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Title: Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous Essays; Vol. (4 of 6) - With a Memoir and Index
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babbington
Language: English
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CRITICAL, HISTORICAL, AND MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS

By Lord Macaulay

With A Memoir And Index

In Six Volumes

Volume IV

New York: Published by Sheldon and Company

1860

[Illustration: 0011]



ESSAYS



SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE. (1)

(Edinburgh Review, October, 1838.)


Mr. Courtenay {1}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 good will 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

     (1) _Memoirs of the Life, Works, and Correspondence of Sir
     William Temple_. By the Right Hon. Thomas Peregrine
     Courtenay. 2 vols. 6vo. London: 1836.

{2}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 hook 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 {3}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 men of no eminent ability.
Morally, he was above Shaftesbury; intellectually, he was above Russell.
{4}To say of a man that lie 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
{5}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 Condé 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 Coudé 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 {6}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 the 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 {7}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 {8}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
{9}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
Cæsar, 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 {10}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 {11}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 {12}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
cipher 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 {13}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 {14}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 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. {15}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 {16}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 mean {17}time 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 {18}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 {19}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 age. 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?
{20}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 {21}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 to 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, its 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 every thing
which he has seen, either among polished men or among savages. Here is a
community politically, intellectually, {22}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 any thing to us. Lewis and Dorothy are alike dust. A
cotton-mill stands on the rains 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 {23}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, with-out 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 for 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 {24}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 smallpox, 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 us 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. {25}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 {26}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 phænomena 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 {27}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 {28}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, 1668, 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 {29}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 defend no party, was not likely to
cling to the falling fortunes of a minister the study of whose life
was to offend all {30}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,” (1) 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.”

     (1) “Bennet’s grave looks were a pretence” is a line in one
     of the best political poems of that age.

{31}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
dependents to his own level, and then to complain bitterly of their
ingratitude because they did not choose to be his dependents 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 {32}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 {33}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 viceregal 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 mean time the government of Charles had suffered a succession of
humiliating disasters. The {34}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 scene 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,
{35}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 {36}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 Gif-fard 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 {37}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 master 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 {38}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. {39}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 {40}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 good-will, 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
authorize 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 {41}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. {42}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 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 Comté 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 Comté 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 Nimoguen, {43}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 Comté.
It was not from regard to his word that he ceded Franche Comté. Why
then did he cede Franche Comté? 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 master-piece of
diplomacy. {44}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 fight and the angel of
darkness. The ascendency of France was 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. (1) Every person who had the smallest part in it, and some
who had no part

     (1) “The only good public thing that hath been done since
     the King came Into England.”--Pepys’s Diary, February 14,
     1667-8.

{45}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 he
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 {46}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 {47}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 {48}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 fight. 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 any thing
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 at 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. {49}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 {50}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 Ciceronean 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 every
thing 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 master-piece 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, {51}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,
{52}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 {53}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 reestablish 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 Lad no resource but in a Parliament.
{54}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 {55}boldness, by his
openness, by his zeal for the Catholic religion, by something which,
compared with the villany 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 {56}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 {57}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
down-trodden 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.
{58}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, {59}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 expressed 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 mean time 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 {60}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 jests, 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 staid 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 {61}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 {62}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 {63}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 {64}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 300,000l. The annual income
of all the members of the House of Commons was not supposed to exceed
400,000l. 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, {65}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 states man 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 {66}there he 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 {67}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, every
thing 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 États, non des conseils.”

In order clearly to understand what we imagine to have been Temple’s
views, the reader must remember {68}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 {69}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 Stewart. 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; {70}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
{71}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
{72}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 Yattel, 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 {73}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, {74}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 utmost un mixed 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 {75}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 {76}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 {77}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 {78}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 every thing which 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
{79}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 tilings 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 misgovemment than
his fifteen independent counsellors would have been. Yet, every thing
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 {80}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 statesmen 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. {81}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
eulogize 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
escrutoires.

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 of 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 these 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 {82}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 who 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 {83}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 more 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 heads than a heart in vision.”

and the Ahithophel of Dryden. Butler dwells on Shaftesbury’s
unprincipled versatility on his wonderful {84}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.
Ahithophel 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 nigh the sands to boast his wit.” (1)


     (1) It has never, we believe, been remarked, that two of the
     most striking lines in the description of Ahithophel 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 Ahithophel, 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 Drvden 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 Drvden injustice, by
     inadvertently attributing to him some feeble lines which are
     in Tate’s part of Absalom and Ahithophel.

{85}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 rodomontade. 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
{86}lost. The counsel of Ahithopliel, that counsel which was as if a man
had inquired of the oracle of God, was turned into foolishness. He who
had become a byword, 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 {87}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 {88}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 {89}brought out his theorem,
leaves the reader to make tie 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, seem 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 amidst 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 {90}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 to 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 every thing 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 {91}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 organized 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
{92}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 {93}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 co-operation. 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. {94}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 {95}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 on
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 {96}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
{97}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 Counsellors. Why this was done Temple
declares himself {98}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
{99}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 guardroom 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. {100}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,
which they now preferred to Sheen, on account of the greater distance
from London. In that spot, (1) 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 gar-. den, 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

     (1) 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.

{101}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 dependent 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 Gif-fard’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 preeminent 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 {102}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
{103}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 {104}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 _Iphigénie_ the reader may find noticed
a most ridiculous mistake into which one cf 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, Æolic, 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 {105}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 Æschylus, 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
dæmon 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 {106}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 the 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 {107}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, Molière,
Corneille, Racine, and Boileau; and in his list of English, Chaucer,
Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton.

In the midst of all this vast mass of absurdity one paragraph stands out
preeminent. 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 Æsop 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; {108}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 {109}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.

[Illustration: 0123]


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, {110}confidence, puffing, and intrigue could, on the question
whether a Greek hook 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 Smallridge 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, {111}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 every thing 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 édité 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 {112}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 patrial tempore iniquo

               Possumus aequo animo, nee Memmî clara propago

               Talibus in rebus communi deesse 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 {113}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
sun-dial 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 Bumet,
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 {114}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 great 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 ease 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 {115}as 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.



GLADSTONE ON CHURCH AND STATE. (1)

(Edinburgh Review, April, 1839.)


The {116}author of this volume is a young man of unblemished character,
and of distinguished parliamentary talents, the rising, hope of those
stern and unbending Tories who follow, reluctantly and mutinously, a
leader whose experience and eloquence are indispensable to them, but,
whose cautious temper and moderate opinions they abhor. It would not be
at all strange if Mr. Gladstone were one of the most unpopular men in
England. But we believe that we do him no more than justice when we say:
that his abilities and his demeanour have obtained for him the respect
and good will of all parties. His first appearance in the character of
an author is therefore an interesting event; and it is natural that the
gentle wishes of the public should go with him to his trial.

We are much pleased, without any reference to the soundness or
unsoundness of Mr. Gladstone’s theories, to see a grave and elaborate
treatise on an important part of the Philosophy of Government proceed
from the pen of a young man who is rising to eminence in the House of
Commons. There is little danger that people engaged in the conflicts of
active life will be too much

     (1)_ The State in its Relations with the Church_. By W. E.
     Gladstone, Esq., Student of Christ Church, and M. P. for
     Newark. 8vo. Second Edition. London: 1839.

{117}addicted to general speculation. The opposite vice is that which
most easily besets them. The times and tides of business and debate
tarry for no man. A politician must often talk and act before he has
thought and read. He may be very ill informed respecting a question; all
his notions about it may be vague and inaccurate; but speak he must; and
if he is a man of ability, of tact, and of intrepidity, he soon
finds that, even under such circumstances, it is possible to speak
successfully. He finds that there is a great difference between
the effect of written words, which are perused and reperused in the
stillness of the closet, and the effect of spoken words which, set off
by the graces of utterance and gesture, vibrate for a single moment
on the ear. He finds that he may blunder without much chance of being
detected, that he may reason sophistically, and escape unrefuted. He
finds that, even on knotty questions of trade and legislation, he can,
without reading ten pages, or thinking ten minutes, draw forth loud
plaudits, and sit down with the credit of having made an excellent
speech. Lysias, says Plutarch, wrote a defence for a man who was to be
tried before one of the Athenian tribunals. Long before the defendant
had learned the speech by heart, he became so much dissatisfied with it
that he went in great distress to the author. “I was delighted with your
speech the first time I read it; but I liked it less the second time,
and still less the third time; and now it seems to me to be no defence
at all.”

“My good friend,” said Lysias, “you quite forget that the judges are to
hear it only once.” The case is the same in the English parliament. It
would be as idle in an orator to waste deep meditation and long
research on his speeches, as it would be in the manager of a theatre
to {118}adorn all the crowd of courtiers and ladies who cross over
the stage in a procession with real pearls and diamonds. It is not by
accuracy or profundity that men become the masters of great assemblies.
And why be at the charge of providing logic of the best quality, when a
very inferior article will be equally acceptable? Why go as deep into
a question as Burke, only in order to be, like Burke, coughed down, or
left speaking to green benches and red boxes? This has long appeared to
us to be the most serious of the evils which are to be set off against
the many blessings of popular government. It is a fine and true saying
of Bacon, that reading makes a full man, talking a ready man, and
writing an exact man. The tendency of institutions like those of England
is to encourage readiness in public men, at the expense both of
fulness and of exactness. The keenest and most vigorous minds of every
generation, minds often admirably fitted for the investigation of truth,
are habitually employed in producing arguments such as no man of sense
would ever put into a treatise intended for publication, arguments which
are just good enough to be used once, when aided by fluent delivery
and pointed language. The habit of discussing questions in this way
necessarily reacts on the intellects of our ablest men, particularly
of those who are introduced into parliament at a very early age, before
their minds have expanded to full maturity. The talent for debate is
developed in such men to a degree which, to the multitude, seems as
marvellous as the performance of an Italian _Improvisatore_. But they
are fortunate indeed if they retain unimpaired, the faculties which
are required for close reasoning or for enlarged speculation. Indeed we
should sooner expect a great original work on political science, such a
work, for example, {119}as the Wealth of Nations, from an apothecary
in a country town, or from a minister in the Hebrides, than from
a statesman who, ever since he was one-and-twenty, had been a
distinguished debater in the House of Commons.

We therefore hail with pleasure, though assuredly not with unmixed
pleasure, the appearance of this work. That a young politician should,
in the intervals afforded by his parliamentary avocations, have
constructed and propounded, with much study and mental toil, an
original theory on a great problem in politics, is a circumstance which,
abstracted from all consideration of the soundness or unsoundness of his
opinions, must be considered as highly creditable to him. We certainly
cannot wish that Mr. Gladstone’s doctrines may become fashionable among
public men. But we heartily wish that his laudable desire to penetrate
beneath the surface of questions, and to arrive, by long and intent
meditation, at the knowledge of great general laws, were much more
fashionable than we at all expect it to become.

Mr. Gladstone seems to us to be, in many respects, exceedingly well
qualified for philosophical investigation. His mind is of large grasp;
nor is he deficient in dialectical skill. But he does not give his
intellect fair play. There is no want of light, but a great want of
what Bacon would have called dry light. Whatever Mr. Gladstone sees is
refracted and distorted by a false medium of passions and prejudices.
His style bears a remarkable analogy to his mode of Blinking, and indeed
exercises great influence on his mode of thinking. His rhetoric, though
often good of its kind, darkens and perplexes the logic which it should
illustrate. Half his acuteness and diligence, with a barren imagination
{120}and a scanty vocabulary, would have saved him from almost all his
mistakes. He has one gift most dangerous to a speculator, a vast command
of a kind of language, grave and majestic, but of vague and uncertain
import; of a kind of language which affects us much in the same way
in which the lofty diction of the Chorus of Clouds affected the
simple-hearted Athenian.

[Illustration: 0134]


When propositions have been established, and nothing remains but to
amplify and decorate them, this dim magnificence may be in place. But if
it is admitted into a demonstration, it is very much worse than absolute
nonsense; just as that transparent haze, through which the sailor
sees capes and mountains of false sizes and in false bearings, is more
dangerous than utter darkness. Now, Mr. Gladstone is fond of employing
the phraseology of which we speak in those parts of his works which
require the utmost perspicuity and precision of which human language is
capable; and in this way he deludes first himself, and then his readers.
The foundations of his theory, which ought to be buttresses of adamant,
are made out of the flimsy materials which are fit only for perorations.
This fault is one which no subsequent care or industry can correct. The
more strictly Mr. Gladstone reasons on his premises, the more absurd are
the conclusions which he brings out; and, when at last his good sense
and good nature recoil from the horrible practical inferences to which
his theory leads, he is reduced sometimes to take refuge in arguments
inconsistent with his fundamental doctrines, and sometimes to escape
from the legitimate consequences of his false principles, under cover
of equally false history. {121}It would be unjust not to say that this
book, though not a good book, shows more talent than many good books. It
abounds with eloquent and ingenious passages. It bears the signs of
much patient thought. It is written throughout with excellent taste and
excellent temper; nor does it, so far as we have observed, contain one
expression unworthy of a gentleman, a scholar, or a Christian. But the
doctrines which are put forth in it appear to us, after full and calm
consideration, to be false, to be in the highest degree pernicious,
and to be such as, if followed out in practice to their legitimate
consequences, would inevitably produce the dissolution of society; and
for this opinion we shall proceed to give our reasons with that freedom
which the importance of the subject requires, and which Mr. Gladstone,
both by precept and by example, invites us to use, but, we hope, without
rudeness, and, we are sure, without malevolence.

Before we enter on an examination of this theory, we wish to guard
ourselves against one misconception. It is possible that some persons
who have read Mr. Gladstone’s book carelessly, and others who have
merely heard in conversation, or seen in a newspaper, that the member
for Newark has written in defence of the Church of England against the
supporters of the voluntary system, may imagine that we are writing in
defence of the voluntary system, and that we desire the abolition of
the Established Church. This is not the case. It would be as unjust to
accuse us of attacking the Church, because we attack Mr. Gladstone’s
doctrines, as it would be to accuse Locke of wishing for anarchy,
because he refuted Filmer’s patriarchal theory of government, or to
accuse Blackstone of recommending the confiscation of ecclesiastical
property, because {122}he denied that the right of the rector to tithe
was derived from the Levitical law. It is to be observed, that Mr.
Gladstone rests his case on entirely new grounds, and does not differ
more widely from us than from some of those who have hitherto been
considered as the most illustrious champions of the Church. He is not
content with the Ecclesiastical Polity, and rejoices that the latter
part of that celebrated work “does not carry with it the weight of
Hooker’s plenary authority.” He is not content with Bishop Warburton’s
Alliance of Church and State. “The propositions of that work generally,”
 he says, “are to be received with qualification,” and he agrees with
Bolingbroke in thinking that Warburton’s whole theory rests on a
fiction. He is still less satisfied with Paley’s defence of the Church,
which he pronounces to be “tainted by the original vice of false ethical
principles,” and “full of the seeds of evil.” He conceives that Dr.
Chalmers has taken a partial view of the subject, and “put forth much
questionable matter.” In truth, on almost every point on which we are
opposed to Mr. Gladstone, we have on our side the authority of some
divine, eminent as a defender of existing establishments.

Mr. Gladstone’s whole theory rests on this great fundamental
proposition, that the propagation of religious truth is one of the
principal ends of government, as government. If Mr. Gladstone has not
proved this proposition, his system vanishes at once.

We are desirous, before we enter on the discussion of this important
question, to point out clearly a distinction which, though very obvious,
seems to be overlooked by many excellent people. In their opinion,
to say that the ends of government are temporal and not spiritual is
tantamount to saying that the temporal {123}welfare of man is of more
importance than his spiritual welfare. But this is an entire mistake.
The question is not whether spiritual interests be or be not superior
in importance to temporal interests; but whether the machinery which
happens at any moment to be employed for the purpose of protecting
certain temporal interests of a society be necessarily such a machinery
as is fitted to promote the spiritual interests of that society. Without
a division of labour the world could not go on. It is of very much
more importance that men should have food than that they should have
pianofortes. Yet it by no means follows that every pianoforte-maker
ought to add the business of a baker to his own; for, if he did so, we
should have both much worse music and much worse bread. It is of much
more importance that the knowledge of religious truth should be wisely
diffused than that the art of sculpture should flourish among us. Yet
it by no means follows that the Royal Academy ought to unite with
its present functions those of the Society for Promoting Christian
Knowledge, to distribute theological tracts, to send forth missionaries,
to turn out Nollekens for being a Catholic, Bacon for being a methodist,
and Flaxman for being a Swedenborgian. For the effect of such folly
would be that we should have the worst possible Academy of Arts, and
the worst possible Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. The
community, it is plain, would be thrown into universal confusion, if it
were supposed to be the duty of every association which is formed for
one good object to promote every other good object.

As to some of the ends of civil government, all people are agreed.
That it is designed to protect our persons and our property; that it is
designed to compel {124}as to satisfy our wants, not by rapine, but by
industry; that it is designed to compel us to decide our differences,
not by the strong hand, but by arbitration; that it is designed to
direct our whole force, as that of one man, against any other society
which may offer us injury; these are propositions which will hardly be
disputed.

Now these are matters in which man, without any reference to any higher
being, or to any future state, is very deeply interested. Every human
being, be he idolater, Mahometan, Jew, Papist, Socinian, Deist, or
Atheist, naturally loves life, shrinks from pain, desires comforts
which can be enjoyed only in communities where property is secure. To be
murdered, to be tortured, to be robbed, to be sold into slavery, these
are evils from which men of every religion, and men of no religion, wish
to be protected; and therefore it will hardly be disputed that men of
every religion, and of no religion, have thus far a common interest in
being well governed.

But the hopes and fears of man are not limited to this short life, and
to this visible world. He finds himself surrounded by the signs of a
power and wisdom higher than his own; and, in all ages and nations, men
of all orders of intellect, from Bacon and Newton down to the rudest
tribes of cannibals, have believed in the existence of some superior
mind. Thus far the voice of mankind is almost unanimous. But whether
there be one God or many, what may be God’s natural and what His moral
attributes, in what relation His creatures stand to Him, whether He have
ever disclosed Himself to us by any other revelation than that which is
written in all the parts of the glorious and well-ordered world which
He has made, whether His revelation be {125}contained in any permanent
record, how that record should be interpreted, and whether it have
pleased Him to appoint any unerring interpreter on earth, these are
questions respecting which there exists the widest diversity of opinion,
and respecting some of which a large part of our race has, ever since
the dawn of regular history, been deplorably in error.

Now here are two great objects: one is the protection of the persons
and estates of citizens from injury; the other is the propagation of
religious truth. No two objects more entirely distinct can well be
imagined. The former belongs wholly to the visible and tangible world in
which we live; the latter belongs to that higher world which is beyond
the reach of our senses. The former belongs to this life; the latter to
that which is to come. Men who are perfectly agreed as to the importance
of the former object, and as to the way of obtaining it, differ as
widely as possible respecting the latter object. We must, therefore,
pause before we admit that the persons, be they who they may, who are
intrusted with power for the promotion of the former object, ought
always to use that power for the promotion of the latter object.

‘Mr. Gladstone conceives that the duties of governments are paternal; a
doctrine which we shall not believe till he can show us some government
which loves its subjects as a father loves a child, and which is as
superior in intelligence to its subjects as a father is to a child. He
tells us in lofty, though somewhat indistinct language, that “Government
occupies in moral the place of [Greek] in physical science.” If
government be indeed [Greek] in moral science, we do not understand why
rulers should not assume all the functions which Plato assigned to them.
Why should they {126}not take away the child from the mother, select the
nurse, regulate the school, overlook the playground, fix the hours of
labour and of recreation, prescribe what ballads shall be sung, what
tunes shall be played, what books shall be read, what physic shall be
swallowed? Why should not they choose our wives, limit our expenses, and
stint us to a certain number of dishes of meat, of glasses of wine, and
of cups of tea? Plato, whose hardihood in speculation was perhaps more
wonderful than any other peculiarity of his extraordinary mind, and who
shrank from nothing to which his principles led, went this whole length.
Mr. Gladstone is not so intrepid. He contents himself with laying down
this proposition, that, whatever be the body which in any community is
employed to protect the persons and property of men, that body ought
also, in its corporate capacity, to profess a religion, to employ its
power for the propagation of that religion, and to require conformity to
that religion, as an indispensable qualification for all civil office.
He distinctly declares that he does not in this proposition confine
his view to orthodox governments or even to Christian governments. The
circumstance that a religion is false does not, he tells us, diminish
the obligation of governors, as such, to uphold it. If they neglect to
do so, “we cannot,” he says, “but regard the fact as aggravating the
case of the holders of such creed.”

“I do not scruple to affirm,” he adds, “that, if a Mahometan
conscientiously believes his religion to come from God, and to
teach divine truth, he must believe that truth to be beneficial, and
beneficial beyond all other things to the soul of man; and he must
therefore, and ought to desire its extension, and to use for its
extension all proper and legitimate means; and that, if such Mahometan
{127}be a prince, he ought to count among those means the application
of whatever influence or funds he may lawfully have at his disposal for
such purposes.”

Surely this is a hard saying. Before we admit that the Emperor Julian,
in employing the influence and the funds at his disposal for the
extinction of Christianity, was doing no more than his duty, before we
admit that the Arian Theodoric would have committed a crime if he had
suffered a single believer in the divinity of Christ to hold any civil
employment in Italy, before we admit that the Dutch Government is bound
to exclude from office all members of the Church of England, the King
of Bavaria to exclude from office all Protestants, the Great Turk to
exclude from office all Christians, the King of Ava to exclude from
office all who hold the unity of God, we think ourselves entitled to
demand very full and accurate demonstration. When the consequences of
a doctrine are so startling, we may well require that its foundations
shall be very solid.

The following paragraph is a specimen of the arguments by which Mr.
Gladstone has, as he conceives, established his great fundamental
proposition:--

“_We may state the same proposition in a more general form, in which
it surely must command universal assent. Wherever there is power in
the universe, that power is the property of God, the King of that
universe--his property of right, however for a time withholden or
abused. Now this property is, as it were, realised, is used according to
the will of the owner, when it is used for the purposes he has ordained,
and in the temper of mercy, justice, truth, and faith which he has
taught us; But those principles never can be truly, never can be
permanently, entertained in the human breast, except by a continual
reference to their source, and the supply of the Divine grace. The
powers, therefore, that dwell in individuals acting as a government, as
well as those that {128}dwell in individuals acting for themselves, can
only be secured for right uses by applying to them a religion._”

Here are propositions of vast and indefinite extent, conveyed in
language which has a certain obscure dignity and sanctity, attractive,
we doubt not, to many minds. But the moment that we examine these
propositions closely, the moment that we bring them to the test by
running over but a very few of the particulars which are included in
them, we find them to be false and extravagant. The doctrine which “must
surely command universal assent” is this, that every association of
human beings which exercises any power whatever, that is to say, every
association of human beings, is bound, as such association, to profess
a religion. Imagine the effect which would follow if this principle were
really in force during four-and-twenty hours. Take one instance out of
a million. A stagecoach company has power over its horses. This power is
the property of God. It is used according to the will of God when it
is used with mercy. But the principle of mercy can never be truly or
permanently entertained in the human breast without continual reference
to God. The powers, therefore, that dwell in individuals, acting as a
stage-coach company, can only be secured for right uses by applying
to them a religion. Every stage-coach company ought, therefore, in its
collective capacity, to profess some one faith, to have its articles,
and its public, worship, and its tests. That this conclusion, and
an infinite number of other conclusions equally strange, follow of
necessity from Mr. Gladstone’s principle, is as certain as it is that
two and two make four. And, if the legitimate conclusions be so absurd,
there must be something unsound in the principle. {129}We will quote
another passage of the same sort:--

“_Why, then, we now come to ask, should the governing body in a state
profess a religion? First, because it is composed of individual men; and
they, being appointed to act in a definite moral capacity, must sanctify
their acts done in that capacity by the offices of religion; inasmuch as
the acts cannot otherwise be acceptable to God, or any thing but sinful
and punishable in themselves. And whenever we turn our face away from
God in our conduct, we are living atheistically.... In fulfilment, then,
of his obligations as an individual, the statesman must be a worshipping
man. But his acts are public--the powers and instruments with which he
works are public--acting under and by the authority of the law, he moves
at his word ten thousand subject arms; and because such energies are
thus essentially public, and wholly out of the range of mere individual
agency, they must be sanctified not only by the private personal prayers
and piety of those who fill public situations, but also by public acts
of the men composing the public body. They must offer prayer and praise
in their public and collective character--in that character wherein
they constitute the organ of the nation, and wield its collective
force. Wherever there is a reasoning agency, there is a moral duty and
responsibility involved in it. The governors are reasoning agents for
the nation, in their conjoint acts as such. And therefore there must
be attached to this agency, as that without which none of our
responsibilities can be met, a religion. And this religion must be that
of the conscience of the governor, or none._”

Here again we find propositions of vast sweep, and of sound so orthodox
and solemn that many good people, we doubt not, have been greatly
edified by it. But let us examine the words closely; and it will
immediately become plain that, if these principles be once admitted,
there is an end of all society. No combination can be formed for any
purpose of mutual help, for trade, for public works, for the relief of
the sick or the poor, for the promotion of art or science, unless the
members of the combination agree in their theological {130}opinions.
Take any such combination at random, the London and Birmingham Railway
Company for example, and observe to what consequences Mr. Gladstone’s
arguments inevitably lead. “Why should the Directors of the Railway
Company, in their collective capacity, profess a religion? First,
because the direction is composed of individual men appointed to act in
a definite moral capacity, bound to look carefully to the property, the
limbs, and the lives of their fellow-creatures, bound to act diligently
for their constituents, bound to govern their servants with humanity and
justice, bound to fulfil with fidelity many important contracts. They
must, therefore, sanctify their acts by the offices of religion, or
these acts will be sinful and punishable in themselves. In fulfilment,
then, of his obligations as an individual, the Director of the London
and Birmingham Railway Company must be a worshipping man. But his
acts are public. He acts for a body. He moves at his word ten thousand
subject arms. And because these energies are out of the range of his
mere individual agency, they must be sanctified by public acts of
devotion. The Railway Directors must offer prayer and praise in their
public and collective character, in that character wherewith they
constitute the organ of the Company, and wield its collected power.
Wherever there is reasoning agency, there is moral responsibility. The
Directors are reasoning agents for the Company. And therefore there
must be attached to this agency, as that without which none of our
responsibilities can be met, a religion. And this religion must be that
of the conscience of the Director himself, or none. There must be public
worship and a test. No Jew, no Socinian, no Presbyterian, no Catholic,
no Quaker, must be permitted to be the organ of {131}the Company, and
to wield its collected force.” Would Mr. Gladstone really defend this
proposition? We are sure that he would not: but we are sure that to
this proposition, and to innumerable similar propositions, his reasoning
inevitably leads.

Again,--

“_National will and agency are indisputably one, binding either a
dissentient minority or the subject body, in a manner that nothing but
the recognition of the doctrine of national personality can justify.
National honour and good faith are words in every one’s mouth. How do
they less imply a personality in nations than the duty towards God, for
which we now contend? They are strictly and essentially distinct from
the honour and good faith of the individuals composing the nation.
France is a person to us, and we to her. A wilful injury done to her
is a moral act, and a moral act quite distinct from the acts of all the
individuals composing the nation. Upon broad facts like these we may
rest, without resorting to the more technical proof which the laws
afford in their manner of dealing with corporations. If, then, a nation
have unity of will, have pervading sympathies, have capability of
reward and suffering contingent upon its acts, shall we deny its
responsibility; its need of a religion to meet that responsibility?....
A nation, then, having a personality, lies under the obligation, like
the individuals composing its governing body, of sanctifying the acts of
that personality by the offices of religion, and thus we have a new and
imperative ground for the existence of a state religion_.”

A new ground we have here, certainly, but whether very imperative may
be doubted. Is it not perfectly clear, that this argument applies with
exactly as much force to every combination of human beings for a common
purpose, as to governments? Is there any such combination in the world,
whether technically a corporation or not, which has not this collective
personality, from which Mr. Gladstone deduces such extraordinary
consequences? Look at banks, insurance offices, dock companies, canal
companies, gas companies, hospitals, {132}dispensaries, associations
for the relief of the poor, associations for apprehending malefactors,
associations of medical pupils for procuring subjects, associations
of country gentlemen for keeping fox-hounds, book societies, benefit
societies, clubs of all ranks, from those which have lined Pall-Mall and
St. James’s Street with their palaces, down to the Free-and-easy which
meets in the shabby parlour of a village inn. Is there a single one of
these combinations to which Mr. Gladstone’s argument will not apply as
well as to the State? In all these combinations, in the Bank of England,
for example, or in the Athenæum club, the will and agency of the society
are one, and bind the dissentient minority. The Bank and the Athenaeum
have a good faith and a justice different from the good faith and
justice of the individual members. The Bank is a person to those who
deposit bullion with it. The Athenaeum is a person to the butcher and
the wine-merchant. If the Athenaeum keeps money at the Bank, the two
societies are as much persons to each other as England and France.
Either society may pay its debts honestly; either may try to defraud
its creditors; either may increase in prosperity; either may fall
into difficulties. If, then, they have this unity of will; if they
are capable of doing and suffering good and evil, can we, to use Mr.
Gladstone’s words, “deny their responsibility, or their need of a
religion to meet that responsibility?” Joint-stock banks, therefore,
and clubs, “having a personality, lie under the necessity of sanctifying
that personality by the offices of religion;” and thus we have “a new
and imperative ground” for requiring all the directors and clerks of
joint-stock banks, and all the members of clubs, to qualify by taking
the sacrament.

The truth is, that Mr. Gladstone has fallen into an {133}error very
common among men of less talents than his own. It is not unusual for
a person who is eager to prove a particular proposition to assume a
_major_ of huge extent, which includes that particular proposition,
without ever reflecting that it includes a great deal more. The fatal
facility with which Mr. Gladstone multiplies expressions stately and
sonorous, but of indeterminate meaning, eminently qualifies him to
practise this sleight on himself and on his readers. He lays down
broad general doctrines about power, when the only power of which he is
thinking is the power of governments, and about conjoint action when the
only conjoint action of which he is thinking is the conjoint action of
citizens in a state. He first resolves on his conclusion. He then makes
a _major_ of most comprehensive dimensions, and having satisfied himself
that it contains his conclusion, never troubles himself about what else
it may contain: and as soon as we examine it we find that it contains
an infinite number of conclusions, every one of which is a monstrous
absurdity.

It is perfectly true that it would be a very good thing if all the
members of all the associations in the world were men of sound religious
views. We have no doubt that a good Christian will be under the guidance
of Christian principles, in his conduct as director of a canal company
or steward of a charity dinner. If he were, to recur to a case which we
have before put, a member of a stage-coach company, he would, in that
capacity, remember that “a righteous man regardeth the life of his
beast.” But it does not follow that every association of men must,
therefore, as such association, profess a religion. It is evident that
many great and useful objects can be attained in this {134}world only
by co-operation. It is equally evident that there cannot be efficient
co-operation, if men proceed on the principle that they must not
co-operate for one object unless they agree about other objects. Nothing
seems to us more beautiful or admirable in our social system than the
facility with which thousands of people, who perhaps agree only on a
single point, can combine their energies for the purpose of carrying
that single point. We see daily instances of this. Two men, one of
them obstinately prejudiced against missions, the other president of
a missionary society, sit together at the board of a hospital, and
heartily concur in measures for the health and comfort of the patients.
Two men, one of whom is a zealous supporter and the other a zealous
opponent of the system pursued in Lancaster’s schools, meet at the
Mendicity Society, and act together with the utmost cordiality. The
general rule we take to be undoubtedly this, that it is lawful and
expedient for men to unite in an association for the promotion of a good
object, though they may differ with respect to other objects of still
higher importance.

It will hardly be denied that the security of the persons and property
of men is a good object, and that the best way, indeed the only way
of promoting that object, is to combine men together in certain great
corporations which are called States. These corporations are very
variously, and, for the most part, very imperfectly organized. Many of
them abound with frightful abuses. But it seems reasonable to believe
that the worst that ever existed was, on the whole, preferable to
complete anarchy.

Now, reasoning from analogy, we should say that these great corporations
would, like all other associations, {135}be likely to attain their end
most perfectly if that end were kept singly in view; and that to refuse
the services of those who are admirably qualified to promote that end,
because they are not also qualified to promote some other end, however
excellent, seems at first sight as unreasonable as it would be to
provide that nobody who was not a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
should be a governor of the Eye Infirmary; or that nobody who was not a
member of the Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews should
be a trustee of the Literary Fund.

It is impossible to name any collection of human beings to which Mr.
Gladstone’s reasonings would apply more strongly than to an army? Where
shall we find more complete unity of action than in an army? Where else
do so many human beings implicitly obey one ruling mind? What other
mass is there which moves so much like one man? Where is such tremendous
power intrusted to those who command? Where is so awful a responsibility
laid upon them? If Mr. Gladstone has made out, as he conceives, an
imperative necessity for a State Religion, much more has he made it out
to be imperatively necessary that every army should, in its collective
capacity, profess a religion. Is he prepared to adopt this consequence?

On the morning of the thirteenth of August, in the year 1704, two great
captains, equal in authority, united by close private and public ties,
but of different creeds, prepared for a battle, on the event of which
were staked the liberties of Europe. Marlborough had passed a part
of the night in prayer, and before daybreak received the sacrament
according to the rites of the Church of England. He then hastened to
join Eugene, {136}who had probably just confessed himself to a Popish
priest. The generals consulted together, formed their plan in concert,
and repaired each to his own post. Marlborough gave orders for public
prayers. The English chaplains read the service at the head of the
English regiments. The Calvinistic chaplains of the Dutch army, with
heads on which hand of Bishop had never been laid, poured forth their
supplications in front of their countrymen. In the mean time, the Danes
might listen to their Lutheran ministers; and Capuchins might encourage
the Austrian squadrons, and pray to the Virgin for a blessing on the
arms of the Holy Roman Empire. The battle commences. These men of
various religions all act like members of one body. The Catholic and the
Protestant general exert themselves to assist and to surpass each other.
Before sunset the Empire is saved: France has lost in a day the fruits
of eighty years of intrigue and of victory; and the allies, after
conquering together, return thanks to God separately, each after his
own form of worship. Now is this practical atheism? Would any man in
his senses say, that, because the allied army had unity of action and a
common interest, and because a heavy responsibility lay on its Chiefs,
it was therefore imperatively necessary that the Army should, as an
Army, have one established religion, that Eugene should be deprived
of his command for being a Catholic, that all the Dutch and Austrian
colonels should be broken for not subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles?
Certainly not. The most ignorant grenadier on the field of battle would
have seen the absurdity of such a proposition.

“I know,” he would have said, “that the Prince of Savoy goes to mass, and
that our Corporal John cannot abide it; but what has the mass to do with
the taking {137}of the village of Blenheim? The Prince wants to beat the
French, and so does Corporal John. If we stand by each other we shall
most likely beat them. If we send all the Papists and Dutch away,
Tallard will have every man of us.” Mr. Gladstone himself, we imagine,
would admit that our honest grenadier would have the best of the
argument; and if so, what follows? Even this; that all Mr. Gladstone’s
general principles about power, and responsibility, and personality, and
conjoint action, must be given up, and that, if his theory is to stand
at all, it must stand on some other foundation.

We have now, we conceive, shown that it may be proper to form men into
combinations for important purposes, which combinations shall have
unity and common interests, and shall be under the direction of rulers
intrusted with great power and lying under solemn responsibility, and
yet that it may be highly improper that these combinations should, as
such, profess any one system of religious belief, or perform any joint
act of religious worship. How, then, is it proved that this may not be
the case with some of those great combinations which we call States? We
firmly believe that it is the case with some States. We firmly believe
that there are communities in which it would be as absurd to mix up
theology with government, as it would have been in the right wing of the
allied army at Blenheim to commence a controversy with the left wing, in
the middle of the battle, about purgatory and the worship of images.

It is the duty, Mr. Gladstone tells us, of the persons, be they who they
may, who hold supreme power in the state, to employ that power in order
to promote whatever they may deem to be theological truth. Now, surely,
before he can call on us to admit this proposition, {138}he is bound
to prove that these persons are likely to do more good than harm by
so employing their power. The first question is, whether a government,
proposing to itself the propagation of religious truth as one of its
principal ends, is more likely to lead the people right than to lead
them wrong? Mr. Gladstone evades this question; and perhaps it was his
wisest course to do so.

“_If,” says he, “the government be good, let it have its natural duties
and powers at its command; but, if not good, let it be made so.... We
follow, therefore, the true course in looking first for the true [Greek]
or abstract conception of a government, of course with allowance for the
evil and frailty that are in man, and then in examining whether there be
comprised in that [Greek] a capacity and consequent duty on the part of
a government to lay down any laws, or devote any means for the purposes
of religion,--in short, to exercise a choice upon religion_.”

Of course, Mr. Gladstone has a perfect right to argue any abstract
question, provided that he will constantly bear in mind that it is only
an abstract question that he is arguing. Whether a perfect government
would or would not be a good machinery for the propagation of religious
truth is certainly a harmless, and may, for aught we know, be an
edifying subject of inquiry. But it is very important that we should
remember that there is not, and never has been, any such government
in the world. There is no harm at all in inquiring what course a stone
thrown into the air would take, if the law of gravitation did not
operate. But the consequences would be unpleasant, if the inquirer, as
soon as he had finished his calculation, were to begin to throw stones
about in all directions, without considering that his conclusion rests
on a false hypothesis, and that his projectiles, instead of flying away
through infinite {139}space, will speedily return in parabolas, and
break the windows and heads of his neighbours.

It is very easy to say that governments are good, or if not good, ought
to be made so. But what is meant by good government? And how are all
the bad governments in the world to be made good? And of what value is
a theory which is true only on a supposition in the highest degree
extravagant?

We do not, however, admit that, if a government were, for all its
temporal ends, as perfect as human frailty allows, such a government
would, therefore, be necessarily qualified to propagate true religion.
For we see that the fitness of governments to propagate true religion is
by no means proportioned to their fitness for the temporal end of their
institution. Looking at individuals, we see that the princes under whose
rule nations have been most ably protected from foreign and domestic
disturbance, and have made the most rapid advances in civilisation, have
been by no means good teachers of divinity. Take, for example, the
best French sovereign, Henry the Fourth, a king who restored order,
terminated a terrible civil war, brought the finances into an excellent
condition, made his country respected throughout Europe, and endeared
himself to the great body of the people whom he ruled. Yet this man was
twice a Huguenot, and twice a Papist. He was, as Davila hints, strongly
suspected of having no religion at all in theory, and was certainly not
much under religious restraints in his practice. Take the Czar Peter,
the Empress Catharine, Frederic the Great. It will surely not be
disputed that these sovereigns, with all their faults, were, if we
consider them with reference merely to the temporal ends of government,
above the average of merit. Considered as theological guides, {140}Mr.
Gladstone would probably put them below the most abject drivellers of
the Spanish branch of the house of Bourbon. Again, when we pass from
individuals to systems, we by no means find that the aptitude of
governments for propagating religious truth is proportioned to their
aptitude for secular functions. Without being blind admirers either of
the French or of the American institutions, we think it clear that the
persons and property of citizens are better protected in France and in
New England than in almost any society that now exists, or that has ever
existed; very much better, certainly, than in the Roman empire under the
orthodox rule of Constantine and Theodosius. But neither the government
of France, nor that of New England, is so organized as to be fit for the
propagation of theological doctrines. Nor do we think it improbable
that the most serious religious errors might prevail in a state which,
considered merely with reference to temporal objects, might approach far
nearer than any that has ever been known, to the idea of what a state
should be.

But we shall leave this abstract question, and look at the world as we
find it. Does, then, the way in which governments generally obtain
their power make it at all probable that they will be more favourable
to orthodoxy than to heterodoxy? A nation of barbarians pours down on a
rich and un warlike empire, enslaves the people, portions out the land,
and blends the institutions which it finds in the cities with those
which it has brought from the woods. A handful of daring adventurers
from a civilised nation wander to some savage country, and reduce the
aboriginal race to bondage. A successful general turns his arms against
the state which he serves. A society, made brutal by oppression, rises
madly on its masters, sweeps away all {141}old laws and usages, and,
when its first paroxysm of rage is over, sinks down passively under any
form of polity which may spring out of the chaos. A chief of a party,
as at Florence, becomes imperceptibly a sovereign, and the founder of a
dynasty. A captain of mercenaries, as at Milan, seizes on a city, and
by the sword makes himself its ruler. An elective senate, as at Venice,
usurps permanent and hereditary power.

It is in events such as these that governments have generally
originated; and we can see nothing in such events to warrant us in
believing that the governments thus called into existence will be
peculiarly well fitted to distinguish between religious truth and
heresy.

When, again, we look at the constitutions of governments which have
become settled, we find no great security for the orthodoxy of rulers.
One magistrate holds power because his name was drawn out of a purse;
another, because his father held it before him. There are representative
systems of all sorts, large constituent bodies, small constituent
bodies, universal suffrage, high pecuniary qualifications. We see that,
for the temporal ends of government, some of these constitutions
are very skilfully constructed, and that the very worst of them is
preferable to anarchy. We see some sort of connection between the very
worst of them and the temporal well-being of society. But it passes our
understanding to comprehend what connection any one of them has with
theological truth.

And how stands the fact? Have not almost all the governments in the
world always been in the wrong on religious subjects? Mr. Gladstone, we
imagine, would say that, except in the time of Constantine, of Jovian,
and of a very few of their successors, and occasionally in England since
the Reformation, no government {142}has ever been sincerely friendly
to the pure and apostolical Church of Christ. If, therefore, it be
true that every ruler is bound in conscience to use his power for the
propagation of his own religion, it will follow that, for one ruler who
has been bound in conscience to use his power for the propagation of
truth, a thousand have been bound in conscience to use their power for
the propagation of falsehood. Surely this is a conclusion from which
common sense recoils. Surely, if experience shows that a certain
machine, when used to produce a certain effect, does not produce that
effect once in a thousand times, but produces, in the vast majority of
cases, an effect directly contrary, we cannot be wrong in saying that it
is not a machine of which the principal end is to be so used.

If, indeed, the magistrate would content himself with laying his
opinions and reasons before the people, and would leave the people,
uncorrupted by hope or fear, to judge for themselves, we should see
little reason to apprehend that his interference in favour of error
would be seriously prejudicial to the interests of truth. Nor do we,
as will hereafter be seen, object to his taking this course, when it is
compatible with the efficient discharge of his more especial duties. But
this will not satisfy Mr. Gladstone. He would have the magistrate
resort to means which have a great tendency to make malcontents, to
make hypocrites, to make careless nominal conformists, but no tendency
whatever to produce honest and rational conviction. It seems to us quite
clear that an inquirer who has no wish except to know the truth is more
likely to arrive at the truth than an inquirer who knows that, if he
decides one way, he shall be rewarded, and that, if he decides the
other way, he shall be punished. Now, {143}Mr. Gladstone would have
governments propagate their opinions by excluding all dissenters from
all civil offices. That is to say, he would have governments propagate
their opinions by a process which has no reference whatever to the truth
or falsehood of those opinions, by arbitrarily uniting certain worldly
advantages with one set of doctrines, and certain worldly inconveniences
with another set. It is of the very nature of argument to serve the
interests of truth; but if rewards and punishments serve the interests
of truth, it is by mere accident. It is very much easier to find
arguments for the divine authority of the Gospel than for the divine
authority of the Koran. But it is just as easy to bribe or rack a Jew
into Mahometanism as into Christianity.

From racks, indeed, and from all penalties directed against the persons,
the property, and the liberty of heretics, the humane spirit of Mr.
Gladstone shrinks with horror. He only maintains that conformity to the
religion of the state ought to be an indispensable qualification for
office; and he would, unless we have greatly misunderstood him, think
it his duty, if he had the power, to revive the Test Act, to enforce
it rigourously, and to extend it to important classes who were formerly
exempt from its operation.

This is indeed a legitimate consequence of his principles. But why stop
here? Why not roast dissenters at slow fires? All the general reasonings
on which this theory rests evidently lead to sanguinary persecution. If
the propagation of religious truth be a principal end of government, as
government; if it be the duty of a government to employ for that end
its constitutional power; if the constitutional power of governments
extends, as it most unquestionably does, to the making of laws for the
burning of heretics; if burning {144}be, as it most assuredly is, in
many cases, a most effectual mode of suppressing opinions; why should
we not burn? If the relation in which government ought to stand to
the people be, as Mr. Gladstone tells us, a paternal relation, we are
irresistibly led to the conclusion that persecution is justifiable. For
the right of propagating opinions by punishment is one which belongs to
parents as clearly as the right to give instruction. A boy is compelled
to attend family worship: he is forbidden to read irreligious books: if
he will not learn his catechism, he is sent to bed without his supper:
if he plays truant at church-time a task is set him. If he should
display the precocity of his talents by expressing impious opinions
before his brothers and sisters, we should not much blame his father for
cutting short the controversy with a horse-whip. All the reasons which
lead us to think that parents are peculiarly fitted to conduct the
education of their children, and that education is a principal end of
the parental relation, lead us also to think that parents ought to be
allowed to use punishment, if necessary, for the purpose of forcing
children, who are incapable of judging for themselves, to receive
religious instruction and to attend religious worship. Why, then, is
this prerogative of punishment, so eminently paternal, to be withheld
from a paternal government? It seems to us, also, to be the height
of absurdity to employ civil disabilities for the propagation of an
opinion, and then to shrink from employing other punishments for the
same purpose. For nothing can be clearer than that, if you punish at
all, you ought to punish enough. The pain caused by punishment is pure
unmixed evil, and never ought to be inflicted, except for the sake of
some good. It is mere foolish cruelty to provide penalties which torment
{145}the criminal without preventing the crime. Now it is possible, by
sanguinary persecution unrelentingly inflicted, to suppress opinions. In
this way the Albigenses were put down. In this way the Lollards were put
down. In this way the fair promise of the Reformation was blighted in
Italy and Spain. But we may safely defy Mr. Gladstone to point out a
single instance in which the system which he recommends has succeeded.

And why should he be so tender-hearted? What reason can he give for
hanging a murderer, and suffering an heresiarch to escape without even
a pecuniary mulct? Is the heresiarch a less pernicious member of society
than the murderer? Is not the loss of one soul a greater evil than the
extinction of many lives? And the number of murders committed by the
most profligate bravo that ever let out his poniard to hire in Italy, or
by the most savage buccaneer that ever prowled on the Windward Station,
is small indeed, when compared with the number of souls which have
been caught in the snares of one dexterous heresiarch. If, then, the
heresiarch causes infinitely greater evils than the murderer, why is
he not as proper an object of penal legislation as the murderer? We can
give a reason, a reason, short, simple, decisive, and consistent. We do
not extenuate the evil which the heresiarch produces; but we say that
it is not evil of that sort against which it is the end of government
to guard. But how Mr. Gladstone, who considers the evil which the
heresiarch produces as evil of the sort against which it is the end
of government to guard, can escape from the obvious consequence of his
doctrine, we do not understand. The world is full of parallel cases. An
orange-woman stops up the pavement with her wheelbarrow; and a policeman
takes her into custody. A miser who has {146}amassed a million suffers
an old friend and benefactor to die in a workhouse, and cannot be
questioned before any tribunal for his baseness and ingratitude. Is
this because legislators think the orange-woman’s conduct worse than the
miser’s? Not at all. It is because the stopping up of the pathway is one
of the evils against which it is the business of the public authorities
to protect society, and heartlessness is not one of those evils. It
would be the height of folly to say that the miser ought, indeed, to
be punished, but that he ought to be punished less severely than the
orange-woman.

The heretical Constantius persecutes Athanasius; and why not? Shall
Caesar punish the robber who has taken one purse, and spare the wretch
who has taught millions to rob the Creator of His honour, and to bestow
it on the creature? The orthodox Theodosius persecutes the Arians, and
with equal reason. Shall an insult offered to the Caesarean majesty be
expiated by death; and shall there be no penalty for him who degrades
to the rank of a creature the almighty, the infinite Creator? We have a
short Answer for both: “To Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.
Caesar is appointed for the punishment of robbers and rebels. He is not
appointed for the purpose of either propagating or exterminating the
doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son.”

“Not so,” says Mr. Gladstone. “Caesar is bound in conscience to
propagate whatever he thinks to be the truth as to this question.
Constantius is bound to establish the Arian worship throughout the
empire, and to displace the bravest captains of his legions, and
the ablest ministers of his treasury, if they hold the Nicene faith.
Theodosius is equally bound to turn out every public servant whom
his Arian predecessors have put in. But if {147}Constantius lays on
Athanasius a fine of a single _aureus_, if Theodosius imprisons an
Arian presbyter for a week, this is most unjustifiable oppression.” Our
readers will be curious to know how this distinction is made out.

The reasons which Mr. Gladstone gives against persecution affecting
life, limb, and property, may be divided into two classes; first,
reasons, which can be called reasons only by extreme courtesy, and which
nothing but the most deplorable necessity would ever have induced a
man of his abilities to use; and, secondly, reasons which are really
reasons, and which have so much force that they not only completely
prove his exception, but completely upset his general rule. His
artillery on this occasion is composed of two sorts of pieces, pieces
which will not go off at all, and pieces which go off with a vengeance,
and recoil with most crushing effect upon himself.

“_We, as fallible creatures,” says Mr. Gladstone, “have no right, from
any bare speculations of our own, to administer pains and penalties to
our fellow-creatures, whether on social or religious grounds. We have
the right to enforce the laws of the land by such pains and penalties,
because it is expressly given by Him who has declared that the civil
rulers are to bear the sword for the punishment of evil-doers, and for
the encouragement of them that do well. And so, in things spiritual,
had it pleased God to give to the Church or the State this power, to be
permanently exercised over their members, or mankind at large, we
should have the right to use it; but it does not appear to have been so
received, and consequently, it should not be exercised._”

We should be sorry to think that the security of our lives and property
from persecution rested on no better ground than this. Is not a teacher
of heresy an evildoer? Has not heresy been condemned in many countries,
and in our own among them, by the laws of the land, {148}which, as Mr.
Gladstone says, it is justifiable to enforce by penal sanctions? If a
heretic is not specially mentioned in the text to which Mr. Gladstone
refers, neither is an assassin, a kidnapper, or a highwayman: and if the
silence of the New Testament as to all interference of governments to
stop the progress of heresy be a reason for not fining or imprisoning
heretics, it is surely just as good a reason for not excluding them from
office.

“_God,” says Mr. Gladstone, “has seen fit to authorise the employment
of force in the one case and not in the other; for it was with regard
to chastisement inflicted by the sword for an insult offered to
himself that the Redeemer declared his kingdom not to be of this
world;--meaning, apparently in an especial manner, that it should be
otherwise than after this world’s fashion, in respect to the sanctions
by which its laws should be maintained_.”

Now here Mr. Gladstone, quoting from memory, has fallen into an error.
The very remarkable words which he cites do not appear to have had
any reference to the wound inflicted by Peter on Malchus. They were
addressed to Pilate, in answer to the question, “Art thou the King
of the Jews?” We cannot help saying that we are surprised that Mr.
Gladstone should not have more accurately verified a quotation on which,
according to him, principally depends the right of a hundred millions of
his fellow-subjects, idolaters, Mussulmans, Catholics, and dissenters,
to their property, their liberty, and their lives.

Mr. Gladstone’s humane interpretations of Scripture are lamentably
destitute of one recommendation, which he considers as of the highest
value: they are by no means in accordance with the general precepts or
practice of the Church, from the time when the Christians became strong
enough to persecute down to a very recent period. A dogma favourable to
toleration is {149}certainly not a dogma _quod semper, quod ubique, quod
omnibus_. Bossuet was able to say, we fear with too much truth, that on
one point all Christians had long been unanimous, the right of the civil
magistrate to propagate truth by the sword; that even heretics had been
orthodox as to this right, and that the Anabaptists and Socinians were
the first who called it in question. We will not pretend to say what is
the best explanation of the text under consideration; but we are sure
that Mr. Gladstone’s is the worst. According to him, government ought to
exclude dissenters from office, but not to fine them, because Christ’s
kingdom is not of this world. We do not see why the line may not be
drawn at a hundred other places as well as that which he has chosen. We
do not see why Lord Clarendon, in recommending the act of 1664 against
conventicles, might not have said, “It hath been thought by some that
this classis of men might with advantage be not only imprisoned but
pilloried. But methinks, my Lords, we are inhibited from the punishment
of the pillory by that Scripture, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’”
 Archbishop Laud, when he sate on Burton in the Star-Chamber, might have
said, “I pronounce for the pillory; and, indeed, I could wish that all
such wretches were delivered to the fire, but that our Lord hath said
that his kingdom is not of this world.” And Gardiner might have written
to the Sheriff of Oxfordshire; “See that execution be done without fail
on Master Ridley and Master Latimer, as you will answer the same to
the Queen’s grace at your peril. But if they shall desire to have some
gunpowder for the shortening of their torment, I see not but you may
grant it, as it is written, _Regnum meam non est de hoc mundo_; that
is to say, My kingdom is not of this world.” {150}But Mr. Gladstone
has other arguments against persecution, arguments which are of so much
weight, that they are decisive not only against persecution but against
his whole theory. “The government,” he says, “is incompetent to exercise
minute and constant supervision over religious opinion.” And hence he
infers, that “a government exceeds its province when it comes to adapt
a scale of punishments to variations in religious opinion, according
to their respective degrees of variation from the established creed. To
decline affording countenance to sects is a single and simple rule. To
punish their professors, according to their several errors, even
were there no other objection is one for which the state must assume
functions wholly ecclesiastical, and for which it is not intrinsically
fitted.”

