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Title: Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous Essays; Vol. (3 of 6) - With a Memoir and Index
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babbington
Language: English
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By Lord Macaulay

With A Memoir And Index

In Six Volumes. Vol. III

[Illustration: 0011]

New York: Published By Sheldon And Company




(Edinburgh Review, April, 1832.)

The {1}work of Dr. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar
to that which Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when he first landed in
Brobdingnag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest,
thimbles as large as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The
whole book, and every component part of it, is on a gigantic scale.
The title is as long as an ordinary preface: the prefatory matter would
furnish out an ordinary book; and the book contains as much reading as
an ordinary library. We cannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass
of paper which lies before us better than by saying that it consists
of about two thousand closely printed quarto pages, that it occupies
fifteen hundred inches cubic measure, and

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

{2}that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. Such a book might, before
the deluge, have been considered as light reading by Hilpa and Shalum.
But unhappily the life of man is now threescore years and ten; and we
cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares to demand from us so
large a portion of so short an existence.

Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all
other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in
factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is an agreeable recreation.
There was, it is said, a criminal in Italy, who was suffered to make his
choice between Guicciardini and the galleys. He chose the history. But
the war of Pisa was too much for him. He changed his mind, and went to
the oar. Guicciardini, though certainly not the most amusing of writers,
is a Herodotus or a Froissart, when compared with Dr. Nares. It is not
merely in bulk, but in specific gravity also, that these memoirs exceed
all other human compositions. On every subject which the Professor
discusses, he produces three times as many pages as another man; and one
of his pages is as tedious as another man’s three. His book is swelled
to its vast dimensions by endless repetitions, by episodes which have
nothing to do with the main action, by quotations from books which are
in every circulating library, and by reflections which, when they happen
to be just, are so obvious that they must necessarily occur to the mind
of every reader. He employs more words in expounding and defending a
truism than any other writer would employ in supporting a paradox. Of
the rules of historical perspective, he has not the faintest notion.
There is neither foreground nor background in his delineation. The wars
of Charles {3}the Fifth in Germany are detailed at almost as much length
as in Robertson’s life of that prince. The troubles of Scotland are
related as fully as in M’Crie’s Life of John Knox. It would be most
unjust to deny that Dr. Nares is a man of great industry and research;
but he is so utterly incompetent to arrange the materials which he
has collected that he might as well have left them in their original

Neither the facts which Dr. Nares has discovered, nor the arguments
which he urges, will, we apprehend, materially alter the opinion
generally entertained by judicious readers of history concerning his
hero. Lord Burleigh can hardly be called a great man. He was not one
of those whose genius and energy change the fate of empires. He was by
nature and habit one of those who follow, not one of those who lead.
Nothing that is recorded, either of his words or of his actions,
indicates intellectual or moral elevation. But his talents, though not
brilliant, were of an eminently useful kind; and his principles, though
not inflexible, were not more relaxed than those of his associates and
competitors. He had a cool temper, a sound judgment, great powers of
application, and a constant eye to the main chance. In his youth,
he was, it seems, fond of practical jokes. Yet even out of these he
contrived to extract some pecuniary profit. When he was studying the law
at Gray’s Inn, he lost all his furniture and books at the gaming table
to one of his friends. He accordingly bored a hole in the wall which
separated his chambers from those of his associate, and at midnight
bellowed through this passage threats of damnation and calls to
repentance in the ears of the victorious gambler, who lay sweating with
fear all night, and refunded his winnings on his knees next day. “Many
{4}other the like merry jests,” says his old biographer, “I have heard
him tell, too long to be here noted.” To the last, Burleigh was somewhat
jocose; and some of his sportive sayings have been recorded by Bacon.
They show much more shrewdness than generosity, and are, indeed, neatly
expressed reasons for exacting money rigorously, and for keeping it

It must, however, be acknowledged that he was rigorous and careful
for the public advantage as well as for his own. To extol his moral
character as Dr. Nares has extolled it is absurd. It would be equally
absurd to represent him as a corrupt, rapacious, and bad-hearted man. He
paid great attention to the interests of the state, and great attention
also to the interest of his own family. He never deserted his friends
till it was very inconvenient to stand by them, was an excellent
Protestant when it was not very advantageous to be a Papist, recommended
a tolerant policy to his mistress as strongly as he could recommend it
without hazarding her favour, never put to the rack any person from whom
it did not seem probable that useful information might be derived, and
was so moderate in his desires that he left only three hundred distinct
landed estates, though he might, as his honest servant assures us, have
left much more, “if he would have taken money out of the Exchequer for
his own use, as many Treasurers have done.”

