of listening to Sir James Mackintosh had been disposed
to find some fault in his conversation, they might perhaps have observed
that he yielded too little to the impulse of the moment. He seemed to be
recollecting, not creating. He never appeared to catch a sudden glimpse
of a subject in a new light. You never saw his opinions in the making,
still rude, still inconsistent, and requiring to be fashioned by thought
and discussion. They came forth, like the pillars of that temple in
which no sound of axes or hammers was heard, finished, rounded, and
exactly suited to their places. What Mr. Charles Lamb has said, with
much humour and some truth, of the conversation of Scotchmen in general,
was certainly true of this eminent Scotchman. He did not find, but
bring. You could not cry halves to anything that turned up while you
were in his company.

The intellectual and moral qualities which are most important in a
historian, he possessed in a very high degree. He was singularly mild,
calm, and impartial in his judgments of men, and of parties. Almost
all the distinguished writers who have treated of English history are
advocates. Mr. Hallam and Sir James Mackintosh alone are entitled to
be called judges. But the extreme austerity of Mr. Hallam takes away
something from the pleasure of reading his learned, eloquent, and
judicious writings. He is a judge, but a hanging judge, the Page or
Buller of the High Court of Literary justice. His black cap is in
constant requisition. In the long calendar of those whom he has tried,
there is hardly one who has not, in spite of evidence to character and
recommendations to mercy, been sentenced and left for execution. Sir
James, perhaps, erred a little on the other side. He liked a maiden
assize, and came away with white gloves, after sitting in judgment on
batches of the most notorious offenders. He had a quick eye for
the redeeming parts of a character, and a large toleration for the
infirmities of men exposed to strong temptations. But this lenity did
not arise from ignorance or neglect of moral distinctions. Though he
allowed perhaps too much weight to every extenuating circumstance that
could be urged in favour of the transgressor, he never disputed the
authority of the law, or showed his ingenuity by refining away its
enactments. On every occasion he showed himself firm where principles
were in question, but full of charity towards individuals.

We have no hesitation in pronouncing this Fragment decidedly the best
history now extant of the reign of James the Second. It contains much
new and curious information, of which excellent use has been made. But
we are not sure that the book is not in some degree open to the charge
which the idle citizen in the Spectator brought against his pudding;
“Mem. too many plums, and no suet.” There is perhaps too much
disquisition and too little narrative; and indeed this is the fault
into which, judging from the habits of Sir James’s mind, we should have
thought him most likely to fall. What we assuredly did not anticipate
was, that the narrative would be better executed than the disquisitions.
We expected to find, and we have found, many just delineations of
character, and many digressions full of interest, such as the account of
the order of Jesuits, and of the state of prison discipline in England
a hundred and fifty years ago. We expected to find, and we have
found, many reflections breathing the spirit of a calm and benignant
philosophy. But we did not, we own, expect to find that Sir James could
tell a story as well as Voltaire or Hume. Yet such is the fact; and if
any person doubts it, we would advise him to read the account of the
events which followed the issuing of King James’s declaration, the
meeting of the clergy, the violent scene at the privy council, the
commitment, trial, and acquittal of the bishops. The most superficial
reader must be charmed, we think, by the liveliness of the narrative.
But no person who is not acquainted with that vast mass of intractable
materials of which the valuable and interesting part has been extracted
and condensed can fully appreciate the skill of the writer. Here, and
indeed throughout the book, we find many harsh and careless expressions
which the author would probably have removed if he had lived to complete
his work. But, in spite of these blemishes, we must say that we should
find it difficult to point out, in any modern history, any passage of
equal length and at the same time of equal merit. We find in it the
diligence, the accuracy, and the judgment of Hallam, united to the
vivacity and the colouring of Southey. A history of England, written
throughout in this manner, would be the most fascinating book in the
language. It would be more in request at the circulating libraries than
the last novel.

Sir James was not, we think, gifted with poetical imagination. But that
lower kind of imagination which is necessary to the historian he had
in large measure. It is not the business of the historian to create new
worlds and to people them with new races of beings. He is to Homer
and Shakspeare, to Dante and Milton, what Nollekens was to Canova, or
Lawrence to Michael Angelo. The object of the historian’s imitation
is not within him; it is furnished from without. It is not a vision of
beauty and grandeur discernible only by the eye of his own mind, but a
real model which he did not make, and which he cannot alter. Yet his is
not a mere mechanical imitation. The triumph of his skill is to select
such parts as may produce the effect of the whole, to bring out strongly
all the characteristic features, and to throw the light and shade in
such a manner as may heighten the effect. This skill, as far as we
can judge from the unfinished work now before us, Sir James Mackintosh
possessed in an eminent degree.

The style of this Fragment is weighty, manly, and unaffected. There are,
as we have said, some expressions which seem to us harsh, and some which
we think inaccurate. These would probably have been corrected, if Sir
James had lived to superintend the publication. We ought to add that the
printer has by no means done his duty. One misprint in particular is so
serious as to require notice. Sir James Mackintosh has paid a high and
just tribute to the genius, the integrity, and the courage of a good and
great man, a distinguished ornament of English literature, a fearless
champion of English liberty, Thomas Burnet, Master of the Charter-House,
and author of the most eloquent and imaginative work, the Telluris
Theoria Sacra. Wherever the name of this celebrated man occurs, it is
printed “Bennet,” both in the text and in the index. This cannot be mere
negligence. It is plain that Thomas Burnet and his writings were never
heard of by the gentleman who has been employed to edit this volume,
and who, not content with deforming Sir James Mackintosh’s text by such
blunders, has prefixed to it a bad Memoir, has appended to it a bad
continuation, and has thus succeeded in expanding the volume into one
of the thickest, and debasing it into one of the worst that we ever saw.
Never did we fall in with so admirable an illustration of the old Greek
proverb, which tells us that half is sometimes more than the whole.
Never did we see a case in which the increase of the bulk was so
evidently a diminution of the value.

Why such an artist was selected to deface so fine a Torso, we cannot
pretend to conjecture. We read that, when the Consul Mummius, after
the taking of Corinth, was preparing to send to Rome some works of the
greatest Grecian sculptors, he told the packers that if they broke his
Venus or his Apollo, he would force them to restore the limbs which
should be wanting. A head by a hewer of milestones joined to a bosom by
Praxiteles would not surprise or shock us more than this supplement.

The “Memoir” contains much that is worth reading; for it contains many
extracts from the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh. But when we pass
from what the biographer has done with his scissors to what he has done
with his pen, we can find nothing to praise in his work. Whatever
may have been the intention with which he wrote, the tendency of his
narrative is to convey the impression that Sir James Mackintosh, from
interested motives, abandoned the doctrines of the Vindiciae Gallicae.
Had such charges appeared in their natural place, we should leave them
to their natural fate. We would not stoop to defend Sir James Mackintosh
from the attacks of fourth-rate magazines and pothouse newspapers. But
here his own fame is turned against him. A book of which not one copy
would ever have been bought but for his name in the title-page is made
the vehicle of the imputation. Under such circumstances we cannot help
exclaiming, in the words of one of the most amiable of Homer’s heroes,

               “Nun tis enieies

               Patroklios deilio

               Mnisastho pasin gar epistato meilichos einai

               Zoos eun’ nun d’ au

               Thanatos kai Moira kichanei.”

We have no difficulty in admitting that during the ten or twelve years
which followed the appearance of the Vindicae Gallicae, the opinions of
Sir James Mackintosh underwent some change. But did this change pass on
him alone? Was it not common? Was it not almost universal? Was there one
honest friend of liberty in Europe or in America whose ardour had not
been damped, whose faith in the high destinies of mankind had not
been shaken? Was there one observer to whom the French Revolution, or
revolutions in general, appeared in exactly the same light on the day
when the Bastile fell, and on the day when the Girondists were dragged
to the scaffold, the day when the Directory shipped off their principal
opponents for Guiana, or the day when the Legislative Body was
driven from its hall at the point of the bayonet? We do not speak of
light-minded and enthusiastic people, of wits like Sheridan, or poets
like Alfieri; but of the most virtuous and intelligent practical
statesmen, and of the deepest, the calmest, the most impartial political
speculators of that time. What was the language and conduct of Lord
Spencer, of Lord Fitzwilliam, or Mr. Grattan? What is the tone of M.
Dumont’s Memoirs, written just at the close of the eighteenth century?
What Tory could have spoken with greater disgust or contempt of the
French Revolution and its authors? Nay, this writer, a republican, and
the most upright and zealous of republicans, has gone so far as to say
that Mr. Burke’s work on the Revolution had saved Europe. The name of M.
Dumont naturally suggests that of Mr. Bentham. He, we presume, was not
ratting for a place; and what language did he hold at that time? Look at
his little treatise entitled Sophismes Anarchiques. In that treatise
he says, that the atrocities of the Revolution were the natural
consequences of the absurd principles on which it was commenced; that,
while the chiefs of the constituent assembly gloried in the thought that
they were pulling down aristocracy, they never saw that their doctrines
tended to produce an evil a hundred times more formidable, anarchy; that
the theory laid down in the Declaration of the Rights of Man had, in a
great measure, produced the crimes of the Reign of Terror; that none but
an eyewitness could imagine the horrors of a state of society in which
comments on that Declaration were put forth by men with no food in their
bellies, with rags on their backs and pikes in their hands. He praises
the English Parliament for the dislike which it has always shown to
abstract reasonings, and to the affirming of general principles. In M.
Dumont’s preface to the Treatise on the Principles of Legislation, a
preface written under the eye of Mr. Bentham, and published with his
sanction, are the following still more remarkable expressions: “M.
Bentham est bien loin d’attacher une préférence exclusive a aucune forme
de gouvernement. Il pense que la meilleure constitution pour un peuple
est celle a laquelle il est accoutume... Le vice fondamental des
théories sur les constitutions politiques, c’est de commencer par
attaquer celles qui existent, et d’exciter tout au moins des inquiétudes
et des jalousies de pouvoir. Une telle disposition n’est point
favorable au perfectionnement des lois. La seule époque ou l’on puisse
entreprendre avec succes des grandes reformes de législation est celle
ou les passions publiques sont calmes, et ou le gouvernement jouit de
la stabilité la plus grande. L’objet de M. Bentham, en cherchant dans
le vice des lois la cause de la plupart des maux, a été constamment
d’éloigner le plus grand de tous, le bouleversement de l’autorite, les
révolutions de propriété et de pouvoir.”

To so conservative a frame of mind had the excesses of the French
Revolution brought the most illustrious reformers of that time. And
why is one person to be singled out from among millions, and arraigned
before posterity as a traitor to his opinions only because events
produced on him the effect which they produced on a whole generation?
People who, like Mr. Brothers in the last generation, and Mr. Percival
in this, have been favoured with revelations from heaven, may be quite
independent of the vulgar sources of knowledge. But such poor creatures
as Mackintosh, Dumont, and Bentham, had nothing but observation and
reason to guide them; and they obeyed the guidance of observation and of
reason. How is it in physics? A traveller falls in with a berry which he
has never before seen. He tastes it, and finds it sweet and refreshing.
He praises it, and resolves to introduce it into his own country. But in
a few minutes he is taken violently sick; he is convulsed; he is at
the point of death. He of course changes his opinion, denounces this
delicious food a poison, blames his own folly in tasting it, and
cautions his friends against it. After a long and violent struggle he
recovers, and finds himself much exhausted by his sufferings, but free
from some chronic complaints which had been the torment of his life.
He then changes his opinion again, and pronounces this fruit a very
powerful remedy, which ought to be employed only in extreme cases and
with great caution, but which ought not to be absolutely excluded from
the Pharmacopoeia. And would it not be the height of absurdity to call
such a man fickle and inconsistent, because he had repeatedly altered
his judgment? If he had not altered his judgment, would he have been a
rational being? It was exactly the same with the French Revolution. That
event was a new phaenomenon in politics. Nothing that had gone before
enabled any person to judge with certainty of the course which affairs
might take. At first the effect was the reform of great abuses; and
honest men rejoiced. Then came commotion, proscription, confiscation,
bankruptcy, the assignats, the maximum, civil war, foreign war,
revolutionary tribunals, guillotinades, noyades, fusillades. Yet a
little while, and a military despotism rose out of the confusion, and
menaced the independence of every state in Europe.

And yet again a little while, and the old dynasty returned, followed by
a train of emigrants eager to restore the old abuses. We have now, we
think, the whole before us. We should therefore be justly accused of
levity or insincerity if our language concerning those events were
constantly changing. It is our deliberate opinion that the French
Revolution, in spite of all its crimes and follies, was a great blessing
to mankind. But it was not only natural, but inevitable, that those who
had only seen the first act should be ignorant of the catastrophe,
and should be alternately elated and depressed as the plot went on
disclosing itself to them. A man who had held exactly the same opinion
about the Revolution in 1789, in 1794, in 1804, in 1814, and in 1834,
would have been either a divinely inspired prophet, or an obstinate
fool. Mackintosh was neither. He was simply a wise and good man; and the
change which passed on his mind was a change which passed on the mind
of almost every wise and good man in Europe. In fact, few of his
contemporaries changed so little. The rare moderation and calmness
of his temper preserved him alike from extravagant elation and from
extravagant despondency. He was never a Jacobin. He was never an
Anti-Jacobin. His mind oscillated undoubtedly, but the extreme points
of the oscillation were not very remote. Herein he differed greatly from
some persons of distinguished talents who entered into life at nearly
the same time with him. Such persons we have seen rushing from one wild
extreme to another, out-Paining Paine, out-Castlereaghing Castlereagh,
Pantisocratists, Ultra-Tories, heretics, persecutors, breaking the
old laws against sedition, calling for new and sharper laws against
sedition, writing democratic dramas, writing Laureate odes panegyrising
Marten, panegyrising Laud, consistent in nothing but an intolerance
which in any person would be censurable, but which is altogether
unpardonable in men who, by their own confession, have had such ample
experience of their own fallibility. We readily concede to some of these
persons the praise of eloquence and poetical invention; nor are we
by any means disposed, even where they have been gainers by their
conversion, to question their sincerity. It would be most uncandid to
attribute to sordid motives actions which admit of a less discreditable
explanation. We think that the conduct of these persons has been
precisely what was to be expected from men who were gifted with strong
imagination and quick sensibility, but who were neither accurate
observers nor logical reasoners. It was natural that such men should see
in the victory of the third estate of France the dawn of a new Saturnian
age. It was natural that the rage of their disappointment should be
proportioned to the extravagance of their hopes. Though the direction of
their passions was altered, the violence of those passions was the same.
The force of the rebound was proportioned to the force of the original
impulse. The pendulum swung furiously to the left, because it had been
drawn too far to the right.

We own that nothing gives us so high an idea of the judgment and temper
of Sir James Mackintosh as the manner in which he shaped his course
through those times. Exposed successively to two opposite infections, he
took both in their very mildest form. The constitution of his mind was
such that neither of the diseases which wrought such havoc all round him
could in any serious degree, or for any great length of time, derange
his intellectual health. He, like every honest and enlightened man in
Europe, saw with delight the great awakening of the French nation. Yet
he never, in the season of his warmest enthusiasm, proclaimed doctrines
inconsistent with the safety of property and the just authority of
governments. He, like almost every other honest and enlightened man, was
discouraged and perplexed by the terrible events which followed. Yet he
never in the most gloomy times abandoned the cause of peace, of liberty,
and of toleration. In that great convulsion which overset almost
every other understanding, he was indeed so much shaken that he leaned
sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other; but he never lost
his balance. The opinions in which he at last reposed, and to which, in
spite of strong temptations, he adhered with a firm, a disinterested,
an ill-requited fidelity, were a just mean between those which he had
defended with youthful ardour and with more than manly prowess against
Mr. Burke, and those to which he had inclined during the darkest and
saddest years in the history of modern Europe. We are much mistaken if
this be the picture either of a weak or of a dishonest mind.

What the political opinions of Sir James Mackintosh were in his later
years is written in the annals of his country. Those annals will
sufficiently refute what the Editor has ventured to assert in the
very advertisement to this work. “Sir James Mackintosh,” says he,
“was avowedly and emphatically a Whig of the Revolution: and since
the agitation of religious liberty and parliamentary reform became
a national movement, the great transaction of 1688 has been more
dispassionately, more correctly, and less highly estimated.” If these
words mean anything, they must mean that the opinions of Sir James
Mackintosh concerning religious liberty and parliamentary reform went
no further than those of the authors of the Revolution; in other words,
that Sir James Mackintosh opposed Catholic Emancipation, and approved of
the old constitution of the House of Commons. The allegation is confuted
by twenty volumes of Parliamentary Debates, nay, by innumerable passages
in the very fragment which this writer has defaced. We will venture to
say that Sir James Mackintosh often did more for religious liberty and
for parliamentary reform in a quarter of an hour than most of those
zealots who are in the habit of depreciating him have done or will do in
the whole course of their lives.

Nothing in the “Memoir” or in the “Continuation of the History” has
struck us so much as the contempt with which the writer thinks fit to
speak of all things that were done before the coming in of the very last
fashions in politics. We think that we have sometimes observed a leaning
towards the same fault in writers of a much higher order of intellect.
We will therefore take this opportunity of making a few remarks on an
error which is, we fear, becoming common, and which appears to us
not only absurd, but as pernicious as almost any error concerning the
transactions of a past age can possibly be.

We shall not, we hope, be suspected of a bigoted attachment to the
doctrines and practices of past generations. Our creed is that the
science of government is an experimental science, and that, like all
other experimental sciences, it is generally in a state of progression.
No man is so obstinate an admirer of the old times as to deny that
medicine, surgery, botany, chemistry, engineering, navigation, are
better understood now than in any former age. We conceive that it is the
same with political science. Like those physical sciences which we have
mentioned, it has always been working itself clearer and clearer, and
depositing impurity after impurity. There was a time when the most
powerful of human intellects were deluded by the gibberish of the
astrologer and the alchemist; and just so there was a time when the
most enlightened and virtuous statesmen thought it the first duty of a
government to persecute heretics, to found monasteries, to make war
on Saracens. But time advances; facts accumulate; doubts arise. Faint
glimpses of truth begin to appear, and shine more and more unto the
perfect day. The highest intellects, like the tops of mountains, are the
first to catch and to reflect the dawn. They are bright, while the
level below is still in darkness. But soon the light, which at first
illuminated only the loftiest eminences, descends on the plain and
penetrates to the deepest valley. First come hints, then fragments of
systems, then defective systems, then complete and harmonious systems.
The sound opinion, held for a time by one bold speculator, becomes the
opinion of a small minority, of a strong minority, of a majority of
mankind. Thus, the great progress goes on, till schoolboys laugh at
the jargon which imposed on Bacon, till country rectors condemn the
illiberality and intolerance of Sir Thomas More.

Seeing these things, seeing that, by the confession of the most
obstinate enemies of innovation, our race has hitherto been almost
constantly advancing in knowledge, and not seeing any reason to believe
that, precisely at the point of time at which we came into the world, a
change took place in the faculties of the human mind, or in the mode
of discovering truth, we are reformers: we are on the side of progress.
From the great advances which European society has made during the last
four centuries, in every species of knowledge, we infer, not that
there is no more room for improvement, but that, in every science which
deserves the name, immense improvements may be confidently expected.

But the very considerations which lead us to look forward with sanguine
hope to the future prevent us from looking back with contempt on the
past We do not flatter ourselves with the notion that we have attained
perfection, and that no more truth remains to be found. We believe that
we are wiser than our ancestors. We believe, also, that our posterity
will be wiser than we. It would be gross injustice in our grandchildren
to talk of us with contempt, merely because they may have surpassed us;
to call Watt a fool, because mechanical powers may be discovered which
may supersede the use of steam; to deride the efforts which have been
made in our time to improve the discipline of prisons, and to enlighten
the minds of the poor, because future philanthropists may devise better
places of confinement than Mr. Bentham’s Panopticon, and better
places of education than Mr. Lancaster’s Schools. As we would have our
descendants judge us, so ought we to judge our fathers. In order to form
a correct estimate of their merits, we ought to place ourselves in their
situation, to put out of our minds, for a time, all that knowledge which
they, however eager in the pursuit of truth, could not have, and which
we, however negligent we may have been, could not help having. It
was not merely difficult, but absolutely impossible, for the best and
greatest of men, two hundred years ago, to be what a very commonplace
person in our days may easily be, and indeed must necessarily be. But it
is too much that the benefactors of mankind, after having been reviled
by the dunces of their own generation for going too far, should be
reviled by the dunces of the next generation for not going far enough.

The truth lies between two absurd extremes. On one side is the bigot who
pleads the wisdom of our ancestors as a reason for not doing what they
in our place would be the first to do; who opposes the Reform Bill
because Lord Somers did not see the necessity of Parliamentary Reform;
who would have opposed the Revolution because Ridley and Cranmer
professed boundless submission to the royal prerogative; and who would
have opposed the Reformation because the Fitzwalters and Mareschals,
whose seals are set to the Great Charter, were devoted adherents to the
Church of Rome. On the other side is the sciolist who speaks with
scorn of the Great Charter because it did not reform the Church of
the Reformation, because it did not limit the prerogative; and of the
Revolution, because it did not purify the House of Commons. The former
of these errors we have often combated, and shall always be ready to
combat. The latter, though rapidly spreading, has not, we think, yet
come under our notice. The former error bears directly on practical
questions, and obstructs useful reforms. It may, therefore, seem to
be, and probably is, the more mischievous of the two. But the latter
is equally absurd; it is at least equally symptomatic of a shallow
understanding and an unamiable temper: and, if it should ever become
general, it will, we are satisfied, produce very prejudicial effects.
Its tendency is to deprive the benefactors of mankind of their honest
fame, and to put the best and the worst men of past times on the same
level. The author of a great reformation is almost always unpopular in
his own age. He generally passes his life in disquiet and danger. It is
therefore for the interest of the human race that the memory of such men
should be had in reverence, and that they should be supported against
the scorn and hatred of their contemporaries by the hope of leaving a
great and imperishable name. To go on the forlorn hope of truth is a
service of peril. Who will undertake it, if it be not also a service of
honour? It is easy enough, after the ramparts are carried, to find men
to plant the flag on the highest tower. The difficulty is to find men
who are ready to go first into the breach; and it would be bad policy
indeed to insult their remains because they fell in the breach, and did
not live to penetrate to the citadel.

Now here we have a book which is by no means a favourable specimen of
the English literature of the nineteenth century, a book indicating
neither extensive knowledge nor great powers of reasoning. And, if we
were to judge by the pity with which the writer speaks of the great
statesmen and philosophers of a former age, we should guess that he was
the author of the most original and important inventions in political
science. Yet not so: for men who are able to make discoveries are
generally disposed to make allowances. Men who are eagerly pressing
forward in pursuit of truth are grateful to every one who has cleared an
inch of the way for them. It is, for the most part, the man who has
just capacity enough to pick up and repeat the commonplaces which
are fashionable in his own time who looks with disdain on the very
intellects to which it is owing that those commonplaces are not still
considered as startling paradoxes or damnable heresies. This writer is
just the man who, if he had lived in the seventeenth century, would
have devoutly believed that the Papists burned London, who would have
swallowed the whole of Oates’s story about the forty thousand soldiers,
disguised as pilgrims, who were to meet in Gallicia, and sail thence
to invade England, who would have carried a Protestant flail under his
coat, and who would have been angry if the story of the warming-pan had
been questioned. It is quite natural that such a man should speak with
contempt of the great reformers of that time, because they did not know
some things which he never would have known but for the salutary effects
of their exertions. The men to whom we owe it that we have a House of
Commons are sneered at because they did not suffer the debates of the
House to be published. The authors of the Toleration Act are treated
as bigots, because they did not go the whole length of Catholic
Emancipation. Just so we have heard a baby, mounted on the shoulders of
its father, cry out, “How much taller I am than Papa!”

This gentleman can never want matter for pride, if he finds it so
easily. He may boast of an indisputable superiority to all the greatest
men of all past ages. He can read and write: Homer probably did not
know a letter. He has been taught that the earth goes round the sun:
Archimedes held that the sun went round the earth. He is aware that
there is a place called New Holland: Columbus and Gama went to their
graves in ignorance of the fact. He has heard of the Georgium Sidus:
Newton was ignorant of the existence of such a planet. He is acquainted
with the use of gunpowder: Hannibal and Caesar won their victories with
sword and spear. We submit, however, that this is not the way in which
men are to be estimated. We submit that a wooden spoon of our day would
not be justified in calling Galileo and Napier blockheads, because they
never heard of the differential calculus. We submit that Caxton’s press
in Westminster Abbey, rude as it is, ought to be looked at with quite as
much respect as the best constructed machinery that ever, in our
time, impressed the clearest type on the finest paper. Sydenham first
discovered that the cool regimen succeeded best in cases of small-pox.
By this discovery he saved the lives of hundreds of thousands; and we
venerate his memory for it, though he never heard of inoculation. Lady
Mary Montague brought inoculation into use; and we respect her for it,
though she never heard of vaccination. Jenner introduced vaccination; we
admire him for it, and we shall continue to admire him for it, although
some still safer and more agreeable preservative should be discovered.
It is thus that we ought to judge of the events and the men of other
times. They were behind us. It could not be otherwise. But the question
with respect to them is not where they were, but which way they were
going. Were their faces set in the right or in the wrong direction? Were
they in the front or in the rear of their generation? Did they exert
themselves to help onward the great movement of the human race, or to
stop it? This is not charity, but simple justice and common sense. It is
the fundamental law of the world in which we live that truth shall grow,
first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. A
person who complains of the men of 1688 for not having been men of 1835
might just as well complain of a projectile for describing a parabola,
or of quicksilver for being heavier than water.

Undoubtedly we ought to look at ancient transactions by the light
of modern knowledge. Undoubtedly it is among the first duties of
a historian to point out the faults of the eminent men of former
generations. There are no errors which are so likely to be drawn into
precedent, and therefore none which it is so necessary to expose, as the
errors of persons who have a just title to the gratitude and admiration
of posterity. In politics, as in religion, there are devotees who show
their reverence for a departed saint by converting his tomb into a
sanctuary for crime. Receptacles of wickedness are suffered to remain
undisturbed in the neighbourhood of the church which glories in the
relics of some martyred apostle. Because he was merciful, his bones give
security to assassins. Because he was chaste, the precinct of his temple
is filled with licensed stews. Privileges of an equally absurd kind
have been set up against the jurisdiction of political philosophy. Vile
abuses cluster thick round every glorious event, round every venerable
name; and this evil assuredly calls for vigorous measures of literary
police. But the proper course is to abate the nuisance without defacing
the shrine, to drive out the gangs of thieves and prostitutes without
doing foul and cowardly wrong to the ashes of the illustrious dead.

In this respect, two historians of our own time may be proposed as
models, Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Mill. Differing in most things, in
this they closely resemble each other. Sir James is lenient. Mr. Mill
is severe. But neither of them ever omits, in the apportioning of praise
and of censure, to make ample allowance for the state of political
science and political morality in former ages. In the work before
us, Sir James Mackintosh speaks with just respect of the Whigs of the
Revolution, while he never fails to condemn the conduct of that party
towards the members of the Church of Rome. His doctrines are the liberal
and benevolent doctrines of the nineteenth century. But he never forgets
that the men whom he is describing were men of the seventeenth century.

From Mr. Mill this indulgence, or, to speak more properly, this justice,
was less to be expected. That gentleman, in some of his works, appears
to consider politics not as an experimental, and therefore a progressive
science, but as a science of which all the difficulties may be resolved
by short synthetical arguments drawn from truths of the most vulgar
notoriety. Were this opinion well founded, the people of one generation
would have little or no advantage over those of another generation.
But though Mr. Mill, in some of his Essays, has been thus misled, as we
conceive, by a fondness for neat and precise forms of demonstration,
it would be gross injustice not to admit that, in his History, he has
employed a very different method of investigation with eminent ability
and success. We know no writer who takes so much pleasure in the truly
useful, noble and philosophical employment of tracing the progress
of sound opinions from their embryo state to their full maturity. He
eagerly culls from old despatches and minutes every expression in which
he can discern the imperfect germ of any great truth which has since
been fully developed. He never fails to bestow praise on those who,
though far from coming up to his standard of perfection, yet rose in a
small degree above the common level of their contemporaries. It is
thus that the annals of past times ought to be written. It is thus,
especially, that the annals of our own country ought to be written.

The history of England is emphatically the history of progress. It is
the history of a constant movement of the public mind, of a constant
change in the institutions of a great society. We see that society, at
the beginning of the twelfth century, in a state more miserable than the
state in which the most degraded nations of the East now are. We see
it subjected to the tyranny of a handful of armed foreigners. We see a
strong distinction of caste separating the victorious Norman from the
vanquished Saxon. We see the great body of the population in a state
of personal slavery. We see the most debasing and cruel superstition
exercising boundless dominion over the most elevated and benevolent
minds. We see the multitude sunk in brutal ignorance, and the studious
few engaged in acquiring what did not deserve the name of knowledge. In
the course of seven centuries the wretched and degraded race have become
the greatest and most highly civilised people that ever the world
saw, have spread their dominion over every quarter of the globe, have
scattered the seeds of mighty empires and republics over vast continents
of which no dim intimation had ever reached Ptolemy or Strabo, have
created a maritime power which would annihilate in a quarter of an hour
the navies of Tyre, Athens, Carthage, Venice, and Genoa together,
have carried the science of healing, the means of locomotion and
correspondence, every mechanical art, every manufacture, everything that
promotes the convenience of life, to a perfection which our ancestors
would have thought magical, have produced a literature which may boast
of works not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to
us, have discovered the laws which regulate the motions of the heavenly
bodies, have speculated with exquisite subtilty on the operations of the
human mind, have been the acknowledged leaders of the human race in the
career of political improvement. The history of England is the history
of this great change in the moral, intellectual, and physical state of
the inhabitants of our own island. There is much amusing and instructive
episodical matter; but this is the main action. To us, we will own,
nothing is so interesting and delightful as to contemplate the steps by
which the England of Domesday Book, the England of the Curfew and the
Forest Laws, the England of crusaders, monks, schoolmen, astrologers,
serfs, outlaws, became the England which we know and love, the classic
ground of liberty and philosophy, the school of all knowledge, the mart
of all trade. The Charter of Henry Beauclerk, the Great Charter, the
first assembling of the House of Commons, the extinction of personal
slavery, the separation from the See of Rome, the Petition of Right, the
Habeas Corpus Act, the Revolution, the establishment of the liberty of
unlicensed printing, the abolition of religious disabilities, the reform
of the representative system, all these seem to us to be the successive
stages of one great revolution--nor can we fully comprehend any one of
these memorable events unless we look at it in connection with those
which preceded, and with those which followed it. Each of those great
and ever-memorable struggles, Saxon against Norman, Villein against
Lord, Protestant against Papist, Roundhead against Cavalier, Dissenter
against Churchman, Manchester against Old Sarum, was, in its own order
and season, a struggle, on the result of which were staked the dearest
interests of the human race; and every man who, in the contest which, in
his time, divided our country, distinguished himself on the right side,
is entitled to our gratitude and respect.