This is, in our opinion, quite true. But how does it agree with Mr.
Gladstone’s theory? What! the government incompetent to exercise even
such a degree of supervision over religious opinion as is implied by
the punishment of the most deadly heresy! The government incompetent
to measure even the grossest deviations from the standard of truth!
The government not intrinsically qualified to judge of the comparative
enormity of any theological errors! The government so ignorant on these
subjects, that it is compelled to leave, not merely subtle heresies,
discernible only by the eye of a Cyril or a Bucer, but Socinianism,
Deism, Mahometanism, Idolatry, Atheism, unpunished! To whom does Mr.
Gladstone assign the office of selecting a religion for the state, from
among hundreds of religions, every one of which lays claim to truth?
Even to this same government, which is now pronounced to be so unfit for
theological investigations {151}that it cannot venture to punish a man
for worshipping a lump of stone with a score of heads and hands. We do
not remember ever to have fallen in with a more extraordinary instance
of inconsistency. When Mr. Gladstone wishes to prove that the government
ought to establish and endow a religion, and to fence it with a Test
Act, government is [Greek] in the moral world. Those who would confine
it to secular ends take a low view of its nature. A religion must be
attached to its agency; and this religion must be that of the conscience
of the governor, or none. It is for the Governor to decide between
Papists and Protestants, Jansenists and Molinists, Arminians and
Calvinists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, Sabellians and Tritheists,
Homoousians and Homoiousians, Nestorians and Eutychians, Monothelites
and Monophysites, Pædobaptists and Anabaptists. It is for him to rejudge
the Acts of Nice and Rimini, of Ephesus and Chalcedon, of Constantinople
and St. John Lateran, of Trent and Dort. It is for him to arbitrate
between the Greek and the Latin procession, and to determine whether
that mysterious filioque shall or shall not have a place in the national
creed. When he has made up his mind, he is to tax the whole community in
order to pay people to teach his opinion, whatever it may be. He is
to rely on his own judgment, though it may be opposed to that of
nine-tenths of the society. He is to act on his own judgment, at the
risk of exciting the most formidable discontents. He is to inflict,
perhaps on a great majority of the population, what, whether we choose
to call it persecution or not, will always be felt as persecution by
those who suffer it. He is, on account of differences often too slight
for vulgar comprehension, to {152}deprive the state of the services
of the ablest men. He is to debase and enfeeble the community which he
governs, from a nation into a sect. In our own country, for example,
millions of Catholics, millions of Protestant Dissenters, are to be
excluded from all power and honours. A great hostile fleet is on the
sea; but Nelson is not to command in the Channel if in the mystery of
the Trinity he confounds the persons. An invading army has landed in
Kent; but the Duke of Wellington is not to be at the head of our forces
if he divides the substance. And after all this, Mr. Gladstone tells us,
that it would be wrong to imprison a Jew, a Mussulman, or a Budhist, for
a day; because really a government cannot understand these matters,
and ought not to meddle with questions which belong to the Church. A
singular theologian, indeed, this government! So learned that it is
competent to exclude Grotius from office for being a Semi-Pelagian, so
unlearned that it is incompetent to fine a Hindoo peasant a rupee for
going on a pilgrimage to Juggernaut.

“_To solicit and persuade one another,” says Mr. Gladstone, “are
privileges which belong to us all; and the wiser and better man is bound
to advise the less wise and good: but he is not only not bound, he is
not allowed, speaking generally, to coerce him. It is untrue, then, that
the same considerations which bind a government to submit a religion to
the free choice of the people would therefore justify their enforcing
its adoption._”

Granted. But it is true that all the same considerations which would
justify a government in propagating a religion by means of civil
disabilities would justify the propagating of that religion by penal
laws. To solicit! Is it solicitation to tell a Catholic Duke, that he
must abjure his religion or walk out of the {153}House of Lords? To
persuade! Is it persuasion to tell a banister of distinguished eloquence
and learning that he shall grow old in the stuff gown, while his pupils
are seated above him in ermine, because he cannot digest the damnatory
clauses of the Athanasian creed? Would Mr. Gladstone think that a
religious system which he considers as false, Socinian for example, was
submitted to his free choice, if it were submitted in these terms?--“If
you obstinately adhere to the faith of the Nicene fathers, you shall not
be burned in Smithfield; you shall not be sent to Dorchester gaol; you
shall not even pay double land-tax. But you shall be shut out from
all situations in which you might exercise your talents with honour to
yourself and advantage to the country. The House of Commons, the bench
of magistracy, are not for such as you. You shall see younger men, your
inferiors in station and talents, rise to the highest dignities and
attract the gaze of nations, while you are doomed to neglect and
obscurity. If you have a son of the highest promise, a son such as other
fathers would contemplate with delight, the development of his fine
talents and of his generous ambition shall be a torture to you. You
shall look on him as a being doomed to lead, as you have led, the
abject life of a Roman or a Neapolitan in the midst of the great English
people. All those high honours, so much more precious than the most
costly gifts of despots, with which a free country decorates its
illustrious citizens, shall be to him, as they have been to you, objects
not of hope and virtuous emulation, but of hopeless, envious pining.
Educate him, if you wish him to feel his degradation. Educate him, if
you wish to stimulate his craving for what he never must enjoy. Educate
him, if you would imitate the barbarity of that Celtic tyrant, {154}who
fed his prisoners on salted food till they called eagerly for drink,
and then let down an empty cup into the dungeon, and left them to die of
thirst.” Is this to solicit, to persuade, to submit religion to the free
choice of man? Would a fine of a thousand pounds, would imprisonment in
Newgate for six months, under circumstances not disgraceful, give Mr.
Gladstone the pain which he would feel, if he were to be told that he
was to be dealt with in the way in which he would himself deal with more
than one half of his countrymen?

We are not at all surprised to find such inconsistency even in a man
of Mr. Gladstone’s talents. The truth is, that every man is, to a great
extent, the creature of the age. It is to no purpose that he resists
the influence which the vast mass, in which he is but an atom, must
exercise on him. He may try to be a man of the tenth century: but he
cannot. Whether he will or not, he must be a man of the nineteenth
century. He shares in the motion of the moral as well as in that of the
physical world. He can no more be as intolerant as he would have been in
the days of the Tudors than he can stand in the evening exactly where
he stood in the morning. The globe goes round from west to east; and he
must go round with it. When he says that he is where he was, he means
only that he has moved at the same rate with all around him. When he
says that he has gone a good way to the westward, he means only that
he has not gone to the eastward quite as rapidly as his neighbors. Mr.
Gladstone’s book is, in this respect, a very gratifying performance. It
is the measure of what a man can do to be left behind by the world. It
is the strenuous effort of a very vigorous mind to keep as far in the
rear of the general progress as possible. And yet, with the {155}most
intense exertion, Mr. Gladstone cannot help being, on some important
points, greatly in advance of Locke himself; and with whatever
admiration he may regard Laud, it is well for him, we can tell him,
that he did not write in the days of that zealous primate, who would
certainly have refuted the expositions of Scripture which we have
quoted, by one of the keenest arguments that can be addressed to human
ears.

This is not the only instance in which Mr. Gladstone has shrunk in a
very remarkable manner from the consequences of his own theory. If there
be in the whole world a state to which this theory is applicable, that
state is the British Empire in India. Even we, who detest paternal
governments in general, shall admit that the duties of the government of
India, are, to a considerable extent, paternal. There, the superiority
of the governors to the governed in moral science is unquestionable. The
conversion of the whole people to the worst form that Christianity
ever wore in the darkest ages would be a most happy event. It is not
necessary that a man should be a Christian to wish for the propagation
of Christianity in India. It is sufficient that he should be an European
not much below the ordinary European level of good sense and humanity.
Compared with the importance of the interests at stake, all those Scotch
and Irish questions which occupy so large a portion of Mr. Gladstone’s
book, sink into insignificance. In no part of the world since the
days of Theodosius has so large a heathen population been subject to a
Christian government. In no part of the world is heathenism more cruel,
more licentious, more fruitful of absurd rites and pernicious laws.
Surely, if it be the duty of government to use its power and its revenue
in order to bring seven millions of Irish Catholics {156}over to the
Protestant Church, it is _a fortiori_ the duty of the government to use
its power and its revenue in order to make seventy millions of idolaters
Christians. If it he a sin to suffer John Howard or William Penn to
hold any office in England because they are not in communion with the
Established Church, it must be a crying sin indeed to admit to high
situations men who bow down, in temples covered with emblems of vice, to
the hideous images of sensual or malevolent gods.

But no. Orthodoxy, it seems, is more shocked by the priests of Rome
than by the priests of Kalee. The plain red brick building, the Cave of
Adullam, or Ebenezer Chapel, where uneducated men hear a half-educated
man talk of the Christian law of love and the Christian hope of glory,
is unworthy of the indulgence which is reserved for the shrine where the
Thug suspends a portion of the spoils of murdered travellers, and
for the car which grinds its way through the bones of self-immolated
pilgrims. “It would be,” says Mr. Gladstone, “an absurd exaggeration to
maintain it as the part of such a government as that of the British
in India to bring home to the door of every subject at once the
ministrations of a new and totally unknown religion.” The government
ought indeed to desire to propagate Christianity. But the extent to
which they must do so must be “limited by the degree in which the people
are found willing to receive it.” He proposes no such limitation in the
case of Ireland. He would give the Irish a Protestant Church whether
they like it or not. “We believe,” says he, “that that which we place
before them is, whether they know it or not, calculated to be beneficial
to them; and that, if they know it not now, they will, know it when it
is presented to them fairly. Shall we, then, purchase their applause at
the {157}expense of their substantial, nay, their spiritual interests?”

And why does Mr. Gladstone allow to the Hindoo a privilege which he
denies to the Irishman? Why does he reserve his greatest liberality for
the most monstrous errors? Why does he pay most respect to the opinion
of the least enlightened people? Why does he withhold the right to
exercise paternal authority from that one government which is fitter to
exercise paternal authority than any government that ever existed in the
world? We will give the reason in his own words.

“_In British India,” he says, “a small number of persons advanced to a
higher grade of civilization, exercise the powers of government over an
immensely greater number of less cultivated persons, not by coercion,
but under free stipulation with the governed. Now, the rights of a
government, in circumstances thus peculiar, obviously depend neither
upon the unrestricted theory of paternal principles, nor upon any
primordial or fictitious contract of indefinite powers, but upon an
express and known treaty, matter of positive agreement, not of natural
ordinance._”

Where Mr. Gladstone has seen this treaty we cannot guess; for, though
he calls it a “known treaty,” we will stake our credit that it is quite
unknown both at Calcutta and Madras, both in Leadenhall Street and
Cannon Row, that it is not to be found in any of the enormous folios
of papers relating to India which fill the book-cases of members of
Parliament, that it has utterly escaped the researches of all the
historians of our Eastern empire, that, in the long and interesting
debates of 1813 on the admission of missionaries to India, debates of
which the most valuable part has been excellently preserved by the
care of the speakers, no allusion to this important instrument is to
be found. {158}The truth is that this treaty is a nonentity. It is
by coercion, it is by the sword, and not by free stipulation with the
governed, that England rules India; nor is England bound by any contract
whatever not to deal with Bengal as she deals with Ireland. She may
set up a Bishop of Patna, and a Dean of Hoogley; she may grant away the
public revenue for the maintenance of prebendaries of Benares and canons
of Moorshedabad; she may divide the country into parishes, and place
a rector with a stipend in every one of them; and all this without
infringing any positive agreement. If there be such a treaty, Mr.
Gladstone can have no difficulty in making known its date, its terms,
and, above all, the precise extent of the territory within which we have
sinfully bound ourselves to be guilty of practical atheism. The last
point is of great importance. For, as the provinces of our Indian empire
were acquired at different times, and in very different ways, no single
treaty, indeed no ten treaties, will justify the system pursued by our
government there.

The plain state of the case is this. No man in his senses would dream
of applying Mr. Gladstone’s theory to India; because, if so applied,
it would inevitably destroy our empire; and, with our empire, the best
chance of spreading Christianity among the natives. This Mr. Gladstone
felt. In some way or other his theory was to be saved, and the monstrous
consequences avoided. Of intentional misrepresentation we are quite
sure that he is incapable. But we cannot acquit him of that unconscious
disingenuousness from which the most upright man, when strongly attached
to an opinion, is seldom wholly free. We believe that he recoiled from
the ruinous consequences which his system would produce, if tried in
India; but that he did not like to {159}say so, lest he should lay
himself open to the charge of sacrificing principle to expediency,
a word which is held in the utmost abhorrence by all his school.
Accordingly, he caught at the notion of a treaty, a notion which must,
we think, have originated in some rhetorical expression which he has
imperfectly understood. There is one excellent way of avoiding the
drawing of a false conclusion from a false major; and that is by
having a false minor. Inaccurate history is an admirable corrective of
unreasonable theory. And thus it is in the present case. A bad general
rule is laid down, and obstinately maintained, wherever the consequences
are not too monstrous for human bigotry. But when they become so
horrible that even Christ Church shrinks, that even Oriel stands aghast,
the rule is evaded by means of a fictitious contract. One imaginary
obligation is set up against another. Mr. Gladstone first preaches to
governments the duty of undertaking an enterprise just as rational as
the Crusades, and then dispenses them from it on the ground of a treaty
which is just as authentic as the donation of Constantine to Pope
Sylvester. His system resembles nothing so much as a forged bond with a
forged release indorsed on the back of it.

With more show of reason he rests the claim of the Scotch Church on a
contract. He considers that contract, however, as most unjustifiable,
and speaks of the setting up of the Kirk as a disgraceful blot on the
reign of William the Third. Surely it would be amusing, if it were not
melancholy, to see a man of virtue and abilities unsatisfied with
the calamities which one Church, constituted on false principles, has
brought upon the empire, and repining that Scotland is not in the same
state with Ireland, that no Scottish agitator is {160}raising rent and
putting county members in and out, that no Presbyterian association
is dividing supreme power with the government, that no meetings of
precursors and repealers are covering the side of the Calton Hill, that
twenty-five thousand troops are not required to maintain order on the
north of the Tweed, that the anniversary of the Battle of Bothwell
Bridge is not regularly celebrated by insult, riot, and murder. We could
hardly find a stronger argument against Mr. Gladstone’s system than that
which Scotland furnishes. The policy which has been followed in that
country has been directly opposed to the policy which he recommends. And
the consequence is that Scotland, having been one of the rudest, one of
the poorest, one of the most turbulent countries in Europe, has become
one of the most highly civilised, one of the most flourishing, one of
the most tranquil. The atrocities which were of common occurrence while
an unpopular church was dominant are unknown. In spite of a mutual
aversion as bitter as ever separated one people from another, the
two kingdoms which compose our island have been indissolubly joined
together. Of the ancient national feeling there remains just enough to
be ornamental and useful; just enough to inspire the poet, and to kindle
a generous and friendly emulation in the bosom of the soldier. But for
all the ends of government the nations are one. And why are they so? The
answer is simple. The nations are one for all the ends of government,
because in their union the true ends of government alone were kept in
sight. The nations are one because the Churches are two.

Such is the union of England with Scotland, an union which resembles the
union of the limbs of one healthful and vigorous body, all moved by one
will, {161}all co-operating for common ends. The system of Mr. Gladstone
would have produced an union which can be compared only to that which
is the subject of a wild Persian fable. King Zohak--we tell the story as
Mr. Southey tells it to us--gave the devil leave to kiss his shoulders.
Instantly two serpents sprang out, who, in the fury of hunger, attacked
his head, and attempted to get at his brain. Zohak pulled them away, and
tore them with his nails. But he found that they were inseparable parts
of himself, and that what he was lacerating was his own flesh. Perhaps
we might be able to find, if we looked round the world, some political
union like this, some hideous monster of a state, cursed with one
principle of sensation and two principles of volition, self-loathing and
self-torturing, made up of parts which are driven by a frantic impulse
to inflict mutual pain, yet are doomed to feel whatever they inflict,
which are divided by an irreconcilable hatred, yet are blended in an
indissoluble identity. Mr. Gladstone, from his tender concern for Zohak,
is unsatisfied because the devil has as yet kissed only one shoulder,
because there is not a snake mangling and mangled on the left to keep in
countenance his brother on the right.

But we must proceed in our examination of his theory. Having, as he
conceives, proved that it is the duty of every government to profess
some religion or other, right or wrong, and to establish that religion,
he then comes to the question what religion a government ought
to prefer; and he decides this question in favour of the form of
Christianity established in England. The Church of England is, according
to him, the pure Catholic Church of Christ, which possesses the
apostolical succession of ministers, and within {162}whose pale is to
be found that unity which is essential to truth. For her decisions he
claims a degree of reverence far beyond what she has ever, in any of her
formularies, claimed for herself; far beyond what the moderate school
of Bossuet demands for the Pope; and scarcely short of what that school
would ascribe to Pope and General Council together. To separate from
her communion is schism. To reject her traditions or interpretations of
Scripture is sinful presumption.

Mr. Gladstone pronounces the right of private judgment, as it is
generally understood throughout Protestant Europe, to be a monstrous
abuse. He declares himself favourable, indeed, to the exercise of
private judgment, after a fashion of his own. We have, according to him,
a right to judge all the doctrines of the Church of England to be sound,
but not to judge any of them to be unsound. He has no objection,
he assures us, to active inquiries into religious questions. On the
contrary, he thinks such inquiry highly desirable, as long as it does
not lead to diversity of opinion; which is much the same thing as if he
were to recommend the use of fire that will not burn down houses, or
of brandy that will not make men drunk. He conceives it to be perfectly
possible for mankind to exercise their intellects vigorously and freely
on theological subjects, and yet to come to exactly the same conclusions
with each other and with the Church of England. And for this opinion
he gives, as far as we have been able to discover, no reason whatever,
except that everybody who vigorously and freely exercises his
understanding on Euclid’s Theorems assents to them. “The activity of
private judgment,” he truly observes, “and the unity and strength of
conviction in mathematics {163}vary directly as each other.” On this
unquestionable fact he constructs a somewhat questionable argument.
Everybody who freely inquires agrees, he says, with Euclid. But the
Church is as much in the right as Euclid. Why, then, should not
every free inquirer agree with the Church? We could put many similar
questions. Either the affirmative or the negative of the proposition
that King Charles wrote the _Icon Basilike_ is as true as that two
sides of a triangle are greater than the third side. Why, then, do Dr.
Wordsworth and Mr. Hallam agree in thinking two sides of a triangle
greater than the third side, and yet differ about the genuineness of
the _Icon Basilike_? The state of the exact sciences proves, says Mr.
Gladstone, that, as respects religion “the association of these two
ideas, activity of inquiry, and variety of conclusion, is a fallacious
one.” We might just as well turn the argument the other way, and infer
from the variety of religious opinions that there must necessarily be
hostile mathematical sects, some affirming, and some denying, that the
square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the sides. But we
do not think either the one analogy or the other of the smallest value.
Our way of ascertaining the tendency of free inquiry is simply to open
our eyes and look at the world in which we live; and there we see that
free inquiry on mathematical subjects produces unity, and that free
inquiry on moral subjects produces discrepancy. There would undoubtedly
be less discrepancy if inquirers were more diligent and candid. But
discrepancy there will be among the most diligent and candid, as long
as the constitution of the human mind, and the nature of moral evidence,
continue unchanged. That we have not freedom and unity together is a
very sad thing; and so it is that we have {164}not wings. But we are
just as likely to see the one defect removed as the other. It is not
only in religion that this discrepancy is found. It is the same with
all matters which depend on moral evidence, with judicial questions, for
example, and with political questions. All the judges will work a sum
in the rule of three on the same principle, and bring out the same
conclusion. But it does not follow that, however honest and laborious
they may be, they will all be of one mind on the Douglas case. So it
is vain to hope that there may be a free constitution under which every
representative will be unanimously elected, and every law unanimously
passed; and it would be ridiculous for a statesman to stand wondering
and bemoaning himself because people who agree in thinking that two and
two make four cannot agree about the new poor law, or the administration
of Canada.

There are two intelligible and consistent courses which may be followed
with respect to the exercise of private judgment; the course of the
Romanist, who interdicts private judgment because of its inevitable
inconveniences; and the course of the Protestant, who permits private
judgment in spite of its inevitable inconveniences. Both are more
reasonable than Mr. Gladstone, who would have private judgment without
its inevitable inconveniences. The Romanist produces repose by means of
stupefaction. The Protestant encourages activity, though he knows
that where there is much activity there will be some aberration. Mr.
Gladstone wishes for the unity of the fifteenth century with the active
and searching spirit of the sixteenth. He might as well wish to be in
two places at once.

When Mr. Gladstone says that we “actually require discrepancy of
opinion--require and demand error, {165}falsehood, blindness, and plume
ourselves on such discrepancy as attesting a freedom which is only
valuable when used for unity in the truth,” he expresses himself with
more energy than precision. Nobody loves discrepancy for the sake of
discrepancy. But a person who conscientiously believes that free inquiry
is, on the whole, beneficial to the interests of truth, and that, from
the imperfection of the human faculties, wherever there is much free
inquiry there will be some discrepancy, may, without impropriety,
consider such discrepancy, though in itself an evil, as a sign of good.
That there are ten thousand thieves in London, is a very melancholy
fact. But, looked at in one point of view, it is a reason for
exultation. For what other city could maintain ten thousand thieves?
What must be the mass of wealth, where the fragments gleaned by lawless
pilfering rise to so large an amount? St. Kilda would not support a
single pickpocket. The quantity of theft is, to a certain extent, an
index of the quantity of useful industry and judicious speculation. And
just as we may, from the great number of rogues in a town, infer that
much honest gain is made there; so may we often, from the quantity of
error in a community, draw a cheering inference as to the degree in
which the public mind is turned to those inquiries which alone can lead
to rational convictions of truth.

Mr. Gladstone seems to imagine that most Protestants think it possible
for the same doctrine to be at once true and false; or that they think
it immaterial whether, on a religious question, a man comes to a true
or a false conclusion. If there be any Protestants who hold notions so
absurd, we abandon them to his censure.

The Protestant doctrine touching the right of private {166}judgment,
that doctrine which is the common foundation of the Anglican, the
Lutheran, and the Calvinistic Churches, that doctrine by which every
sect of dissenters vindicates its separation, we conceive not to be
this, that opposite doctrines may both be true; nor this, that truth
and falsehood are both equally good; nor yet this, that all speculative
error is necessarily innocent; but this, that there is on the face of
the earth no visible body to whose decrees men are bound to submit their
private judgment on points of faith.

Is there always such a visible body? Was there such a visible body in
the year 1500? If not, why are we to believe that there is such a body
in the year 1839? If there was such a body in the year 1500, what was
it? Was it the Church of Rome? And how can the Church of England be
orthodox now if the Church of Rome was orthodox then?

“In England,” says Mr. Gladstone, “the case was widely different from
that of the Continent. Her reformation did not destroy, but successfully
maintained the unity and succession of the Church in her apostolical
ministry. We have, therefore, still among us the ordained hereditary
witnesses of the truth, conveying it to us through an unbroken series
from our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles. This is to us the ordinary
voice of authority; of authority equally reasonable and equally true,
whether we will hear, or whether we will forbear.”

Mr. Gladstone’s reasoning is not so clear as might be desired. We have
among us, he says, ordained hereditary witnesses of the truth, and
their voice is to us the voice of authority. Undoubtedly, if they are
witnesses of the truth, their voice is the voice of authority. Rut this
is little more than saying that the truth is the {167}truth. Nor
is truth more true because it comes in an unbroken series from the
Apostles. The Nicene faith is not more true in the mouth of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, than in that of a moderator of the General
Assembly. If our respect for the authority of the Church is to be only
consequent upon our conviction of the truth of her doctrines, we come
at once to that monstrous abuse, the Protestant exercise of private
judgment. But if Mr. Gladstone means that we ought to believe that
the Church of England speaks the truth because she has the apostolical
succession, we greatly doubt whether such a doctrine can be maintained.
In the first place, what proof have we of the fact? We have, indeed,
heard it said that Providence would certainly have interfered to
preserve the apostolical succession in the true Church. But this is
an argument fitted for understandings of a different kind from Mr.
Gladstone’s. He will hardly tell us that the Church of England is
the true Church because she has the succession; and that she has the
succession because she is the true Church.

What evidence, then, have we for the fact of the apostolical succession?
And here we may easily defend the truth against Oxford with the same
arguments with which, in old times, the truth was defended by Oxford
against Rome. In this stage of our combat with Mr. Gladstone, we
need few weapons except those which we find in the well-furnished and
well-ordered armoury of Chillingworth.

The transmission of orders from the Apostles to an English clergyman
of the present day must have been through a very great number of
intermediate persons. Now, it is probable that no clergyman in the
Church of England can trace up his spiritual genealogy from {168}bishop
to bishop so far back as the time of the Conquest. There remain many
centuries during which the history of the transmission of his orders is
buried in utter darkness. And whether he be a priest by succession from
the Apostles depends on the question, whether during that long period,
some thousands of events took place, any one of which may, without any
gross improbability, be supposed not to have taken place. We have not a
tittle of evidence for any one of these events. We do not even know the
names or countries of the men to whom it is taken for granted that these
events happened. We do not know whether the spiritual ancestors of any
one of our contemporaries were Spanish or Armenian, Arian or Orthodox.
In the utter absence of all particular evidence, we are surely entitled
to require that there should be very strong evidence indeed that
the strictest regularity was observed in every generation, and that
episcopal functions were exercised by none who were not bishops by
succession from the Apostles. But we have no such evidence. In the first
place, we have not full and accurate information touching the polity of
the Church during the century which followed the persecution of Nero.
That, during this period, the overseers of all the little Christian
societies scattered through the Roman empire, held their spiritual
authority by virtue of holy orders derived from the Apostles, cannot
be proved by contemporary testimony, or by any testimony which can be
regarded as decisive. The question, whether the primitive ecclesiastical
constitution bore a greater resemblance to the Anglican or to the
Calvinistic model has been fiercely disputed. It is a question on which
men of eminent parts, learning, and piety have differed, and do to this
day differ {160}very widely. It is a question on which at least a full
half of the ability and erudition of Protestant Europe has, ever since
the Reformation, been opposed to the Anglican pretensions. Mr. Gladstone
himself, we are persuaded, would have the candour to allow that, if
no evidence were admitted but that which is furnished by the genuine
Christian literature of the first two centuries, judgment would not go
in favour of prelacy. And if he looked at the subject as calmly as
he would look at a controversy respecting the Roman Comitia or the
Anglo-Saxon Wittenagemote, he would probably think that the absence of
contemporary evidence during so long a period was a defect which later
attestations, however numerous, could but very imperfectly supply. It
is surely impolitic to rest the doctrines of the English Church on a
historical theory which, to ninety-nine Protestants out of a hundred,
would seem much more questionable than any of those doctrines. Nor is
this all. Extreme obscurity overhangs the history of the middle ages;
and the facts which are discernible through that obscurity prove that
the Church was exceedingly ill-regulated. We read of sees of the highest
dignity openly sold, transferred backwards and forwards by popular
tumult, bestowed sometimes by a profligate woman on her paramour,
sometimes by a warlike baron on a kinsman still a stripling. We read of
bishops of ten years old, of bishops of five years old, of many popes
who were mere boys, and who rivalled the frantic dissoluteness of
Caligula, nay, of a female pope. And though this last story, once
believed throughout all Europe, has been disproved by the strict
researches of modern criticism, the most discerning of those who reject
it have admitted that it is not intrinsically improbable. In {170}our
own island, it was the complaint of Alfred that not a single priest
south of the Thames, and very few on the north, could read either Latin
or English. And this illiterate clergy exercised their ministry amidst a
rude and half-heathen population, in which Danish pirates, unchristened,
or christened by the hundred on a field of battle, were mingled with
a Saxon peasantry scarcely better instructed in religion. The state of
Ireland was still worse. “Tota ilia per universam Hiberniam dissolutio
ecclesiasticæ disciplinas, illa ubique pro consuetudine Christiana sæva
subintroducta barbaries,” are the expressions of St. Bernard. We are,
therefore, at a loss to conceive how any clergyman can feel confident
that his orders have come down correctly. Whether he be really
a successor of the Apostles depends on an immense number of such
contingencies as these; whether, under King Ethelwolf, a stupid priest
might not, while baptizing several scores of Danish prisoners who had
just made their option between the font and the gallows, inadvertently
omit to perform the rite on one of these graceless proselytes;
whether, in the seventh century, an impostor, who had never received
consecration, might not have passed himself off as a bishop on a rude
tribe of Scots; whether a lad of twelve did really, by a ceremony
huddled over when he was too drunk to know what he was about, convey the
episcopal character to a lad of ten.

Since the first century, not less, in all probability, than a hundred
thousand persons have exercised the functions of bishops. That many of
these have not been bishops by apostolical succession is quite certain.
Hooker admits that deviations from the general rule have been frequent,
and with a boldness worthy of {171}his high and statesmanlike intellect,
pronounces them to have been often justifiable. “There may be,” says
he, “sometimes very just and sufficient reason to allow ordination made
without a bishop. Where the Church must needs have some ordained, and
neither hath nor can have possibly a bishop to ordain, in case of such
necessity the ordinary institution of God hath given _oftentimes_, and
may give place. And therefore we are not simply without exception to
urge a lineal descent of power from the Apostles by continued succession
of bishops in every effectual ordination.” There can be little doubt,
we think, that the succession, if it ever existed, has often been
interrupted in ways much less respectable. For example, let us suppose,
and we are sure that no well-informed person will think the supposition
by any means improbable, that, in the third century, a man of no
principle and some parts, who has, in the course of a roving and
discreditable life, been a catechumen at Antioch, and has there become
familiar with Christian usages and doctrines, afterwards rambles to
Marseilles, where he finds a Christian society, rich, liberal, and
simple-hearted. He pretends to be a Christian, attracts notice by his
abilities and affected zeal, and is raised to the episcopal dignity
without having ever, been baptized. That such an event might happen,
nay, was very likely to happen, cannot well be disputed by any one
who has read the Life of Peregrinus. The very virtues, indeed, which
distinguished the early Christians, seem to have laid them open to those
arts which deceived

                   “Uriel, though Regent of the Sun, and held

                   The sharpest-sighted spirit of all in Heaven.”

Now this unbaptized impostor is evidently no successor {172}of the
Apostles. He is not even a Christian and all orders derived through
such a pretended bishop are altogether invalid. Do we know enough of the
state of the world and of the Church in the third century to be able
to say with confidence that there were not at that time twenty such
pretended bishops? Every such case makes a break in the apostolical
succession.

Now, suppose that a break, such as Hooker admits to have been both
common and justifiable, or such as we have supposed to be produced by
hypocrisy and cupidity, were found in the chain which connected the
Apostles with any of the missionaries who first spread Christianity in
the wilder parts of Europe, who can say how extensive the effect of
this single break may be? Suppose that St. Patrick, for example, if
ever there was such a man, or Theodore of Tarsus, who is said to have
consecrated in the seventh century the first bishops of many English
sees, had not the true apostolical orders, is it not conceivable that
such a circumstance may affect the orders of many clergymen now living?
Even if it were possible, which it assuredly is not, to prove that the
Church had the apostolical orders in the third century, it would be
impossible to prove that those orders were not in the twelfth century so
far lost that no ecclesiastic could be certain of the legitimate descent
of his own spiritual character. And if this were so, no subsequent
precautions could repair the evil.

Chillingworth states the conclusion at which he had arrived on this
subject in these very remarkable words: “That of ten thousand probables
no one should be false; that of ten thousand requisites, whereof any
one may fail, not one should be wanting, this to me is extremely
{173}improbable, and even cousin-german to impossible. So that the
assurance hereof is like a machine composed of an innumerable multitude
of pieces, of which it is strangely unlikely but some will be out of
order; and yet, if any one be so, the whole fabric falls of necessity to
the ground: and he that shall put them together, and maturely consider
all the possible ways of lapsing and nullifying a priesthood in the
Church of Rome, will be very inclinable to think that it is a hundred
to one, that among a hundred seeming priests, there is not one true one;
nay, that it is not a thing very improbable that, amongst those many
millions which make up the Romish hierarchy, there are not twenty true.”
 We do not pretend to know to what precise extent the canonists of Oxford
agree with those of Rome as to the circumstances which nullify orders.
We will not, therefore, go so far as Chillingworth. We only say that
we see no satisfactory proof of the fact, that the Church of England
possesses the apostolical succession. And, after all, if Mr. Gladstone
could prove the apostolical succession, what would the apostolical
succession prove? He says that “we have among us the ordained hereditary
witnesses of the truth, conveying it to us through an _unbroken_ series
from our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles.” Is this the fact? Is there
any doubt that the orders of the Church of England are generally derived
from the Church of Rome? Does not the Church of England declare, does
not Mr. Gladstone himself admit, that the Church of Rome teaches much
error and condemns much truth? And is it not quite clear, that as far as
the doctrines of the Church of England differ from those of the Church
of Rome, so far the Church of England conveys the truth through a broken
series? {174}That the founders, lay and clerical, of the Church of
England, corrected all that required correction in the doctrines of the
Church of Rome, and nothing more, may be quite true. But we never
can admit the circumstance that the Church of England possesses the
apostolical succession as a proof that she is thus perfect. No stream
can rise higher than its fountain. The succussion of ministers in the
Church of England, derived as it is through the Church of Rome, can
never prove more for the Church of England than it proves for the Church
of Rome. But this is not all. The Arian Churches which once predominated
in the kingdoms of the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, the Burgundians, the
Vandals, and the Lombards, were all episcopal churches, and all had
a fairer claim than that of England to the apostolical succession,
as being much nearer to the apostolical times. In the East, the Greek
Church, which is at variance on points of faith with all the Western
Churches, has an equal claim to this succession. The Nestorian, the
Eutychian, the Jacobite Churches, all heretical, all condemned by
councils, of which even Protestant divines have generally spoken with
respect, had an equal claim to the apostolical succession. Now if, of
teachers having apostolical orders, a vast majority have taught much
error, if a large proportion have taught deadly heresy, if, on the other
hand, as Mr. Gladstone himself admits, churches not having apostolical
orders, that of Scotland for example, have been nearer to the standard
of orthodoxy than the majority of teachers who have had apostolical
orders, how can he possibly call upon us to submit our private judgment
to the authority of a Church on the ground that she has these orders?

Mr. Gladstone dwells much on the importance of unity {175}in
doctrine. Unity, he tells us, is essential to truth. And this is most
unquestionable. But when he goes on to tell us that this unity is the
characteristic of the Church of England, that she is one in body and
in spirit, we are compelled to differ from him widely. The apostolical
succession she may or may not have. But unity she most certainly has
not, and never has had. It is matter of perfect notoriety-, that her
formularies are framed in such a manner as to admit to her highest
offices men who differ from each other more widely than a very high
Churchman differs from a Catholic, or a very low Churchman from a
Presbyterian; and that the general leaning of the Church, with respect
to some important questions, has been sometimes one way and sometimes
another. Take, for example, the questions agitated between the
Calvinists and the Arminians. Do we find in the Church of England, with
respect to those questions, that unity which is essential to truth? Was
it ever found in the Church? Is it not certain that, at the end of
the sixteenth century, the rulers of the Church held doctrines as
Calvinistic as ever were held by any Cameronian, and not only held them,
but persecuted everybody who did not hold them? And is it not equally
certain, that the rulers of the Church have, in very recent times,
considered Calvinism as a disqualification for high preferment, if
not for holy orders? Look at the questions which Archbishop Whitgift
propounded to Barret, questions framed in the very spirit of William
Huntington, S. S. (1) And then look at the eighty-seven questions which
Bishop

     (1) One question was, whether God had from eternity
     reprobated certain persons; and why? The answer which
     contented the Archbishop was “Affirmative, et quia voluit.”

{176}Marsh, within our own memory, propounded to candidates for
ordination. We should be loth to say that either of these celebrated
prelates had intruded himself into a Church whose doctrines he abhorred,
and that he deserved to be stripped of his gown. Yet it is quite certain
that one or other of them must have been very greatly in error. John
Wesley again, and Cowper’s friend, John Newton, were both Presbyters of
this Church. Both were men of ability. Both we believe to have been men
of rigid integrity, men who would not have subscribed a Confession of
Faith which they disbelieved for the richest bishopric in the empire.
Yet, on the subject of predestination, Newton was strongly attached to
doctrines which Wesley designated as “blasphemy, which might make the
ears of a Christian to tingle.” Indeed, it will not be disputed that the
clergy of the Established Church are divided as to these questions,
and that her formularies are not found practically to exclude even
scrupulously honest men of both sides from her altars. It is notorious
that some of her most distinguished rulers think this latitude a good
thing, and would be sorry to see it restricted in favour of either
opinion. And herein we most cordially agree with them. But what
becomes of the unity of the Church, and of that truth to which unity
is essential? Mr. Gladstone tells us that the _Règium Donum_ was given
originally to orthodox Presbyterian ministers, but that part of it is
now received by their heterodox successors. “This,” he says, “serves to
illustrate the difficulty in which governments entangle themselves, when
they covenant with arbitrary systems of opinion, and not with the Church
alone. The opinion passes away, but the gift remains.” But is it not
clear, that if a strong Supralapsarian had, under {177}Whitgift’s
primacy, left a large estate at the disposal of the bishops for
ecclesiastical purposes, in the hope that the rulers of the Church
would abide by Whitgift’s theology, he would really have been giving his
substance for the support of doctrines which he detested? The opinion
would have passed away, and the gift would have remained.

This is only a single instance. What wide differences of opinion
respecting the operation of the sacraments are held by bishops, doctors,
presbyters of the Church of England, all men who have conscientiously
declared their assent to her articles, all men who are, according to
Mr. Gladstone, ordained hereditary witnesses of the truth, all men whose
voices make up what, he tells us, is the voice of true and reasonable
authority! Here, again, the Church has not unity; and as unity is the
essential condition of truth, the Church has not the truth.

Nay, take the very question which we are discussing with Mr. Gladstone.
To what extent does the Church of England allow of the right of private
judgment? What degree of authority does she claim for herself in virtue
of the apostolical succession of her ministers? Mr. Gladstone, a very
able and a very honest man, takes a view of this matter widely differing
from the view taken by others whom he will admit to be as able and
as honest as himself. People who altogether dissent from him on this
subject eat the bread of the Church, preach in her pulpits, dispense her
sacraments, confer her orders, and carry on that apostolical succession,
the nature and importance of which, according to him, they do not
comprehend. Is this unity? Is this truth?

It will be observed that we are not putting cases of {178}dishonest men
who, for the sake of lucre, falsely pretend to believe in the doctrines
of an establishment. We are putting cases of men as upright as
ever lived, who, differing on theological questions of the highest
importance, and avowing that difference, are yet priests and prelates
of the same Church. We therefore say, that on some points which Mr.
Gladstone himself thinks of vital importance, the Church has either not
spoken at all, or, what is for all practical purposes the same thing,
has not spoken in language to be understood even by honest and sagacious
divines. The religion of the Church of England is so far from
exhibiting that unity of doctrine which Mr. Gladstone represents as her
distinguishing glory, that it is, in fact, a bundle of religious systems
without number. It comprises the religious system of Bishop Tomline, and
the religious system of John Newton, and all the religious systems which
lie between them. It comprises the religious system of Mr. Newman, and
the religious system of the Archbishop of Dublin, and all the religious
systems which lie between them. All these different opinions are held,
avowed, preached, printed, within the pale of the Church, by men of
unquestioned integrity and understanding.

Do we make this diversity a topic of reproach to the Church of England?
Far from it. We would oppose with all our power every attempt to
narrow her basis! Would to God that, a hundred and fifty years ago, a
good king and a good primate had possessed the power as well as the
will to widen it! It was a noble enterprise, worthy of William and of
Tillotson. But what becomes of all Mr. Gladstone’s eloquent exhortations
to unity? Is it not mere mockery to attach so much importance to unity
in form and name, where there is {179}so little in substance, to shudder
at the thought of two churches in alliance with one state, and to endure
with patience the spectacle of a hundred sects battling within one
church? And is it not clear that Mr. Gladstone is bound, on all his own
principles, to abandon the defence of a church in which unity is not
found? Is it not clear that he is bound to divide the House of Commons
against every grant of money which may be proposed for the clergy of the
Established Church in the colonies? He objects to the vote for Maynooth,
because it is monstrous to pay one man to teach truth, and another to
denounce that truth as falsehood. But it is a mere chance whether any
sum which he votes for the English Church in any colony will go to the
maintenance of an Arminian or a Calvinist, of a man like Mr. Froude,
or of a man like Dr. Arnold. It is a mere chance, therefore, whether
it will go to support a teacher of truth, or one who will denounce that
truth as falsehood.

This argument seems to us at once to dispose of all that part of Mr.
Gladstone’s book which respects grants of public money to dissenting
bodies. All such grants he condemns. But surely, if it be wrong to
give the money of the public for the support of those who teach
false doctrine, it is wrong to give that money for the support of the
ministers of the Established Church. For it is quite certain that,
whether Calvin or Arminius be in the right, whether Laud or Burnet be in
the right, a great deal of false doctrine is taught by the ministers
of the Established Church. If it be said that the points on which the
clergy of the Church of England differ ought to be passed over, for the
sake of the many important points on which they agree, why may not the
same argument be maintained with respect to other {180}sects which
hold in common with the Church of England the fundamental doctrines
of Christianity? The principle that a ruler is bound in conscience to
propagate religious truth, and to propagate no religious doctrine which
is untrue, is abandoned as soon as it is admitted that a gentleman
of Mr. Gladstone’s opinions may lawfully vote the public money to a
chaplain whose opinions are those of Paley or Simeon. The whole question
then becomes one of degree. Of course no individual and no government
can justifiably propagate error for the sake of propagating error. But
both individuals and governments must work with such machinery as they
have; and no human machinery is to be found which will impart truth
without some alloy of error. We have shown irrefragably, as we think,
that the Church of England does not afford such a machinery. The
question then is this; with what degree of imperfection in our machinery
must we put up? And to this question we do not see how any general
answer can be given. We must be guided by circumstances. It would, for
example, be very criminal in a Protestant to contribute to the sending
of Jesuit missionaries among a Protestant population. But we do not
conceive that a Protestant would be to blame for giving assistance to
Jesuit missionaries who might be engaged in converting the Siamese to
Christianity. That tares are mixed with the wheat is matter of regret;
but it is better that wheat and tares should grow together than that the
promise of the year should be blighted.

Mr. Gladstone, we see, with deep regret, censures the British government
in India for distributing a small sum among the Catholic priests who
minister to the spiritual wants of our Irish soldiers. Now, let us put
a {181}case to him. A Protestant gentleman is attended by a Catholic
servant, in a part of the country where there is no Catholic
congregation within many miles. The servant is taken ill, and is
given over. He desires, in great trouble of mind, to receive the last
sacraments of his Church. His master sends off a messenger in a chaise
and four, with orders to bring a confessor from a town at a considerable
distance. Here a Protestant lays out money for the purpose of causing
religious instruction and consolation to be given by a Catholic priest.
Has he committed a sin? Has he not acted like a good master and a
good Christian? Would Mr. Gladstone accuse him of “laxity of religious
principle,” of “confounding truth with falsehood,” of “considering
the support of religion as a boon to an individual, not as a homage
to truth?” But how if this servant had, for the sake of his master,
undertaken a journey which removed him from the place where he might
easily have obtained religious attendance? How if his death were
occasioned by a wound received in defending his master? Should we not
then say that the master had only fulfilled a sacred obligation of
duty? Now, Mr. Gladstone himself owns that “nobody can think that
the personality of the state is more stringent, or entails stronger
obligations, than that of the individual.” How then stands the case
of the Indian government? Here is a poor fellow, enlisted in Clare
or Kerry, sent over fifteen thousand miles of sea, quartered in a
depressing and pestilential climate. He fights for the government; he
conquers for it; he is wounded; he is laid on his pallet, withering
away with fever, under that terrible sun, without a friend near him. He
pines for the consolations of that religion which, neglected perhaps
in the season of health and vigour, {182}now comes back to his mind,
associated with all the overpowering recollections of his earlier days,
and of the home which he is never to see again. And because the state
for which he dies sends a priest of his own faith to stand at his
bedside, and to tell him, in language which at once commands his love
and confidence, of the common Father, of the common Redeemer, of the
common hope of immortality, because the state for which he dies does not
abandon him in his last moments to the care of heathen attendants, or
employ a chaplain of a different creed to vex his departing spirit with
a controversy about the Council of Trent, Mr. Gladstone finds that India
presents “a melancholy picture,” and that there is “a large allowance of
false principle” in the system pursued there. Most earnestly do we hope
that our remarks may induce Mr. Gladstone to reconsider this part of
his work, and may prevent him from expressing in that high assembly, in
which he must always be heard with attention, opinions so unworthy of
his character.

We have now said almost all that we think it necessary to say respecting
Mr. Gladstone’s theory. And perhaps it would be safest for us to stop
here. It is much easier to pull down than to build up. Yet, that we may
give Mr. Gladstone his revenge, we will state precisely our own views
respecting the alliance of Church and State.

We set out in company with Warburton, and remain with him pretty
sociably till we come to his contract; a contract which Mr. Gladstone
very properly designates as a fiction. We consider the primary end of
government as a purely temporal end, the protection of the persons and
property of men.

We think that government, like every other contrivance {183}of human
wisdom, from the highest to the lowest, is likely to answer its main
end best when it is constructed with a single view to that end. Mr.
Gladstone, who loves Plato, will not quarrel with us for illustrating
our proposition, after Plato’s fashion, from the most familiar objects.
Take cutlery, for example A blade which is designed both to shave and to
carve, will certainly not shave so well as a razor, or carve so well as
a carving-knife. An academy of painting, which should also be a bank,
would, in all probability, exhibit very bad pictures and discount very
bad bills. A gas company, which should also be an infant school society,
would, we apprehend, light the streets ill, and teach the children ill.
On this principle, we think that government should be organized solely
with a view to its main end; and that no part of its efficiency for
that end should be sacrificed, in order to promote any other end however
excellent.

But does it follow from thence that governments ought never to pursue
any end, other than their main end? In no wise. Though it is desirable
that every institution should have a main end, and should be so formed
as to be in the highest degree efficient for that main end; yet if,
without any sacrifice of its efficiency for that end, it can pursue any
other good end, it ought to do so. Thus, the end for which a hospital is
built is the relief of the sick, not the beautifying of the street. To
sacrifice the health of the sick to splendour of architectural effect,
to place the building in a bad air only that it may present a more
commanding front to a great public place, to make the wards hotter or
cooler than they ought to be, in order that the columns and windows
of the exterior may please the passers-by, would be monstrous. But if,
without any sacrifice of {184}the chief object, the hospital can be made
an ornament to the metropolis, it would be absurd not to make it so.

In the same manner, if a government can, without any sacrifice of
its main end, promote any other good work, it ought to do so. The
encouragement of the fine arts, for example, is by no means the main end
of government; and it would be absurd, in constituting a government,
to bestow a thought on the question, whether it would be a government
likely to train Raphaels and Domenichinos. But it by no means follows
that it is improper for a government to form a national gallery of
pictures. The same may be said of patronage bestowed on learned men, of
the publication of archives, of the collecting of libraries, menageries,
plants, fossils, antiques, of journeys and voyages for purposes of
geographical discovery or astronomical observation. It is not for these
ends that government is constituted. But it may well happen that a
government may have at its command resources which will enable it,
without any injury to its main end, to pursue these collateral ends far
more effectually than any individual or any voluntary association could
do. If so, government ought to pursue these collateral ends.

It is still more evidently the duty of government to promote, always in
subordination to its main end, every thing which is useful as a means
for the attaining of that main end. The improvement of steam navigation,
for example, is by no means a primary object of government. But as steam
vessels are useful for the purpose of national defence, and for the
purpose of facilitating intercourse between distant provinces, and of
thereby consolidating the force of the empire, it may be the bounden
duty of government to encourage {185}ingenious men to perfect an
invention which so directly tends to make the state more efficient for
its great primary end.

Now on both these grounds, the instruction of the people may with
propriety engage the care of the government. That the people should be
well educated, is in itself a good thing: and the state ought therefore
to promote this object, if it can do so without any sacrifice of
its primary object. The education of the people, conducted on
those principles of morality which are common to all the forms of
Christianity, is highly valuable as a means of promoting the main object
for which government exists, and is on this ground well deserving the
attention of rulers. We will not at present go into the general question
of education; but will confine our remarks to the subject which is more
immediately before us, namely, the religious instruction of the people.

We may illustrate our view of the policy which governments ought to
pursue with respect to religious instruction, by recurring to the
analogy of a hospital. Religious instruction is not the main end
for which a hospital is built; and to introduce into a hospital any
regulations prejudicial to the health of the patients, on the plea of
promoting their spiritual improvement, to send a ranting preacher to a
man who has just been ordered by the physician to be quiet and try
to get a little sleep, to impose a strict observance of Lent on a
convalescent who has been advised to eat heartily of nourishing food,
to direct, as the bigoted Pius the Fifth actually did, that no medical
assistance should be given to any person who declined spiritual
attendance, would be the most extravagant folly. Yet it by no means
follows that it would not be right to have a {186}chaplain to attend the
sick, and to pay such a chaplain out of the hospital funds. Whether it
will be proper to have such a chaplain at all, and of what religious
persuasion such a chaplain ought to be, must depend on circumstances.
There may be a town in which it would be impossible to set up a good
hospital without the help of people of different opinions: and religious
parties may run so high that, though people of different opinions are
willing to contribute for the relief of the sick, they will not concur
in the choice of any one chaplain. The high Churchmen insist that, if
there is a paid chaplain, he shall be a high Churchman. The Evangelicals
stickle for an Evangelical. Here it would evidently be absurd and cruel
to let an useful and humane design, about which all are agreed, fall to
the ground, because all cannot agree about something else. The governors
must either appoint two chaplains, and pay them both; or they must
appoint none; and every one of them must, in his individual capacity,
do what he can for the purpose of providing the sick with such religious
instruction and consolation as will, in his opinion, be most useful to
them.

We should say the same of government. Government is not an institution
for the propagation of religion, any more than St. George’s Hospital is
an institution for the propagation of religion: and the most absurd and
pernicious consequences would follow, if Government should pursue, as
its primary end, that which can never be more than its secondary
end, though intrinsically more important than its primary end. But a
government which considers the religious instruction of the people as
a secondary end, and follows out that principle faithfully, will, we
think, be likely to do much good and little harm. {187}We will rapidly
run over some of the consequences to which this principle leads,
and point out how it solves some problems which, on Mr. Gladstone’s
hypothesis, admit of no satisfactory solution.

All persecution directed against the persons or property of men is,
on our principle, obviously indefensible. For, the protection of the
persons and property of men being the primary end of government, and
religious instruction only a secondary end, to secure the people from
heresy by making their lives, their limbs, or their estates insecure,
would be to sacrifice the primary end to the secondary end. It would be
as absurd as it would be in the governors of a hospital to direct that
the wounds of all Allan and Socinian patients should be dressed in such
a way as to make them fester.

Again, on our principles, all civil disabilities on account of religious
opinions are indefensible. For all such disabilities make government
less efficient for its main end: they limit its choice of able men for
the administration and defence of the state; they alienate from it the
hearts of the sufferers; they deprive it of a part of its effective
strength in all contests with foreign nations. Such a course is as
absurd as it would be in the governors of a hospital to reject an able
surgeon because he is an Universal Restitutionist, and to send a bungler
to operate because he is perfectly orthodox.

Again, on our principles, no government ought to press on the people
religious instruction, however sound, in such a manner as to excite
among them discontents dangerous to public order. For here again
government would sacrifice its primary end to an end intrinsically
indeed of the highest importance, but still {188}only a secondary end of
government, as government. This rule at once disposes of the difficulty
about India, a difficulty of which Mr. Gladstone can get rid only by
putting in an imaginary discharge in order to set aside an imaginary
obligation. There is assuredly no country where it is more desirable
that Christianity should be propagated. But there is no country in which
the government is so completely disqualified for the task. By using our
power in order to make proselytes, we should produce the dissolution of
society, and bring utter ruin on all those interests for the protection
of which government exists. Here the secondary end is, at present,
inconsistent with the primary end, and must therefore be abandoned.
Christian instruction given by individuals and voluntary societies may
do much good. Given by the government it would do unmixed harm. At
the same time, we quite agree with Mr. Gladstone in thinking that the
English authorities in India ought not to participate in any idolatrous
rite; and indeed we are fully satisfied that all such participation is
not only unchristian, but also unwise and most undignified.

Supposing the circumstances of a country to be such, that the government
may with propriety, on our principles, give religious instruction to a
people; we have next to inquire, what religion shall be taught. Bishop
Warburton answers, the religion of the majority. And we so far agree
with him, that we can scarcely conceive any circumstances in which
it would be proper to establish, as the one exclusive religion of the
state, the religion of the minority. Such a preference could hardly be
given without exciting most serious discontent, and endangering those
interests, the protection of which is the first object of government.
{189}But we never can admit that a ruler can be justified in helping to
spread a system of opinions solely because that system is pleasing to
the majority. On the other hand, we cannot agree with Mr. Gladstone,
who would of course answer that the only religion which a ruler ought
to propagate is the religion of his own conscience. In truth, this is an
impossibility. And as we have shown, Mr. Gladstone himself, whenever he
supports a grant of money to the Church of England, is really assisting
to propagate, not the precise religion of his own conscience, but
some one or more, he knows not how many or which, of the innumerable
religions which lie between the confines of Pelagianism and those
of Antinomianism, and between the confines of Popery and those of
Presbyterianism. In our opinion, that religious instruction which the
ruler ought, in his public capacity, to patronise, is the instruction
from which he, in his conscience, believes that the people will
learn most good with the smallest mixture of evil. And thus it is not
necessarily his own religion that he will select. He will, of course,
believe that his own religion is unmixedly good. But the question which
he has to consider is, not how much good his religion contains, but how
much good the people will learn, if instruction is given them in that
religion. He may prefer the doctrines and government of the Church
of England to those of the Church of Scotland. But if he knows that a
Scotch congregation will listen with deep attention and respect while
an Erskine or a Chalmers sets before them the fundamental doctrines of
Christianity, and that a glimpse of a surplice or a single line of a
liturgy would be the signal for hooting and riot, and would probably
bring stools and brick-bats about the ears of the minister, he acts
wisely if he conveys religious {190}knowledge to the Scotch rather by
means of that imperfect Church, as he may think it, from which they will
learn much, than by means of that perfect Church from which they will
learn nothing. The only end of teaching is, that men may learn; and it
is idle to talk of the duty of teaching truth in ways which only cause
men to cling more firmly to falsehood.