Burleigh, like the old Marquess of Winchester, who preceded him in the
custody of the White Staff, was of the willow, and not of the oak. He
first rose into notice by defending the supremacy of Henry the Eighth.
He was subsequently favoured and promoted by the Duke of Somerset. He
not only contrived to escape unhurt when his patron fell, but became an
important {5}member of the administration of Northumberland. Dr. Nares
assures us over and over again that there could have been nothing base
in Cecil’s conduct on this occasion; for, says he, Cecil continued to
stand well with Cranmer. This, we confess, hardly satisfies us. We are
much of the mind of Falstaff’s tailor. We must have better assurance for
Sir John than Bardolph’s. We like not the security.

Through the whole course of that miserable intrigue which was carried on
round the dying bed of Edward the Sixth, Cecil so bemeaned himself as
to avoid, first, the displeasure of Northumberland, and afterwards the
displeasure of Mary. He was prudently unwilling to put his hand to the
instrument which changed the course of the succession. But the furious
Dudley was master of the palace. Cecil, therefore, according to his own
account, excused himself from signing as a party, but consented to sign
as a witness. It is not easy to describe his dexterous conduct at this
most perplexing crisis, in language more appropriate than that which is
employed by old Fuller. “His hand wrote it as secretary of state,” says
that quaint writer; “but his heart consented not thereto. Yea, he openly
opposed it; though at last yielding to the greatness of Northumberland,
in an age when it was present drowning not to swim with the stream. But
as the philosopher tells us, that, though the planets be whirled about
daily from east to west, by the motion of the _primum mobile_, yet have
they also a contrary proper motion of their own from west to east, which
they slowly, though surely, move at their leisure; so Cecil had secret
counter-endeavours against the strain of the court herein, and privately
advanced his rightful intentions against the foresaid duke’s ambition.”
 {6}This was undoubtedly the most perilous conjuncture of Cecil’s life.
Wherever there was a safe course, he was safe. But here every course
was full of danger. His situation rendered it impossible for him to be
neutral. If he acted on either side, if he refused to act at all, he ran
a fearful risk. He saw all the difficulties of his position. He sent
his money and plate out of London, made over his estates to his son, and
carried arms about his person. His best arms, however, were his sagacity
and his self-command. The plot in which he had been an unwilling
accomplice ended, as it was natural that so odious and absurd a plot
should end, in the ruin of its contrivers. In the mean time, Cecil
quietly extricated himself, and, having been successively patronized by
Henry, by Somerset, and by Northumberland, continued to flourish under
the protection of Mary.

He had no aspirations after the crown of martyrdom. He confessed
himself, therefore, with great decorum, heard mass in Wimbledon Church
at Easter, and for the better ordering of his spiritual concerns, took
a priest into his house. Dr. Nares, whose simplicity passes that of any
casuist with whom we are acquainted, vindicates his hero by assuring us
that this was not superstition, but pure unmixed hypocrisy. “That he did
in some manner conform, we shall not be able, in the face of existing
documents, to deny; while we feel in our own minds abundantly satisfied,
that, during this very trying reign, he never abandoned the prospect of
another revolution in favour of Protestantism.” In another place,
the Doctor tells us, that Cecil went to mass “with no idolatrous
intention.” Nobody, we believe, ever accused him of idolatrous
intentions. The very ground of the charge against him is that he {7}had
no idolatrous intentions. We never should have blamed him if he had
really gone to Wimbledon Church, with the feelings of a good Catholic,
to worship the host. Dr. Nares speaks in several places with just
severity of the sophistry of the Jesuits, and with just admiration of
the incomparable letters of Pascal. It is somewhat strange, therefore,
that he should adopt, to the full extent, the jesuitical doctrine of the
direction of intentions.

We do not blame Cecil for not choosing to be burned. The deep stain upon
his memory is that, for differences of opinion for which he would risk
nothing himself, he, in the day of his power, took away without scruple
the lives of others. One of the excuses suggested in these Memoirs for
his conforming, during the reign of Mary, to the Church of Rome, is that
he may have been of the same mind with those German Protestants who
were called Adiaphorists, and who considered the popish rites as
matters indifferent. Melancthon was one of these moderate persons,
and “appears,” says Dr. Nares, “to have gone greater lengths than any
imputed to Lord Burleigh.” We should have thought this not only an
excuse, but a complete vindication, if Cecil had been an Adiaphorist for
the benefit of others as well as for his own. If the popish rites
were matters of so little moment that a good Protestant might lawfully
practise them for his safety, how could it be just or humane that a
Papist should be hanged, drawn, and quartered, for practising them from
a sense of duty? Unhappily these non-essentials soon became matters
of life and death. Just at the very time at which Cecil attained the
highest point of power and favour, an Act of Parliament was passed by
which the penalties of high treason were denounced {8}against persons
who should do in sincerity what he had done from cowardice.