Whatever the editor of this book may think, those persons who estimate
most correctly the value of the improvements which have recently
been made in our institutions are precisely the persons who are least
disposed to speak slightingly of what was done in 1688. Such men
consider the Revolution as a reform, imperfect indeed, but still most
beneficial to the English people and to the human race, as a reform,
which has been the fruitful parent of reforms, as a reform, the happy
effects of which are at this moment felt, not only throughout our own
country, but in half the monarchies of Europe, and in the depth of the
forests of Ohio. We shall be pardoned, we hope, if we call the attention
of our readers to the causes and to the consequences of that great
event.

We said that the history of England is the history of progress; and,
when we take a comprehensive view of it, it is so. But, when examined in
small separate portions, it may with more propriety be called a history
of actions and reactions. We have often thought that the motion of the
public mind in our country resembles that of the sea when the tide is
rising. Each successive wave rushes forward, breaks, and rolls back; but
the great flood is steadily coming in. A person who looked on the waters
only for a moment might fancy that they were retiring. A person who
looked on them only for five minutes might fancy that they were rushing
capriciously to and fro. But when he keeps his eye on them for a
quarter of an hour, and sees one seamark disappear after another, it is
impossible for him to doubt of the general direction in which the ocean
is moved. Just such has been the course of events in England. In the
history of the national mind, which is, in truth, the history of
the nation, we must carefully distinguish between that recoil which
regularly follows every advance and a great general ebb. If we take
short intervals, if we compare 1640 and 1660, 1680 and 1685, 1708 and
1712, 1782 and 1794, we find a retrogression. But if we take centuries,
if, for example, we compare 1794 with 1660 or with 1685, we cannot doubt
in which direction society is proceeding.

The interval which elapsed between the Restoration and the Revolution
naturally divides itself into three periods. The first extends from 1660
to 1678, the second from 1678 to 1681, the third from 1681 to 1688.

In 1660 the whole nation was mad with loyal excitement. If we had to
choose a lot from among all the multitude of those which men have drawn
since the beginning of the world, we would select that of Charles the
Second on the day of his return. He was in a situation in which the
dictates of ambition coincided with those of benevolence, in which it
was easier to be virtuous than to be wicked, to be loved than to be
hated, to earn pure and imperishable glory than to become infamous. For
once the road of goodness was a smooth descent. He had done nothing
to merit the affection of his people. But they had paid him in advance
without measure. Elizabeth, after the destruction of the Armada, or
after the abolition of monopolies, had not excited a thousandth part of
the enthusiasm with which the young exile was welcomed home. He was
not, like Lewis the Eighteenth, imposed on his subjects by foreign
conquerors; nor did he, like Lewis the Eighteenth, come back to a
country which had undergone a complete change. The House of Bourbon
was placed in Paris as a trophy of the victory of the European
confederation. The return of the ancient princes was inseparably
associated in the public mind with the cession of extensive provinces,
with the payment of an immense tribute, with the devastation of
flourishing departments, with the occupation of the kingdom by hostile
armies, with the emptiness of those niches in which the gods of Athens
and Rome had been the objects of a new idolatry, with the nakedness
of those walls on which the Transfiguration had shone with light as
glorious as that which overhung Mount Tabor. They came back to a land
in which they could recognise nothing. The seven sleepers of the legend,
who closed their eyes when the Pagans were persecuting the Christians,
and woke when the Christians were persecuting each other, did not find
themselves in a world more completely new to them. Twenty years had done
the work of twenty generations. Events had come thick. Men had lived
fast. The old institutions and the old feelings had been torn up by the
roots. There was a new Church founded and endowed by the usurper; a new
nobility whose titles were taken from fields of battle, disastrous to
the ancient line; a new chivalry whose crosses had been won by exploits
which had seemed likely to make the banishment of the emigrants
perpetual. A new code was administered by a new magistracy. A new body
of proprietors held the soil by a new tenure. The most ancient local
distinctions had been effaced. The most familiar names had become
obsolete. There was no longer a Normandy or a Burgundy, a Brittany and a
Guienne. The France of Lewis the Sixteenth had passed away as completely
as one of the Preadamite worlds. Its fossil remains might now and then
excite curiosity. But it was as impossible to put life into the old
institutions as to animate the skeletons which are imbedded in the
depths of primeval strata. It was as absurd to think that France could
again be placed under the feudal system, as that our globe could be
overrun by Mammoths. The revolution in the laws and in the form of
government was but an outward sign of that mightier revolution which
had taken place in the heart and brain of the people, and which affected
every transaction of life, trading, farming, studying, marrying, and
giving in marriage. The French whom the emigrant prince had to govern
were no more like the French of his youth, than the French of his youth
were like the French of the Jacquerie. He came back to a people who knew
not him nor his house, to a people to whom a Bourbon was no more than
a Carlovingian or a Merovingian. He might substitute the white flag for
the tricolor; he might put lilies in the place of bees; he might order
the initials of the Emperor to be carefully effaced. But he could turn
his eyes nowhere without meeting some object which reminded him that he
was a stranger in the palace of his fathers. He returned to a country in
which even the passing traveller is every moment reminded that there has
lately been a great dissolution and reconstruction of the social system.
To win the hearts of a people under such circumstances would have been
no easy task even for Henry the Fourth.

In the English Revolution the case was altogether different. Charles was
not imposed on his countrymen, but sought by them. His restoration was
not attended by any circumstance which could inflict a wound on their
national pride. Insulated by our geographical position, insulated by
our character, we had fought out our quarrels and effected our
reconciliation among ourselves. Our great internal questions had never
been mixed up with the still greater question of national independence.
The political doctrines of the Roundheads were not, like those of the
French philosophers, doctrines of universal application. Our ancestors,
for the most part, took their stand, not on a general theory, but on the
particular constitution of the realm. They asserted the rights, not of
men, but of Englishmen. Their doctrines therefore were not contagious;
and, had it been otherwise, no neighbouring country was then susceptible
of the contagion. The language in which our discussions were generally
conducted was scarcely known even to a single man of letters out of the
islands. Our local situation made it almost impossible that we should
effect great conquests on the Continent. The kings of Europe had,
therefore, no reason to fear that their subjects would follow the
example of the English Puritans, and looked with indifference, perhaps
with complacency, on the death of the monarch and the abolition of the
monarchy. Clarendon complains bitterly of their apathy. But we believe
that this apathy was of the greatest service to the royal cause. If a
French or Spanish army had invaded England, and if that army had been
cut to pieces, as we have no doubt that it would have been, on the
first day on which it came face to face with the soldiers of Preston
and Dunbar, with Colonel Fight-the-good-Fight, and Captain
Smite-them-hip-and-thigh, the House of Cromwell would probably now
have been reigning in England. The nation would have forgotten all the
misdeeds of the man who had cleared the soil of foreign invaders.

Happily for Charles, no European state, even when at war with the
Commonwealth, chose to bind up its cause with that of the wanderers who
were playing in the garrets of Paris and Cologne at being princes and
chancellors. Under the administration of Cromwell, England was more
respected and dreaded than any power in Christendom and, even under
the ephemeral governments which followed his death, no foreign state
ventured to treat her with contempt. Thus Charles came back not as a
mediator between his people and a victorious enemy, but as a mediator
between internal factions. He found the Scotch Covenanters and the Irish
Papists alike subdued. He found Dunkirk and Jamaica added to the empire.
He was heir to the conquest and to the influence of the able usurper who
had excluded him.

The old government of England, as it had been far milder than the
old government of France, had been far less violently and completely
subverted. The national institutions had been spared, or imperfectly
eradicated. The laws had undergone little alteration. The tenures of the
soil were still to be learned from Littleton and Coke. The Great
Charter was mentioned with as much reverence in the parliaments of
the Commonwealth as in those of any earlier or of any later age. A
new Confession of Faith and a new ritual had been introduced into the
church. But the bulk of the ecclesiastical property still remained. The
colleges still held their estates. The parson still received his
tithes. The Lords had, at a crisis of great excitement, been excluded by
military violence from their House; but they retained their titles
and an ample share of the public veneration. When a nobleman made his
appearance in the House of Commons he was received with ceremonious
respect. Those few Peers who consented to assist at the inauguration
of the Protector were placed next to himself, and the most honourable
offices of the day were assigned to them. We learn from the debates of
Richard’s Parliament how strong a hold the old aristocracy had on the
affections of the people. One member of the House of Commons went so
far as to say that, unless their Lordships were peaceably restored, the
country might soon be convulsed by a war of the Barons. There was indeed
no great party hostile to the Upper House. There was nothing exclusive
in the constitution of that body. It was regularly recruited from among
the most distinguished of the country gentlemen, the lawyers, and the
clergy. The most powerful nobles of the century which preceded the civil
war, the Duke of Somerset, the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Seymour of
Sudeley, the Earl of Leicester, Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Salisbury,
the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Strafford, had all been commoners,
and had all raised themselves, by courtly arts or by parliamentary
talents, not merely to seats in the House of Lords, but to the first
influence in that assembly. Nor had the general conduct of the Peers
been such as to make them unpopular. They had not, indeed, in opposing
arbitrary measures, shown so much eagerness and pertinacity as the
Commons. But still they had opposed those measures. They had, at the
beginning of the discontents, a common interest with the people. If
Charles had succeeded in his scheme of governing without parliaments,
the consequence of the Peers would have been grievously diminished. If
he had been able to raise taxes by his own authority, the estates of the
Peers would have been as much at his mercy as those of the merchants or
the farmers. If he had obtained the power of imprisoning his subjects
at his pleasure, a Peer ran far greater risk of incurring the royal
displeasure, and of being accommodated with apartments in the Tower,
than any city trader or country squire. Accordingly Charles found that
the Great Council of Peers which he convoked at York would do nothing
for him. In the most useful reforms which were made during the first
session of the Long Parliament, the Peers concurred heartily with the
Lower House; and a large minority of the English nobles stood by the
popular side through the first years of the war. At Edgehill, Newbury,
Marston, and Naseby, the armies of the Parliament were commanded
by members of the aristocracy. It was not forgotten that a Peer
had imitated the example of Hampden in refusing the payment of the
ship-money, or that a Peer had been among the six members of the
legislature whom Charles illegally impeached.

Thus the old constitution of England was without difficulty
re-established; and of all the parts of the old constitution the
monarchical part was, at the time, dearest to the body of the people.
It had been injudiciously depressed, and it was in consequence unduly
exalted. From the day when Charles the First became a prisoner had
commenced a reaction in favour of his person and of his office. From the
day when the axe fell on his neck before the windows of his palace, that
reaction became rapid and violent. At the Restoration it had attained
such a point that it could go no further. The people were ready to place
at the mercy of their Sovereign all their most ancient and precious
rights. The most servile doctrines were publicly avowed. The most
moderate and constitutional opposition was condemned. Resistance was
spoken of with more horror than any crime which a human being can
commit. The Commons were more eager than the King himself to avenge the
wrongs of the royal house; more desirous than the bishops themselves to
restore the church; more ready to give money than the ministers to ask
for it.

They abrogated the excellent law passed in the first session of the Long
Parliament, with the general consent of all honest men, to insure the
frequent meeting of the great council of the nation. They might probably
have been induced to go further, and to restore the High Commission and
the Star-Chamber. All the contemporary accounts represent the nation
as in a state of hysterical excitement, of drunken joy. In the immense
multitude which crowded the beach at Dover, and bordered the road
along which the King travelled to London, there was not one who was not
weeping. Bonfires blazed. Bells jingled. The streets were thronged at
night by boon-companions, who forced all the passers-by to swallow on
bended knees brimming glasses to the health of his Most Sacred Majesty,
and the damnation of Red-nosed Noll. That tenderness to the fallen which
has, through many generations been a marked feature of the national
character, was for a time hardly discernible. All London crowded to
shout and laugh round the gibbet where hung the rotten remains of a
prince who had made England the dread of the world, who had been the
chief founder of her maritime greatness, and of her colonial empire, who
had conquered Scotland and Ireland, who had humbled Holland and Spain,
the terror of whose name had been as a guard round every English
traveller in remote countries, and round every Protestant congregation
in the heart of Catholic empires. When some of those brave and honest
though misguided men who had sate in judgment on their King were dragged
on hurdles to a death of prolonged torture, their last prayers were
interrupted by the hisses and execrations of thousands.

Such was England in 1660. In 1678 the whole face of things had changed.
At the former of those epochs eighteen years of commotion had made the
majority of the people ready to buy repose at any price. At the latter
epoch eighteen years of misgovernment had made the same majority
desirous to obtain security for their liberties at any risk. The fury
of their returning loyalty had spent itself in its first outbreak. In
a very few months they had hanged and half-hanged, quartered and
embowelled enough to satisfy them. The Roundhead party seemed to be not
merely overcome, but too much broken and scattered ever to rally again.
Then commenced the reflux of public opinion. The nation began to find
out to what a man it had intrusted, without conditions, all its dearest
interests, on what a man it had lavished all its fondest affection. On
the ignoble nature of the restored exile, adversity had exhausted all
her discipline in vain. He had one immense advantage over most other
princes. Though born in the purple, he was no better acquainted with the
vicissitudes of life and the diversities of character than most of his
subjects. He had known restraint, danger, penury, and dependence. He
had often suffered from ingratitude, insolence, and treachery. He had
received many signal proofs of faithful and heroic attachment. He had
seen, if ever man saw, both sides of human nature. But only one side
remained in his memory. He had learned only to despise and to distrust
his species, to consider integrity in men, and modesty in women, as mere
acting; nor did he think it worth while to keep his opinion to himself.
He was incapable of friendship; yet he was perpetually led by favourites
without being in the smallest degree duped by them. He knew that their
regard to his interests was all simulated; but, from a certain easiness
which had no connection with humanity, he submitted, half-laughing at
himself, to be made the tool of any woman whose person attracted him, or
of any man whose tattle diverted him. He thought little and cared less
about religion. He seems to have passed his life in dawdling suspense
between Hobbism and Popery. He was crowned in his youth with the
Covenant in his hand; he died at last with the Host sticking in his
throat; and during most of the intermediate years, was occupied in
persecuting both Covenanters and Catholics. He was not a tyrant from
the ordinary motives. He valued power for its own sake little, and fame
still less. He does not appear to have been vindictive, or to have found
any pleasing excitement in cruelty. What he wanted was to be amused, to
get through the twenty-four hours pleasantly without sitting down to dry
business. Sauntering was, as Sheffield expresses it, the true Sultana
Queen of his Majesty’s affections. A sitting in council would have been
insupportable to him if the Duke of Buckingham had not been there to
make mouths at the Chancellor. It has been said, and is highly probable,
that in his exile he was quite disposed to sell his rights to Cromwell
for a good round sum. To the last his only quarrel with his Parliaments
was that they often gave him trouble and would not always give him
money. If there was a person for whom he felt a real regard, that person
was his brother. If there was a point about which he really entertained
a scruple of conscience or of honour, that point was the descent of
the crown. Yet he was willing to consent to the Exclusion Bill for six
hundred thousand pounds; and the negotiation was broken off only because
he insisted on being paid beforehand. To do him justice, his temper was
good; his manners agreeable; his natural talents above mediocrity. But
he was sensual, frivolous, false, and cold-hearted, beyond almost any
prince of whom history makes mention.

Under the government of such a man, the English people could not be long
in recovering from the intoxication of loyalty. They were then, as
they are still, a brave, proud, and high-spirited race, unaccustomed to
defeat, to shame, or to servitude. The splendid administration of Oliver
had taught them to consider their country as a match for the greatest
empire of the earth, as the first of maritime powers, as the head of
the Protestant interest. Though, in the day of their affectionate
enthusiasm, they might sometimes extol the royal prerogative in terms
which would have better become the courtiers of Aurungzebe, they were
not men whom it was quite safe to take at their word. They were much
more perfect in the theory than in the practice of passive obedience.
Though they might deride the austere manners and scriptural phrases of
the Puritans they were still at heart a religious people. The majority
saw no great sin in field-sports, stage-plays, promiscuous dancing,
cards, fairs, starch, or false hair. But gross profaneness and
licentiousness were regarded with general horror; and the Catholic
religion was held in utter detestation by nine-tenths of the middle
class.

Such was the nation which, awaking from its rapturous trance, found
itself sold to a foreign, a despotic, a Popish court, defeated on its
own seas and rivers by a state of far inferior resources and placed
under the rule of pandars and buffoons. Our ancestors saw the best and
ablest divines of the age turned out of their benefices by hundreds.
They saw the prisons filled with men guilty of no other crime than
that of worshipping God according to the fashion generally prevailing
throughout Protestant Europe. They saw a Popish Queen on the throne,
and a Popish heir on the steps of the throne. They saw unjust aggression
followed by feeble war, and feeble war ending in disgraceful peace. They
saw a Dutch fleet riding triumphant in the Thames. They saw the Triple
Alliance broken, the Exchequer shut up, the public credit shaken, the
arms of England employed, in shameful subordination to France, against
a country which seemed to be the last asylum of civil and religious
liberty. They saw Ireland discontented, and Scotland in rebellion. They
saw, meantime, Whitehall swarming with sharpers and courtesans.

They saw harlot after harlot, and bastard after bastard, not only raised
to the highest honours of the peerage, but supplied out of the spoils of
the honest, industrious, and ruined public creditor, with ample means of
supporting the new dignity. The government became more odious every day.
Even in the bosom of that very House of Commons which had been elected
by the nation in the ecstasy of its penitence, of its joy, and of its
hope, an opposition sprang up and became powerful. Loyalty which
had been proof against all the disasters of the civil war, which had
survived the routs of Naseby and Worcester, which had never flinched
from sequestration and exile, which the Protector could never intimidate
or seduce, began to fail in this last and hardest trial. The storm had
long been gathering. At length it burst with a fury which threatened the
whole frame of society with dissolution.

When the general election of January 1679 took place, the nation had
retraced the path which it had been describing from 1640 to 1660. It was
again in the same mood in which it had been when, after twelve years
of misgovernment, the Long Parliament assembled. In every part of the
country, the name of courtier had become a by-word of reproach. The old
warriors of the Covenant again ventured out of those retreats in which
they had, at the time of the Restoration, hidden themselves from the
insults of the triumphant Malignants, and in which, during twenty years,
they had preserved in full vigour

               “The unconquerable will

               And study of revenge, immortal hate,

               With courage never to submit or yield,

                   And what is else not to be overcome.”

Then were again seen in the streets faces which called up strange
and terrible recollections of the days when the saints, with the high
praises of God in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,
had bound kings with chains, and nobles with links of iron. Then were
again heard voices which had shouted “Privilege” by the coach of Charles
the First in the time of his tyranny, and had called for “justice” in
Westminister Hall on the day of his trial. It has been the fashion to
represent the excitement of this period as the effect of the Popish
plot. To us it seems clear that the Popish plot was rather the effect
than the cause of the general agitation. It was not the disease, but a
symptom, though, like many other symptoms, it aggravated the severity of
the disease. In 1660 or 1661 it would have been utterly out of the power
of such men as Oates or Bedloe to give any serious disturbance to the
Government. They would have been laughed at, pilloried, well pelted,
soundly whipped, and speedily forgotten. In 1678 or 1679 there would
have been an outbreak if those men had never been born. For years things
had been steadily tending to such a consummation. Society was one vast
mass of combustible matter. No mass so vast and so combustible ever
waited long for a spark.

Rational men, we suppose, are now fully agreed that by far the greater
part, if not the whole, of Oates’s story was a pure fabrication. It is
indeed highly probable that, during his intercourse with the Jesuits,
he may have heard much wild talk about the best means of re-establishing
the Catholic religion in England, and that from some of the absurd
daydreams of the zealots with whom he then associated he may have taken
hints for his narrative. But we do not believe that he was privy to
anything which deserved the name of conspiracy. And it is quite certain
that, if there be any small portion of the truth in his evidence, that
portion is so deeply buried in falsehood that no human skill can now
effect a separation. We must not, however, forget, that we see his story
by the light of much information which his contemporaries did not at
first possess. We have nothing to say for the witnesses, but something
in mitigation to offer on behalf of the public. We own that the
credulity which the nation showed on that occasion seems to us, though
censurable indeed, yet not wholly inexcusable.

Our ancestors knew, from the experience of several generations at home
and abroad, how restless and encroaching was the disposition of the
Church of Rome. The heir-apparent of the crown was a bigoted member of
that church. The reigning King seemed far more inclined to show favour
to that church than to the Presbyterians. He was the intimate ally,
or rather the hired servant, of a powerful King, who had already given
proofs of his determination to tolerate within his dominions no other
religion than that of Rome. The Catholics had begun to talk a bolder
language than formerly, and to anticipate the restoration of their
worship in all its ancient dignity and splendour. At this juncture,
it is rumoured that a Popish Plot has been discovered. A distinguished
Catholic is arrested on suspicion. It appears that he has destroyed
almost all his papers. A few letters, however, have escaped the flames;
and these letters are found to contain much alarming matter, strange
expressions about subsidies from France, allusions to a vast scheme
which would “give the greatest blow to the Protestant religion that it
had ever received,” and which “would utterly subdue a pestilent heresy.”
It was natural that those who saw these expressions, in letters which
had been overlooked, should suspect that there was some horrible
villainy in those which had been carefully destroyed. Such was the
feeling of the House of Commons: “Question, question, Coleman’s
letters!” was the cry which drowned the voices of the minority.

Just after the discovery of these papers, a magistrate who had
been distinguished by his independent spirit, and who had taken the
deposition of the informer, is found murdered, under circumstances which
make it almost incredible that he should have fallen either by robbers
or by his own hands. Many of our readers can remember the state of
London just after the murders of Marr and Williams, the terror which
was on every face, the careful barring of doors, the providing of
blunderbusses and watchmen’s rattles. We know of a shopkeeper who on
that occasion sold three hundred rattles in about ten hours. Those who
remember that panic may be able to form some notion of the state of
England after the death of Godfrey. Indeed, we must say that, after
having read and weighed all the evidence now extant on that mysterious
subject, we incline to the opinion that he was assassinated, and
assassinated by Catholics, not assuredly by Catholics of the least
weight or note, but by some of those crazy and vindictive fanatics who
may be found in every large sect, and who are peculiarly likely to
be found in a persecuted sect. Some of the violent Cameronians had
recently, under similar exasperation, committed similar crimes.

It was natural that there should be a panic; and it was natural that
the people should, in a panic, be unreasonable and credulous. It must
be remembered also that they had not at first, as we have, the means of
comparing the evidence which was given on different trials. They were
not aware of one tenth part of the contradictions and absurdities which
Oates had committed. The blunders, for example, into which he fell
before the Council, his mistake about the person of Don John of Austria,
and about the situation of the Jesuits’ College at Paris, were not
publicly known. He was a bad man; but the spies and deserters by whom
governments are informed of conspiracies axe generally bad men. His
story was strange and romantic; but it was not more strange and romantic
than a well-authenticated Popish plot, which some few people then living
might remember, the Gunpowder treason. Oates’s account of the burning of
London was in itself not more improbable than the project of blowing up
King, Lords, and Commons, a project which had not only been entertained
by very distinguished Catholics, but which had very narrowly missed of
success. As to the design on the King’s person, all the world knew that,
within a century, two kings of France and a prince of Orange had been
murdered by Catholics, purely from religious enthusiasm, that Elizabeth
had been in constant danger of a similar fate, and that such attempts,
to say the least, had not been discouraged by the highest authority of
the Church of Rome. The characters of some of the accused persons stood
high; but so did that of Anthony Babington, and that of Everard Digby.
Those who suffered denied their guilt to the last; but no persons
versed in criminal proceedings would attach any importance to this
circumstance. It was well known also that the most distinguished
Catholic casuists had written largely in defence of regicide, of mental
reservation, and of equivocation. It was not quite impossible that men
whose minds had been nourished with the writings of such casuists might
think themselves justified in denying a charge which, if acknowledged,
would bring great scandal on the Church. The trials of the accused
Catholics were exactly like all the state trials of those days; that is
to say, as infamous as they could be. They were neither fairer nor less
fair than those of Algernon Sydney, of Rosewell, of Cornish, of all the
unhappy men, in short, whom a predominant party brought to what was
then facetiously called justice. Till the Revolution purified our
institutions and our manners, a state trial was merely a murder preceded
by the uttering of certain gibberish and the performance of certain
mummeries.

The Opposition had now the great body of the nation with them. Thrice
the King dissolved the Parliament; and thrice the constituent body sent
him back representatives fully determined to keep strict watch on
all his measures, and to exclude his brother from the throne. Had
the character of Charles resembled that of his father, this intestine
discord would infallibly have ended in a civil war. Obstinacy and
passion would have been his ruin. His levity and apathy were his
security. He resembled one of those light Indian boats which are safe
because they are pliant, which yield to the impact of every wave, and
which therefore bound without danger through a surf in which a vessel
ribbed with heart of oak would inevitably perish. The only thing about
which his mind was unalterably made up was that, to use his own phrase,
he would not go on his travels again for anybody or for anything. His
easy, indolent behaviour produced all the effects of the most artful
policy. He suffered things to take their course; and if Achitophel had
been at one of his ears, and Machiavel at the other, they could have
given him no better advice than to let things take their course. He gave
way to the violence of the movement, and waited for the corresponding
violence of the rebound. He exhibited himself to his subjects in the
interesting character of an oppressed king, who was ready to do
anything to please them, and who asked of them, in return, only some
consideration for his conscientious scruples and for his feelings of
natural affection, who was ready to accept any ministers, to grant any
guarantees to public liberty, but who could not find it in his heart to
take away his brother’s birthright. Nothing more was necessary. He had
to deal with a people whose noble weakness it has always been not to
press too hardly on the vanquished, with a people the lowest and most
brutal of whom cry “Shame!” if they see a man struck when he is on the
ground. The resentment which the nation bad felt towards the Court
began to abate as soon as the Court was manifestly unable to offer
any resistance. The panic which Godfrey’s death had excited gradually
subsided. Every day brought to light some new falsehood or contradiction
in the stories of Oates and Bedloe. The people were glutted with the
blood of Papists, as they had, twenty years before, been glutted with
the blood of regicides. When the first sufferers in the plot were
brought to the bar, the witnesses for the defence were in danger of
being torn in pieces by the mob. Judges, jurors, and spectators seemed
equally indifferent to justice, and equally eager for revenge. Lord
Stafford, the last sufferer, was pronounced not guilty by a large
minority of his peers; and when he protested his innocence on the
scaffold, the people cried out, “God bless you, my lord; we believe you,
my lord.” The attempt to make a son of Lucy Waters King of England was
alike offensive to the pride of the nobles and to the moral feeling
of the middle class. The old Cavalier party, the great majority of the
landed gentry, the clergy and the universities almost to a man, began to
draw together, and to form in close array round the throne.

A similar reaction had begun to take place in favour of Charles the
First during the second session of the Long Parliament; and, if that
prince had been honest or sagacious enough to keep himself strictly
within the limits of the law, we have not the smallest doubt that he
would in a few months have found himself at least as powerful as his
best friends, Lord Falkland, Culpeper, or Hyde, would have wished to
see him. By illegally impeaching the leaders of the Opposition, and by
making in person a wicked attempt on the House of Commons, he stopped
and turned back that tide of loyal feeling which was just beginning to
run strongly. The son, quite as little restrained by law or by honour
as the father, was, luckily for himself, a man of a lounging, careless
temper, and, from temper, we believe, rather than from policy, escaped
that great error which cost the father so dear. Instead of trying to
pluck the fruit before it was ripe, he lay still till it fell mellow
into his very mouth. If he had arrested Lord Shaftesbury and Lord
Russell in a manner not warranted by law, it is not improbable that he
would have ended his life in exile. He took the sure course. He employed
only his legal prerogatives, and he found them amply sufficient for his
purpose.

During the first eighteen or nineteen years of his reign, he had been
playing the game of his enemies. From 1678 to 1681 his enemies had
played his game. They owed their power to his misgovernment. He owed the
recovery of his power to their violence. The great body of the people
came back to him after their estrangement with impetuous affection. He
had scarcely been more popular when he landed on the coast of Kent than
when, after several years of restraint and humiliation, he dissolved his
last Parliament.

Nevertheless, while this flux and reflux of opinion went on, the cause
of public liberty was steadily gaining. There had been a great reaction
in favour of the throne at the Restoration. But the Star-Chamber, the
High Commission, the Ship-money, had for ever disappeared. There was
now another similar reaction. But the Habeas Corpus Act had been
passed during the short predominance of the Opposition, and it was not
repealed.

The King, however, supported as he was by the nation, was quite strong
enough to inflict a terrible revenge on the party which had lately held
him in bondage. In 1681 commenced the third of those periods in which
we have divided the history of England from the Restoration to the
Revolution. During this period a third great reaction took place. The
excesses of tyranny restored to the cause of liberty the hearts which
had been alienated from that cause by the excesses of faction. In 1681,
the King had almost all his enemies at his feet. In 1688, the King was
an exile in a strange land.