On these principles we conceive that a statesman, who might be far
indeed from regarding the Church of England with the reverence which Mr.
Gladstone feels for her, might yet firmly oppose all attempts to destroy
her. Such a statesman may be too well acquainted with her origin to
look upon her with superstitious awe. He may know that she sprang from
a compromise huddled up between the eager zeal of reformers and the
selfishness of greedy, ambitious, and time-serving politicians. He may
find in every page of her annals ample cause for censure. He may feel
that he could not, with ease to his conscience, subscribe all her
articles. He may regret that all the attempts which have been made to
open her gates to large classes of non-comformists should have failed.
Her episcopal polity he may consider as of purely human institution.
He cannot defend her on the ground that she possesses the apostolical
succession; for he does not know whether that succession may not be
altogether a fable. He cannot defend her on the ground of her unity; for
he knows that her frontier sects are much more remote from each other,
than one frontier is from the Church of Rome, or the other from the
Church of Geneva. But he may think that she teaches more truth with
less alloy of error than would be taught by those who, if she were
swept away, would occupy the vacant space. He may think that the effect
produced by her beautiful services and by her {191}pulpits on the
national mind, is, on the whole, highly beneficial. He may think that
her civilising influence is usefully felt in remote districts. He may
think that, if she were destroyed, a large portion of those who now
compose her congregations would neglect all religious duties, and that
a still larger portion would fall under the influence of spiritual
mountebanks, hungry for gain, or drunk with fanaticism. While he would
with pleasure admit that all the qualities of Christian pastors are
to be found in large measure within the existing body of Dissenting
ministers, he would perhaps be inclined to think that the standard of
intellectual and moral character among that exemplary class of men may
have been raised to its present high point and maintained there by
the indirect influence of the Establishment. And he may be by no means
satisfied that, if the Church were at once swept away, the place of our
Sumners and Whateleys would be supplied by Doddridges and Halls. He
may think that the advantages which we have described are obtained,
or might, if the existing system were slightly modified, be obtained,
without any sacrifice of the paramount objects which all governments
ought to have chiefly in view. Nay, he may be of opinion that an
institution, so deeply fixed in the hearts and minds of millions, could
not be subverted without loosening and shaking all the foundations
of civil society. With at least equal ease he would find reasons for
supporting the Church of Scotland. Nor would he be under the necessity
of resorting to any contract to justify the connection of two religious
establishments with one government. He would think scruples on that head
frivolous in any person who is zealous for a Church, of which both
Dr. Herbert Marsh and Dr. Daniel Wilson have been bishops. Indeed he
{192}would gladly follow out his principles much further. He would have
been willing to vote in 1825 for Lord Francis Egerton’s resolution, that
it is expedient to give a public maintenance to the Catholic clergy of
Ireland: and he would deeply regret that no such measure was adopted in
1829.

In this way, we conceive, a statesman might on our principles satisfy
himself that it would be in the highest degree inexpedient to abolish
the Church, either of England or of Scotland.

But if there were, in any part of the world, a national church regarded
as heretical by four-fifths of the nation committed to its care, a
church established and maintained by the sword, a church producing twice
as many riots as conversions, a church which, though possessing great
wealth and power, and though long backed by persecuting laws, had,
in the course of many generations, been found unable to propagate its
doctrines, and barely able to maintain its ground, a church so odious,
that fraud and violence, when used against its clear rights of property,
were generally regarded as fair play, a church, whose ministers were
preaching to desolate walls, and with difficulty obtaining their lawful
subsistence by the help of bayonets, such a church, on our principles,
could not, we must own, be defended. We should say that the state which
allied itself with such a church postponed the primary end of government
to the secondary: and that the consequences had been such as any
sagacious observer would have predicted. Neither the primary nor the
secondary end is attained. The temporal and spiritual interests of the
people suffer alike. The minds of men, instead of being drawn to the
church, are alienated from the state. The magistrate, after sacrificing
order, {193}peace, union, all the interests which it is his first duty
to protect, for the purpose of promoting pure religion, is forced, after
the experience of centuries, to admit that he has really been promoting
error. The sounder the doctrines of such a church, the more absurd
and noxious the superstition by which those doctrines are opposed, the
stronger are the arguments against the policy which has deprived a good
cause of its natural advantages. Those who preach to rulers the duty
of employing power to propagate truth would do well to remember that
falsehood, though no match for truth alone, has often been found more
than a match for truth and power together.

A statesman, judging on our principles, would pronounce without
hesitation that a church, such as we have last described, never ought
to have been set up. Further than this we will not venture to speak for
him. He would doubtless remember that the world is full of institutions
which, though they never ought to have been set up, yet, having been
set up, ought not to be rudely pulled down; and that it is often wise in
practice to be content with the mitigation of an abuse which, looking at
it in the abstract, we might feel impatient to destroy.

We have done; and nothing remains but that we part from Mr. Gladstone
with the courtesy of antagonists who bear no malice. We dissent from
his opinions, but we admire his talents; we respect his integrity and
benevolence; and we hope that he will not suffer political avocations so
entirely to engross him, as to leave him no leisure for literature and
philosophy.



LORD CLIVE. (1)

(_Edinburgh Review_, January, 1840.)


We {194}have always thought it strange that, while the history of the
Spanish empire in America is familiarly known to all the nations of
Europe, the great actions of our countrymen in the East should, even
among ourselves, excite little interest. Every schoolboy knows who
imprisoned Montezuma, and who strangled Atahualpa. But we doubt whether
one in ten, even among English gentlemen of highly cultivated minds, can
tell who won the battle of Buxar, who perpetrated the massacre of Patna,
whether Sujah Dowlah ruled in Oude or in Travancore, or whether Holkar
was a Hindoo or a Mussulman. Yet the victories of Cortes were gained
over savages who had no letters, who were ignorant of the use of metals,
who had not broken in a single animal to labour, who wielded no better
weapons than those which could be made out of sticks, flints, and
fish-bones, who regarded a horse-soldier as a monster, half man and
half beast, who took a harquebusier for a sorcerer, able to scatter the
thunder and lightning of the skies. The people of India, when we subdued
them, were ten times as numerous as the Americans whom the Spaniards
vanquished,

     (1) _The Life of Robert Lord Clive; collected from the
     Family Papers, communicated by the Earl of Powis_. By Major-
     General Sir John Malcolm, K. C. B. 3 vols. 8vo. London:
     1836.

{195}and were at the same time quite as highly civilised as the
victorious Spaniards. They had reared cities larger and fairer than
Saragossa or Toledo, and buildings more beautiful and costly than the
cathedral of Seville. They could show bankers richer than the richest
firms of Barcelona or Cadiz, viceroys whose splendour far surpassed
that of Ferdinand the Catholic, myriads of cavalry and long trains of
artillery which would have astonished the Great Captain. It might have
been expected, that every Englishman who takes, any interest in any part
of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen,
separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course
of a few years, one of the greatest empires in the world. Yet, unless
we greatly err, this subject is, to most readers, not only insipid, but
positively distasteful.

Perhaps the fault lies partly with the historians. Mr. Mill’s book,
though it has undoubtedly great and rare merit, is not sufficiently
animated and picturesque to attract those who read for amusement. Orme,
inferior to no English historian in style and power of painting, is
minute even to tediousness. In one volume he allots, on an average, a
closely printed quarto page to the events of every forty-eight hours.
The consequence is, that his narrative, though one of the most authentic
and one of the most finely written in our language, has never been very
popular, and is now scarcely ever read.

We fear that the volumes before us will not much attract those readers
whom Orme and Mill have repelled. The materials placed at the disposal
of Sir John Malcolm by the late Lord Powis were indeed of great value.
But we cannot say that they have been very {196}skilfully worked up. It
would, however, be unjust to criticise with severity a work which, if
the author had lived to complete and revise it, would probably have been
improved by condensation and by a better arrangement. We are the more
disposed to perform the pleasing duty of expressing our gratitude to
the noble family to which the public owes so much useful and curious
information.

The effect of the book, even when we make the largest allowance for the
partiality of those who have furnished and of those who have digested
the materials, is, on the whole, greatly to raise the character of Lord
Clive. We are far indeed from sympathizing with Sir John Malcolm, whose
love passes the love of biographers, and who can see nothing but wisdom
and justice in the actions of his idol. But we are at least equally far
from concurring in the severe judgment of Mr. Mill, who seems to us to
show less discrimination in his account of Clive than in any other part
of his valuable work. Clive, like most men who are born with strong
passions and tried by strong temptations, committed great faults. But
every person who takes a fair and enlightened view of his whole career
must admit that our island, so fertile in heroes and statesmen, has
scarcely ever produced a man more truly great either in arms or in
council.

The Clives had been settled, ever since the twelfth century, on an
estate of no great value, near Market-Drayton, in Shropshire. In the
reign of George the First this moderate but ancient inheritance was
possessed by Mr. Richard Clive, who seems to have been a plain man of
no great tact or capacity. He had been bred to the law, and divided
his time between professional business and the avocations of a small
proprietor. {197}He married a lady from Manchester, of the name of
Gaskill, and became the father of a very numerous family. His eldest
son, Robert, the founder of the British empire in India, was born at the
old seat of his ancestors on the twenty-ninth of September, 1725.

Some lineaments of the character of the man were early discerned in the
child. There remain letters written by his relations when he was in his
seventh year; and from these letters it appears that, even at that
early age, his strong will and his fiery passions, sustained by a
constitutional intrepidity which sometimes seemed hardly compatible with
soundness of mind, had begun to cause great uneasiness to his family.
“Fighting,” says one of his uncles, “to which he is out of measure
addicted, gives his temper such a fierceness and imperiousness, that
he flies out on every trifling occasion.” The old people of the
neighbourhood still remember to have heard from their parents how Bob
Clive climbed to the top of the lofty steeple of Market-Drayton, and
with what terror the inhabitants saw him seated on a stone spout near
the summit. They also relate how he formed all the idle lads of the town
into a kind of predatory army, and compelled the shopkeepers to submit
to a tribute of apples and halfpence, in consideration of which he
guaranteed the security of their windows. He was sent from school to
school, making very little progress in his learning, and gaining for
himself everywhere the character of an exceedingly naughty boy. One of
his masters, it is said, was sagacious enough to prophesy that the idle
lad would make a great figure in the world. But the general opinion
seems to have been that poor Robert was a dunce, if not a reprobate.
His family expected nothing good from such slender parts {198}and such
a headstrong temper. It is not strange, therefore, that they gladly
accepted for him, when he was in his eighteenth year, a writership in
the service of the East India Company, and shipped him off to make a
fortune or to die of a fever at Madras.

Far different were the prospects of Clive from those of the youths whom
the East India College now annually sends to the Presidencies of our
Asiatic empire. The Company was then purely a trading corporation. Its
territory consisted of a few square miles, for which rent was paid to
the native governments. Its troops were scarcely numerous enough to
man the batteries of three or four ill-constructed forts, which had been
erected for the protection of the warehouses. The natives, who composed
a considerable part of these little garrisons, had not yet been trained
in the discipline of Europe, and were armed, some with swords and
shields, some with bows and arrows. The business of the servant of
the Company was not, as now, to conduct the judicial, financial, and
diplomatic business of a great country, but to take stock, to make
advances to weavers, to ship cargoes, and above all, to keep an eye on
private traders who dared to infringe the monopoly. The younger
clerks were so miserably paid that they could scarcely subsist without
incurring debt; the elder enriched themselves by trading on their own
account; and those who lived to rise to the top of the service often
accumulated considerable fortunes.

Madras, to which Clive had been appointed, was, at this time, perhaps,
the first in importance of the Company’s settlements. In the preceding
century Fort St. George had risen on a barren spot beaten by a raging
surf; and in the neighbourhood a town, inhabited by many thousands of
natives, had sprung up, as towns {199}spring up in the East, with the
rapidity of the prophet’s gourd. There were already in the suburbs many
white villas, each surrounded by its garden, whither the wealthy agents
of the Company retired, after the labours of the desk and the warehouse,
to enjoy the cool, breeze which springs up at sunset from the Bay of
Bengal. The habits of these mercantile grandees appear to have been more
profuse, luxurious, and ostentatious, than those of the high judicial
and political functionaries who have succeeded them. But comfort was
far less understood. Many devices which now mitigate the heat of the
climate, preserve health, and prolong life, were unknown. There was far
less intercourse with Europe than at present. The voyage by the Cape,
which in our time has often been performed within three months, was then
very seldom accomplished in six, and was sometimes protracted to more
than a year. Consequently, the Anglo-Indian was then much more estranged
from his country, much more addicted to Oriental usages, and much
less fitted to mix in society after his return to Europe, than the
Anglo-Indian of the present day.

Within the fort and its precinct, the English exercised, by permission
of the native government, an extensive authority, such as every great
Indian land-owner exercised within his own domain. But they had never
dreamed of claiming independent power. The surrounding country was ruled
by the Nabob of the Carnatic, a deputy of the Viceroy of the Deccan,
commonly called the Nizam, who was himself only a deputy of the mighty
prince designated by our ancestors as the Great Mogul. Those names, once
so august and formidable, still remain. There is still a Nabob of the
Carnatic, who lives on a pension allowed to him by the {200}English
out of the revenues of the province which his ancestors ruled. There is
still a Nizam, whose capital is overawed by a British cantonment, and to
whom a British resident gives, under the name of advice, commands which
are not to be disputed. There is still a Mogul, who is permitted to play
at holding courts and receiving petitions, but who has less power to
help or hurt than the youngest civil servant of the Company.

Clive’s voyage was unusually tedious even for that age. The ship
remained some months at the Brazils, where the young adventurer picked
up some knowledge of Portuguese, and spent all his pocket-money. He did
not arrive in India till more than a year after he had left England. His
situation at Madras was most painful. His funds were exhausted. His pay
was small. He had contracted debts. He was wretchedly lodged, no small
calamity in a climate which can be made tolerable to an European only by
spacious and well placed apartments. He had been furnished with letters
of recommendation to a gentleman who might have assisted him; but when
he landed at. Fort St. George he found that this gentleman had sailed
for England. The lad’s shy and haughty disposition withheld him from
introducing himself to strangers. He was several months in India before
he became acquainted with a single family. The climate affected his
health and spirits. His duties were of a kind ill suited to his ardent
and daring character. He pined for his home, and in his letters to his
relations expressed his feelings in language softer and more pensive
than we should have expected either from the waywardness of his boyhood,
or from the inflexible sternness of his later years. “I have not
enjoyed,” says he, “one happy day since I left my native country;”
 and again, “I must confess, at intervals, {201}when I think of my dear
native England, it affects me in a very particular manner.... If I
should be so far blest as to revisit again my own country, but more
especially Manchester, the centre of all my wishes, all that I could
hope or desire for would be presented before me in one view.”

One solace he found of the most respectable kind. The Governor possessed
a good library, and permitted Clive to have access to it. The young man
devoted much of his leisure to reading, and acquired at this time almost
all the knowledge of books that he ever possessed. As a boy he had been
too idle, as a man he soon became too busy, for literary pursuits.

But neither climate nor poverty, neither study nor the sorrows of a
home-sick exile, could tame the desperate audacity of his spirit.
He behaved to his official superiors as he had behaved to his
school-masters, and was several times in danger of losing his situation.
Twice, while residing in the Writers’ Buildings, he attempted to destroy
himself; and twice the pistol which he snapped at his own head failed to
go off. This circumstance, it is said, affected him as a similar escape
affected Wallenstein. After satisfying himself that the pistol was
really well loaded, he burst forth into an exclamation that surely he
was reserved for something great.

About this time an event which at first seemed likely to destroy all his
hopes in life suddenly opened before him a new path to eminence. Europe
had been, during some years, distracted by the war of the Austrian
succession. George the Second was the steady ally of Maria Theresa. The
house of Bourbon took the opposite side. Though England was even then
the first of maritime powers, she was not, as she has since become,
{202}more than a match on the sea for all the nations of the world
together; and she found it difficult to maintain a contest against the
united navies of France and Spain. In the eastern seas France obtained
the ascendency. Labourdonnais, governor of Mauritius, a man of eminent
talents and virtues, conducted an expedition to the continent of India
in spite of the opposition of the British fleet, landed, assembled
an army, appeared before Madras, and compelled the town and fort
to capitulate. The keys were delivered up; the French colours were
displayed on Fort St. George; and the contents of the Company’s
warehouses were seized as prize of war by the conquerors. It was
stipulated by the capitulation that the English inhabitants should be
prisoners of war on parole, and that the town should remain in the hands
of the French till it should be ransomed. Labourdonnais pledged his
honour that only a moderate ransom should be required.

But the success of Labourdonnais had awakened the jealousy of his
countryman, Dupleix, governor of Pondicherry. Dupleix, moreover, had
already begun to revolve gigantic schemes, with which the restoration
of Madras to the English was by no means compatible. He declared that
Labourdonnais had gone beyond his powers; that conquests made by the
French arms on the continent of India were at the disposal of the
governor of Pondicherry alone, and that Madras should be rased to the
ground. Labourdonnais was compelled to yield. The anger which the breach
of the capitulation excited among the English, was increased by the
ungenerous manner in which Dupleix treated the principal servants of
the Company. The Governor and several of the first gentlemen of Fort
St. George were carried under a guard to Pondicherry, and conducted
{203}through the town in a triumphal procession, under the eyes of
fifty thousand spectators. It was with reason thought that this gross
violation of public faith absolved the inhabitants of Madras from the
engagements into which they had entered with Labourdonnais. Clive fled
from the town by night in the disguise of a mussulman, and took refuge
at Fort St. David, one of the small English settlements subordinate to
Madras.

The circumstances in which he was now placed naturally led him to adopt
a profession better suited to his restless and intrepid spirit than the
business of examining packages and casting accounts. He solicited and
obtained an ensign’s commission in the service of the Company, and at
twenty-one entered on his military career. His personal courage, of
which he had, while still a writer, given signal proof by a desperate
duel with a military bully, who was the terror of Fort St. David,
speedily made him conspicuous even among hundreds of brave men. He soon
began to show in his new calling other qualities which had not before
been discerned in him, judgment, sagacity, deference to legitimate
authority. He distinguished himself highly in several operations against
the French, and was particularly noticed by Major Lawrence, who was then
considered as the ablest British officer in India.

Clive had been only a few months in the army when intelligence arrived
that peace had been concluded between Great Britain and France. Dupleix
was in consequence compelled to restore Madras to the English Company;
and the young ensign was at liberty to resume his former business. He
did indeed return for a short time to his desk. He again quitted it
in order to assist Major Lawrence in some petty hostilities with the
natives, and then again returned to {204}it. While he was thus wavering
between a military and a commercial life, events took place which
decided his choice. The politics of India assumed a new aspect. There
was peace between the English and French Crowns; but there arose between
the English and French Companies trading to the East a war most eventful
and important, a war in which the prize was nothing less than the
magnificent inheritance of the house of Tamerlane.

The empire which Baber and his Moguls reared in the sixteenth century
was long one of the most extensive and splendid in the world. In no
European kingdom was so large a population subject to a single
prince, or so large a revenue poured into the treasury. The beauty and
magnificence of the buildings erected by the sovereigns of Hindostan
amazed even travellers who had seen St. Peters. The innumerable retinues
and gorgeous decorations which surrounded the throne of Delhi dazzled
even eyes which were accustomed to the pomp of Versailles. Some of the
great viceroys who held their posts by virtue of commissions from the
Mogul ruled as many subjects as the King of France or the Emperor of
Germany. Even the deputies of these deputies might well rank, as to
extent of territory and amount of revenue, with the Grand Duke of
Tuscany or the Elector of Saxony.

There can be little doubt that this great empire, powerful and
prosperous as it appears on a superficial view, was yet, even in its
best days, far worse governed than the worst governed parts of Europe
now are. The administration was tainted with all the vices of Oriental
despotism, and with all the vices inseparable from the domination of
race over race. The conflicting pretensions of the princes of the
royal house produced {205}a long series of crimes and public
disasters. Ambitious lieutenants of the sovereign sometimes aspired to
independence. Fierce tribes of Hindoos, impatient of a foreign yoke,
frequently withheld tribute, repelled the armies of the government
from the mountain fastnesses, and poured down in arms on the cultivated
plains. In spite, however, of much constant maladministration, in spite
of occasional convulsions which shook the whole frame of society, this
great monarchy, on the whole, retained, during some generations, an
outward appearance of unity, majesty, and energy. But, throughout the
long reign of Aurungzebe, the state, notwithstanding all that the vigour
and policy of the prince could effect, was hastening to dissolution.
After his death, which took place in the year 1707, the ruin was
fearfully rapid. Violent shocks from without co-operated with an
incurable decay which was fast proceeding within; and in a few years the
empire had undergone utter decomposition.

The history of the successors of Theodosius bears no small analogy
to that of the successors of Aurungzebe. But perhaps the fall of the
Carlovingians furnishes the nearest parallel to the fall of the Moguls.
Charlemagne was scarcely interred when the imbecility and the disputes
of his descendants began to bring contempt on themselves and destruction
on their subjects. The wide dominion of the Franks was severed into a
thousand pieces. Nothing more than a nominal dignity was left to the
abject heirs of an illustrious name, Charles the Bald, and Charles the
Fat, and Charles the Simple. Fierce invaders, differing from each other
in race, language, and religion, flocked, as if by concert, from the
farthest comers of the earth, to plunder {206}provinces which the
government could no longer defend. The pirates of the Northern Sea
extended their ravages from the Elbe to the Pyrenees, and at length
fixed their seat in the rich valley of the Seine. The Hungarian, in whom
the trembling monks fancied that they recognized the Gog or Magog of
prophecy, carried back the plunder of the cities of Lombardy to the
depths of the Pannonian forests. The Saracen ruled in Sicily, desolated
the fertile plains of Campania, and spread terror even to the walls of
Rome. In the midst of these sufferings, a great internal change passed
upon the empire. The corruption of death began to ferment into new forms
of life. While the great body, as a whole, was torpid and passive, every
separate member began to feel with a sense, and to move with an energy
all its own. Just here, in the most barren and dreary tract of European
history, all feudal privileges, all modern nobility, take their source.
It is to this point that we trace the power of those princes who,
nominally vassals, but really independent, long governed, with the
titles of dukes, marquesses, and counts, almost every part of the
dominions which had obeyed Charlemagne.

Such or nearly such was the change which passed on the Mogul empire
during the forty years which followed the death of Aurungzebe. A
succession of nominal sovereigns, sunk in indolence and debauchery,
sauntered away life in secluded palaces, chewing bang, fondling
concubines, and listening to buffoons. A succession of ferocious
invaders descended through the western passes, to prey on the
defenceless wealth of Hindostan. A Persian conqueror crossed the Indus,
marched through the gates of Delhi, and bore away in triumph those
treasures of which the magnificence had astounded Roe {207}and Bernier,
the Peacock Throne, on which the richest jewels of Golconda had been
disposed by the most skilful hands of Europe, and the inestimable
Mountain of Light, which, after many strange vicissitudes, lately
shone in the bracelet of Runjeet Sing, and is now destined to adorn the
hideous idol of Orissa. The Afghan soon followed to complete the work
of devastation which the Persian had begun. The warlike tribes of
Rajpootana threw off the Mussulman yoke. A band of mercenary soldiers
occupied Rohilcund. The Seiks ruled on the Indus. The Jauts spread
dismay along the Jumna. The highlands which border on the western
sea-coast of India poured forth a yet more formidable race, a race
which was long the terror of every native power, and which, after many
desperate and doubtful struggles, yielded only to the fortune and genius
of England. It was under the reign of Aurungzebe that this wild clan
of plunderers first descended from their mountains; and soon after his
death, every corner of his wide empire learned to tremble at the mighty
name of the Malirattan. Many fertile viceroyalties were entirely
subdued by them. Their dominions stretched across the peninsula from sea
to sea. Mahratta captains reigned at Poonah, at Gualior, in Guzerat, in
Berar, and in Tanjore.

Nor did they, though they had become great sovereigns, therefore cease
to be freebooters. They still retained the predatory habits of their
forefathers. Every region which was not subject to their rule was wasted
by their incursions. Wherever their kettle-drams were heard, the peasant
threw his bag of rice on his shoulder, hid his small savings in his
girdle, and fled with his wife and children to the mountains or the
jungles, to the milder neighbourhood of the hyæna and the tiger. Many
provinces redeemed their harvests by the {208}payment of an annual
ransom. Even the wretched phantom who still bore the imperial title
stooped to pay this ignominious black-mail. The camp-fires of one
rapacious leader were seen from the walls of the palace of Delhi.
Another, at the head of his innumerable cavalry, descended year after
year on the rice-fields of Bengal. Even the European factors trembled
for their magazines. Less than a hundred years ago, it was thought
necessary to fortify Calcutta against the horsemen of Berar, and the
name of the Mahratta ditch still preserves the memory of the danger.

Wherever the viceroys of the Mogul retained authority they became
sovereigns. They might still acknowledge in words the superiority of the
house of Tamerlane; as a Count of Flanders or a Duke of Burgundy might
have acknowledged the superiority of the most helpless driveller among
the later Carlovingians. They might occasionally send to their titular
sovereign a complimentary present, or solicit from him a title of
honour.

In truth, however, they were no longer lieutenants removable at
pleasure, but independent hereditary princes. In this way originated
those great Mussulman houses which formerly ruled Bengal and the
Carnatic, and those which still, though in a state of vassalage,
exercise some of the powers of royalty at Lucknow and Hyderabad.

In what was this confusion to end? Was the strife to continue during
centuries? Was it to terminate in the rise of another great monarchy?
Was the Mussulman or the Mahratta to be the Lord of India? Was another
Baber to descend from the mountains, and to lead the hardy tribes of
Cabul and Chorasan against a wealthier and less warlike race? None
of these events seemed improbable. But scarcely any man, {209}however
sagacious, would have thought it possible that a trading company,
separated from India by fifteen thousand miles of sea, and possessing in
India only a few acres for purposes of commerce, would, in less than a
hundred years, spread its empire from Cape Comorin to the eternal snow
of the Himalayas; would compel Mahratta and Mahommedan to forget their
mutual feuds in common subjection; would tame down even those wild races
which had resisted the most powerful of the Moguls; and, having
united under its laws a hundred millions of subjects, would carry its
victorious arms far to the east of the Burrampooter, and far to the west
of the Hydaspes, dictate terms of peace at the gates of Ava, and seat
its vassal on the throne of Candahar.

The man who first saw that it was possible to found an European
empire on the ruins of the Mogul monarchy was Dupleix. His restless,
capricious, and inventive mind had formed this scheme, at a time when
the ablest servants of the English Company were busied only about
invoices and bills of lading. Nor had he only proposed to himself the
end. He had also a just and distinct view of the means by which it was
to be attained. He clearly saw that the greatest force which the princes
of India could bring into the field would be no match for a small body
of men trained in the discipline, and guided by the tactics, of the
West. He saw also that the natives of India might, under European
commanders, be formed into armies, such as Saxe or Frederic would
be proud to command. He was perfectly aware that the most easy
and convenient way in which an European adventurer could exercise
sovereignty in India, was to govern the motions, and to speak through
the mouth {210}of some glittering puppet dignified by the title of Nabob
or Nizam. The arts both of war and policy, which a few years later were
employed with such signal success by the English, were first understood
and practised by this ingenious and aspiring Frenchman.

The situation of India was such that scarcely any aggression could be
without a pretext, either in old laws or in recent practice. All rights
were in a state of utter uncertainty; and the Europeans who took part
in the disputes of the natives confounded the confusion, by applying to
Asiatic politics the public law of the West and analogies drawn from the
feudal system. If it was convenient to treat a Nabob as an independent
prince, there was an excellent plea for doing so. He was independent in
fact. If it was convenient to treat him as a mere deputy of the Court
of Delhi, there was no difficulty; for he was so in theory. If it was
convenient to consider his office as an hereditary dignity, or as a
dignity held during life only, or as a dignity held only during the good
pleasure of the Mogul, arguments and precedents might be found for every
one of those views. The party who had the heir of Baber in their
hands represented him as the undoubted, the legitimate, the absolute
sovereign, whom all subordinate authorities were bound to obey. The
party against whom his name was used did not want plausible pretexts for
maintaining that the empire was in fact dissolved, and that, though it
might be decent to treat the Mogul with respect, as a venerable relic of
an order of things which had passed away, it was absurd to regard him as
the real master of Hindostan.

In the year 1748, died one of the most powerful of {211}the new masters
of India, the great Nizam al Mulk, Viceroy of the Deccan. His authority
descended to his son, Nazir Jung. Of the provinces subject to this high
functionary, the Carnatic was the wealthiest and the most extensive. It
was governed by an ancient Nabob, whose name the English corrupted into
Anaverdy Khan.

But there were pretenders to the government both of the viceroyalty
and of the subordinate province. Mirzaplia Jung, a grandson of Nizam al
Mulk, appeared as the competitor of Nazir Jung. Chunda Sahib, son-in-law
of a former Nabob of the Carnatic, disputed the title of Anaverdy Khan.
In the unsettled state of Indian law it was easy for both Mirzapha
Jung and Chunda Sahib to make out something like a claim of right. In
a society altogether disorganized, they had no difficulty in finding
greedy adventurers to follow their standards. They united their
interests, invaded the Carnatic, and applied for assistance to the
French, whose fame had been raised by their success against the English
in the recent war on the coast of Coromandel.

Nothing could have happened more pleasing to the subtile and ambitious
Dupleix. To make a Nabob of the Carnatic, to make a Viceroy of the
Deccan, to rule under their names the whole of southern India; this was
indeed an attractive prospect. He allied himself with the pretenders,
and sent four hundred French soldiers, and two thousand sepoys,
disciplined after the European fashion, to the assistance of his
confederates. A battle was fought. The French distinguished themselves
greatly. Anaverdy Khan was defeated and slain. His son, Mahommed Ali,
who was afterwards well known in England as the Nabob of Arcot, and
{212}who owes to the eloquence of Burke a most unenviable immortality,
fled with a scanty remnant of his army to Trichinopoly; and the
conquerors became at once masters of almost every part of the Carnatic.

This was but the beginning of the greatness of Dupleix.

After some months of fighting, negotiation, and intrigue, his ability
and good fortune seemed to have prevailed everywhere. Nazir Jung
perished by the hands of his own followers; Mirzapha Jung was master
of the Deccan; and the triumph of French arms and French policy was
complete. At Pondicherry all was exultation and festivity. Salutes were
fired from the batteries, and Te Deum sung in the churches. The
new Nizam came thither to visit his allies; and the ceremony of his
installation was performed there with great pomp. Dupleix, dressed in
the garb worn by Mahommedans of the highest rank, entered the town in
the same palanquin with the Nizam, and, in the pageant which followed,
took precedence of all the court. He was declared Governor of India from
the river Kristna to Cape Comorin, a country about as large as France,
with authority superior even to that of Chunda Sahib. He was intrusted
with the command of seven thousand cavalry. It was announced that
no mint would be suffered to exist in the Carnatic except that at
Pondicherry. A large portion of the treasures which former Viceroys of
the Deccan had accumulated found its way into the coffers of the French
governor. It was rumoured that he had received two hundred thousand
pounds sterling in money, besides many valuable jewels. In fact, there
could scarcely be any limit to his gains. He now ruled thirty millions
of people with almost absolute power. No honour or emolument could be
obtained from the government but by his intervention {213}No petition,
unless signed by him, was perused by the Nizam.

Mirzapha Jung survived his elevation only a few months. But another
prince of the same house was raised to the throne by French influence,
and ratified all the promises of his predecessor. Dupleix was now the
greatest potentate in India. His countrymen boasted that his name was
mentioned with awe even in the chambers of the palace of Delhi. The
native population looked with amazement on the progress which, in the
short space of four years, an European adventurer had made towards
dominion in Asia. Nor was the vain-glorious Frenchman content with
the reality of power. He loved to display his greatness with arrogant
ostentation before the eyes of his subjects and of his rivals. Near the
spot where his policy had obtained its chief triumph, by the fall of
Nazir Jung and the elevation of Mirzapha, he determined to erect a
column, on the four sides of which four pompous inscriptions, in four
languages, should proclaim his glory to all the nations of the East.
Medals stamped with emblems of his successes were buried beneath the
foundations of this stately pillar, and round it arose a town bearing
the haughty name of Dupleix Fatihabad, which is, being interpreted, the
City of the Victory of Dupleix.

The English had made some feeble and irresolute attempts to stop the
rapid and brilliant career of the rival Company, and continued to
recognize Mahommed Ali as Nabob of the Carnatic. But the dominions of
Mahommed Ali consisted of Trichinopoly alone; and Trichinopoly was now
invested by Chunda Sahib and his French auxiliaries. To raise the siege
seemed impossible. The small force which was then at Madras had no
commander. Major Lawrence had returned to {214}England; and not a single
officer of established character remained in the settlement. The natives
had learned to look with contempt on the mighty nation which was soon
to conquer and to rule them. They had seen the French colours flying on
Fort St. George; they had seen the chiefs of the English factory led in
triumph through the streets of Pondicherry; they had seen the arms and
counsels of Dupleix everywhere successful, while the opposition which
the authorities of Madras had made to his progress, had served only to
expose their own weakness, and to heighten his glory. At this moment,
the valour and genius of an obscure English youth suddenly turned the
tide of fortune.

Clive was now twenty-five years old. After hesitating for some time
between a military and a commercial life, he had at length been placed
in a post which partook of both characters, that of commissary to the
troops, with the rank of captain. The present emergency called forth all
his powers. He represented to his superiors that unless some vigorous
effort were made, Trichinopoly would fall, the house of Anaverdy Khan
would perish, and the French would become the real masters of the whole
peninsula of India. It was absolutely necessary to strike some daring
blow. If an attack were made on Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic, and
the favourite residence of the Nabobs, it was not impossible that
the siege of Trichinopoly would be raised. The heads of the English
settlement, now thoroughly alarmed by the success of Dupleix, and
apprehensive that, in the event of a new war between France and Great
Britain, Madras would be instantly taken and destroyed, approved of
Clive’s plan, and intrusted the execution of it to himself. The young
captain was put at the head of two hundred English soldiers, {215}and
three hundred sepoys, armed and disciplined after the European fashion.
Of the eight officers who commanded this little force under him, only
two had ever been in action, and four of the eight were factors of the
company, whom Clive’s example had induced to offer their services. The
weather was stormy; but Clive pushed on, through thunder, lightning,
and rain, to the gates of Arcot. The garrison, in a panic, evacuated the
fort, and the English entered it without a blow.

But Clive well knew that he should not be suffered to retain undisturbed
possession of his conquest. He instantly began to collect provisions,
to throw up works, and to make preparations for sustaining a siege. The
garrison, which had fled at his approach, had now recovered from its
dismay, and, having been swollen by large reinforcements from the
neighbourhood to a force of three thousand men, encamped close to the
town. At dead of night, Clive marched out of the fort, attacked the camp
by surprise, slew great numbers, dispersed the rest, and returned to his
quarters without having lost a single man.

The intelligence of these events was soon carried to Chunda Sahib,
who, with his French allies, was besieging Trichinopoly. He immediately
detached four thousand men from his camp, and sent them to Arcot. They
were speedily joined by the remains of the force which Clive had lately
scattered. They were further strengthened by two thousand men from
Vellore, and by a still more important reinforcement of a hundred and
fifty French soldiers whom Dupleix despatched from Pondicherry. The
whole of this army, amounting to about ten thousand men, was under the
command of Rajah Sahib, son of Chunda Sahib. {216}Rajah Sahib proceeded
to invest the fort of Arcot, which seemed quite incapable of sustaining
a siege. The walls were ruinous, the ditches dry, the ramparts too
narrow to admit the guns, the battlements too low to protect the
soldiers. The little garrison had been greatly reduced by casualties. It
now consisted of a hundred and twenty Europeans and two hundred sepoys.
Only four officers were left; the stock of provisions was scanty; and
the commander, who had to conduct the defence under circumstances so
discouraging, was a young man of five and twenty, who had been bred a
book-keeper.

During fifty days the siege went on. During fifty days the young captain
maintained the defence, with a firmness, vigilance, and ability, which
would have done honour to the oldest marshal in Europe. The breach,
however, increased day by day. The garrison began to feel the pressure
of hunger. Under such circumstances, any troops so scantily provided
with officers might have been expected to show signs of insubordination;
and the danger was peculiarly great in a force composed of men differing
widely from each other in extraction, colour, language, manners, and
religion. But the devotion of the little band to its chief surpassed any
thing that is related of the Tenth Legion of Cæsar, or of the Old Guard
of Napoleon. The sepoys came to Clive, not to complain of their
scanty fare, but to propose that all the grain should be given to the
Europeans, who required more nourishment than the natives of Asia. The
thin gruel, they said, which was strained away from the rice, would
suffice for themselves. History contains no more touching instance
of military fidelity, or of the influence of a commanding mind. {217}An
attempt made by the government of Madras to relieve the place had
failed. But there was hope from another quarter. A body of six thousand
Mahrattas, half soldiers, half robbers, under the command of a chief
named Morari Row, had been hired to assist Mahommed Ali; but thinking
the French power irresistible, and the triumph of Chunda Sahib certain,
they had hitherto remained inactive on the frontiers of the Carnatic.
The fame of the defence of Arcot roused them from their torpor. Morari
Row declared that he had never before believed that Englishmen could
fight, but that he would willingly help them since he saw that they had
spirit to help themselves. Rajah Sahib learned that the Mahrattas were
in motion.

It was necessary for him to be expeditious. He first tried negotiation.
He offered large bribes to Clive, which were rejected with scorn. He
vowed that, if his proposals were not accepted, he would instantly storm
the fort, and put every man in it to the sword. Clive told him in reply,
with characteristic haughtiness, that his father was an usurper, that
his army was a rabble, and that he would do well to think twice before
he sent such poltroons into a breach defended by English soldiers.

Rajah Sahib determined to storm the fort. The day was well suited to a
bold military enterprise. It was the great Mahommedan festival which
is sacred to the memory of Hosein the son of Ali. The history of Islam
contains nothing more touching than the event which gave rise to that
solemnity. The mournful legend relates how the chief of the Fatimites,
when all his brave followers had perished round him, drank his latest
draught of water, and uttered his latest prayer, how the assassins
carried his head in triumph, how the {218}tyrant smote the lifeless lips
with his staff, and how a few old men recollected with tears that they
had seen those lips pressed to the lips of the Prophet of God. After
the lapse of near twelve centuries, the recurrence of this solemn season
excites the fiercest and saddest emotions in the bosoms of the devout
Moslem of India. They work themselves up to such agonies of rage and
lamentation that some, it is said, have given up the ghost from the
mere effect of mental excitement. They believe that whoever, during this
festival, falls in arms against the infidels, atones by his death
for all the sins of his life, and passes at once to the garden of the
Houris. It was at this time that Rajah Sahib determined to assault
Arcot. Stimulating drugs were employed to aid the effect of religious
zeal, and the besiegers, drunk with enthusiasm, drunk with bang, rushed
furiously to the attack.

Clive had received secret intelligence of the design, had made his
arrangements, and, exhausted by fatigue, had thrown himself on his bed.
He was awakened by the alarm, and was instantly at his post. The enemy
advanced, driving before them elephants whose foreheads were armed with
iron plates. It was expected that the gates would yield to the shock
of these living battering-rams. But the huge beasts no sooner felt the
English musket balls than they turned round, and rushed furiously away,
trampling on the multitude which had urged them forward. A raft was
launched on the water which filled one part of the ditch. Clive,
perceiving that his gunners at that post did not understand their
business, took the management of a piece of artillery himself, and
cleared the raft in a few minutes. Where the moat was dry the assailants
mounted with great boldness, but they were received with a fire so
heavy {219}and so well directed, that it soon quelled the courage even
of fanaticism and of intoxication. The rear ranks of the English kept
the front ranks supplied with a constant succession of loaded muskets,
and every shot told on the living mass below. After three desperate
onsets, the besiegers retired behind the ditch.

The struggle lasted about an hour. Four hundred of the assailants fell.
The garrison lost only five or six men. The besieged passed an anxious
night, looking for a renewal of the attack. But when day broke, the
enemy were no more to be seen. They had retired, leaving to the English
several guns and a large quantity of ammunition.

The news was received at Fort St. George with transports of joy and
pride. Clive was justly regarded as a man equal to any command. Two
hundred English soldiers and seven hundred sepoys were sent to him, and
with this force he instantly commenced offensive operations. He took
the fort of Timery, effected a junction with a division of Morari Row’s
army, and hastened, by forced marches, to attack Rajah Sahib, who was at
the head of about five thousand men, of whom three hundred were French.
The action was sharp; but Clive gained a complete victory. The military
chest of Rajah Sahib fell into the hands of the conquerors. Six hundred
sepoys who had served in the enemy’s army, came over to Clive’s quarters
and were taken into the British service. Conjeveram surrendered without
a blow. The governor of Arnee deserted Chunda Sahib, and recognised the
title of Mahommed Ali.

Had the entire direction of the war been intrusted to Clive, it would
probably have been brought to a speedy close. But the timidity and
incapacity which {220}appeared in all the movements of the English,
except where he was personally present, protracted the struggle. The
Mahrattas muttered that his soldiers were of a different race from the
British whom they found elsewhere. The effect of this languor was that
in no long time Rajah Sahib, at the head of a considerable army, in
which were four hundred French troops, appeared almost under the guns of
Fort St. George, and laid waste the villas and gardens of the gentlemen
of the English settlement. But he was again encountered and defeated by
Clive. More than a hundred of the French were killed or taken, a loss
more serious than that of thousands of natives. The victorious army
inarched from the field of battle to Fort St. David. On the road lay
the City of the Victory of Dupleix, and the stately monument which
was designed to commemorate the triumphs of France in the East. Clive
ordered both the city and the monument to be rased to the ground. He
was induced, we believe, to take this step, not by personal or national
malevolence, but by a just and profound policy. The town and its pompous
name, the pillar and its vaunting inscriptions, were among the devices
by which Dupleix had laid the public mind of India under a spell. This
spell it was Clive’s business to break. The natives had been taught that
France was confessedly the first power in Europe, and that the English
did not presume to dispute her supremacy. No measure could be more
effectual for the removing of this delusion than the public and solemn
demolition of the French trophies.

The government of Madras, encouraged by these events, determined to
send a strong detachment, under Clive, to reinforce the garrison of
Trichinopoly. But {221}just at this conjuncture, Major Lawrence arrived
from England, and assumed the chief command. From the waywardness and
impatience of control which had characterized Clive, both at school and
in the counting-house, it might have been expected that he would not,
after such achievements, act with zeal and good humour in a subordinate
capacity. But Lawrence had early treated him with kindness; and it is
bare justice to Clive to say that, proud and overbearing as he was,
kindness was never thrown away upon him. He cheerfully placed himself
under the orders of his old friend, and exerted himself as strenuously
in the second post as he could have done in the first. Lawrence well
knew the value of such assistance. Though himself gifted with no
intellectual faculty higher than plain good sense, he fully appreciated
the powers of his brilliant coadjutor. Though he had made a methodical
study of military tactics, and, like all men regularly bred to a
profession, was disposed to look with disdain on interlopers, he had yet
liberality enough to acknowledge that Clive was an exception to common
rules.

“Some people,” he wrote, “are pleased to term Captain Clive fortunate
and lucky; but, in my opinion, from the knowledge I have of the
gentleman, he deserved and might expect from his conduct every thing as
it fell out;--a man of an undaunted resolution, of a cool temper, and of
a presence of mind which never left him in the greatest danger--born
a soldier; for, without a military education of any sort, or much
conversing with any of the profession, from his judgment and good sense,
he led on an army like an experienced officer and a brave soldier, with
a prudence that certainly warranted success.”

The French had no commander to oppose to the two {222}friends. Dupleix,
not inferior in talents for negotiation and intrigue to any European
who has borne a part in the revolutions of India, was ill qualified to
direct in person military operations. He had not been bred a soldier,
and had no inclination to become one. His enemies accused him of
personal cowardice; and he defended himself in a strain worthy of
Captain Bobadil.

He kept away from shot, he said, because silence and tranquillity
were propitious to his genius, and he found it difficult to pursue
his meditations amidst the noise of fire-arms. He was thus under the
necessity of intrusting to others the execution of his great warlike
designs; and he bitterly complained that he was ill served. He had
indeed been assisted by one officer of eminent merit, the celebrated
Bussy. But Bussy had marched northward with the Nizam, and was fully
employed in looking after his own interests, and those of France, at
the court of that prince. Among the officers who remained with Dupleix,
there was not a single man of capacity; and many of them were boys, at
whose ignorance and folly the common soldiers laughed.

The English triumphed everywhere. The besiegers of Trichinopoly were
themselves besieged and compelled to capitulate. Chunda Sahib fell into
the hands of the Mahrattas, and was put to death, at the instigation
probably of his competitor, Mahommed Ali. The spirit of Dupleix,
however, was unconquerable, and his resources inexhaustible. From his
employers in Europe he no longer received help or countenance.

They condemned his policy. They gave him no pecuniary assistance. They
sent him for troops only the sweepings of the galleys. Yet still he
persisted, intrigued, bribed, promised, lavished his private fortune,
{223}strained his credit, procured new diplomas from Delhi, raised up
new enemies to the government of Madras on every side, and found tools
even among the allies of the English Company. But all was in vain.
Slowly, but steadily, the power of Britain continued to increase, and
that of France to decline.

The health of Clive had never been good during his residence in India;
and his constitution was now so much impaired that he determined to
return to England. Before his departure he undertook a service of
considerable difficulty, and performed it with his usual vigour and
dexterity. The forts of Covelong and Chingleput were occupied by French
garrisons. It was determined to send a force against them. But the
only force available for this purpose was of such a description that
no officer but Clive would risk his reputation by commanding it. It
consisted of five hundred newly levied sepoys, and two hundred recruits
who had just landed from England, and who were the worst and lowest
wretches that the Company’s crimps could pick up in the flash-houses of
London. Clive, ill and exhausted as he was, undertook to make an army
of this undisciplined rabble, and marched with them to Cove-long. A shot
from the fort killed one of these extraordinary soldiers; on which
all the rest faced about and ran away, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that Clive rallied them. On another occasion, the noise of
a gun terrified the sentinels so much that one of them was found, some
hours later, at the bottom of a well. Clive gradually accustomed them
to danger, and, by exposing himself constantly in the most perilous
situations, shamed them into courage. He at length succeeded in forming
a respectable force out of his unpromising materials. Covelong fell.
Clive learned {224}that a strong: detachment was marching: to relieve
it from Chingleput. He took measures to prevent the enemy from learning
that they were too late, laid an ambuscade for them on the road, killed
a hundred of them with one fire, took three hundred prisoners, pursued
the fugitives to the gates of Chingleput, laid siege instantly to that
fastness, reputed one of the strongest in India, made a breach, and was
on the point of storming, when the French commandant capitulated and
retired with his men.

Clive returned to Madras victorious, but in a state of health which
rendered it impossible for him to remain there long. He married at
this time a young lady of the name of Maskelyne, sister of the eminent
mathematician, who long held the post of Astronomer Royal. She is
described as handsome and accomplished; and her husband’s letters, it is
said, contain proofs that he was devotedly attached to her.

Almost immediately after the marriage, Clive embarked with his bride for
England. He returned a very different person from the poor slighted boy
who had been sent out ten years before to seek his fortune. He was only
twenty-seven; yet his country already respected him as one of her first
soldiers. There was then general peace in Europe. The Carnatic was the
only part of the world where the English and French were in arms against
each other. The vast schemes of Dupleix had excited no small uneasiness
in the city of London; and the rapid turn of fortune, which was chiefly
owing to the courage and talents of Clive, had been hailed with
great delight. The young captain was known at the India House by
the honourable nickname of General Clive, and was toasted by that
appellation at the feasts of the Directors. On his arrival in
{225}England, he found himself an object of general interest and
admiration. The East India Company thanked him for his services in the
warmest terms, and bestowed on him a sword set with diamonds. With
rare delicacy, he refused to receive this token of gratitude, unless a
similar compliment were paid to his friend and commander, Lawrence.

It may easily be supposed that Clive was most cordially welcomed home by
his family, who were delighted by his success, though they seem to have
been hardly able to comprehend how their naughty idle Bobby had become
so great a man. His father had been singularly hard of belief. Not
until the news of the defence of Arcot arrived in England was the old
gentleman heard to growl out that, after all, the booby had something in
him. His expressions of approbation became stronger and stronger as news
arrived of one brilliant exploit after another; and he was at length
immoderately fond and proud of his son.

Clive’s relations had very substantial reasons for rejoicing at his
return. Considerable sums of prize money had fallen to his share; and
he had brought home a moderate fortune, part of which he expended in
extricating his father from pecuniary difficulties, and in redeeming the
family estate. The remainder he appears to have dissipated in the course
of about two years. He lived splendidly, dressed gaily even for those
times, kept a carriage and saddle horses, and, not content with these
ways of getting rid of his money, resorted to the most speedy and
effectual of all modes of evacuation, a contested election followed by a
petition.

At the time of the general election of 1754, the government was in a
very singular state. There was {226}scarcely any formal opposition. The
Jacobites had been cowed by the issue of the last rebellion. The Tory
party had fallen into utter contempt. It had been deserted by all the
men of talents who had belonged to it, and had scarcely given a symptom
of life during some years. The small faction which had been held
together by the influence and promises of Prince Frederic, had been
dispersed by his death. Almost every public man of distinguished talents
in the kingdom, whatever his early connections might have been, was in
office, and called himself a Whig. But this extraordinary appearance of
concord was quite delusive. The administration itself was distracted
by bitter enmities and conflicting pretensions. The chief object of
its members was to depress and supplant each other. The prime minister,
Newcastle, weak, timid, jealous, and perfidious, was at once detested
and despised by some of the most important members of his government,
and by none more than by Henry Fox, the Secretary at War. This able,
daring, and ambitious man seized every opportunity of crossing the First
Lord of the Treasury, from whom he well knew that he had little to dread
and little to hope; for Newcastle was through life equally afraid of
breaking with men of parts and of promoting them.

Newcastle had set his heart on returning two members for St. Michael,
one of those wretched Cornish boroughs which were swept away by the
Reform Act in 1832. He was opposed by Lord Sandwich, whose influence
had long been paramount there: and Fox exerted himself strenuously
in Sandwich’s behalf. Clive, who had been introduced to Fox, and very
kindly received by him, was brought forward on the Sandwich interest,
and was returned. But a petition {227}was presented against the return,
and was backed by the whole influence of the Duke of Newcastle.

The case was heard, according to the usage of that time, before a
committee of the whole House. Questions respecting elections were then
considered merely as party questions. Judicial impartiality was not even
affected. Sir Robert Walpole was in the habit of saying openly that, in
election battles, there ought to be no quarter. On the present occasion
the excitement was great. The matter really at issue was, not whether
Clive had been properly or improperly returned, but whether Newcastle or
Fox was to be master of the new House of Commons, and consequently first
minister. The contest was long and obstinate, and success seemed to lean
sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other. Fox put forth all his
rare powers of debate, beat half the lawyers in the House at their own
weapons, and earned division after division against the whole influence
of the Treasury. The committee decided in Clive’s favour. But when the
resolution was reported to the House, things took a different course.
The remnant of the Tory Opposition, contemptible as it was, had yet
sufficient weight to turn the scale between the nicely balanced parties
of Newcastle and Fox. Newcastle the Tories could only despise. Fox they
hated, as the boldest and most subtle politician and the ablest debater
among the-Whigs, as the steady friend of Walpole, as the devoted
adherent of the Duke of Cumberland. After wavering till the last moment,
they determined to vote in a body with the Prime Minister’s friends.
The consequence was that the House, by a small majority, rescinded the
decision of the committee, and Clive was unseated. {228}Ejected from
Parliament, and straitened in his means, he naturally began to look
again towards India. The Company and the Government were eager to avail
themselves of his services. A treaty favourable to England had indeed
been concluded in the Carnatic. Dupleix had been superseded, and had
returned with the wreck of his immense fortune to Europe, where calumny
and chicanery soon hunted him to his grave. But many signs indicated
that a war between France and Great Britain was at hand; and it was
therefore thought desirable to send an able commander to the Company’s
settlements in India. The Directors appointed Clive governor of Fort St.
David. The King gave him the commission of a lieutenant-colonel in the
British army, and in 1755 he again sailed for Asia.

The first service on which he was employed after his return to the East
was the reduction of the stronghold of Gheriah. This fortress, built on
a craggy promontory, and almost surrounded by the ocean, was the den
of a pirate named Angria, whose barks had long been the terror of the
Arabian Gulf. Admiral Watson, who commanded the English squadron in the
Eastern seas, burned Angria’s fleet, while Clive attacked the fastness
by land. The place soon fell, and a booty of a hundred and fifty
thousand pounds sterling was divided among the conquerors.

After this exploit, Clive proceeded to his government of Fort St.
David. Before he had been there two months, he received intelligence
which called forth all the energy of his bold and active mind.

Of the provinces which had been subject to the house of Tamerlane,
the wealthiest was Bengal. No part of India possessed such natural
advantages both {229}for agriculture and for commerce. The Ganges,
rushing through a hundred channels to the sea, has formed a vast plain
of rich mould which, even under the tropical sky, rivals the verdure of
an English April. The rice fields yield an increase such as is elsewhere
unknown. Spices, sugar, vegetable oils, are produced with marvellous
exuberance. The rivers afford an inexhaustible supply of fish. The
desolate islands along the sea-coast, overgrown by noxious vegetation,
and swarming with deer and tigers, supply the cultivated districts with
abundance of salt. The great stream which fertilises the soil is, at the
same time, the chief highway of Eastern commerce. On its banks, and
on those of its tributary waters, are the wealthiest marts, the most
splendid capitals, and the most sacred shrines of India. The tyranny
of man had for ages struggled in vain against the overflowing bounty of
nature. In spite of the Mussulman despot and of the Mahratta freebooter,
Bengal was known through the East as the garden of Eden, as the rich
kingdom. Its population multiplied exceedingly. Distant provinces were
nourished from the overflowing of its granaries; and the noble ladies of
London and Paris were clothed in the delicate produce of its looms. The
race by whom this rich tract was peopled, enervated by a soft climate
and accustomed to peaceful employments, bore the same relation to other
Asiatics which the Asiatics generally bear to the bold and energetic
children of Europe. The Castilians have a proverb, that in Valencia
the earth is water and the men women; and the description is at least
equally applicable to the vast plain of the Lower Ganges. Whatever the
Bengalee does he does languidly. His favourite pursuits are sedentary.
He shrinks from bodily exertion; {230}and, though voluble in dispute,
and singularly pertinacious in the war of chicane, he seldom engages in
a personal conflict, and scarcely ever enlists as a soldier. We doubt
whether there be a hundred genuine Bengalees in the whole army of the
East India Company. There never, perhaps, existed a people so thoroughly
fitted by nature and by habit for a foreign yoke.