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

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

At length Mary died: Elizabeth succeeded; and Cecil rose at once to
greatness. He was sworn in Privy-councillor and Secretary of State
to the new sovereign before he left her prison of Hatfield; and he
continued to serve her during forty years, without {9}intermission, in
the highest employments. His abilities were precisely those which
keep men long in power. He belonged to the class of the Walpoles,
the Pelhams, and the Liverpools, not to that of the St. Johns, the
Carterets, the Chathams, and the Cannings. If he had been a man of
original genius and of an enterprising spirit, it would have been
scarcely possible for him to keep his power or even his head. There was
not room in one government for an Elizabeth and a Richelieu. What the
haughty daughter of Henry needed, was a moderate, cautions, flexible
minister, skilled in the details of business, competent to advise, but
not aspiring to command. And such a minister she found in Burleigh. No
arts could shake the confidence which she reposed in her old and trusty
servant. The courtly graces of Leicester, the brilliant talents and
accomplishments of Essex, touched the fancy, perhaps the heart, of the
woman; but no rival could deprive the Treasurer of the place which he
possessed in the favour of the Queen. She sometimes chid him sharply;
but he was the man whom she delighted to honour. For Burleigh, she
forgot her usual parsimony both of wealth and of dignities. For
Burleigh, she relaxed that severe etiquette to which she was
unreasonably attached. Every other person to whom she addressed her
speech, or on whom the glance of her eagle eye fell, instantly sank on
his knee. For Burleigh alone, a chair was set in her presence; and there
the old minister, by birth only a plain Lincolnshire esquire, took his
ease, while the haughty heirs of the Fitzalans and the De Veres humbled
themselves to the dust around him. At length, having survived all his
early coadjutors, and rivals, he died full of years and honours. His
royal mistress visited him on his {10}death-bed, and cheered him with
assurances of her affection and esteem; and his power passed, with
little diminution, to a son who inherited his abilities, and whose mind
had been formed by his counsels.


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

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

The only event of modern times which can be properly compared with the
Reformation is the French Revolution, or, to speak more accurately, that
great revolution of political feeling which took place in almost every
part of the civilised world during the eighteenth century, and which
obtained in France its most terrible and signal triumph. Each of these
memorable events may be described as a rising up of the human reason
against a Caste. The one was a {11}straggle of the laity against the
clergy for intellectual liberty; the other was a straggle of the people
against princes and nobles for political liberty. In both cases, the
spirit of innovation was at first encouraged by the class to which
it was likely to be most prejudicial. It was under the patronage of
Frederic, of Catherine, of Joseph, and of the grandees of France,
that the philosophy which afterwards threatened all the thrones and
aristocracies of Europe with destruction first became formidable. The
ardour with which men betook themselves to liberal studies, at the
close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, was
zealously encouraged by the heads of that very church to which liberal
studies were destined to be fatal. In both cases, when the explosion
came, it came with a violence which appalled and disgusted many of those
who had previously been distinguished by the freedom of their opinions.
The violence of the democratic party in France made Burke a Tory and
Alfieri a courtier. The violence of the chiefs of the German schism made
Erasmus a defender of abuses, and turned the author of Utopia into a
persecutor. In both cases, the convulsion which had overthrown deeply
seated errors, shook all the principles on which society rests to their
very foundations. The minds of men were unsettled. It seemed for a time
that all order and morality were about to perish with the prejudices
with which they had been long and intimately associated. Frightful
cruelties were committed. Immense masses of property were confiscated.
Every part of Europe swarmed with exiles. In moody and turbulent spirits
zeal soured into malignity, or foamed into madness. From the political
agitation of the eighteenth century sprang the Jacobins. {12}From the
religious agitation of the sixteenth century sprang the Anabaptists. The
partisans of Robespierre robbed and murdered in the name of fraternity
and equality. The followers of Kniperdoling robbed and murdered in the
name of Christian liberty. The feeling of patriotism was, in many parts
of Europe, almost wholly extinguished. All the old maxims of foreign
policy were changed. Physical boundaries were superseded by moral
boundaries. Nations made war on each other with new arms, with arms
which no fortifications, however strong by nature or by art, could
resist, with arms before which rivers parted like the Jordan, and
ramparts fell down like the walls of Jericho. The great masters of
fleets and armies were often reduced to confess, like Milton’s warlike
angel, how hard they found it

                             “To exclude

                   Spiritual substance with corporeal bar.”