The whole of that machinery which had lately been in motion against the
Papists was now put in motion against the Whigs, browbeating judges,
packed juries, lying witnesses, clamorous spectators. The ablest chief
of the party fled to a foreign country and died there. The most virtuous
man of the party was beheaded. Another of its most distinguished members
preferred a voluntary death to the shame of a public execution. The
boroughs on which the Government could not depend were, by means of
legal quibbles, deprived of their charters; and their constitution
was remodelled in such a manner as almost to ensure the return
of representatives devoted to the Court. All parts of the kingdom
sedulously sent up the most extravagant assurances of the love which
they bore to their sovereign, and of the abhorrence with which they
regarded those who questioned the divine origin or the boundless
extent of his power. It is scarcely necessary to say that, in this
hot competition of bigots and staves, the University of Oxford had the
unquestioned pre-eminence. The glory of being further behind the age
than any other portion of the British people, is one which that learned
body acquired early, and has never lost.

Charles died, and his brother came to the throne; but, though the person
of the sovereign was changed, the love and awe with which the office was
regarded were undiminished. Indeed, it seems that, of the two princes,
James was, in spite of his religion, rather the favourite of the High
Church party. He had been specially singled out as the mark of the
Whigs; and this circumstance sufficed to make him the idol of the
Tories. He called a parliament. The loyal gentry of the counties and the
packed voters of the remodelled boroughs gave him a parliament such as
England had not seen for a century, a parliament beyond all comparison
the most obsequious that ever sate under a prince of the House of
Stuart. One insurrectionary movement, indeed, took place in England,
and another in Scotland. Both were put down with ease, and punished with
tremendous severity. Even after that bloody circuit, which will never
be forgotten while the English race exists in any part of the globe,
no member of the House of Commons ventured to whisper even the mildest
censure on Jeffreys. Edmund Waller, emboldened by his great age and his
high reputation, attacked the cruelty of the military chiefs; and this
is the brightest part of his long and checkered public life. But even
Waller did not venture to arraign the still more odious cruelty of the
Chief Justice. It is hardly too much to say that James, at that time,
had little reason to envy the extent of authority possessed by Lewis the
Fourteenth.

By what means this vast power was in three years broken down, by what
perverse and frantic misgovernment the tyrant revived the spirit of
the vanquished Whigs, turned to fixed hostility the neutrality of the
trimmers, and drove from him the landed gentry, the Church, the army,
his own creatures, his own children, is well known to our readers. But
we wish to say something about one part of the question, which in our
own time has a little puzzled some very worthy men, and about which the
author of the “Continuation” before us has said much with which we can
by no means concur.

James, it is said, declared himself a supporter of toleration. If
he violated the constitution, he at least violated it for one of the
noblest ends that any statesman ever had in view. His object was to free
millions of his subjects from penal laws and disabilities which hardly
any person now considers as just. He ought, therefore, to be regarded as
blameless, or, at worst, as guilty only of employing irregular means
to effect a most praiseworthy purpose. A very ingenious man, whom we
believe to be a Catholic, Mr. Banim, has written a historical novel, of
the literary merit of which we cannot speak very highly, for the purpose
of inculcating this opinion. The editor of Mackintosh’s Fragments
assures us, that the standard of James bore the nobler inscription, and
so forth; the meaning of which is, that William and the other authors of
the Revolution were vile Whigs who drove out James from being a Radical;
that the crime of the King was his going further in liberality than his
subjects: that he was the real champion of freedom; and that Somers,
Locke, Newton, and other narrow-minded people of the same sort, were the
real bigots and oppressors.

Now, we admit that if the premises can be made out, the conclusion
follows. If it can be shown that James did sincerely wish to establish
perfect freedom of conscience, we shall think his conduct deserving
of indulgence, if not of praise. We shall not be inclined to censure
harshly even his illegal acts. We conceive that so noble and salutary an
object would have justified resistance on the part of subjects. We can
therefore scarcely deny that it would at least excuse encroachment on
the part of a king. But it can be proved, we think, by the strongest
evidence, that James had no such object in view, and that, under the
pretence of establishing perfect religious liberty, he was trying to
establish the ascendency and the exclusive dominion of the Church of
Rome.

It is true that he professed himself a supporter of toleration. Every
sect clamours for toleration when it is down. We have not the smallest
doubt that, when Bonner was in the Marshalsea, he thought it a very hard
thing that a man should be locked up in a gaol for not being able to
understand the words, “This is my body,” in the same way with the lords
of the council. It would not be very wise to conclude that a beggar is
full of Christian charity, because he assures you that God will reward
you if you give him a penny; or that a soldier is humane because he
cries out lustily for quarter when a bayonet is at his throat. The
doctrine which from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has
been held by all bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words,
and stripped of rhetorical disguise is simply this: I am in the right,
and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger you ought to
tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the
stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error.

The Catholics lay under severe restraints in England. James wished to
remove those restraints; and therefore he held a language favourable
to liberty of conscience. But the whole history of his life proves
that this was a mere pretence. In 1679 he held similar language, in a
conversation with the magistrates of Amsterdam; and the author of the
“Continuation” refers to the circumstance as a proof that the King had
long entertained a strong feeling on the subject. Unhappily it proves
only the utter insincerity of all the King’s later professions. If he
had pretended to be converted to the doctrines of toleration after his
accession to the throne, some credit might have been due to him. But we
know most certainly that, in 1679, and long after that year, James was a
most bloody and remorseless persecutor. After 1679, he was placed at
the head of the government of Scotland. And what had been his conduct
in that country? He had hunted down the scattered remnant of the
Covenanters with a barbarity of which no other prince of modern times,
Philip the Second excepted, had ever shown himself capable. He had
indulged himself in the amusement of seeing the torture of the Boot
inflicted on the wretched enthusiasts whom persecution had driven to
resistance. After his accession, almost his first act was to obtain
from the servile parliament of Scotland a law for inflicting death on
preachers at conventicles held within houses, and on both preachers and
hearers at conventicles held in the open air. All this he had done, for
a religion which was not his own. All this he had done, not in defence
of truth against error, but in defence of one damnable error against
another, in defence of the Episcopalian against the Presbyterian
apostasy. Lewis the Fourteenth is justly censured for trying to dragoon
his subjects to heaven. But it was reserved for James to torture and
murder for the difference between two roads to hell. And this man,
so deeply imbued with the poison of intolerance that, rather than not
persecute at all, he would persecute people out of one heresy into
another, this man is held up as the champion of religious liberty. This
man, who persecuted in the cause of the unclean panther, would not, we
are told, have persecuted for the sake of the milk-white and immortal
hind.

And what was the conduct of James at the very time when he was
professing zeal for the rights of conscience? Was he not even then
persecuting to the very best of his power? Was he not employing all his
legal prerogatives, and many prerogatives which were not legal, for
the purpose of forcing his subjects to conform to his creed? While he
pretended to abhor the laws which excluded Dissenters from office, was
he not himself dismissing from office his ablest, his most experienced,
his most faithful servants, on account of their religious opinions? For
what offence was Lord Rochester driven from the Treasury? He was closely
connected with the Royal House. He was at the head of the Tory party. He
had stood firmly by James in the most trying emergencies. But he would
not change his religion, and he was dismissed. That we may not be
suspected of overstating the case, Dr. Lingard, a very competent, and
assuredly not a very willing witness, shall speak for us. “The King,”
says that able but partial writer, “was disappointed. He complained
to Barillon of the obstinacy and insincerity of the treasurer; and the
latter received from the French envoy a very intelligible hint that the
loss of office would result from his adhesion to his religious creed. He
was, however, inflexible; and James, after a long delay, communicated
to him, but with considerable embarrassment and many tears, his final
determination. He had hoped, he said, that Rochester, by conforming to
the Church of Rome, would have spared him the unpleasant task; but kings
must sacrifice their feelings to their duty.” And this was the King who
wished to have all men of all sects rendered alike capable of holding
office. These proceedings were alone sufficient to take away all credit
from his liberal professions; and such, as we learn from the despatches
of the Papal Nuncio, was really the effect. “Pare,” says D’Adda, writing
a few days after the retirement of Rochester, “pare che gli animi sono
inaspriti della voce che corre tra il popolo, d’esser cacciato il detto
ministro per non essere Cattolico, percio tirarsi al esterminio de’
Protestanti” Was it ever denied that the favours of the Crown were
constantly bestowed and withheld purely on account of the religious
opinions of the claimants? And if these things were done in the green
tree, what would have been done in the dry? If James acted thus when he
had the strongest motives to court his Protestant subjects, what course
was he likely to follow when he had obtained from them all that he
asked?

Who again was his closest ally? And what was the policy of that ally?
The subjects of James, it is true, did not know half the infamy of their
sovereign. They did not know, as we know, that, while he was
lecturing them on the blessings of equal toleration, he was constantly
congratulating his good brother Lewis on the success of that intolerant
policy which had turned the fairest tracts of France into deserts,
and driven into exile myriads of the most peaceable, industrious, and
skilful artisans in the world. But the English did know that the
two princes were bound together in the closest union. They saw their
sovereign with toleration on his lips, separating himself from those
states which had first set the example of toleration, and connecting
himself by the strongest ties with the most faithless and merciless
persecutor who could then be found on any continental throne.

By what advice again was James guided? Who were the persons in whom he
placed the greatest confidence, and who took the warmest interest in his
schemes? The ambassador of France, the Nuncio of Rome, and Father Petre
the Jesuit. And is not this enough to prove that the establishment of
equal toleration was not his plan? Was Lewis for toleration? Was the
Vatican for toleration? Was the order of Jesuits for toleration? We know
that the liberal professions of James were highly approved by those
very governments, by those very societies, whose theory and practice it
notoriously was to keep no faith with heretics and to give no quarter to
heretics. And are we, in order to save James’s reputation for sincerity,
to believe that all at once those governments and those societies had
changed their nature, had discovered the criminality of all their former
conduct, had adopted principles far more liberal than those of Locke, of
Leighton, or of Tillotson? Which is the more probable supposition,
that the King who had revoked the edict of Nantes, the Pope under whose
sanction the Inquisition was then imprisoning and burning, the religious
order which, in every controversy in which it had ever been engaged, had
called in the aid either of the magistrate or of the assassin, should
have become as thorough-going friends to religious liberty as Dr.
Franklin and Mr. Jefferson, or that a Jesuit-ridden bigot should be
induced to dissemble for the good of the Church?

The game which the Jesuits were playing was no new game. A hundred years
before they had preached up political freedom, just as they were now
preaching up religious freedom. They had tried to raise the republicans
against Henry the Fourth and Elizabeth, just as they were now trying to
raise the Protestant Dissenters against the Established Church. In
the sixteenth century, the tools of Philip the Second were constantly
preaching doctrines that bordered on Jacobinism, constantly insisting on
the right of the people to cashier kings, and of every private
citizen to plunge his dagger into the heart of a wicked ruler. In the
seventeenth century, the persecutors of the Huguenots were crying
out against the tyranny of the Established Church of England, and
vindicating with the utmost fervour the right of every man to adore God
after his own fashion. In both cases they were alike insincere. In both
cases the fool who had trusted them would have found himself miserably
duped. A good and wise man would doubtless disapprove of the arbitrary
measures of Elizabeth. But would he have really served the interests of
political liberty, if he had put faith in the professions of the Romish
Casuists, joined their party, and taken a share in Northumberland’s
revolt, or in Babington’s conspiracy? Would he not have been assisting
to establish a far worse tyranny than that which he was trying to put
down? In the same manner, a good and wise man would doubtless see
very much to condemn in the conduct of the Church of England under the
Stuarts. But was he therefore to join the King and the Catholics against
that Church? And was it not plain that, by so doing, he would assist in
setting up a spiritual despotism, compared with which the despotism of
the Establishment was as a little finger to the loins, as a rod of whips
to a rod of scorpions?

Lewis had a far stronger mind than James. He had at least an equally
high sense of honour. He was in a much less degree the slave of his
priests. His Protestant subjects had all the security for their rights
of conscience which law and solemn compact could give. Had that security
been found sufficient? And was not one such instance enough for one
generation?

The plan of James seems to us perfectly intelligible. The toleration
which, with the concurrence and applause of all the most cruel
persecutors in Europe, he was offering to his people, was meant simply
to divide them. This is the most obvious and vulgar of political
artifices. We have seen it employed a hundred times within our own
memory. At this moment we see the Carlists in France hallooing on the
Extreme Left against the Centre Left. Four years ago the same trick was
practised in England. We heard old buyers and sellers of boroughs, men
who had been seated in the House of Commons by the unsparing use of
ejectments, and who had, through their whole lives, opposed every
measure which tended to increase the power of the democracy, abusing
the Reform Bill as not democratic enough, appealing to the labouring
classes, execrating the tyranny of the ten-pound householders, and
exchanging compliments and caresses with the most noted incendiaries of
our time. The cry of universal toleration was employed by James, just
as the cry of universal suffrage was lately employed by some veteran
Tories. The object of the mock democrats of our time was to produce
a conflict between the middle classes and the multitude, and thus
to prevent all reform. The object of James was to produce a conflict
between the Church and the Protestant Dissenters, and thus to facilitate
the victory of the Catholics over both.

We do not believe that he could have succeeded. But we do not think his
plan so utterly frantic and hopeless as it has generally been thought;
and we are sure that, if he had been allowed to gain his first point,
the people would have had no remedy left but an appeal to physical
force, which would have been made under most unfavourable circumstances.
He conceived that the Tories, hampered by their professions of
passive obedience, would have submitted to his pleasure, and that the
Dissenters, seduced by his delusive promises of relief, would have given
him strenuous support. In this way he hoped to obtain a law, nominally
for the removal of all religious disabilities, but really for the
excluding of all Protestants from all offices. It is never to be
forgotten that a prince who has all the patronage of the State in his
hands can, without violating the letter of the law, establish whatever
test he chooses. And, from the whole conduct of James, we have not the
smallest doubt that he would have availed himself of his power to the
utmost. The statute-book might declare all Englishmen equally capable
of holding office; but to what end, if all offices were in the gift of
a sovereign resolved not to employ a single heretic? We firmly believe
that not one post in the government, in the army, in the navy, on
the bench, or at the bar, not one peerage, nay not one ecclesiastical
benefice in the royal gift, would have been bestowed on any Protestant
of any persuasion. Even while the King had still strong motives to
dissemble, he had made a Catholic Dean of Christ Church and a Catholic
President of Magdalen College. There seems to be no doubt that the See
of York was kept vacant for another Catholic. If James had been suffered
to follow this course for twenty years, every military man from a
general to a drummer, every officer of a ship, every judge, every King’s
counsel, every lord-lieutenant of a county, every justice of the peace,
every ambassador, every minister of state, every person employed in the
royal household, in the custom-house, in the post-office, in the excise,
would have been a Catholic. The Catholics would have had a majority in
the House of Lords, even if that majority had been made, as Sunderland
threatened, by bestowing coronets on a whole troop of the Guards.
Catholics would have had, we believe, the chief weight even in the
Convocation. Every bishop, every dean, every holder of a crown living,
every head of every college which was subject to the royal power, would
have belonged to the Church of Rome. Almost all the places of liberal
education would have been under the direction of Catholics. The whole
power of licensing books would have been in the hands of Catholics. All
this immense mass of power would have been steadily supported by the
arms and by the gold of France, and would have descended to an heir
whose whole education would have been conducted with a view to one
single end, the complete re-establishment of the Catholic religion. The
House of Commons would have been the only legal obstacle. But the rights
of a great portion of the electors were at the mercy of the courts of
law; and the courts of law were absolutely dependent on the Crown. We
cannot therefore think it altogether impossible that a House might have
been packed which would have restored the days of Mary.

We certainly do not believe that this would have been tamely borne.
But we do believe that, if the nation had been deluded by the King’s
professions of toleration, all this would have been attempted, and could
have been averted only by a most bloody and destructive contest, in
which the whole Protestant population would have been opposed to the
Catholics. On the one side would have been a vast numerical superiority.
But on the other side would have been the whole organization of
government, and two great disciplined armies, that of James, and that
of Lewis. We do not doubt that the nation would have achieved its
deliverance. But we believe that the struggle would have shaken the
whole fabric of society, and that the vengeance of the conquerors would
have been terrible and unsparing.

But James was stopped at the outset. He thought himself secure of the
Tories, because they professed to consider all resistance as sinful, and
of the Protestant Dissenters, because he offered them relief. He was in
the wrong as to both. The error into which he fell about the Dissenters
was very natural. But the confidence which he placed in the loyal
assurances of the High Church party, was the most exquisitely ludicrous
proof of folly that a politician ever gave.

Only imagine a man acting for one single day on the supposition that
all his neighbours believe all that they profess, and act up to all that
they believe. Imagine a man acting on the supposition that he may safely
offer the deadliest injuries and insults to everybody who says that
revenge is sinful; or that he may safely intrust all his property
without security to any person who says that it is wrong to steal. Such
a character would be too absurd for the wildest farce. Yet the folly of
James did not stop short of this incredible extent. Because the clergy
had declared that resistance to oppression was in no case lawful,
he conceived that he might oppress them exactly as much as he chose,
without the smallest danger of resistance. He quite forgot that, when
they magnified the royal prerogative, the prerogative was exerted on
their side, that, when they preached endurance, they had nothing to
endure, that, when they declared it unlawful to resist evil, none but
Whigs and Dissenters suffered any evil. It had never occurred to
him that a man feels the calamities of his enemies with one sort of
sensibility, and his own with quite a different sort. It had never
occurred to him as possible that a reverend divine might think it the
duty of Baxter and Bunyan to bear insults and to lie in dungeons without
murmuring, and yet when he saw the smallest chance that his own prebend
might be transferred to some sly Father from Italy or Flanders, might
begin to discover much matter for useful meditation in the texts
touching Ehud’s knife and Jael’s hammer. His majesty was not aware, it
should seem, that people do sometimes reconsider their opinions; and
that nothing more disposes a man to reconsider his opinions, than a
suspicion, that, if he adheres to them, he is very likely to be a beggar
or a martyr. Yet it seems strange that these truths should have escaped
the royal mind. Those Churchmen who had signed the Oxford Declaration
in favour of passive obedience had also signed the thirty-nine Articles.
And yet the very man who confidently expected that, by a little coaxing
and bullying, he should induce them to renounce the Articles, was
thunderstruck when he found that they were disposed to soften down the
doctrines of the Declaration. Nor did it necessarily follow that,
even if the theory of the Tories had undergone no modification, their
practice would coincide with their theory. It might, one should think,
have crossed the mind of a man of fifty, who had seen a great deal of
the world, that people sometimes do what they think wrong. Though a
prelate might hold that Paul directs us to obey even a Nero, it might
not on that account be perfectly safe to treat the Right Reverend Father
in God after the fashion of Nero, in the hope that he would continue
to obey on the principles of Paul. The King indeed had only to look at
home. He was at least as much attached to the Catholic Church as any
Tory gentleman or clergyman could be to the Church of England. Adultery
was at least as clearly and strongly condemned by his Church as
resistance by the Church of England. Yet his priests could not keep him
from Arabella Sedley. While he was risking his crown for the sake of his
soul, he was risking his soul for the sake of an ugly, dirty mistress.
There is something delightfully grotesque in the spectacle of a man
who, while living in the habitual violation of his own known duties, is
unable to believe that any temptation can draw any other person aside
from the path of virtue.

James was disappointed in all his calculations. His hope was that the
Tories would follow their principles, and that the Nonconformists would
follow their interests. Exactly the reverse took place. The great
body of the Tories sacrificed the principle of non-resistance to their
interests; the great body of Nonconformists rejected the delusive offers
of the King, and stood firmly by their principles. The two parties whose
strife had convulsed the empire during half a century were united for
a moment; and all that vast royal power which three years before had
seemed immovably fixed vanished at once like chaff in a hurricane.

The very great length to which this article has already been extended
makes it impossible for us to discuss, as we had meant to do, the
characters and conduct of the leading English statesmen at this crisis.
But we must offer a few remarks on the spirit and tendency of the
Revolution of 1688.

The editor of this volume quotes the Declaration of Right, and tells us
that, by looking at it, we may “judge at a glance whether the authors of
the Revolution achieved all they might and ought, in their position, to
have achieved; whether the Commons of England did their duty to their
constituents, their country, posterity, and universal freedom.” We
are at a loss to imagine how he can have read and transcribed the
Declaration of Right, and yet have so utterly misconceived its nature.
That famous document is, as its very name imports, declaratory, and
not remedial. It was never meant to be a measure of reform. It
neither contained, nor was designed to contain, any allusion to those
innovations which the authors of the Revolution considered as desirable,
and which they speedily proceeded to make. The Declaration was merely a
recital of certain old and wholesome laws which had been violated by
the Stuarts, and a solemn protest against the validity of any precedent
which might be set up in opposition to those laws. The words run thus:
“They do claim, demand, and insist upon all and singular the premises
as their undoubted rights and liberties.” Before a man begins to make
improvements on his estate, he must know its boundaries. Before a
legislature sits down to reform a constitution, it is fit to ascertain
what that constitution really is. This is all that the Declaration
was intended to do; and to quarrel with it because it did not directly
introduce any beneficial changes is to quarrel with meat for not being
fuel.

The principle on which the authors of the Revolution acted cannot be
mistaken. They were perfectly aware that the English institutions stood
in need of reform. But they also knew that an important point was gained
if they could settle once for all, by a solemn compact, the matters
which had, during several generations, been in controversy between
Parliament and the Crown. They therefore most judiciously abstained from
mixing up the irritating and perplexing question of what ought to be the
law with the plain question of what was the law. As to the claims set
forth in the Declaration of Right, there was little room for debate,
Whigs and Tories were generally agreed as to the illegality of the
dispensing power and of taxation imposed by the royal prerogative.
The articles were therefore adjusted in a very few days. But if the
Parliament had determined to revise the whole constitution, and to
provide new securities against misgovernment, before proclaiming the new
sovereign, months would have been lost in disputes. The coalition which
had delivered the country would have been instantly dissolved. The Whigs
would have quarrelled with the Tories, the Lords with the Commons, the
Church with the Dissenters; and all this storm of conflicting interests
and conflicting theories would have been raging round a vacant throne.
In the meantime, the greatest power on the Continent was attacking our
allies, and meditating a descent on our own territories. Dundee was
preparing to raise the Highlands. The authority of James was still owned
by the Irish. If the authors of the Revolution had been fools enough to
take this course, we have little doubt that Luxembourg would have been
upon them in the midst of their constitution-making. They might probably
have been interrupted in a debate on Filmer’s and Sydney’s theories of
government by the entrance of the musqueteers of Lewis’s household, and
have been marched off, two and two, to frame imaginary monarchies
and commonwealths in the Tower. We have had in our own time abundant
experience of the effects of such folly. We have seen nation after
nation enslaved, because the friends of liberty wasted in discussions
upon abstract questions the time which ought to have been employed in
preparing for vigorous national defence. This editor, apparently, would
have had the English Revolution of 1688 end as the Revolutions of Spain
and Naples ended in our days. Thank God, our deliverers were men of a
very different order from the Spanish and Neapolitan legislators. They
might on many subjects hold opinions which, in the nineteenth century,
would not be considered as liberal. But they were not dreaming pedants.
They were statesmen accustomed to the management of great affairs.
Their plans of reform were not so extensive as those of the lawgivers
of Cadiz; but what they planned, that they effected; and what they
effected, that they maintained against the fiercest hostility at home
and abroad.

Their first object was to seat William on the throne; and they were
right. We say this without any reference to the eminent personal
qualities of William, or to the follies and crimes of James. If the two
princes had interchanged characters, our opinions would still have been
the same. It was even more necessary to England at that time that her
king should be a usurper than that he should be a hero. There could
be no security for good government without a change of dynasty. The
reverence for hereditary right and the doctrine of passive obedience had
taken such a hold on the minds of the Tories, that, if James had been
restored to power on any conditions, their attachment to him would in
all probability have revived, as the indignation which recent oppression
had produced faded from their minds. It had become indispensable to have
a sovereign whose title to his throne was strictly bound up with the
title of the nation to its liberties. In the compact between the Prince
of Orange and the Convention, there was one most important article
which, though not expressed, was perfectly understood by both parties,
and for the performance of which the country had securities far better
than all the engagements that Charles the First or Ferdinand the Seventh
ever took in the day of their weakness, and broke in the day of their
power. The article to which we allude was this, that William would in
all things conform himself to what should appear to be the fixed and
deliberate sense of his Parliament. The security for the performance
was this, that he had no claim to the throne except the choice of
Parliament, and no means of maintaining himself on the throne but the
support of Parliament. All the great and inestimable reforms which
speedily followed the Revolution were implied in those simple
words; “The Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, assembled at
Westminster, do resolve that William and Mary, Prince and Princess of
Orange, be, and be declared King and Queen of England.”

And what were the reforms of which we speak? We will shortly recount
some which we think the most important; and we will then leave our
readers to judge whether those who consider the Revolution as a mere
change of dynasty, beneficial to a few aristocrats, but useless to
the body of the people, or those who consider it as a happy era in the
history of the British nation and of the human species, have judged more
correctly of its nature.

Foremost in the list of the benefits which our country owes to the
Revolution we place the Toleration Act. It is true that this measure
fell short of the wishes of the leading Whigs. It is true also that,
where Catholics were concerned, even the most enlightened of the leading
Whigs held opinions by no means so liberal as those which are happily
common at the present day. Those distinguished statesmen did, however,
make a noble, and, in some respects, a successful struggle for the
rights of conscience. Their wish was to bring the great body of the
Protestant Dissenters within the pale of the Church by judicious
alterations in the Liturgy and the Articles, and to grant to those who
still remained without that pale the most ample toleration. They framed
a plan of comprehension which would have satisfied a great majority of
the seceders; and they proposed the complete abolition of that absurd
and odious test which, after having been, during a century and a half, a
scandal to the pious and a laughing-stock to the profane, was at length
removed in our time. The immense power of the Clergy and of the Tory
gentry frustrated these excellent designs. The Whigs, however, did
much. They succeeded in obtaining a law in the provisions of which
a philosopher will doubtless find much to condemn, but which had the
practical effect of enabling almost every Protestant Nonconformist to
follow the dictates of his own conscience without molestation. Scarcely
a law in the statute-book is theoretically more objectionable than the
Toleration Act. But we question whether in the whole of that vast mass
of legislation, from the Great Charter downwards, there be a single law
which has so much diminished the sum of human suffering, which has done
so much to allay bad passions, which has put an end to so much petty
tyranny and vexation, which has brought gladness, peace, and a sense of
security to so many private dwellings.

The second of those great reforms which the Revolution produced was the
final establishment of the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland. We shall not
now inquire whether the Episcopal or the Calvinistic form of church
government be more agreeable to primitive practice. Far be it from us to
disturb with our doubts the repose of any Oxonian Bachelor of Divinity
who conceives that the English prelates with their baronies and palaces,
their purple and their fine linen, their mitred carriages and their
sumptuous tables, are the true successors of those ancient bishops who
lived by catching fish and mending tents. We say only that the Scotch,
doubtless from their own inveterate stupidity and malice, were not
Episcopalians; that they could not be made Episcopalians; that the
whole power of government had been in vain employed for the purpose
of converting them; that the fullest instruction on the mysterious
questions of the Apostolical succession and the imposition of hands had
been imparted by the very logical process of putting the legs of the
students into wooden boots, and driving two or more wedges between their
knees; that a course of divinity lectures, of the most edifying kind,
had been given in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh; yet that, in spite of
all the exertions of those great theological professors, Lauderdale
and Dundee, the Covenanters were as obstinate as ever. To the contest
between the Scotch nation and the Anglican Church are to be ascribed
near thirty years of the most frightful misgovernment ever seen in any
part of Great Britain. If the Revolution had produced no other effect
than that of freeing the Scotch from the yoke of an establishment which
they detested, and giving them one to which they were attached, it would
have been one of the happiest events in our history.

The third great benefit which the country derived from the Revolution
was the alteration in the mode of granting the supplies. It had been the
practice to settle on every prince, at the commencement of his reign,
the produce of certain taxes which, it was supposed, would yield a
sum sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of government. The
distribution of the revenue was left wholly to the sovereign. He might
be forced by a war, or by his own profusion, to ask for an extraordinary
grant. But, if his policy were economical and pacific, he might reign
many years without once being under the necessity of summoning his
Parliament, or of taking their advice when he had summoned them. This
was not all. The natural tendency of every society in which property
enjoys tolerable security is to increase in wealth. With the national
wealth, the produce of the customs, of the excise, and of the
post-office, would of course increase; and thus it might well happen
that taxes which, at the beginning of a long reign, were barely
sufficient to support a frugal government in time of peace, might,
before the end of that reign, enable the sovereign to imitate the
extravagance of Nero or Heliogabalus, to raise great armies, to carry
on expensive wars. Something of this sort had actually happened under
Charles the Second, though his reign, reckoned from the Restoration,
lasted only twenty-five years. His first Parliament settled on him taxes
estimated to produce twelve hundred thousand pounds a year. This they
thought sufficient, as they allowed nothing for a standing army in time
of peace. At the time of Charles’s death, the annual produce of these
taxes considerably exceeded a million and a half; and the King
who, during the years which immediately followed his accession, was
perpetually in distress, and perpetually asking his Parliaments for
money, was at last able to keep a body of regular troops without any
assistance from the House of Commons. If his reign had been as long as
that of George the Third, he would probably, before the close of it,
have been in the annual receipt of several millions over and above
what the ordinary expenses of civil government required; and of those
millions he would have been as absolutely master as the King now is
of the sum allotted for his privy-purse. He might have spent them in
luxury, in corruption, in paying troops to overawe his people, or in
carrying into effect wild schemes of foreign conquest. The authors of
the Revolution applied a remedy to this great abuse. They settled on the
King, not the fluctuating produce of certain fixed taxes, but a fixed
sum sufficient for the support of his own royal state. They established
it as a rule that all the expenses of the army, the navy, and the
ordnance should be brought annually under the review of the House of
Commons, and that every sum voted should be applied to the service
specified in the vote. The direct effect of this change was important.
The indirect effect has been more important still. From that time the
House of Commons has been really the paramount power in the State.
It has, in truth, appointed and removed ministers, declared war, and
concluded peace. No combination of the King and the Lords has ever
been able to effect anything against the Lower House, backed by its
constituents. Three or four times, indeed, the sovereign has been able
to break the force of an opposition by dissolving the Parliament. But
if that experiment should fail, if the people should be of the same mind
with their representatives, he would clearly have no course left but to
yield, to abdicate, or to fight.