The great commercial companies of Europe had long possessed factories in
Bengal. The French were settled, as they still are, at Chandernagore on
the Hoogley.

Higher up the stream the Dutch traders held Chinsurah. Nearer to the
sea, the English had built Fort William. A church and ample warehouses
rose in the vicinity. A row of spacious houses, belonging to the chief
factors of the East India Company, lined the banks of the river; and in
the neighbourhood had sprung up a large and busy native town, where some
Hindoo merchants of great opulence had fixed their abode. But the tract
now covered by the palaces of Chowringhee contained only a few
miserable huts thatched with straw. A jungle, abandoned to waterfowl
and alligators, covered the site of the present Citadel, and the Course,
which is now daily crowded at sunset with the gayest equipages of
Calcutta. For the ground on which the settlement stood, the English,
like other great landholders, paid rent to the government; and they
were, like other great landholders, permitted to exercise a certain
jurisdiction within their domain.

The great province of Bengal, together with Orissa and Bahar, had long
been governed by a viceroy, whom the English called Aliverdy Khan,
and who, like the other viceroys of the Mogul, had become virtually
independent. He died in 1756, and the {231}sovereignty descended to
his grandson, a youth under twenty years of age, who bore the name of
Surajah Dowlah. Oriental despots are perhaps the worst class of human
beings; and this unhappy boy was one of the worst specimens of his
class. His understanding was naturally feeble, and his temper naturally
unamiable. His education had been such as would have enervated even a
vigorous intellect, and perverted even a generous disposition. He was
unreasonable, because nobody ever dared to reason with him, and selfish,
because he had never been made to feel himself dependent on the good
will of others. Early debauchery had unnerved his body and his mind. He
indulged immoderately in the use of ardent spirits, which inflamed his
weak brain almost to madness. His chosen companions were flatterers
sprung from the dregs of the people, and recommended by nothing but
buffoonery and servility. It is said that he had arrived at that last
stage of human depravity, when cruelty becomes pleasing for its own
sake, when the sight of pain as pain, where no advantage is to be
gained, no offence punished, no danger averted, is an agreeable
excitement. It had early been his amusement to torture beasts and birds;
and, when he grew up, he enjoyed with still keener relish the misery of
his fellow-creatures.

From a child Surajah Dowlah had hated the English. It was his whim to
do so; and his whims were never opposed. He had also formed a very
exaggerated notion of the wealth which might be obtained by plundering
them; and his feeble and uncultivated mind was incapable of perceiving
that the riches of Calcutta, had they been even greater than he
imagined, would not compensate him for what he must lose, if the
European {232}trade, of which Bengal was a chief seat, should be driven
by his violence to some other quarter. Pretexts for a quarrel were
readily found. The English, in expectation of a war with France, had
begun to fortify their settlement without special permission from the
Nabob. A rich native, whom he longed to plunder, had taken refuge
at Calcutta, and had not been delivered up. On such grounds as these
Surajah Dowlali marched with a great army against Fort William.

The servants of the Company at Madras had been forced by Dupleix to
become statesmen and soldiers. Those in Bengal were still mere traders,
and were terrified and bewildered by the approaching danger. The
governor, who had heard much of Surajah Dowlah’s cruelty, was frightened
out of his wits, jumped into a boat, and took refuge in the nearest
ship. The military commandant thought that he could not do better than
follow so good an example. The fort was taken after a feeble resistance;
and great numbers of the English fell into the hands of the conquerors.
The Nabob seated himself with regal pomp in the principal hall of the
factory, and ordered Mr. Holwell, the first in rank among the prisoners,
to be brought before him. His Highness talked about the insolence of
the English, and grumbled at the smallness of the treasure which he had
found; but promised to spare their lives, and retired to rest.

Then was committed that great crime, memorable for its singular
atrocity, memorable for the tremendous retribution by which it was
followed. The English captives were left at the mercy of the guards, and
the guards determined to secure them for the night in the prison of the
garrison, a chamber known by the fearful name of the Black Hole. Even
for a single European {233}malefactor, that dungeon would, in such a
climate, have been too close and narrow. The space was only twenty
feet square. The air-holes were small and obstructed. It was the summer
solstice, the season when the fierce heat of Bengal can scarcely be
rendered tolerable to natives of England by lofty halls and by the
constant waving of fans. The number of the prisoners was one hundred and
forty-six. When they were ordered to enter the cell, they imagined that
the soldiers were joking; and, being in high spirits on account of the
promise of the Nabob to spare their lives, they laughed and jested at
the absurdity of the notion. They soon discovered their mistake. They
expostulated; they entreated; but in vain. The guards threatened to cut
down all who hesitated. The captives were driven into the cell at the
point of the sword, and the door was instantly shut and locked upon
them.

Nothing in history or fiction, not even the story which Ugolino told in
the sea of everlasting ice, after he had wiped his bloody lips on the
scalp of his murderer, approaches the horrors which were recounted by
the few survivors of that night. They cried for mercy. They strove
to burst the door. Holwell who, even in that extremity, retained some
presence of mind, offered large bribes to the gaolers. But the answer
was that nothing could be done without the Nabob’s orders, that the
Nabob was asleep, and that he would be angry if anybody woke him. Then
the prisoners went mad with despair. They trampled each other down,
fought for the places at the windows, fought for the pittance of water
with which the cruel mercy of the murderers mocked their agonies, raved,
prayed, blasphemed, implored the guards to fire among them. The gaolers
in the mean time held lights to the bars, and shouted with {234}laughter
at the frantic struggles of their victims. At length the tumult died
away in low gaspings and moanings.

The day broke. The Nabob had slept off his debauch, and permitted the
door to be opened. But it was some time before the soldiers could make
a lane for the survivors, by piling up on each side the heaps of corpses
on which the burning climate had already begun to do its loathsome work.
When at length a passage was made, twenty-three ghastly figures, such as
their own mothers would not have known, staggered one by one out of the
charnel-house. A pit was instantly dug. The dead bodies, a hundred and
twenty-three in number, were flung into it promiscuously and covered up.

But these things which, after the lapse of more than eighty years,
cannot be told or read without horror, awakened neither remorse nor
pity in the bosom of the savage Nabob. He inflicted no punishment on
the murderers. He showed no tenderness to the survivors. Some of them,
indeed, from whom nothing was to be got, were suffered to depart; but
those from whom it was thought that any thing could be extorted were
treated with execrable cruelty. Holwell, unable to walk, was carried
before the tyrant, who reproached him, threatened him, and sent him
up the country in irons, together with some other gentlemen who were
suspected of knowing more than they chose to tell about the treasures of
the Company. These persons, still bowed down by the sufferings of that
great agony, were lodged in miserable sheds, and fed only with grain and
water, till at length the intercessions of the female relations of the
Nabob procured their release. One Englishwoman had survived that night.
She was placed in the harem of the Prince at Moorshedabad. {235}Surajah
Dowlah, in the mean time, sent letters to his nominal sovereign at
Delhi, describing the late conquest in the most pompous language. He
placed a garrison in Fort William, forbade Englishmen to dwell in
the neighbourhood, and directed that, in memory of his great actions,
Calcutta should thenceforward be called Alinagore, that is to say, the
Port of God.

In August the news of the fall of Calcutta reached Madras, and excited
the fiercest and bitterest resentment. The cry of the whole settlement
was for vengeance. Within forty-eight hours after the arrival of the
intelligence it was determined that an expedition should be sent to the
Hoogley, and that Clive should be at the head of the land forces. The
naval armament was under the command of Admiral Watson. Nine hundred
English infantry, fine troops and full of spirit, and fifteen hundred
sepoys, composed the army which sailed to punish a Prince who had more
subjects than Lewis the Fifteenth or the Empress Maria Theresa. In
October the expedition sailed; but it had to make its way against
adverse winds, and did not reach Bengal till December.

The Nabob was revelling in fancied security at Moorshedabad.

He was so profoundly ignorant of the state of foreign countries that he
often used to say that there were not ten thousand men in all Europe;
and it had never occurred to him as possible, that the English would
dare to invade his dominions. But, though undisturbed by any fear of
their military power, he began to miss them greatly. His revenues fell
off; and his ministers succeeded in making him understand that a ruler
may sometimes find it more profitable to protect traders in the open
enjoyment of their gains than to put them to the torture for the purpose
of discovering {236}hidden chests of gold and jewels. He was already
disposed to permit the Company to resume its mercantile operations in
his country, when he received the news that an English armament was
in the Hoogley. He instantly ordered all his troops to assemble at
Moorshedabad, and marched towards Calcutta.

Clive had commenced operations with his usual vigour. He took
Budgebudge, routed the garrison of Fort William, recovered Calcutta,
stormed and sacked Hoogley. The Nabob, already disposed to make some
concessions to the English, was confirmed in his pacific disposition by
these proofs of their power and spirit. He accordingly made overtures to
the chiefs of the invading armament, and offered to restore the factory,
and to give compensation to those whom he had despoiled.

Clive’s profession was war; and he felt that there was something
discreditable in an accommodation with Surajah Dowlah. But his power was
limited. A committee, chiefly composed of servants of the Company who
had fled from Calcutta, had the principal direction of affairs; and
these persons were eager to be restored to their posts and compensated
for their losses. The government of Madras, apprised that war had
commenced in Europe, and apprehensive of an attack from the French,
became impatient for the return of the armament. The promises of the
Nabob were large, the chances of a contest doubtful; and Clive consented
to treat, though he expressed his regret that things should not be
concluded in so glorious a manner as he could have wished.

With this negotiation commences a new chapter in the life of Clive.
Hitherto he had been merely a {237}soldier carrying into effect, with
eminent ability and valour, the plans of others. Henceforth he is to be
chiefly regarded as a statesman; and his military movements are to be
considered as subordinate to his political designs. That in his new
capacity he displayed great ability, and obtained great success, is
unquestionable. But it is also unquestionable that the transactions
in which he now began to take a part have left a stain on his moral
character.

We can by no means agree with Sir John Malcolm, who is obstinately
resolved to see nothing but honour and integrity in the conduct of his
hero. But we can as little agree with Mr. Mill, who has gone so far
as to say that Clive was a man “to whom deception, when it suited
his purpose, never cost a pang.” Clive seems to us to have been
constitutionally the very opposite of a knave, bold even to temerity,
sincere even to indiscretion, hearty in friendship, open in enmity.
Neither in his private life, nor in those parts of his public life;
in which he had to do with his countrymen, do we find any signs of a
propensity to cunning. On the contrary, in all the disputes in which he
was engaged as an Englishman against Englishmen, from his boxing-matches
at school to those stormy altercations at the India House and in
Parliament amidst which his later years were passed, his very faults
were those of a high and magnanimous spirit. The truth seems to have
been that he considered Oriental politics as a game in which nothing was
unfair. He knew that the standard of morality among the natives of India
differed widely from that established in England. He knew that he had to
deal with men destitute of what in Europe is called honour, with men who
would give any promise without hesitation, and break any promise
without {238}shame, with men who would unscrupulously employ corruption,
perjury, forgery, to compass their ends. His letters show that the great
difference between Asiatic and European morality was constantly in his
thoughts. He seems to have imagined, most erroneously in our opinion,
that he could effect nothing against such adversaries, if he was content
to be bound by ties from which they were free, if he went on telling
truth, and hearing none, if he fulfilled, to his own hurt, all his
engagements with confederates who never kept an engagement that was not
to their advantage. Accordingly this man, in the other parts of his life
an honourable English gentleman and a soldier, was no sooner matched
against an Indian intriguer, than he became himself an Indian intriguer,
and descended, without scruple, to falsehood, to hypocritical caresses,
to the substitution of documents, and to the counterfeiting of hands.

The negotiations between the English and the Nabob were carried on
chiefly by two agents, Mr. Watts, a servant of the Company, and a
Bengalee of the name of Omichund. This Omichund had been one of the
wealthiest native merchants resident at Calcutta, and had sustained
great losses in consequence of the Nabob’s expedition against that
place. In the course of his commercial transactions, he had seen much
of the English, and was peculiarly qualified to serve as a medium
of communication between them and a native court. He possessed great
influence with his own race, and had in large measure the Hindoo
talents, quick observation, tact, dexterity, perseverance, and the
Hindoo vices, servility, greediness, and treachery.

The Nabob behaved with all the faithlessness of an Indian statesman, and
with all the levity of a boy whose {239}mind had been enfeebled by power
and self-indulgence. He promised, retracted, hesitated, evaded. At one
time he advanced with his army in a threatening manner towards Calcutta;
but when he saw the resolute front which the English presented, he fell
back in alarm, and consented to make peace with them on their own terms.
The treaty was no sooner concluded than he formed new designs against
them. He intrigued with the French authorities at Chandernagore. He
invited Bussy to march from the Deccan to the Hoogley, and to drive the
English out of Bengal. All this was well known to Clive and Watson.
They determined accordingly to strike a decisive blow, and to attack
Chandernagore, before the force there could be strengthened by new
arrivals, either from the south of India, or from Europe. Watson
directed the expedition by water, Clive by land. The success of the
combined movements was rapid and complete. The fort, the garrison, the
artillery, the military stores, all fell into the hands of the English.
Near five hundred European troops were among the prisoners.

The Nabob had feared and hated the English, even while he was still able
to oppose to them their French rivals. The French were now vanquished;
and he began to regard the English with still greater fear and still
greater hatred. His weak and unprincipled mind oscillated between
servility and insolence. One day he sent a large sum to Calcutta, as
part of the compensation due for the wrongs which he had committed.
The next day he sent a present of jewels to Bussy, exhorting that
distinguished officer to hasten to protect Bengal “against Clive,
the daring in war, on whom,” says his Highness, “may all bad fortune
attend.” He ordered his army to march against the English. He
countermanded {240}his orders. He tore Clive’s letters. He then sent
answers in the most florid language of compliment. He ordered Watts out
of his presence, and threatened to impale him. He again sent for
Watts, and begged pardon for the insult. In the mean time, his wretched
maladministration, his folly, his dissolute manners, and his love of
the lowest company, had disgusted all classes of his subjects, soldiers,
traders, civil functionaries, the proud and ostentatious Mahommedans,
the timid, supple, and parsimonious Hindoos. A formidable confederacy
was formed against him, in which were included Roydullub, the minister
of finance, Meer Jaffier, the principal commander of the troops, and
Jugget Seit, the richest banker in India. The plot was confided to the
English agents, and a communication was opened between the malcontents
at Moorshedabad and the committee at Calcutta.

In the committee there was much hesitation; but Clive’s voice was given
in favour of the conspirators, and his vigour and firmness bore down
all opposition. It was determined that the English should lend their
powerful assistance to depose Surajah Dowlah, and to place Meer
Jaffier on the throne of Bengal. In return, Meer Jaffier promised ample
compensation to the Company and its servants, and a liberal donative
to the army, the navy, and the committee. The odious vices of Surajah
Dowlah, the wrongs which the English had suffered at his hands, the
dangers to which our trade must have been exposed, had he continued to
reign, appear to us fully to justify the resolution of deposing him. But
nothing can justify the dissimulation which Clive stooped to practise.
He wrote to Surajah Dowlah in terms so affectionate that they for a time
lulled that weak prince into perfect security. The same courier {241}who
carried this “soothing letter,” as Clive calls it, to the Nabob, carried
to Mr. Watts a letter in the following terms: “Tell Meer Jaffier to fear
nothing. I will join him with five thousand men who never turned their
backs. Assure him I will march night and day to his assistance, and
stand by him as long as I have a man left.”

It was impossible that a plot which had so many ramifications should
long remain entirely concealed. Enough reached the ears of the Nabob
to arouse his suspicions. But he was soon quieted by the fictions
and artifices which the inventive genius of Omichund produced with
miraculous readiness. All was going well; the plot was nearly ripe;
when Clive learned that Omichund was likely to play false. The artful
Bengalee had been promised a liberal compensation for all that he had
lost at Calcutta. But this would not satisfy him. His services had been
great. He held the thread of the whole intrigue. By one word breathed in
the ear of Surajah Dowlah, he could undo all that he had done. The lives
of Watts, of Meer Jaffier, of all the conspirators, were at his mercy;
and he determined to take advantage of his situation and to make his own
terms. He demanded three hundred thousand pounds sterling as the price
of his secrecy and of his assistance. The committee, incensed by the
treachery and appalled by the danger, knew not what course to take. But
Clive was more than Omichund’s match in Omichund’s own arts. The man,
he said, was a villain. Any artifice which would defeat such knavery
was justifiable. The best course would be to promise what was asked.
Omichund would soon be at their mercy; and then they might punish him by
withholding from him, not only the bribe which he now demanded, but also
the {242}compensation which all the other sufferers of Calcutta were to
receive.

His advice was taken. But how was the wary and sagacious Hindoo to be
deceived? He had demanded that an article touching his claims should
be inserted in the treaty between Meer Jaffier and the English, and he
would not be satisfied unless he saw it with his own eyes. Clive had
an expedient ready. Two treaties were drawn up, one on white paper,
the other on red, the former real, the latter fictitious. In the former
Omichund’s name was not mentioned; the latter, which was to be shown to
him, contained a stipulation in his favour.

But another difficulty arose. Admiral Watson had scruples about signing
the red treaty. Omichund’s vigilance and acuteness were such that the
absence of so important a name would probably awaken his suspicions.

But Clive was not a man to do any thing by halves. We almost blush to
write it. He forged Admiral Watson’s name.

All was now ready for action. Mr. Watts fled secretly from Moorshedabad.
Clive put his troops in motion, and wrote to the Nabob in a tone very
different from that of his previous letters. He set forth all the wrongs
which the British had suffered, offered to submit the points in dispute
to the arbitration of Meer Jaffier, and concluded by announcing that, as
the rains were about to set in, he and his men would do themselves the
honour of waiting on his Highness for an answer.

Surajah Dowlah instantly assembled his whole force, and marched to
encounter the English. It had been agreed that Meer Jaffier should
separate himself from the Nabob, and carry over his division to
Clive. But, {243}as the decisive moment approached, the fears of the
conspirator overpowered his ambition. Clive had advanced to Cossimbuzar;
the Nabob lay with a mighty power a few miles off at Plassey; and still
Meer Jaffier delayed to fulfil his engagements, and returned evasive
answers to the earnest remonstrances of the English general.

Clive was in a painfully anxious situation. He could place no confidence
in the sincerity or in the courage of his confederate: and whatever
confidence he might place in his own military talents, and in the valour
and discipline of his troops, it was no light thing to engage an army
twenty times as numerous as his own. Before him lay a river over which
it was easy to advance, but over which, if things went ill, not one of
his little hand would ever return. On this occasion, for the first and
for the last time, his dauntless spirit, during a few hours, shrank from
the fearful responsibility of making a decision. He called a council of
war. The majority pronounced against fighting; and Clive declared his
concurrence with the majority. Long afterwards, he said that he had
never called but one council of war, and that, if he had taken the
advice of that council, the British would never have been masters of
Bengal. But scarcely had the meeting broke up when he was himself again.
He retired alone under the shade of some trees, and passed near an hour
there in thought. He came back determined to put every thing to the
hazard, and gave orders that all should be in readiness for passing the
river on the morrow.

The river was passed; and, at the close of a toilsome day’s march, the
army, long after sunset, took up its quarters in a grove of mango
trees near Plassey, within a mile of the enemy. Clive was unable to
{244}sleep; he heard, through the whole night, the sound of drums and
cymbals from the vast camp of the Nabob. It is not strange that even
his stout heart should now and then have sunk, when he reflected against
what odds, and for what a prize, he was in a few hours to contend.

Nor was the rest of Surajah Dowlah more peaceful.

His mind, at once weak and stormy, was distracted by wild and horrible
apprehensions. Appalled by the greatness and nearness of the crisis,
distrusting his captains, dreading every one who approached him,
dreading to be left alone, he sat gloomily in his tent, haunted, a Greek
poet would have said, by the furies of those who had cursed him with
their last breath in the Black Hole.

The day broke, the day which was to decide the fate of India. At
sunrise, the army of the Nabob, pouring through many openings of the
camp, began to move towards the grove where the English lay. Forty
thousand infantry, armed with firelocks, pikes, swords, bows and arrows,
covered the plain. They were accompanied by fifty pieces of ordnance
of the largest size, each tugged by a long team of white oxen, and
each pushed on from behind by an elephant. Some smaller guns, under the
direction of a few French auxiliaries, were perhaps more formidable. The
cavalry were fifteen thousand, drawn, not from the effeminate population
of Bengal, but from the bolder race which inhabits the northern
provinces; and the practised eye of Clive could perceive that both the
men and the horses were more powerful than those of the Carnatic. The
force which he had to oppose to this great multitude consisted of only
three thousand men. But of these nearly a thousand were English; and
all were led by English officers, and {245}trained in the English
discipline. Conspicuous in the ranks of the little army were the men of
the Thirty-Ninth Regiment, which still bears on its colours, amidst many
honourable additions won under Wellington in Spain and Gascony, the name
of Plassey, and the proud motto, _Primus in Indis_.

The battle commenced with a cannonade in which the artillery of the
Nabob did scarcely any execution, while the few field-pieces of the
English produced great effect. Several of the most distinguished
officers in Surajah Dowlah’s service fell. Disorder began to spread
through his ranks. His own terror increased every moment. One of the
conspirators urged on him the expediency of retreating. The insidious
advice, agreeing as it did with what his own terrors suggested, was
readily received. He ordered his army to fall back, and this order
decided his fate. Clive snatched the moment, and ordered his troops to
advance. The confused and dispirited multitude gave way before the onset
of disciplined valour. No mob attacked by regular soldiers was ever more
completely routed. The little band of Frenchmen, who alone ventured to
confront the English, were swept down the stream of fugitives. In an
hour the forces of Surajah Dowlah were dispersed, never to reassemble.
Only five hundred of the vanquished were slain. But their camp, their
guns, their baggage, innumerable waggons, innumerable cattle, remained
in the power of the conquerors. With the loss of twenty-two soldiers
killed and fifty wounded, Clive had scattered an army of near sixty
thousand men, and subdued an empire larger and more populous than Great
Britain.

Meer Jaffier had given no assistance to the English during the action.
But as soon as he saw that the {246}fate of the day was decided, he drew
off his division of the army, and, when the battle was over, sent his
congratulations to his ally. The next morning he repaired to the English
quarters, not a little uneasy as to the reception which awaited him
there. He gave evident signs of alarm when a guard was drawn out to
receive him with the honours due to his rank. But his apprehensions were
speedily removed. Clive came forward to meet him, embraced him, saluted
him as Nabob of the three great provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa,
listened graciously to his apologies, and advised him to march without
delay to Moorshedabad.

Surajah Dowlah had fled from the field of battle with all the speed
with which a fleet camel could carry him, and arrived at Moorshedabad
in little more than twenty-four hours. There he called his councillors
round him. The wisest advised him to put himself into the hands of the
English, from whom he had nothing worse to fear than deposition and
confinement. But he attributed this suggestion to treachery. Others
urged him to try the chance of war again. He approved the advice, and
issued orders accordingly. But he wanted spirit to adhere even during
one day to a manly resolution. He learned that Meer Jaffier had arrived;
and his terrors became insupportable. Disguised in a mean dress, with a
casket of jewels in his hand, he let himself down at night from a window
of his palace, and, accompanied by only two attendants, embarked on the
river for Patna.

In a few days Clive arrived at Moorshedabad, escorted by two hundred
English soldiers and three hundred sepoys. For his residence had been
assigned a {247}palace, which was surrounded by a garden so spacious
that all the troops who accompanied him could conveniently encamp within
it. The ceremony of the installation of Meer Jaffier was instantly
performed. Clive led the new Nabob to the seat of honour, placed him
on it, presented to him, after the immemorial fashion of the East, an
offering of gold, and then, turning to the natives who filled the hall,
congratulated them on the good fortune which had freed them from a
tyrant. He was compelled on this occasion to use the services of an
interpreter; for it is remarkable that, long as he resided in India,
intimately acquainted as he was with Indian politics and with the Indian
character, and adored as he was by his Indian soldiery, he never learned
to express himself with facility in any Indian language. He is said
indeed to have been sometimes under the necessity of employing, in his
intercourse with natives of India, the smattering of Portuguese which he
had acquired when a lad, in Brazil.

The new sovereign was now called upon to fulfil the engagements into
which he had entered with his allies.

A conference was held at the house of Jugget Seit, the great banker, for
the purpose of making the necessary arrangements. Omichund came thither,
fully believing himself to stand high in the favour of Clive, who, with
dissimulation surpassing even the dissimulation of Bengal, had up to
that day treated him with undiminished kindness. The white treaty
was produced and read. Clive then turned to Mr. Scrafton, one of
the servants of the Company, and said in English, “It is now time to
undeceive Omichund.”

“Omichund,” said Mr. Scrafton in Hindostanee, “the red treaty is a
trick you are to have nothing.” Omichund fell back in {248}to the arms
of his attendants. He revived; but his mind was irreparably ruined.
Clive, who, though little troubled by scruples of conscience in his
dealings with Indian politicians, was not inhuman, seems to have been
touched. He saw Omichund a few days later, spoke to him kindly, advised
him to make a pilgrimage to one of the great temples of India, in
the hope that change of scene might restore his health, and was even
disposed, notwithstanding all that had passed, again to employ him
in the public service. But from the moment of that sudden shock,
the unhappy man sank gradually into idiocy. He who had formerly been
distinguished for the strength of his understanding and the simplicity
of his habits, now squandered the remains of his fortune on childish
trinkets, and loved to exhibit himself dressed in rich garments, and
hung with precious stones. In this abject state he languished a few
months, and then died.

We should not think it necessary to offer any remarks for the purpose of
directing the judgment of our readers, with respect to this transaction,
had not Sir John Malcolm undertaken to defend it in all its parts. He
regrets, indeed, that it was necessary to employ means so liable to
abuse as forgery; but he will not admit that any blame attaches to those
who deceived the deceiver. He thinks that the English were not bound to
keep faith with one who kept no faith with them, and that, if they had
fulfilled their engagements with the wily Bengalee, so signal an example
of successful treason would have produced a crowd of imitators. Now, we
will not discuss this point on any rigid principles of morality. Indeed,
it is quite unnecessary to do so for, looking at the question as a
question of expediency in the lowest sense of the word, and using
no arguments {249}but such as Machiavelli might have employed in his
conferences with Borgia, we are convinced that Clive was altogether in
the wrong, and that he committed, not merely a crime, but a blunder.
That honesty is the best policy is a maxim which we firmly believe to
be generally correct, even with respect to the temporal interests of
individuals; but with respect to societies, the rule is subject to still
fewer exceptions, and that for this reason, that the life of societies
is longer than the life of individuals. It is possible to mention men
who have owed great worldly prosperity to breaches of private faith;
but we doubt whether it be possible to mention a state which has on the
whole been a gainer by a breach of public faith. The entire history
of British India is an illustration of the great truth, that it is not
prudent to oppose perfidy to perfidy, and that the most efficient weapon
with which men can encounter falsehood is truth. During a long course
of years, the English rulers of India, surrounded by allies and enemies
whom no engagement could bind, have generally acted with sincerity and
uprightness; and the event has proved that sincerity and uprightness are
wisdom. English valour and English intelligence have done less to extend
and to preserve our Oriental empire than English veracity. All that
we could have gained by imitating the doublings, the evasions, the
fictions, the perjuries which have been employed against us is as
nothing, when compared with what we have gained by being the one
power in India on whose word reliance can be placed. No oath which
superstition can devise, no hostage however precious, inspires a
hundredth part of the confidence which is produced by the “yea, yea,”
 and “nay, nay,” of a British envoy. No fastness, however strong by art
or nature, gives to {250}its inmates a security like that enjoyed by
the chief who, passing through the territories of powerful and deadly
enemies, is armed with the British guarantee. The mightiest princes of
the East can scarcely, by the offer of enormous usury, draw forth any
portion of the wealth which is concealed under the hearths of their
subjects. The British Government offers little more than four per cent.;
and avarice hastens to bring forth tens of millions of rupees from its
most secret repositories. A hostile monarch may promise mountains of
gold to our sepoys, on condition that they will desert the standard of
the Company. The Company promises only a moderate pension after a long
service. But every sepoy knows that the promise of the Company will be
kept: he knows that if he lives a hundred years his rice and salt are as
secure as the salary of the Governor-General: and he knows that there is
not another state in India which would not, in spite of the most solemn
vows, leave him to die of hunger in a ditch as soon as he had ceased to
be useful. The greatest advantage which a government can possess is
to be the one trustworthy government in the midst of governments which
nobody can trust. This advantage we enjoy in Asia. Had we acted during
the last two generations on the principles which Sir John Malcolm
appears to have considered as sound, had we as often as we had to deal
with people like Omichund, retaliated by lying and forging, and breaking
faith, after their fashion, it is our firm belief that no courage or
capacity could have upheld our empire.

Sir John Malcolm admits that Clive’s breach of faith could be justified
only by the strongest necessity. As we think that breach of faith not
only unnecessary, but most inexpedient, we need hardly say that we
altogether condemn it. {251}Omichund was not the only victim of the
revolution. Surajah Dowlah was taken a few days after his flight, and
was brought before Meer Jaffier. There he flung himself on the ground
in convulsions of fear, and with tears and loud cries implored the mercy
which he had never shown. Meer Jaffier hesitated; but his son Meeran, a
youth of seventeen, who in feebleness of brain and savageness of nature
greatly resembled the wretched captive, was implacable. Surajah Dowlah
was led into a secret chamber, to which in a short time the ministers of
death were sent. In this act the English bore no part; and Meer Jaffier
understood so much of their feelings, that he thought it necessary to
apologize to them for having avenged them on their most malignant enemy.

The shower of wealth now fell copiously on the Company and its servants.
A sum of eight hundred thousand pounds sterling, in coined silver, was
sent down the river from Moorshedabad to Fort William. The fleet which
conveyed this treasure consisted of more than a hundred boats, and
performed its triumphal voyage with flags flying and music playing.
Calcutta, which a few months before had been desolate, was now more
prosperous than ever. Trade revived; and the signs of affluence
appeared in every English house. As to Clive, there was no limit to his
acquisitions but his own moderation. The treasury of Bengal was thrown
open to him. There were piled up, after the usage of Indian princes,
immense masses of coin, among which might not seldom be detected the
florins and byzants with which, before any European ship had turned the
Cape of Good Hope, the Venetians purchased the stuffs and spices of the
East. Clive walked between heaps of gold and silver, crowned with rubies
{252}and diamonds, and was at liberty to help himself. He accepted
between two and three hundred thousand pounds.

The pecuniary transactions between Meer Jaffier and Clive were sixteen
years later condemned by the public voice, and severely criticised
in Parliament. They are vehemently defended by Sir John Malcolm. The
accusers of the victorious general represented his gains as the wages
of corruption, or as plunder extorted at the point of the sword from a
helpless ally. The biographer, on the other hand, considers these great
acquisitions as free gifts, honourable alike to the donor and to the
receiver, and compares them to the rewards bestowed by foreign powers on
Marlborough, on Nelson, and on Wellington. It had always, he says, been
customary in the East to give and receive presents; and there was, as
yet, no Act of Parliament positively prohibiting English functionaries
in India from profiting by this Asiatic usage. This reasoning, we
own, does not quite satisfy us. We do not suspect Clive of selling the
interests of his employers or his country; but we cannot acquit him
of having done what, if not in itself evil, was yet of evil example.
Nothing is more clear than that a general ought to be the servant of
his own government, and of no other. It follows that whatever rewards
he receives for his services ought to be given either by his own
government, or with the full knowledge and approbation of his own
government. This rule ought to be strictly maintained even with respect
to the merest bauble, with respect to a cross, a medal, or a yard of
coloured riband. But how can any government be well served, if those who
command its forces are at liberty, without its permission, without its
privity, to accept princely fortunes from its allies? It is {253}idle to
say that there was then no Act of Parliament prohibiting the practice of
taking presents from Asiatic sovereigns. It is not on the Act which was
passed at a later period for the purpose of preventing any such taking
of presents, but on grounds which were valid before that Act was passed,
on grounds of common law and common sense, that we arraign the conduct
of Clive. There is no Act that we know of, prohibiting the Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs from being in the pay of continental powers,
but it is not the less true that a Secretary who should receive a secret
pension from France would grossly violate his duty, and would deserve
severe punishment. Sir John Malcolm compares the conduct of Clive with
that of the Duke of Wellington. Suppose,--and we beg pardon for putting
such a supposition even for the sake of argument,--that the Duke of
Wellington had, after the campaign of 1815, and while he commanded the
army of occupation in France, privately accepted two hundred thousand
pounds from Lewis the Eighteenth, as a mark of gratitude for the great
services which his Grace had rendered to the House of Bourbon; what
would be thought of such a transaction? Yet the statute-book no more
forbids the taking of presents in Europe now than it forbade the taking
of presents in Asia then.

At the same time, it must be admitted that, in Clive’s case, there were
many extenuating circumstances. He considered himself as the general,
not of the Crown, but of the Company. The Company had, by implication
at least, authorised its agents to enrich themselves by means of
the liberality of the native princes, and by other means still more
objectionable.

It was hardly to be expected that the servant should entertain stricter
notions of his duty than were entertained {254}by his masters. Though
Clive did not distinctly acquaint his employers with what had taken
place and request their sanction, he did not, on the other hand, by
studied concealment, show that he was conscious of having done wrong.
On the contrary, he avowed with the greatest openness that the Nabob’s
bounty had raised him to affluence. Lastly, though we think that he
ought not in such a way to have taken any thing, we must admit that he
deserves praise for having taken so little. He accepted twenty lacs of
rupees. It would have cost him only a word to make the twenty forty. It
was a very easy exercise of virtue to declaim in England against Clive’s
rapacity; but not one in a hundred of his accusers would have shown so
much self-command in the treasury of Moorshedabad.

Meer Jaffier could be upheld on the throne only by the hand which had
placed him on it. He was not, indeed, a mere boy; nor had he been so
fortunate as to be born in the purple. He was not therefore quite so
imbecile or quite so depraved as his predecessor had been. But he had
none of the talents or virtues which his post required; and his son
and heir, Meeran, was another Surajah Dowlah. The recent revolution
had unsettled the minds of men. Many chiefs were in open insurrection
against the new Nabob. The viceroy of the rich and powerful province
of Oude, who, like the other viceroys of the Mogul, was now in truth
an independent sovereign, menaced Bengal with invasion. Nothing but the
talents and authority of Clive could support the tottering government.
While things were in this state a ship arrived with despatches which had
been written at the India House before the news of the battle of Plassey
had reached London. The Directors had determined to place the English
settlements in Ben gal {255}under a government constituted in the most
cumbrous and absurd manner; and, to make the matter worse, no place in
the arrangement was assigned to Clive. The persons who were selected to
form this new government, greatly to their honour, took on themselves
the responsibility of disobeying these preposterous orders, and invited
Clive to exercise the supreme authority. He consented; and it soon
appeared that the servants of the Company had only anticipated the
wishes of their employers. The Directors, on receiving news of Clive’s
brilliant success, instantly appointed him governor of their possessions
in Bengal, with the highest marks of gratitude and esteem. His power was
now boundless, and far surpassed even that which Dupleix had attained in
the south of India. Meer Jaffier regarded him with slavish awe. On one
occasion, the Nabob spoke with severity to a native chief of high rank,
whose followers had been engaged in a brawl with some of the Company’s
sepoys. “Are you yet to learn,” he said, “who that Colonel Clive is, and
in what station God has placed him?” The chief, who, as a famous jester
and an old friend of Meer Jaffier, could venture to take liberties,
answered, “I affront the Colonel! I, who never get up in the morning
without making three low bows to his jackass!” This was hardly an
exaggeration. Europeans and natives were alike at Clive’s feet. The
English regarded him as the only man who could force Meer Jaffier to
keep his engagements with them. Meer Jaffier regarded him as the only
man who could protect the new dynasty against turbulent subjects and
encroaching neighbours.

It is but justice to say that Clive used his power ably and vigorously
for the advantage of his country. He sent forth an expedition against
the tract lying to the {256}north of the Carnatic. In this tract the
French still had the ascendency; and it was important to dislodge them.
The conduct of the enterprise was intrusted to an officer of the name
of Forde, who was then little known, but in whom the keen eye of the
governor had detected military talents of a high order. The success of
the expedition was rapid and splendid.

While a considerable part of the army of Bengal was thus engaged at a
distance, a new and formidable danger menaced the western frontier.
The Great Mogul was a prisoner at Delhi in the hands of a subject. His
eldest son, named Shah Alum, destined to be, during many years, the
sport of adverse fortune, and to be a tool in the hands, first of the
Mahrattas, and then of the English, had fled from the palace of his
father. His birth was still revered in India. Some powerful princes,
the Nabob of Oude in particular, were inclined to favour him. Shah Alum
found it easy to draw to his standard great numbers of the military
adventurers with whom every part of the country swarmed. An army of
forty thousand men, of various races and religions, Mahrattas, Rohillas,
Jauts, and Afghans, was speedily assembled round him; and he formed the
design of overthrowing the upstart whom the English had elevated to a
throne, and of establishing his own authority throughout Bengal, Orissa,
and Bahar.

Meer Jaffier’s terror was extreme; and the only expedient which occurred
to him was to purchase, by the payment of a large sum of money, an
accommodation with Shah Alum. This expedient had been repeatedly
employed by those who, before him, had ruled the rich and unwarlike
provinces near the mouth of the Ganges. But Clive treated the suggestion
with a scorn worthy of his strong sense and dauntless courage.

“If {257}you do this,” he wrote, “you will have the Nabob of Oude, the
Mahrattas, and many more, come from all parts of the confines of your
country, who will bully you out of money till you have none left in
your treasury. I beg your Excellency will rely on the fidelity of the
English, and of those troops which are attached to you.” He wrote in a
similar strain to the governor of Patna, a brave native soldier whom he
highly esteemed. “Come to no terms; defend your city to the last. Rest
assured that the English are stanch and firm friends, and that they
never desert a cause in which they have once taken a part.”

He kept his word. Shah Alum had invested Patna, and was on the point of
proceeding to storm, when he learned that the Colonel was advancing by
forced marches. The whole army which was approaching consisted only of
four hundred and fifty Europeans and two thousand five hundred sepoys.
But Clive and his Englishmen were now objects of dread over all the
East. As soon as his advanced guard appeared, the besiegers fled before
him. A few French adventurers who were about the person of the prince
advised him to try the chance of battle; but in vain. In a few days this
great army, which had been regarded with so much uneasiness by the court
of Moorshedabad, melted away before the mere terror of the British name.

The conqueror returned in triumph to Fort William. The joy of Meer
Jaffier was as unbounded as his fears had been, and led him to bestow
on his preserver a princely token of gratitude. The quit-rent which
the East India Company were bound to pay to the Nabob for the extensive
lands held by them to the south of Calcutta amounted to near thirty
thousand pounds sterling a year. The whole of this splendid estate,
{258}sufficient to support with dignity the highest rank of the British
peerage, was now conferred on Clive for life.

This present we think Clive was justified in accepting. It was a present
which, from its very nature, could be no secret. In fact, the
Company itself was his tenant, and, by its acquiescence, signified its
approbation of Meer Jaffier’s grant.

But the gratitude of Meer Jaffier did not last long. He had for some
time felt that the powerful ally who had set him up might pull him down,
and had been looking round for support against the formidable strength
by which he had himself been hitherto supported. He knew that it would
be impossible to find among the natives of India any force which would
look the Colonel’s little army in the face. The French power in Bengal
was extinct. But the fame of the Dutch had anciently been great in the
Eastern seas; and it was not yet distinctly known in Asia how much the
power of Holland had declined in Europe. Secret communications passed
between the court of Moorshedabad and the Dutch factory at Chinsurah;
and urgent letters were sent from Chinsurah, exhorting the government
of Batavia to fit out an expedition which might balance the power of
the English in Bengal. The authorities of Batavia, eager to extend
the influence of their country, and still more eager to obtain for
themselves a share of the wealth which had recently raised so many
English adventurers to opulence, equipped a powerful armament. Seven
large ships from Java arrived unexpectedly in the Hoogley. The military
force on board amounted to fifteen hundred men, of whom about one half
were Europeans. The enterprise was well timed. Clive had sent such large
detachments to {259}oppose the French in the Carnatic that his army was
now inferior in number to that of the Dutch. He knew that Meer Jaffier
secretly favoured the invaders. He knew that he took on himself a
serious responsibility if he attacked the forces of a friendly power;
that the English ministers could not wish to see a war with Holland
added to that in which they were already engaged with France; that they
might disavow his acts; that they might punish him. He had recently
remitted a great part of his fortune to Europe, through the Dutch East
India Company; and he had therefore a strong interest in avoiding any
quarrel. But he was satisfied that, if he suffered the Batavian armament
to pass up the river and to join the garrison of Chinsurah, Meer Jaffier
would throw himself into the arms of these new allies, and that the
English ascendency in Bengal would be exposed to most serious danger.
He took his resolution with characteristic boldness, and was most ably
seconded by his officers, particularly by Colonel Forde, to whom the
most important part of the operations was intrusted. The Dutch attempted
to force a passage. The English encountered them both by land and water.
On both elements the enemy had a great superiority of force. On both
they were signally defeated. Their ships were taken. Their troops were
put to a total rout. Almost all the European soldiers, who constituted
the main strength of the invading army, were killed or taken. The
conquerors sat down before Chinsurah; and the chiefs of that settlement,
now thoroughly humbled, consented to the terms which Clive dictated.
They engaged to build no fortifications, and to raise no troops beyond
a small force necessary for the police of their factories; and it was
distinctly provided that, any violation of these covenants {260}should
be punished with instant expulsion from Bengal.

Three months after this great victory, Clive sailed for. England. At
home, honours and rewards awaited him, not indeed equal to his claims or
to his ambition, but still such as, when his age, his rank in the army,
and his original place in society are considered, must be pronounced
rare and splendid. He was raised to the Irish peerage, and encouraged
to expect an English title. George the Third, who had just ascended
the throne, received him with great distinction. The ministers paid him
marked attention; and Pitt, whose influence in the House of Commons and
in the country was unbounded, was eager to mark his regard for one whose
exploits had contributed so much to the lustre of that memorable
period. The great orator had already in Parliament described Clive as a
heaven-born general, as a man who, bred to the labour of the desk, had
displayed a military genius which might excite the admiration of the
King of Prussia. There were then no reporters in the gallery; but these
words, emphatically spoken by the first statesman of the age, had passed
from mouth to mouth, had been transmitted to Clive in Bengal, and had
greatly delighted and flattered him. Indeed, since the death of Wolfe,
Clive was the only English general of whom his countrymen had
much reason to be proud. The Duke of Cumberland had been generally
unfortunate; and his single victory, having been gained over his
countrymen and used with merciless severity, had been more fatal to his
popularity than his many defeats. Conway, versed in the learning of
his profession, and personally courageous, wanted vigour and capacity.
Granby, honest, generous, and as brave as a lion, had neither
{261}science nor genius. Sackville, inferior in knowledge and abilities
to none of his contemporaries, bad incurred, unjustly as we believe, the
imputation most fatal to the character of a soldier. It was under the
command of a foreign general that the British had triumphed at Minden
and Warburg. The people therefore, as was natural, greeted with pride
and delight a captain of their own, whose native courage and self-taught
skill had placed him on a level with the great tacticians of Germany.

The wealth of Clive was such as enabled him to vie with the first
grandees of England. There remains proof that he had remitted more
than a hundred and eighty thousand pounds through the Dutch East
India Company, and more than forty thousand pounds through the English
Company. The amount which he had sent home through private houses was
also considerable. He had invested great sums in jewels, then a very
common mode of remittance from India. His purchases of diamonds at
Madras alone, amounted to twenty-five thousand pounds. Besides a great
mass of ready money, he had his Indian estate, valued by himself at
twenty-seven thousand a year. His whole annual income, in the opinion
of Sir John Malcolm, who is desirous to state it as low as possible,
exceeded forty thousand pounds; and incomes of forty thousand pounds at
the time of the accession of George the Third were at least as rare as
incomes of a hundred thousand pounds now. We may safely affirm that
no Englishman who started with nothing, has ever, in any line of life,
created such a fortune at the early age of thirty-four.

It would be unjust not to add that Clive made a creditable use of his
riches. As soon as the battle of {262}Plassey had laid the foundation
of his fortune, he sent ten thousand pounds to his sisters, bestowed as
much more on other poor friends and relations, ordered his agent to pay
eight hundred a year to his parents, and to insist that they should
keep a carriage, and settled five hundred a year on his old commander
Lawrence, whose means were very slender. The whole sum which Clive
expended in this manner may be calculated at fifty thousand pounds.

He now set himself to cultivate Parliamentary interest. His purchases
of land seem to have been made in a great measure with that view, and,
after the general election of 1761, he found himself in the House of
Commons, at the head of a body of dependents whose support must have
been important to any administration. In English politics, however, he
did not take a prominent part. His first attachments, as we have seen,
were to Mr. Fox; at a later period he was attracted by the genius and
success of Mr. Pitt; but finally he connected himself in the closest
manner with George Grenville. Early in the session of 1764, when the
illegal and impolitic persecution of that worthless demagogue Wilkes had
strongly excited the public mind, the town was amused by an anecdote,
which we have seen in some unpublished memoirs of Horace Walpole. Old
Mr. Richard Clive, who, since his son’s elevation, had been introduced
into society for which his former habits had not well fitted him,
presented himself at the levee. The King asked him where Lord Clive was.
“He will be in town very soon,” said the old gentleman, loud enough to
be heard by the whole circle, “and then your Majesty will have another
vote.”

But in truth all Clive’s views were directed towards {263}the country
in which he had so eminently distinguished himself as a soldier and
a statesman; and it was by considerations relating to India that his
conduct as a public man in England was regulated. The power of the
Company, though an anomaly, is in our time, we are firmly persuaded, a
beneficial anomaly. In the time of Clive, it was not merely an anomaly,
but a nuisance. There was no Board of Control. The Director were for the
most part mere traders, ignorant of general politics, ignorant of the
peculiarities of the empire which had strangely become subject to them.
The Court of Proprietors, wherever it chose to interfere, was able to
have its way. That court was more numerous, as well as more powerful,
than at present; for then every share of five hundred pounds conferred
a vote. The meetings were large, stormy, even riotous, the debates
indecently virulent. All the turbulence of a Westminster election,
all the trickery and corruption of a Grampound election, disgraced the
proceedings of this assembly on questions of the most solemn importance.
Fictitious votes were manufactured on a gigantic scale. Clive himself
laid out a hundred thousand pounds in the purchase of stock, which he
then divided among nominal proprietors on whom he could depend, and
whom he brought down in his train to every discussion and every ballot.
Others did the same, though not to quite so enormous an extent.

The interest taken by the public of England in Indian questions was then
far greater than at present, and the reason is obvious. At present a
writer enters the service young; he climbs slowly; he is fortunate
if, at forty-five, he can return to his country with an annuity of a
thousand a year, and with savings amounting to thirty thousand pounds. A
great quantity of wealth is made {264}by English functionaries in India;
but no single functionary makes a very large fortune, and what is made
is slowly, hardly, and honestly earned. Only four or five high political
offices are reserved for public men from England. The residencies, the
secretaryships, the seats in the boards of revenue and in the Sudder
courts are all filled by men who have given the best years of life to
the service of the Company; nor can any talents however splendid or any
connections however powerful obtain those lucrative posts for any person
who has not entered by the regular door, and mounted by the regular
gradations. Seventy years ago, less money was brought home from the East
than in our time. But it was divided among a very much smaller number
of persons, and immense sums were often accumulated in a few months. Any
Englishman, whatever his age might be, might hope to be one of the lucky
emigrants. If he made a good speech in Leadenhall Street, or published a
clever pamphlet in defence of the chairman, he might be sent out in the
Company’s service, and might return in three or four years as rich as
Pigot or as Clive. Thus the India House was a lottery-office, which
invited everybody to take a chance, and held out ducal fortunes as the
prizes destined for the lucky few. As soon as it was known that there
was a part of the world where a lieutenant-colonel had one morning
received as a present an estate as large as that of the Earl of Bath or
the Marquess of Rockingham, and where it seemed that such a trifle as
ten or twenty thousand pounds was to be had by any British functionary
for the asking, society began to exhibit all the symptoms of the South
Sea year, a feverish excitement, an ungovernable impatience to be rich,
a contempt for slow, sure, and moderate gains. {265}At the head of the
preponderating party in the India House, had long stood a powerful,
able, and ambitious director of the name of Sulivan. He had conceived
a strong jealousy of Clive, and remembered with bitterness the audacity
with which the late governor of Bengal had repeatedly set at nought
the authority of the distant Directors of the Company. An apparent
reconciliation took place after Clive’s arrival; but enmity remained
deeply rooted in the hearts of both. The whole body of Directors was
then chosen annually. At the election of 1763, Clive attempted to break
down the power of the dominant faction. The contest was carried on with
a violence which he describes as tremendous. Sulivan was victorious, and
hastened to take his revenge. The grant of rent which Clive had received
from Meer Jaffier was, in the opinion of the best English lawyers,
valid. It had been made by exactly the same authority from which the
Company had received their chief possessions in Bengal, and the Company
had long acquiesced in it. The Directors, however, most unjustly
determined to confiscate it, and Clive was forced to file a bill in
Chancery against them.

But a great and sudden turn in affairs was at hand. Every ship from
Bengal had for some time brought alarming tidings. The internal
misgovernment of the province had reached such a point that it could
go no further. What, indeed, was to be expected from a body of public
servants exposed to temptation such that, as Clive once said, flesh and
blood could not bear it, armed with irresistible power, and responsible
only to the corrupt, turbulent, distracted, ill informed Company,
situated at such a distance that the average interval between the
sending of a dispatch and the receipt {266}of an answer was above a
year and a half? Accordingly, during the five years which followed the
departure of Clive from Bengal, the misgovernment of the English
was carried to a point such as seems hardly compatible with the very
existence of society. The Roman proconsul, who, in a year or two,
squeezed out of a province the means of rearing marble palaces and
baths on the shores of Campania, of drinking from amber, of feasting
on singing birds, of exhibiting armies of gladiators and flocks of
camelopards; the Spanish viceroy, who, leaving behind him the curses of
Mexico or Lima, entered Madrid with a long train of gilded coaches,
and of sumpter-horses trapped and shod with silver, were now outdone.
Cruelty, indeed, properly so called, was not among the vices of the
servants of the Company. But cruelty itself could hardly have produced
greater evils than sprang from their unprincipled eagerness to be rich.
They pulled down their creature, Meer Jaffier. They set up in his place
another Nabob, named Meer Cossim. But Meer Cossim had parts and a will;
and, though sufficiently inclined to oppress his subjects himself,
he could not bear to see them ground to the dust by oppressions which
yielded him no profit, nay, which destroyed his revenue in the very
source. The English accordingly pulled down Meer Cossim, and set up Meer
Jaffier again; and Meer Cossim, after revenging himself by a massacre
surpassing in atrocity that of the Black Hole, fled to the dominions
of the Nabob of Oude. At every one of these revolutions, the new prince
divided among his foreign masters whatever could be scraped together in
the treasury of his fallen predecessor. The immense population of his
dominions was given up as a prey to those who had made him a sovereign,
and who could unmake him. The servants {267}of the Company obtained, not
for their employers, but for themselves, a monopoly of almost the whole
internal trade. They forced the natives to buy dear and to sell cheap.
They insulted with impunity the tribunals, the police, and the fiscal
authorities of the country. They covered with their protection a set of
native dependents who ranged through the provinces, spreading desolation
and terror wherever they appeared. Every servant of a British factor was
armed with all the power of his master; and his master was armed with
all the power of the Company. Enormous fortunes were thus rapidly
accumulated at Calcutta, while thirty millions of human beings were
reduced to the extremity of wretchedness. They had been accustomed to
live under tyranny, but never under tyranny like this. They found the
little finger of the Company thicker than the loins of Surajah Dowlali.
Under their old masters they had at least one resource: when the evil
became insupportable, the people rose and pulled down the government.
But the English government was not to be so shaken off. That government,
oppressive as the most oppressive form of barbarian despotism,
was strong with all the strength of civilisation. It resembled the
government of evil Genii, rather than the government of human tyrants.
Even despair could not inspire the soft Bengalee with courage to
confront men of English breed, the hereditary nobility of mankind, whose
skill and valour had so often triumphed in spite of tenfold odds. The
unhappy race never attempted resistance. Sometimes they submitted in
patient misery. Sometimes they fled from the white man, as their fathers
had been used to fly from the Mahratta; and the palanquin of the English
traveller was often carried through silent villages and {268}towns,
which the report of his approach had made desolate.

The foreign lords of Bengal were naturally objects of hatred to all the
neighbouring powers; and to all the haughty race presented a dauntless
front. The English armies, everywhere outnumbered, were everywhere
victorious. A succession of commanders, formed in the school of Clive,
still maintained the fame of their country. “It must be acknowledged,”
 says the Mussulman historian of those times, “that this nation’s
presence of mind, firmness of temper, and undaunted bravery, are past
all question. They join the most resolute courage to the most cautious
prudence; nor have they their equals in the art of ranging themselves
in battle array and fighting in order. If to so many military
qualifications they knew how to join the arts of government, if they
exerted as much ingenuity and solicitude in relieving the people of God,
as they do in whatever concerns their military affairs, no nation in
the world would be preferable to them, or worthier of command. But the
people under their dominion groan everywhere, and are reduced to
poverty and distress. Oh God! come to the assistance of thine afflicted
servants, and deliver them from the oppressions which they suffer.”