Europe was divided, as Greece had been divided during the period
concerning which Thucydides wrote. The conflict was not, as it is in
ordinary times, between state and state, but between two omnipresent
factions, each of which was in some places dominant and in other places
oppressed, but which, openly or covertly, carried on their strife in
the bosom of every society. No man asked whether another belonged to
the same country with himself, but whether he belonged to the same sect.
Party-spirit seemed to justify and consecrate acts which, in any other
times, would have been considered as the foulest of treasons. The French
emigrant saw nothing disgraceful in bringing Austrian and Prussian
hussars to Paris. The Irish or Italian democrat saw no impropriety in
serving the French Directory against his own native government. {13}So,
in the sixteenth century, the fury of theological factions suspended
all national animosities and jealousies. The Spaniards were invited
into France by the League; the English were invited into France by the

We by no means intend to underrate or to palliate the crimes and
excesses which, during the last generation, were produced by the spirit
of democracy. But, when we hear men zealous for the Protestant religion,
constantly represent the French Revolution as radically and essentially
evil on account of those crimes and excesses, we cannot but remember
that the deliverance of our ancestors from the house of their spiritual
bondage was effected “by plagues and by signs, by wonders and by war.”
 We cannot but remember that, as in the case of the French Revolution, so
also in the case of the Reformation, those who rose up against tyranny
were themselves deeply tainted with the vices which tyranny engenders.
We cannot but remember that libels scarcely less scandalous than those
of Hebert, mummeries scarcely less absurd than those of Clootz, and
crimes scarcely less atrocious than those of Marat, disgrace the early
history of Protestantism. The Reformation is an event long passed. That
volcano has spent its rage. The wide waste produced by its outbreak is
forgotten. The landmarks which were swept away have been replaced. The
ruined edifices have been repaired. The lava has covered with a rich
incrustation the fields which it once devastated, and, after having
turned a beautiful and fruitful garden into a desert, has again turned
the desert into a still more beautiful and fruitful garden. The second
great irruption is not yet over. The marks of its ravages are still
all around us. The ashes are still hot beneath {14}our feet. In some
directions the deluge of fire still continues to spread. Yet experience
surely entitles us to believe, that this explosion, like that which
preceded it, will fertilize the soil which it has devastated. Already,
in those parts which have suffered most severely, rich cultivation and
secure dwellings have begun to appear amidst the waste. The more we read
of the history of past ages, the more we observe the signs of our own
times, the more do we feel our hearts filled and swelled up by a good
hope for the future destinies of the human race.

The history of the Reformation in England is full of strange problems.
The most prominent and extraordinary phenomenon which it presents to
us is the gigantic strength of the government contrasted with the
feebleness of the religious parties. During the twelve or thirteen years
which followed the death of Henry the Eighth, the religion of the
state was thrice changed. Protestantism was established by Edward;
the Catholic Church was restored by Mary; Protestantism was again
established by Elizabeth. The faith of the nation seemed to depend
on the personal inclinations of the sovereign. Nor was this all. An
established church was then, as a matter of course, a persecuting
church. Edward persecuted Catholics. Mary persecuted Protestants.
Elizabeth persecuted Catholics again. The father of those three
sovereigns had enjoyed the pleasure of persecuting both sects at once,
and had sent to death, on the same hurdle, the heretic who denied the
real presence, and the traitor who denied the royal supremacy. There
was nothing in England like that fierce and bloody opposition which,
in France, each of the religious factions in its turn offered to the
government. We had neither a {15}Coligny nor a Mayenne, neither a
Moncontour nor an Ivry. No English city braved sword and famine for
the reformed doctrines with the spirit of Rochelle, or for the Catholic
doctrines with the spirit of Paris. Neither sect in England formed a
League. Neither sect extorted a recantation from the sovereign. Neither
sect could obtain from an adverse sovereign even a toleration. The
English Protestants, after several years of domination, sank down with
scarcely a straggle under the tyranny of Mary. The Catholics, after
having regained and abused their old ascendency, submitted patiently to
the severe rule of Elizabeth. Neither Protestants nor Catholics engaged
in any great and well organized scheme of resistance. A few wild and
tumultuous risings, suppressed as soon as they appeared, a few dark
conspiracies in which only a small number of desperate men engaged, such
were the utmost efforts made by these two parties to assert the most
sacred of human rights, attacked by the most odious tyranny.