The next great blessing which we owe to the Revolution is the
purification of the administration of justice in political cases. Of the
importance of this change no person can judge who is not well acquainted
with the earlier volumes of the State Trials. Those volumes are, we do
not hesitate to say, the most frightful record of baseness and depravity
that is extant in the world. Our hatred is altogether turned away from
the crimes and the criminals, and directed against the law and its
ministers. We see villanies as black as ever were imputed to any
prisoner at any bar daily committed on the bench and in the jury-box.
The worst of the bad acts which brought discredit on the old parliaments
of France, the condemnation of Lally, for example, or even that of
Calas, may seem praiseworthy when compared with the atrocities which
follow each other in endless succession as we turn over that huge
chronicle of the shame of England. The magistrates of Paris and Toulouse
were blinded by prejudice, passion, or bigotry. But the abandoned judges
of our own country committed murder with their eyes open. The cause of
this is plain. In France there was no constitutional opposition. If a
man held language offensive to the Government, he was at once sent to
the Bastile or to Vincennes. But in England, at least after the days
of the Long Parliament, the King could not, by a mere act of his
prerogative, rid himself of a troublesome politician. He was forced to
remove those who thwarted him by means of perjured witnesses, packed
juries, and corrupt, hardhearted, browbeating judges. The Opposition
naturally retaliated whenever they had the upper hand. Every time that
the power passed from one party to the other, there was a proscription
and a massacre, thinly disguised under the forms of judicial procedure.
The tribunals ought to be sacred places of refuge, where, in all the
vicissitudes of public affairs, the innocent of all parties may find
shelter. They were, before the Revolution, an unclean public shambles,
to which each party in its turn dragged its opponents, and where each
found the same venal and ferocious butchers waiting for its custom.
Papist or Protestant, Tory or Whig, Priest or Alderman, all was one to
those greedy and savage natures, provided only there was money to earn,
and blood to shed.

Of course, these worthless judges soon created around them, as was
natural, a breed of informers more wicked, if possible, than themselves.
The trial by jury afforded little or no protection to the innocent. The
juries were nominated by the sheriffs. The sheriffs were in most
parts of England nominated by the Crown. In London, the great scene
of political contention, those officers were chosen by the people. The
fiercest parliamentary election of our time will give but a faint notion
of the storm which raged in the city on the day when two infuriated
parties, each bearing its badge, met to select the men in whose hands
were to be the issues of life and death for the coming year. On that
day, nobles of the highest descent did not think it beneath them to
canvass and marshal the livery, to head the procession, and to watch
the poll. On that day, the great chiefs of parties waited in an agony
of suspense for the messenger who was to bring from Guildhall the news
whether their lives and estates were, for the next twelve months, to
be at the mercy of a friend or of a foe. In 1681, Whig sheriffs were
chosen; and Shaftesbury defied the whole power of the Government. In
1682 the sheriffs were Tories. Shaftesbury fled to Holland. The other
chiefs of the party broke up their councils, and retired in haste to
their country seats. Sydney on the scaffold told those sheriffs that his
blood was on their heads. Neither of them could deny the charge; and one
of them wept with shame and remorse.

Thus every man who then meddled with public affairs took his life in his
hand. The consequence was that men of gentle natures stood aloof from
contests in which they could not engage without hazarding their own
necks and the fortunes of their children. This was the course adopted by
Sir William Temple, by Evelyn, and by many other men who were, in every
respect, admirably qualified to serve the State. On the other hand,
those resolute and enterprising men who put their heads and lands to
hazard in the game of politics naturally acquired, from the habit of
playing for so deep a stake, a reckless and desperate turn of mind.
It was, we seriously believe, as safe to be a highwayman as to be a
distinguished leader of Opposition. This may serve to explain, and in
some degree to excuse, the violence with which the factions of that age
are justly reproached. They were fighting, not merely for office, but
for life. If they reposed for a moment from the work of agitation, if
they suffered the public excitement to flag, they were lost men. Hume,
in describing this state of things, has employed an image which seems
hardly to suit the general simplicity of his style, but which is by no
means too strong for the occasion. “Thus,” says he, “the two parties
actuated by mutual rage, but cooped up within the narrow limits of the
law, levelled with poisoned daggers the most deadly blows against each
other’s breast, and buried in their factious divisions all regard to
truth, honour, and humanity.”

From this terrible evil the Revolution set us free. The law which
secured to the judges their seats during life or good behaviour did
something. The law subsequently passed for regulating trials in cases
of treason did much more. The provisions of that law show, indeed, very
little legislative skill. It is not framed on the principle of securing
the innocent, but on the principle of giving a great chance of escape to
the accused, whether innocent or guilty. This, however, is decidedly a
fault on the right side. The evil produced by the occasional escape of
a bad citizen is not to be compared with the evils of that Reign of
Terror, for such it was, which preceded the Revolution. Since the
passing of this law scarcely one single person has suffered death
in England as a traitor, who had not been convicted on overwhelming
evidence, to the satisfaction of all parties, of the highest crime
against the State. Attempts have been made in times of great excitement,
to bring in persons guilty of high treason for acts which, though
sometimes highly blamable, did not necessarily imply a design falling
within the legal definition of treason. All those attempts have
failed. During a hundred and forty years no statesman, while engaged in
constitutional opposition to a government, has had the axe before his
eyes. The smallest minorities, struggling against the most powerful
majorities, in the most agitated times, have felt themselves perfectly
secure. Pulteney and Fox wore the two most distinguished leaders of
Opposition, since the Revolution. Both were personally obnoxious to the
Court. But the utmost harm that the utmost anger of the Court could
do to them was to strike off the “Right Honourable” from before their
names.

But of all the reforms produced by the Revolution, perhaps the most
important was the full establishment of the liberty of unlicensed
printing. The Censorship which, under some form or other, had existed,
with rare and short intermissions, under every government, monarchical
or republican, from the time of Henry the Eighth downwards, expired, and
has never since been renewed.

We are aware that the great improvements which we have recapitulated
were, in many respects, imperfectly and unskilfully executed. The
authors of those improvements sometimes, while they removed or mitigated
a great practical evil, continued to recognise the erroneous principle
from which that evil had sprung. Sometimes, when they had adopted a
sound principle, they shrank from following it to all the conclusions to
which it would have led them. Sometimes they failed to perceive that the
remedies which they applied to one disease of the State were certain to
generate another disease, and to render another remedy necessary. Their
knowledge was inferior to ours: nor were they always able to act up
to their knowledge. The pressure of circumstances, the necessity of
compromising differences of opinion, the power and violence of the party
which was altogether hostile to the new settlement, must be taken into
the account. When these things are fairly weighed, there will, we think,
be little difference of opinion among liberal and right-minded men as to
the real value of what the great events of 1688 did for this country.

We have recounted what appear to us the most important of those changes
which the Revolution produced in our laws. The changes which it produced
in our laws, however, were not more important than the change which
it indirectly produced in the public mind, The Whig party had, during
seventy years, an almost uninterrupted possession of power. It had
always been the fundamental doctrine of that party, that power is a
trust for the people; that it is given to magistrates, not for
their own, but for the public advantage--that, where it is abused by
magistrates, even by the highest of all, it may lawfully be withdrawn.
It is perfectly true, that the Whigs were not more exempt than other men
from the vices and infirmities of our nature, and that, when they had
power, they sometimes abused it. But still they stood firm to their
theory. That theory was the badge of their party. It was something more.
It was the foundation on which rested the power of the houses of Nassau
and Brunswick. Thus, there was a government interested in propagating a
class of opinions which most governments are interested in discouraging,
a government which looked with complacency on all speculations
favourable to public liberty, and with extreme aversion on all
speculations favourable to arbitrary power. There was a King who
decidedly preferred a republican to a believer in the divine right
of kings; who considered every attempt to exalt his prerogative as an
attack on his title; and who reserved all his favours for those who
declaimed on the natural equality of men, and the popular origin of
government. This was the state of things from the Revolution till
the death of George the Second. The effect was what might have been
expected. Even in that profession which has generally been most disposed
to magnify the prerogative, a great change took place. Bishopric
after bishopric and deanery after deanery were bestowed on Whigs and
Latitudinarians. The consequence was that Whiggism and Latitudinarianism
were professed by the ablest and most aspiring churchmen.

Hume complained bitterly of this at the close of his history. “The Whig
party,” says he, “for a course of near seventy years, has almost without
interruption enjoyed the whole authority of government, and no honours
or offices could be obtained but by their countenance and protection.
But this event, which in some particulars has been advantageous to
the State, has proved destructive to the truth of history, and has
established many gross falsehoods, which it is unaccountable how any
civilised nation could have embraced, with regard to its domestic
occurrences. Compositions the most despicable, both for style and
matter,”--in a note he instances the writings of Locke, Sydney, Hoadley,
and Rapin,--“have been extolled and propagated and read as if they had
equalled the most celebrated remains of antiquity. And forgetting that
a regard to liberty, though a laudable passion, ought commonly to be
subservient to a reverence for established government, the prevailing
faction has celebrated only the partisans of the former.” We will
not here enter into an argument about the merit of Rapin’s History or
Locke’s political speculations. We call Hume merely as evidence to a
fact well known to all reading men, that the literature patronised by
the English Court and the English ministry, during the first half of
the eighteenth century, was of that kind which courtiers and ministers
generally do all in their power to discountenance, and tended to
inspire zeal for the liberties of the people rather than respect for the
authority of the Government.

There was still a very strong Tory party in England. But that party was
in opposition. Many of its members still held the doctrine of passive
obedience. But they did not admit that the existing dynasty had any
claim to such obedience. They condemned resistance. But by resistance
they meant the keeping out of James the Third, and not the turning out
of George the Second. No radical of our times could grumble more at the
expenses of the royal household, could exert himself more strenuously
to reduce the military establishment, could oppose with more earnestness
every proposition for arming the executive with extraordinary powers, or
could pour more unmitigated abuse on placemen and courtiers. If a writer
were now, in a massive Dictionary, to define a Pensioner as a traitor
and a slave, the Excise as a hateful tax, the Commissioners of the
Excise as wretches, if he were to write a satire full of reflections on
men who receive “the price of boroughs and of souls,” who “explain their
country’s dear-bought rights away,” or

                        “whom pensions can incite,

               To vote a patriot black, a courtier white,”

we should set him down for something more democratic than a Whig. Yet
this was the language which Johnson, the most bigoted of Tories and High
Churchmen held under the administration of Walpole and Pelham.

Thus doctrines favourable to public liberty were inculcated alike by
those who were in power and by those who were in opposition. It was by
means of these doctrines alone that the former could prove that they had
a King de jure. The servile theories of the latter did not prevent them
from offering every molestation to one whom they considered as merely a
King de facto. The attachment of one party to the House of Hanover, of
the other to that of Stuart, induced both to talk a language much more
favourable to popular rights than to monarchical power. What took place
at the first representation of Cato is no bad illustration of the way in
which the two great sections of the community almost invariably acted.
A play, the whole merit of which consists in its stately rhetoric
sometimes not unworthy of Lucan, about hating tyrants and dying
for freedom, is brought on the stage in a time of great political
excitement. Both parties crowd to the theatre. Each affects to consider
every line as a compliment to itself, and an attack on its opponents.
The curtain falls amidst an unanimous roar of applause. The Whigs of
the Kit Cat embrace the author, and assure him that he has rendered an
inestimable service to liberty. The Tory secretary of state presents a
purse to the chief actor for defending the cause of liberty so well. The
history of that night was, in miniature, the history of two generations.

We well know how much sophistry there was in the reasonings, and how
much exaggeration in the declamations of both parties. But when we
compare the state in which political science was at the close of the
reign of George the Second with the state in which it had been when
James the Second came to the throne, it is impossible not to admit that
a prodigious improvement had taken place. We are no admirers of the
political doctrines laid down in Blackstone’s Commentaries. But if we
consider that those Commentaries were read with great applause in the
very schools where, seventy or eighty years before, books had been
publicly burned by order of the University of Oxford for containing the
damnable doctrine that the English monarchy is limited and mixed, we
cannot deny that a salutary change had taken place. “The Jesuits,” says
Pascal, in the last of his incomparable letters, “have obtained a Papal
decree, condemning Galileo’s doctrine about the motion of the earth.
It is all in vain. If the world is really turning round, all mankind
together will not be able to keep it from turning, or to keep themselves
from turning with it.” The decrees of Oxford were as ineffectual to stay
the great moral and political revolution as those of the Vatican to stay
the motion of our globe. That learned University found itself not only
unable to keep the mass from moving, but unable to keep itself from
moving along with the mass. Nor was the effect of the discussions and
speculations of that period confined to our own country. While the
Jacobite party was in the last dotage and weakness of its paralytic
old age, the political philosophy of England began to produce a mighty
effect on France, and, through France, on Europe.

Here another vast field opens itself before us. But we must resolutely
turn away from it. We will conclude by advising all our readers to study
Sir James Mackintosh’s valuable Fragment, and by expressing our hope
that they will soon be able to study it without those accompaniments
which have hitherto impeded its circulation.



HORACE WALPOLE


(October 1833)
_Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann, British
Envoy at the Court of Tuscany. Now first published from the Originals in
the Possession of the EARL OF WALDEGRAVE. Edited by LORD DOVER 2 vols.
8vo. London: 1833._


WE cannot transcribe this title-page without strong feelings of regret.
The editing of these volumes was the last of the useful and modest
services rendered to literature by a nobleman of amiable manners, of
untarnished public and private character, and of cultivated mind. On
this, as on other occasions, Lord Dover performed his part diligently,
judiciously, and without the slightest ostentation. He had two merits
which are rarely found together in a commentator, he was content to
be merely a commentator, to keep in the background, and to leave the
foreground to the author whom he had undertaken to illustrate. Yet,
though willing to be an attendant, he was by no means a slave; nor did
he consider it as part of his duty to see no faults in the writer
to whom he faithfully and assiduously rendered the humblest literary
offices.

The faults of Horace Walpole’s head and heart are indeed sufficiently
glaring. His writings, it is true, rank as high among the delicacies of
intellectual epicures as the Strasburg pies among the dishes described
in the Almanach des Gourmands. But as the pate-de-foie-gras owes its
excellence to the diseases of the wretched animal which furnishes
it, and would be good for nothing if it were not made of livers
preternaturally swollen, so none but an unhealthy and disorganised mind
could have produced such literary luxuries as the works of Walpole.

He was, unless we have formed a very erroneous judgment of his
character, the most eccentric, the most artificial, the most fastidious,
the most capricious of men. His mind was a bundle of inconsistent whims
and affectations. His features were covered by mask within mask. When
the outer disguise of obvious affectation was removed, you were still
as far as ever from seeing the real man. He played innumerable parts and
over-acted them all. When he talked misanthropy, he out-Timoned Timon.
When he talked philanthropy, he left Howard at an immeasurable distance.
He scoffed at courts, and kept a chronicle of their most trifling
scandal; at society, and was blown about by its slightest veerings of
opinion; at literary fame, and left fair copies of his private letters,
with copious notes, to be published after his decease; at rank, and
never for a moment forgot that he was an Honourable; at the practice of
entail, and tasked the ingenuity of conveyancers to tie up his villa in
the strictest settlement.

The conformation of his mind was such that whatever was little seemed to
him great, and whatever was great seemed to him little. Serious business
was a trifle to him, and trifles were his serious business. To chat with
blue-stockings, to write little copies of complimentary verses on little
occasions, to superintend a private press, to preserve from natural
decay the perishable topics of Ranelagh and White’s, to record divorces
and bets, Miss Chudleigh’s absurdities and George Selwyn’s good sayings,
to decorate a grotesque house with pie-crust battlements, to procure
rare engravings and antique chimney-boards, to match odd gauntlets,
to lay out a maze of walks within five acres of ground, these were the
grave employments of his long life. From these he turned to politics
as to an amusement. After the labours of the print-shop and the
auction-room, he unbent his mind in the House of Commons. And, having
indulged in the recreation of making laws and voting millions, he
returned to more important pursuits, to researches after Queen Mary’s
comb, Wolsey’s red hat, the pipe which Van Tromp smoked during his last
sea-fight, and the spur which King William struck into the flank of
Sorrel.

In everything in which Walpole busied himself, in the fine arts, in
literature, in public affairs, he was drawn by some strange attraction
from the great to the little, and from the useful to the odd. The
politics in which he took the keenest interests, were politics
scarcely deserving of the name. The growlings of George the Second, the
flirtations of Princess Emily with the Duke of Grafton, the amours of
Prince Frederic and Lady Middlesex, the squabbles between Gold Stick in
waiting and the Master of the Buckhounds, the disagreements between the
tutors of Prince George, these matters engaged almost all the attention
which Walpole could spare from matters more important still, from
bidding for Zinckes and Petitots, from cheapening fragments of tapestry
and handles of old lances, from joining bits of painted glass, and from
setting up memorials of departed cats and dogs. While he was fetching
and carrying the gossip of Kensington Palace and Carlton House, he
fancied that he was engaged in politics, and when he recorded that
gossip, he fancied that he was writing history.

He was, as he has himself told us, fond of faction as an amusement. He
loved mischief: but he loved quiet; and he was constantly on the watch
for opportunities of gratifying both his tastes at once. He sometimes
contrived, without showing himself, to disturb the course of ministerial
negotiations, and to spread confusion through the political circles. He
does not himself pretend that, on these occasions, he was actuated by
public spirit; nor does he appear to have had any private advantage in
view. He thought it a good practical joke to set public men together
by the ears; and he enjoyed their perplexities, their accusations, and
their recriminations, as a malicious boy enjoys the embarrassment of a
misdirected traveller.

About politics, in the high sense of the word, he knew nothing, and
cared nothing. He called himself a Whig. His father’s son could scarcely
assume any other name. It pleased him also to affect a foolish dislike
of kings as kings, and a foolish love and admiration of rebels as
rebels; and perhaps, while kings were not in danger, and while rebels
were not in being, he really believed that he held the doctrines which
he professed. To go no further than the letters now before us, he is
perpetually boasting to his friend Mann of his aversion to royalty
and to royal persons. He calls the crime of Damien “that least bad of
murders, the murder of a king.” He hung up in his villa an engraving of
the death-warrant of Charles, with the inscription “Major Charta.” Yet
the most superficial knowledge of history might have taught him that the
Restoration, and the crimes and follies of the twenty-eight years which
followed the Restoration, were the effects of this Greater Charter. Nor
was there much in the means by which that instrument was obtained that
could gratify a judicious lover of liberty. A man must hate kings very
bitterly, before he can think it desirable that the representatives of
the people should be turned out of doors by dragoons, in order to get at
a king’s head. Walpole’s Whiggism, however, was of a very harmless kind.
He kept it, as he kept the old spears and helmets at Strawberry Hill,
merely for show. He would just as soon have thought of taking down the
arms of the ancient Templars and Hospitallers from the walls of his
hall, and setting off on a crusade to the Holy Land, as of acting in
the spirit of those daring warriors and statesmen, great even in their
errors, whose names and seals were affixed to the warrant which he
prized so highly. He liked revolution and regicide only when they were
a hundred years old. His republicanism, like the courage of a bully, or
the love of a fribble, was strong and ardent when there was no occasion
for it, and subsided when he had an opportunity of bringing it to the
proof. As soon as the revolutionary spirit really began to stir in
Europe, as soon as the hatred of kings became something more than a
sonorous phrase, he was frightened into a fanatical royalist, and became
one of the most extravagant alarmists of those wretched times. In
truth, his talk about liberty, whether he knew it or not, was from the
beginning a mere cant, the remains of a phraseology which had meant
something in the mouths of those from whom he had learned it, but which,
in his mouth, meant about as much as the oath by which the Knights of
some modern orders bind themselves to redress the wrongs of all injured
ladies. He had been fed in his boyhood with Whig speculations on
government. He must often have seen, at Houghton or in Downing Street,
men who had been Whigs when it was as dangerous to be a Whig as to be
a highwayman, men who had voted for the Exclusion Bill, who had been
concealed in garrets and cellars after the battle of Sedgemoor, and who
had set their names to the declaration that they would live and die with
the Prince of Orange. He had acquired the language of these men, and he
repeated it by rote, though it was at variance with all his tastes and
feelings; just as some old Jacobite families persisted in praying for
the Pretender, and in passing their glasses over the water decanter
when they drank the King’s health, long after they had become loyal
supporters of the government of George the Third. He was a Whig by the
accident of hereditary connection; but he was essentially a courtier;
and not the less a courtier because he pretended to sneer at the objects
which excited his admiration and envy. His real tastes perpetually show
themselves through the thin disguise. While professing all the contempt
of Bradshaw or Ludlow for crowned heads, he took the trouble to write a
book concerning Royal Authors. He pryed with the utmost anxiety into
the most minute particulars relating to the Royal family. When, he was
a child, he was haunted with a longing to see George the First, and
gave his mother no peace till she had found a way of gratifying his
curiosity. The same feeling, covered with a thousand disguises, attended
him to the grave. No observation that dropped from the lips of Majesty
seemed to him too trifling to be recorded. The French songs of Prince
Frederic, compositions certainly not deserving of preservation on
account of their intrinsic merit, have been carefully preserved for us
by this contemner of royalty. In truth, every page of Walpole’s works
betrays him. This Diogenes, who would be thought to prefer his tub to
a palace, and who has nothing to ask of the masters of Windsor
and Versailles but that they will stand out of his light, is a
gentleman-usher at heart.

He had, it is plain, an uneasy consciousness of the frivolity of his
favourite pursuits; and this consciousness produced one of the most
diverting of his ten thousand affectations. His busy idleness, his
indifference to matters which the world generally regards as important,
his passion for trifles, he thought fit to dignify with the name of
philosophy. He spoke of himself as of a man whose equanimity was proof
to ambitious hopes and fears, who had learned to rate power, wealth, and
fame at their true value, and whom the conflict of parties, the rise and
fall of statesmen, the ebb and flow of public opinion, moved only to a
smile of mingled compassion and disdain. It was owing to the peculiar
elevation of his character that he cared about a pinnacle of lath and
plaster more than about the Middlesex election, and about a miniature of
Grammont more than about the American Revolution. Pitt and Murray might
talk themselves hoarse about trifles. But questions of government
and war were too insignificant to detain a mind which was occupied in
recording the scandal of club-rooms and the whispers of the back-stairs,
and which was even capable of selecting and disposing chairs of ebony
and shields of rhinoceros-skin.

One of his innumerable whims was an extreme unwillingness to be
considered a man of letters. Not that he was indifferent to literary
fame. Far from it. Scarcely any writer has ever troubled himself so much
about the appearance which his works were to make before posterity.
But he had set his heart on incompatible objects. He wished to be a
celebrated author, and yet to be a mere idle gentleman, one of those
Epicurean gods of the earth who do nothing at all, and who pass their
existence in the contemplation of their own perfections. He did not like
to have anything in common with the wretches who lodged in the little
courts behind St. Martin’s Church, and stole out on Sundays to dine
with their bookseller. He avoided the society of authors. He spoke with
lordly contempt of the most distinguished among them. He tried to find
out some way of writing books, as M. Jourdain’s father sold cloth,
without derogating from his character of Gentilhomme. “Lui, marchand?
C’est pure médisance: il ne l’a jamais été. Tout ce qu’il faisait, c’est
qu’il était fort obligeant, fort officieux; et comme il se connaissait
fort bien en étoffes, il en allait choisir de tons les cotes, les
faisait apporter chez lui, et en donnait a ses amis pour de l’argent.”
There are several amusing instances of Walpole’s feeling on this subject
in the letters now before us. Mann had complimented him on the learning
which appeared in the Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors; and it is
curious to see how impatiently Walpole bore the imputation of having
attended to anything so unfashionable as the improvement of his mind.
“I know nothing. How should I? I who have always lived in the big busy
world; who lie a-bed all the morning, calling it morning as long as you
please; who sup in company; who have played at faro half my life, and
now at loo till two and three in the morning; who have always loved
pleasure; haunted auctions.... How I have laughed when some of the
Magazines have called me the learned gentleman. Pray don’t be like the
Magazines.” This folly might be pardoned in a boy. But a man between
forty and fifty years old, as Walpole then was, ought to be quite as
much ashamed of playing at loo till three every morning as of being that
vulgar thing, a learned gentleman.

The literary character has undoubtedly its full share of faults, and of
very serious and offensive faults. If Walpole had avoided those faults,
we could have pardoned the fastidiousness with which he declined all
fellowship with men of learning. But from those faults Walpole was not
one jot more free than the garreteers from whose contact he shrank. Of
literary meannesses and literary vices, his life and his works contain
as many instances as the life and the works of any member of Johnson’s
club. The fact is, that Walpole had the faults of Grub Street, with a
large addition from St. James’s Street, the vanity, the jealousy, and
the irritability of a man of letters, the affected superciliousness and
apathy of a man of ton.

His judgment of literature, of contemporary literature especially, was
altogether perverted by his aristocratical feelings. No writer surely
was ever guilty of so much false and absurd criticism. He almost
invariably speaks with contempt of those books which are now universally
allowed to be the best that appeared in his time; and, on the other
hand, he speaks of writers of rank and fashion as if they were entitled
to the same precedence in literature which would have been allowed to
them in a drawing-room. In these letters, for example, he says that he
would rather have written the most absurd lines in Lee than Thomson’s
Seasons. The periodical paper called The World, on the other hand, was
by “our first writers.” Who, then, were the first writers of England in
the year 1750? Walpole has told us in a note. Our readers will probably
guess that Hume, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, Johnson, Warburton,
Collins, Akenside, Gray, Dyer, Young, Warton, Mason, or some of those
distinguished men, were in the list. Not one of them. Our first writers,
it seems, were Lord Chesterfield, Lord Bath, Mr. W. Whithed, Sir Charles
Williams, Mr. Soame Jenyns, Mr. Cambridge, Mr. Coventry. Of these
seven personages, Whithed was the lowest in station, but was the most
accomplished tuft-hunter of his time. Coventry was of a noble family.
The other five had among them two seats in the House of Lords, two seats
in the House of Commons, three seats in the Privy Council, a baronetcy,
a blue riband, a red riband, about a hundred thousand pounds a year,
and not ten pages that are worth reading. The writings of Whithed,
Cambridge, Coventry, and Lord Bath are forgotten. Soame Jenyns is
remembered chiefly by Johnson’s review of the foolish Essay on the
Origin of Evil. Lord Chesterfield stands much lower in the estimation
of posterity than he would have done if his letters had never been
published. The lampoons of Sir Charles Williams are now read only by the
curious, and, though not without occasional flashes of wit, have always
seemed to us, we must own, very poor performances.

Walpole judged of French literature after the same fashion. He
understood and loved the French language. Indeed, he loved it too well.
His style is more deeply tainted with Gallicism than that of any other
English writer with whom we are acquainted. His composition often reads,
for a page together, like a rude translation from the French. We meet
every minute with such sentences as these, “One knows what temperaments
Annibal Caracci painted.” “The impertinent personage!” “She is dead
rich.” “Lord Dalkeith is dead of the small-pox in three days.” “It will
now be seen whether he or they are most patriot.”

His love of the French language was of a peculiar kind. He loved it
as having been for a century the vehicle of all the polite nothings of
Europe, as the sign by which the freemasons of fashion recognised each
other in every capital from Petersburgh to Naples, as the language of
raillery, as the language of anecdote, as the language of memoirs,
as the language of correspondence. Its higher uses he altogether
disregarded. The literature of France has been to ours what Aaron was to
Moses, the expositor of great truths which would else have perished
for want of a voice to utter them with distinctness. The relation which
existed between Mr. Bentham and M. Dumont is an exact illustration
of the intellectual relation in which the two countries stand to each
other. The great discoveries in physics, in metaphysics, in political
science, are ours. But scarcely any foreign nation except France
has received them from us by direct communication. Isolated by our
situation, isolated by our manners, we found truth, but we did not
impart it. France has been the interpreter between England and mankind.

In the time of Walpole, this process of interpretation was in full
activity. The great French writers were busy in proclaiming through
Europe the names of Bacon, of Newton, and of Locke. The English
principles of toleration, the English respect for personal liberty, the
English doctrine that all power is a trust for the public good,
were making rapid progress. There is scarcely anything in history
so interesting as that great stirring up of the mind of France, that
shaking of the foundations of all established opinions, that uprooting
of old truth and old error. It was plain that mighty principles were at
work whether for evil or for good. It was plain that a great change
in the whole social system was at hand. Fanatics of one kind might
anticipate a golden age, in which men should live under the simple
dominion of reason, in perfect equality and perfect amity, without
property, or marriage, or king, or God. A fanatic of another kind
might see nothing in the doctrines of the philosophers but anarchy and
atheism, might cling more closely to every old abuse, and might regret
the good old days when St. Dominic and Simon de Montfort put down the
growing heresies of Provence. A wise man would have seen with regret the
excesses into which the reformers were running; but he would have
done justice to their genius and to their philanthropy. He would have
censured their errors; but he would have remembered that, as Milton
has said, error is but opinion in the making. While he condemned their
hostility to religion, he would have acknowledged that it was the
natural effect of a system under which religion had been constantly
exhibited to them in forms which common sense rejected and at which
humanity shuddered. While he condemned some of their political doctrines
as incompatible with all law, all property, and all civilisation, he
would have acknowledged that the subjects of Lewis the Fifteenth had
every excuse which men could have for being eager to pull down, and for
being ignorant of the far higher art of setting up. While anticipating a
fierce conflict, a great and wide-wasting destruction, he would yet have
looked forward to the final close with a good hope for France and for
mankind.