It was impossible, however, that even the military establishment should
long continue exempt from the vices which pervaded every other part
of the government. Rapacity, luxury, and the spirit of insubordination
spread from the civil service to the officers of the army, and from
the officers to the soldiers. The evil continued to grow till every
mess-room became the seat of conspiracy and cabal, and till the sepoys
could be kept in order only by wholesale executions. {269}At length
the state of things in Bengal began to excite uneasiness at home. A
succession of revolutions; a disorganized administration; the natives
pillaged, yet the Company not enriched; every fleet bringing back
fortunate adventurers who were able to purchase manors and to build
stately dwellings, yet bringing back also alarming accounts of
the financial prospects of the government; war on the frontiers;
disaffection in the army; the national character disgraced by excesses
resembling those of Verres and Pizarro; such was the spectacle which
dismayed those who were conversant with Indian affairs. The general
cry was that Clive, and Clive alone, could save the empire which he had
founded.

This feeling manifested itself in the strongest manner at a very full
General Court of Proprietors. Men of all parties, forgetting their feuds
and trembling for their dividends, exclaimed that Clive was the man
whom the crisis required, that the oppressive proceedings which had been
adopted respecting his estate ought to be dropped, and that he ought to
be entreated to return to India.

Clive rose. As to his estate, he said, he would make such propositions
to the Directors, as would, he trusted, lead to an amicable settlement.
But there was a still greater difficulty. It was proper to tell them
that he never would undertake the government of Bengal while his enemy
Sulivan was chairman of the Company. The tumult was violent. Sulivan
could scarcely obtain a hearing. An overwhelming majority of the
assembly was on Clive’s side. Sulivan wished to try the result of a
ballot. But, according to the by-laws of the Company, there, can be no
ballot except on a requisition signed by nine proprietors; and, though
{270}hundreds were present, nine persons could not be found to set their
hands to such a requisition.

Clive was in consequence nominated Governor and Commander-in-chief of
the British possessions in Bengal. But he adhered to his declaration,
and refused to enter on his office till the event of the next election
of Directors should be known. The contest was obstinate; but Clive
triumphed. Sulivan, lately absolute master of the India House, was
within a vote of losing his own seat; and both the chairman and the
deputy-chairman were friends of the new governor.

Such were the circumstances under which Lord Clive sailed for the third
and last time to India. In May, 1765, he reached Calcutta; and he found
the whole machine of government even more fearfully disorganized than he
had anticipated. Meer Jaffier, who had some time before lost his eldest
son Meeran, had died while Clive was on his voyage out. The English
functionaries at Calcutta had already received from home strict orders
not to accept presents from the native princes. But, eager for gain,
and unaccustomed to respect the commands of their distant, ignorant, and
negligent masters, they again set up the throne of Bengal to sale. About
one hundred and forty thousand pounds sterling was distributed among
nine of the most powerful servants of the Company; and, in consideration
of this bribe, an infant son of the deceased Nabob was placed on the
seat of his father. The news of the ignominious bargain met Clive on his
arrival. In a private letter, written immediately after his landing,
to an intimate friend, he poured out his feelings in language which,
proceeding from a man so daring, so resolute, and so little given
to theatrical display of sentiment, seems to us singularly touching.
“Alas!” he {271}says, “how is the English name sunk! I could not avoid
paying the tribute of a few tears to the departed and lost fame of the
British nation--irrecoverably so, I fear. However, I do declare, by that
great Being who is the searcher of all hearts, and to whom we must be
accountable if there be a hereafter, that I am come out with a mind
superior to all corruption, and that I am determined to destroy these
great and growing evils, or perish in the attempt.”

The Council met, and Clive stated to them his full determination to make
a thorough reform, and to use for that purpose the whole of the
ample authority, civil and military, which had been confided to him.
Johnstone, one of the boldest and worst men in the assembly, made
some show of opposition. Clive interrupted him, and haughtily demanded
whether he meant to question the power of the new government. Johnstone
was cowed, and disclaimed any such intention. All the faces round
the board grew long and pale; and not another syllable of dissent was
uttered.

Clive redeemed his pledge. He remained in India about a year and a half;
and in that short time effected one of the most extensive, difficult,
and salutary reforms that ever was accomplished by any statesman. This
was the part of his life on which he afterwards looked back with most
pride. He had it in his power to triple his already splendid fortune;
to connive at abuses while pretending to remove them; to conciliate the
good-will of all the English in Bengal, by giving up to their rapacity
a helpless and timid race, who knew not where lay the island which sent
forth their oppressors, and whose complaints had little chance of being
heard across fifteen thousand miles of ocean. He knew that if he applied
himself in earnest to the work {272}of reformation, he should raise
every bad passion in arms against him. He knew how unscrupulous, how
implacable, would be the hatred of those ravenous adventurers who,
having counted on accumulating in a few months fortunes sufficient to
support peerages, should find all their hopes frustrated. But he had
chosen the good part; and he called up all the force of his mind for
a battle far harder than that of Plassey. At first success seemed
hopeless; but soon all obstacles began to bend before that iron courage
and that vehement will. The receiving of presents from the natives was
rigidly prohibited. The private trade of the servants of the Company
was put down. The whole settlement seemed to be set, as one man, against
these measures. But the inexorable governor declared that, if he could
not find support at Fort William, he would procure it elsewhere, and
sent for some civil servants from Madras to assist him in carrying on
the administration. The most factious of his opponents he turned out of
their offices. The rest submitted to what was inevitable; and in a very
short time all resistance was quelled.

But Clive was far too wise a man not to see that the recent abuses were
partly to be ascribed to a cause which could not fail to produce similar
abuses, as soon as the pressure of his strong hand was withdrawn. The
Company had followed a mistaken policy with respect to the remuneration
of its servants. The salaries were too low to afford even those
indulgences which are necessary to the health and comfort of Europeans
in a tropical climate. To lay by a rupee from such scanty pay was
impossible. It could not be supposed that men of even average abilities
would consent to pass the best years of life in exile, under a burning
sun. {273}for no other consideration than these stinted wages. It
had accordingly been understood, from a very early period, that the
Company’s agents were at liberty to enrich themselves by their private
trade. This practice had been seriously injurious to the commercial
interests of the corporation. That very intelligent observer, Sir Thomas
Roe, in the reign of James the First, strongly urged the Directors to
apply a remedy to the abuse. “Absolutely prohibit the private trade,”
 said he; “for your business will be better done. I know this is harsh.
Men profess they come not for bare wages. But you will take away this
plea if you give great wages to their content; and then you know what
you part from.”

In spite of this excellent advice, the Company adhered to the old
system, paid low salaries, and connived at the indirect gains of the
agents. The pay of a member of Council was only three hundred pounds
a year. Yet it was notorious that such a functionary could not live in
India for less than ten times that sum; and it could not be expected
that he would be content to live even handsomely in India without laying
up something against the time of his return to England. This system,
before the conquest of Bengal, might affect the amount of the dividends
payable to the proprietors, but could do little harm in any other way.
But the Company was now a ruling body. Its servants might still be
called factors, junior merchants, senior merchants. But they were in
truth proconsuls, proprætors, procurators of extensive regions. They
had immense power. Their regular pay was universally admitted to be
insufficient. They were, by the ancient usage of the service, and by
the implied permission of their employers, warranted in enriching
{274}themselves by indirect means; and this had been the origin of the
frightful oppression and corruption which had desolated Bengal. Clive
saw clearly that it was absurd to give men power, and to require them
to live in penury. He justly concluded that no reform could be effectual
which should not be coupled with a plan for liberally remunerating the
civil servants of the Company. The Directors, he knew, were not disposed
to sanction any increase of the salaries out of their own treasury. The
only course which remained open to the governor was one which exposed
him to much misrepresentation, but which we think him fully justified in
adopting. He appropriated to the support of the service the monopoly of
salt, which has formed, down to our own time, a principal head of Indian
revenue; and he divided the proceeds according to a scale which seems to
have been not unreasonably fixed. He was in consequence accused by
his enemies, and has been accused by historians, of disobeying his
instructions, of violating his promises, of authorising that very abuse
which it was his special mission to destroy, namely the trade of the
Company’s servants. But every discerning and impartial judge will admit,
that there was really nothing in common between the system which he set
up and that which he was sent to destroy. The monopoly of salt had been
a source of revenue to the governments of India before Clive was born.
It continued to be so long after his death. The civil servants were
clearly entitled to a maintenance out of the revenue; and all that
Clive did was to charge a particular portion of the revenue with their
maintenance. He thus, while he put an end to the practices by which
gigantic fortunes had been rapidly accumulated, gave to every British
functionary employed in the East the means {275}of slowly, but surely,
acquiring a competence. Yet, such is the injustice of mankind, that none
of those acts which are the real stains of his life has drawn on him so
much obloquy as this measure, which was in truth a reform necessary to
the success of all his other reforms.

He had quelled the opposition of the civil service: that of the army was
more formidable. Some of the retrenchments which had been ordered by the
Directors affected the interests of the military service; and a storm
arose, such as even Caesar would not willingly have faced. It was no
light thing to encounter the resistance of those who held the power of
the sword, in a country governed only by the sword. Two hundred English
officers engaged in a conspiracy against the government, and determined
to resign their commissions on the same day, not doubting that Clive
would grant any terms rather than see the army, on which alone the
British empire in the East rested, left without commanders. They little
knew the unconquerable spirit with which they had to deal. Clive had
still a few officers round his person on whom he could rely. He sent
to Fort St. George for a fresh supply. He gave commissions even to
mercantile agents who were disposed to support him at this crisis;
and he sent orders that every officer who resigned should be
instantly brought up to Calcutta. The conspirators found that they had
miscalculated. The governor was inexorable. The troops were steady. The
sepoys, over whom Clive had always possessed extraordinary influence,
stood by him with unshaken fidelity. The leaders in the plot were
arrested, tried, and cashiered. The rest, humbled and dispirited, begged
to be permitted to withdraw their resignations. Many of them declared
their {276}repentance even with tears. The younger offenders Clive
treated with lenity. To the ringleaders he was inflexibly severe; but
his severity was pure from all taint of private malevolence. While he
sternly upheld the just authority of his office, he passed by personal
insults and injuries with magnanimous disdain. One of the conspirators
was accused of having planned the assassination of the governor; but
Clive would not listen to the charge. “The officers,” he said, “are
Englishmen, not assassins.”

While he reformed the civil service and established his authority over
the army, he was equally successful in his foreign policy. His landing
on Indian ground was the signal for immediate peace. The Nabob of Oude,
with a large army, lay at that time on the frontier of Baliar. He had
been joined by many Afghans and Mahrattas, and there was no small reason
to expect a general coalition of all the native powers against the
English. But the name of Clive quelled in an instant all opposition.
The enemy implored peace in the humblest language, and submitted to such
terms as the new governor chose to dictate.

At the same time, the Government of Bengal was placed on a new footing.
The power of the English in that province had hitherto been altogether
undefined. It was unknown to the ancient constitution of the empire, and
it had been ascertained by no compact. It resembled the power which, in
the last decrepitude of the Western Empire, was exercised over Italy by
the great chiefs of foreign mercenaries, the Ricimers and the
Odoacers, who put up and pulled down at their pleasure a succession of
insignificant princes, dignified with the names of Cæsar and Augustus.
But as in Italy, so in India, the warlike strangers at length found
{277}it expedient to give to a domination which had been established by
arms the sanction of law and ancient prescription. Theodoric thought
it politic to obtain from the distant court of Byzantium a commission
appointing him ruler of Italy; and Clive, in the same manner, applied to
the Court of Delhi for a formal grant of the powers of which he already
possessed the reality. The Mogul was absolutely helpless; and, though he
murmured, had reason to be well pleased that the English were disposed
to give solid rupees, which he never could have extorted from them, in
exchange for a few Persian characters which cost him nothing. A bargain
was speedily struck; and the titular sovereign of Hindostan issued a
warrant, empowering the Company to collect and administer the revenues
of Bengal, Orissa, and Baliar.

There was still a Nabob, who stood to the British authorities in the
same relation in which the last drivelling Chilperics and Childerics
of the Merovingian line stood to their able and vigorous Mayors of the
Palace, to Charles Martel and to Pepin. At one time Clive had almost
made up his mind to discard this phantom altogether: but he afterwards
thought that it might be convenient still to use the name of the Nabob,
particularly in dealings with other European nations. The French, the
Dutch, and the Danes, would, he conceived, submit far more readily to
the authority of the native Prince, whom they had always been accustomed
to respect, than to that of a rival trading corporation. This policy
may, at that time, have been judicious. But the pretence was soon found
to be too flimsy to impose on anybody; and it was altogether laid aside.
The heir of Meer Jaffier still resides at Moorshedabad, the ancient
capital of his house, still bears the title of {278}Nabob, is still
accosted by the English as “Your Highness,” and is still suffered to
retain a portion of the regal state which surrounded his ancestors. A
pension of a hundred and sixty thousand pounds a year is annually paid
to him by the government. His carriage is surrounded by guards, and
preceded by attendants with silver maces. His person and his dwelling
are exempted from the ordinary authority of the ministers of justice.
But he has not the smallest share of political power, and is, in fact,
only a noble and wealthy subject of the Company.

It would have been easy for Clive, during his second administration in
Bengal, to accumulate riches, such as no subject in Europe possessed. He
might indeed, without subjecting the rich inhabitants of the province
to any pressure beyond that to which their mildest rulers had accustomed
them, have received presents to the amount of three hundred thousand
pounds a year. The neighbouring princes would gladly have paid any price
for his favour. But he appears to have strictly adhered to the rules
which he had laid down for the guidance of others. The Rajah of Benares
offered him diamonds of great value. The Nabob of Oude pressed him
to accept a large sum of money, and a casket of costly jewels. Clive
courteously but peremptorily refused: and it should be observed that he
made no merit of his refusal, and that the facts did not come to light
till after his death. He kept an exact account of his salary, of his
share of the profits accruing from the trade in salt, and of those
presents which, according to the fashion of the East, it would be
churlish to refuse. Out of the sum arising from these resources he
defrayed the expenses of his situation. The surplus he divided among a
few attached friends who had accompanied {279}him to India. He always
boasted, and, as far as we can judge, he boasted with truth, that his
last administration diminished instead of increasing his fortune.

One large sum indeed he accepted. Meer Jaffier had left him by will
above sixty thousand pounds sterling in specie and jewels: and the rules
which had been recently laid down extended only to presents from the
living, and did not affect legacies from the dead. Clive took the money,
but not for himself. He made the whole over to the Company, in trust for
officers and soldiers invalided in their service. The fund which still
bears his name, owes its origin to this princely donation. After a stay
of eighteen months, the state of his health made it necessary for him to
return to Europe. At the close of January, 1767, he quitted for the
last time the country, on whose destinies he had exercised so mighty an
influence.

His second return from Bengal was not, like his first, greeted by the
acclamations of his countrymen. Numerous causes were already at work
which embittered the remaining years of his life, and hurried him to an
untimely grave. His old enemies at the India House were still powerful
and active; and they had been reinforced by a large band of allies,
whose violence far exceeded their own. The whole crew of pilferers
and oppressors from whom he had rescued Bengal persecuted him with the
implacable rancour which belong to such abject natures. Many of them
even invested their property in India stock, merely that they might
be better able to annoy the man whose firmness had set bounds to their
rapacity. Lying newspapers were set up for no purpose but to abuse him;
and the temper of the public mind was then such, that {280}these arts,
which under ordinary circumstances would have been ineffectual against
truth and merit, produced an extraordinary impression.

The great events which had taken place in India had called into
existence a new class of Englishmen, to whom their countrymen gave the
name of Nabobs. These persons had generally sprung from families neither
ancient nor opulent; they had generally been sent at an early age to the
East; and they had there acquired large fortunes, which they had brought
back to their native land. It was natural that, not having had much
opportunity of mixing with the best society, they should exhibit some
of the awkwardness and some of the pomposity of upstarts. It was natural
that, during their sojourn in Asia, they should have acquired some
tastes and habits surprising, if not disgusting, to persons who
had never quitted Europe. It was natural that, having enjoyed great
consideration in the East, they should not be disposed to sink into
obscurity at home; and as they had money, and had not birth or high
connection, it was natural that they should display a little obtrusively
the single advantage that they possessed. Wherever they settled there
was a kind of feud between them and the old nobility and gentry,
similar to that which raged in France between the farmer-general and the
marquess. This enmity to the aristocracy long continued to distinguish
the servants of the Company. More than twenty years after the time of
which we are now speaking, Burke pronounced that among the Jacobins
might be reckoned “the East Indians almost to a man, who cannot bear to
find that their present importance does not bear a proportion to their
wealth.”.

The Nabobs soon became a most unpopular class of men. {281}Some of them
had in the East displayed eminent talents, and rendered great services
to the state; but at home their talents were not shown to advantage, and
their services were little known. That they had sprung from obscurity,
that they had acquired great wealth, that they exhibited it insolently,
that they spent it extravagantly, that they raised the price of every
thing in their neighbourhood, from fresh eggs to rotten boroughs, that
their liveries outshone those of dukes, that their coaches were finer
than that of the Lord Mayor, that the examples of their large and ill
governed households corrupted half the servants in the country, that
some of them, with all their magnificence, could not catch the tone of
good society, but, in spite of the stud and the crowd of menials, of the
plate and the Dresden china, of the venison and the Burgundy, were still
low men; these were things which excited, both in the class from which
they had sprung and in the class into which they attempted to force
themselves, the bitter aversion which is the effect of mingled envy
and contempt. But when it was also rumoured that the fortune which had
enabled its possessor to eclipse the Lord Lieutenant on the race-ground,
or to carry the county against the head of a house as old as Domesday
Book, had been accumulated by violating public faith, by deposing
legitimate princes, by reducing whole provinces to beggary, all the
higher and better as well as all the low and evil parts of human nature
were stirred against the wretch who had obtained by guilt and dishonour
the riches which he now lavished with arrogant and inelegant profusion.
The unfortunate Nabob seemed to be made up of those foibles against
which comedy has pointed the most merciless ridicule, and of those
crimes which have thrown the deepest {282}gloom over tragedy, of
Turcaret and Nero, of Monsieur Jourdain and Richard the Third. A
tempest of execration and derision, such as can be compared only to that
outbreak of public feeling against the Puritans which took place at
the time of the Restoration, burst on the servants of the Company. The
humane man was horror-struck at the way in which they had got their
money, the thrifty man at the way in which they spent it. The Dilettante
sneered at their want of taste. The Maccaroni black-balled them
as vulgar fellows. Writers the most unlike in sentiment and style,
Methodists and libertines, philosophers and buffoons, were for once
on the same side. It is hardly too much to say that, during a space of
about thirty years, the whole lighter literature of England was coloured
by the feelings which we have described. Foote brought on the stage an
Anglo-Indian chief, dissolute, ungenerous, and tyrannical, ashamed
of the humble friends of his youth, hating the aristocracy, yet
childishly eager to be numbered among them, squandering his wealth on
pandars and flatterers, tricking out his chairman with the most costly
hot-house flowers, and astounding the ignorant with jargon about rupees,
lacs, and jaghires. Mackenzie, with more delicate humour, depicted a
plain country family raised by the Indian acquisitions of one of its
members to sudden opulence, and exciting derision by an awkward mimicry
of the maimers of the great. Cowper in that lofty expostulation which
glows with the very spirit of the Hebrew poets, placed the oppression
of India foremost in the list of those national crimes for which God had
punished England with years of disastrous war, with discomfiture in her
own seas, and with the loss of her transatlantic empire. If any of our
readers will take {283}the trouble to search in the dusty recesses of
circulating libraries for some novel published sixty years ago, the
chance is that the villain or sub-villain of the story will prove to be
a savage old Nabob, with an immense fortune, a tawny complexion, a bad
liver, and a worse heart.

Such, as far as we can now judge, was the feeling of the country
respecting Nabobs in general. And Clive was eminently the Nabob,
the ablest, the most celebrated, the highest in rank, the highest in
fortune, of all the fraternity. His wealth was exhibited in a manner
which could not fail to excite odium. He lived with great magnificence
in Berkeley Square. He reared one palace in Shropshire and another
at Claremont. His parliamentary influence might vie with that of the
greatest families. But in all this splendour and power envy found
something to sneer at. On some of his relations wealth and dignity seem
to have sat as awkwardly as on Mackenzie’s Margery Mushroom. Nor was he
himself, with all his great qualities, free from those weaknesses which
the satirists of that age represented as characteristic of his whole
class. In the field, indeed, his habits were remarkably simple. He was
constantly on horseback, was never seen but in his uniform, never wore
silk, never entered a palanquin, and was content with the plainest fare.
But when he was no longer at the head of an army, he laid aside this
Spartan temperance for the ostentatious luxury of a Sybarite. Though his
person was ungraceful, and though his harsh features were redeemed
from vulgar ugliness only by their stern, dauntless, and commanding
expression, he was fond of rich and gay clothing, and replenished his
wardrobe with absurd profusion. Sir John Malcolm gives us a letter
worthy of Sir Matthew Mite, in {284}which Clive orders “two hundred
shirts, the best and finest that can be got for love or money.” A few
follies of this description, grossly exaggerated by report, produced an
unfavourable impression on the public mind. But this was not the worst.
Black stories, of which the greater part were pure inventions, were
circulated touching his conduct in the East. He had to bear the whole
odium, not only of those bad acts to which he had once or twice stooped,
but of all the bad acts of all the English in India, of bad acts
committed when he was absent, nay, of bad acts which he had manfully
opposed and severely punished. The very abuses against which he had
waged an honest, resolute, and successful war, were laid to his account.
He was, in fact, regarded as the personification of all the vices and
weaknesses which the public, with or without reason, ascribed to the
English adventurers in Asia. We have ourselves heard old men, who knew.
nothing of his history, but who still retained the prejudices conceived
in their youth, talk of him as an incarnate fiend. Johnson always
held this language. Brown, whom Clive employed to lay out his pleasure
grounds, was amazed to see in the house of his noble employer a chest
which had once been filled with gold from the treasury of Moorshedabad,
and could not understand how the conscience of the criminal could
suffer him to sleep with such an object so near to his bedchamber. The
peasantry of Surrey looked with mysterious horror on the stately house
which was rising at Claremont, and whispered that the great wicked
lord had ordered the walls to be made so thick in order to keep out the
devil, who would one day carry him away bodily. Among the gaping clowns
who drank in this frightful story was a worthless {285}ugly lad of the
name of Hunt, since widely known as William Huntington, S. S.; and
the superstition which was strangely mingled with the knavery of that
remarkable impostor seems to have derived no small nutriment from the
tales which he heard of the life and character of Clive.

In the mean time, the impulse which Clive had given to the
administration of Bengal was constantly becoming fainter and fainter.
His policy was to a great extent abandoned; the abuses which he
had suppressed began to revive; and at length the evils which a bad
government had engendered were aggravated by one of those fearful
visitations which the best government cannot avert. In the summer of
1770, the rains failed; the earth was parched up; the tanks were empty;
the rivers shrank within their beds; and a famine, such as is known only
in countries where every household depends for support on its own little
patch of cultivation, filled the whole valley of the Ganges with misery
and death. Tender and delicate women, whose veils had never been lifted
before the public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers in which
Eastern jealousy had kept watch over their beauty, threw themselves on
the earth before the passers-by, and, with loud wailings, implored a
handful of rice for their children. The Hoogley every day rolled down
thousands of corpses close to the porticoes and gardens of the English
conquerors. The very streets of Calcutta were blocked up by the dying
and the dead. The lean and feeble survivors had not energy enough to
bear the bodies of their kindred to the funeral pile or to the holy
river, or even to scare away the jackals and vultures, who fed on human
remains in the face of day. The extent of the mortality {286}was never
ascertained; but it was popularly reckoned by millions. This melancholy
intelligence added to the excitement which already prevailed in England
on Indian subjects. The proprietors of East India stock were uneasy
about their dividends. All men of common humanity were touched by the
calamities of our unhappy subjects; and indignation soon began to
mingle itself with pity. It was rumoured that the Company’s servants had
created the famine by engrossing all the rice of the country; that they
had sold grain for eight, ten, twelve times the price at which they had
bought it; that one English functionary who, the year before, was not
worth a hundred guineas, had, during that season of misery, remitted
sixty thousand pounds to London. These charges we believe to have been
unfounded. That servants of the Company had ventured, since Clive’s
departure, to deal in rice, is probable. That, if they dealt in rice,
they must have gained by the scarcity, is certain. But there is no
reason for thinking that they either produced or aggravated an evil
which physical causes sufficiently explain. The outcry which was
raised against them on this occasion was, we suspect, as absurd as
the imputations which, in times of dearth at home, were once thrown by
statesmen and judges, and are still thrown by two or three old women,
on the corn factors. It was, however, so loud and so general that it
appears to have imposed even on an intellect raised so high above vulgar
prejudices as that of Adam Smith. What was still more extraordinary,
these unhappy events greatly increased the unpopularity of Lord Clive.
He had been some years in England when the famine took place. None of
his acts had the smallest tendency to produce such a calamity. If the
{287}servants of the Company had traded in rice, they had done so in
direct contravention of the rule which he had laid down, and, while in
power, had resolutely enforced. But, in the eyes of his countrymen, he
was, as we have said, the Nabob, the Anglo-Indian character personified;
and, while he was building and planting in Surrey, he was held
responsible for all the effects of a dry season in Bengal.

Parliament had hitherto bestowed very little attention on our Eastern
possessions. Since the death of George the Second, a rapid succession of
weak administrations, each of which was in turn flattered and betrayed
by the Court, had held the semblance of power. Intrigues in the palace,
riots in the capital, and insurrectionary movements in the American
colonies, had left the advisers of the crown little leisure to study
Indian politics. When they did interfere, their interference was feeble
and irresolute. Lord Chatham, indeed, during the short period of his
ascendency in the councils of George the Third, had meditated a bold
attack on the Company. But his plans were rendered abortive by the
strange malady which about that time began to overcloud his splendid
genius.

At length, in 1772, it was generally felt that Parliament could no
longer neglect the affairs of India. The Government was stronger than
any which had held power since the breach between Mr. Pitt and the great
Whig connection in 1761. No pressing question of domestic or European
policy required the attention of public men. There was a short and
delusive lull between two tempests. The excitement produced by the
Middlesex election was over; the discontents of America did not yet
threaten civil war; the financial difficulties of the Company brought on
a crisis; the {288}Ministers were forced to take up the subject; and
the whole storm, which had long been gathering, now broke at once on the
head of Clive.

His situation was indeed singularly unfortunate. He was hated throughout
the country, hated at the India House, hated, above all, by those
wealthy and powerful servants of the Company, whose rapacity and tyranny
he had withstood. He had to bear the double odium of his bad and of
his good actions, of every Indian abuse and of every Indian reform. The
state of the political world was such that he could count on the support
of no powerful connection. The party to which he had belonged, that of
George Grenville, had been hostile to the Government, and yet had never
cordially united with the other sections of the Opposition, with the
little hand which still followed the fortunes of Lord Chatham, or
with the large and respectable body of which Lord Rockingham was the
acknowledged leader. George Grenville was now dead: his followers were
scattered; and Clive, unconnected with any of the powerful factions
which divided the Parliament, could reckon only on the votes of those
members who were returned by himself. His enemies, particularly those
who were the enemies of his virtues, were unscrupulous, ferocious,
implacable. Their malevolence aimed at nothing less than the utter
ruin of his fame and fortune. They wished to see him expelled from
Parliament, to see his spurs chopped off, to see his estate confiscated;
and it may be doubted whether even such a result as this would have
quenched their thirst for revenge.

Clive’s parliamentary tactics resembled his military tactics. Deserted,
surrounded, outnumbered, and with every thing at stake, he did not even
deign to stand {289}on the defensive, but pushed boldly forward to the
attack. At an early stage of the discussions on Indian affairs he rose,
and in a long and elaborate speech vindicated himself from a large part
of the accusations which had been brought against him. He is said to
have produced a great impression on his audience. Lord Chatham, who, now
the ghost of his former self, loved to haunt the scene of his glory, was
that night under the gallery of the House of Commons, and declared that
he had never heard a finer speech. It was subsequently printed under
Clive’s direction, and, when the fullest allowance has been made for the
assistance which he may have obtained from literary friends, proves
him to have possessed, not merely strong sense and a manly spirit, but
talents both for disquisition and declamation which assiduous culture
might have improved into the highest excellence. He confined his
defence on this occasion to the measures of his last administration, and
succeeded so far that his enemies thenceforth thought it expedient to
direct their attacks chiefly against the earlier part of his life.

The earlier part of his life unfortunately presented some assailable
points to their hostility. A committee was chosen by ballot to inquire
into the affairs of India; and by this committee the whole history of
that great revolution which threw down Surajah Dowlah and raised Meer
Jaffier was sifted with malignant care. Clive was subjected to the most
unsparing examination and cross-examination, and afterwards bitterly
complained that he, the Baron of Plassey, had been treated like a
sheep-stealer. The boldness and ingenuousness of his replies would alone
suffice to show how alien from his nature were the frauds to which,
in the course of his eastern negotiations, he had sometimes descended.
{290}He avowed the arts which he had employed to deceive Omichund, and
resolutely said that he was not ashamed of them, and that, in the same
circumstances, he would again act in the same manner. He admitted that
he had received immense sums from Meer Jaffier; but he denied that, in
doing so, he had violated any obligation of morality or honour. He laid
claim, on the contrary, and not without some reason, to the praise of
eminent disinterestedness. He described in vivid language the situation
in which his victory had placed him; great princes dependent on his
pleasure; an opulent city afraid of being given up to plunder; wealthy
bankers bidding against each other for his smiles; vaults piled with
gold and jewels thrown open to him alone. “By God, Mr. Chairman,” he
exclaimed, “at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation.”

The inquiry was so extensive that the House rose before it had been
completed. It was continued in the following session. When at length the
committee had concluded its labours, enlightened and impartial men had
little difficulty in making up their minds as to the result. It was
clear that Clive had been guilty of some acts which it is impossible to
vindicate without attacking the authority of all the most sacred laws
which regulate the intercourse of individuals and of states. But it
was equally clear that he had displayed great talents, and even great
virtues; that he had rendered eminent services both to his country and
to the people of India; and that it was in truth not for his dealings
with Meer Jaffier, nor for the fraud which he had practised on Omichund,
but for his determined resistance to avarice and tyranny, that he was
now called in question.

Ordinary criminal justice knows nothing of set-off. {291}The greatest
desert cannot be pleaded in answer to a charge of the slightest
transgression. If a man has sold beer on Sunday morning, it is no
defence that he has saved the life of a fellow-creature at the risk of
his own. If he has harnessed a Newfoundland dog to his little child’s
carriage, it is no defence that he was wounded at Waterloo. But it is
not in this way that we ought to deal with men who, raised far above
ordinary restraints, and tried by far more than ordinary temptations,
are entitled to a more than ordinary measure of indulgence. Such men
should be judged by their contemporaries as they will be judged by
posterity. Their bad actions ought not, indeed, to be called good; but
their good and bad actions ought to be fairly weighed; and if on the
whole the good preponderate, the sentence ought to be one, not merely of
acquittal, but of approbation. Not a single great ruler in history
can be absolved by a judge who fixes his eye inexorably on one or
two unjustifiable acts. Bruce the deliverer of Scotland, Maurice the
deliverer of Germany, William the deliverer of Holland, his great
descendant the deliverer of England, Murray the good regent, Cosmo the
father of his country, Henry the Fourth of France, Peter the Great of
Russia, how would the best of them pass such a scrutiny? History takes
wider views; and the best tribunal for great political cases is the
tribunal which anticipates the verdict of history.

Reasonable and moderate men of all parties felt this in Clive’s case.
They could not pronounce him blameless; but they were not disposed to
abandon him to that low-minded and rancorous pack who had run him
down and were eager to worry him to death. Lord North, though not very
friendly to him, was not disposed to go to extremities against him.
While the inquiry was {292}still in progress, Clive, who had some years
before been created a Knight of the Bath, was installed with great
pomp in Henry the Seventh’s Chapel. He was soon after appointed Lord
Lieutenant of Shropshire. When he kissed hands, George the Third, who
had always been partial to him, admitted him to a private audience,
talked to him half an hour on Indian politics, and was visibly affected
when the persecuted general spoke of his services and of the way in
which they had been requited.

At length the charges came in a definite form before the House of
Commons. Burgoyne, chairman of the committee, a man of wit, fashion, and
honour, an agreeable dramatic writer, an officer whose courage was never
questioned, and whose skill was at that time highly esteemed, appeared
as the accuser. The members of the administration took different sides;
for in that age all questions were open questions, except such as were
brought forward by the Government, or such as implied some censure on
the Government. Thurlow, the Attorney General, was among the assailants.
Wedderbume, the Solicitor General, strongly attached to Clive, defended
his friend with extraordinary force of argument and language. It is a
curious circumstance that, some years later, Thurlow was the most
conspicuous champion of Warren Hastings, while Wedderburne was among the
most unrelenting persecutors of that great though not faultless
statesman. Clive spoke in his own defence at less length and with less
art than in the preceding year, but with much energy and pathos. He
recounted his great actions and his wrongs; and, after bidding his
hearers remember, that they were about to decide not only on his honour
but on their own; he retired from the House.

The Commons resolved that acquisitions made by {293}the arms of the
State belong to the State alone, and that it is illegal in the servants
of the State to appropriate such acquisitions to themselves. They
resolved that this wholesome rule appeared to have been systematically
violated by the English functionaries in Bengal. On a subsequent day
they went a step farther, and resolved that Clive had, by means of the
power, which he possessed as commander of the British forces in India,
obtained large sums from Meer Jaffier. Here the Commons stopped. They
had voted the major and minor of Burgoyne’s syllogism; but they shrank
from drawing the logical conclusion. When it was moved that Lord Clive
had abused his powers, and set an evil example to the servants of the
public, the previous question was put and carried. At length, long after
the sun had risen on an animated debate, Wedderburne moved that Lord
Clive had at the same time rendered great and meritorious services to
his country; and this motion passed without a division.

The result of this memorable inquiry appears to us, on the whole,
honourable to the justice, moderation, and discernment of the Commons.
They had indeed no great temptation to do wrong. They would have been
very bad judges of an accusation brought against Jenkinson or against
Wilkes. But the question respecting Clive was not a party question; and
the House accordingly acted with the good sense and good feeling which
may always be expected from an assembly of English gentlemen not blinded
by faction.

The equitable and temperate proceedings of the British Parliament were
set off to the greatest advantage by a foil. The wretched government of
Lewis the Fifteenth had murdered, directly or indirectly, almost every
Frenchman who had served his country {294}with distinction in the East.
Labourdonnais was flung into the Bastile, and, after years of suffering,
left it only to die. Dupleix, stripped of his immense fortune, and
broken-hearted by humiliating attendance in antechambers, sank into an
obscure grave. Lally was dragged to the common place of execution with a
gag between his lips. The Commons of England, on the other hand, treated
their living captain with that discriminating justice which is seldom
shown except to the dead. They laid down sound general principles; they
delicately pointed out where he had deviated from those principles;
and they tempered the gentle censure with liberal eulogy. The contrast
struck Voltaire, always partial to England, and always eager to expose
the abuses of the Parliaments of France. Indeed he seems, at this time,
to have meditated a history of the conquest of Bengal. He mentioned
his design to Dr. Moore when that amusing writer visited him at Ferney.
Wedderburne took great interest in the matter, and pressed Clive to
furnish materials. Had the plan been carried into execution, we have no
doubt that Voltaire would have produced a book containing much lively
and picturesque narrative, many just and humane sentiments poignantly
expressed, many grotesque blunders, many sneers at the Mosaic
chronology, much scandal about the Catholic missionaries, and much
sublime theo-philanthropy, stolen from the New Testament, and put into
the mouths of virtuous and philosophical Brahmins.

Clive was now secure in the enjoyment of his fortune and his honours.
He was surrounded by attached friends and relations; and he had not yet
passed the season of vigorous bodily and mental exertion. But clouds had
long been gathering over his mind, and now {295}settled on it in thick
darkness. From early youth he had been subject to fits of that strange
melancholy “which rejoiceth exceedingly and is glad when it can find
the grave.” While still a writer at Madras, he had twice attempted to
destroy himself. Business and prosperity had produced a salutary effect
on his spirits. In India, while he was occupied by great affairs, in
England, while wealth and rank had still the charm of novelty, he had
borne up against his constitutional misery. But he had now nothing to
do and nothing to wish for. His active spirit in an inactive situation
drooped and withered like a plant in an uncongenial air. The malignity
with which his enemies had pursued him, the indignity with which he had
been treated by the committee, the censure, lenient as it was, which the
House of Commons had pronounced, the knowledge that he was regarded by
a large portion of his countrymen as a cruel and perfidious tyrant, all
concurred to irritate and depress him. In the mean time his temper was
tried by acute physical suffering. During his long residence in tropical
climates, he had contracted several painful distempers. In order
to obtain ease he called in the help of opium; and he was gradually
enslaved by this treacherous ally. To the last, however, his genius
occasionally flashed through the gloom. It was said that he would
sometimes, after sitting silent and torpid for hours, rouse himself to
the discussion of some great question, would display in full vigour all
the talents of the soldier and the statesman, and would then sink back
into his melancholy repose.

The disputes with America had now become so serious that an appeal to
the sword seemed inevitable; and the Ministers were desirous to avail
themselves of the services of Clive. Had he still been what he was when
{296}he raised the siege of Patna, and annihilated the Dutch army
and navy at the mouth of the Ganges, it is not improbable that the
resistance of the Colonists would have been put down, and that the
inevitable separation would have been deferred for a few years. But
it was too late. His strong mind was fast sinking under many kinds of
suffering. On the twenty-second of November, 1774, he died by his own
hand. He had just completed his forty-ninth year.

In the awful close of so much prosperity and glory, the vulgar saw only
a confirmation of all their prejudices; and some men of real piety and
genius so far forgot the maxims both of religion and of philosophy as
confidently to ascribe the mournful event to the just vengeance of God,
and to the horrors of an evil conscience. It is with very different
feelings that we contemplate the spectacle of a great mind ruined by the
weariness of satiety, by the pangs of wounded honour, by fatal diseases,
and more fatal remedies.

Clive committed great faults; and we have not attempted to disguise
them. But his faults, when weighed against his merits, and viewed in
connection with his temptations, do not appear to us to deprive him of
his right to an honourable place in the estimation of posterity.

From his first visit to India dates the renown of the English arms
in the East. Till he appeared, his countrymen were despised as mere
pedlars, while the French were revered as a people formed for victory
and command. His courage and capacity dissolved the charm. With the
defence of Arcot commences that long series of Oriental triumph which
closes with the fall of Ghizni. Nor must we forget that he was only
twenty-five years old when he approved himself ripe for military
command. {297}This is a rare if not a singular distinction. It is true
that Alexander, Condé, and Charles the Twelfth, won great battles at a
still earlier age; but those princes were surrounded by veteran generals
of distinguished skill, to whose suggestions must be attributed
the victories of the Granicus, of Rocroi, and of Narva. Clive, an
inexperienced youth, had yet more experience than any of those who
served under him. He had to form himself, to form his officers, and to
form his army. The only man, as far as we recollect, who at an equally
early age ever gave equal proof of talents for war, was Napoleon
Bonaparte.

From Clive’s second visit to India dates the political ascendency of the
English in that country. His dexterity and resolution realised, in the
course of a few months, more than all the gorgeous visions which had
floated before the imagination of Dupleix. Such an extent of cultivated
territory, such an amount of revenue, such a multitude of subjects, was
never added to the dominion of Rome by the most successful proconsul.
Nor were such wealthy spoils ever borne under arches of triumph, down
the Sacred Way, and through the crowded Forum, to the threshold of
Tarpeian Jove. The fame of those who subdued Antiochus and Tigranes
grows dim when compared with the splendour of the exploits which the
young English adventurer achieved at the head of an army not equal in
numbers to one half of a Roman legion.

From Clive’s third visit to India dates the purity of our Eastern
empire. When he landed in Calcutta in 1765, Bengal was regarded as a
place to which Englishmen were sent only to get rich, by any means, in
the shortest possible time. He first made dauntless and unsparing war on
that gigantic system of oppression, {298}extortion, and corruption. In
that war he manfully put to hazard his ease, his fame, and his splendid
fortune. The same sense of justice which forbids us to conceal or
extenuate the faults of his earlier days compels us to admit that those
faults were nobly repaired. If the reproach of the Company and of its
servants has been taken away, if in India the yoke of foreign masters,
elsewhere the heaviest of all yokes, has been found lighter than that
of any native dynasty, if to that gang of public robbers, which formerly
spread terror through the whole plain of Bengal, has succeeded a body
of functionaries not more highly distinguished by ability and diligence
than by integrity, disinterestedness, and public spirit, if we now see
such men as Munro, Elphinstone, and Metcalfe, after leading victorious
armies, after making and deposing kings, return, proud of their
honourable poverty, from a land which once held out to every greedy
factor the hope of boundless wealth, the praise is in no small measure
due to Clive. His name stands high on the roll of conquerors. But it is
found in a better list, in the list of those who have done and suffered
much for the happiness of mankind. To the warrior, history will assign
a place in the same rank with Lucullus and Trajan. Nor will she deny to
the reformer a share of that veneration with which France cherishes the
memory of Turgot, and with which the latest generations of Hindoos will
contemplate the statue of Lord William Bentinck.



VON RANKE. (1)

(_Edinburgh Review_, October, 1840.)


It {299}is hardly necessary for us to say that this is an excellent
book excellently translated. The original work of Professor Ranke is
known and esteemed wherever German literature is studied, and has
been found interesting even in a most inaccurate and dishonest French
version. It is, indeed, the work of a mind fitted both for minute
researches and for large speculations. It is written also in an
admirable spirit, equally remote from levity and bigotry, serious and
earnest, yet tolerant and impartial. It is, therefore, with the greatest
pleasure that we now see this book take its place among the English
classics. Of the translation we need only say that it is such as might
be expected from the skill, the taste, and the scrupulous integrity of
the accomplished lady who, as an interpreter between the mind of Germany
and the mind of Britain, has already deserved so well of both countries.

The subject of this book has always appeared to us singularly
interesting. How it was that Protestantism did so much, yet did no more,
how it was that the

     (1) _The Ecclesiastical and Political History of the Popes
     of Rome, during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries_. By
     Leopold Ranke, Professor in the University of Berlin:
     Translated from the German, by Sakah Austin. 3 vols. 8vo.
     London: 1840.

{300}Church of Rome, having lost a large part of Europe, not only ceased
to lose, but actually regained nearly half of what she had lost, is
certainly a most curious and important question; and on this question
Professor Ranke has thrown far more light than any other person who has
written on it.

There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy
so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The
history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human
civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries
the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from
the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian
amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when
compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace
back in an unbroken series from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the
nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far
beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in
the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity.
But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy;
and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy
remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and useful
vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends
of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with
Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with
which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than
in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than
compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency
extends over the {301}vast countries which lie between the plains of
the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which, a century hence, may not
improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits
Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a
hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all
other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions.
Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long
dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments
and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the
world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end
of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set
foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian
eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshipped
in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour
when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast
solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the
ruins of St. Paul’s.

We often hear it said that the world is constantly becoming more and
more enlightened, and that this enlightening must be favourable to
Protestantism, and unfavourable to Catholicism. We wish that we could
think so. But we see great reason to doubt whether this be a well
founded expectation. We see that during the last two hundred and fifty
years the human mind has been in the highest degree active, that it has
made great advances in every branch of natural philosophy, that it has
produced innumerable inventions tending to promote the convenience of
life, that medicine, surgery, chemistry, engineering, have been
very greatly improved, that government, police, and law have been
{302}improved, though not to so great an extent as the physical
sciences. But we see that, during these two hundred and fifty years,
Protestantism has made no conquests worth speaking of. Nay, we believe
that, as far as there has been a change, that change has, on the
whole, been in favour of the Church of Rome. We cannot, therefore, feel
confident that the progress of knowledge will necessarily be fatal to
a system which has, to say the least, stood its ground in spite of the
immense progress made by the human race in knowledge since the days of
Queen Elizabeth.

Indeed the argument which we are considering, seems to us to be founded
on an entire mistake. There are branches of knowledge with respect to
which the law of the human mind is progress. In mathematics, when once
a proposition has been demonstrated, it is never afterwards contested.
Every fresh story is as solid a basis for a new superstructure as the
original foundation was. Here, therefore, there is a constant addition
to the stock of truth. In the inductive sciences again, the law is
progress. Every day furnishes new facts, and thus brings theory nearer
and nearer to perfection. There is no chance that, either in the purely
demonstrative, or in the purely experimental sciences, the world will
ever go back or even remain stationary. Nobody ever heard of a reaction
against Taylor’s theorem, or of a reaction against Harvey’s doctrine of
the circulation of the blood.

But with theology the case is very different. As respects natural
religion,--revelation being for the present altogether left out of the
question,--it is not easy to see that a philosopher of the present day
is more favourably situated than Thales or Simonides. He has before him
just the same evidences of design {303}in the structure of the universe
which the early Greeks had. We say just the same; for the discoveries of
modern astronomers and anatomists have really added nothing to the force
of that argument which a reflecting mind finds in every beast, bird,
insect, fish, leaf, flower, and shell. The reasoning by which Socrates,
in Xenophon’s hearing, confuted the little atheist Aristodemus, is
exactly the reasoning of Paley’s Natural Theology. Socrates makes
precisely the same use of the statues of Polycletus and the pictures of
Zeuxis which Paley makes of the watch. As to the other great question,
the question, what becomes of man after death, we do not see that a
highly educated European, left to his unassisted reason, is more likely
to be in the right than a Blackfoot Indian. Not a single one of the many
sciences in which we surpass the Blackfoot Indians throws the smallest
light on the state of the soul after the animal life is extinct. In
truth all the philosophers, ancient and modern, who have attempted,
without the help of revelation, to prove the immortality of man, from
Plato down to Franklin, appear to us to have failed deplorably.

Then, again, all the great enigmas which perplex the natural theologian
are the same in all ages. The ingenuity of a people just emerging from
barbarism is quite sufficient to propound those enigmas. The genius
of Locke or Clarke is quite unable to solve them. It is a mistake to
imagine that subtle speculations touching the Divine attributes, the
origin of evil, the necessity of human actions, the foundation of
moral obligation, imply any high degree of intellectual culture. Such
speculations, on the contrary, are in a peculiar manner the delight of
intelligent children and of half civilised men. The number of boys is
not {304}small who, at fourteen, have thought enough on these questions
to be fully entitled to the praise which Voltaire gives to Zadig. “Il
en savait ce qu’on en a su dans tous les âges; c’est-à-dire, fort peu
de chose.” The book of Job shows that, long before letters and arts were
known to Ionia, these vexing questions were debated with no common
skill and eloquence, under the tents of the Idumean Emirs; nor has
human reason, in the course of three thousand years, discovered any
satisfactory solution of the riddles which perplexed Eliphaz and Zophar.

Natural theology, then, is not a progressive science. That knowledge of
our origin and of our destiny which we derive from revelation is indeed
of very different clearness, and of very different importance. But
neither is revealed religion of the nature of a progressive science. All
Divine truth is, according to the doctrine of the Protestant Churches,
recorded in certain books. It is equally open to all who, in any
age, can read those books; nor can all the discoveries of all the
philosophers in the world add a single verse to any of those books.
It is plain, therefore, that in divinity there cannot be a progress
analogous to that which is constantly taking place in pharmacy, geology,
and navigation. A Christian of the fifth century with a Bible is neither
better nor worse situated than a Christian of the nineteenth century
with a Bible, candour and natural acuteness being, of course, supposed
equal. It matters not at all that the compass, printing, gunpowder,
steam, gas, vaccination, and a thousand other discoveries and
inventions, which were unknown in the fifth century, are familiar to the
nineteenth. None of these discoveries and inventions has the smallest
bearing on the question {305}whether man is justified by faith alone,
or whether the invocation of saints is an orthodox practice. It seems
to us, therefore, that we have no security for the future against the
prevalence of any theological error that ever has prevailed in time past
among Christian men. We are confident that the world will never go
back to the solar system of Ptolemy; nor is our confidence in the least
shaken by the circumstance, that even so great a man as Bacon rejected
the theory of Galileo with scorn; for Bacon had not all the means of
arriving at a sound conclusion which are within our reach, and which
secure people who would not have been worthy to mend his pens from
falling into his mistakes. But when we reflect that Sir Thomas More was
ready to die for the doctrine of transubstantiation, we cannot but feel
some doubt whether the doctrine of transubstantiation may not triumph
over all opposition. More was a man of eminent talents. He had all the
information on the subject that we have, or that, while the world lasts,
any human being will have. The text, “This is my body,” was in his New
Testament as it is in ours. The absurdity of the literal interpretation
was as great and as obvious in the sixteenth century as it is now. No
progress that science has made, or will make, can add to what seems to
us the overwhelming force of the argument against the real presence. We
are, therefore, unable to understand why what Sir Thomas More believed
respecting transubstantiation may not be believed to the end of time by
men equal in abilities and honesty to Sir Thomas More. But Sir Thomas
More is one of the choice specimens of human wisdom and virtue; and the
doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith
which stands that test will stand any test. The prophecies of Brothers
{306}and the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe sink to trifles in the
comparison.

One reservation, indeed, must be made. The books and traditions of a
sect may contain, mingled with propositions strictly theological, other
propositions, purporting to rest on the same authority, which relate
to physics. If new discoveries should throw discredit on the physical
propositions, the theological propositions, unless they can be separated
from the physical propositions, will share in that discredit. In this
way, undoubtedly, the progress of science may indirectly serve the cause
of religious truth. The Hindoo mythology, for example, is bound up with
a most absurd geography. Every young Brahmin, therefore, who learns
geography in our colleges, learns to smile at the Hindoo mythology. If
Catholicism has not suffered to an equal degree from the Papal decision
that the sun goes round the earth, this is because all intelligent
Catholics now hold, with Pascal, that, in deciding the point at all, the
Church exceeded her powers, and was, therefore, justly left destitute
of that supernatural assistance which, in the exercise of her legitimate
functions, the promise of her Founder authorised her to expect.

This reservation affects not at all the truth of our proposition, that
divinity, properly so called, is not a progressive science. A very
common knowledge of history, a very little observation of life, will
suffice to prove that no learning, no sagacity, affords a security
against the greatest errors on subjects relating to the invisible world.
Bayle and Chillingworth, two of the most sceptical of mankind, turned
Catholics from sincere conviction. Johnson, incredulous on all other
points, was a ready believer in miracles and apparitions. He would not
believe in Ossian; but he was willing to {307}believe in the second
sight. He would not believe in the earthquake of Lisbon; but he was
willing to believe in the Cock Lane ghost.

For these reasons we have ceased to wonder at any vagaries of
superstition. We have seen men, not of mean intellect or neglected
education, but qualified by their talents and acquirements to attain
eminence either in active or speculative pursuits, well read scholars,
expert logicians, keen observers of life and manners, prophesying,
interpreting, talking unknown tongues, working miraculous cures, coming
down with messages from God to the House of Commons. We have seen an old
woman, with no talents beyond the cunning of a fortune-teller, and with
the education of a scullion, exalted into a prophetess, and surrounded
by tens of thousands of devoted followers, many of whom were, in
station and knowledge, immeasurably her superiors; and all this in the
nineteenth century; and all this in London. Yet why not? For of the
dealings of God with man no more has been revealed to the nineteenth
century than to the first, or to London than to the wildest parish in
the Hebrides. It is true that, in those things which concern this life
and this world, man constantly becomes wiser and wiser. But it is no
less true that, as respects a higher power and a future state, man, in
the language of Goethe’s scoffing fiend,

                   “bleibt stets von gleichem Schlag,

               Und ist so Wunderlich als wie am ersten Tag.”

The history of Catholicism strikingly illustrates these observations.
During the last seven centuries the public mind of Europe has made
constant progress in every department of secular knowledge. But
in religion we can trace no constant progress. The ecclesiastical
{308}history of that long period is a history of movement to and fro.
Four times, since the authority of the Church of Rome was established in
Western Christendom, has the human intellect risen up against her yoke.
Twice that Church remained completely victorious. Twice she came forth
from the conflict bearing the marks of cruel wounds, but with the
principle of life still strong within her. When we reflect on the
tremendous assaults which she has survived, we find it difficult to
conceive in what way she is to perish.