The explanation of these circumstances which has generally been given is
very simple, but by no means satisfactory. The power of the crown, it is
said, was then at its height, and was in fact despotic. This solution,
we own, seems to us to be no solution at all. It has long been the
fashion, a fashion introduced by Mr. Hume, to describe the English
monarchy in the sixteenth century as an absolute monarchy. And such
undoubtedly it appears to a superficial observer. Elizabeth, it is true,
often spoke to her parliaments in language as haughty and imperious
as that which the Great Turk would use to his divan. She punished with
great severity members of the House of Commons who, in her opinion,
carried the freedom of debate too far. {16}She assumed the power of
legislating by means of proclamations. She imprisoned her subjects
without bringing them to a legal trial. Torture was often employed,
in defiance, of the laws of England, for the purpose of extorting
confessions from those who were shut up in her dungeons. The authority
of the Star-Chamber and of the Ecclesiastical Commission was at its
highest point. Severe restraints were imposed on political and religious
discussion. The number of presses was at one time limited. No man could
print without a license; and every work had to undergo the scrutiny
of the Primate, or the Bishop of London. Persons whose writings were
displeasing to the court were cruelly mutilated, like Stubbs, or put
to death, like Penry. Nonconformity was severely punished. The Queen
prescribed the exact rule of religious faith and discipline; and whoever
departed from that rule, either to the right or to the left, was in
danger of severe penalties.

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

The truth seems to be that the government of the Tudors was, with a
few occasional deviations, a popular government, under the forms
of despotism. At first sight, it may seem that the prerogatives of
Elizabeth were not less ample than those of Lewis the Fourteenth, and
her parliaments were as obsequious as his parliaments, that her warrant
had as much authority as {17}his _lettre-de-cachet_. The extravagance
with which her courtiers eulogized her personal and mental charms went
beyond the adulation of Boileau and Moliere. Lewis would have blushed
to receive from those who composed the gorgeous circles of Marli and
Versailles such outward marks of servitude as the haughty Britoness
exacted of all who approached her. But the authority of Lewis rested on
the support of his army. The authority of Elizabeth rested solely on the
support of her people. Those who say that her power was absolute do not
sufficiently consider in what her power consisted. Her power consisted
in the willing obedience of her subjects, in their attachment to her
person and to her office, in their respect for the old line from which
she sprang, in their sense of the general security which they enjoyed
under her government. These were the means, and the only means, which
she had at her command for carrying her decrees into execution, for
resisting foreign enemies, and for crushing domestic treason. There was
not a ward in the city, there was not a hundred in any shire in England,
which could not have overpowered the handful of armed men who composed
her household. If a hostile sovereign threatened invasion, if an
ambitious noble raised the standard of revolt, she could have recourse
only to the trainbands of her capital and the array of her counties,
to the citizens and yeomen of England, commanded by the merchants and
esquires of England.

Thus, when intelligence arrived of the vast preparations which Philip
was making for the subjugation of the realm, the first person to whom
the government thought of applying for assistance was the Lord Mayor of
London. They sent to ask him what force the city would engage to furnish
for the defence of the kingdom {18}against the Spaniards. The Mayor
and Common Council, in return, desired to know what force the Queen’s
Highness wished them to furnish. The answer was, fifteen ships and five
thousand men. The Londoners deliberated on the matter, and, two days
after, “humbly entreated the council, in sign of their perfect love and
loyalty to prince and country, to accept ten thousand men, and thirty
ships amply furnished.”

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

It is a common error in politics to confound means with ends.
Constitutions, charters, petitions of right, declarations of right,
representative assemblies, electoral colleges, are not good governments;
nor do they, even when most elaborately constructed, necessarily produce
good government. Laws exist in vain for those who have not the courage
and the means to defend them. Electors meet in vain where want makes
them the {19}slaves of the landlord, or where superstition makes them
the slaves of the priest. Representative assemblies sit in vain unless
they have at their command, in the last resort, the physical power
which is necessary to make their deliberations free, and their votes

The Irish are better represented in parliament than the Scotch, who
indeed are not represented at all. (1) But are the Irish better governed
than the Scotch? Surely not. This circumstance has of late been used as
an argument against reform. It proves nothing against reform. It proves
only this, that laws have no magical, no supernatural virtue; that
laws do not act like Aladdin’s lamp or Prince Ahmed’s apple; that
priestcraft, that ignorance, that the rage of contending factions, may
make good institutions useless; that intelligence, sobriety, industry,
moral freedom, firm union, may supply in a great measure the defects of
the worst representative system. A people whose education and habits are
such, that, in every quarter of the world, they rise above the mass of
those with whom they mix, as surely as oil rises to the top of water,
a people of such temper and self-government that the wildest popular
excesses recorded in their history partake of the gravity of judicial
proceedings, and of the solemnity of religious rites, a people whose
national pride and mutual attachment have passed into a proverb, a
people whose high and fierce spirit, so forcibly described in
the haughty motto which encircles their thistle, preserved their
independence, during a straggle of centuries, from the encroachments of
wealthier and more powerful neighbours, such a people cannot be

     (1) It must be remembered that this was written before the
     passing of the reform act.