Walpole had neither hopes nor fears. Though the most Frenchified English
writer of the eighteenth century, he troubled himself little about the
portents which were daily to be discerned in the French literature
of his time. While the most eminent Frenchmen were studying with
enthusiastic delight English politics and English philosophy, he was
studying as intently the gossip of the old court of France. The fashions
and scandal of Versailles and Marli, fashions and scandal a hundred
years old, occupied him infinitely more than a great moral revolution
which was taking place in his sight. He took a prodigious interest in
every noble sharper whose vast volume of wig and infinite length of
riband had figured at the dressing or at the tucking up of Lewis the
Fourteenth, and of every profligate woman of quality who had carried her
train of lovers backward and forward from king to parliament, and from
parliament to king, during the wars of the Fronde. These were the people
of whom he treasured up the smallest memorial, of whom he loved to hear
the most trifling anecdote, and for whose likenesses he would have given
any price. Of the great French writers of his own time, Montesquieu is
the only one of whom he speaks with enthusiasm. And even of Montesquieu
he speaks with less enthusiasm than of that abject thing, Crebillon the
younger, a scribbler as licentious as Louvet and as dull as Rapin. A man
must be strangely constituted who can take interest in pedantic journals
of the blockades laid by the Duke of A. to the hearts of the Marquise
de B. and the Comtesse de C. This trash Walpole extols in language
sufficiently high for the merits of Don Quixote. He wished to possess a
likeness of Crebillon; and Liotard, the first painter of miniatures then
living, was employed to preserve the features of the profligate dunce.
The admirer of the Sopha and of the Lettres Atheniennes had little
respect to spare for the men who were then at the head of French
literature. He kept carefully out of their way. He tried to keep other
people from paying them any attention. He could not deny that Voltaire
and Rousseau were clever men; but he took every opportunity of
depreciating them. Of D’Alembert he spoke with a contempt which, when
the intellectual powers of the two men are compared, seems exquisitely
ridiculous. D’Alembert complained that he was accused of having written
Walpole’s squib against Rousseau. “I hope,” says Walpole, “that nobody
will attribute D’Alembert’s works to me.” He was in little danger.

It is impossible to deny, however, that Walpole’s writings have real
merit, and merit of a very rare, though not of a very high kind. Sir
Joshua Reynolds used to say that, though nobody would for a moment
compare Claude to Raphael, there would be another Raphael before there
was another Claude. And we own that we expect to see fresh Humes and
fresh Burkes before we again fall in with that peculiar combination of
moral and intellectual qualities to which the writings of Walpole owe
their extraordinary popularity.

It is easy to describe him by negatives. He had not a creative
imagination. He had not a pure taste. He was not a great reasoner. There
is indeed scarcely any writer in whose works it would be possible to
find so many contradictory judgments, so many sentences of extravagant
nonsense. Nor was it only in his familiar correspondence that he wrote
in this flighty and inconsistent manner, but in long and elaborate
books, in books repeatedly transcribed and intended for the public eye.
We will give an instance or two; for without instances readers not very
familiar with his works will scarcely understand our meaning. In the
Anecdotes of Painting, he states, very truly, that the art declined
after the commencement of the civil wars. He proceeds to inquire why
this happened. The explanation, we should have thought, would have been
easily found. He might have mentioned the loss of a king who was the
most munificent and judicious patron that the fine arts have ever had in
England, the troubled state of the country, the distressed condition of
many of the aristocracy, perhaps also the austerity of the victorious
party. These circumstances, we conceive, fully account for the
phaenomenon. But this solution was not odd enough to satisfy Walpole. He
discovers another cause for the decline of the art, the want of models.
Nothing worth painting, it seems, was left to paint. “How picturesque,”
he exclaims, “was the figure of an Anabaptist!”--as if puritanism had
put out the sun and withered the trees; as if the civil wars had blotted
out the expression of character and passion from the human lip and brow;
as if many of the men whom Vandyke painted had not been living in the
time of the Commonwealth, with faces little the worse for wear; as if
many of the beauties afterwards portrayed by Lely were not in their
prime before the Restoration; as if the garb or the features of Cromwell
and Milton were less picturesque than those of the round-faced peers,
as like each other as eggs to eggs, who look out from the middle of the
periwigs of Kneller. In the Memoirs, again, Walpole sneers at the Prince
of Wales, afterwards George the Third, for presenting a collection of
books to one of the American colleges during the Seven Years’ War, and
says that, instead of books, his Royal Highness ought to have sent
arms and ammunition, as if a war ought to suspend all study and all
education; or as if it were the business of the Prince of Wales to
supply the colonies with military stores out of his own pocket. We have
perhaps dwelt too long on these passages; but we have done so because
they are specimens of Walpole’s manner. Everybody who reads his
works with attention will find that they swarm with loose and foolish
observations like those which we have cited; observations which might
pass in conversation or in a hasty letter, but which are unpardonable in
books deliberately written and repeatedly corrected.

He appears to have thought that he saw very far into men; but we are
under the necessity of altogether dissenting from his opinion. We do
not conceive that he had any power of discerning the finer shades of
character. He practised an art, however, which, though easy and even
vulgar, obtains for those who practise it the reputation of discernment
with ninety-nine people out of a hundred. He sneered at everybody, put
on every action the worst construction which it would bear, “spelt every
man backward,” to borrow the Lady Hero’s phrase,

               “Turned every man the wrong side out,

               And never gave to truth and virtue that

               Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.”

In this way any man may, with little sagacity and little trouble, be
considered by those whose good opinion is not worth having as a great
judge of character.

It is said that the hasty and rapacious Kneller used to send away the
ladies who sate to him as soon as he had sketched their faces, and to
paint the figure and hands from his housemaid. It was in much the same
way that Walpole portrayed the minds of others. He copied from the life
only those glaring and obvious peculiarities which could not escape the
most superficial observation. The rest of the canvas he filled up, in a
careless dashing way, with knave and fool, mixed in such proportions as
pleased Heaven. What a difference between these daubs and the masterly
portraits of Clarendon!

There are contradictions without end in the sketches of character which
abound in Walpole’s works. But if we were to form our opinion of his
eminent contemporaries from a general survey of what he has written
concerning them, we should say that Pitt was a strutting, ranting,
mouthing actor, Charles Townshend an impudent and voluble jack-pudding,
Murray a demure, cold-blooded, cowardly hypocrite, Hardwicke an insolent
upstart, with the understanding of a pettifogger and the heart of
a hangman, Temple an impertinent poltroon, Egmont a solemn coxcomb,
Lyttelton a poor creature whose only wish was to go to heaven in a
coronet, Onslow a pompous proser, Washington a braggart, Lord Camden
sullen, Lord Townshend malevolent, Secker an atheist who had shammed
Christian for a mitre, Whitefield an impostor who swindled his converts
out of their watches. The Walpoles fare little better than their
neighbours. Old Horace is constantly represented as a coarse, brutal,
niggardly buffoon, and his son as worthy of such a father. In short, if
we are to trust this discerning judge of human nature, England in his
time contained little sense and no virtue, except what was distributed
between himself, Lord Waldegrave, and Marshal Conway.

Of such a writer it is scarcely necessary to say, that his works are
destitute of every charm which is derived from elevation, or
from tenderness of sentiment. When he chose to be humane and
magnanimous,--for he sometimes, by way of variety, tried this
affectation,--he overdid his part most ludicrously. None of his many
disguises sat so awkwardly upon him. For example, he tells us that he
did not choose to be intimate with Mr. Pitt. And why? Because Mr.
Pitt had been among the persecutors of his father? Or because, as he
repeatedly assures us, Mr. Pitt was a disagreeable man in private? Not
at all; but because Mr. Pitt was too fond of war, and was great with too
little reluctance. Strange that a habitual scoffer like Walpole should
imagine that this cant could impose on the dullest reader! If Moliere
had put such a speech into the mouth of Tartuffe, we should have said
that the fiction was unskilful, and that Orgon could not have been such
a fool as to be taken in by it. Of the twenty-six years during which
Walpole sat in Parliament, thirteen were years of war. Yet he did not,
during all those thirteen years, utter a single word or give a single
vote tending to peace. His most intimate friend, the only friend,
indeed, to whom he appears to have been sincerely attached, Conway, was
a soldier, was fond of his profession, and was perpetually entreating
Mr. Pitt to give him employment. In this Walpole saw nothing but
what was admirable. Conway was a hero for soliciting the command of
expeditions which Mr. Pitt was a monster for sending out.

What then is the charm, the irresistible charm, of Walpole’s writings?
It consists, we think, in the art of amusing without exciting. He never
convinces the reason or fills the imagination, or touches the heart;
but he keeps the mind of the reader constantly attentive and constantly
entertained. He had a strange ingenuity peculiarly his own, an ingenuity
which appeared in all that he did, in his building, in his gardening, in
his upholstery, in the matter and in the manner of his writings. If we
were to adopt the classification, not a very accurate classification,
which Akenside has given of the pleasures of the imagination, we should
say that with the Sublime and the Beautiful Walpole had nothing to do,
but that the third province, the Odd, was his peculiar domain. The motto
which he prefixed to his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors might have
been inscribed with perfect propriety over the door of every room in his
house, and on the title-page of every one of his books; “Dove Diavolo,
Messer Ludovico, avete pigliate tante coglionerie?” In his villa, every
apartment is a museum; every piece of furniture is a curiosity; there
is something strange in the form of the shovel; there is a long story
belonging to the bell-rope. We wander among a profusion of rarities, of
trifling intrinsic value, but so quaint in fashion, or connected
with such remarkable names and events, that they may well detain our
attention for a moment. A moment is enough. Some new relic, some new
unique, some new carved work, some new enamel, is forthcoming in an
instant. One cabinet of trinkets is no sooner closed than another is
opened. It is the same with Walpole’s writings. It is not in their
utility, it is not in their beauty, that their attraction lies. They are
to the works of great historians and poets, what Strawberry Hill is to
the Museum of Sir Hans Sloane or to the Gallery of Florence. Walpole is
constantly showing us things, not of very great value indeed, yet things
which we are pleased to see, and which we can see nowhere else. They
are baubles; but they are made curiosities either by his grotesque
workmanship or by some association belonging to them. His style is one
of those peculiar styles by which everybody is attracted, and which
nobody can safely venture to imitate. He is a mannerist whose manner
has become perfectly easy to him, His affectation is so habitual and so
universal that it can hardly be called affectation. The affectation
is the essence of the man. It pervades all his thoughts and all his
expressions. If it were taken away, nothing would be left. He coins new
words, distorts the senses of old words, and twists sentences into forms
which make grammarians stare. But all this he does, not only with an
air of ease, but as if he could not help doing it. His wit was, in its
essential properties, of the same kind with that of Cowley and Donne.
Like theirs, it consisted in an exquisite perception of points of
analogy and points of contrast too subtile for common observation. Like
them, Walpole perpetually startles us by the ease with which he yokes
together ideas between which there would seem, at first sight, to be no
connection. But he did not, like them, affect the gravity of a lecture,
and draw his illustrations from the laboratory and from the schools. His
tone was light and fleeting; his topics were the topics of the club and
the ballroom; and therefore his strange combinations and far-fetched
allusions, though very closely resembling those which tire us to death
in the poems of the time of Charles the First, are read with pleasure
constantly new.

No man who has written so much is so seldom tiresome. In his books there
are scarcely any of those passages which, in our school-days, we used to
call skip. Yet he often wrote on subjects which are generally considered
as dull, on subjects which men of great talents have in vain endeavoured
to render popular. When we compare the Historic Doubts about Richard
the Third with Whitaker’s and Chalmers’s books on a far more interesting
question, the character of Mary Queen of Scots; when we compare the
Anecdotes of Painting with the works of Anthony Wood, of Nichols, of
Granger, we at once see Walpole’s superiority, not in industry, not
in learning, not in accuracy, not in logical power, but in the art of
writing what people will like to read. He rejects all but the attractive
parts of his subject. He keeps only what is in itself amusing or what
can be made so by the artifice of his diction. The coarser morsels
of antiquarian learning he abandons to others, and sets out an
entertainment worthy of a Roman epicure, an entertainment consisting of
nothing but delicacies, the brains of singing birds, the roe of mullets,
the sunny halves of peaches. This, we think, is the great merit of his
romance. There is little skill in the delineation of the characters.
Manfred is as commonplace a tyrant, Jerome as commonplace a confessor,
Theodore as commonplace a young gentleman, Isabella and Matilda as
commonplace a pair of young ladies, as are to be found in any of the
thousand Italian castles in which condottieri have revelled or in which
imprisoned duchesses have pined. We cannot say that we much admire the
big man whose sword is dug up in one quarter of the globe, whose helmet
drops from the clouds in another, and who, after clattering and rustling
for some days, ends by kicking the house down. But the story, whatever
its value may be, never flags for a single moment. There are no
digressions, or unseasonable descriptions, or long speeches. Every
sentence carries the action forward. The excitement is constantly
renewed. Absurd as is the machinery, insipid as are the human actors, no
reader probably ever thought the book dull.

Walpole’s Letters are generally considered as his best performances,
and, we think, with reason. His faults are far less offensive to us
in his correspondence than in his books. His wild, absurd, and
ever-changing opinions about men and things are easily pardoned in
familiar letters. His bitter, scoffing, depreciating disposition does
not show itself in so unmitigated a manner as in his Memoirs. A writer
of letters must in general be civil and friendly to his correspondent at
least, if to no other person.

He loved letter-writing, and had evidently studied it as an art. It
was, in truth, the very kind of writing for such a man, for a man very
ambitious to rank among wits, yet nervously afraid that, while obtaining
the reputation of a wit, he might lose caste as a gentleman. There was
nothing vulgar in writing a letter. Not even Ensign Northerton, not
even the Captain described in Hamilton’s Bawn,--and Walpole, though the
author of many quartos, had some feelings in common with those gallant
officers,--would have denied that a gentleman might sometimes correspond
with a friend. Whether Walpole bestowed much labour on the composition
of his letters, it is impossible to judge from internal evidence. There
are passages which seem perfectly unstudied. But the appearance of
ease may be the effect of labour. There are passages which have a very
artificial air. But they may have been produced without effort by a mind
of which the natural ingenuity had been improved into morbid quickness
by constant exercise. We are never sure that we see him as he was. We
are never sure that what appears to be nature is not disguised art. We
are never sure that what appears to be art is not merely habit which has
become second nature.

In wit and animation the present collection is not superior to those
which have preceded it. But it has one great advantage over them all. It
forms a connected whole, a regular journal of what appeared to Walpole
the most important transactions of the last twenty years of George the
Second’s reign. It furnishes much new information concerning the history
of that time, the portion of English history of which common readers
know the least.

The earlier letters contain the most lively and interesting account
which we possess of that “great Walpolean battle,” to use the words of
Junius, which terminated in the retirement of Sir Robert. Horace entered
the House of Commons just in time to witness the last desperate struggle
which his father, surrounded by enemies and traitors, maintained, with
a spirit as brave as that of the column of Fontenoy, first for victory,
and then for honourable retreat. Horace was, of course, on the side of
his family. Lord Dover seems to have been enthusiastic on the same side,
and goes so far as to call Sir Robert “the glory of the Whigs.”

Sir Robert deserved this high eulogium, we think, as little as he
deserved the abusive epithets which have often been coupled with his
name. A fair character of him still remains to be drawn; and, whenever
it shall be drawn, it will be equally unlike the portrait by Coxe and
the portrait by Smollett.

He had, undoubtedly, great talents and great virtues. He was not,
indeed, like the leaders of the party which opposed his government, a
brilliant orator. He was not a profound scholar, like Carteret, or a
wit and a fine gentleman, like Chesterfield. In all these respects his
deficiencies were remarkable. His literature consisted of a scrap or
two of Horace and an anecdote or two from the end of the Dictionary.
His knowledge of history was so limited that, in the great debate on the
Excise Bill, he was forced to ask Attorney-General Yorke who Empson and
Dudley were. His manners were a little too coarse and boisterous even
for that age of Westerns and Topehalls. When he ceased to talk of
politics, he could talk of nothing but women and he dilated on his
favourite theme with a freedom which shocked even that plain-spoken
generation, and which was quite unsuited to his age and station. The
noisy revelry of his summer festivities at Houghton gave much scandal
to grave people, and annually drove his kinsman and colleague, Lord
Townshend, from the neighbouring mansion of Rainham.

But, however ignorant Walpole might be of general history and of general
literature, he was better acquainted than any man of his day with what
it concerned him most to know, mankind, the English nation, the Court,
the House of Commons, and the Treasury. Of foreign affairs he knew
little; but his judgment was so good that his little knowledge went
very far. He was an excellent parliamentary debater, an excellent
parliamentary tactician, an excellent man of business. No man ever
brought more industry or more method to the transacting of affairs. No
minister in his time did so much; yet no minister had so much leisure.

He was a good-natured man who had during thirty years seen nothing but
the worst parts of human nature in other men. He was familiar with the
malice of kind people, and the perfidy of honourable people. Proud men
had licked the dust before him. Patriots had begged him to come up to
the price of their puffed and advertised integrity. He said after his
fall that it was a dangerous thing to be a minister, that there were few
minds which would not be injured by the constant spectacle of meanness
and depravity. To his honour it must be confessed that few minds have
come out of such a trial so little damaged in the most important parts.
He retired, after more than twenty years of supreme power, with a temper
not soured, with a heart not hardened, with simple tastes, with frank
manners, and with a capacity for friendship. No stain of treachery, of
ingratitude, or of cruelty rests on his memory. Factious hatred, while
flinging on his name every other foul aspersion, was compelled to own
that he was not a man of blood. This would scarcely seem a high
eulogium on a statesman of our times. It was then a rare and honourable
distinction. The contests of parties in England had long been carried on
with a ferocity unworthy of a civilised people. Sir Robert Walpole was
the minister who gave to our Government that character of lenity which
it has since generally preserved. It was perfectly known to him that
many of his opponents had dealings with the Pretender. The lives of some
were at his mercy. He wanted neither Whig nor Tory precedents for using
his advantage unsparingly. But with a clemency to which posterity has
never done justice, he suffered himself to be thwarted, vilified, and at
last overthrown, by a party which included many men whose necks were in
his power.

That he practised corruption on a large scale, is, we think,
indisputable. But whether he deserves all the invectives which have been
uttered against him on that account may be questioned. No man ought to
be severely censured for not being beyond his age in virtue. To buy
the votes of constituents is as immoral as to buy the votes of
representatives. The candidate who gives five guineas to the freeman is
as culpable as the man who gives three hundred guineas to the member.
Yet we know that, in our own time, no man is thought wicked or
dishonourable, no man is cut, no man is black-balled, because, under
the old system of election, he was returned in the only way in which
he could be returned, for East Redford, for Liverpool, or for Stafford.
Walpole governed by corruption, because, in his time, it was impossible
to govern otherwise. Corruption was unnecessary to the Tudors, for their
Parliaments were feeble. The publicity which has of late years been
given to parliamentary proceedings has raised the standard of morality
among public men. The power of public opinion is so great that, even
before the reform of the representation, a faint suspicion that a
minister had given pecuniary gratifications to Members of Parliament in
return for their votes would have been enough to ruin him. But, during
the century which followed the Restoration, the House of Commons was
in that situation in which assemblies must be managed by corruption, or
cannot be managed at all. It was not held in awe, as in the sixteenth
century, by the throne. It was not held in awe as in the nineteenth
century, by the opinion of the people. Its constitution was
oligarchical. Its deliberations were secret. Its power in the State was
immense. The Government had every conceivable motive to offer bribes.
Many of the members, if they were not men of strict honour and probity,
had no conceivable motive to refuse what the Government offered. In the
reign of Charles the Second, accordingly, the practice of buying votes
in the House of Commons was commenced by the daring Clifford, and
carried to a great extent by the crafty and shameless Danby. The
Revolution, great and manifold as were the blessings of which it was
directly or remotely the cause, at first aggravated this evil. The
importance of the House of Commons was now greater than ever. The
prerogatives of the Crown were more strictly limited than ever; and
those associations in which, more than in its legal prerogatives, its
power had consisted, were completely broken. No prince was ever in so
helpless and distressing a situation as William the Third. The party
which defended his title was, on general grounds, disposed to curtail
his prerogative. The party which was, on general grounds, friendly to
prerogative, was adverse to his title. There was no quarter in which
both his office and his person could find favour. But while the
influence of the House of Commons in the Government was becoming
paramount, the influence of the people over the House of Commons was
declining. It mattered little in the time of Charles the First whether
that House were or were not chosen by the people; it was certain to act
for the people, because it would have been at the mercy of the Court but
for the support of the people. Now that the Court was at the mercy of
the House of Commons, those members who were not returned by popular
election had nobody to please but themselves. Even those who were
returned by popular election did not live, as now, under a constant
sense of responsibility. The constituents were not, as now, daily
apprised of the votes and speeches of their representatives. The
privileges which had in old times been indispensably necessary to the
security and efficiency of Parliaments were now superfluous. But
they were still carefully maintained, by honest legislators from
superstitious veneration, by dishonest legislators for their own selfish
ends. They had been an useful defence to the Commons during a long and
doubtful conflict with powerful sovereigns. They were now no longer
necessary for that purpose; and they became a defence to the members
against their constituents. That secrecy which had been absolutely
necessary in times when the Privy Council was in the habit of sending
the leaders of Opposition to the Tower was preserved in times when a
vote of the House of Commons was sufficient to hurl the most powerful
minister from his post.

The Government could not go on unless the Parliament could be kept in
order. And how was the Parliament to be kept in order? Three hundred
years ago it would have been enough for the statesman to have the
support of the Crown. It would now, we hope and believe, be enough for
him to enjoy the confidence and approbation of the great body of the
middle class. A hundred years ago it would not have been enough to have
both Crown and people on his side. The Parliament had shaken off the
control of the Royal prerogative. It had not yet fallen under the
control of public opinion. A large proportion of the members had
absolutely no motive to support any administration except their own
interest, in the lowest sense of the word. Under these circumstances,
the country could be governed only by corruption. Bolingbroke, who was
the ablest and the most vehement of those who raised the clamour
against corruption, had no better remedy to propose than that the Royal
prerogative should be strengthened. The remedy would no doubt have been
efficient. The only question is, whether it would not have been worse
than the disease. The fault was in the constitution of the Legislature;
and to blame those ministers who managed the Legislature in the only
way in which it could be managed is gross injustice. They submitted
to extortion because they could not help themselves. We might as well
accuse the poor Lowland farmers who paid black-mail to Rob Roy of
corrupting the virtue of the Highlanders, as accuse Sir Robert Walpole
of corrupting the virtue of Parliament. His crime was merely this, that
he employed his money more dexterously, and got more support in return
for it, than any of those who preceded or followed him.

He was himself incorruptible by money. His dominant passion was the love
of power: and the heaviest charge which can be brought against him is
that to this passion he never scrupled to sacrifice the interests of his
country.

One of the maxims which, as his son tells us, he was most in the habit
of repeating, was quieta non movere. It was indeed the maxim by which
he generally regulated his public conduct. It is the maxim of a man
more solicitous to hold power long than to use it well. It is remarkable
that, though he was at the head of affairs during more than twenty
years, not one great measure, not one important change for the better or
for the worse in any part of our institutions, marks the period of his
supremacy. Nor was this because he did not clearly see that many changes
were very desirable. He had been brought up in the school of toleration,
at the feet of Somers and of Burnet. He disliked the shameful laws
against Dissenters. But he never could be induced to bring forward a
proposition for repealing them. The sufferers represented to him the
injustice with which they were treated, boasted of their firm attachment
to the House of Brunswick and to the Whig party, and reminded him of
his own repeated declarations of goodwill to their cause. He listened,
assented, promised, and did nothing. At length, the question was brought
forward by others, and the Minister, after a hesitating and evasive
speech, voted against it. The truth was that he remembered to the latest
day of his life that terrible explosion of high-church feeling which the
foolish prosecution of a foolish parson had occasioned in the days of
Queen Anne. If the Dissenters had been turbulent he would probably have
relieved them; but while he apprehended no danger from them, he would
not run the slightest risk for their sake. He acted in the same manner
with respect to other questions. He knew the state of the Scotch
Highlands. He was constantly predicting another insurrection in that
part of the empire. Yet, during his long tenure of power, he never
attempted to perform what was then the most obvious and pressing duty of
a British Statesman, to break the power of the Chiefs, and to establish
the authority of law through the furthest corners of the Island. Nobody
knew better than he that, if this were not done, great mischiefs would
follow. But the Highlands were tolerably quiet in his time. He was
content to meet daily emergencies by daily expedients; and he left the
rest to his successors. They had to conquer the Highlands in the
midst of a war with France and Spain, because he had not regulated the
Highlands in a time of profound peace.

Sometimes, in spite of all his caution, he found that measures which he
had hoped to carry through quietly had caused great agitation. When this
was the case he generally modified or withdrew them. It was thus that
he cancelled Wood’s patent in compliance with the absurd outcry of the
Irish. It was thus that he frittered away the Porteous Bill to nothing,
for fear of exasperating the Scotch. It was thus that he abandoned the
Excise Bill, as soon as he found that it was offensive to all the great
towns of England. The language which he held about that measure in a
subsequent session is strikingly characteristic. Pulteney had insinuated
that the scheme would be again brought forward. “As to the wicked
scheme,” said Walpole, “as the gentleman is pleased to call it, which
he would persuade gentlemen is not yet laid aside, I for my part assure
this House I am not so mad as ever again to engage in anything that
looks like an Excise; though, in my private opinion, I still think it
was a scheme that would have tended very much to the interest of the
nation.”

The conduct of Walpole with regard to the Spanish war is the great
blemish of his public life. Archdeacon Coxe imagined that he had
discovered one grand principle of action to which the whole public
conduct of his hero ought to be referred.

“Did the administration of Walpole,” says the biographer, “present any
uniform principle which may be traced in every part, and which gave
combination and consistency to the whole? Yes, and that principle was,
THE LOVE OF PEACE.” It would be difficult, we think, to bestow a higher
eulogium on any statesman. But the eulogium is far too high for the
merits of Walpole. The great ruling principle of his public conduct was
indeed a love of peace, but not in the sense in which Archdeacon Coxe
uses the phrase. The peace which Walpole sought was not the peace of
the country, but the peace of his own administration. During the greater
part of his public life, indeed, the two objects were inseparably
connected. At length he was reduced to the necessity of choosing between
them, of plunging the State into hostilities for which there was no
just ground, and by which nothing was to be got, or of facing a violent
opposition in the country, in Parliament, and even in the royal closet.
No person was more thoroughly convinced than he of the absurdity of the
cry against Spain. But his darling power was at stake, and his choice
was soon made. He preferred an unjust war to a stormy session. It is
impossible to say of a Minister who acted thus that the love of peace
was the one grand principle to which all his conduct is to be referred.
The governing principle of his conduct was neither love of peace nor
love of war, but love of power.

The praise to which he is fairly entitled is this, that he understood
the true interest of his country better than any of his contemporaries,
and that he pursued that interest whenever it was not incompatible with
the interest of his own intense and grasping ambition. It was only in
matters of public moment that he shrank from agitation and had recourse
to compromise. In his contests for personal influence there was no
timidity, no flinching. He would have all or none. Every member of the
Government who would not submit to his ascendency was turned out or
forced to resign. Liberal of everything else, he was avaricious of
power. Cautious everywhere else, when power was at stake he had all
the boldness of Richelieu or Chatham. He might easily have secured his
authority if he could have been induced to divide it with others. But he
would not part with one fragment of it to purchase defenders for all the
rest. The effect of this policy was that he had able enemies and feeble
allies. His most distinguished coadjutors left him one by one, and
joined the ranks of the Opposition. He faced the increasing array of his
enemies with unbroken spirit, and thought it far better that they should
attack his power than that they should share it.

The Opposition was in every sense formidable. At its head were two royal
personages, the exiled head of the House of Stuart, the disgraced heir
of the House of Brunswick. One set of members received directions from
Avignon. Another set held their consultations and banquets at Norfolk
House. The majority of the landed gentry, the majority of the parochial
clergy, one of the universities, and a strong party in the City of
London and in the other great towns, were decidedly adverse to the
Government. Of the men of letters, some were exasperated by the neglect
with which the Minister treated them, a neglect which was the more
remarkable, because his predecessors, both Whig and Tory, had paid court
with emulous munificence to the wits and poets; others were honestly
inflamed by party zeal; almost all lent their aid to the Opposition. In
truth, all that was alluring to ardent and imaginative minds was on that
side; old associations, new visions of political improvement, high-flown
theories of loyalty, high-flown theories of liberty, the enthusiasm of
the Cavalier, the enthusiasm of the Roundhead. The Tory gentleman,
fed in the common-rooms of Oxford with the doctrines of Filmer and
Sacheverell, and proud of the exploits of his great-grandfather, who
had charged with Rupert at Marston, who had held out the old manor-house
against Fairfax, and who, after the King’s return, had been set down for
a Knight of the Royal Oak, flew to that section of the Opposition which,
under pretence of assailing the existing administration, was in truth
assailing the reigning dynasty. The young republican, fresh from his
Livy and his Lucan, and glowing with admiration of Hampden, of Russell,
and of Sydney, hastened with equal eagerness to those benches from which
eloquent voices thundered nightly against the tyranny and perfidy of
courts. So many young politicians were caught by these declamations that
Sir Robert, in one of his best speeches, observed that the Opposition
consisted of three bodies, the Tories, the discontented Whigs, who were
known by the name of the Patriots, and the Boys. In fact almost every
young man of warm temper and lively imagination, whatever his political
bias might be, was drawn into the party adverse to the Government; and
some of the most distinguished among them, Pitt, for example, among
public men, and Johnson, among men of letters, afterwards openly
acknowledged their mistake.