The first of these insurrections broke out in the region where the
beautiful language of _Oc_ was spoken. That country, singularly favoured
by nature, was, in the twelfth century, the most flourishing and
civilised portion of Western Europe. It was in nowise a part of France.
It had a distinct political existence, a distinct national character,
distinct usages, and a distinct speech. The soil was fruitful and well
cultivated; and amidst the cornfields and vineyards arose many rich
cities, each of which was a little republic, and many stately castles,
each of which contained a miniature of an imperial court. It was there
that the spirit of chivalry first laid aside its terrors, first took a
humane and graceful form, first appeared as the inseparable associate of
art and literature, of courtesy and love. The other vernacular dialects
which, since the fifth century, had sprung up in the ancient provinces
of the Roman empire, were still rude and imperfect. The sweet Tuscan,
the rich and energetic English, were abandoned to artisans and
shepherds. No clerk had ever condescended to use such barbarous jargon
for the teaching of science, for the recording of great events, or
for the painting of life and manners; But the language of Provence was
already the language of the learned and polite, and was {309}employed
by numerous writers, studious of all the arts of composition and
versification. A literature rich in ballads, in war-songs, in satire,
and, above all, in amatory poetry, amused the leisure of the knights
and ladies, whose fortified mansions adorned the banks of the Rhone and
Garonne. With civilisation had come freedom of thought. Use had taken
away the horror with which misbelievers were elsewhere regarded. No
Norman or Breton ever saw a Mussulman, except to give and receive blows
on some Syrian field of battle. But the people of the rich countries
which lay under the Pyrenees lived in habits of courteous and profitable
intercourse with the Moorish kingdoms of Spain, and gave a hospitable
welcome to skilful leeches and mathematicians who, in the schools
of Cordova and Granada, had become versed in all the learning of
the Arabians. The Greek, still preserving, in the midst of political
degradation, the ready wit and the inquiring spirit of his fathers,
still able to read the most perfect of human compositions, still
speaking the most powerful and flexible of human languages, brought to
the marts of Narbonne and Toulouse, together with the drugs and silks of
remote climates, bold and subtle theories long unknown to the ignorant
and credulous West. The Paulician theology, a theology in which, as it
should seem, many of the doctrines of the modern Calvinists were mingled
with some doctrines derived from the ancient Manichees, spread rapidly
through Provence and Languedoc. The clergy of the Catholic Church
were regarded with loathing and contempt. “Viler than a priest,”
 “I would as soon be a priest,” became proverbial expressions. The Papacy
had lost all authority with all classes, from the great feudal princes
down to the cultivators of the soil. {310}The danger to the hierarchy
was indeed formidable. Only one transalpine nation had emerged from
barbarism; and that nation had thrown off all respect for Rome. Only one
of the vernacular languages of Europe had yet been extensively employed
for literary purposes; and that language was a machine in the hands of
heretics. The geographical position of the sectaries made the danger
peculiarly formidable. They occupied a central region communicating
directly with France, with Italy, and with Spain. The provinces which
were still untainted were separated from each other by this infected
district. Under these circumstances, it seemed probable that a single
generation would suffice to spread the reformed doctrine to Lisbon, to
London, and to Naples. But this was not to be. Rome cried for help
to the warriors of northern France. She appealed at once to their
superstition and to their cupidity. To the devout believer she promised
pardons as ample as those with which she had rewarded the deliverers
of the Holy Sepulchre. To the rapacious and profligate she offered the
plunder of fertile plains and wealthy cities. Unhappily, the ingenious
and polished inhabitants of the Languedocian provinces were far better
qualified to enrich and embellish their country than to defend it.
Eminent in the arts of peace, unrivalled in the “gay science,” elevated
above many vulgar superstitions, they wanted that iron courage, and
that skill in martial exercises, which distinguished the chivalry of
the region beyond the Loire, and were ill fitted to face enemies who,
in every country from Ireland to Palestine, had been victorious against
tenfold odds. A war, distinguished even among wars of religion by
merciless atrocity, destroyed the Albigensian heresy, and with that
heresy the {311}prosperity, the civilisation, the literature, the
national existence, of what was once the most opulent and enlightened
part of the great European family. Rome, in the mean time, warned by
that fearful danger from which the exterminating swords of her crusaders
had narrowly saved her, proceeded to revise and to strengthen her whole
system of polity. At this period were instituted the Order of Francis,
the Order of Dominic, the Tribunal of the Inquisition. The new spiritual
police was everywhere. No alley in a great city, no hamlet on a remote
mountain, was unvisited by the begging friar. The simple Catholic, who
was content to be no wiser than his fathers, found, wherever he turned,
a friendly voice to encourage him. The path of the heretic was beset by
innumerable spies; and the Church, lately in danger of utter subversion,
now appeared to be impregnably fortified by the love, the reverence, and
the terror of mankind.

A century and a half passed away; and then came the second great rising
up of the human intellect against the spiritual domination of Rome.
During the two generations which followed the Albigensian crusade, the
power of the Papacy had been at the height. Frederic the Second, the
ablest and most accomplished of the long line of German Cæsars, had in
vain exhausted all the resources of military and political skill in
the attempt to defend the rights of the civil power against the
encroachments of the Church. The vengeance of the priesthood had pursued
his house to the third generation. Manfred had perished on the field of
battle, Conradin on the scaffold. Then a turn took place. The secular
authority, long unduly depressed, regained the ascendant with startling
rapidity. The change is doubtless to be ascribed chiefly to the general
{312}disgust excited by the way in which the Church had abused its power
and its success. But something must be attributed to the character and
situation of individuals. The man who bore the chief part in effecting
this revolution was Philip the Fourth of France, surnamed the Beautiful,
a despot by position, a despot by temperament, stern, implacable, and
unscrupulous, equally prepared for violence and for chicanery, and
surrounded by a devoted band of men of the sword and of men of law.
The fiercest and most highminded of the Roman Pontiffs, while bestowing
kingdoms and citing great princes to his judgment-seat, was seized in
his palace by armed men, and so foully outraged that he died mad with
rage and terror. “Thus,” sang the great Florentine poet, “was Christ, in
the person of his vicar, a second time seized by ruffians, a second time
mocked, a second time drenched with the vinegar and the gall.” The seat
of the Papal court was carried beyond the Alps, and the Bishops of Rome
became dependents of France. Then came the great schism of the West.
Two Popes, each with a doubtful title, made all Europe ring with their
mutual invectives and anathemas. Rome cried out against the corruptions
of Avignon; and Avignon, with equal justice, recriminated on Rome. The
plain Christian people, brought up in the belief that it was a sacred
duty to be in communion with the head of the Church, were unable to
discover, amidst conflicting testimonies and conflicting arguments, to
which of the two worthless priests who were cursing and reviling each
other, the headship of the Church rightfully belonged. It was nearly
at this juncture that the voice of John Wickliffe began to make itself
heard. The public mind of England was soon stirred to its inmost depths;
and the influence of {313}the new doctrines was soon felt, even in the
distant kingdom of Bohemia. In Bohemia, indeed, there had long been a
predisposition to heresy. Merchants from the Lower Danube were often
seen in the fairs of Prague; and the Lower Danube was peculiarly the
seat of the Paulician theology. The Church, torn by schism, and fiercely
assailed at once in England and in the German empire, was in a situation
scarcely less perilous than at the crisis which preceded the Albigensian
crusade.

But this danger also passed by. The civil power gave its strenuous
support to the Church; and the Church made some show of reforming
itself. The Council of Constance put an end to the schism. The whole
Catholic world was again united under a single chief; and rules were
laid down which seemed to make it improbable that the power of that
chief would be grossly abused. The most distinguished teachers of the
new doctrine were slaughtered. The English government put down the
Lollards with merciless rigour; and, in the next generation, scarcely
one trace of the second great revolt against the Papacy could be found,
except among the rude population of the mountains of Bohemia.

Another century went by; and then began the third and the most memorable
struggle for spiritual freedom. The times were changed. The great
remains of Athenian and Roman genius were studied by thousands. The
Church had no longer a monopoly of learning. The powers of the modern
languages had at length been developed. The invention of printing had
given new facilities to the intercourse of mind with mind. With such
auspices commenced the great Reformation. {314}We will attempt to lay
before our readers, in a short compass, what appears to us to be the
real history of the contest which began with the preaching of Luther
against the Indulgences, and which may, in one sense, be said to have
been terminated, a hundred and thirty years later, by the treaty of
Westphalia.

In the northern parts of Europe the victory of Protestantism was rapid
and decisive. The dominion of the Papacy was felt by the nations of
Teutonic blood as the dominion of Italians, of foreigners, of men who
were aliens in language, manners, and intellectual constitution. The
large jurisdiction exercised by the spiritual tribunals of Rome seemed
to be a degrading badge of servitude. The sums which, under a thousand
pretexts, were exacted by a distant court, were regarded both as a
humiliating and as a ruinous tribute. The character of that court
excited the scorn and disgust of a grave, earnest, sincere, and devout
people. The new theology spread with a rapidity never known before. All
ranks, all varieties of character, joined the ranks of the innovators.
Sovereigns impatient to appropriate to themselves the prerogatives
of the Pope, nobles desirous to share the plunder of abbeys, suitors
exasperated by the extortions of the Roman Camera, patriots impatient of
a foreign rule, good men scandalized by the corruptions of the
Church, bad men desirous of the license inseparable from great moral
revolutions, wise men eager in the pursuit of truth, weak men allured
by the glitter of novelty, all were found on one side. Alone among the
northern nations the Irish adhered to the ancient faith: and the cause
of this seems to have been that the national feeling which, in happier
countries, was directed against Rome, was in Ireland directed against
England. Within {315}fifty years from the day on which Luther publicly
renounced communion with the Papacy, and burned the bull of Leo before
the gates of Wittenberg, Protestantism attained its highest ascendency,
an ascendency which it soon lost, and which it has never regained.
Hundreds, who could well remember Brother Martin a devout Catholic,
lived to see the revolution of which he was the chief author, victorious
in half the states in Europe. In England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden,
Livonia, Prussia, Saxony, Hesse, Wurtemburg, the Palatinate, in several
cantons of Switzerland, in the Northern Netherlands, the Reformation had
completely triumphed; and in all the other countries on this side of the
Alps and the Pyrenees, it seemed on the point of triumphing.

But while this mighty work was proceeding in the north of Europe, a
revolution of a very different kind had taken place in the south. The
temper of Italy and Spain was widely different from that of Germany and
England. As the national feeling of the Teutonic nations impelled them
to throw off the Italian supremacy, so the national feeling of the
Italians impelled them to resist any change which might deprive their
country of the honours and advantages which she enjoyed as the seat
of the government of the Universal Church. It was in Italy that the
tributes were spent of which foreign nations so bitterly complained. It
was to adorn Italy that the traffic in Indulgences had been carried to
that scandalous excess which had roused the indignation of Luther. There
was among the Italians both much piety and much impiety: but, with
very few exceptions, neither the piety nor the impiety took the turn
of Protestantism. The religious Italians desired a reform of morals
and discipline, but {316}not a reform of doctrine, and least of all
a schism. The irreligious Italians simply disbelieved Christianity,
without hating it. They looked at it as artists or as statesmen; and, so
looking at it, they liked it better in the established form than in
any other. It was to them what the old Pagan worship was to Trajan and
Pliny. Neither the spirit of Savonarola nor the spirit of Machiavelli
had any thing in common with the spirit of the religious or political
Protestants of the North.

Spain again was, with respect to the Catholic Church, in a situation
very different from that of the Teutonic nations. Italy was, in truth,
a part of the empire of Charles the Fifth; and the court of Rome was,
on many important occasions, his tool. He had not, therefore, like the
distant princes of the North, a strong selfish motive for attacking
the Papacy. In fact, the very measures which provoked the Sovereign
of England to renounce all connection with Rome were dictated by the
Sovereign of Spain. The feeling, of the Spanish people concurred with
the interest of the Spanish government. The attachment of the Castilian
to the faith of his ancestors was peculiarly strong and ardent. With
that faith were inseparably bound up the institutions, the independence,
and the glory of his countiy. Between the day when the last Gothic king
was vanquished on the banks of the Xeres, and the day when Ferdinand
and Isabella entered Granada in triumph, near eight hundred years had
elapsed; and during those years the Spanish nation had been engaged in a
desperate struggle against misbelievers. The Crusades had been merely an
episode in the history of other nations. The existence of Spain had been
one long Crusade. After fighting Mussulmans in the Old {317}World, she
began to fight heathens in the New. It was under the authority of a
Papal bull that her children steered into unknown seas. It was under
the standard of the cross that they marched fearlessly into the heart of
great kingdoms. It was with the cry of “St. James for Spain,” that they
charged armies which outnumbered them a hundredfold. And men said
that the Saint had heard the call, and had himself, in arms, on a gray
war-horse, led the onset before which the worshippers of false gods had
given way. After the battle, every excess of rapacity or cruelty was
sufficiently vindicated by the plea that the sufferers were unbaptized.
avarice stimulated zeal. Zeal consecrated avarice. Proselytes and gold
mines were sought with equal ardour. In the very year in which the
Saxons, maddened by the exactions of Rome, broke loose from her yoke,
the Spaniards, under the authority of Rome, made themselves masters of
the empire and of the treasures of Montezuma. Thus Catholicism which, in
the public mind of Northern Europe, was associated with spoliation and
oppression, was in the public mind of Spain associated with liberty,
victory, dominion, wealth, and glory.

It is not, therefore, strange that the effect of the great outbreak of
Protestantism in one part of Christendom should have been to produce an
equally violent outbreak of Catholic zeal in another. Two reformations
were pushed on at once with equal energy and effect, a reformation of
doctrine in the North, a reformation of manners and discipline in the
South. In the course of a single generation, the whole spirit of the
church of Rome underwent a change. From the halls of the Vatican to
the most secluded hermitage of the Apennines, the great revival wad
{318}everywhere felt and seen. All the institutions anciently devised
for the propagation and defence of the faith were furbished up and
made efficient. Fresh engines of still more formidable power were
constructed. Everywhere old religious communities were remodelled and
new religious communities called into existence. Within a year after
the death of Leo, the order of Camaldoli was purified. The Capuchins
restored the old Franciscan discipline, the midnight prayer and the life
of silence. The Barnabites and the society of Somasca devoted themselves
to the relief and education of the poor. To the Theatine order a still
higher interest belongs. Its great object was the same with that of our
early Methodists, namely to supply the deficiencies of the parochial
clergy. The Church of Rome, wiser than the Church of England, gave
every countenance to the good work. The members of the new brotherhood
preached to great multitudes in the streets and in the fields, prayed by
the beds of the sick, and administered the last sacraments to the
dying. Foremost among them in zeal and devotion was Gian Pietro Caraffa,
afterwards Pope Paul the Fourth. In the convent of the Theatines at
Venice, under the eye of Caraffa, a Spanish gentleman took up his abode,
tended the poor in the hospitals, went about in rags, starved himself
almost to death, and often sallied into the streets, mounted on stones,
and, waving his hat to invite the passers-by, began to preach in a
strange jargon of mingled Castilian and Tuscan. The Theatines were among
the most zealous and rigid of men; but to this enthusiastic neophyte
their discipline seemed lax, and their movements sluggish; for his
own mind, naturally passionate and imaginative, had passed through
a training which had given to all its peculiarities a morbid
{319}intensity and energy. In his early life lie had been the very
prototype of the hero of Cervantes. The single study of the young
Hidalgo had been chivalrous romance; and his existence had been one
gorgeous day-dream of princesses rescued and infidels subdued. He
had chosen a Dulcinea, “no countess, no duchess,”--these are his own
words,--but one of far higher station and he flattered himself with the
hope of laying at her feet the keys of Moorish castles and the jewelled
turbans of Asiatic kings. In the midst of these visions of martial glory
and prosperous love, a severe wound stretched him on a bed of sickness.
His constitution was shattered and he was doomed to be a cripple for
life. The palm of strength, grace, and skill in knightly exercises,
was no longer for him. He could no longer hope to strike down gigantic
soldans, or to find favour in the sight of beautiful women. A new vision
then arose in his mind, and mingled itself with his own delusions in a
manner which to most Englishmen must seem singular, but which those who
know how close was the union between religion and chivalry in Spain will
be at no loss to understand. He would still be a soldier; he would still
be a knight errant; but the soldier and knight errant of the spouse of
Christ. He would smite the Great Red Dragon. He would be the champion
of the Woman clothed with the Sun. He would break the charm under which
false prophets held the souls of men in bondage. His restless spirit
led him to the Syrian deserts, and to the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre.
Thence he wandered back to the farthest West, and astonished the
convents of Spain and the schools of France by his penances and vigils.
The same lively imagination which had been employed in picturing the
{320}tumult of unreal battles, and the charms of unreal queens, now
peopled his solitude with saints and angels. The Holy Virgin descended
to commune with him. He saw the Saviour face to face with the eye of
flesh. Even those mysteries of religion which are the hardest trial
of faith were in his case palpable to sight. It is difficult to relate
without a pitying smile that, in the sacrifice of the mass, he saw
transubstantiation take place, and that, as he stood praying on the
steps of the Church of St. Dominic, he saw the Trinity in Unity, and
wept aloud with joy and wonder. Such was the celebrated Ignatius Loyola,
who, in the great Catholic reaction, bore the same part which Luther
bore in the great Protestant movement.

Dissatisfied with the system of the Theatines, the enthusiastic Spaniard
turned his face towards Rome. Poor, obscure, without a patron, without
recommendations, he entered the city where now two princely temples,
rich with painting and many-coloured marble, commemorate his great
services to the Church; where his form stands sculptured in massive
silver; where his bones, enshrined amidst jewels, are placed beneath the
altar of God. His activity and zeal bore down all opposition; and under
his rule the order of Jesuits began to exist, and grew rapidly to the
full measure of his gigantic powers. With what vehemence, with what
policy, with what exact discipline, with what dauntless courage, with
what self-denial, with what forgetfulness of the dearest private ties,
with what intense and stubborn devotion to a single end, with what
unscrupulous laxity and versatility in the choice of means, the Jesuits
fought the battle of their church, is written in every page of the
annals of Europe during several generations. In the order of Jesus
was concentrated the {321}quintessence of the Catholic spirit; and
the history of the order of Jesus is the history of the great Catholic
reaction. That order possessed itself at once of all the strongholds
which command the public mind, of the pulpit, of the press, of the
confessional, of the academies. Wherever the Jesuit preached, the church
was too small for the audience. The name of Jesuit on a title-page
secured the circulation of a book. It was in the ears of the Jesuit that
the powerful, the noble, and the beautiful, breathed the secret history
of their lives. It was at the feet of the Jesuit that the youth of the
higher and middle classes were brought up from childhood to manhood,
from the’ first rudiments to the courses of rhetoric and philosophy.
Literature and science, lately associated with infidelity or with
heresy, now became the allies of orthodoxy. Dominant in the South of
Europe, the great order soon went forth conquering and to conquer. In
spite of oceans and deserts, of hunger and pestilence, of spies and
penal laws, of dungeons and racks, of gibbets and quartering-blocks,
Jesuits were to be found under every disguise, and in every country;
scholars, physicians, merchants, serving men; in the hostile court
of Sweden, in the old manor-house of Cheshire, among the hovels of
Connaught; arguing, instructing, consoling, stealing away the hearts of
the young, animating the courage of the timid, holding up the crucifix
before the eyes of the dying. Nor was it less their office to plot
against the thrones and lives of the apostate kings, to spread evil
rumours, to raise tumults, to inflame civil wars, to arm the hand of
the assassin. Inflexible in nothing but in their fidelity to the Church,
they were equally ready to appeal in her cause to the spirit of loyalty
and to the spirit of freedom. Extreme doctrines of obedience {322}and
extreme doctrines of liberty, the right of rulers to misgovern the
people, the right of every one of the people to plunge his knife in the
heart of a bad ruler, were inculcated by the same man, according as
he addressed himself to the subject of Philip or to the subject of
Elizabeth. Some described these divines as the most rigid, others as
the most indulgent of spiritual directors; and both descriptions were
correct. The truly devout listened with awe to the high and saintly
morality of the Jesuit. The gay cavalier who had run his rival through
the body, the frail beauty who had forgotten her marriage-vow, found
in the Jesuit an easy well-bred man of the world, who knew how to
make allowance for the little irregularities of people of fashion. The
confessor was strict or lax, according to the temper of the penitent.
The first object was to drive no person out of the pale of the Church.
Since there were bad people, it was better that they should be bad
Catholics than bad Protestants. If a person was so unfortunate as to be
a bravo, a libertine, or a gambler, that was no reason for making him a
heretic too.

The Old World was not wide enough for this strange activity. The Jesuits
invaded all the countries which the great maritime discoveries of the
preceding age had laid open to European enterprise. They were to be
found in the depths of the Peruvian mines, at the marts of the African
slave-caravans, on the shores of the Spice Islands, in the observatories
of China. They made converts in regions which neither avarice nor
curiosity had tempted any of their countrymen to enter; and preached and
disputed in tongues of which no other native of the West understood a
word.

The spirit which appeared so eminently in this order animated the whole
Catholic world. The Court of {323}Rome itself was purified. During the
generation which preceded the Reformation, that court had been a scandal
to the Christian name. Its annals are black with treason, murder, and
incest. Even its more respectable members were utterly unfit to be
ministers of religion. They were men like Leo the Tenth; men who, with
the Latinity of the Augustan age, had acquired its atheistical and
scoffing spirit. They regarded those Christian mysteries, of which
they were stewards, just as the Augur Cicero and the high Pontiff Cæsar
regarded the Sibylline books and the pecking of the sacred chickens.
Among themselves, they spoke of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and
the Trinity, in the same tone in which Cotta and Velleius talked of the
oracle of Delphi or the voice of Faunus in the mountains. Their years
glided by in a soft dream of sensual and intellectual voluptuousness.
Choice cookery, delicious wines, lovely women, hounds, falcons, horses,
newly discovered manuscripts of the classics, sonnets and burlesque
romances in the sweetest Tuscan, just as licentious as a fine sense of
the graceful would permit, plate from the hand of Benvenuto, designs for
palaces by Michael Angelo, frescoes by Raphael, busts, mosaics, and gems
just dug up from among the ruins of ancient temples and villas, these
things were the delight and even the serious business of their lives.
Letters and the fine arts undoubtedly owe much to this not inelegant
sloth. But when the great Stirling of the mind of Europe began, when
doctrine after doctrine was assailed, when nation after nation withdrew
from communion with the successor of St. Peter, it was felt that the
Church could not be safely confided to chiefs whose highest praise was
that they were good judges of Latin compositions, of {324}paintings, and
of statues, whose severest studies had a pagan character, and who
were suspected of laughing in secret at the sacraments which they
administered, and of believing no more of the Gospel than of the
_Morgante Maggiore_. Men of a very different class now rose to the
direction of ecclesiastical affairs, men whose spirit resembled that of
Dunstan and of Becket. The Roman Pontiffs exhibited in their own persons
all the austerity of the early anchorites of Syria. Paul the Fourth
brought to the Papal throne the same fervent zeal which had carried him
into the Theatine convent. Pius the Fifth, under his gorgeous vestments,
wore day and night the hair shirt of a simple friar, walked barefoot in
the streets at the head of processions, found, even in the midst of his
most pressing avocations, time for private prayer, often regretted
that the public duties, of his station were unfavourable to growth of
holiness, and edified his flock by innumerable instances of humility,
charity, and forgiveness of personal injuries, while, at the same time,
he upheld the authority of his see, and the unadulterated doctrines
of his Church, with all the stubbornness and vehemence of Hildebrand.
Gregory the Thirteenth exerted himself not only to imitate but to
surpass Pius in the severe virtues of his sacred profession. As was the
head, such were the members. The change in the spirit of the Catholic
world may be traced in every walk of literature and of art. It will be
at once perceived by every person who compares the poem of Tasso with
that of Ariosto, or the monuments of Sixtus the Fifth with those of Leo
the Tenth.

But it was not on moral influence alone that the Catholic Church relied.
The civil sword in Spain and Italy was unsparingly employed in her
support. The {325}Inquisition was armed with new powers and inspired
with a new energy. If Protestantism, or the semblance of Protestantism,
showed itself in any quarter, it was instantly met, not by petty,
teasing persecution, but by persecution of that sort which bows down
and crashes all but a very few select spirits. Whoever was suspected of
heresy, whatever his rank, his learning, or his reputation, knew that
he must purge himself to the satisfaction of a severe and vigilant
tribunal, or die by fire. Heretical books were sought out and destroyed
with similar rigour. Works which were once in every house were so
effectually suppressed that no copy of them is now to be found in the
most extensive libraries. One book in particular, entitled “Of the
Benefits of the Death of Christ,” had this fate. It was written in
Tuscan, was many times reprinted, and was eagerly read in every part
of Italy. But the inquisitors detected in it the Lutheran doctrine
of justification by faith alone. They proscribed it; and it is now as
hopelessly lost as the second decade of Livy.

Thus, while the Protestant reformation proceeded rapidly at one
extremity of Europe, the Catholic revival went on as rapidly at the
other. About half a century after the great separation, there were,
throughout the North, Protestant governments and Protestant nations. In
the South were governments and nations actuated by the most intense zeal
for the ancient Church. Between these two hostile regions lay, morally
as well as geographically, a great debatable land. In France, Belgium,
Southern Germany, Hungary, and Poland, the contest was still undecided.
The governments of those countries had not renounced their connection
with Rome; but the Protestants were numerous, powerful, bold, and
active. In France, they formed a commonwealth {326}within the realm,
held fortresses, were able to bring great armies into the field, and had
treated with their sovereign on terms of equality. In Poland, the King
was still a Catholic; but the Protestants had the upper hand in the
Diet, filled the chief offices in the administration, and, in the large
towns, took possession of the parish churches. “It appeared,” says the
Papal nuncio, “that in Poland, Protestantism would completely supersede
Catholicism.” In Bavaria, the state of things was nearly the same. The
Protestants had a majority in the Assembly of the States, and demanded
from the duke concessions in favour of their religion, as the price of
their subsidies. In Transylvania, the House of Austria was unable to
prevent the Diet from confiscating, by one sweeping decree, the estates
of the Church. In Austria Proper it was generally said that only one
thirtieth part of the population could be counted on as good Catholics.
In Belgium the adherents of the new opinions were reckoned by hundreds
of thousands.

The history of the two succeeding generations is the history of the
struggle between Protestantism possessed of the North of Europe, and
Catholicism possessed of the South, for the doubtful territory which
lay between. All the weapons of carnal and of spiritual warfare were
employed. Both sides may boast of great talents and of great virtues.
Both have to blush for many follies and crimes. At first the chances
seemed to be decidedly in favour of Protestantism; but the victory
remained with the Church of Rome. On every point she was successful. If
we overleap another half century, we find her victorious and dominant in
France, Belgium, Bavaria, Bohemia, Austria, Poland, and Hungary. Nor
has Protestantism, in the course of two {327}hundred years been able to
reconquer any portion of what was then lost.

It is, moreover, not to be dissembled that this triumph of the Papacy
is to be chiefly attributed, not to the force of arms, but to a great
reflux in public opinion. During the first half century after the
commencement of the Reformation, the current of feeling in the countries
on this side of the Alps and of the Pyrenees ran impetuously towards
the new doctrines. Then the tide turned, and rushed as fiercely in the
opposite direction. Neither during the one period, nor during the other,
did much depend upon the event of battles or sieges. The Protestant
movement was hardly checked for an instant by the defeat at Muhlberg.

The Catholic reaction went on at full speed in spite of the destruction
of the Armada. It is difficult to say whether the violence of the first
blow or of the recoil was the greater. Fifty years after the Lutheran
separation, Catholicism could scarcely maintain itself on the shores of
the Mediterranean. A hundred years after the separation, Protestantism
could scarcely maintain itself on the shores of the Baltic. The causes
of this memorable turn in human affairs well deserve to be investigated.

The contest between the two parties bore some resemblance to the
fencing-match in Shakspeare; “Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in scuffling,
they change rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes.” The war between Luther
and Leo was a war between firm faith and unbelief, between zeal and
apathy, between energy and indolence, between seriousness and frivolity,
between a pure morality and vice. Very different was the war which
degenerate Protestantism had to wage against regenerate Catholicism. To
the debauchee, {328}the poisoners, the atheists, who had worn the tiara
during the generation which preceded the Reformation, had succeeded
Popes who, in religious fervour and severe sanctity of manners, might
bear a comparison with Cyprian or Ambrose. The order of Jesuits alone
could show many men not inferior in sincerity, constancy, courage, and
austerity of life, to the apostles of the Reformation. But while danger
had thus called forth in the bosoms of the Church of Rome many of the
highest qualities of the Reformers, the Reformers had contracted some
of the corruptions which had been justly censured in the Church of Rome.
They had become lukewarm and worldly. Their great old leaders had been
borne to the grave, and had left no successors. Among the Protestant
princes there was little or no hearty Protestant feeling. Elizabeth
herself was a Protestant rather from policy than from firm conviction.
James the First, in order to effect his favourite object of marrying his
son into one of the great continental houses, was ready to make immense
concessions to Rome, and even to admit a modified primacy in the Pope.
Henry the Fourth twice abjured the reformed doctrines from interested
motives. The Elector of Saxony, the natural head of the Protestant party
in Germany, submitted to become, at the most important crisis of
the struggle, a tool in the hands of the Papists. Among the Catholic
sovereigns, on the other hand, we find a religious zeal often amounting
to fanaticism. Philip the Second was a Papist in a very different sense
from that in which Elizabeth was a Protestant. Maximilian of Bavaria,
brought up under the teaching of the Jesuits, was a fervent missionary
wielding the powers of a prince. The Emperor Ferdinand the Second
deliberately put {329}his throne to hazard over and over again, rather
than make the smallest concession to the spirit of religious innovation.
Sigismund of Sweden lost a crown which he might have preserved if he
would have renounced the Catholic faith. In short, everywhere on the
Protestant side we see languor; everywhere on the Catholic side we see
ardour and devotion.

Not only was there, at this time, a much more intense zeal among
the Catholics than among the Protestants; but the whole zeal of the
Catholics was directed against the Protestants, while almost the whole
zeal of the Protestants was directed against each other. Within the
Catholic Church there were no serious disputes on points of doctrine.
The decisions of the Council of Trent were received; and the Jansenian
controversy had not yet arisen. The whole force of Rome was,
therefore, effective for the purpose of carrying on the war against the
Reformation. On the other hand, the force which ought to have fought the
battle of the Reformation was exhausted in civil conflict. While Jesuit
preachers, Jesuit confessors, Jesuit teachers of youth, overspread
Europe, eager to expend every faculty of their minds and every drop
of their blood in the cause of their Church, Protestant doctors were
confuting, and Protestant rulers were punishing, sectaries who were just
as good Protestants as themselves.

               “Cumque superba foret Babylon spolianda tropaeis,

               Bella geri placuit nullos habitura triumphos.”

In the Palatinate, a Calvinistic prince persecuted the Lutherans. In
Saxony, a Lutheran prince persecuted the Calvinists. Everybody who
objected to any of the articles of the Confession of Augsburg was
banished from Sweden. In Scotland, Melville was {330}disputing with
other Protestants on questions of ecclesiastical government. In England
the gaols were filled with men, who, though zealous for the Reformation,
did not exactly agree with the Court on all points of discipline and
doctrine. Some were persecuted for denying the tenet of reprobation;
some for not wearing surplices. The Irish people might at that time have
been, in all probability, reclaimed from Popery, at the expense of half
the zeal and activity which Whitgift employed in oppressing Puritans,
and Martin Marprelate in reviling bishops.

As the Catholics in zeal and in union had a great advantage over the
Protestants, so had they also an infinitely superior organization. In
truth, Protestantism, for aggressive purposes, had no organization at
all. The Reformed Churches, were mere national Churches. The Church of
England existed for England alone. It was an institution as purely local
as the Court of Common Pleas, and was utterly without any machinery for
foreign operations. The Church of Scotland, in the same manner, existed
for Scotland alone. The operations of the Catholic Church, on the
other hand, took in the whole world. Nobody at Lambeth or at Edinburgh
troubled himself about what was doing in Poland or Bavaria. But Cracow
and Munich were at Rome objects of as much interest as the purlieus of
St. John Lateran. Our island, the head of the Protestant interest, did
not send out a single missionary or a single instructor of youth to the
scene of the great spiritual war. Not a single seminary was established
here for the purpose of furnishing a supply of such persons to foreign
countries. On the other hand, Germany, Hungary, and Poland were filled
with able and active Catholic emissaries of Spanish or Italian birth;
and {331}colleges for the instruction of the northern youth were founded
at Rome. The spiritual force of Protestantism was a mere local militia,
which might be useful in case of an invasion, but could not be sent
abroad, and could therefore make no conquests. Rome had such a local
militia; but she had also a force disposable at a moment’s notice for
foreign service, however dangerous or disagreeable. If it was thought at
head-quarters that a Jesuit at Palermo was qualified by his talents
and character to withstand the Reformers in Lithuania, the order was
instantly given and instantly obeyed. In a month, the faithful servant
of the Church was preaching, catechising, confessing, beyond the Niemen.

It is impossible to deny that the polity of the Church of Rome is the
very master-piece of human wisdom. In truth, nothing but such a
polity could, against such assaults, have borne up such doctrines. The
experience of twelve hundred eventful years, the ingenuity and patient
care of forty generations of statesmen, have improved that polity to
such perfection that, among the contrivances which have been devised
for deceiving and oppressing mankind it occupies the highest place. The
stronger our conviction that reason and scripture were decidedly on
the side of Protestantism, the greater is the reluctant admiration
with which we regard that system of tactics against which reason and
scripture were employed in vain.

If we went at large into this most interesting subject we should fill
volumes. We will, therefore, at present, advert to only one important
part of the policy of the Church of Rome. She thoroughly understands,
what no other Church has ever understood, how to deal with enthusiasts.
In some sects, particularly in infant sects, enthusiasm is suffered to
be rampant. In other sects, {332}particularly in sects long established
and richly endowed, it is regarded with aversion. The Catholic Church
neither submits to enthusiasm nor proscribes it, but uses it. She
considers it as a great moving force which in itself, like the muscular
power of a fine horse, is neither good nor evil, but which may be so
directed as to produce great good or great evil; and she assumes the
direction to herself. It would be absurd to run down a horse like a
wolf. It would be still more absurd to let him run wild, breaking fences
and trampling down passengers. The rational course is to subjugate his
will without impairing his vigour, to teach him to obey the rein and
then to urge him to full speed. When once he knows his master, he is
valuable in proportion to his strength and spirit. Just such has been
the system of the Church of Rome with regard to enthusiasts. She knows
that, when religious feelings have obtained the complete’ empire of
the mind, they impart a strange energy, that they raise men above the
dominion of pain and pleasure, that obloquy becomes glory, that death
itself is contemplated only as the beginning of a higher and happier
life. She knows that a person in this state is no object of contempt.
He may be vulgar, ignorant, visionary, extravagant; but he will do and
suffer things which it is for her interest that somebody should do
and suffer, yet from which calm and sober-minded men would shrink. She
accordingly enlists him in her service, assigns to him some forlorn
hope, in which intrepidity and impetuosity are more wanted than judgment
and self-command, and sends him forth with her benediction and her
applause.

In England it not unfrequently happens that a tinker or coalheaver hears
a sermon or falls in with a tract which alarms him about the state
of his soul. If he be a {333}man of excitable nerves and strong
imagination, he thinks himself given over to the Evil Power. He doubts
whether he has not committed the unpardonable sin. He imputes every wild
fancy that springs up in his mind to the whisper of a fiend. His sleep
is broken by dreams of the great judgment seat, the open books, and the
unquenchable fire. If, in order to escape from these vexing thoughts, he
flies to amusement or to licentious indulgence, the delusive relief only
makes his misery darker and more hopeless. At length a turn takes place.
He is reconciled to his offended Maker. To borrow the fine imagery of
one who had himself been thus tried, he emerges from the Valley of the
Shadow of death, from the dark land of gins and snares, of quagmires and
precipices, of evil spirits and ravenous beasts. The sunshine is on his
path. He ascends the Delectable Mountains, and catches from their summit
a distant view of the shining city which is the end of his pilgrimage.
Then arises in his mind a natural and surely not a censurable desire,
to impart to others the thoughts of which his own heart is full, to warn
the careless, to comfort those who are troubled in spirit. The impulse
which urges him to devote his whole life to the teaching of religion is
a strong passion in the guise of a duty. He exhorts his neighbours; and,
if he be a man of strong parts, he often does so with great effect. He
pleads as if he were pleading for his life, with tears, and pathetic
gestures, and burning words; and he soon finds with delight, not
perhaps wholly unmixed with the alloy of human infirmity, that his rude
eloquence rouses and melts hearers who sleep very composedly while the
rector preaches on the apostolical succession. Zeal for God, love for
his fellow-creatures, pleasure in the exercise of his newly discovered
powers, {334}impel him to become a preacher. He has no quarrel with the
establishment, no objection to its formularies, its government, or its
vestments. He would gladly be admitted among its humblest ministers.
But, admitted or rejected, he feels that his vocation is determined. His
orders have come down to him, not through a long and doubtful series of
Arian and Popish bishops, but direct from on high. His commission is
the same that, on the Mountain of Ascension was given to the Eleven. Nor
will he, for lack of human credentials, spare to deliver the glorious
message with which he is charged by the true Head of the Church. For a
man thus minded, there is within the pale of the establishment no place.
He has been at no college; he cannot construe a Greek author or write a
Latin theme; and he is told that, if he remains in the communion of the
Church, he must do so as a hearer, and that, if he is resolved to be a
teacher, he must begin by being a schismatic. His choice is soon made.
He harangues on Tower Hill or in Smithfield. A congregation is formed. A
license is obtained. A plain brick building, with a desk and benches, is
run up, and named Ebenezer or Bethel. In a few weeks the Church has
lost for ever a hundred families, not one of which entertained the
least scruple about her articles, her liturgy, her government, or her
ceremonies.

Far different is the policy of Rome. The ignorant enthusiast whom the
Anglican Church makes an enemy, and, whatever the polite and learned may
think, a most dangerous enemy, the Catholic Church makes a champion. She
bids him nurse his beard, covers him with a gown and hood of coarse dark
stuff, ties a rope round his waist, and sends him forth to teach in
her name. He costs her nothing. He takes not a ducat {335}away from
the revenues of her beneficed clergy. He lives by the alms of those who
respect his spiritual character, and are grateful for his instructions.
He preaches, not exactly in the style of Massillon, but in a way which
moves the passions of uneducated hearers; and all his influence is
employed to strengthen the Church of which he is a minister. To that
Church he becomes as strongly attached as any of the cardinals whose
scarlet carriages and liveries crowd the entrance of the palace on
the Quirinal. In this way the Church of Rome unites in herself all the
strength of establishment, and all the strength of dissent. With the
utmost pomp of a dominant hierarchy above, she has all the energy of
the voluntary system below. It would be easy to mention very recent
instances in which the hearts of hundreds of thousands, estranged from
her by the selfishness, sloth, and cowardice of the beneficed clergy,
have been brought back by the zeal of the begging friars.

Even for female agency there is a place in her system. To devout women
she assigns spiritual functions, dignities, and magistracies. In our
country, if a noble lady is moved by more than ordinary zeal for the
propagation of religion, the chance is that, though she may disapprove
of no doctrine or ceremony of the Established Church, she will end by
giving her name to a new schism. If a pious and benevolent woman enters
the cells of a prison to pray with the most unhappy and degraded of her
own sex, she does so without any authority from the Church. No line of
action is traced out for her; and it is well if the Ordinary does not
complain of her intrusion, and if the Bishop does not shake his head at
such irregular benevolence. At Rome, the Countess of Huntingdon would
have a place in {336}the calendar as St. Selina, and Mrs. Fry would
be foundress and first Superior of the Blessed Order of Sisters of the
Gaols.

Place Ignatius Loyola at Oxford. He is certain to become the head of a
formidable secession. Place John Wesley at Rome. He is certain to be the
first General of a new society devoted to the interests and honour
of the Church. Place St. Theresa in London. Her restless enthusiasm
ferments into madness, not untinctured with craft. She becomes the
prophetess, the mother of the faithful, holds disputations with the
devil, issues sealed pardons to her adorers, and lies in of the Shiloh.
Place Joanna Southcote at Rome. She founds an order of barefooted
Carmelites, every one of whom is ready to suffer martyrdom for the
Church; a solemn service is consecrated to her memory; and her statue,
placed over the holy water, strikes the eye of every stranger who enters
St. Peter’s.

We have dwelt long on this subject, because we believe that of the many
causes to which the Church of Rome owed her safety and her triumph at
the close of the sixteenth century, the chief was the profound policy
with which she used the fanaticism of such persons as St Ignatius and
St. Theresa.

The Protestant party was now indeed vanquished and humbled. In France
so strong had been the Catholic reaction that Henry the Fourth found it
necessary to choose between his religion and his crown. In spite of his
clear hereditary right, in spite of his eminent personal qualities, he
saw that, unless he reconciled himself to the Church of Rome, he
could not count on the fidelity even of those gallant gentlemen whose
impetuous valour had turned the tide of battle at Ivry. In Belgium,
Poland, and Southern Germany, Catholicism {337}had obtained complete
ascendency. The resistance of Bohemia was put down. The Palatinate was
conquered. Upper and Lower Saxony were overflowed by Catholic invaders.
The King of Denmark stood forth as the Protector of the Reformed
Churches: he was defeated, driven out of the empire, and attacked in
his own possessions. The armies of the House of Austria pressed on,
subjugated Pomerania, and were stopped in their progress only by the
ramparts of Stralsund.

And now again the tide turned. Two violent outbreaks of religious
feeling in opposite directions had given a character to the history of a
whole century. Protestantism had at first driven back Catholicism to
the Alps and the Pyrenees. Catholicism had rallied, and had driven back
Protestantism even to the German Ocean. Then the great southern reaction
began to slacken, as the great northern movement had slackened before.
The zeal of the Catholics waxed cool. Their union was dissolved. The
paroxysm of religious excitement was over on both sides. One party
had degenerated as far from the spirit of Loyola as the other from
the spirit of Luther. During three generations religion had been the
mainspring of politics. The revolutions and civil wars of France,
Scotland, Holland, Sweden, the long struggle between Philip and
Elizabeth, the bloody competition for the Bohemian crown, had all
originated in theological disputes. But a great change now took place.
The contest which was raging in Germany lost its religious character. It
was now, on one side, less a contest for the spiritual ascendency of the
Church of Rome than for the temporal ascendency of the House of Austria.
On the other side, it was less a contest for the reformed doctrines than
for {338}national independence. Governments began to form themselves
into new combinations, in which community of political interest was
far more regarded than community of religious belief. Even at Rome the
progress of the Catholic arms was observed with mixed feelings. The
Supreme Pontiff was a sovereign prince of the second rank, and was
anxious about the balance of power as well as about the propagation of
truth. It was known that he dreaded the rise of an universal monarchy
even more than he desired the prosperity of the Universal Church. At
length a great event announced to the world that the war of sects bad
ceased, and that the war of states had succeeded. A coalition, including
Calvinists, Lutherans, and Catholics, was formed against the House of
Austria. At the head of that coalition were the first statesman and the
first warrior of the age; the former a prince of the Catholic Church,
distinguished by the vigour and success with which he had put down
the Huguenots; the latter a Protestant king, who owed his throne to a
revolution caused by hatred of Popery. The alliance of Richelieu
and Gustavus marks the time at which the great religious struggle
terminated. The war which followed was a war for the equilibrium of
Europe. When, at length, the peace of Westphalia was concluded, it
appeared that the Church of Rome remained in full possession of a vast
dominion, which in the middle of the preceding century she seemed to be
on the point of losing. No part of Europe remained Protestant, except
that part which had become thoroughly Protestant before the generation
which heard Luther preach had passed away.

Since that time there has been no religious war between Catholics and
Protestants as such. In the time {339}of Cromwell, Protestant England
was united with Catholic France, then governed by a priest, against
Catholic Spain. William the Third, the eminently Protestant hero, was at
the head of a coalition which included many Catholic powers, and which
was secretly favoured even by Rome, against the Catholic Lewis. In the
time of Anne, Protestant England and Protestant Holland joined with
Catholic Savoy and Catholic Portugal, for the purpose of transferring
the crown of Spain from one bigoted Catholic to another.

The geographical frontier between the two religions has continued to run
almost precisely where it ran at the close of the Thirty Years’ War; nor
has Protestantism given any proofs of that “expansive power” which has
been ascribed to it. But the Protestant boasts, and boasts most justly,
that wealth, civilisation, and intelligence, have increased far more
on the northern than on the southern side of the boundary, and that
countries so little favoured by nature as Scotland and Prussia are now
among the most flourishing and best governed portions of the world,
while the marble palaces of Genoa are deserted, while banditti infest
the beautiful shores of Campania, while the fertile sea-coast of the
Pontifical State is abandoned to buffaloes and wild boars. It cannot be
doubted that, since the sixteenth century, the Protestant nations have
made decidedly greater progress than their neighbours. The progress made
by those nations in which Protestantism, though not finally successful,
yet maintained a long struggle, and left permanent traces, has generally
been considerable. But when we come to the Catholic Land, to the part of
Europe in which the first spark of reformation was trodden out as
soon as it appeared, and from which proceeded the impulse which drove
{340}Protestantism back, we find, at best, a very slow progress, and
on the whole a retrogression. Compare Denmark and Portugal. When Luther
began to preach, the superiority of the Portuguese was unquestionable.
At present, the superiority of the Danes is no less so. Compare
Edinburgh and Florence. Edinburgh has owed less to climate, to soil,
and to the fostering care of rulers than any capital, Protestant or
Catholic. In all these respects, Florence has been singularly happy.
Yet whoever knows what Florence and Edinburgh were in the generation
preceding the Reformation, and what they are now, will acknowledge that
some great cause has, during the last three centuries, operated to raise
one part of the European family, and to depress the other. Compare the
history of England and that of Spain during the last century. In arms,
arts, sciences, letters, commerce, agriculture, the contrast is most
striking. The distinction is not confined to this side of the Atlantic.
The colonies planted by England in America have immeasurably outgrown in
power those planted by Spain. Yet we have no reason to believe that, at
the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Castilian was in any respect
inferior to the Englishman. Our firm belief is, that the North owes its
great civilisation and prosperity chiefly to the moral, effect of the
Protestant Reformation, and that the decay of the Southern countries of
Europe is to be mainly ascribed to the great Catholic revival.

About a hundred years after the final settlement of the boundary line
between Protestantism and Catholicism, began to appear the signs of the
fourth great peril of the Church of Rome. The storm which was now rising
against her was of a very different kind from those which had preceded
it. Those who had formerly {341}attacked her had questioned only a part
of her doctrines. A school was now growing up which rejected the whole.
The Albigenses, the Lollards, the Lutherans, the Calvinists, had a
positive religious system, and were strongly attached to it. The creed
of the new sectaries was altogether negative. They took one of their
premises from the Protestants, and one from the Catholics. From the
latter they borrowed the principle, that Catholicism was the only pure
and genuine Christianity. With the former, they held that some parts of
the Catholic system were contrary to reason. The conclusion was obvious.
Two propositions, each of which separately is compatible with the most
exalted piety, formed, when held in conjunction, the groundwork of a
system of irreligion. The doctrine of Bossuet, that transubstantiation
is affirmed in the Gospel, and the doctrine of Tillotson, that
transubstantiation is an absurdity, when put together, produced by
logical necessity the inferences of Voltaire.

Had the sect which was rising at Paris been a sect of mere scoffers, it
is very improbable that it would have left deep traces of its existence
in the institutions and manners of Europe. Mere negation, mere Epicurean
infidelity, as Lord Bacon most justly observes, has never disturbed the
peace of the world. It furnishes no motive for action. It inspires no
enthusiasm. It has no missionaries, no crusaders, no martyrs. If the
Patriarch of the Holy Philosophical Church had contented himself with
making jokes about Saul’s asses and David’s wives, and with criticizing
the poetry of Ezekiel in the same narrow spirit in which he criticized
that of Shakspeare, Rome would have had little to fear. But it is due
to him and to his compeers to say that the real secret of their strength
lay in the truth which {342}was mingled with their errors, and in the
generous enthusiasm which was hidden under their flippancy. They were
men who, with all their faults, moral and intellectual, sincerely and
earnestly desired the improvement of the condition of the human race,
whose blood boiled at the sight of cruelty and injustice, who made
manful war, with every faculty which they possessed, on what they
considered as abuses, and who on many signal occasions placed themselves
gallantly between the powerful and the oppressed. While they assailed
Christianity with a rancour and an unfairness disgraceful to men who
called themselves philosophers, they yet had, in far greater measure
than their opponents, that charity towards men of all classes and races
which Christianity enjoins. Religious persecution, judicial torture,
arbitrary imprisonment, the unnecessary multiplication of capital
punishments, the delay and chicanery of tribunals, the exactions of
farmers of the revenue, slavery, the slave trade, were the constant
subjects of their lively satire and eloquent disquisitions. When an
innocent man was broken on the wheel at Toulouse, when a youth, guilty
only of an indiscretion, was beheaded at Abbeville, when a brave
officer, borne down by public injustice, was dragged, with a gag in his
mouth, to die on the Place de Grève, a voice instantly went forth from
the banks of Lake Leman, which made itself heard from Moscow to Cadiz,
and which sentenced the unjust judges to the contempt and detestation
of all Europe. The really efficient weapons with which the philosophers
assailed the evangelical faith were borrowed from the evangelical
morality. The ethical and dogmatical parts of the Gospel were unhappily
turned against each other. On one side was a Church boasting of the
purity of a doctrine derived from the Apostles, but disgraced {343}by
the massacre of St. Bartholomew, by the murder of the best of kings, by
the war of Cevennes, by the destruction of Port-Royal. On the other side
was a sect laughing at the Scriptures, shooting out the tongue at the
sacraments, but ready to encounter principalities and powers in the
cause of justice, mercy, and toleration.

Irreligion, accidentally associated with philanthropy, triumphed for
a time over religion accidentally associated with political and social
abuses. Every thing gave way to the zeal and activity of the new
reformers. In France, every man distinguished in letters was found in
their ranks. Every year gave birth to works in which the fundamental
principles of the Church were attacked with argument, invective, and
ridicule. The Church made no defence, except by acts of power. Censures
were pronounced: books were seized: insults were offered to the remains
of infidel writers; but no Bossuet, no Pascal, came forth to encounter
Voltaire. There appeared not a single defence of the Catholic doctrine
which produced any considerable effect, or which is now even remembered.
A bloody and unsparing persecution, like that which put down the
Albigenses, might have put down the philosophers. But the time for De
Montforts and Dominies had gone by. The punishments which the priests
were still able to inflict were sufficient to irritate, but not
sufficient to destroy. The war was between power on one side, and wit
on the other; and the power was under far more restraint than the wit.
Orthodoxy soon became a synonyme for ignorance and stupidity. It was as
necessary to the character of an accomplished man that he should despise
the religion of his country, as that he should know his letters. The new
doctrines spread {344}rapidly through Christendom. Paris was the capital
of the whole continent. French was everywhere the language of polite
circles. The literary glory of Italy and Spain had departed. That of
Germany had not dawned. That of England shone, as yet, for the English
alone. The teachers of France were the teachers of Europe. The Parisian
opinions spread fast among the educated classes beyond the Alps:
nor could the vigilance of the Inquisition prevent the contraband
importation of the new heresy into Castile and Portugal. Governments,
even arbitrary governments, saw with pleasure the progress of this
philosophy. Numerous reforms, generally laudable, sometimes hurried
on without sufficient regard to time, to place, and to public feeling,
showed the extent of its influence. The rulers of Prussia, of Russia,
of Austria, and of many smaller states, were supposed to be among the
initiated.

The Church of Rome was still, in outward show, as stately and splendid
as ever; but her foundation was undermined. No state had quitted her
communion or confiscated her revenues; but the reverence of the people
was everywhere departing from her.

The first great warning stroke was the fall of that society which, in
the conflict with Protestantism, had saved the Catholic Church from
destruction. The order of Jesus had never recovered from the injury
received in the struggle with Port-Royal. It was now still more rudely
assailed by the philosophers. Its spirit was broken; its reputation was
tainted. Insulted by all the men of genius in Europe, condemned by the
civil, magistrate, feebly defended by the chiefs of the hierarchy, it
fell: and great, was the fall of it.

The movement went on with increasing speed. The first generation of the
new sect passed away. The {345}doctrines of Voltaire were inherited and
exaggerated by successors, who bore to him the same relation which the
Anabaptists bore to Luther, or the Fifth-Monarchy men to Pym. At length
the Revolution came. Down went the old Church of France, with all
its pomp and wealth. Some of its priests purchased a maintenance by
separating themselves from Rome, and by becoming the authors of a fresh
schism. Some, rejoicing in the new license, flung away their sacred
vestments, proclaimed that their whole life had been an imposture,
insulted and persecuted the religion of which they had been ministers,
and distinguished themselves, even in the Jacobin Club and the Commune
of Paris, by the excess of their impudence and ferocity. Others, more
faithful to their principles, were butchered by scores without a trial,
drowned, shot, hung on lamp-posts. Thousands fled from their country
to take sanctuary under the shade of hostile altars. The churches were
closed; the bells were silent; the shrines were plundered; the silver
crucifixes were melted down. Buffoons, dressed in copes and surplices,
came dancing the _carmagnole_ even to the bar of the Convention.
The bust of Marat was substituted for the statues of the martyrs of
Christianity. A prostitute, seated on a chair of state in the chancel of
Nôtre Dame, received the adoration of thousands, who exclaimed that at
length, for the first time, those ancient Gothic arches had resounded
with the accents of truth. The new unbelief was as intolerant as the old
superstition. To show reverence for religion was to incur the suspicion
of disaffection. It was not without imminent danger that the priest
baptized the infant, joined the hands of lovers, or listened to the
confession of the dying. The absurd worship of the Goddess of Reason
was, indeed, {346}of short duration; but the deism of Robespierre and
Lepaux was not less hostile to the Catholic faith than the atheism of
Clootz and Chaumette.

Nor were the calamities of the Church confined to France. The
revolutionary spirit, attacked by all Europe, beat all Europe back,
became conqueror in its turn, and, not satisfied with the Belgian cities
and the rich domains of the spiritual electors, went raging over the
Rhine and through the passes of the Alps. Throughout the whole of the
great war against Protestantism, Italy and Spain had been the base of
the Catholic operations. Spain was now the obsequious vassal of the
infidels. Italy was subjugated by them. To her ancient principalities
succeeded the Cisalpine republic, and the Ligurian republic, and
the Parthenopean republic. The shrine of Loretto was stripped of the
treasures piled up by the devotion of six hundred years. The convents
of Rome were pillaged. The tricoloured flag floated on the top of
the Castle of St. Angelo. The successor of St. Peter Was carried away
captive by the unbelievers. He died a prisoner in their hands; and even
the honours of sepulture were long withheld from his remains.

It is not strange that, in the year 1799, even sagacious observers
should have thought that, at length, the hour of the Church of Rome was
come. An infidel power ascendant, the Pope dying in captivity, the most
illustrious prelates of France living in a foreign country on Protestant
alms, the noblest edifices which-the munificence of former ages had
consecrated to the worship of God turned into temples of Victory,
or into banqueting-houses for political societies, or into
Theophilanthropic chapels, such signs might well be supposed to indicate
the approaching end of that long domination. {347}But the end was not
yet. Again doomed to death, the milk-white hind was still fated not to
die. Even before the funeral rites had been performed over the ashes of
Pius the Sixth, a great reaction had commenced, which, after the lapse
of more than forty years, appears to be still in progress. Anarchy
had had its day. A new order of things rose out of the confusion, new
dynasties, new laws, new titles; and amidst them emerged the ancient
religion. The Arabs have a fable that the Great Pyramid was built by
antediluvian kings, and alone, of all the works of men, bore the weight
of the flood. Such as this was the fate of the Papacy. It had been
buried under the great inundation; but its deep foundations had remained
unshaken; and, when the waters abated, it appeared alone amidst the
ruins of a world which had passed away. The republic of Holland was
gone, and the empire of Germany, and the great Council of Venice, and
the old Helvetian League, and the House of Bourbon, and the parliaments
and aristocracy of France. Europe was full of young creations, a French
empire, a kingdom of Italy, a Confederation of the Rhine. Nor had the
late events affected only territorial limits and political institutions.
The distribution of property, the composition and spirit of society,
had, through great part of Catholic Europe, undergone a complete change.
But the unchangeable Church was still there.