{20}long oppressed. Any government, however constituted, must respect
their wishes and tremble at their discontents. It is indeed most
desirable that such a people should exercise a direct influence on
the conduct of affairs, and should make their wishes known through
constitutional organs. But some influence, direct or indirect, they will
assuredly possess. Some organ, constitutional or unconstitutional,
they will assuredly find. They will be better governed under a good
constitution than under a bad constitution. But they will be better
governed under the worst constitution than some other nations under the
best. In any general classification of constitutions, the constitution
of Scotland must be reckoned as one of the worst, perhaps as the worst,
in Christian Europe. Yet the Scotch are not ill governed, and the reason
is simply that they will not bear to be ill governed.

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

The monarchy of England in the sixteenth century was a monarchy of this
kind. It is called an absolute monarchy, because little respect was paid
by the Tudors to those institutions which we have been accustomed to
consider as the sole checks on the power of the sovereign. A modern
Englishman can hardly understand how the people can have had any real
security for good government under kings who levied benevolences, and
chid the House of Commons as they would have chid a pack of dogs. People
do not sufficiently {21}consider that, though the legal checks were
feeble, the natural checks were strong. There was one great and
effectual limitation on the royal authority, the knowledge that, if the
patience of the nation were severely tried, the nation would put forth
its strength, and that its strength would be found irresistible. If
a large body of Englishmen became thoroughly discontented, instead of
presenting requisitions, holding large meetings, passing resolutions,
signing petitions, forming associations and unions, they rose up;
they took their halberds and their bows; and, if the sovereign was not
sufficiently popular to find among his subjects other halberds and other
bows to oppose to the rebels, nothing remained for him but a repetition
of the horrible scenes of Berkeley and Pomfret. He had no regular army
which could, by its superior arms and its superior skill, overawe
or vanquish the sturdy Commons of his realm, abounding in the native
hardihood of Englishmen, and trained in the simple discipline of the

It has been said that the Tudors were as absolute as the Cæsars. Never
was parallel so unfortunate. The government of the Tudors was the direct
opposite to the government of Augustus and his successors. The Cæsars
ruled despotically, by means of a great standing army, under the decent
forms of a republican constitution. They called themselves citizens.
They mixed unceremoniously with other citizens. In theory they were only
the elective magistrates of a free commonwealth. Instead of arrogating
to themselves despotic power, they acknowledged allegiance to the
senate. They were merely the lieutenants of that venerable body. They
mixed in debate. They even appeared as advocates before the courts of
law. Yet they could safely indulge in the wildest freaks of {22}cruelty
and rapacity, while their legions remained faithful. Our Tudors, on the
other hand, under the titles and forms of monarchical supremacy,
were essentially popular magistrates. They had no means of protecting
themselves against the public hatred; and they were therefore compelled
to court the public favour. To enjoy all the state and all the personal
indulgences of absolute power, to be adored with Oriental prostrations,
to dispose at will of the liberty and even of the life of ministers and
courtiers, this the nation granted to the Tudors. But the condition on
which they were suffered to be the tyrants of Whitehall was that they
should be the mild and paternal sovereigns of England. They were under
the same restraints with regard to their people under which a military
despot is placed with regard to his army. They would have found it as
dangerous to grind their subjects with cruel taxation as Nero would
have found it to leave his prætorians unpaid. Those who immediately
surrounded the royal person, and engaged in the hazardous game of
ambition, were exposed to the most fearful dangers. Buckingham,
Cromwell, Surrey, Seymour of Sudeley, Somerset, Northumberland, Suffolk,
Norfolk, Essex, perished on the scaffold. But in general the country
gentleman hunted and the merchant traded in peace. Even Henry, as cruel
as Domitian, but far more politic, contrived, while reeking; with the
blood of the Lamiæ, to be a favourite with the cobblers.

The Tudors committed very tyrannical acts. But in their ordinary
dealings with the people they were not, and could not safely be,
tyrants. Some excesses were easily pardoned. For the nation was proud
of the high and fiery blood of its magnificent princes, and {23}saw,
in many proceedings which a lawyer would even then have condemned, the
outbreak of the same noble spirit which so manfully hurled foul scorn
at Parma and at Spain. But to this endurance there was a limit. If the
government ventured to adopt measures which the people really felt to be
oppressive, it was soon compelled to change its course. When Henry the
Eighth attempted to raise a forced loan of unusual amount by proceedings
of unusual rigour, the opposition which he encountered was such as
appalled even his stubborn and imperious spirit. The people, we are
told, said that, if they were treated thus, “then were it worse than the
taxes of France; and England should be bond, and not free.” The county
of Suffolk rose in arms. The king prudently yielded to an opposition
which, if he had persisted, would, in all probability, have taken
the form of a general rebellion. Towards the close of the reign of
Elizabeth, the people felt themselves aggrieved by the monopolies. The
Queen, proud and courageous as she was, shrank from a contest with the
nation, and, with admirable sagacity, conceded all that her subjects
had demanded, while it was yet in her power to concede’ with dignity and