The aspect of the Opposition, even while it was still a minority in the
House of Commons, was very imposing. Among those who, in Parliament
or out of Parliament, assailed the administration of Walpole, were
Bolingbroke, Carteret, Chesterfield, Argyle, Pulteney, Wyndham,
Doddington, Pitt, Lyttelton, Barnard, Pope, Swift, Gay, Arbuthnot,
Fielding, Johnson, Thomson, Akenside, Glover.

The circumstance that the Opposition was divided into two parties,
diametrically opposed to each other in political opinions, was long the
safety of Walpole. It was at last his ruin. The leaders of the minority
knew that it would be difficult for them to bring forward any important
measure without producing an immediate schism in their party. It was
with very great difficulty that the Whigs in opposition had been induced
to give a sullen and silent vote for the repeal of the Septennial
Act. The Tories, on the other hand, could not be induced to support
Pulteney’s motion for an addition to the income of Prince Frederic. The
two parties had cordially joined in calling out for a war with Spain;
but they now had their war. Hatred of Walpole was almost the only
feeling which was common to them. On this one point, therefore, they
concentrated their whole strength. With gross ignorance, or gross
dishonesty, they represented the Minister as the main grievance of the
State. His dismissal, his punishment, would prove the certain cure for
all the evils which the nation suffered. What was to be done after his
fall, how misgovernment was to be prevented in future, were questions
to which there were as many answers as there were noisy and ill-informed
members of the Opposition. The only cry in which all could join was,
“Down with Walpole!” So much did they narrow the disputed ground, so
purely personal did they make the question, that they threw out friendly
hints to the other members of the Administration, and declared that they
refused quarter to the Prime Minister alone. His tools might keep their
heads, their fortunes, even their places, if only the great father of
corruption were given up to the just vengeance of the nation.

If the fate of Walpole’s colleagues had been inseparably bound up with
his, he probably would, even after the unfavourable elections of 1741,
have been able to weather the storm. But as soon as it was understood
that the attack was directed against him alone, and that, if he were
sacrificed, his associates might expect advantageous and honourable
terms, the ministerial ranks began to waver, and the murmur of sauve
qui peut was heard. That Walpole had foul play is almost certain, but to
what extent it is difficult to say. Lord Islay was suspected; the Duke
of Newcastle something more than suspected. It would have been strange,
indeed, if his Grace had been idle when treason was hatching.

“Ch’ i’ ho de’ traditor’ sempre sospetto, E Gan fu traditor prima che
nato.”

“His name,” said Sir Robert, “is perfidy.”

Never was a battle more manfully fought out than the last struggle of
the old statesman. His clear judgment, his long experience, and his
fearless spirit, enabled him to maintain a defensive war through half
the session. To the last his heart never failed him--and, when at last
he yielded, he yielded not to the threats of his enemies, but to the
entreaties of his dispirited and refractory followers. When he could
no longer retain his power, he compounded for honour and security,
and retired to his garden and his paintings, leaving to those who had
overthrown him shame, discord, and ruin.

Everything was in confusion. It has been said that the confusion was
produced by the dexterous policy of Walpole; and, undoubtedly, he did
his best to sow dissension amongst his triumphant enemies. But there was
little for him to do. Victory had completely dissolved the hollow truce,
which the two sections of the Opposition had but imperfectly observed,
even while the event of the contest was still doubtful. A thousand
questions were opened in a moment. A thousand conflicting claims were
preferred. It was impossible to follow any line of policy which would
not have been offensive to a large portion of the successful party. It
was impossible to find places for a tenth part of those who thought
that they had a right to office. While the parliamentary leaders were
preaching patience and confidence, while their followers were clamouring
for reward, a still louder voice was heard from without, the terrible
cry of a people angry, they hardly know with whom, and impatient they
hardly knew for what. The day of retribution had arrived. The Opposition
reaped that which they had sown. Inflamed with hatred and cupidity,
despairing of success by any ordinary mode of political warfare, and
blind to consequences, which, though remote, were certain, they had
conjured up a devil whom they could not lay. They had made the public
mind drunk with calumny and declamation. They had raised expectations
which it was impossible to satisfy. The downfall of Walpole was to
be the beginning of a political millennium; and every enthusiast had
figured to himself that millennium according to the fashion of his own
wishes. The republican expected that the power of the Crown would
be reduced to a mere shadow, the high Tory that the Stuarts would be
restored, the moderate Tory that the golden days which the Church and
the landed interest had enjoyed during the last years of Queen Anne
would immediately return. It would have been impossible to satisfy
everybody. The conquerors satisfied nobody.

We have no reverence for the memory of those who were then called
the patriots. We are for the principles of good government against
Walpole,--and for Walpole against the Opposition. It was most desirable
that a purer system should be introduced; but, if the old system was to
be retained, no man was so fit as Walpole to be at the head of
affairs. There were grievous abuses in the Government, abuses more than
sufficient to justify a strong Opposition. But the party opposed to
Walpole, while they stimulated the popular fury to the highest point,
were at no pains to direct it aright. Indeed they studiously misdirected
it. They misrepresented the evil. They prescribed inefficient and
pernicious remedies. They held up a single man as the sole cause of all
the vices of a bad system which had been in full operation before his
entrance into public life, and which continued to be in full operation
when some of these very brawlers had succeeded to his power. They
thwarted his best measures. They drove him into an unjustifiable war
against his will. Constantly talking in magnificent language about
tyranny, corruption, wicked ministers, servile courtiers, the liberty
of Englishmen, the Great Charter, the rights for which our fathers
bled, Timoleon, Brutus, Hampden, Sydney, they had absolutely nothing
to propose which would have been an improvement on our institutions.
Instead of directing the public mind to definite reforms which might
have completed the work of the revolution, which might have brought the
legislature into harmony with the nation, and which might have prevented
the Crown from doing by influence what it could no longer do by
prerogative, they excited a vague craving for change, by which they
profited for a single moment, and of which, as they well deserved, they
were soon the victims.

Among the reforms which the State then required, there were two of
paramount importance, two which would alone have remedied almost every
gross abuse, and without which all other remedies would have been
unavailing, the publicity of parliamentary proceedings, and the
abolition of the rotten boroughs. Neither of these was thought of. It
seems us clear that, if these were not adopted, all other measures would
have been illusory. Some of the patriots suggested changes which would,
beyond all doubt, have increased the existing evils a hundredfold. These
men wished to transfer the disposal of employments and the command of
the army from the Crown to the Parliament; and this on the very ground
that the Parliament had long been a grossly corrupt body. The security
against malpractices was to be that the members, instead of having a
portion of the public plunder doled out to them by a minister, were to
help themselves.

The other schemes of which the public mind was full were less dangerous
than this. Some of them were in themselves harmless. But none of them
would have done much good, and most of them were extravagantly absurd.
What they were we may learn from the instructions which many constituent
bodies, immediately after the change of administration, sent up to their
representatives. A more deplorable collection of follies can hardly
be imagined. There is, in the first place, a general cry for Walpole’s
head. Then there are better complaints of the decay of trade, a decay
which, in the judgment of these enlightened politicians, was brought
about by Walpole and corruption. They would have been nearer to the
truth if they had attributed their sufferings to the war into which
they had driven Walpole against his better judgment. He had foretold the
effects of his unwilling concession. On the day when hostilities against
Spain were proclaimed, when the heralds were attended into the city by
the chiefs of the Opposition, when the Prince of Wales himself stopped
at Temple Bar to drink success to the English arms, the minister heard
all the steeples of the city jingling with a merry peal, and muttered,
“They may ring the bells now; they will be wringing their hands before
long.”

Another grievance, for which of course Walpole and corruption were
answerable, was the great exportation of English wool. In the judgment
of the sagacious electors of several large towns, the remedying of
this evil was a matter second only in importance to the hanging of Sir
Robert. There were also earnest injunctions that the members should vote
against standing armies in time of peace, injunctions which were, to
say the least, ridiculously unseasonable in the midst of a war which was
likely to last, and which did actually last, as long as the Parliament.
The repeal of the Septennial Act, as was to be expected, was strongly
pressed. Nothing was more natural than that the voters should wish for
a triennial recurrence of their bribes and their ale. We feel firmly
convinced that the repeal of the Septennial Act, unaccompanied by a
complete reform of the constitution of the elective body, would have
been an unmixed curse to the country. The only rational recommendation
which we can find in all these instructions is that the number of
placemen in Parliament should be limited, and that pensioners should not
he allowed to sit there. It is plain, however, that this cure was far
from going to the root of the evil, and that, if it had been adopted
without other reforms, secret bribery would probably have been more
practised than ever.

We will give one more instance of the absurd expectations which the
declamations of the Opposition had raised in the country. Akenside was
one of the fiercest and most uncompromising of the young patriots out of
Parliament. When he found that the change of administration had produced
no change of system, he gave vent to his indignation in the Epistle to
Curio, the best poem that he ever wrote, a poem, indeed, which seems to
indicate, that, if he had left lyric composition to Gray and Collins,
and had employed his powers in grave and elevated satire, he might have
disputed the pre-eminence of Dryden. But whatever be the literary merits
of the epistle, we can say nothing in praise of the political doctrines
which it inculcates. The poet, in a rapturous apostrophe to the spirits
of the great men of antiquity, tells us what he expected from Pulteney
at the moment of the fall of the tyrant.

“See private life by wisest arts reclaimed, See ardent youth to
noblest manners framed, See us achieve whate’er was sought by you, If
Curio--only Curio--will be true.”

It was Pulteney’s business, it seems, to abolish faro, and masquerades,
to stint the young Duke of Marlborough to a bottle of brandy a day, and
to prevail on Lady Vane to be content with three lovers at a time.

Whatever the people wanted, they certainly got nothing. Walpole retired
in safety; and the multitude were defrauded of the expected show on
Tower Hill. The Septennial Act was not repealed. The placemen were
not turned out of the House of Commons. Wool, we believe, was still
exported. “Private life” afforded as much scandal as if the reign of
Walpole and corruption had continued; and “ardent youth” fought with
watchmen and betted with blacklegs as much as ever.

The colleagues of Walpole had, after his retreat, admitted some of the
chiefs of the Opposition into the Government, and soon found themselves
compelled to submit to the ascendency of one of their new allies. This
was Lord Carteret, afterwards Earl Granville. No public man of that age
had greater courage, greater ambition, greater activity, greater talents
for debate or for declamation. No public man had such profound and
extensive learning. He was familiar with the ancient writers, and loved
to sit up till midnight discussing philological and metrical questions
with Bentley. His knowledge of modern languages was prodigious. The
privy council, when he was present; needed no interpreter. He spoke and
wrote French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, even Swedish. He had
pushed his researches into the most obscure nooks of literature. He was
as familiar with Canonists and Schoolmen as with orators and poets. He
had read all that the universities of Saxony and Holland had produced on
the most intricate questions of public law. Harte, in the preface to the
second edition of his History of Gustavus Adolphus, bears a remarkable
testimony to the extent and accuracy of Lord Carteret’s knowledge. “It
was my good fortune or prudence to keep the main body of my army (or
in other words my matters of fact) safe and entire. The late Earl of
Granville was pleased to declare himself of this opinion; especially
when he found that I had made Chemnitius one of my principal guides; for
his Lordship was apprehensive I might not have seen that valuable and
authentic book, which is extremely scarce. I thought myself happy to
have contented his Lordship even in the lowest degree: for he understood
the German and Swedish histories to the highest perfection.”

With all this learning, Carteret was far from being a pedant. His was
not one of those cold spirits of which the fire is put out by the fuel.
In council, in debate, in society, he was all life and energy. His
measures were strong, prompt, and daring, his oratory animated and
glowing. His spirits were constantly high. No misfortune, public or
private, could depress him. He was at once the most unlucky and the
happiest public man of his time.

He had been Secretary of State in Walpole’s Administration, and had
acquired considerable influence over the mind of George the First. The
other ministers could speak no German. The King could speak no English.
All the communication that Walpole held with his master was in very bad
Latin. Carteret dismayed his colleagues by the volubility with which he
addressed his Majesty in German. They listened with envy and terror to
the mysterious gutturals which might possibly convey suggestions very
little in unison with their wishes.

Walpole was not a man to endure such a colleague as Carteret. The King
was induced to give up his favourite. Carteret joined the Opposition,
and signalised himself at the head of that party till, after the
retirement of his old rival, he again became Secretary of State.

During some months he was chief Minister, indeed sole Minister. He
gained the confidence and regard of George the Second. He was at the
same time in high favour with the Prince of Wales. As a debater in
the House of Lords, he had no equal among his colleagues. Among
his opponents, Chesterfield alone could be considered as his match.
Confident in his talents, and in the royal favour, he neglected
all those means by which the power of Walpole had been created and
maintained. His head was full of treaties and expeditions, of schemes
for supporting the Queen of Hungary and for humbling the House of
Bourbon. He contemptuously abandoned to others all the drudgery, and,
with the drudgery, all the fruits of corruption. The patronage of the
Church and of the Bar he left to the Pelhams as a trifle unworthy of his
care. One of the judges, Chief Justice Willes, if we remember rightly,
went to him to beg some ecclesiastical preferment for a friend. Carteret
said, that he was too much occupied with continental politics to think
about the disposal of places and benefices. “You may rely on it, then,”
said the Chief Justice, “that people who want places and benefices will
go to those who have more leisure.” The prediction was accomplished.
It would have been a busy time indeed in which the Pelhams had wanted
leisure for jobbing; and to the Pelhams the whole cry of place-hunters
and pension-hunters resorted. The parliamentary influence of the two
brothers became stronger every day, till at length they were at the head
of a decided majority in the House of Commons. Their rival, meanwhile,
conscious of his powers, sanguine in his hopes, and proud of the storm
which he had conjured up on the Continent, would brook neither superior
nor equal. “His rants,” says Horace Walpole, “are amazing; so are his
parts and his spirits.” He encountered the opposition of his colleagues,
not with the fierce haughtiness of the first Pitt, or the cold unbending
arrogance of the second, but with a gay vehemence, a good-humoured
imperiousness, that bore everything down before it. The period of his
ascendency was known by the name of the “Drunken Administration”; and
the expression was not altogether figurative. His habits were extremely
convivial; and champagne probably lent its aid to keep him in that state
of joyous excitement in which his life was passed.

That a rash and impetuous man of genius like Carteret should not have
been able to maintain his ground in Parliament against the crafty and
selfish Pelhams is not strange. But it is less easy to understand why
he should have been generally unpopular throughout the country. His
brilliant talents, his bold and open temper, ought, it should seem,
to have made him a favourite with the public. But the people had been
bitterly disappointed; and he had to face the first burst of their rage.
His close connection with Pulteney, now the most detested man in the
nation, was an unfortunate circumstance. He had, indeed, only three
partisans, Pulteney, the King, and the Prince of Wales, a most singular
assemblage.

He was driven from his office. He shortly after made a bold, indeed a
desperate, attempt to recover power. The attempt failed. From that time
he relinquished all ambitious hopes, and retired laughing to his books
and his bottle. No statesman ever enjoyed success with so exquisite
a relish, or submitted to defeat with so genuine and unforced a
cheerfulness. Ill as he had been used, he did not seem, says Horace
Walpole, to have any resentment, or indeed any feeling except thirst.

These letters contain many good stories, some of them no doubt grossly
exaggerated, about Lord Carteret; how, in the height of his greatness,
he fell in love at first sight on a birthday with Lady Sophia Fermor,
the handsome daughter of Lord Pomfret; how he plagued the Cabinet
every day with reading to them her ladyship’s letters; how strangely he
brought home his bride; what fine jewels he gave her; how he fondled
her at Ranelagh; and what queen-like state she kept in Arlington Street.
Horace Walpole has spoken less bitterly of Carteret than of any
public man of that time, Fox, perhaps, excepted; and this is the more
remarkable, because Carteret was one of the most inveterate enemies of
Sir Robert. In the Memoirs, Horace Walpole, after passing in review all
the great men whom England had produced within his memory, concludes by
saying, that in genius none of them equalled Lord Granville. Smollett,
in Humphrey Clinker, pronounces a similar judgment in coarser language.
“Since Granville was turned out, there has been no minister in this
nation worth the meal that whitened his periwig.”

Carteret fell; and the reign of the Pelhams commenced. It was Carteret’s
misfortune to be raised to power when the public mind was still smarting
from recent disappointment. The nation had been duped, and was eager for
revenge. A victim was necessary, and on such occasions the victims of
popular rage are selected like the victim of Jephthah. The first person
who comes in the way is made the sacrifice. The wrath of the people
had now spent itself; and the unnatural excitement was succeeded by an
unnatural calm. To an irrational eagerness for something new,
succeeded an equally irrational disposition to acquiesce in everything
established. A few months back the people had been disposed to impute
every crime to men in power, and to lend a ready ear to the high
professions of men in opposition. They were now disposed to surrender
themselves implicitly to the management of Ministers, and to look with
suspicion and contempt on all who pretended to public spirit. The name
of patriot had become a by-word of derision. Horace Walpole scarcely
exaggerated when he said that, in those times, the most popular
declaration which a candidate could make on the hustings was that he had
never been and never would be a patriot. At this conjecture took place
the rebellion of the Highland clans. The alarm produced by that
event quieted the strife of internal factions. The suppression of the
insurrection crushed for ever the spirit of the Jacobite party. Room
was made in the Government for a few Tories. Peace was patched up with
France and Spain. Death removed the Prince of Wales, who had contrived
to keep together a small portion of that formidable opposition of which
he had been the leader in the time of Sir Robert Walpole. Almost every
man of weight in the House of Commons was officially connected with the
Government. The even tenor of the session of Parliament was ruffled only
by an occasional harangue from Lord Egmont on the army estimates.
For the first time since the accession of the Stuarts there was no
opposition. This singular good fortune, denied to the ablest statesmen,
to Salisbury, to Strafford, to Clarendon, to Somers, to Walpole, had
been reserved for the Pelhams.

Henry Pelham, it is true, was by no means a contemptible person. His
understanding was that of Walpole on a somewhat smaller scale. Though
not a brilliant orator, he was, like his master, a good debater, a good
parliamentary tactician, a good man of business. Like his master, he
distinguished himself by the neatness and clearness of his financial
expositions. Here the resemblance ceased. Their characters were
altogether dissimilar. Walpole was good-humoured, but would have his
way: his spirits were high, and his manners frank even to coarseness.
The temper of Pelham was yielding, but peevish: his habits were regular,
and his deportment strictly decorous. Walpole was constitutionally
fearless, Pelham constitutionally timid. Walpole had to face a strong
opposition; but no man in the Government durst wag a finger against him.
Almost all the opposition which Pelham had to encounter was from members
of the Government of which he was the head. His own pay-master spoke
against his estimates. His own secretary-at-war spoke against his
Regency Bill. In one day Walpole turned Lord Chesterfield, Lord
Burlington, and Lord Clinton out of the royal household, dismissed the
highest dignitaries of Scotland from their posts, and took away the
regiments of the Duke of Bolton and Lord Cobham, because he suspected
them of having encouraged the resistance to his Excise Bill. He would
far rather have contended with the strongest minority, under the ablest
leaders, than have tolerated mutiny in his own party. It would have
gone hard with any of his colleagues, who had ventured, on a Government
question, to divide the House of Commons against him. Pelham, on the
other hand, was disposed to bear anything rather than drive from office
any man round whom a new opposition could form. He therefore endured
with fretful patience the insubordination of Pitt and Fox. He thought it
far better to connive at their occasional infractions of discipline
than to hear them, night after night, thundering against corruption and
wicked ministers from the other side of the House.

We wonder that Sir Walter Scott never tried his hand on the Duke of
Newcastle. An interview between his Grace and Jeanie Deans would have
been delightful, and by no means unnatural. There is scarcely any public
man in our history of whose manners and conversation so many particulars
have been preserved. Single stories may be unfounded or exaggerated. But
all the stories about him, whether told by people who were perpetually
seeing him in Parliament and attending his levee in Lincoln’s Inn
Fields, or by Grub Street writers who never had more than a glimpse
of his star through the windows of his gilded coach, are of the same
character. Horace Walpole and Smollett differed in their tastes and
opinions as much as two human beings could differ. They kept quite
different society. Walpole played at cards with countesses, and
corresponded with ambassadors. Smollett passed his life surrounded
by printers’ devils and famished scribblers. Yet Walpole’s Duke
and Smollett’s Duke are as like as if they were both from one hand.
Smollett’s Newcastle runs out of his dressing-room, with his face
covered with soap-suds, to embrace the Moorish envoy. Walpole’s
Newcastle pushes his way into the Duke of Grafton’s sick-room to kiss
the old nobleman’s plasters. No man was so unmercifully satirised. But
in truth he was himself a satire ready made. All that the art of the
satirist does for other men, nature had done for him. Whatever was
absurd about him stood out with grotesque prominence from the rest of
the character. He was a living, moving, talking caricature. His gait
was a shuffling trot; his utterance a rapid stutter; he was always in
a hurry; he was never in time; he abounded in fulsome caresses and in
hysterical tears. His oratory resembled that of justice Shallow. It
was nonsense--effervescent with animal spirits and impertinence. Of his
ignorance many anecdotes remain, some well authenticated, some
probably invented at coffee-houses, but all exquisitely characteristic.
“Oh--yes--yes--to be sure--Annapolis must be defended--troops must be
sent to Annapolis--Pray where is Annapolis?”--“Cape Breton an island!
Wonderful!--show it me in the map. So it is, sure enough. My dear sir,
you always bring us good news. I must go and tell the King that Cape
Breton is an island.”

And this man was, during near thirty years, Secretary of State, and,
during near ten years, First Lord of the Treasury! His large fortune,
his strong hereditary connection, his great parliamentary interest,
will not alone explain this extraordinary fact. His success is a signal
instance of what may be effected by a man who devotes his whole heart
and soul without reserve to one object. He was eaten up by ambition. His
love of influence and authority resembled the avarice of the old usurer
in the Fortunes of Nigel. It was so intense a passion that it supplied
the place of talents, that it inspired even fatuity with cunning. “Have
no money dealings with my father,” says Marth to Lord Glenvarloch; “for,
dotard as he is, he will make an ass of you.” It was as dangerous to
have any political connection with Newcastle as to buy and sell with old
Trapbois. He was greedy after power with a greediness all his own. He
was jealous of all his colleagues, and even of his own brother. Under
the disguise of levity he was false beyond all example of political
falsehood. All the able men of his time ridiculed him as a dunce, a
driveller, a child who never knew his own mind for an hour together; and
he overreached them all round.

If the country had remained at peace, it is not impossible that this man
would have continued at the head of affairs without admitting any other
person to a share of his authority until the throne was filled by a new
Prince, who brought with him new maxims of government, new favourites,
and a strong will. But the inauspicious commencement of the Seven Years’
War brought on a crisis to which Newcastle was altogether unequal. After
a calm of fifteen years the spirit of the nation was again stirred to
its inmost depths. In a few days the whole aspect of the political world
was changed.

But that change is too remarkable an event to be discussed at the end of
an article already more than sufficiently long. It is probable that we
may, at no remote time, resume the subject.



WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM


(January 1834)
_A History of the Right Honourable William Pitt, Earl of Chatham,
containing his Speeches in Parliament, a considerable Portion of his
Correspondence when Secretary of State, upon French, Spanish, and
American Affairs, never before published; and an Account of the
principal Events and Persons of his Time, connected with his Life,
Sentiments and Administration. By the Rev. FRANCIS THACKERAY, A.M. 2
Vols. 4to. London: 1827._


THOUGH several years have elapsed since the publication of this work, it
is still, we believe, a new publication to most of our readers. Nor
are we surprised at this. The book is large, and the style heavy. The
information which Mr. Thackeray has obtained from the State Paper Office
is new; but much of it is very uninteresting. The rest of his narrative
is very little better than Gifford’s or Tomline’s Life of the second
Pitt, and tells us little or nothing that may not be found quite as well
told in the Parliamentary History, the Annual Register, and other works
equally common.

Almost every mechanical employment, it is said, has a tendency to injure
some one or other of the bodily organs of the artisan. Grinders of
cutlery die of consumption; weavers are stunted in their growth;
smiths become blear-eyed. In the same manner almost every intellectual
employment has a tendency to produce some intellectual malady.
Biographers, translators, editors, all, in short, who employ themselves
in illustrating the lives or the writings of others, are peculiarly
exposed to the Lues Boswelliana, or disease of admiration. But we
scarcely remember ever to have seen a patient so far gone in this
distemper as Mr. Thackeray. He is not satisfied with forcing us to
confess that Pitt was a great orator, a vigorous minister, an honourable
and high-spirited gentleman. He will have it that all virtues and all
accomplishments met in his hero. In spite of Gods, men, and columns,
Pitt must be a poet, a poet capable of producing a heroic poem of the
first order; and we are assured that we ought to find many charms in
such lines as these:

“Midst all the tumults of the warring sphere, My light-charged bark may
haply glide; Some gale may waft, some conscious thought shall cheer, And
the small freight unanxious glide.”

[The quotation is faithfully made from Mr. Thackeray. Perhaps Pitt wrote
guide in the fourth line.]

Pitt was in the army for a few months in time of peace. Mr. Thackeray
accordingly insists on our confessing that, if the young cornet had
remained in the service, he would have been one of the ablest commanders
that ever lived. But this is not all. Pitt, it seems, was not merely
a great poet, in esse, and a great general in posse, but a finished
example of moral excellence, the just man made perfect. He was in
the right when he attempted to establish an inquisition, and to give
bounties for perjury, in order to get Walpole’s head. He was in the
right when he declared Walpole to have been an excellent minister. He
was in the right when, being in opposition, he maintained that no peace
ought to be made with Spain, till she should formally renounce the
right of search. He was in the right when, being in office, he silently
acquiesced in a treaty by which Spain did not renounce the right of
search. When he left the Duke of Newcastle, when he coalesced with the
Duke of Newcastle, when he thundered against subsidies, when he lavished
subsidies with unexampled profusion, when he execrated the Hanoverian
connection, when he declared that Hanover ought to be as dear to us as
Hampshire, he was still invariably speaking the language of a virtuous
and enlightened statesman.

The truth is that there scarcely ever lived a person who had so little
claim to this sort of praise as Pitt. He was undoubtedly a great man.
But his was not a complete and well-proportioned greatness. The public
life of Hampden or of Somers resembles a regular drama, which can be
criticised as a whole, and every scene of which is to be viewed in
connection with the main action. The public life of Pitt, on the
other hand, is a rude though striking piece, a piece abounding in
incongruities, a piece without any unity of plan, but redeemed by some
noble passages, the effect of which is increased by the tameness or
extravagance of what precedes and of what follows. His opinions were
unfixed. His conduct at some of the most important conjunctures of his
life was evidently determined by pride and resentment. He had one fault,
which of all human faults is most rarely found in company with true
greatness. He was extremely affected. He was an almost solitary instance
of a man of real genius, and of a brave, lofty, and commanding spirit,
without simplicity of character. He was an actor in the Closet, an actor
at Council, an actor in Parliament; and even in private society he could
not lay aside his theatrical tones and attitudes. We know that one of
the most distinguished of his partisans often complained that he could
never obtain admittance to Lord Chatham’s room till everything was
ready for the representation, till the dresses and properties were all
correctly disposed, till the light was thrown with Rembrandt-like effect
on the head of the illustrious performer, till the flannels had been
arranged with the air of a Grecian drapery, and the crutch placed as
gracefully as that of Belisarius or Lear.

Yet, with all his faults and affectations, Pitt had, in a very
extraordinary degree, many of the elements of greatness. He had genius,
strong passions, quick sensibility, and vehement enthusiasm for the
grand and the beautiful. There was something about him which ennobled
tergiversation itself. He often went wrong, very wrong. But, to quote
the language of Wordsworth,

                        “He still retained,

               ’Mid such abasement, what he had received

               From nature, an intense and glowing mind.”

In an age of low and dirty prostitution, in the age of Dodington and
Sandys, it was something to have a man who might perhaps, under some
strong excitement, have been tempted to ruin his country, but who never
would have stooped to pilfer from her, a man whose errors arose, not
from a sordid desire of gain, but from a fierce thirst for power, for
glory, and for vengeance. History owes to him this attestation, that at
a time when anything short of direct embezzlement of the public
money was considered as quite fair in public men, he showed the most
scrupulous disinterestedness; that, at a time when it seemed to be
generally taken for granted that Government could be upheld only by the
basest and most immoral arts, he appealed to the better and nobler parts
of human nature; that he made a brave and splendid attempt to do, by
means of public opinion, what no other statesman of his day thought
it possible to do, except by means of corruption; that he looked for
support, not, like the Pelhams, to a strong aristocratical connection,
not, like Bute, to the personal favour of the sovereign, but to the
middle class of Englishmen; that he inspired that class with a firm
confidence in his integrity and ability; that, backed by them, he forced
an unwilling court and an unwilling oligarchy to admit him to an ample
share of power; and that he used his power in such a manner as clearly
proved him to have sought it, not for the sake of profit or patronage,
but from a wish to establish for himself a great and durable reputation
by means of eminent services rendered to the State.

The family of Pitt was wealthy and respectable. His grandfather was
Governor of Madras, and brought back from India that celebrated diamond
which the Regent Orleans, by the advice of Saint Simon, purchased for
upwards of two millions of livres, and which is still considered as
the most precious of the crown jewels of France. Governor Pitt bought
estates and rotten boroughs, and sat in the House of Commons for Old
Sarum. His son Robert was at one time member for Old Sarum, and
at another for Oakhampton. Robert had two sons. Thomas, the elder,
inherited the estates and the parliamentary interest of his father. The
second was the celebrated William Pitt.