Some future historian, as able and temperate as Professor Ranke, will,
we hope, trace the progress of the Catholic revival of the nineteenth
century. We feel that we are drawing too near our own time, and that, if
we go on we shall be in danger of saying much which may be supposed
to indicate, and which will certainly excite angry feelings. We will,
therefore, make only {348}one more observation, which, in our opinion,
is deserving of serious attention.

During the eighteenth century, the influence of the Church of Rome was
constantly on the decline. Unbelief made extensive conquests in all the
Catholic countries of Europe, and in some countries obtained a complete
ascendency. The Papacy was at length brought so low as to be an
object of derision to infidels, and of pity rather than of hatred to
Protestants. During the nineteenth century, this fallen Church has
been gradually rising from her depressed state and reconquering her old
dominion. No person who calmly reflects on what, within the last few
years, has passed in Spain, in Italy, in South America, in Ireland, in
the Netherlands, in Prussia, even in France, can doubt that the power of
this Church over the hearts and minds of men, is now greater far than it
was when the Encyclopaedia and the Philosophical Dictionary appeared.
It is surely remarkable, that neither the moral revolution of the
eighteenth century, nor the moral counter-revolution of the nineteenth,
should, in any perceptible degree, have added to the domain of
Protestantism. During the former period, whatever was lost to
Catholicism was lost also to Christianity; during the latter, whatever
was regained by Christianity in Catholic countries was regained also by
Catholicism. We should naturally have expected that many minds, on the
way from superstition to infidelity, or on the way back from infidelity
to superstition, would have stopped at an intermediate point. Between
the doctrines taught in the schools of the Jesuits, and those which were
maintained at the little supper parties of the Baron Holbach, there is
a vast interval, in which the human mind, it should seem, might find for
itself some resting-place more satisfactory {349}than either of the
two extremes. And at the time of the Reformation, millions found such
a resting-place. Whole nations then renounced Popery without ceasing to
believe in a first cause, in a future life, or in the Divine mission of
Jesus. In the last century, on the other hand, when a Catholic renounced
his belief in the real presence, it was a thousand to one that he
renounced his belief in the Gospel too; and, when the reaction took
place, with belief in the Gospel came back belief in the real presence.

We by no means venture to deduce from these phænomena any general law;
but we think it a most remarkable fact, that no Christian nation, which
did not adopt the principles of the Reformation before the end of the
sixteenth century, should ever have adopted them. Catholic communities
have, since that time, become infidel and become Catholic again; but
none has become Protestant.

Here we close this hasty sketch of one of the most important portions
of the history of mankind. Our readers will have great reason to feel
obliged to us if we have interested them sufficiently to induce them
to peruse Professor Ranke’s book. We will only caution them against
the French translation, a performance which, in our opinion, is just as
discreditable to the moral character of the person from whom it proceeds
as a false affidavit or a forged bill of exchange would have been, and
advise them to study either the original, or the English version, in
which the sense and spirit of the original are admirably preserved.



LEIGH HUNT. (1)

(_Edinburgh Review_, January, 1841.)


We {350}have a kindness for Mr. Leigh Hunt. We form our judgment of
him, indeed, only from events of universal notoriety, from his own works
and from the works of other writers, who have generally abused him in
the most rancorous manner. But, unless we are greatly mistaken, he is a
very clever, a very honest, and a very good-natured man. We can clearly
discern, together with many merits, many faults both in his writings and
in his conduct. But we really think that there is hardly a man living
whose merits have been so grudgingly allowed, and whose faults have been
so cruelly expiated.

In some respects Mr. Leigh Hunt is excellently qualified for the task
which he has now undertaken. His style, in spite of its mannerism, nay,
partly by reason of its mannerism, is well suited for light, garrulous,
desultory _ana_, half critical, half biographical. We do not always
agree with his literary judgments; but we find in him what is very rare
in our time, the power of justly appreciating and heartily enjoying
good things of very different kinds. He can adore Shakspeare and Spenser
without denying poetical

     (1) _The Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh,
     and Farquhar, with Biographical and Critical Notices_. By
     Leigh Hunt. 8vo. London: 1840.

{351}genius to the author of Alexander’s Feast, or fine observation,
rich fancy, and exquisite humour to him who imagined Will Honeycomb and
Sir Roger de Coverley. He has paid particular attention to the history
of the English drama, from the age of Elizabeth down to our own time,
and has every right to be heard with respect on that subject.

The plays to which he now acts as introducer are, with few exceptions,
such as, in the opinion of many very respectable people, ought not to
be reprinted. In this opinion we can by no means concur. We cannot wish
that any work or class of works which has exercised a great influence
on the human mind, and which illustrates the character of an important
epoch in letters, politics and morals, should disappear from the world.
If we err in this matter, we err with the gravest men and bodies of men
in the empire, and especially with the Church of England, and with
the great schools of learning which are connected with her. The whole
liberal education of our countrymen is conducted on the principle, that
no book which is valuable, either by reason of the excellence of its
style, or by reason of the light which it throws on the history, polity,
and manners of nations, should be withheld from the student on account
of its impurity. The Athenian Comedies, in which there are scarcely a
hundred lines together without some passage of which Rochester would
have been ashamed, have been reprinted at the Pitt Press, and the
Clarendon Press, under the direction of syndics and delegates appointed
by the Universities, and have been illustrated with notes by reverend,
very reverend, and right reverend commentators. Every year the most
distinguished young men in the kingdom are examined {352}by bishops and
professors of divinity in such works as the Lysistrata of Aristophanes
and the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. There is certainly something a little
ludicrous in the idea of a conclave of venerable fathers of the church
praising and rewarding a lad on account of his intimate acquaintance
with writings compared with which the loosest tale in Prior is modest.
But, for our own part, we have no doubt that the great societies which
direct the education of the English gentry have herein judged wisely. It
is unquestionable that an extensive acquaintance with ancient literature
enlarges and enriches the mind. It is unquestionable that a man whose
mind has been thus enlarged and enriched is likely to be far more useful
to the state and to the church than one who is unskilled, or little
skilled, in classical learning. On the other hand, we find it difficult
to believe that, in a world so full of temptation as this, any gentleman
whose life would have been virtuous if he had not read Aristophanes and
Juvenal will be made vicious by reading them. A man who, exposed to all
the influences of such a state of society as that in which we live, is
yet afraid of exposing himself to the influences of a few Greek or Latin
verses, acts, we think, much like the felon who begged the sheriffs to
let him have an umbrella held over his head from the door of Newgate to
the gallows, because it was a drizzling morning, and he was apt to take
cold.

The virtue which the world wants is a healthful virtue, mot a
valetudinarian virtue, a virtue which can expose itself to the risks
inseparable from all spirited exertion, not a virtue which keeps out of
the common air for fear of infection, and eschews the common food as too
stimulating. It would be indeed absurd to attempt {353}to keep men from
acquiring those qualifications which fit them to play their part in life
with honour to themselves and advantage to their country, for the sake
of preserving a delicacy which cannot be preserved, a delicacy which a
walk from Westminster to the Temple is sufficient to destroy.

But we should be justly chargeable with gross inconsistency if, while we
defend the policy which invites the youth of our country to study such
writers as Theocritus and Catullus, we were to set up a cry against a
new edition of the Countiy Wife or the Way of the World. The immoral
English writers of the seventeenth century are indeed much less
excusable than those of Greece and Rome. But the worst English writings
of the seventeenth century are decent, compared with much that has been
bequeathed to us by Greece and Rome. Plato, we have little doubt, was a
much better man than Sir George Etherege. But Plato has written things
at which Sir George Etherege would have shuddered. Buckhurst and
Sedley, even in those wild orgies at the Cock in Bow Street for which
they were pelted by the rabble and fined by the Court of King’s, Bench,
would never have dared to hold such discourse as passed between Socrates
and Phædrus on that fine summer day under the plane-tree, while the
fountain warbled at their feet, and the cicadas chirped overhead. If
it be, as we think it is, desirable that an English gentleman should
be well informed touching the government and the manners of little
commonwealths which both in place and time are far removed from us,
whose independence has been more than two thousand years extinguished,
whose language has not been spoken for ages, and whose ancient
magnificence is attested only by a few broken {354}columns and friezes,
much more must it be desirable that lie should be intimately acquainted
with the history of the public mind of his own country, and with the
causes, the nature, and the extent of those revolutions of opinion and
feeling which, during the last two centuries, have alternately raised
and depressed the standard of our national morality. And knowledge of
this sort is to be very sparingly gleaned from Parliamentary debates,
from state papers, and from the works of grave historians. It must
either not be acquired at all, or it must be acquired by the perusal of
the light literature which has at various periods been fashionable. We
are therefore by no means disposed to condemn this publication, though
we certainly cannot recommend the handsome volume before us as an
appropriate Christmas present for young ladies.

We have said that we think the present publication perfectly
justifiable. But we can by no means agree with Mr. Leigh Hunt, who seems
to hold that there is little or no ground for the charge of immorality
so often brought against the literature of the Restoration. We do not
blame him for not bringing to the judgment-seat the merciless rigour
of Lord Angelo; but we really think that such flagitious and impudent
offenders as those who are now at the bar deserved at least the gentle
rebuke of Escalus. Mr. Leigh Hunt treats the whole matter a little
too much in the easy style of Lucio; and perhaps his exceeding lenity
disposes us to be somewhat too severe.

And yet it is not easy to be too severe. For in truth this part of our
literature is a disgrace to our language and our national character.
It is clever, indeed, and very entertaining; but it is, in the
most emphatic sense of the words, “earthly, sensual, devilish.” Its
{355}indecency, though perpetually such as is condemned not less by the
rules of good taste than by those of morality, is not, in our opinion,
so disgraceful a fault as its singularly inhuman spirit. We have here
Belial, not as when he inspired Ovid and Ariosto, “graceful and humane,”
 but with the iron eye and cruel sneer of Mephistophiles. We find
ourselves in a world, in which the ladies are like very profligate,
impudent, and unfeeling men, and in which the men are too bad for any
place but Pandæmonium or Norfolk Island. We are surrounded by foreheads
of bronze, hearts like the nether millstone, and tongues set on fire of
hell.

Dryden defended or excused his own offences and those of his
contemporaries by pleading the example of the earlier English
dramatists: and Mr. Leigh Hunt seems to think that there is force in the
plea. We altogether differ from his opinion. The crime charged is not
mere coarseness of expression. The terms which are delicate in one age
become gross in the next. The diction of the English version of the
Pentateuch is sometimes such as Addison would not have ventured to
imitate; and Addison, the standard of moral purity in his own age,
used many phrases which are now proscribed. Whether a thing shall be
designated by a plain noun substantive or by a circumlocution is mere,
matter of fashion. Morality is not at all interested in the question.
But morality is deeply interested in this, that what is immoral shall
not be presented to the imagination of the young and susceptible in
constant connection with what is attractive. For every person who has
observed the operation of the law of association in his own mind and in
the minds of others knows that whatever is constantly presented to the
imagination in connection with what is attractive will itself become
attractive. {356}There is undoubtedly a great deal of indelicate writing
in Fletcher and Massinger, and more than might be wished even in Ben
Jonson and Shakspeare, who are comparatively pure. But it is impossible
to trace in their plays any systematic attempt to associate vice with
those things which men value most and desire most, and virtue with every
thing ridiculous and degrading. And such a systematic attempt we find
in the whole dramatic literature of the generation which followed the
return of Charles the Second. We will take, as an instance of what we
mean, a single subject of the highest importance to the happiness of
mankind, conjugal fidelity. We can at present hardly call to mind
a single English play, written before the civil war, in which the
character of a seducer of married women is represented in a favourable
light. We remember many plays in which such persons are baffled,
exposed, covered with derision, and insulted by triumphant husbands.
Such is the fate of Falstaff, with all his wit and knowledge of the
world. Such is the fate of Brisac in Fletcher’s Elder Brother, and of
Ricardo and Ubaldo in Massinger’s Picture. Sometimes, as in the Fatal
Dowry and Love’s Cruelty, the outraged honour of families is repaired
by a bloody revenge. If now and then the lover is represented as
an accomplished man, and the husband as a person of weak or odious
character, this only makes the triumph of female virtue the more signal,
as in Jonson’s Celia and Mrs. Fitadottrel, and in Fletcher’s Maria.
In general we will venture to say that the dramatists of the age
of Elizabeth and James the First either treat the breach of the
marriage-vow as a serious crime, or, if they treat it as matter for
laughter, turn the laugh against the gallant.

On the contrary, during the forty years which followed {357}the
Restoration, the whole body of the dramatists invariably represent
adultery, we do not say as a peccadillo, we do not say as an error
which the violence of passion may excuse, but as the calling of a fine
gentleman, as a grace without which his character would be imperfect.
It is as essential to his breeding and to his place in society that he
should make love to the wives of his neighbours as that he should know
French, or that he should have a sword at his side.

In all this there is no passion, and scarcely any thing that can be
called preference. The hero intrigues just as he wears a wig; because,
if he did not, he would be a queer fellow, a city prig, perhaps a
Puritan. All the agreeable qualities are always given to the gallant.
All the contempt and aversion are the portion of the unfortunate
husband. Take Dryden for example; and compare Woodall with Brainsick, or
Lorenzo with Gomez. Take Wycherley; and compare Horner with Pinchwife.
Take Vanbrugh; and compare Constant with Sir John Brute. Take Farquhar;
and compare Archer with Squire Sullen. Take Congreve; and compare
Bellmour with Fondlewife, Careless with Sir Paul Plyant, or Scandal
with Foresight. In all these cases, and in many more which might be
named, the dramatist evidently does his best to make the person who
commits the injury graceful, sensible, and spirited, and the person who
suffers it a fool, or a tyrant, or both.

Mr. Charles Lamb, indeed, attempted to set up a defence for this way of
writing. The dramatists of the latter part of the seventeenth century
are not, according to him, to be tried by the standard of morality which
exists, and ought to exist, in real life. Their world is a conventional
world. Their heroes and {358}heroines belong, not to England, not to
Christendom, but to an Utopia of gallantry, to a Fairyland, where the
Bible and Burn’s Justice are unknown, where a prank which on this earth
would be rewarded with the pillory is merely matter for a peal of elvish
laughter. A real Horner, a real Careless, would, it is admitted, be
exceedingly bad men. But to predicate morality or immorality of the
Homer of Wycherley and the Careless of Congreve is as absurd as it would
be to arraign a sleeper for his dreams. “They belong to the regions of
pure comedy, where no cold moral reigns. When we are among them we
are among a chaotic people. We are not to judge them by our usages. No
reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings, for they have
none among them. No peace of families is violated, for no family ties
exist among them. There is neither right nor wrong, gratitude or its
opposite, claim or duty, paternity or sonship.”

This is, we believe, a fair summary of Mr. Lamb’s doctrine. We are sure
that we do not wish to represent him unfairly. For we admire his genius;
we love the kind nature which appears in all his writings; and we
cherish his memory as much as if we had known him personally. But we
must plainly say that his argument, though ingenious, is altogether
sophistical.

Of course we perfectly understand that it is possible for a writer to
create a conventional world in which things forbidden by the Decalogue
and the Statute Book shall be lawful, and yet that the exhibition may
be harmless, or even edifying. For example, we suppose that the most
austere critics would not accuse Fenelon of impiety and immorality on
account of his Telemachus and his Dialogues of the Dead. In Telemachus
{359}and the Dialogues of the Dead we have a false religion, and
consequently a morality which is in some points incorrect. We have a
right and a wrong differing from the right and the wrong of real life.
It is represented as the first duty of men to pay honour to Jove and
Minerva. Philocles, who employs his leisure in making graven images
of these deities, is extolled for his piety in a way which contrasts
singularly with the expressions of Isaiah on the same subject. The dead
are judged by Minos, and rewarded with lasting happiness for actions
which Fenelon would have been the first to pronounce splendid sins.
The same may be said of Mr. Southey’s Mahommedan and Hindoo heroes and
heroines. In Thalaba, to speak hi derogation of the Arabian imposter
is blasphemy: to drink wine is a crime: to perform ablutions and to pay
honour to the holy cities are works of merit. In the curse of Kehama,
Kailyal is commended for her devotion to the statue of Mariataly, the
goddess of the poor. But certainly no person will accuse Mr. Southey of
having promoted or intended to promote either Islamism or Brahminism.

It is easy to see why the conventional worlds of Fenelon and Mr. Southey
are unobjectionable. In the first place, they are utterly unlike the
real world in which we live. The state of society, the laws even of the
physical world, are so different from those with which we are familiar,
that we cannot be shocked at finding the morality also very different.
But in truth the morality of these conventional worlds differs from the
morality of the real world only in points where there is no danger
that the real world will ever go wrong. The generosity and docility
of Telemachus, the fortitude, the modesty, the filial tenderness
of Kailyal, are virtues of all ages and nations. And there was very
{360}little danger that the Dauphin would worship Minerva, or that an
English damsel would dance, with a bucket on her head, before the statue
of Mariataly.

The case is widely different with what Mr. Charles Lamb calls the
conventional world of Wycherley and Congreve. Here the garb, the
manners, the topics of conversation are those of the real town and of
the passing day. The hero is in all superficial accomplishments exactly
the fine gentleman whom every youth in the pit would gladly resemble.
The heroine is the fine lady whom every youth in the pit would gladly
marry. The scene is laid in some place which is as well known to the
audience as their own houses, in St. James’s Park, or Hyde Park, or
Westminster Hall. The lawyer bustles about with his bag, between the
Common Pleas and the Exchequer. The Peer calls for his carriage to go
to the House of Lords on a private bill. A hundred little touches are
employed to make the fictitious world appear like the actual world. And
the immorality is of a sort which never can be out of date, and which
all the force of religion, law, and public opinion united can but
imperfectly restrain.

In the name of art, as well as in the name of virtue, we protest against
the principle that the world of pure comedy is one into which no moral
enters. If comedy be an imitation, under whatever conventions, of real
life, how is it possible that it can have no reference to the great
rule which directs life, and to feelings which are called forth by
every incident of life? If what Mr. Charles Lamb says were correct, the
inference would be that these dramatists did not in the least understand
the very first principles of their craft. Pure landscape-painting into
which no light or shade enters, pure portrait-painting into which
no expression {361}enters, are phrases less at variance with sound
criticism than pure comedy into which no moral enters.

But it is not the fact that the world of these dramatists is a world
into which no moral enters. Morality constantly enters into that world,
a sound morality, and an unsound morality; the sound morality to be
insulted, derided, associated with every thing mean and hateful; the
unsound morality to be set off to every advantage, and inculcated by
all methods, direct and indirect. It is not the fact that none of
the inhabitants of this conventional world feel reverence for sacred
institutions and family ties. Fondlewife, Pinch wife, every person in
short of narrow understanding and disgusting manners, expresses that
reverence strongly. The heroes and heroines, too, have a moral code of
their own, an exceedingly bad one, but not, as Mr. Charles Lamb seems to
think, a code existing only in the imagination of dramatists. It is, on
the contrary, a code actually received and obeyed by great numbers of
people. We need not go to Utopia or Fairyland to find them.. They
are near at hand. Every night some of them cheat at the hells in the
Quadrant, and others pace the Piazza in Covent Garden. Without flying to
Nephelococcygia or to the Court of Queen Mab, we can meet with sharpers,
bullies, hard-hearted impudent debauchees, and women worthy of such
paramours. The morality of the Country Wife and the Old Bachelor is the
morality, not as Mr. Charles Lamb maintains, of an unreal world, but
of a world which is a great deal too real. It is the morality, not of
a chaotic people, but of low town-rakes, and of those ladies whom the
newspapers call “dashing Cyprians.” And the question is simply this,
whether a man of genius who constantly and systematically endeavours to
make this {362}sort of character attractive, by uniting it with beauty,
grace, dignity, spirit, a high social position, popularity, literature,
wit, taste, knowledge of the world, brilliant success in every
undertaking, does or does not make an ill use of his powers. We own that
we are unable to understand how this question can be answered in any way
but one.

It must, indeed, be acknowledged, in justice to the writers of whom
we have spoken thus severely, that they were, to a great extent, the
creatures of their age. And if it be asked why that age encouraged
immorality which no other age would have tolerated, we have no
hesitation in answering that this great depravation of the national
taste was the effect of the prevalence of Puritanism under the
Commonwealth.

To punish public outrages on morals and religion is unquestionably
within the competence of rulers. But when a government, not content with
requiring decency, requires sanctity, it oversteps the bounds which mark
its proper functions. And it may be laid down as a universal rule that
a government which attempts more than it ought will perform less. A
lawgiver who, in order to protect distressed borrowers, limits the rate
of interest, either makes it impossible for the objects of his care
to borrow at all, or places them at the mercy of the worst class of
usurers. A lawgiver who, from tenderness for labouring men, fixes the
hours of their work and the amount of their wages, is certain to make
them far more wretched than he found them. And so a government which,
not content with repressing scandalous excesses, demands from its
subjects fervent and austere piety, will soon discover that, while
attempting to render an impossible service to the cause of virtue, it
has in truth only promoted vice. {363}For what are the means by which
a government can effect its ends? Two only, reward and punishment;
powerful means, indeed, for influencing the exterior act, but altogether
impotent for the purpose of touching the heart. A public functionary who
is told that he will be promoted if he is a devout Catholic, and turned
out of his place if he is not, will probably go to mass every morning,
exclude meat from his table on Fridays, shrive himself regularly, and
perhaps let his superiors know that he wears a hair shirt next his
skin. Under a Puritan government, a person who is apprised that piety is
essential to thriving in the world will be strict in the observance of
the Sunday, or, as he will call it, Sabbath, and will avoid a theatre as
if it were plague-stricken. Such a show of religion as this the hope
of gain and the fear of loss will produce, at a week’s notice, in
any abundance which a government may require. But under this show,
sensuality, ambition, avarice, and hatred retain unimpaired power, and
the seeming convert has only added to the vices of a man of the world
all the still darker vices which are engendered by the constant practice
of dissimulation. The truth cannot be long concealed. The public
discovers that the grave persons who are proposed to it as patterns are
more utterly destitute of moral principle and of moral sensibility than
avowed libertines. It sees that these Pharisees are farther removed from
real goodness than publicans and harlots. And, as usual, it rushes
to the extreme opposite to that which it quits. It considers a high
religious profession as a sure mark of meanness and depravity. On the
very first day on which the restraint of fear is taken away, and on
which men can venture to say what they think, a frightful peal of
blasphemy {364}and ribaldry proclaims that the short-sighted policy
which aimed at making a nation of saints has made a nation of scoffers.

It was thus in France about the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Lewis the Fourteenth in his old age became religious: he determined
that his subjects should be religious too: he shrugged his shoulders and
knitted his brows if he observed at his levee or near his dinner-table
any gentleman who neglected the duties enjoined by the church, and
rewarded piety with blue ribands, invitations to Marli, governments,
pensions, and regiments. Forthwith Versailles became, in everything
but dress, a convent. The pulpits and confessionals were surrounded by
swords and embroidery. The Marshals of France were much in prayer; and
there was hardly one among the Dukes and Peers who did not carry good
little books in his pocket, fast during Lent, and communicate at Easter.
Madame de Main-tenon, who had a great share in the blessed work, boasted
that devotion had become quite the fashion. A fashion indeed it was; and
like a fashion it passed away. No sooner had the old king been carried
to St. Denis than the whole court unmasked. Every man hastened to
indemnify himself, by the excess of licentiousness and impudence, for
years of mortification. The same persons who, a few months before, with
meek voices and demure looks, had consulted divines about the state
of their souls, now surrounded the midnight table where, amidst the
bounding of champagne corks, a drunken prince, enthroned between Dubois
and Madame de Parabère, hiccoughed out atheistical arguments and obscene
jests. The early part of the reign of Lewis the Fourteenth had been
a time of license; but the most dissolute men of that generation
{365}would have blushed at the orgies of the Regency.

It was the same with our fathers in the time of the Great Civil War. We
are by no means unmindful of the great debt which mankind owes to the
Puritans of that time, the deliverers of England, the founders of
the American Commonwealths. But in the day of their power, those men
committed one great fault, which left deep and lasting traces in the
national character and manners. They mistook the end and overrated the
force of government. They determined, not merely to protect religion
and public morals from insult, an object for which the civil sword, in
discreet hands, may be beneficially employed, but to make the people
committed to their rule truly devout. Yet, if they had only reflected
on events which they had themselves witnessed and in which they had
themselves borne a great part, they would have seen what was likely to
be the result of their enterprise. They had lived under a government
which, during a long course of years, did all that could be done, by
lavish bounty and by rigorous punishment, to enforce conformity to the
doctrine and discipline of the Church of England. No person suspected of
hostility to that church had the smallest chance of obtaining favour
at the court of Charles; dissent was punished by imprisonment, by
ignominious exposure, by cruel mutilations, and by ruinous fines. And
the event had been that the Church had fallen, and had, in its fall,
dragged down with it a monarchy which had stood six hundred years.
The Puritan might have learned, if from nothing else, yet from his own
recent victory, that governments which attempt things beyond their reach
are likely not merely to fail, but to produce an {366}effect directly
the opposite of that which they contemplate as desirable.

All this was overlooked. The saints were to inherit the earth. The
theatres were closed. The fine arts were placed under absurd restraints.
Vices which had never before been even misdemeanors were made capital
felonies. It was solemnly resolved by Parliament “that no person
shall be employed but such as the House shall be satisfied of his
real godliness.” The pious assembly had a Bible lying on the table for
reference.

If they had consulted it they might have learned that the wheat and the
tares grow together inseparably, and must either be spared together,
or rooted up together. To know whether a man was really godly was
impossible. But it was easy to know whether he had a plain dress, lank
hair, no starch in his linen, no gay furniture in his house; whether he
talked through his nose, and showed the whites of his eyes; whether he
named his children Assurance, Tribulation, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz;
whether he avoided Spring Garden when in town, and abstained from
hunting and hawking when in the country; whether he expounded hard
scriptures to his troops of dragoons, and talked in a committee of ways
and means about seeking the Lord. These were tests which could easily be
applied. The misfortune was that they were tests which proved nothing.
Such as they were, they were employed by the dominant party. And the
consequence was that a crowd of impostors, in every walk of life, began
to mimic and to caricature what were then regarded as the outward signs
of sanctity. The nation was not duped. The restraints of that gloomy
time were such as would have been impatiently borne, if imposed by men
who were universally believed to be saints. {367}Those restraints became
altogether insupportable when they were known to be kept up for the
profit of hypocrites. It is quite certain that, even if the royal family
had never returned, even if Richard Cromwell or Henry Cromwell had
been at the head of the administration, there would have been a great
relaxation of manners. Before the Restoration many signs indicated that
a period of license was at hand. The Restoration crushed for a time the
Puritan party, and placed supreme power in the hands of a libertine. The
political counter-revolution assisted the moral counter-revolution, and
was in turn assisted by it. A period of wild and desperate dissoluteness
followed. Even in remote manor-houses and hamlets the change was in some
degree felt; but in Loudon the outbreak of debauchery was appalling; and
in London the places most deeply infected were the Palace, the quarters
inhabited by the aristocracy, and the Inns of Court. It was on the
support of these parts of the town that the playhouses depended. The
character of the drama became conformed to the character of its patrons.
The comic poet was the mouthpiece of the most deeply corrupted part of
a corrupted society. And in the plays before us we find, distilled and
condensed, the essential spirit of the fashionable world during the
Anti-puritan reaction.

The Puritan had affected formality; the comic poet laughed at decorum.
The Puritan had frowned at innocent diversions; the comic poet took
under his patronage the most flagitious excesses. The Puritan had
canted; the comic poet blasphemed. The Puritan had made an affair of
gallantry, felony without benefit of clergy; the comic poet represented
it as an honourable distinction. The Puritan spoke with disdain of
{368}the low standard of popular morality; his life was regulated by a
far more rigid code; his virtue was sustained by motives unknown to
men of the world. Unhappily it had been amply proved in many cases, and
might well be suspected in many more, that these high pretensions were
unfounded. Accordingly, the fashionable circles, and the comic poets
who were the spokesmen of those circles, took up the notion that all
professions of piety and integrity were to be construed by the rule of
contrary; that it might well be doubted whether there was such a thing
as virtue in the world; but that, at all events, a person who affected
to be better than his neighbours was sure to be a knave.

In the old drama there had been much that was reprehensible. But whoever
compares even the least decorous plays of Fletcher with those contained
in the volume before us will see how much the profligacy which follows
a period of overstrained austerity goes beyond the profligacy which
precedes such a period. The nation resembled the demoniac in the New
Testament. The Puritans boasted that the unclean spirit was cast out.
The house was empty, swept, and garnished; and for a time the expelled
tenant wandered through dry places seeking rest and finding none. But
the force of the exorcism was spent. The fiend returned to his abode;
and returned not alone. He took to him seven other, spirits more wicked
than himself. They entered in, and dwelt together: and the second
possession was worse than the first.

We will now, as far as our limits will permit, pass in review the
writers to whom Mr. Leigh Hunt has introduced us. Of the four, Wycherley
stands, we think, last in literary merit, but first in order of time,
and first, beyond all doubt, in immorality.


WILLIAM WYCHERLEY {369}was born in 1640. He was the son of a Shropshire
gentleman of old family, and of what was then accounted a good estate.
The property was estimated at six hundred a year, a fortune which,
among the fortunes at that time, probably ranked as a fortune of two
thousand a year would rank in our days.

William was an infant when the civil war broke ont; and, while he
was still in his rudiments, a Presbyterian hierarchy and a republican
government were established on the ruins of the ancient church and
throne. Old Mr. Wycherley was attached to the royal cause, and was not
disposed to intrust the education of his heir to the solemn Puritans
who now ruled the universities and public schools. Accordingly the young
gentleman was sent at fifteen to France. He resided some time in the
neighbourhood of the Duke of Montausier, chief of one of the noblest
families of Touraine. The Duke’s wife, a daughter of the house
of Rambouillet, was a finished specimen of those talents and
accomplishments for which her race was celebrated. The young foreigner
was introduced to the splendid circle which surrounded the duchess, and
there he appears to have learned some good and some evil. In a few
years he returned to his country a fine gentleman and a Papist. His
conversion, it may safely be affirmed, was the effect, not of any strong
impression on his understanding or feelings, but partly of intercourse
with an agreeable society in which the Church of Rome was the fashion,
and partly of that aversion to Calvinistic austerities which was then
almost universal among young Englishmen of parts and spirit, and which,
at one time, seemed likely to make one half of them Catholics, and the
other half Atheists. {370}But the Restoration came. The universities
were again in loyal hands; and there was reason to hope that there
would be again a national church fit for a gentleman. Wycherley became a
member of Queen’s College, Oxford, and abjured the errors of the Church
of Rome. The somewhat equivocal glory of turning, for a short time, a
good-for-nothing Papist into a good-for-nothing Protestant is ascribed
to Bishop Barlow.

Wycherley left Oxford without taking a degree, and entered at the
Temple, where he lived gaily for some years, observing the humours of
the town, enjoying its pleasures, and picking up just as much law as
was necessary to make the character of a pettifogging attorney or of a
litigious client entertaining in a comedy.

From an early age he had been in the habit of amusing himself by
writing. Some wretched lines of his on the Restoration are still extant.
Had he devoted himself to the making of verses, he would have been
nearly as far below Tate and Blackmore as Tate and Black-more are below
Dryden. His only chance for renown would have been that he might have
occupied a niche in a satire, between Flecknoe and Settle. There
was, however, another kind of composition in which his talents and
acquirements qualified him to succeed; and to that he judiciously betook
himself.

In his old age he used to say that he wrote Love in a Wood at nineteen,
the Gentleman Dancing-Master at twenty-one, the Plain Dealer at
twenty-five, and the Country Wife at one or two and thirty. We are
incredulous, we own, as to the truth of this story. Nothing that we know
of Wycherley leads us to think him incapable of sacrificing truth
to vanity. And his memory in the decline of his life played him such
strange tricks that we might question the correctness of {371}his
assertion without throwing any imputation on his veracity. It is certain
that none of his plays was acted till 1672, when he gave Love in a
Wood to the public. It seems improbable that he should resolve, on so
important an occasion as that of a first appearance before the world,
to ran his chance with a feeble piece, written before his talents were
ripe, before his style was formed, before he had looked abroad into the
world; and this when he had actually in his desk two highly finished,
plays, the fruit of his matured powers. When we look minutely at the
pieces themselves, we find in every part of them reason to suspect the
accuracy of Wycherley’s statement. In the first scene of Love in a Wood,
to go no further, we find many passages which he could not have written
when he was nineteen. There is an allusion to gentlemen’s periwigs,
which first came into fashion in 1663; an allusion to guineas, which
were first struck in 1683; an allusion to the vests which Charles
ordered to be worn at court in 1666; an allusion to the fire of 1666;
and several political allusions which must be assigned to times later
than the year of the Restoration, to times when the government and the
city were opposed to each other, and when the Presbyterian ministers
had been driven from the parish churches to the conventicles. But it is
needless to dwell on particular expressions. The whole air and spirit of
the piece belong to a period subsequent to that mentioned by Wycherley.
As to the Plain Dealer, which is said to have been written when he was
twenty-five, it contains one scene unquestionably written after 1675,
several which are later than 1668, and scarcely a line which can have
been composed before the end of 1666.

Whatever may have been the age at which Wycherley {372}composed his
plays, it is certain that he did not bring them before the public till
he was upwards of thirty. In 1672, Love in a Wood was acted with more
success than it deserved, and this event produced a great change in the
fortunes of the author. The Duchess of Cleveland cast her eyes upon him,
and was pleased with his appearance. This abandoned woman, not content
with her complaisant husband and her royal keeper, lavished her fondness
on a crowd of paramours of all ranks, from dukes to rope-dancers. In
the time of the commonwealth she commenced her career of gallantry, and
terminated it under Anne, by marrying, when a great-grandmother, that
worthless fop, Beau Fielding. It is not strange that she should
have regarded Wycherley with favour. His figure was commanding, his
countenance strikingly handsome, his look and deportment full of grace
and dignity. He had, as Pope said long after, “the true nobleman
look,” the look which seems to indicate superior, and a not unbecoming
consciousness of superiority. His hair indeed, as he says in one of his
poems, was prematurely grey. But in that age of periwigs this misfortune
was of little importance. The Duchess admired him, and proceeded to make
love to him, after the fashion of the coarse-minded and shameless circle
to which she belonged. In the Ring, when the crowd of beauties and fine
gentlemen was thickest, she put her head out of her coach-window, and
bawled to him, “Sir, you are a rascal; you are a villain;” and, if
she is not belied, she added another phrase of abuse which we will
not quote, but of which we may say that it might most justly have been
applied to her own children. Wycherley called on her Grace the next day,
and with great humility begged to know in what way {373}he had been so
unfortunate as to disoblige her. Thus began an intimacy from which the
poet probably expected wealth and honours. Nor were such expectations
unreasonable. A handsome young fellow about the court, known by the name
of Jack Churchill, was, about the same time, so lucky as to become the
object of a short-lived fancy of the Duchess. She had presented him with
four thousand five hundred pounds, the price, in all probability, of
some title or pardon. The prudent youth had lent the money on high
interest, and on landed security; and this judicious investment was the
beginning of the most splendid private fortune in Europe. Wycherley was
not so lucky. The partiality with which the great lady regarded him was
indeed the talk of the whole town; and sixty years later old men who
remembered those days told Voltaire that she often stole from the court
to her lover’s chambers in the Temple, disguised like a country girl,
with a straw-hat on her head, pattens on her feet, and a basket in
her hand. The poet was indeed too happy and proud to be discreet. He
dedicated to the Duchess the play which had led to their acquaintance,
and in the dedication expressed himself in terms which could not but
confirm the reports which had gone abroad. But at Whitehall such an
affair was regarded in no serious light. The lady was not afraid to
bring Wycherley to court, and to introduce him to a splendid society
with which, as far as appears, he had never before mixed. The easy
king, who allowed to his mistresses the same liberty which he claimed
for himself, was pleased with the conversation and manners of his new
rival. So high did Wycherley stand in the royal favour that once, when
he was confined by a fever to his lodgings in Bow Street, Charles, who,
with all his {374}faults, was certainly a man of social and affable
disposition, called on him, sat by his bed, advised him to try change
of air, and gave him a handsome sum of money to defray the expense of a
journey. Buckingham, then Master of the Horse, and one of that infamous
ministry known by the name of the Cabal, had been one of the Duchess’s
innumerable paramours. He at first showed some symptoms of jealousy;
but he soon, after his fashion, veered round from anger to fondness, and
gave Wycherley a commission in his own regiment and a place in the royal
household.

It would be unjust to Wycherley’s memory not to mention here the only
good action, as far as we know, of his whole life. He is said to have
made great exertions to obtain the patronage of Buckingham for the
illustrious author of Hudribas, who was now sinking into an obscure
grave, neglected by a nation proud of his genius, and by a court which
he had served too well. His Grace consented to see poor Butler; and
an appointment was made. But unhappily two pretty women passed by; the
volatile Duke ran after them; the opportunity was lost, and could never
be regained.

The second Dutch war, the most disgraceful war in the whole history of
England, was now raging. It was not in that age considered as by any
means necessary that a naval officer should receive a professional
education. Young men of rank, who were hardly able to keep their feet
in a breeze, served on board of the King’s ships, sometimes with
commissions, and sometimes as volunteers. Mulgrave, Dorset, Rochester,
and many others, left the playhouses and the Mall for hammocks and salt
pork, and, ignorant as they were of the rudiments of naval service,
showed, at least, on the day of battle, the courage which is seldom
wanting in {375}an English gentleman. All good judges of maritime
affairs complained that, under this system, the ships were grossly
mismanaged, and that the tarpaulins contracted the vices, without
acquiring the graces, of the court. But on this subject, as on every
other where the interests or whims of favourites were concerned, the
government of Charles was deaf to all remonstrances. Wycherley did not
choose to be out of the fashion. He embarked, was present at a battle,
and celebrated it, on his return, in a copy of verses too had for the
bellman. (1)

About the same time, he brought on the stage his second piece, the
Gentleman Dancing-Master. The biographers say nothing, as far as we
remember, about the fate of this play. There is, however, reason to
believe that, though certainly far superior to Love in a Wood, it was
not equally successful. It was first tried at the west end of the
town, and, as the poet confessed, “would scarce do there.” It was then
performed in Salisbury Court, but, as it should seem, with no better
event. For, in the prologue to the Country Wife,

     (1) Mr. Leigh Hunt supposes that the battle at which
     Wycherley was present was that which the Duke of York gained
     over Opdam, in 1665. We believe that it was one of the
     battles between Rupert and De Ruyter, in 1673.

     The point is of no importance; and there cannot be said to
     be much evidence either way. We offer, however, to Mr. Leigh
     Hunt’s consideration three arguments, of no great weight
     certainly, yet such as ought, we think, to prevail in the
     absence of better. First, it is not very likely that a young
     Templar, quite unknown in the world,--and Wycherley was
     such in 1665,--should have quitted his chambers to go to
     sea. On the other hand, it would be in the regular course of
     things, that, when a courtier and an equerry, he should
     offer his services. Secondly, his verses appear to have been
     written after a drawn battle, like those of 1673, and not
     after a complete victory, like that of 1675. Thirdly, in the
     epilogue to the Gentleman Dancing-Master, written in 1673,
     he says that “all gentlemen must pack to sea an expression
     which makes it probable that he did not himself mean to stay
     behind.

Wycherley {376}described himself as “the late so baffled scribbler.”

In 1675, the Country Wife was performed with brilliant success, which,
in a literary point of view, was not wholly unmerited. For, though one
of the most profligate and heartless of human compositions, it is
the elaborate production of a mind, not indeed rich, original, or
imaginative, but ingenious, observant, quick to seize hints, and patient
of the toil of polishing.

The Plain Dealer, equally immoral and equally well written, appeared in
1677. At first this piece pleased the people less than the critics; but
after a time its unquestionable merits and the zealous support of
Lord Dorset, whose influence in literary and fashionable society was
unbounded, established it in the public favour.

The fortune of Wycherley was now in the zenith, and began to decline.’
A long life was still before him. But it was destined to be filled
with nothing but shame and wretchedness, domestic dissensions, literary
failures, and pecuniary embarrassments.

The King, who was looking about for an accomplished man to conduct the
education of his natural son, the young Duke of Richmond, at length
fixed on Wycherley. The poet, exulting in his good luck, went down to
amuse himself at Tunbridge Wells, looked into a bookseller’s shop on the
Pantiles, and, to his great delight, heard a handsome woman ask for the
Plain Dealer which had just been published. He made acquaintance with
the lady, who proved to be the Countess of Drogheda, a gay young widow,
with an ample jointure. She was charmed with his person and his wit,
and, after a short flirtation, agreed to become his wife. Wycherley
seems to have been apprehensive {377}that this connection might not
suit well with the King’s plans respecting the Duke of Richmond. He
accordingly prevailed on the lady to consent to a private marriage. All
came out. Charles thought the conduct of Wycherley both disrespectful
and disingenuous. Other causes probably assisted to alienate the
sovereign from the subject who had lately been so highly favoured.
Buckingham was now in opposition, and had been committed to the Tower;
not, as Mr. Leigh Hunt supposes, on a charge of treason, but by an order
of the House of Lords for some expressions which he had used in debate.
Wycherley wrote some bad lines in praise of his imprisoned patron,
which, if they came to the knowledge of the King, would certainly have
made his majesty very angry. The favour of the court was completely
withdrawn from the poet. An amiable woman with a large fortune might
indeed have been an ample compensation for the loss. But Lady Drogheda
was ill-tempered, imperious, and extravagantly jealous. She had herself
been a maid of honour at Whitehall. She well knew in what estimation
conjugal fidelity was held among the fine gentlemen there, and watched
her town husband as assiduously as Mr. Pinchwife watched his country
wife. The unfortunate wit was, indeed, allowed to meet his friends at a
tavern opposite to his own house. But on such occasions the windows were
always open, in order that her Ladyship, who was posted on the other
side of the street, might be satisfied that no woman was of the party.

The death of Lady Drogheda released the poet from this distress; but
a series of disasters, in rapid succession, broke down his health, his
spirits, and his fortune. His wife meant to leave him a good property,
{378}and left him only a lawsuit. His father could not or would
not assist him. Wycherley was at length thrown into the Fleet, and
languished there during seven years utterly forgotten, as it should
seem, by the gay and lively circle of which he had been a distinguished
ornament. In the extremity of his distress he implored the publisher who
had been enriched by the sale of his works to lend him twenty pounds,
and was refused. His comedies, however, still kept possession of the
stage, and drew great audiences which troubled themselves little about
the situation of the author. At length James the Second, who had now
succeeded to the throne, happened to go to the theatre on an evening
when the Plain Dealer was acted. He was pleased by the performance, and
touched by the fate of the writer, whom he probably remembered as one
of the gayest and handsomest of his brother’s courtiers. The King
determined to pay Wycherley’s debts, and to settle on the unfortunate
poet a pension of two hundred pounds a year. This munificence on the
part of a prince who was little in the habit of rewarding literary
merit, and whose whole soul was devoted to the interests of his church,
raises in us a surmise which Mr. Leigh Hunt will, we fear, pronounce
very uncharitable. We cannot help suspecting that it was at this time
that Wycherley returned to the communion of the Church of Rome. That he
did return to the communion of the Church of Rome is certain. The date
of his reconversion, as far as we know, has never been mentioned by
any biographer. We believe that, if we place it at this time, we do no
injustice to the character either of Wycherley or James.

Not long after, old Mr. Wycherley died; and his son, {379}now past the
middle of life, came to the family estate. Still, however, he was not at
his ease. His embarrassments were great: his property was strictly tied
up; and he was on very had terms with the heir-at-law. He appears to
have led, during a long course of years, that most wretched life, the
life of a vicious old boy about town. Expensive tastes with little
money, and licentious appetites with declining vigour, were the just
penance for his early irregularities. A severe illness had produced a
singular effect on his intellect. His memory played him pranks stranger
than almost any that are to be found in the history of that strange
faculty. It seemed to be at once preternaturally strong, and
preternaturally weak. If a book was read to him before he went to bed,
he would wake the next morning with his mind full of the thoughts and
expressions which he had heard over night; and he would write them
down, without in the least suspecting that they were not his own. In his
verses the same ideas, and even the same words, came over and over again
several times in a short composition. His fine person bore the marks of
age, sickness, and sorrow; and he mourned for his departed beauty with
an effeminate regret. He could not look without a sigh at the portrait
which Lely had painted of him when he was only twenty-eight, and often
murmured, _Quantum mutatus ab illo_. He was still nervously anxious
about his literary reputation, and, not content with the fame which
he still possessed as a dramatist, was determined to be renowned as
a satirist and an amatory poet. In 1704, after twenty-seven years of
silence, he again appeared as an author. He put forth a large folio of
miscellaneous verses, which, we believe, has never been reprinted.
Some of these pieces had probably circulated through {380}the town
in manuscript. For, before the volume appeared, the critics at the
coffee-houses very confidently predicted that it would be utterly
worthless, and were in consequence bitterly reviled by the poet in an
ill-written, foolish, and egotistical preface. The book amply vindicated
the most unfavourable prophecies that had been hazarded. The style and
versification are beneath criticism; the morals are those of Rochester.
For Rochester, indeed, there was some excuse. When his offences against
decorum were committed, he was a very young man, misled by a prevailing
fashion. Wycherley was sixty-four. He had long outlived the times when
libertinism was regarded as essential to the character of a wit and
a gentleman. Most of the rising poets, Addison, for example, John
Phillips, and Rowe, were studious of decency. We can hardly conceive any
thing more miserable than the figure which the ribald old man makes in
the midst of so many sober and well-conducted youths.

In the very year in which this bulky volume of obscene doggerel was
published, Wycherley formed an acquaintance of a very singular kind.
A little, pale, crooked, sickly, bright-eyed urchin, just turned of
sixteen, had written some copies of verses in which discerning judges
could detect the promise of future eminence. There was, indeed, as yet
nothing very striking or original in the conceptions of the young poet.
But he was already skilled in the art of metrical composition. His
diction and his music were not those of the great old masters; but that
which his ablest contemporaries were labouring to do, he already did
best. His style was not richly poetical; but it was’ always neat,
compact, and pointed. His verse wanted variety of pause, of swell, and
of cadence, but never grated {381}harshly on the ear, or disappointed
it by a feeble close. The youth was already free of the company of wits,
and was greatly elated at being introduced to the author of the Plain
Dealer and the Country Wife.

It is curious to trace the history of the intercourse which took place
between Wycherley and Pope, between the representative of the age that
was going out, and the representative of the age that was coming in,
between the friend of Rochester and Buckingham, and the friend of
Lyttelton and Mansfield. At first the boy was enchanted by the kindness
and condescension of so eminent a writer, haunted his door, and followed
him about like a spaniel from coffee-house to coffeehouse. Letters full
of affection, humility, and fulsome flattery were interchanged between
the friends. But the first ardour of affection could not last. Pope,
though at no time scrupulously delicate in his writings or fastidious as
to the morals of his associates, was shocked by the indecency of a
rake who, at seventy, was still the representative of the monstrous
profligacy of the Restoration. As the youth grew older, as his mind
expanded and his fame rose, he appreciated both himself and Wycherley
more correctly. He felt a just contempt for the old gentleman’s verses,
and was at no great pains to conceal his opinion. Wycherley, on the
other hand, though blinded by self-love to the imperfections of what
he called his poetry, could not but see that there was an immense
difference between his young companion’s rhymes and his own. He was
divided between two feelings. He wished to have the assistance of
so skilful a hand to polish his lines; and yet he shrank from the
humiliation of being beholden for literary assistance to a lad who
might have been his grandson. Pope was willing to give assistance, but
{382}was by no means disposed to give assistance and flattery too. He
took the trouble to retouch whole reams of feeble stumbling verses,
and inserted many vigorous lines which the least skilful reader will
distinguish in an instant. But he thought that by these services he
acquired a right to express himself in terms which would not, under
ordinary circumstances, become one who was addressing a man of four
times his age. In one letter he tells Wycherley that “the worst pieces
are such as, to render them very good, would require almost the entire
new writing of them.” In another, he gives the following account of his
corrections: “Though the whole be as short again as at first, there is
not one thought omitted but what is a repetition of something in your
first volume, or in this very paper; and the versification throughout
is, I believe, such as nobody can be shocked at. The repeated permission
you give me of dealing freely with you, will, I hope, excuse what I have
done; for, if I have not spared you when I thought severity would do you
a kindness, I have not mangled you where there was no absolute
need of amputation.” Wycherley continued to return thanks for all this
hacking and hewing, which was, indeed, of inestimable service to
his compositions. But at last his thanks began to sound very like
reproaches. In private, he is said to have described Pope as a person
who could not cut out a suit, but who had some skill in turning
old coats. In his letters to Pope, while he acknowledged that the
versification of the poems had been greatly improved, he spoke of
the whole art of versification with scorn, and sneered at those who
preferred sound to sense. Pope revenged himself for this outbreak of
spleen by return of post. He had in his hands a volume of Wycherley’s
rhymes, {383}and he wrote to say that this volume was so full of faults
that he could not correct it without completely defacing the manuscript.
“I am,” he said, “equally afraid of sparing you, and of offending you
by too impudent a correction.” This was more than flesh and blood could
bear. Wycherley reclaimed his papers, in a letter in which resentment
shows itself plainly through the thin disguise of civility. Pope, glad
to be rid of a troublesome and inglorious task, sent back the deposit,
and, by way of a parting courtesy, advised the old man to turn his
poetry into prose, and assured him that the public would like thoughts
much better without his versification. Thus ended this memorable
correspondence.

Wycherley lived some years after the termination of the strange
friendship which we have described. The last scene of his life
was, perhaps, the most scandalous. Ten days before his death, at
seventy-five, he married a young girl, merely in order to injure his
nephew, an act which proves that neither years, nor adversity, nor what
he called his philosophy, nor either of the religions which he had at
different times professed, had taught him the rudiments of morality. He
died in December, 1715, and lies in the vault under the church of St.
Paul in Convent-Garden.

His bride soon after married a Captain Shrimpton, who thus became
possessed of a large collection of manuscripts. These were sold to a
bookseller. They were so full of erasures and interlineations that no
printer could decipher them. It was necessary to call in the aid of a
professed critic; and Theobald, the editor of Shakspeare, and the hero
of the first Dunciad, was employed to ascertain the true reading. In
this way a volume of miscellanies in verse and prose was {384}got up
for the market. The collection derives all its value from the traces of
Pope’s hand, which are everywhere discernible.

Of the moral character of Wycherley it can hardly be necessary for us to
say more. His fame as a writer rests wholly on his comedies, and chiefly
on the last two. Even as a comic writer, he was neither of the best
school, nor highest in his school. He was in truth a worse Congreve. His
chief merit, like Congreve’s, lies in the style of his dialogue. But the
wit which lights up the Plain Dealer and the Country Wife is pale and
flickering, when compared with the gorgeous blaze which dazzles us
almost to blindness in Love for Love and the Way of the World. Like
Congreve, and, indeed, even more than Congreve, Wycherley is ready to
sacrifice dramatic propriety to the liveliness of his dialogue. The poet
speaks out of the mouths of all his dunces and coxcombs, and makes them
describe themselves with a good sense and acuteness which puts them on
a level with the wits and heroes. We will give two instances, the first
which occur to us, from the Country Wife. There are in the world fools
who find the society of old friends insipid, and who are always running
after new companions. Such a character is a fair subject for comedy. But
nothing can be more absurd than to introduce a man of this sort saying
to his comrade, “I can deny you nothing: for though I have known thee
a great while, never go if I do not love thee as well as a new
acquaintance.” That town-wits, again, have always been rather a
heartless class, is true. But none of them, we will answer for it, ever
said to a young lady to whom he was making love, “We wits rail and make
love often, but to show our parts: as we have no affections, so we have
no malice.” {385}Wycherley’s plays are said to have been the produce of
long and patient labour. The epithet of “slow” was early given to him by
Rochester, and was frequently repeated. In truth his mind, unless we are
greatly mistaken, was naturally a very meagre soil, and was forced only
by great labour and outlay to hear fruit which, after all, was not of
the highest flavour. He has scarcely more claim to originality than
Terence. It is not too much to say that there is hardly any thing of the
least value in his plays of which the hint is not to be found elsewhere.
The best scenes in the Gentleman Dancing Master were suggested by
Calderon’s _Maestro de Danzar_, not by any means one of the happiest
comedies of the great Castilian poet. The Country Wife is borrowed from
the _E’cole des Maris_ and the _E’cole des Femmes_. The groundwork of
the Plain Dealer is taken from the _Misanthrope_ of Molière. One whole
scene is almost translated from the _Critique de l’E’cole des Femmes_.
Fidelia is Shakspeare’s Viola stolen, and marred in the stealing; and
the Widow Blackacre, beyond comparison Wycherley’s best comic character,
is the Countess in Racine’s _Plaideurs_, talking the jargon of English
instead of that of French chicane.

The only thing original about Wycherley, the only thing which he could
furnish from his own mind in inexhaustible abundance, was profligacy. It
is curious to observe how every thing that he touched, however pure
and noble, took in an instant the colour of his own mind. Compare the
_E’cole des Femmes_ with the Country Wife. Agnes is a simple and amiable
girl, whose heart is indeed full of love, but of love sanctioned by
honour, morality, and religion. Her natural talents are great. They have
been hidden, and, as it {386}might appear, destroyed by an education
elaborately bad. But they are called forth into full energy by a
virtuous passion. Her lover, while he adores her beauty, is too honest
a man to abuse the confiding tenderness of a creature so charming and
inexperienced. Wycherley takes this plot into his hands; and forthwith
this sweet and graceful courtship becomes a licentious intrigue of the
lowest and least sentimental kind, between an impudent London rake and
the idiot wife of a country squire. We will not go into details. In
truth, Wycherley’s indecency is protected against the critics as a skunk
is protected against the hunters. It is safe, because it is too filthy
to handle, and too noisome even to approach.