It cannot be imagined that a people who had in their own hands the means
of checking their princes would suffer any prince to impose upon them a
religion generally detested. It is absurd to suppose that, if the nation
had been decidedly attached to the Protestant faith, Mary could have
reestablished the Papal supremacy. It is equally absurd to suppose that,
if the nation had been zealous for the ancient religion, Elizabeth could
have restored the Protestant Church. The truth is, that the people were
not disposed to engage in {24}a struggle either for the new or for the
old doctrines. Abundance of spirit was shown when it seemed likely that
Mary would resume her father’s grants of church property, or that
she would sacrifice the interests of England to the husband whom she
regarded with unmerited tenderness. That queen found that it would be
madness to attempt the restoration of the abbey lands. She found that
her subjects would never suffer her to make her hereditary kingdom a
fief of Castile. On these points she encountered a steady resistance,
and was compelled to give way. If she was able to establish the Catholic
worship and to persecute those who would not conform to it, it was
evidently because the people cared far less for the Protestant religion
than for the rights of property and for the independence of the English
crown. In plain words, they did not think the difference between
the hostile sects worth a struggle. There was undoubtedly a zealous
Protestant party and a zealous Catholic party. But both these parties
were, we believe, very small. We doubt, whether both together made
up, at the time of Mary’s death, the twentieth part of the nation. The
remaining nineteen twentieths halted between the two opinions, and were
not disposed to risk a revolution in the government, for the purpose of
giving to either of the extreme factions an advantage over the other.

We possess no data which will enable us to compare with exactness the
force of the two sects. Mr. Butler asserts that, even at the accession
of James the First, a majority of the population of England were
Catholics. This is pure assertion; and is not only unsupported by
evidence, but, we think, completely disproved by the strongest evidence.
Dr. Lingard is of opinion that the Catholics were one half of the nation
in the middle of {25}the reign of Elizabeth. Rushton says that, when
Elizabeth came to the throne, the Catholics were two thirds of the
nation, and the Protestants only one third. The most judicious and
impartial of English historians, Mr. Hallam, is, on the contrary, of
opinion, that two thirds were Protestants, and only one third Catholics.
To us, we must confess, it seems incredible that, if the Protestants
were really two to one, they should have borne the government of Mary,
or that, if the Catholics were really two to one, they should have
borne the government of Elizabeth. We are at a loss to conceive how a
sovereign who has no standing army, and whose power rests solely on the
loyalty of his subjects, can continue for years to persecute a religion
to which the majority of his subjects are sincerely attached. In fact,
the Protestants did rise up against one sister, and the Catholics
against the other. Those risings clearly showed how small and feeble
both the parties were. Both in the one case and in the other the nation
ranged itself on the side of the government, and the insurgents were
speedily put down and punished. The Kentish gentlemen who took up arms
for the reformed doctrines against Mary, and the great Northern Earls
who displayed the banner of the Five Wounds against Elizabeth, were
alike considered by the great body of their countrymen as wicked
disturbers of the public peace.

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

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

                   “Who sought the beeves that made their broth,

                   In England and in Scotland both.”

And who

                   “Nine times outlawed had been

                   By England’s king and Scotland’s queen.”

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

The English had not, for ages, been bigoted Papists. In the fourteenth
century, the first and perhaps the greatest of the reformers, John
Wickliffe, had stirred the public mind to its inmost depths. During the
same century, a scandalous schism in the Catholic Church had diminished,
in many parts of Europe, the reverence in which the Roman pontiffs were
held. It is clear that, a hundred years before the time of Luther, a
great party in this kingdom was eager for a change at least as extensive
as that which was subsequently {27}effected by Henry the Eighth.
The House of Commons, in the reign of Henry the Fourth, proposed a
confiscation of ecclesiastical property, more sweeping and violent even
than that which took place under the administration of Thomas Cromwell;
and, though defeated in this attempt, they succeeded in depriving the
clerical order of some of its most oppressive privileges. The splendid
conquests of Henry the Fifth turned the attention of the nation from
domestic reform. The Council of Constance removed some of the grossest
of those scandals which had deprived the Church of the public respect.
The authority of that venerable synod propped up the sinking authority
of the Popedom. A considerable reaction took place. It cannot, however,
be doubted, that there was still some concealed Lollardism in England;
or that many who did not absolutely dissent from any doctrine held by
the Church of Rome were jealous of the wealth and power enjoyed by her
ministers. At the very beginning of the reign of Henry the Eighth, a
struggle took place between the clergy and the courts of law, in which
the courts of law remained victorious. One of the bishops, on that
occasion, declared that the common people entertained the strongest
prejudices against his order, and that a clergyman had no chance of fair
play before a lay tribunal. The London juries, he said, entertained such
a spite to the Church that, if Abel were a priest, they would find him
guilty of the murder of Cain. This was said a few months before the time
when Martin Luther began to preach at Wittenburg against indulgences.