He was born in November, 1708. About the early part of his life little
more is known than that he was educated at Eton, and that at seventeen
he was entered at Trinity College, Oxford. During the second year of his
residence at the University, George the First died; and the event was,
after the fashion of that generation, celebrated by the Oxonians in many
middling copies of verses. On this occasion Pitt published some Latin
lines, which Mr. Thackeray has preserved. They prove that the young
student had but a very limited knowledge even of the mechanical part of
his art. All true Etonians will hear with concern that their illustrious
schoolfellow is guilty of making the first syllable in labenti short.
[So Mr. Thackeray has printed the poem. But it may be charitably hoped
that Pitt wrote labanti.] The matter of the poem is as worthless as that
of any college exercise that was ever written before or since. There is,
of course, much about Mars, Themis, Neptune, and Cocytus. The Muses are
earnestly entreated to weep over the urn of Caesar; for Caesar, says the
Poet, loved the Muses; Caesar, who could not read a line of Pope, and
who loved nothing but punch and fat women.

Pitt had been, from his school-days, cruelly tormented by the gout, and
was advised to travel for his health. He accordingly left Oxford without
taking a degree, and visited France and Italy. He returned, however,
without having received much benefit from his excursion, and
continued, till the close of his life, to suffer most severely from his
constitutional malady.

His father was now dead, and had left very little to the younger
children. It was necessary that William should choose a profession. He
decided for the army, and a cornet’s commission was procured for him in
the Blues.

But, small as his fortune was, his family had both the power and the
inclination to serve him. At the general election of 1734, his elder
brother Thomas was chosen both for Old Sarum and for Oakhampton.
When Parliament met in 1735, Thomas made his election to serve for
Oakhampton, and William was returned for Old Sarum.

Walpole had now been, during fourteen years, at the head of affairs. He
had risen to power under the most favourable circumstances. The whole of
the Whig party, of that party which professed peculiar attachment to
the principles of the Revolution, and which exclusively enjoyed the
confidence of the reigning house, had been united in support of his
administration. Happily for him, he had been out of office when the
South-Sea Act was passed; and, though he does not appear to have
foreseen all the consequences of that measure, he had strenuously
opposed it, as he had opposed all the measures, good and bad, of
Sutherland’s administration. When the South-Sea Company were voting
dividends of fifty per cent, when a hundred pounds of their stock were
selling for eleven hundred pounds, when Threadneedle Street was daily
crowded with the coaches of dukes and prelates, when divines and
philosophers turned gamblers, when a thousand kindred bubbles were
daily blown into existence, the periwig-company, and the
Spanish-jackass-company, and the quicksilver-fixation-company,
Walpole’s calm good sense preserved him from the general infatuation.
He condemned the prevailing madness in public, and turned a considerable
sum by taking advantage of it in private. When the crash came, when ten
thousand families were reduced to beggary in a day, when the people, in
the frenzy of their rage and despair, clamoured, not only against the
lower agents in the juggle, but against the Hanoverian favourites,
against the English ministers, against the King himself, when Parliament
met, eager for confiscation and blood, when members of the House of
Commons proposed that the directors should be treated like parricides in
ancient Rome, tied up in sacks, and thrown into the Thames, Walpole was
the man on whom all parties turned their eyes. Four years before he had
been driven from power by the intrigues of Sunderland and Stanhope;
and the lead in the House of Commons had been intrusted to Craggs and
Aislabie. Stanhope was no more. Aislabie was expelled from Parliament
on account of his disgraceful conduct regarding the South-Sea scheme.
Craggs was perhaps saved by a timely death from a similar mark of
infamy. A large minority in the House of Commons voted for a severe
censure on Sunderland, who, finding it impossible to withstand the
force of the prevailing sentiment, retired from office, and outlived his
retirement but a very short time. The schism which had divided the Whig
party was now completely healed. Walpole had no opposition to encounter
except that of the Tories; and the Tories were naturally regarded by the
King with the strongest suspicion and dislike.

For a time business went on with a smoothness and a despatch such as had
not been known since the days of the Tudors. During the session of 1724,
for example, there was hardly a single division except on private bills.
It is not impossible that, by taking the course which Pelham afterwards
took, by admitting into the Government all the rising talents and
ambition of the Whig party, and by making room here and there for a Tory
not unfriendly to the House of Brunswick, Walpole might have averted
the tremendous conflict in which he passed the later years of his
administration, and in which he was at length vanquished. The Opposition
which overthrew him was an opposition created by his own policy, by his
own insatiable love of power.

In the very act of forming his Ministry he turned one of the ablest and
most attached of his supporters into a deadly enemy. Pulteney had strong
public and private claims to a high situation in the new arrangement.
His fortune was immense. His private character was respectable. He was
already a distinguished speaker. He had acquired official experience
in an important post. He had been, through all changes of fortune,
a consistent Whig. When the Whig party was split into two sections,
Pulteney had resigned a valuable place, and had followed the fortunes of
Walpole. Yet, when Walpole returned to power, Pulteney was not invited
to take office. An angry discussion took place between the friends.
The Ministry offered a peerage. It was impossible for Pulteney not to
discern the motive of such an offer. He indignantly refused to accept
it. For some time he continued to brood over his wrongs, and to watch
for an opportunity of revenge. As soon as a favourable conjuncture
arrived he joined the minority, and became the greatest leader of
Opposition that the House of Commons had ever seen.

Of all the members of the Cabinet Carteret was the most eloquent and
accomplished. His talents for debate were of the first order; his
knowledge of foreign affairs was superior to that of any living
statesman; his attachment to the Protestant succession was undoubted.
But there was not room in one Government for him and Walpole. Carteret
retired, and was from that time forward, one of the most persevering and
formidable enemies of his old colleague.

If there was any man with whom Walpole could have consented to make
a partition of power, that man was Lord Townshend. They were distant
kinsmen by birth, near kinsmen by marriage. They had been friends
from childhood. They had been schoolfellows at Eton. They were country
neighbours in Norfolk. They had been in office together under Godolphin.
They had gone into opposition together when Harley rose to power. They
had been persecuted by the same House of Commons. They had, after the
death of Anne, been recalled together to office. They had again been
driven out together by Sunderland, and had again come back together
when the influence of Sunderland had declined. Their opinions on public
affairs almost always coincided. They were both men of frank, generous,
and compassionate natures. Their intercourse had been for many years
affectionate and cordial. But the ties of blood, of marriage, and of
friendship, the memory of mutual services, the memory of common triumphs
and common disasters, were insufficient to restrain that ambition which
domineered over all the virtues and vices of Walpole. He was resolved,
to use his own metaphor, that the firm of the house should be, not
Townshend and Walpole, but Walpole and Townshend. At length the rivals
proceeded to personal abuse before a large company, seized each other by
the collar, and grasped their swords. The women squalled. The men parted
the combatants. By friendly intervention the scandal of a duel
between cousins, brothers-in-law, old friends, and old colleagues, was
prevented. But the disputants could not long continue to act together.
Townshend retired, and, with rare moderation and public spirit, refused
to take any part in politics. He could not, he said, trust his temper.
He feared that the recollection of his private wrongs might impel him to
follow the example of Pulteney, and to oppose measures which he thought
generally beneficial to the country. He therefore never visited London
after his resignation, but passed the closing years of his life in
dignity and repose among his trees and pictures at Rainham.

Next went Chesterfield. He too was a Whig and a friend of the Protestant
succession. He was an orator, a courtier, a wit, and a man of letters.
He was at the head of ton in days when, in order to be at the head of
ton, it was not sufficient to be dull and supercilious. It was evident
that he submitted impatiently to the ascendency of Walpole. He murmured
against the Excise Bill. His brothers voted against it in the House
of Commons. The Minister acted with characteristic caution and
characteristic energy; caution in the conduct of public affairs; energy
where his own supremacy was concerned. He withdrew his Bill, and turned
out all his hostile or wavering colleagues. Chesterfield was stopped on
the great staircase of St. James’s, and summoned to deliver up the staff
which he bore as Lord Steward of the Household. A crowd of noble
and powerful functionaries, the Dukes of Montrose and Bolton, Lord
Burlington, Lord Stair, Lord Cobham, Lord Marchmont, Lord Clinton, were
at the same time dismissed from the service of the Crown.

Not long after these events the Opposition was reinforced by the Duke
of Argyle, a man vainglorious indeed and fickle, but brave, eloquent and
popular. It was in a great measure owing to his exertions that the
Act of Settlement had been peaceably carried into effect in England
immediately after the death of Anne, and that the Jacobite rebellion
which, during the following year, broke out in Scotland, had been
suppressed. He too carried over to the minority the aid of his great
name, his talents, and his paramount influence in his native country.

In each of these cases taken separately, a skilful defender of Walpole
might perhaps make out a case for him. But when we see that during a
long course of years all the footsteps are turned the same way, that
all the most eminent of those public men who agreed with the Minister in
their general views of policy left him, one after another, with sore
and irritated minds, we find it impossible not to believe that the real
explanation of the phaenomenon is to be found in the words of his son,
“Sir Robert Walpole loved power so much that he would not endure a
rival.” Hume has described this famous minister with great felicity in
one short sentence,--“moderate in exercising power, not equitable in
engrossing it.” Kind-hearted, jovial, and placable as Walpole was, he
was yet a man with whom no person of high pretensions and high spirit
could long continue to act. He had, therefore, to stand against an
Opposition containing all the most accomplished statesmen of the age,
with no better support than that which he received from persons like
his brother Horace or Henry Pelham, whose industrious mediocrity gave
no cause for jealousy, or from clever adventurers, whose situation and
character diminished the dread which their talents might have inspired.
To this last class belonged Fox, who was too poor to live without
office; Sir William Yonge, of whom Walpole himself said, that “Nothing
but such parts could buoy up such a character, and that nothing but such
a character could drag down such parts; and Winnington, whose private
morals lay, justly or unjustly, under imputations of the worst kind.”

The discontented Whigs were, not perhaps in number, but certainly in
ability, experience, and weight, by far the most important part of the
Opposition. The Tories furnished little more than rows of ponderous
foxhunters, fat with Staffordshire or Devonshire ale, men who drank
to the King over the water, and believed that all the fundholders were
Jews, men whose religion consisted in hating the Dissenters, and whose
political researches had led them to fear, like Squire Western, that
their land might be sent over to Hanover to be put in the sinking-fund.
The eloquence of these zealous squires, and remnant of the once
formidable October Club, seldom went beyond a hearty Aye or No. Very few
members of this party had distinguished themselves much in Parliament,
or could, under any circumstances, have been called to fill any high
office; and those few had generally, like Sir William Wyndham, learned
in the company of their new associates the doctrines of toleration and
political liberty, and might indeed with strict propriety be called
Whigs.

It was to the Whigs in Opposition, the Patriots, as they were called,
that the most distinguished of the English youth who at this season
entered into public life attached themselves. These inexperienced
politicians felt all the enthusiasm which the name of liberty naturally
excites in young and ardent minds. They conceived that the theory of
the Tory Opposition and the practice of Walpole’s Government were alike
inconsistent with the principles of liberty. They accordingly repaired
to the standard which Pulteney had set up. While opposing the Whig
minister, they professed a firm adherence to the purest doctrines of
Whiggism. He was the schismatic; they were the true Catholics, the
peculiar people, the depositaries of the orthodox faith of Hampden and
Russell, the one sect which, amidst the corruptions generated by
time and by the long possession of power, had preserved inviolate the
principles of the Revolution. Of the young men who attached themselves
to this portion of the Opposition the most distinguished were Lyttelton
and Pitt.

When Pitt entered Parliament, the whole political world was attentively
watching the progress of an event which soon added great strength to the
Opposition, and particularly to that section of the Opposition in which
the young statesman enrolled himself. The Prince of Wales was gradually
becoming more and more estranged from his father and his father’s
ministers, and more and more friendly to the Patriots.

Nothing is more natural than that, in a monarchy where a constitutional
Opposition exists, the heir-apparent of the throne should put himself
at the head of that Opposition. He is impelled to such a course by every
feeling of ambition and of vanity. He cannot be more than second in the
estimation of the party which is in. He is sure to be the first member
of the party which is out. The highest favour which the existing
administration can expect from him is that he will not discard them.
But, if he joins the Opposition, all his associates expect that he will
promote them; and the feelings which men entertain towards one from whom
they hope to obtain great advantages which they have not are far warmer
than the feelings with which they regard one who, at the very utmost,
can only leave them in possession of what they already have. An
heir-apparent, therefore, who wishes to enjoy, in the highest
perfection, all the pleasure that can be derived from eloquent flattery
and profound respect, will always join those who are struggling to force
themselves into power. This is, we believe, the true explanation of a
fact which Lord Granville attributed to some natural peculiarity in the
illustrious House of Brunswick. “This family,” said he at Council, we
suppose after his daily half-gallon of Burgundy, “always has quarrelled,
and always will quarrel, from generation to generation.” He should have
known something of the matter; for he had been a favourite with three
successive generations of the royal house. We cannot quite admit his
explanation; but the fact is indisputable. Since the accession of George
the First, there have been four Princes of Wales, and they have all been
almost constantly in Opposition.

Whatever might have been the motives which induced Prince Frederick to
join the party opposed to the Government, his support infused into
many members of that party a courage and an energy of which they stood
greatly in need. Hitherto it had been impossible for the discontented
Whigs not to feel some misgivings when they found themselves dividing
night after night, with uncompromising Jacobites who were known to be
in constant communication with the exiled family, or with Tories who had
impeached Somers, who had murmured against Harley and St. John as too
remiss in the cause of the Church and the landed interest, and who, if
they were not inclined to attack the reigning family, yet considered
the introduction of that family as, at best, only the least of two great
evils, as a necessary but painful and humiliating preservative against
Popery. The Minister might plausibly say that Pulteney and Carteret, in
the hope of gratifying their own appetite for office and for revenge,
did not scruple to serve the purposes of a faction hostile to the
Protestant succession. The appearance of Frederick at the head of the
Patriots silenced this reproach. The leaders of the Opposition might now
boast that their course was sanctioned by a person as deeply interested
as the King himself in maintaining the Act of Settlement, and that,
instead of serving the purposes of the Tory party, they had brought that
party over to the side of Whiggism. It must indeed be admitted that,
though both the King and the Prince behaved in a manner little to their
honour, though the father acted harshly, the son disrespectfully, and
both childishly, the royal family was rather strengthened than weakened
by the disagreement of its two most distinguished members. A large class
of politicians, who had considered themselves as placed under sentence
of perpetual exclusion from office, and who, in their despair, had
been almost ready to join in a counter-revolution as the only mode of
removing the proscription under which they lay, now saw with pleasure an
easier and safer road to power opening before them, and thought it far
better to wait till, in the natural course of things, the Crown should
descend to the heir of the House of Brunswick, than to risk their lands
and their necks in a rising for the House of Stuart. The situation of
the royal family resembled the situation of those Scotch families in
which father and son took opposite sides during the rebellion, in order
that, come what might, the estate might not be forfeited.

In April 1736, Frederick was married to the Princess of Saxe Gotha, with
whom he afterwards lived on terms very similar to those on which his
father had lived with Queen Caroline. The Prince adored his wife, and
thought her in mind and person the most attractive of her sex. But he
thought that conjugal fidelity was an unprincely virtue; and, in order
to be like Henry the Fourth, and the Regent Orleans, he affected a
libertinism for which he had no taste, and frequently quitted the only
woman whom he loved for ugly and disagreeable mistresses.

The address which the House of Commons presented to the King on the
occasion of the Prince’s marriage was moved, not by the Minister, but by
Pulteney, the leader of the Whigs in Opposition. It was on this motion
that Pitt, who had not broken silence during the session in which he
took his seat, addressed the House for the first time. “A contemporary
historian,” says Mr. Thackeray, “describes Mr. Pitt’s first speech as
superior even to the models of ancient eloquence. According to Tindal,
it was more ornamented than the speeches of Demosthenes, and less
diffuse than those of Cicero.” This unmeaning phrase has been a hundred
times quoted. That it should ever have been quoted, except to be laughed
at, is strange. The vogue which it has obtained may serve to show in how
slovenly a way most people are content to think. Did Tindal, who first
used it, or Archdeacon Coxe and Mr. Thackeray, who have borrowed it,
ever in their lives hear any speaking which did not deserve the same
compliment? Did they ever hear speaking less ornamented than that of
Demosthenes, or more diffuse than that of Cicero? We know no living
orator, from Lord Brougham down to Mr. Hunt, who is not entitled to the
same eulogy. It would be no very flattering compliment to a man’s figure
to say, that he was taller than the Polish Count, and shorter than Giant
O’Brien, fatter than the Anatomie Vivante, and more slender than Daniel
Lambert.

Pitt’s speech, as it is reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine, certainly
deserves Tindal’s compliment, and deserves no other. It is just as empty
and wordy as a maiden speech on such an occasion might be expected to
be. But the fluency and the personal advantages of the young orator
instantly caught the ear and eye of his audience. He was, from the day
of his first appearance, always heard with attention; and exercise soon
developed the great powers which he possessed.

In our time, the audience of a member of Parliament is the nation.
The three or four hundred persons who may be present while a speech is
delivered may be pleased or disgusted by the voice and action of the
orator; but, in the reports which are read the next day by hundreds of
thousands, the difference between the noblest and the meanest figure,
between the richest and the shrillest tones, between the most graceful
and the most uncouth gesture, altogether vanishes. A hundred years ago,
scarcely any report of what passed within the walls of the House of
Commons was suffered to get abroad. In those times, therefore, the
impression which a speaker might make on the persons who actually heard
him was everything. His fame out of doors depended entirely on the
report of those who were within the doors. In the Parliaments of that
time, therefore, as in the ancient commonwealths, those qualifications
which enhance the immediate effect of a speech, were far more important
ingredients in the composition of an orator than at present. All those
qualifications Pitt possessed in the highest degree. On the stage, he
would have been the finest Brutus or Coriolanus ever seen. Those who saw
him in his decay, when his health was broken, when his mind was
untuned, when he had been removed from that stormy assembly of which
he thoroughly knew the temper, and over which he possessed unbounded
influence, to a small, a torpid, and an unfriendly audience, say that
his speaking was then, for the most part, a low, monotonous muttering,
audible only to those who sat close to him, that when violently excited,
he sometimes raised his voice for a few minutes, but that it sank again
into an unintelligible murmur. Such was the Earl of Chatham, but such
was not William Pitt. His figure, when he first appeared in Parliament,
was strikingly graceful and commanding, his features high and noble, his
eye full of fire. His voice, even when it sank to a whisper, was heard
to the remotest benches; and when he strained it to its full extent, the
sound rose like the swell of the organ of a great Cathedral, shook the
house with its peal, and was heard through lobbies and down staircases
to the Court of Requests and the precincts of Westminster Hall. He
cultivated all these eminent advantages with the most assiduous care.
His action is described by a very malignant observer as equal to that
of Garrick. His play of countenance was wonderful: he frequently
disconcerted a hostile orator by a single glance of indignation or
scorn. Every tone, from the impassioned cry to the thrilling aside, was
perfectly at his command. It is by no means improbable that the pains
which he took to improve his great personal advantages had, in some
respects, a prejudicial operation, and tended to nourish in him that
passion for theatrical effect which, as we have already remarked, was
one of the most conspicuous blemishes in his character.

But it was not solely or principally to outward accomplishments that
Pitt owed the vast influence which, during nearly thirty years, he
exercised over the House of Commons. He was undoubtedly a great
orator; and, from the descriptions given by his contemporaries, and the
fragments of his speeches which still remain, it is not difficult to
discover the nature and extent of his oratorical powers.

He was no speaker of set speeches. His few prepared discourses were
complete failures. The elaborate panegyric which he pronounced on
General Wolfe was considered as the very worst of all his performances.
“No man,” says a critic who had often heard him, “ever knew so little
what he was going to say.” Indeed, his facility amounted to a vice.
He was not the master, but the slave of his own speech. So little
self-command had he when once he felt the impulse, that he did not like
to take part in a debate when his mind was full of an important secret
of state. “I must sit still,” he once said to Lord Shelburne on such an
occasion; “for, when once I am up, everything that is in my mind comes
out.”

Yet he was not a great debater. That he should not have been so when
first he entered the House of Commons is not strange. Scarcely any
person has ever become so without long practice and many failures. It
was by slow degrees, as Burke said, that Charles Fox became the most
brilliant and powerful debater that ever lived. Charles Fox himself
attributed his own success to the resolution which he formed when very
young, of speaking, well or ill, at least once every night. “During five
whole sessions,” he used to say, “I spoke every night but one; and I
regret only that I did not speak on that night too.” Indeed, with
the exception of Mr. Stanley, whose knowledge of the science of
parliamentary defence resembles an instinct, it would be difficult to
name any eminent debater who has not made himself a master of his art at
the expense of his audience.

But, as this art is one which even the ablest men have seldom acquired
without long practice, so it is one which men of respectable abilities,
with assiduous and intrepid practice, seldom fail to acquire. It is
singular that, in such an art, Pitt, a man of great parts, of great
fluency, of great boldness, a man whose whole life was passed in
parliamentary conflict, a man who, during several years, was the
leading minister of the Crown in the House of Commons, should never have
attained to high excellence. He spoke without premeditation; but his
speech followed the course of his own thoughts, and not the course of
the previous discussion. He could, indeed, treasure up in his memory
some detached expression of an opponent, and make it the text for lively
ridicule or solemn reprehension. Some of the most celebrated bursts
of his eloquence were called forth by an unguarded word, a laugh, or a
cheer. But this was the only sort of reply in which he appears to have
excelled. He was perhaps the only great English orator who did not
think it any advantage to have the last word, and who generally spoke
by choice before his most formidable antagonists. His merit was almost
entirely rhetorical. He did not succeed either in exposition or in
refutation; but his speeches abounded with lively illustrations,
striking apophthegms, well-told anecdotes, happy allusions, passionate
appeals. His invective and sarcasm were terrific. Perhaps no English
orator was ever so much feared.

But that which gave most effect to his declamation was the air of
sincerity, of vehement feeling, of moral elevation, which belonged to
all that he said. His style was not always in the purest taste. Several
contemporary judges pronounced it too florid. Walpole, in the midst
of the rapturous eulogy which he pronounces on one of Pitt’s greatest
orations, owns that some of the metaphors were too forced. Some of
Pitt’s quotations and classical stories are too trite for a clever
schoolboy. But these were niceties for which the audience cared little.
The enthusiasm of the orator infected all who heard him; his ardour
and his noble bearing put fire into the most frigid conceit, and gave
dignity to the most puerile allusion.

His powers soon began to give annoyance to the Government; and Walpole
determined to make an example of the patriotic cornet. Pitt was
accordingly dismissed from the service. Mr. Thackeray says that the
Minister took this step, because he plainly saw that it would have
been vain to think of buying over so honourable and disinterested an
opponent. We do not dispute Pitt’s integrity; but we do not know what
proof he had given of it when he was turned out of the army; and we are
sure that Walpole was not likely to give credit for inflexible honesty
to a young adventurer who had never had an opportunity of refusing
anything. The truth is, that it was not Walpole’s practice to buy off
enemies. Mr. Burke truly says, in the Appeal to the Old Whigs, that
Walpole gained very few over from the Opposition. Indeed that great
minister knew his business far too well. He, knew that, for one mouth
which is stopped with a place, fifty other mouths will be instantly
opened. He knew that it would have been very bad policy in him to
give the world to understand that more was to be got by thwarting his
measures than by supporting them. These maxims are as old as the origin
of parliamentary corruption in England. Pepys learned them, as he tells
us, from the counsellors of Charles the Second.

Pitt was no loser. He was made Groom of the Bedchamber to the Prince
of Wales, and continued to declaim against the ministers with unabated
violence and with increasing ability. The question of maritime right,
then agitated between Spain and England, called forth all his powers.
He clamoured for war with a vehemence which it is not easy to reconcile
with reason or humanity, but which appears to Mr. Thackeray worthy of
the highest admiration. We will not stop to argue a point on which we
had long thought that all well-informed people were agreed. We could
easily show, we think, that, if any respect be due to international law,
if right, where societies of men are concerned, be anything but another
name for might, if we do not adopt the doctrine of the Buccaneers,
which seems to be also the doctrine of Mr. Thackeray, that treaties
mean nothing within thirty degrees of the line, the war with Spain was
altogether unjustifiable. But the truth is, that the promoters of that
war have saved the historian the trouble of trying them. They have
pleaded guilty. “I have seen,” says Burke, “and with some care examined,
the original documents concerning certain important transactions of
those times. They perfectly satisfied me of the extreme injustice of
that war, and of the falsehood of the colours which Walpole, to his
ruin, and guided by a mistaken policy, suffered to be daubed over that
measure. Some years after, it was my fortune to converse with many
of the principal actors against that minister, and with those who
principally excited that clamour. None of them, no, not one, did in
the least defend the measure, or attempt to justify their conduct. They
condemned it as freely as they would have done in commenting upon any
proceeding in history in which they were totally unconcerned.” Pitt,
on subsequent occasions, gave ample proof that he was one of these
penitents. But his conduct, even where it appeared most criminal to
himself, appears admirable to his biographer.

The elections of 1741 were unfavourable to Walpole; and after a long
and obstinate struggle he found it necessary to resign. The Duke of
Newcastle and Lord Hardwicke opened a negotiation with the leading
Patriots, in the hope of forming an administration on a Whig basis. At
this conjuncture, Pitt and those persons who were most nearly connected
with him acted in a manner very little to their honour. They attempted
to come to an understanding with Walpole, and offered, if he would
use his influence with the King in their favour, to screen him from
prosecution. They even went so far as to engage for the concurrence of
the Prince of Wales. But Walpole knew that the assistance of the Boys,
as he called the young Patriots, would avail him nothing if Pulteney and
Carteret should prove intractable, and would be superfluous if the great
leaders of the Opposition could be gained. He, therefore, declined the
proposal. It is remarkable that Mr. Thackeray, who has thought it worth
while to preserve Pitt’s bad college verses, has not even alluded to
this story, a story which is supported by strong testimony, and which
may be found in so common a book as Coxe’s Life of Walpole.

The new arrangements disappointed almost every member of the Opposition,
and none more than Pitt. He was not invited to become a place-man; and
he therefore stuck firmly to his old trade of patriot. Fortunate it was
for him that he did so. Had he taken office at this time, he would in
all probability have shared largely in the unpopularity of Pulteney,
Sandys, and Carteret. He was now the fiercest and most implacable of
those who called for vengeance on Walpole. He spoke with great energy
and ability in favour of the most unjust and violent propositions which
the enemies of the fallen minister could invent. He urged the House of
Commons to appoint a secret tribunal for the purpose of investigating
the conduct of the late First Lord of the Treasury. This was done.
The great majority of the inquisitors were notoriously hostile to the
accused statesman. Yet they were compelled to own that they could find
no fault in him. They therefore called for new powers, for a bill of
indemnity to witnesses, or, in plain words, for a bill to reward all
who might give evidence, true or false, against the Earl of Orford.
This bill Pitt supported, Pitt, who had himself offered to be a screen
between Lord Orford and public justice. These are melancholy facts. Mr.
Thackeray omits them, or hurries over them as fast as he can; and, as
eulogy is his business, he is in the right to do so. But, though
there are many parts of the life of Pitt which it is more agreeable
to contemplate, we know none more instructive. What must have been the
general state of political morality, when a young man, considered, and
justly considered, as the most public-spirited and spotless statesman
of his time, could attempt to force his way into office by means so
disgraceful!

The Bill of Indemnity was rejected by the Lords. Walpole withdrew
himself quietly from the public eye; and the ample space which he had
left vacant was soon occupied by Carteret. Against Carteret Pitt began
to thunder with as much zeal as he had ever manifested against Sir
Robert. To Carteret he transferred most of the hard names which were
familiar to his eloquence, sole minister, wicked minister, odious
minister, execrable minister. The chief topic of Pitt’s invective was
the favour shown to the German dominions of the House of Brunswick. He
attacked with great violence, and with an ability which raised him to
the very first rank among the parliamentary speakers, the practice of
paying Hanoverian troops with English money. The House of Commons
had lately lost some of its most distinguished ornaments. Walpole and
Pulteney had accepted peerages; Sir William Wyndham was dead; and among
the rising men none could be considered as, on the whole, a match for
Pitt.

During the recess of 1744, the old Duchess of Marlborough died. She
carried to her grave the reputation of being decidedly the best hater
of her time. Yet her love had been infinitely more destructive than her
hatred. More than thirty years before, her temper had ruined the party
to which she belonged and the husband whom she adored. Time had made her
neither wiser nor kinder. Whoever was at any moment great and prosperous
was the object of her fiercest detestation. She had hated Walpole; she
now hated Carteret. Pope, long before her death, predicted the fate of
her vast property.

“To heirs unknown descends the unguarded store, Or wanders,
heaven-directed, to the poor.”

Pitt was then one of the poor; and to him Heaven directed a portion of
the wealth of the haughty Dowager. She left him a legacy of ten thousand
pounds, in consideration of “the noble defence he had made for the
support of the laws of England, and to prevent the ruin of his country.”

The will was made in August--The Duchess died in October. In November
Pitt was a courtier. The Pelhams had forced the King, much against his
will, to part with Lord Carteret, who had now become Earl Granville.
They proceeded, after this victory, to form the Government on that
basis, called by the cant name of “the broad bottom.” Lyttelton had a
seat at the Treasury, and several other friends of Pitt were provided
for. But Pitt himself was, for the present, forced to be content with
promises. The King resented most highly some expressions which the
ardent orator had used in the debate on the Hanoverian troops. But
Newcastle and Pelham expressed the strongest confidence that time and
their exertions would soften the royal displeasure.