It is the same with the Plain Dealer. How careful has Shakspeare been
in Twelfth Night to preserve the dignity and delicacy of Viola under
her disguise! Even when wearing a page’s doublet and hose, she is never
mixed up with any transaction which the most fastidious mind could
regard as leaving a stain on her. She is employed by the Duke on an
embassy of love to Olivia, but on an embassy of the most honourable
kind. Wycherley borrows Viola; and Viola forthwith becomes a pandar of
the basest sort. But the character of Manly is the best illustration of
our meaning. Moliere exhibited in his misanthrope a pure and noble mind,
which had been sorely vexed by the sight of perfidy and malevolence,
disguised under the forms of politeness. As every extreme naturally
generates its contrary, Alceste adopts a standard of good and evil
directly opposed to that of the society which surrounds him. Courtesy
seems to him a vice; and those stem virtues which are neglected by the
fops and coquettes of Paris become too exclusively the objects of his
veneration. {387}He is often to blame; he is often ridiculous; but he
is always a good man; and the feeling which he inspires is regret that a
person so estimable should be so unamiable. Wycherley borrowed Alceste,
and turned him,--we quote the words of so lenient a critic as Mr. Leigh
Hunt,--into “a ferocious sensualist, who believed himself as great a
rascal as he thought everybody else.” The surliness of Moliere’s hero is
copied and caricatured. But the most nauseous libertinism and the most
dastardly fraud are substituted for the purity and integrity of the
original. And, to make the whole complete, Wycherley does not seem to
have been aware that he was not drawing the portrait of an eminently
honest man. So depraved was his moral taste that, while he firmly
believed that he was producing a picture of virtue too exalted for the
commerce of this world, he was really delineating the greatest rascal
that is to be found, even in his own writings.

We pass a very severe censure on Wycherley, when we say that it is a
relief to turn from him to Congreve. Congreve’s writings, indeed, are
by no means pure; nor was he, as far as we are able to judge, a
warm-hearted or high-minded man. Yet, in coming to him, we feel that the
worst is over, that we are one remove further from the Restoration, that
we are past the Nadir of national taste and morality.


WILLIAM CONGREVE was born in 1670, at Bardsey, in the neighbourhood of
Leeds. His father, a younger son of a very ancient Staffordshire family,
had distinguished himself among the cavaliers in the civil war, was
set down after the Restoration for the Order of the Royal Oak, and
subsequently settled in Ireland, under the patronage of the Earl of
Burlington.

Congreve passed his childhood and youth in Ireland. {388}He was sent
to school at Kilkenny, and thence went to the University of Dublin.
His learning does great honour to his instructors. From his writings it
appears, not only that he was well acquainted with Latin literature, but
that his knowledge of the Greek poets was such as was not, in his time,
common even in a college.

When he, had, completed his academical studies, he was sent to London
to study the law, and was entered of the Middle Temple. He troubled
himself, however, very little about pleading or conveyancing, and gave
himself up to literature and society. Two kinds of ambition early took
possession of his mind, and often pulled it in opposite directions.
He was conscious of great fertility of thought and power of ingenious
combination. His lively conversation, his polished manners, and his
highly respectable connections, had obtained for him ready access to the
best company. He longed to be a great writer. He longed to be a man of
fashion. Either object was within his reach. But could he secure both?
Was there not something vulgar in letters, something inconsistent with
the easy apathetic graces of a man of the mode? Was it aristocratical to
be confounded with creatures who lived in the cocklofts of Grub Street,
to bargain with publishers, to hurry printers’ devils and be hurried
by them, to squabble with managers, to be applauded or hissed by pit,
boxes, and galleries? Could he forego the renown of being the first wit
of his age? Could he attain that renown without sullying what he valued
quite as much, his character for gentility? The history of his life is
the history of a conflict between these two impulses. In his youth the
desire of literary fame had the mastery; but soon the meaner ambition
overpowered the higher, and obtained supreme dominion over his mind.
{389}His first work, a novel of no great value, he published under the
assumed name of Cleophil. His second was the Old Bachelor, acted in
1693, a play inferior indeed to his other comedies, but, in its own
line, inferior to them alone. The plot is equally destitute of interest
and of probability. The characters are either not distinguishable, or
are distinguished only by peculiarities of the most glaring kind. But
the dialogue is resplendent with wit and eloquence, which indeed are so
abundant that the fool comes in for an ample share, and yet preserves a
certain colloquial air, a certain indescribable ease, of which Wycherley
had given no example, and which Sheridan in vain attempted to imitate.
The author, divided between pride and shame, pride at having written a
good play, and shame at having done an ungentlemanlike thing, pretended
that he had merely scribbled a few scenes for his own amusement, and
affected to yield unwillingly to the importunities of those who pressed
him to try his fortune on the stage. The Old Bachelor was seen in
manuscript by Dryden, one of whose best qualities was a hearty and
generous admiration for the talents of others. He declared that he had
never read such a first play, and lent his services to bring it into a
form fit for representation. Nothing was wanted to the success of the
piece. It was so cast as to bring into play all the comic talent, and
to exhibit on the boards in one view all the beauty, which Drury Lane
Theatre, then the only theatre in London, could assemble. The result
was a complete triumph; and the author was gratified with rewards more
substantial than the applauses of the pit. Montagu, then a lord of the
treasury, immediately gave him a place, and, in a short time, added the
reversion of another place of much {390}greater value, which, however,
did not become vacant till many years had elapsed.

In 1694, Congreve brought out the Double Dealer, a comedy in which
all the powers which had produced the Old Bachelor showed themselves,
matured by time and improved by exercise. But the audience was shocked
by the characters of Maskwell and Lady Touchwood. And, indeed, there is
something strangely revolting in the way in which a group that seems to
belong to the house of Laius or of Pelops is introduced into the midst
of the Brisks, Froths, Carlesses, and Plyants. The play was unfavourably
received. Yet, if the praise of distinguished men could compensate an
author for the disapprobation of the multitude, Congreve had no reason
to repine. Dryden, in one of the most ingenious, magnificent, and
pathetic pieces that he ever wrote, extolled the author of the Double
Dealer in terms which now appear extravagantly hyperbolical. Till
Congreve came forth,--so ran this exquisite flattery,--the superiority
of the poets who preceded the civil wars was acknowledged.

                   “Theirs was the giant race before the flood.”

Since the return of the Royal house, much art and ability had been
exerted, but the old masters had been still unrivalled.

               “Our builders were with want of genius curst,

               The second temple was not like the first.”

At length a writer had arisen who, just emerging from boyhood, had
surpassed the authors of the Knight of the Burning Pestle and of the
Silent Woman, and who had only one rival left to contend with.

               “Heaven that but once was prodigal before,

               To Shakspeare gave as much, she could not give him more.”  {391}Some
lines near the end of the poem are singularly grave and touching, and
sank deep into the heart of Congreve.

                   “Already am I worn with cares and age,

                   And just abandoning the ungrateful stage;

                   But you, whom every muse and grace adorn

                   Whom I foresee to better fortune bom,

                   Be kind to my remains; and, oh, defend

                   Against your judgment your departed friend.

                   Let not the insulting foe my fame pursue,

                   But guard those laurels which descend to you.”

The crowd, as usual, gradually came over to the opinion of the men
of note; and the Double Dealer was before long quite as much admired,
though perhaps never so much liked, as the Old Bachelor.

In 1695 appeared Love for Love, superior both in wit and in scenic
effect to either of the preceding plays. It was performed at a new
theatre which Betterton and some other actors, disgusted by the
treatment which they had received in Drury-Lane, had just opened in a
tennis-court near Lincoln’s Inn. Scarcely any comedy within the memory
of the oldest man had been equally successful. The actors were so elated
that they gave Congreve a share in their theatre; and he promised in
return to furnish them with a play every year, if his health would
permit. Two years passed, however, before he produced the “Mourning
Bride,” a play which, paltry as it is when compared, we do not say, with
Lear or Macbeth, but with the best dramas of Massinger and Ford, stands
very high among the tragedies of the age in which it was written. To
find any thing so good we must go twelve years back to Venice Preserved,
or six years forward to the Fair Penitent. The noble passage which
Johnson, both in writing and in conversation, extolled above any other
in the English drama, has suffered greatly in the public {392}estimation
from the extravagance of his praise. Had he contented himself with
saying that it was finer than any thing in the tragedies of Dryden,
Otway, Lee, Rowe, Southern, Hughes, and Addison than any thing, in
short, that had been written for the stage since the days of Charles the
First, he would not have been in the wrong.

The success of the Mourning Bride was even greater than that of Love
for Love. Congreve was now allowed to be the first tragic as well as
the first comic dramatist of his time; and all this at twenty-seven.
We believe that no English writer except Lord Byron has, at so early an
age, stood so high in the estimation of his contemporaries.

At this time took place an event which deserves, in our opinion, a very
different sort of notice from that which has been bestowed on it by Mr.
Leigh Hunt. The nation had now nearly recovered from the demoralising
effect of the Puritan austerity. The gloomy follies of the reign of the
Saints were but faintly remembered. The evils produced by profaneness
and debauchery were recent and glaring. The Court, since the Revolution,
had ceased to patronise licentiousness. Mary was strictly pious; and the
vices of the cold, stern, and silent William, were not obtruded on the
public eye. Discountenanced by the government, and falling in the favour
of the people, the profligacy of the Restoration still maintained its
ground in some parts of society. Its strongholds were the places where
men of wit and fashion congregated, and above all, the theatres. At this
conjuncture arose a great reformer whom, widely as we differ from him in
many important points, we can never mention without respect.


JEREMY COLLIER {393}was a clergyman of the Church of England, bred
at Cambridge. His talents and attainments were such as might have been
expected to raise him to the highest honours of his profession. He had
an extensive knowledge of books; yet he had mingled much with polite
society, and is said not to have wanted either grace or vivacity in
conversation. There were few branches of literature to which he had
not paid some attention. But ecclesiastical antiquity was his favourite
study. In religious opinions he belonged to that section of the Church
of England which lies furtherest from Geneva and nearest to Rome. His
notions touching Episcopal government, holy orders, the efficacy of
the sacraments, the authority of the Fathers, the guilt of schism, the
importance of vestments, ceremonies, and solemn days, differed little
from those which are now held by Dr. Pusey and Mr. Newman. Towards the
close of Fis life indeed, Collier took some steps which brought him
still nearer to Popery, mixed water with the wine in the Eucharist, made
the sign of the cross in confirmation, employed oil in the visitation
of the sick, and offered up prayers for the dead. His politics were of
a piece with his divinity. He was a Tory of the highest sort, such as
in the cant of his age was called a Tantivy. Not even the persecution
of the bishops and the spoliation of the universities could shake
his steady loyalty. While the Convention was sitting, he wrote with
vehemence in defence of the fugitive king, and was in consequence
arrested. But his dauntless spirit was not to be so tamed. He refused to
take the oaths, renounced all his preferments, and, in a succession of
pamphlets written with much violence and with some ability, attempted
to excite the nation against {394}its new masters. In 1692 he was again
arrested on suspicion of having been concerned in a treasonable plot. So
unbending were his principles that his friends could hardly persuade him
to let them hail him; and he afterwards expressed his remorse for having
been induced thus to acknowledge, by implication, the authority of an
usurping government. He was soon in trouble again. Sir John Friend
and Sir William Parkins were tried and convicted of high treason for
planning the murder of King William. Collier administered spiritual
consolation to them, attended them to Tyburn, and, just before they were
turned off, laid his hands on their heads, and by the authority which
he derived from Christ, solemnly absolved them. This scene gave
indescribable scandal. Tories joined with Whigs in blaming the conduct
of the daring priest. Some acts, it was said, which fall under the
definition of treason are such that a good man may, in troubled times,
be led into them even by his virtues. It may be necessary for the
protection of society to punish such a man. But even in punishing him
we consider him as legally rather than morally guilty, and hope that his
honest error, though it cannot be pardoned here, will not be counted to
him for sin hereafter. But such was not the case of Collier’s penitents.
They were concerned in a plot for waylaying and butchering, in an hour
of security, one who, whether he were or were not their king, was at
all events their fellow-creature. Whether the Jacobite theory about the
rights of governments and the duties of subjects were or were not well
founded, assassination must always be considered as a great crime. It is
condemned even by the maxims of worldly honour and morality. Much more
must it be an object of abhorrence to the pure Spouse of Christ.
The Church {395}cannot surely, without the saddest and most mournful
forebodings, see one of her children who has been guilty of this great
wickedness pass into eternity without any sign of repentance. That these
traitors had given any sign of repentance was not alleged. It might
be that they had privately declared their contrition; and, if so, the
minister of religion might be justified in privately assuring them
of the Divine forgiveness. But a public remission ought to have been
preceded by a public atonement. The regret of these men, if expressed at
all, had been expressed in secret. The hands of Collier had been laid on
them in the presence of thousands. The inference which his enemies drew
from his conduct was that he did not consider the conspiracy against the
life of William as sinful. But this inference he very vehemently, and,
we doubt not, very sincerely denied.

The storm raged. The bishops put forth a solemn censure of the
absolution. The Attorney-General brought the matter before the Court of
King’s Bench. Collier had now made up his mind not to give bail for
his appearance before any court which derived its authority from the
usurper. He accordingly absconded and was outlawed. He survived these
events about thirty years. The prosecution was not pressed; and he
was soon suffered to resume his literary pursuits in quiet. At a later
period, many attempts were made to shake his perverse integrity by
offers of wealth and dignity, but in vain. When he died, towards the
end of the reign of George the First, he was still under the ban of the
law.

We shall not be suspected of regarding either the politics or the
theology of Collier with partiality; but we believe him to have been as
honest and courageous {396}a man as ever lived. We will go further, and
say that, though passionate and often wrongheaded, he was a singularly
fair controversialist, candid, generous, too high-spirited to take mean
advantages even in the most exciting disputes, and pure from all taint
of personal malevolence. It must also be admitted that his opinions on
ecclesiastical and political affairs, though in themselves absurd and
pernicious, eminently qualified him to be the reformer of our lighter
literature. The libertinism of the press and of the stage was, as we
have said, the effect of a reaction against the Puritan strictness.
Profligacy was, like the oak leaf on the twenty-ninth of May, the
badge of a cavalier and a high churchman: Decency was associated with
conventicles and calves’ heads. Grave prelates were too much disposed
to wink at the excesses of a body of zealous and able allies who covered
Roundheads and Presbyterians with ridicule. If a Whig raised his voice
against the impiety and licentiousness of the fashionable writers, his
mouth was instantly stopped by the retort; You are one of those who
groan at a light quotation from Scripture, and raise estates out of the
plunder of the Church, who shudder at a _double entendre_, and chop off
the heads of kings. A Baxter, a Burnet, even a Tillotson, would have
done little to purify our literature. But when a man fanatical in the
cause of episcopacy and actually under outlawry for his attachment to
hereditary right, came forward as the champion of decency, the battle
was already half won.

In 1698, Collier published his Short View of the Profaneness and
Immorality of the English Stage, a book which threw the whole literary
world into commotion, but which is now much less read than it deserves.
The faults of the work, indeed, are neither few {397}nor small. The
dissertations on the Greek and Latin drama do not at all help the
argument, and, whatever may have been thought of them by the generation
which fancied that Christ Church had refuted Bentley, are such as, in
the present day, a scholar of very humble pretensions may venture to
pronounce boyish, or rather babyish. The censures are not sufficiently
discriminating. The authors whom Collier accused had been guilty of such
gross sins against decency, that he was certain to weaken instead of
strengthening his case, by introducing into his charge against them any
matter about which there could be the smallest dispute. He was, however,
so injudicious as to place among the outrageous offences which he justly
arraigned, some things which are really quite innocent, and some slight
instances of levity which, though not perhaps strictly correct, could
easily be paralleled from the works of writers who had rendered great
services to morality and religion. Thus he blames Congreve, the number
and gravity of whose real transgressions made it quite unnecessary to
tax him with any that were not real, for using the words “martyr” and
“inspiration” in a light sense; as if an archbishop might not say that
a speech was inspired by claret, or that an alderman was a martyr to
the gout. Sometimes, again, Collier does not sufficiently distinguish
between the dramatist and the persons of the drama. Thus he blames
Vanbrugh for putting into Lord Foppington’s mouth some contemptuous
expressions respecting the Church service; though it is obvious
that Vanbrugh could not better express reverence than by making Lord
Foppington express contempt. There is also throughout the Short View too
strong a display of professional feeling. Collier is not content with
claiming for his order an {398}immunity from indiscriminate scurrility;
he will not allow that, in any case, any word or act of a divine can
be a proper subject for ridicule. Nor does he confine this benefit
of clergy to the ministers of the established Church. He extends the
privilege to Catholic priests, and, what in him is more surprising, to
Dissenting preachers. This, however, is a mere trifle. Imaums, Brahmins,
priests of Jupiter, priests of Baal, are all to be held sacred. Dryden
is blamed for making the Mufti in Don Sebastian talk nonsense. Lee is
called to a severe account for his incivility to Tiresias. But the
most curious passage is that in which Collier resents some uncivil
reflections thrown by Cassandra, in Dryden’s Cleomenes, on the calf Apis
and his hierophants. The words “grass-eating, foddered god,” words which
really are much in the style of several passages in the Old Testament,
give as much offence to this Christian divine as they could have given
to the priests of Memphis.

But, when all deductions have been made, great merit must be allowed to
this work. There is hardly any book of that time from which it would be
possible to select specimens of writing so excellent and so various. To
compare Collier with Pascal would indeed be absurd. Yet we hardly
know where, except in the Provincial Letters, we can find mirth so
harmoniously and becomingly blended with solemnity as in the Short View.
In truth, all the modes of ridicule, from broad fun to polished and
antithetical sarcasm, were at Collier’s command. On the other hand, he
was complete master of the rhetoric of honest indignation. We scarcely
know any volume which contains so many bursts of that peculiar eloquence
which comes from the heart and goes to the heart. {399}Indeed the spirit
of the book is truly heroic. In order to fairly appreciate it, we must
remember the situation in which the writer stood. He was under the frown
of power. His name was already a mark for the invectives of one half of
the writers of the age, when, in the cause of good taste, good sense,
and good morals, he gave battle to the other half. Strong as his
political prejudices were, he seems on this occasion to have entirely
laid them aside. He has forgotten that he is a Jacobite, and remembers
only that he is a citizen and a Christian. Some of his sharpest censures
are directed against poetry which had been hailed with delight by
the Tory party, and had inflicted a deep wound on the Whigs. It is
inspiriting to see how gallantly the solitary outlaw advances to
attack enemies, formidable separately, and, it might have been thought,
irresistible when combined, distributes his swashing blows right and
left among Wycherley, Congreve, and Vanbrugh, treads the wretched
D’Urfey down in the dirt beneath his feet, and strikes with all his
strength full at the towering crest of Dryden.

The effect produced by the Short View was immense. The nation was on
the side of Collier. But it could not be doubted that, in the great host
which he had defied, some champion would be found to lift the gauntlet.
The general belief was that Dryden would take the field; and all the
wits anticipated a sharp contest between two well-paired combatants. The
great poet had been singled out in the most marked manner. It was
well known that he was deeply hurt, that much smaller provocations
had formerly roused him to violent resentment, and that there was no
literary weapon, offensive or defensive, of which he was not master.
But his conscience smote him; he {400}stood abashed, like the fallen
archangel at the rebuke of Zephon,--

                   “And felt how awful goodness is, and saw

                   Virtue in her shape how lovely; saw and pined

                   His loss.”

At a later period he mentioned the Short View in the preface to his
Fables. He complained, with some asperity, of the harshness with which
he had been treated, and urged some matters in mitigation. But, on the
whole, he frankly acknowledged that he had been justly reproved. “If,”
 said he, “Mr. Collier be my enemy, let him triumph. If he be my friend,
as I have given him no personal occasion to be otherwise, he will be
glad of my repentance.”

It would have been wise in Congreve to follow his master’s example.
He was precisely in that situation in which it is madness to attempt a
vindication; for his guilt was so clear, that no address or eloquence
could obtain an acquittal. On the other hand, there were in his case
many extenuating circumstances which, if he had acknowledged his error
and promised amendment, would have procured his pardon. The most rigid
censor could not but make great allowances for the faults into which
so young a man had been seduced by evil example, by the luxuriance of a
vigorous fancy, and by the inebriating effect of popular applause. The
esteem, as well as the admiration, of the public was still within his
reach. He might easily have effaced all memory of his transgressions,
and have shared with Addison the glory of showing that the most
brilliant wit may be the ally of virtue. But, in any case, prudence
should have restrained him from encountering Collier. The nonjuror was
a man thoroughly fitted by nature, education, and habit, for polemical
dispute. {401}Congreve’s mind, though a mind of no common fertility and
vigour, was of a different class. No man understood so well the art
of polishing epigrams and repartees into the clearest effulgence, and
setting them neatly in easy and familiar dialogue. In this sort of
jewellery he attained to a mastery unprecedented and inimitable. But
he was altogether rude in the art of controversy; and he had a cause to
defend which scarcely any art could have rendered victorious.

The event was such as might have been foreseen. Congreve’s answer was a
complete failure. He was angry, obscure, and dull. Even the Green Room
and Will’s Coffee-House were compelled to acknowledge that in wit, as
well as in argument, the parson had a decided advantage over the poet.
Not only was Congreve unable to make any show of a case where he was in
the wrong; but he succeeded in putting himself completely in the wrong
where he was in the right. Collier had taxed him with profaneness for
calling a clergyman Mr. Prig, and for introducing a coachman named Jehu,
in allusion to the King of Israel, who was known at a distance by his
furious driving. Had there been nothing worse in the Old Bachelor
and Double Dealer, Congreve might pass for as pure a writer as Cowper
himself, who, in poems revised by so austere a censor as John Newton,
calls a fox-hunting squire Nimrod, and gives to a chaplain the
disrespectful name of Smug. Congreve might with good effect have
appealed to the public whether it might not be fairly presumed that,
when such frivolous charges were made, there were no very serious
charges to make. Instead of doing this, he pretended that he meant no
allusion to the Bible by the name of Jehu, and no reflection by the
name of Prig. Strange, that a man of {402}such parts should, in order
to defend himself against imputations which nobody could regard as
important, tell untruths which it was certain that nobody would believe!

One of the pleas which Congreve set up for himself and his brethren was
that, though they might be guilty of a little levity here and there,
they were careful to inculcate a moral, packed close into two or three
lines, at the end of every play. Had the fact been as he stated it, the
defence would be worth very little. For no man acquainted with human
nature could think that a sententious couplet would undo all the
mischief that five profligate acts had done. But it would have been wise
in Congreve to have looked again at his own comedies before he used this
argument. Collier did so; and found that the moral of the Old
Bachelor, the grave apophthegm which is to be a set-off against all the
libertinism of the piece is contained in the following triplet:

               “What rugged ways attend the noon of life!

               Our sun declines, and with what anxious strife,

               What pain, we tug that galling load--a wife.”

“Love for Love,” says Collier, “may have a somewhat better farewell,
but it would do a man little service should he remember it to his dying
day:”

                   “The miracle to-day is, that we find

                   A lover true, not that a woman’s kind.”

Collier’s reply was severe and triumphant. One of his repartees we will
quote, not as a favourable specimen of his manner, but because it was
called forth by Congreve’s characteristic affectation. The poet spoke
of the Old Bachelor as a trifle to which he attached no value, and which
had become public by a sort of accident. “I wrote it,” he said, “to
amuse myself in a {403}slow recovery from a fit of sickness.”

“What his disease was,” replied Collier, “I am not to inquire: but it
must be a very ill one to be worse than the remedy.”

All that Congreve gained by coming forward on this occasion was that he
completely deprived himself of the excuse which he might with justice
have pleaded for his early offences. “Why,” asked Collier, “should the
man laugh at the mischief of the boy, and make the disorders of his
nonage his own, by an after approbation?”

Congreve was not Collier’s only opponent. Vanbrugh, Dennis, and Settle
took the field. And, from a passage in a contemporary satire, we are
inclined to think that among the answers to the Short View was one
written, or supposed to be written, by Wycherley. The victory remained
with Collier. A great and rapid reform in almost all the departments of
our lighter literature was the effect of his labours. A new race of wits
and poets arose, who generally treated with reverence the great ties
which bind society together, and whose very indecencies were decent when
compared with those of the school which flourished during the last forty
years of the seventeenth century.

This controversy probably prevented Congreve from fulfilling the
engagements into which he had entered with the actors. It was not till
1700 that he produced the Way of the World, the most deeply meditated
and the most brilliantly written of all his works. It wants, perhaps,
the constant movement, the effervescence of animal spirits, which we
find in Love for Love. But the hysterical rants of Lady Wishfort, the
meeting of Witwould, and his brother, the country knight’s courtship
and his subsequent revel, and, above all, the chase and surrender of
Millamant, are superior to any thing {404}that is to be found in the
whole range of English comedy from the civil war downwards. It is quite
inexplicable to us that this play should have failed on the stage. Yet
so it was; and the author, already sore with the wounds which Collier
had inflicted, was galled past endurance by this new stroke. He resolved
never again to expose himself to the rudeness of a tasteless audience,
and took leave of the theatre forever.

He lived twenty-eight years longer, without adding to the high literary
reputation which he had attained. He read much while he retained his
eyesight, and now and then wrote a short essay, or put an idle tale into
verse; but he appears never to have planned any considerable work. The
miscellaneous pieces which he published in 1710 are of little value, and
have long been forgotten.

The stock of fame which he had acquired by his comedies was sufficient,
assisted by the graces of his manner and conversation, to secure for him
a high place in the estimation of the world. During the winter, he lived
among the most distinguished and agreeable people in London. His summers
were passed at the splendid country-seats of ministers and peers.
Literary envy and political faction, which in that age respected nothing
else, respected his repose. He professed to be one of the party of which
his patron Montagu, now Lord Halifax, was the head. But he had civil
words and small good offices for men of every shade of opinion. And men
of every shade of opinion spoke well of him in return.

His means were for a long time scanty. The place which he had in
possession barely enabled him to live with comfort. And, when the Tories
came into power, some thought that he would lose even this moderate
{405}provision. But Harley, who was by no means disposed to adopt the
exterminating policy of the October club, and who, with all his faults
of understanding and temper, bad a sincere kindness for men of genius,
reassured the anxious poet by quoting very gracefully and happily the
lines of Virgil,

               “Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Poeni,

               Nec tam aversus equos Tyria Sol jungit ab urbe.”

The indulgence with which Congreve was treated by the Tories was not
purchased by any concession on his part which could justly offend the
Whigs. It was his rare good fortune to share the triumph of his friends
without having shared their proscription. When the House of Hanover came
to the throne, he partook largely of the prosperity of those with whom
he was connected. The reversion to which he had been nominated twenty
years before fell in. He was made secretary to the island of Jamaica;
and his whole income amounted to twelve hundred a year, a fortune
which, for a single man, was in that age not only easy but splendid. He
continued, however, to practise the frugality which he had learned when
he could scarce spare, as Swift tells us, a shilling to pay the chairmen
who carried him to Lord Halifax’s. Though he had nobody to save for, he
laid up at least as much as he spent.

The infirmities of age came early upon him. His habits had been
intemperate; he suffered much from gout; and, when confined to his
chamber, he had no longer the solace of literature. Blindness, the most
cruel misfortune that can befall the lonely student, made his books
useless to him. He was thrown on society for all his amusement; and in
society his good breeding and vivacity made him always welcome. {406}By
the rising men of letters he was considered not as a rival, but as a
classic. He had left their arena; he never measured his strength with
them; and he was always loud in applause of their exertions. They
could, therefore, entertain no jealousy of him, and thought no more of
detracting from his fame than of carping at the great men who had been
lying a hundred years in Poets’ Corner. Even the inmates of Grub Street,
even the heroes of the Dunciad, were for once just to living merit.
There can be no stronger illustration of the estimation in which
Congreve was held than the fact that the English Iliad, a work which
appeared with more splendid auspices than any other in our language, was
dedicated to him. There was not a duke in the kingdom who would not have
been proud of such a compliment. Dr. Johnson expresses great admiration
for the independence of spirit which Pope showed on this occasion. “He
passed over peers and statesmen to inscribe his Iliad to Congreve, with
a magnanimity of which the praise had been complete, had his friend’s
virtue been equal to his wit. Why he was chosen for so great an honour,
it is not now possible to know.” It is certainly impossible to know; yet
we think it is possible to guess. The translation of the Iliad had been
zealously befriended by men of all political opinions. The poet, who, at
an early age, should be raised to affluence by the emulous liberality of
Whigs and Tories, could not with propriety inscribe to a chief of either
party a work which had been munificently patronised by both. It was
necessary to find some person who was at once eminent and neutral. It
was therefore necessary to pass over peers and statesmen. Congreve had
a high name in letters. He had a high name in aristocratic circles. He
lived on terms of civility {407}with men of all parties. By a courtesy
paid to him, neither the ministers nor the leaders of the opposition
could be offended.

The singular affectation which had from the first been characteristic of
Congreve grew stronger and stronger as he advanced in life. At last it
became disagreeable to him to hear his own comedies praised. Voltaire,
whose soul was burned up by the raging desire for literary renown, was
half puzzled and half disgusted by what he saw, during his visit to
England, of this extraordinary whim. Congreve disclaimed the character
of a poet, declared that his plays were trifles produced in an idle
hour, and begged that Voltaire would consider him merely as a gentleman.
“If you had been merely a gentleman,” said Voltaire, “I should not have
come to see you.”

Congreve was not a man of warm affections. Domestic ties he had none;
and in the temporary connections which he formed with a succession of
beauties from the green-room his heart does not appear to have been
interested. Of all his attachments that to Mrs. Bracegirdle lasted the
longest and was the most celebrated. This charming actress, who was,
during many years, the idol of all London, whose face caused the fatal
broil in which Mountfort fell, and for which Lord Mohun was tried by
the Peers, and to whom the Earl of Scarsdale was said to have
made honourable addresses, had conducted herself, in very trying
circumstances, with extraordinary discretion. Congreve at length became
her confidential friend. They constantly rode out together and dined
together. Some people said that she was his mistress, and others that
she would soon be his wife. He was at last drawn away from her by the
influence of a wealthier and {408}haughtier beauty. Henrietta, daughter
of the great Marlborough, and Countess of Godolphin, had, on her
father’s death, succeeded to his dukedom, and to the greater part of
his immense property. Her husband was an insignificant man, of whom Lord
Chesterfield said that he came to the House of Peers only to sleep, and
that he might as well sleep on the right as on the left of the woolsack.
Between the Duchess and Congreve sprang up a most eccentric friendship.
He had a seat every day at her table, and assisted in the direction of
her concerts. That malignant old beldame, the Dowager Duchess Sarah, who
had quarrelled with her daughter as she had quarrelled with everybody
else, affected to suspect that there was something wrong. But the world
in general appears to have thought that a great lady might, without any
imputation on her character, pay marked attention to a man of eminent
genius who was near sixty years old, who was still older in appearance
and in constitution, who was confined to his chair by gout, and who was
unable to read from blindness.

In the summer of 1728, Congreve was ordered to try the Bath waters.
During his excursion he was overturned in his chariot, and received some
severe internal injury from which he never recovered. He came back to
London in a dangerous state, complained constantly of a pain in his
side, and continued to sink, till in the following January he expired.

He left ten thousand pounds, saved out of the emoluments of his
lucrative places. Johnson says that this money ought to have gone to the
Congreve family, which was then in great distress. Doctor Young and Mr.
Leigh Hunt, two gentlemen who seldom agree with each other, but with
whom, on this occasion, we are {409}happy to agree, think that it ought
to have gone to Mrs. Bracegirdle. Congreve bequeathed two hundred pounds
to Mrs. Bracegirdle, and an equal sum to a certain Mrs. Jellat; but the
bulk of his accumulations went to the Duchess of Marlborough, in whose
immense wealth such a legacy was as a drop in the bucket. It might have
raised the fallen fortunes of a Staffordshire squire; it might have
enabled a retired actress to enjoy every comfort, and, in her sense,
every luxury: but it was hardly sufficient to defray the Duchess’s
establishment for three months.

The great lady buried her friend with a pomp seldom seen at the
funerals of poets. The corpse lay in state under the ancient roof of the
Jerusalem Chamber, and was interred in Westminster Abbey. The pall was
borne by the Duke of Bridgewater, Lord Cobham, the Earl of Wilmington,
who had been speaker, and was afterwards First Lord of the Treasury, and
other men of high consideration. Her Grace laid out her friend’s bequest
in a superb diamond necklace, which she wore in honour of him, and,
if report is to be believed, showed her regard in ways much more
extraordinary. It is said that a statue of him in ivory, which moved by
clockwork, was placed daily at her table, that she had a wax doll
made in imitation of him, and that the feet of the doll were regularly
blistered and anointed by the doctors, as poor Congreve’s feet had been
when he suffered from the gout. A monument was erected to the poet in
Westminster Abbey, with an inscription written by the Duchess; and Lord
Cobham honoured him with a cenotaph, which seems to us, though that is
a bold word, the ugliest and most absurd of the buildings at Stowe.
{410}We have said that Wycherley was a worse Congreve. There was,
indeed, a remarkable analogy between the writings and lives of these two
men. Both were gentlemen liberally educated. Both led town lives, and
knew human nature only as it appears between Hyde Park and the Tower.
Both were men of wit. Neither had much imagination. Both at an early
age produced lively and profligate comedies. Both retired from the field
while still in early manhood, and owed to their youthful achievements
in literature whatever consideration they enjoyed in later life. Both,
after they had ceased to write for the stage, published volumes of
miscellanies which did little credit either to their talents or to their
morals. Both, during their declining years, hung loose upon society;
and both in their last moments, made eccentric and unjustifiable
dispositions of their estates.

But in every point Congreve maintained his superiority to Wycherley.
Wycherley had wit; but the wit of Congreve far outshines that of every
comic writer, except Sheridan, who has arisen within the last two
centuries. Congreve had not, in a large measure, the poetical faculty;
but compared with Wycherley he might be called a great poet. Wycherley
had some knowledge of books; but Congreve was a man of real learning.
Congreve’s offences against decorum, though highly culpable, were not so
gross as those of Wycherley; nor did Congreve, like Wycherley, exhibit
to the world the deplorable spectacle of a licentious dotage. Congreve
died in the enjoyment of high consideration; Wycherley forgotten or
despised. Congreve’s will was absurd and capricious; but Wycherley’s
last actions appear to have been prompted by obdurate malignity.
{411}Here, at least for the present, we must stop. Vanbrugh and Farquhar
are not men to be hastily dismissed, and we have not left ourselves
space to do them justice.



LORD HOLLAND. (1)

(_Edinburgh Review_, July, 1841.)


Many {412}reasons make it impossible for us to lay before our readers,
at the present moment, a complete view of the character and public
career of the late Lord Holland. But we feel that we have already
deferred too long the duty of paying some tribute to his memory. We feel
that it is more becoming to bring without further delay an offering,
though intrinsically of little value, than to leave his tomb longer
without some token of our reverence and love.

We shall say very little of the book which lies on our table. And yet
it is a book which, even if it had been the work of a less distinguished
man, or had appeared under circumstances less interesting, would have
well repaid an attentive perusal. It is valuable, both as a record of
principles and as a model of composition.

We find in it all the great maxims which, during more than forty years,
guided Lord Holland’s public conduct, and the chief reasons on which
those maxims rest, condensed into the smallest possible space, and
set forth with admirable perspicuity, dignity, and precision. To his
opinions on Foreign Policy we for the most part cordially assent; but,
now and then we are inclined to

     (1) _The Opinions of Lord Holland, as recorded in the
     Journals of the House of Lords, from 1797 to 1841. Collected
     and edited by D. C. Moylan_, of Lincoln’s-Inn, Barrister-
     at-Law. 8vo. London: 1841.

{413}think them imprudently generous. We could not have signed the
protest against the detention of Napoleon. The protest respecting
the course which England pursued at the Congress of Verona, though it
contains much that is excellent, contains also positions which, we are
inclined to think, Lord Holland would, at a later period, have admitted
to be unsound. But to all his doctrines on constitutional questions,
we give our hearty approbation; and we firmly believe that no British
government has ever deviated from that line of internal policy which he
has traced, without detriment to the public.

We will give, as a specimen of this little volume, a single passage, in
which a chief article of the political creed of the Whigs is stated and
explained, with singular clearness, force, and brevity. Our readers
will remember that, in 1825, the Catholic Association raised the cry of
emancipation with most formidable effect. The Tories acted after their
kind. Instead of removing the grievance they tried to put down the
agitation, and brought in a law, apparently sharp and stringent, but
in truth utterly impotent, for restraining the right of petition. Lord
Holland’s Protest on that occasion is excellent.

“_We are,” says he, “well aware that the privileges of the people, the
rights of free discussion, and the spirit and letter of our popular
institutions, must render,--and they are intended to render,--the
continuance of an extensive grievance, and of the dissatisfaction
consequent thereupon, dangerous to the tranquillity of the country,
and ultimately subversive of the authority of the state. Experience and
theory alike forbid us to deny that effect of a free constitution; a
sense of justice and a love of liberty equally deter us from lamenting
it. But we have always been taught to look for the remedy of such
disorders in the redress of the grievances which justify them, and
in the removal of the dissatisfaction from which they flow--not in
restraints on ancient privileges, {414}not in inroads on the right
of public discussion, nor in violations of the principles of a free
government. If, therefore, the legal method of seeking redress, which
has been resorted to by persons labouring under grievous disabilities,
be fraught with immediate or remote danger to the state, we draw
from that circumstance a conclusion long since foretold by great
authority--namely, that the British constitution, and large exclusions,
cannot subsist together; that the constitution must destroy them, or
they will destroy the constitution._”

It was not, however, of this little book, valuable and interesting as it
is, but of the author, that we meant to speak; and we will try to do so
with calmness and impartiality.

In order to fully appreciate the character of Lord Holland, it is
necessary to go far back into the history of his family; for he had
inherited something more than a coronet and an estate. To the House of
which he was the head belongs one distinction which we believe to be
without a parallel in our annals. During more than a century, there has
never been a time at which a Fox has not stood in a prominent station
among public men. Scarcely had the chequered career of the first
Lord Holland closed, when his son, Charles, rose to the head of the
Opposition, and to the first rank among English debaters. And before
Charles was borne to Westminster Abbey a third Fox had already become
one of the most conspicuous politicians in the kingdom.

It is impossible not to be struck by the strong family likeness which,
in spite of diversities arising from education and position, appears in
these three distinguished persons. In their faces and figures there was
a resemblance, such as is common enough in novels, where one picture is
good for ten generations, but such as in real life is seldom found.
The ample person, the massy {415}and thoughtful forehead, the large
eyebrows, the full cheek and lip, the expression, so singularly
compounded of sense, humour, courage, openness, a strong will and a
sweet temper, were common to all. But the features of the founder of the
House, as the pencil of Reynolds and the chisel of Nollekens have
handed them down to us, were disagreeably harsh and exaggerated. In
his descendants, the aspect was preserved, but it was softened till it
became, in the late lord, the most gracious and interesting countenance
that was ever lighted up by the mingled lustre of intelligence and
benevolence.

As it was with the faces of the men of this noble family, so was it also
with their minds. Nature had done much for them all. She had moulded
them all of that clay of which she is most sparing. To all she had
given strong reason and sharp wit, a quick relish for every physical and
intellectual enjoyment, constitutional intrepidity, and that frankness
by which constitutional intrepidity is generally accompanied, spirits
which nothing could depress, tempers easy, generous, and placable,
and that genial courtesy which has its seat in the heart, and of
which artificial politeness is only a faint and cold imitation. Such
a disposition is the richest inheritance that ever was entailed on any
family.

But training and situation greatly modified the fine qualities which
nature lavished with such profusion on three generations of the house of
Fox. The first Lord Holland was a needy political adventurer. He entered
public life at a time when the standard of integrity among statesmen was
low. He started as the adherent of a minister who had indeed many
titles to respect, who possessed eminent talents both for administration
{416}and for debate, who understood the public interest well, and
who meant fairly by the country, but who had seen so much perfidy and
meanness that he had become sceptical as to the existence of probity.
Weary of the cant of patriotism, Walpole had learned to talk a cant of a
different kind. Disgusted by that sort of hypocrisy which is at least
a homage to virtue, he was too much in the habit of practising the less
respectable hypocrisy which ostentatiously displays, and sometimes
even simulates vice. To Walpole Fox attached himself, politically and
personally, with the ardour which belonged to his temperament. And it
is not to be denied that in the school of Walpole he contracted faults
which destroyed the value of his many great endowments. He raised
himself, indeed, to the first consideration in the House of Commons; he
became a consummate master of the art of debate; he attained honours and
immense wealth; but the public esteem and confidence were withheld from
him. His private friends, indeed, justly extolled his generosity and
good nature. They maintained that in those parts of his conduct which
they could least defend there was nothing sordid, and that, if he was
misled, he was misled by amiable feelings, by a desire to serve his
friends, and by anxious tenderness for his children. But by the nation
he was regarded as a man of insatiable rapacity and desperate ambition;
as a man ready to adopt, without scruple, the most immoral and the most
unconstitutional manners; as a man perfectly fitted, by all his opinions
and feelings, for the work of managing the Parliament by means of
secret-service-money, and of keeping down the people with the bayonet.
Many of his contemporaries had a morality quite as lax as his: but very
few among them had his talents, and none had his hardihood and energy.
{417}He could not, like Sandys and Doddington, find safety in contempt.
He therefore became an object of such general aversion as no statesman
since the fall of Strafford has incurred, of such general aversion
as was probably never in any country incurred by a man of so kind and
cordial a disposition. A weak mind would have sunk under such a load
of unpopularity. But that resolute spirit seemed to derive new firmness
from the public hatred. The only effect which reproaches appeared to
produce on him, was to sour, in some degree, his naturally sweet temper.
The last acts of his public life were marked, not only by that audacity
which he had derived from nature, not only by that immorality which he
had learned in the school of Walpole, but by a harshness which almost
amounted to cruelty, and which had never been supposed to belong to his
character. His severity increased the unpopularity from which it had
sprung. The well-known lampoon of Gray may serve as a specimen of
the feeling of the country. All the images are taken from shipwrecks,
quicksands, and cormorants. Lord Holland is represented as complaining,
that the cowardice of his accomplices had prevented him from putting
down the free spirit of the city of London by sword and fire, and
as pining for the time when birds of prey should make their nests in
Westminster Abbey, and unclean beasts burrow in St. Paul’s.

Within a few months after the death of this remarkable man, his second
son Charles appeared at the head of the party opposed to the American
War. Charles had inherited the bodily and mental constitution of his
father, and had been much, far too much, under his father’s influence.
It was indeed impossible that a son of so affectionate and noble
a nature should not have {418}been warmly attached to a parent who
possessed many fine qualities, and who carried his indulgence and
liberality towards his children even to a culpable extent. Charles saw
that the person to whom he was bound by the strongest ties was, in the
highest degree, odious to the nation; and the effect was what might have
been expected from the strong passions and constitutional boldness of
so high-spirited a youth. He cast in his lot with his father, and took,
while still a boy, a deep part in the most unjustifiable and unpopular
measures that had been adopted since the reign of James the Second. In
the debates on the Middlesex Election, he distinguished himself, not
only by his precocious powers of eloquence, but by the vehement and
scornful manner in which he bade defiance to public opinion. He was at
that time regarded as a man likely to be the most formidable champion
of arbitrary government that had appeared since the Revolution, to be
a Bute with far greater powers, a Mansfield with far greater courage.
Happily his father’s death liberated him early from the pernicious
influence by which he had been misled. His mind expanded. His range of
observation became wider. His genius broke through early prejudices. His
natural benevolence and magnanimity had fail play. In a very short time
he appeared in a situation worthy of his understanding and of his heart.
From a family whose name was associated in the public mind with tyranny
and corruption, from a party of which the theory and the practice
were equally servile, from the midst of the Luttrells, the Dysons, the
Barringtons, came forth the greatest parliamentary defender of civil and
religious liberty.

The late Lord Holland succeeded to the talents and to the fine natural
dispositions of his House. But his {419}situation was very different
from that of the two eminent men of whom we have spoken. In some
important respects it was better, and in some it was worse than theirs.
He had one great advantage over them. He received a good political
education. The first lord was educated by Sir Robert Walpole. Mr. Fox
was educated by his father. The late lord was educated by Mr. Fox. The
pernicious maxims early imbibed by the first Lord Holland, made his
great talents useless, and worse than useless, to the state. The
pernicious maxims early imbibed by Mr. Fox led him, at the commencement
of his public life, into great faults which, though afterwards nobly
expiated, were never forgotten. To the very end of his career, small
men, when they had nothing else to say in defence of their own tyranny,
bigotry, and imbecility, could always raise a cheer by some paltry taunt
about the election of Colonel Luttrell, the imprisonment of the lord
mayor, and other measures in which the great Whig leader had borne a
part at the age of one or two and twenty. On Lord Holland no such
slur could be thrown. Those who most dissent from his opinions must
acknowledge that a public life more consistent is not to be found in our
annals. Every part of it is in perfect harmony with every other part;
and the whole is in perfect harmony with the great principles of
toleration and civil freedom. This rare felicity is in a great measure
to be attributed to the influence of Mr. Fox. Lord Holland, as was
natural in a person of his talents and expectations, began at a very
early age to take the keenest interest in politics; and Mr. Fox found
the greatest pleasure in forming the mind of so hopeful a pupil. They
corresponded largely on political subjects when the young lord was only
sixteen; and their {420}friendship and mutual confidence continued to
the day of that mournful separation at Chiswick. Under such training
such a man as Lord Holland was in no danger of falling into those faults
which threw a dark shade over the whole career of his grandfather, and
from which the youth of his uncle was not wholly free.

On the other hand, the late Lord Holland, as compared with his
grandfather and his uncle, laboured under one great disadvantage. They
were members of the House of Commons. He became a Peer while still an
infant. When he entered public life, the House of Lords was a very small
and a very decorous assembly. The minority to which he belonged was
scarcely able to muster five or six votes on the most important nights,
when eighty or ninety lords were present. Debate had accordingly become
a mere form, as it was in the Irish House of Peers before the Union.
This was a great misfortune to a man like Lord Holland. It was not
by occasionally addressing fifteen or twenty solemn and unfriendly
auditors, that his grandfather and his uncle attained their unrivalled
parliamentary skill. The former had learned his art in “the great
Walpolean battles,” on nights when Onslow was in the chair seventeen
hours without intermission, when the thick ranks on both sides kept
unbroken order till long after the winter sun had risen upon them, when
the blind were led out by the hand into the lobby and the paralytic
laid down in their bed-clothes on the benches. The powers of Charles
Fox were, from the first, exercised in conflicts not less exciting. The
great talents of the late Lord Holland had no such advantage. This was
the more unfortunate, because the peculiar species of eloquence which
{421}belonged to him in common with his family required much practice
to develope it. With strong sense, and the greatest readiness of wit, a
certain tendency to hesitation was hereditary in the line of Fox. This
hesitation arose, not from the poverty, but from the wealth of their
vocabulary. They paused, not from the difficulty of finding one
expression, but from the difficulty of choosing between several. It was
only by slow degrees and constant exercise that the first Lord Holland
and his son overcame the defect. Indeed neither of them overcame it
completely.

In statement, the late Lord Holland was not successful; his chief
excellence lay in reply. He had the quick eye of his house for the
unsound parts of an argument, and a great felicity in exposing them. He
was decidedly more distinguished in debate than any peer of his time
who had not sat in the House of Commons. Nay, to find his equal among
persons similarly situated, we must go back eighty years to Earl
Granville. For Mansfield, Thurlow, Loughborough, Grey, Grenville,
Brougham, Plunkett, and other eminent men, living and dead, whom we will
not stop to enumerate, carried to the Upper House an eloquence formed
and matured in the Lower. The opinion of the most discerning judges
was that Lord Holland’s oratorical performances, though sometimes most
successful, afforded no fair measure of his oratorical powers, and that,
in an assembly of which the debates were frequent and animated, he
would have attained a very high order of excellence. It was, indeed,
impossible to listen to his conversation without seeing that he was
bom a debater. To him, as to his uncle, the exercise of the mind in
discussion was a positive pleasure. With the greatest good nature and
{422}good breeding, he was the very opposite to an assenter. The word
“disputatious” is generally used as a word of reproach; but we
can express our meaning only by saying that Lord Holland was most
courteously and pleasantly disputatious. In truth, his quickness in
discovering and apprehending distinctions and analogies was such as a
veteran judge might envy. The lawyers of the Duchy of Lancaster were
astonished to find in an unprofessional man so strong a relish for the
esoteric parts of their science, and complained that as soon as they
had split a hair, Lord Holland proceeded to split the filaments into
filaments still finer. In a mind less happily constituted, there might
have been a risk that this turn for subtilty would have produced serious
evil. But in the heart and understanding of Lord Holland there was ample
security against all such danger. He was not a man to be the dupe of
his own ingenuity. He put his logic to its proper use; and in him the
dialectician was always subordinate to the statesman.

His political life is written in the chronicles of his country. Perhaps,
as we have already intimated, his opinions on two or three great
questions of foreign policy were open to just objection. Yet even his
errors, if he erred, were amiable and respectable. We are not sure
that we do not love and admire him the more because he was now and
then seduced from what we regard as a wise policy by sympathy with
the oppressed, by generosity towards the fallen, by a philanthropy so
enlarged that it took in all nations, by love of peace, a love which
in him was second only to the love of freedom, and by the magnanimous
credulity of a mind which was as incapable of suspecting as of devising
mischief. {423}To his views on questions of domestic policy the voice of
his countrymen does ample justice. They revere the memory of the man who
was, during forty years, the constant protector of all oppressed races
and persecuted sects, of the man whom neither the prejudices nor the
interests belonging to his station could seduce from the path of
right, of the noble, who in every great crisis cast in his lot with the
commons, of the planter, who made manful war on the slave trade, of the
landowner, whose whole heart was in the struggle against the corn-laws.

We have hitherto touched almost exclusively on those parts of Lord
Holland’s character which were open to the observation of millions.
How shall we express the feelings with which his memory is cherished by
those who were honoured with his friendship? Or in what language shall
we speak of that house, once celebrated for its rare attractions to the
furthest ends of the civilised world, and now silent and desolate as the
grave? To that house, a hundred and twenty years ago, a poet addressed
those tender and graceful lines, which have now acquired a new meaning
not less sad than that which they originally bore.

               “Thou hill, whose brow the antique structures grace,

               Reared by bold chiefs of Warwick’s noble race,

               Why, once so loved, whene’er thy bower appears,

               O’er my dim eyeballs glance the sudden tears?

               How sweet were once thy prospects fresh and fair,

               Thy sloping walks and unpolluted air!

               How sweet the glooms beneath thine aged trees,

               Thy noon-tide shadow and thine evening breeze!

               His image thy forsaken bowers restore;

               Thy walks and airy prospects charm no more;

               No more the summer in thy glooms allayed,

               Thine evening breezes, and thy noon-day shade.”

Yet a few years, and the shades and structures may {424}follow their
illustrious masters. The wonderful city which, ancient and gigantic as
it is, still continues to grow as fast as a young town of logwood by a
water-privilege in Michigan, may soon displace those turrets and gardens
which are associated with so much that is interesting and noble, with
the courtly magnificence of Rich, with the loves of Ormond, with the
counsels of Cromwell, with the death of Addison. The time is coming
when, perhaps, a few old men, the last survivors of our generation, will
in vain seek, amidst new streets and squares, and railway stations, for
the site of that dwelling which was in their youth the favourite resort
of wits and beauties, of painters and poets, of scholars, philosophers,
and statesmen. They will then remember, with strange tenderness, many
objects once familiar to them, the avenue and the terrace, the busts and
the paintings, the carving, the grotesque gilding, and the enigmatical
mottoes. With peculiar fondness they will recall that venerable chamber,
in which all the antique gravity of a college library was so singularly
blended with all that female grace and wit could devise to embellish
a drawing-room. They will recollect, not unmoved, those shelves
loaded with the varied learning of many lands and many ages, and those
portraits in which were preserved the features of the best and wisest
Englishmen of two generations. They will recollect how many men who have
guided the politics of Europe, who have moved great assemblies by reason
and eloquence, who have put life into bronze and canvas, or who have
left to posterity things so written that it shall not willingly let
them die, were there mixed with all that was loveliest and gayest in
the society of the most splendid of capitals. They will remember the
peculiar character which belonged to that circle, in {425}which every
talent and accomplishment, every art and science, had its place. They
will remember how the last debate was discussed in one corner, and
the last comedy of Scribe in another; while Wilkie gazed with modest
admiration on Sir Joshua’s Baretti; while Mackintosh turned over
Thomas Aquinas to verify a quotation; while Talleyrand related his
conversations with Barras at the Luxembourg, or his ride with Lannes
over the field of Austerlitz. They will remember, above all, the grace,
and the kindness, far more admirable than grace, with which the princely
hospitality of that ancient mansion was dispensed. They will remember
the venerable and benignant countenance and the cordial voice of him who
bade them welcome. They will remember that temper which years of pain,
of sickness, of lameness, of confinement, served only to make sweeter
and sweeter, and that frank politeness, which at once relieved all the
embarrassment of the youngest and most timid writer or artist, who
found himself for the first time among Ambassadors and Earls. They will
remember that constant flow of conversation, so natural, so animated,
so various, so rich with observation and anecdote; that wit which
never gave a wound; that exquisite mimicry which ennobled, instead
of degrading; that goodness of heart which appeared in every look and
accent, and gave additional value to every talent and acquirement. They
will remember, too, that he whose name they hold in reverence was
not less distinguished by the inflexible uprightness of his political
conduct than by his loving disposition and his winning manners. They
will remember that, in the last lines which he traced, he expressed
his joy that he had done nothing unworthy of the friend of Fox and
{426}Grey; and they will have reason to feel similar joy, if, in looking
back on many troubled years, they cannot accuse themselves of having
done any thing unworthy of men who were distinguished by the friendship
of Lord Holland.


END OF VOL. IV.





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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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