Pitt, on his part, omitted nothing that might facilitate his admission
to office. He resigned his place in the household of Prince Frederick,
and, when Parliament met, exerted his eloquence in support of the
Government. The Pelhams were really sincere in their endeavours to
remove the strong prejudices which had taken root in the King’s mind.
They knew that Pitt was not a man to be deceived with ease or offended
with impunity. They were afraid that they should not be long able to
put him off with promises. Nor was it their interest so to put him off.
There was a strong tie between him and them. He was the enemy of their
enemy. The brothers hated and dreaded the eloquent, aspiring, and
imperious Granville. They had traced his intrigues in many quarters.
They knew his influence over the royal mind. They knew that, as soon as
a favourable opportunity should arrive, he would be recalled to the head
of affairs. They resolved to bring things to a crisis; and the question
on which they took issue with their master was whether Pitt should or
should not be admitted to office. They chose their time with more skill
than generosity. It was when rebellion was actually raging in Britain,
when the Pretender was master of the northern extremity of the island,
that they tendered their resignations. The King found himself deserted,
in one day, by the whole strength of that party which had placed his
family on the throne. Lord Granville tried to form a Government; but
it soon appeared that the parliamentary interest of the Pelhams was
irresistible, and that the King’s favourite statesman could count only
on about thirty Lords and eighty members of the House of Commons. The
scheme was given up. Granville went away laughing. The ministers came
back stronger than ever; and the King was now no longer able to refuse
anything that they might be pleased to demand. He could only mutter that
it was very hard that Newcastle, who was not fit to be chamberlain to
the most insignificant prince in Germany, should dictate to the King of
England.

One concession the ministers graciously made. They agreed that Pitt
should not be placed in a situation in which it would be necessary for
him to have frequent interviews with the King. Instead, therefore,
of making their new ally Secretary at War as they had intended, they
appointed him Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, and in a few months promoted
him to the office of Paymaster of the Forces.

This was, at that time, one of the most lucrative offices in the
Government. The salary was but a small part of the emolument which the
Paymaster derived from his place. He was allowed to keep a large sum,
which, even in time of peace, was seldom less than one hundred thousand
pounds, constantly in his hands; and the interest on this sum he might
appropriate to his own use. This practice was not secret, nor was it
considered as disreputable. It was the practice of men of undoubted
honour, both before and after the time of Pitt. He, however, refused to
accept one farthing beyond the salary which the law had annexed to his
office. It had been usual for foreign princes who received the pay of
England to give to the Paymaster of the Forces a small percentage on the
subsidies. These ignominious veils Pitt resolutely declined.

Disinterestedness of this kind was, in his days, very rare. His conduct
surprised and amused politicians. It excited the warmest admiration
throughout the body of the people. In spite of the inconsistencies of
which Pitt had been guilty, in spite of the strange contrast between his
violence in Opposition and his tameness in office, he still possessed
a large share of the public confidence. The motives which may lead a
politician to change his connections or his general line of conduct are
often obscure; but disinterestedness in pecuniary matters everybody can
understand. Pitt was thenceforth considered as a man who was proof to
all sordid temptations. If he acted ill, it might be from an error in
judgment; it might be from resentment; it might be from ambition.
But poor as he was, he had vindicated himself from all suspicion of
covetousness.

Eight quiet years followed, eight years during which the minority, which
had been feeble ever since Lord Granville had been overthrown, continued
to dwindle till it became almost invisible. Peace was made with France
and Spain in 1748. Prince Frederick died in 1751; and with him died the
very semblance of opposition. All the most distinguished survivors of
the party which had supported Walpole and of the party which had opposed
him, were united under his successor. The fiery and vehement spirit of
Pitt had for a time been laid to rest. He silently acquiesced in that
very system of continental measures which he had lately condemned. He
ceased to talk disrespectfully about Hanover. He did not object to the
treaty with Spain, though that treaty left us exactly where we had been
when he uttered his spirit-stirring harangues against the pacific policy
of Walpole. Now and then glimpses of his former self appeared; but they
were few and transient. Pelham knew with whom he had to deal, and felt
that an ally, so little used to control, and so capable of inflicting
injury, might well be indulged in an occasional fit of waywardness.

Two men, little, if at all inferior to Pitt in powers of mind, held,
like him, subordinate offices in the Government. One of these,
Murray, was successively Solicitor-General and Attorney-General. This
distinguished person far surpassed Pitt in correctness of taste, in
power of reasoning, in depth and variety of knowledge. His parliamentary
eloquence never blazed into sudden flashes of dazzling brilliancy;
but its clear, placid, and mellow splendour was never for an instant
overclouded. Intellectually he was, we believe, fully equal to Pitt; but
he was deficient in the moral qualities to which Pitt owed most of his
success. Murray wanted the energy, the courage, the all-grasping and
all-risking ambition, which make men great in stirring times. His heart
was a little cold, his temper cautious even to timidity, his manners
decorous even to formality. He never exposed his fortunes or his fame to
any risk which he could avoid. At one time he might, in all probability,
have been Prime Minister. But the object of his wishes was the judicial
bench. The situation of Chief Justice might not be so splendid as that
of First Lord of the Treasury; but it was dignified; it was quiet; it
was secure; and therefore it was the favourite situation of Murray.

Fox, the father of the great man whose mighty efforts in the cause
of peace, of truth, and of liberty, have made that name immortal, was
Secretary-at-War. He was a favourite with the King, with the Duke of
Cumberland, and with some of the most powerful members of the great Whig
connection. His parliamentary talents were of the highest order. As a
speaker he was in almost all respects the very opposite to Pitt.
His figure was ungraceful; his face, as Reynolds and Nollekens have
preserved it to us, indicated a strong understanding; but the features
were coarse, and the general aspect dark and lowering. His manner was
awkward; his delivery was hesitating; he was often at a stand for want
of a word; but as a debater, as a master of that keen, weighty, manly
logic, which is suited to the discussion of political questions, he
has perhaps never been surpassed except by his son. In reply he was as
decidedly superior to Pitt as in declamation he was Pitt’s inferior.
Intellectually the balance was nearly even between the rivals. But here,
again, the moral qualities of Pitt turned the scale. Fox had undoubtedly
many virtues. In natural disposition as well as in talents, he bore a
great resemblance to his more celebrated son. He had the same sweetness
of temper, the same strong passions, the same openness, boldness, and
impetuosity, the same cordiality towards friends, the same placability
towards enemies. No man was more warmly or justly beloved by his
family or by his associates. But unhappily he had been trained in a
bad political school, in a school, the doctrines of which were, that
political virtue is the mere coquetry of political prostitution, that
every patriot has his price, that government can be carried on only by
means of corruption, and that the State is given as a prey to statesmen.
These maxims were too much in vogue throughout the lower ranks of
Walpole’s party, and were too much encouraged by Walpole himself, who,
from contempt of what is in our day vulgarly called humbug; often ran
extravagantly and offensively into the opposite extreme. The loose
political morality of Fox presented a remarkable contrast to the
ostentatious purity of Pitt. The nation distrusted the former, and
placed implicit confidence in the latter. But almost all the statesmen
of the age had still to learn that the confidence of the nation
was worth having. While things went on quietly, while there was no
opposition, while everything was given by the favour of a small ruling
junto, Fox had a decided advantage over Pitt; but when dangerous times
came, when Europe was convulsed with war, when Parliament was broken up
into factions, when the public mind was violently excited, the
favourite of the people rose to supreme power, while his rival sank into
insignificance.

Early in the year 1754 Henry Pelham died unexpectedly. “Now I shall have
no more peace,” exclaimed the old King, when he heard the news. He was
in the right. Pelham had succeeded in bringing together and keeping
together all the talents of the kingdom. By his death, the highest post
to which an English subject can aspire was left vacant; and at the same
moment, the influence which had yoked together and reined-in so many
turbulent and ambitious spirits was withdrawn.

Within a week after Pelham’s death, it was determined that the Duke
of Newcastle should be placed at the head of the Treasury; but the
arrangement was still far from complete. Who was to be the leading
Minister of the Crown in the House of Commons? Was the office to be
intrusted to a man of eminent talents? And would not such a man in such
a place demand and obtain a larger share of power and patronage
than Newcastle would be disposed to concede? Was a mere drudge to be
employed? And what probability was there that a mere drudge would be
able to manage a large and stormy assembly, abounding with able and
experienced men?

Pope has said of that wretched miser Sir John Cutler,

“Cutler saw tenants break and houses fall For very want: he could not
build a wall.”

Newcastle’s love of power resembled Cutler’s love of money. It was an
avarice which thwarted itself, a penny-wise and pound-foolish cupidity.
An immediate outlay was so painful to him that he would not venture to
make the most desirable improvement. If he could have found it in his
heart to cede at once a portion of his authority, he might probably have
ensured the continuance of what remained. But he thought it better to
construct a weak and rotten government, which tottered at the smallest
breath, and fell in the first storm, than to pay the necessary price for
sound and durable materials. He wished to find some person who would be
willing to accept the lead of the House of Commons on terms similar
to those on which Secretary Craggs had acted under Sunderland,
five-and-thirty years before. Craggs could hardly be called a minister.
He was a mere agent for the Minister. He was not trusted with the higher
secrets of State, but obeyed implicitly the directions of his superior,
and was, to use Doddington’s expression, merely Lord Sunderland’s man.
But times were changed. Since the days of Sunderland, the importance of
the House of Commons had been constantly on the increase. During many
years, the person who conducted the business of the Government in that
House had almost always been Prime Minister. In these circumstances,
it was not to be supposed that any person who possessed the talents
necessary for the situation would stoop to accept it on such terms as
Newcastle was disposed to offer.

Pitt was ill at Bath; and, had he been well and in London, neither the
King nor Newcastle would have been disposed to make any overtures to
him. The cool and wary Murray had set his heart on professional objects.
Negotiations were opened with Fox. Newcastle behaved like himself, that
is to say, childishly and basely. The proposition which he made was that
Fox should be Secretary of State, with the lead of the House of Commons;
that the disposal of the secret-service money, or, in plain words, the
business of buying members of Parliament, should be left to the First
Lord of the Treasury; but that Fox should be exactly informed of the way
in which this fund was employed.

To these conditions Fox assented. But the next day everything was in
confusion. Newcastle had changed his mind. The conversation which took
place between Fox and the Duke is one of the most curious in English
history. “My brother,” said Newcastle, “when he was at the Treasury,
never told anybody what he did with the secret-service money. No more
will I.” The answer was obvious. Pelham had been not only First Lord
of the Treasury, but also manager of the House of Commons; and it
was therefore unnecessary for him to confide to any other person his
dealings with the members of that House. “But how,” said Fox, “can I
lead in the Commons without information on this head? How can I talk to
gentlemen when I do not know which of them have received gratifications
and which have not? And who,” he continued, “is to have the disposal of
places?”--“I myself,” said the Duke. “How then am I to manage the House
of Commons?”--“Oh, let the members of the House of Commons come to me.”
Fox then mentioned the general election which was approaching, and
asked how the ministerial boroughs were to be filled up. “Do not trouble
yourself”, said Newcastle; “that is all settled.” This was too much for
human nature to bear. Fox refused to accept the Secretaryship of State
on such terms; and the Duke confided the management of the House of
Commons to a dull, harmless man, whose name is almost forgotten in our
time, Sir Thomas Robinson.

When Pitt returned from Bath, he affected great moderation, though his
haughty soul was boiling with resentment. He did not complain of the
manner in which he had been passed by, but said openly that, in his
opinion, Fox was the fittest man to lead the House of Commons. The
rivals, reconciled by their common interest and their common enmities,
concerted a plan of operations for the next session. “Sir Thomas
Robinson lead us!” said Pitt to Fox. “The Duke might as well send his
jack-boot to lead us.”

The elections of 1754 were favourable to the administration. But the
aspect of foreign affairs was threatening. In India the English and the
French had been employed, ever since the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in
cutting each other’s throats. They had lately taken to the same practice
in America. It might have been foreseen that stirring times were at
hand, times which would call for abilities very different from those of
Newcastle and Robinson.

In November the Parliament met; and before the end of that month the new
Secretary of State had been so unmercifully baited by the Paymaster of
the Forces and the Secretary-at-War that he was thoroughly sick of his
situation. Fox attacked him with great force and acrimony. Pitt affected
a kind of contemptuous tenderness for Sir Thomas, and directed his
attacks principally against Newcastle. On one occasion he asked in tones
of thunder whether Parliament sat only to register the edicts of one too
powerful subject? The Duke was scared out of his wits. He was afraid
to dismiss the mutineers, he was afraid to promote them; but it was
absolutely necessary to do something. Fox, as the less proud and
intractable of the refractory pair, was preferred. A seat in the Cabinet
was offered to him on condition that he would give efficient support
to the ministry in Parliament. In an evil hour for his fame and his
fortunes he accepted the offer, and abandoned his connection with Pitt,
who never forgave this desertion.

Sir Thomas, assisted by Fox, contrived to get through the business
of the year without much trouble. Pitt was waiting his time. The
negotiations pending between France and England took every day a more
unfavourable aspect. Towards the close of the session the King sent a
message to inform the House of Commons that he had found it necessary to
make preparations for war. The House returned an address of thanks, and
passed a vote of credit. During the recess, the old animosity of both
nations was inflamed by a series of disastrous events. An English force
was cut off in America and several French merchantmen were taken in the
West Indian seas. It was plain that an appeal to arms was at hand.

The first object of the King was to secure Hanover; and Newcastle was
disposed to gratify his master. Treaties were concluded, after the
fashion of those times, with several petty German princes, who bound
themselves to find soldiers if England would find money; and, as it was
suspected that Frederic the Second had set his heart on the electoral
dominions of his uncle, Russia was hired to keep Prussia in awe.

When the stipulations of these treaties were made known, there arose
throughout the kingdom a murmur from which a judicious observer might
easily prognosticate the approach of a tempest. Newcastle encountered
strong opposition, even from those whom he had always considered as
his tools. Legge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, refused to sign the
Treasury warrants, which were necessary to give effect to the treaties.
Those persons who were supposed to possess the confidence of the young
Prince of Wales and of his mother held very menacing language. In this
perplexity Newcastle sent for Pitt, hugged him, patted him, smirked at
him, wept over him, and lisped out the highest compliments and the most
splendid promises. The King, who had hitherto been as sulky as possible,
would be civil to him at the levee; he should be brought into the
Cabinet; he should be consulted about everything; if he would only be
so good as to support the Hessian subsidy in the House of Commons. Pitt
coldly declined the proffered seat in the Cabinet, expressed the highest
love and reverence for the King, and said that, if his Majesty felt a
strong personal interest in the Hessian treaty he would so far deviate
from the line which he had traced out for himself as to give that treaty
his support. “Well, and the Russian subsidy,” said Newcastle. “No,” said
Pitt, “not a system of subsidies.” The Duke summoned Lord Hardwicke
to his aid; but Pitt was inflexible. Murray would do nothing. Robinson
could do nothing. It was necessary to have recourse to Fox. He became
Secretary of State, with the full authority of a leader in the House of
Commons; and Sir Thomas was pensioned off on the Irish establishment.

In November 1755, the Houses met. Public expectation was wound up to
the height. After ten quiet years there was to be an Opposition,
countenanced by the heir-apparent of the throne, and headed by the
most brilliant orator of the age. The debate on the address was long
remembered as one of the parliamentary conflicts of that generation. It
began at three in the afternoon, and lasted till five the next morning.
It was on this night that Gerard Hamilton delivered that single speech
from which his nickname was derived. His eloquence threw into the shade
every orator, except Pitt, who declaimed against the subsidies for an
hour and a half with extraordinary energy and effect. Those powers
which had formerly spread terror through the majorities of Walpole
and Carteret were now displayed in their highest perfection before an
audience long unaccustomed to such exhibitions. One fragment of this
celebrated oration remains in a state of tolerable preservation. It
is the comparison between the coalition of Fox and Newcastle, and the
junction of the Rhone and the Saone. “At Lyons,” said Pitt, “I was taken
to see the place where the two rivers meet, the one gentle, feeble,
languid, and though languid, yet of no depth, the other a boisterous and
impetuous torrent: but different as they are, they meet at last.” The
amendment moved by the Opposition was rejected by a great majority; and
Pitt and Legge were immediately dismissed from their offices.

During several months the contest in the House of Commons was extremely
sharp. Warm debates took place in the estimates, debates still warmer on
the subsidiary treaties. The Government succeeded in every division;
but the fame of Pitt’s eloquence, and the influence of his lofty and
determined character, continued to increase through the Session; and the
events which followed the prorogation made it utterly impossible for any
other person to manage the Parliament or the country.

The war began in every part of the world with events disastrous
to England, and even more shameful than disastrous. But the most
humiliating of these events was the loss of Minorca. The Duke of
Richelieu, an old fop who had passed his life from sixteen to sixty in
seducing women for whom he cared not one straw, landed on that island,
and succeeded in reducing it. Admiral Byng was sent from Gibraltar to
throw succours into Port-Mahon; but he did not think fit to engage the
French squadron, and sailed back without having effected his purpose.
The people were inflamed to madness. A storm broke forth, which appalled
even those who remembered the days of Excise and of South-Sea. The shops
were filled with libels and caricatures. The walls were covered with
placards. The city of London called for vengeance, and the cry was
echoed from every corner of the kingdom. Dorsetshire, Huntingdonshire,
Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Somersetshire, Lancashire, Suffolk,
Shropshire, Surrey, sent up strong addresses to the throne, and
instructed their representatives to vote for a strict inquiry into the
causes of the late disasters. In the great towns the feeling was as
strong as in the counties. In some of the instructions it was even
recommended that the supplies should be stopped.

The nation was in a state of angry and sullen despondency, almost
unparalleled in history. People have, in all ages, been in the habit of
talking about the good old times of their ancestors, and the degeneracy
of their contemporaries. This is in general merely a cant. But in 1756
it was something more. At this time appeared Brown’s Estimate, a book
now remembered only by the allusions in Cowper’s Table Talk and in
Burke’s Letters on a Regicide Peace. It was universally read, admired,
and believed. The author fully convinced his readers that they were a
race of cowards and scoundrels; that nothing could save them; that they
were on the point of being enslaved by their enemies, and that they
richly deserved their fate. Such were the speculations to which ready
credence was given at the outset of the most glorious war in which
England had ever been engaged.

Newcastle now began to tremble for his place, and for the only thing
which was dearer to him than his place, his neck. The people were not in
a mood to be trifled with. Their cry was for blood. For this once
they might be contented with the sacrifice of Byng. But what if fresh
disasters should take place? What if an unfriendly sovereign should
ascend the throne? What if a hostile House of Commons should be chosen?

At length, in October, the decisive crisis came. The new Secretary of
State had been long sick of the perfidy and levity of the First Lord
of the Treasury, and began to fear that he might be made a scapegoat
to save the old intriguer who, imbecile as he seemed, never wanted
dexterity where danger was to be avoided. Fox threw up his office,
Newcastle had recourse to Murray; but Murray had now within his reach
the favourite object of his ambition. The situation of Chief-Justice of
the King’s Bench was vacant; and the Attorney-General was fully resolved
to obtain it, or to go into Opposition. Newcastle offered him any terms,
the Duchy of Lancaster for life, a teller-ship of the Exchequer, any
amount of pension, two thousand a year, six thousand a year. When the
Ministers found that Murray’s mind was made up, they pressed for delay,
the delay of a session, a month, a week, a day. Would he only make his
appearance once more in the House of Commons? Would he only speak in
favour of the address? He was inexorable, and peremptorily said that
they might give or withhold the Chief-Justiceship, but that he would be
Attorney-General no longer.

Newcastle now contrived to overcome the prejudices of the King, and
overtures were made to Pitt, through Lord Hardwicke. Pitt knew his
power, and showed that he knew it. He demanded as an indispensable
condition that Newcastle should be altogether excluded from the new
arrangement.

The Duke was in a state of ludicrous distress. He ran about chattering
and crying, asking advice and listening to none. In the meantime, the
Session drew near. The public excitement was unabated. Nobody could be
found to face Pitt and Fox in the House of Commons. Newcastle’s heart
failed him, and he tendered his resignation.

The King sent for Fox, and directed him to form the plan of an
administration in concert with Pitt. But Pitt had not forgotten old
injuries, and positively refused to act with Fox.

The King now applied to the Duke of Devonshire, and this mediator
succeeded in making an arrangement. He consented to take the Treasury.
Pitt became Secretary of State, with the lead of the House of Commons.
The Great Seal was put into commission. Legge returned to the Exchequer;
and Lord Temple, whose sister Pitt had lately married, was placed at the
head of the Admiralty.

It was clear from the first that this administration would last but a
very short time. It lasted not quite five months; and, during those five
months, Pitt and Lord Temple were treated with rudeness by the King,
and found but feeble support in the House of Commons. It is a remarkable
fact, that the Opposition prevented the re-election of some of the
new Ministers. Pitt, who sat for one of the boroughs which were in the
Pelham interest, found some difficulty in obtaining a seat after his
acceptance of the seals. So destitute was the new Government of that
sort of influence without which no Government could then be durable. One
of the arguments most frequently urged against the Reform Bill was that,
under a system of popular representation, men whose presence in the
House of Commons was necessary to the conducting of public business
might often find it impossible to find seats. Should this inconvenience
ever be felt, there cannot be the slightest difficulty in devising and
applying a remedy. But those who threatened us with this evil ought to
have remembered that, under the old system, a great man called to power
at a great crisis by the voice of the whole nation was in danger of
being excluded, by an aristocratical cabal from that House of which he
was the most distinguished ornament.

The most important event of this short administration was the trial
of Byng. On that subject public opinion is still divided. We think
the punishment of the Admiral altogether unjust and absurd. Treachery,
cowardice, ignorance amounting to what lawyers have called crassa
ignorantia, are fit objects of severe penal inflictions. But Byng was
not found guilty of treachery, of cowardice, or of gross ignorance of
his profession. He died for doing what the most loyal subject, the most
intrepid warrior, the most experienced seaman, might have done. He died
for an error in judgment, an error such as the greatest commanders,
Frederick, Napoleon, Wellington, have often committed, and have often
acknowledged. Such errors are not proper objects of punishment, for this
reason, that the punishing of such errors tends not to prevent them,
but to produce them. The dread of an ignominious death may stimulate
sluggishness to exertion, may keep a traitor to his standard, may
prevent a coward from running away, but it has no tendency to bring out
those qualities which enable men to form prompt and judicious decisions
in great emergencies. The best marksman may be expected to fail when
the apple which is to be his mark is set on his child’s head. We
cannot conceive anything more likely to deprive an officer of his
self-possession at the time when he most needs it than the knowledge
that, if, the judgment of his superiors should not agree with his, he
will be executed with every circumstance of shame. Queens, it has often
been said, run far greater risk in childbed than private women, merely
because their medical attendants are more anxious. The surgeon who
attended Marie Louise was altogether unnerved by his emotions. “Compose
yourself,” said Bonaparte; “imagine that you are assisting a poor girl
in the Faubourg Saint Antoine.” This was surely a far wiser course than
that of the Eastern king in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, who
proclaimed that the physicians who failed to cure his daughter should
have their heads chopped off. Bonaparte knew mankind well; and, as he
acted towards this surgeon, he acted towards his officers. No sovereign
was ever so indulgent to mere errors of judgment; and it is certain that
no sovereign ever had in his service so many military men fit for the
highest commands.

Pitt acted a brave and honest part on this occasion. He ventured to
put both his power and his popularity to hazard, and spoke manfully for
Byng, both in Parliament and in the royal presence. But the King was
inexorable. “The House of Commons, Sir,” said Pitt, “seems inclined to
mercy.” “Sir,” answered the King, “you have taught me to look for the
sense of my people in other places than the House of Commons.” The
saying has more point than most of those which are recorded of George
the Second, and, though sarcastically meant, contains a high and just
compliment to Pitt.

The King disliked Pitt, but absolutely hated Temple. The new Secretary
of State, his Majesty said, had never read Vattel, and was tedious and
pompous, but respectful. The first Lord of the Admiralty was grossly
impertinent. Walpole tells one story, which, we fear, is much too good
to be true, He assures us that Temple entertained his royal master
with an elaborate parallel between Byng’s behaviour at Minorca, and his
Majesty’s behaviour at Oudenarde, in which the advantage was all on the
side of the Admiral.

This state of things could not last. Early in April, Pitt and all his
friends were turned out, and Newcastle was summoned to St. James’s. But
the public discontent was not extinguished. It had subsided when Pitt
was called to power. But it still glowed under the embers; and it now
burst at once into a flame. The stocks fell. The Common Council met. The
freedom of the city was voted to Pitt. All the greatest corporate towns
followed the example. “For some weeks,” says Walpole, “it rained gold
boxes.”

This was the turning point of Pitt’s life. It might have been expected
that a man of so haughty and vehement a nature, treated so ungraciously
by the Court, and supported so enthusiastically by the people, would
have eagerly taken the first opportunity of showing his power and
gratifying his resentment; and an opportunity was not wanting. The
members for many counties and large towns had been instructed to vote
for an inquiry into the circumstances which had produced the miscarriage
of the preceding year. A motion for inquiry had been carried in the
House of Commons, without opposition; and, a few days after Pitt’s
dismissal, the investigation commenced. Newcastle and his colleagues
obtained a vote of acquittal; but the minority were so strong that they
could not venture to ask for a vote of approbation, as they had at first
intended; and it was thought by some shrewd observers that, if, Pitt had
exerted himself to the utmost of his power, the inquiry might have ended
in a censure, if not in an impeachment.

Pitt showed on this occasion a moderation and self-government which was
not habitual to him. He had found by experience, that he could not stand
alone. His eloquence and his popularity had done much, very much for
him. Without rank, without fortune, without borough interest, hated
by the King, hated by the aristocracy, he was a person of the first
importance in the State. He had been suffered to form a ministry, and to
pronounce sentence of exclusion on all his rivals, on the most powerful
nobleman of the Whig party, on the ablest debater in the House of
Commons. And he now found that he had gone too far. The English
Constitution was not, indeed, without a popular element. But other
elements generally predominated. The confidence and admiration of the
nation might make a statesman formidable at the head of an Opposition,
might load him with framed and glazed parchments and gold boxes, might
possibly, under very peculiar circumstances, such as those of the
preceding year, raise him for a time to power. But, constituted as
Parliament then was, the favourite of the people could not depend on
a majority in the people’s own House. The Duke of Newcastle, however
contemptible in morals, manners, and understanding, was a dangerous
enemy. His rank, his wealth, his unrivalled parliamentary interest,
would alone have made him important. But this was not all. The Whig
aristocracy regarded him as their leader. His long possession of power
had given him a kind of prescriptive right to possess it still. The
House of Commons had been elected when he was at the head of affairs,
The members for the ministerial boroughs had all been nominated by him.
The public offices swarmed with his creatures.

Pitt desired power; and he desired it, we really believe, from high and
generous motives. He was, in the strict sense of the word, a patriot. He
had none of that philanthropy which the great French writers of his time
preached to all the nations of Europe. He loved England as an Athenian
loved the City of the Violet Crown, as a Roman loved the City of the
Seven Hills. He saw his country insulted and defeated. He saw the
national spirit sinking. Yet he knew what the resources of the empire,
vigorously employed, could effect, and he felt that he was the man to
employ them vigorously. “My Lord,” he said to the Duke of Devonshire, “I
am sure that I can save this country, and that nobody else can.”

Desiring, then, to be in power, and feeling that his abilities and the
public confidence were not alone sufficient to keep him in power against
the wishes of the Court and of the aristocracy, he began to think of a
coalition with Newcastle.

Newcastle was equally disposed to a reconciliation. He, too, had
profited by his recent experience. He had found that the Court and the
aristocracy, though powerful, were not everything in the State. A strong
oligarchical connection, a great borough interest, ample patronage,
and secret-service money, might, in quiet times, be all that a Minister
needed; but it was unsafe to trust wholly to such support in time of
war, of discontent, and of agitation. The composition of the House of
Commons was not wholly aristocratical; and, whatever be the composition
of large deliberative assemblies, their spirit is always in some degree
popular. Where there are free debates, eloquence must have admirers, and
reason must make converts. Where there is a free press, the governors
must live in constant awe of the opinions of the governed.

Thus these two men, so unlike in character, so lately mortal enemies,
were necessary to each other. Newcastle had fallen in November, for
want of that public confidence which Pitt possessed, and of that
parliamentary support which Pitt was better qualified than any man of
his time to give. Pitt had fallen in April, for want of that species
of influence which Newcastle had passed his whole life in acquiring and
hoarding. Neither of them had power enough to support himself. Each
of them had power enough to overturn the other. Their union would be
irresistible. Neither the King nor any party in the State would be able
to stand against them.

Under these circumstances, Pitt was not disposed to proceed to
extremities against his predecessors in office. Something, however, was
due to consistency; and something was necessary for the preservation of
his popularity. He did little; but that little he did in such manner as
to produce great effect. He came down to the House in all the pomp of
gout, his legs swathed in flannels, his arm dangling in a sling. He kept
his seat through several fatiguing days, in spite of pain and languor.
He uttered a few sharp and vehement sentences; but during the greater
part of the discussion, his language was unusually gentle.

When the inquiry had terminated without a vote either of approbation
or of censure, the great obstacle to a coalition was removed. Many
obstacles, however, remained. The King was still rejoicing in his
deliverance from the proud and aspiring Minister who had been forced on
him by the cry of the nation. His Majesty’s indignation was excited
to the highest point when it appeared that Newcastle, who had, during
thirty years, been loaded with marks of royal favour, and who had
bound himself, by a solemn promise, never to coalesce with Pitt, was
meditating a new perfidy. Of all the statesmen of that age, Fox had the
largest share of royal favour. A coalition between Fox and Newcastle was
the arrangement which the King wished to bring about. But the Duke was
too cunning to fall into such a snare. As a speaker in Parliament, Fox
might perhaps be, on the whole, as useful to an administration as his
great rival; but he was one of the most unpopular men in England. Then,
again, Newcastle felt all that jealousy of Fox, which, according to the
proverb, generally exists between two of a trade. Fox would certainly
intermeddle with that department which the Duke was most desirous to
reserve entire to himself, the jobbing department. Pitt, on the other
hand, was quite willing to leave the drudgery of corruption to any who
might be inclined to undertake it.

During eleven weeks England remained without a ministry; and in the
meantime Parliament was sitting, a