As the Reformation did not find the English bigoted Papists, so neither
was it conducted in such a manner as to make them zealous Protestants.
It was not under {28}the direction of men like that fiery Saxon who
swore that he would go to Worms, though he had to face as many devils
as there were tiles on the houses, or like that brave Switzer who was
struck down while praying in front of the ranks of Zurich. No preacher
of religion had the same power here which Calvin had at Geneva and
Knox in Scotland. The government put itself early at the head of the
movement, and thus acquired power to regulate, and occasionally to
arrest, the movement.

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

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

The greatest and most popular dramatists of the Elizabethan age treat
religious subjects in a very remarkable manner. They speak respectfully
of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But they speak neither
like Catholics nor like Protestants, but like persons who are wavering
between the two systems, or who have made a system for themselves out of
parts selected from both. They seem to hold some of the Romish rites and
doctrines in high respect. They treat the vow of celibacy, for example,
so tempting, and, in later times, so common a subject for ribaldry, with
mysterious reverence. Almost every member of a religious order {30}whom
they introduce is a holy and venerable man. We remember in their plays
nothing resembling the coarse ridicule with which the Catholic religion
and its ministers were assailed, two generations later, by dramatists,
who wished to please the multitude. We remember no Friar Dominic, no
Father Foigard, among the characters drawn by those great poets. The
scene at the close of the Knight of Malta might have been written by a
fervent Catholic. Massinger show’s a great fondness for ecclesiastics of
the Romish Church, and has even gone so far as to bring a virtuous and
interesting Jesuit on the stage. Ford, in that fine play which it is
painful to read and scarcely decent to name, assigns a highly creditable
part to the Friar. The partiality of Shakspeare for Friars is well
known. In Hamlet, the Ghost complains that he died without extreme
unction, and, in defiance of the article which condemns the doctrine of
purgatory, declares that he is

                             “Confined to fast in fires,

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

                   Are burnt and purged away.”

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

There is, we think, only one solution of the phenomena which we find in
the history and in the drama of that age. The religion of the English
was a mixed religion, like that of the Samaritan settlers, described in
the second book of Kings, who “feared the Lord, and served their
graven images;” like that of the Judaizing Christians who blended the
ceremonies and {31}doctrines of the synagogue with those of the church;
like that of the Mexican Indians, who, during many generations after
the subjugation of their race, continued to unite with the rites learned
from their conquerors the worship of the grotesque idols which had been
adored by Montezuma and Guatemozin.

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

That which is, as we have said, the great stain on the character of
Burleigh is also the great stain on the character of Elizabeth. Being
herself an Adiaphorist, having no scruple about conforming to the Romish
Church when conformity was necessary to her own safety, retaining to the
last moment of her life a fondness for much of the doctrine and much
of the ceremonial of that church, she yet subjected that church to a
persecution even more odious than the persecution with which her sister
had harassed the Protestants. We say more odious. For Mary had at least
the plea of fanaticism. She did nothing for her religion which she was
not prepared to suffer for it. She had held it firmly under persecution.
She fully believed it to be essential to salvation. If she burned the
bodies of her {32}subjects, it was in order to rescue their souls.
Elizabeth had no such pretext. In opinion, she was little more than
half a Protestant. She had professed, when it suited her, to be wholly
a Catholic. There is an excuse, a wretched excuse, for the massacres of
Piedmont and the _Autos de fe_ of Spain. But what can be said in defence
of a ruler who is at once indifferent and intolerant?

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

This is the dark side of her character. Yet she surely was a great
woman. Of all the sovereigns who exercised a power which was seemingly
absolute, but which in fact depended for support on the love and
confidence of their subjects, she was by far the most illustrious.
It has often been alleged as an excuse for the misgovernment of her
successors that they only followed her example, that precedents might be
found in the transactions of her reign for persecuting the Puritans,
for levying money without the sanction of the House of Commons, for
confining men without bringing them to trial, for interfering with the
liberty of parliamentary debate. All this may be true. But it is no good
plea for her successors; and for this plain reason, that they were her
successors. She governed one generation, they governed another; and
between {34}the two generations there was almost as little in common as
between the people of two different countries. It was not by looking at
the particular measures which Elizabeth had adopted, but by looking at
the great general principles of her government, that those who followed
her were likely to learn the art of managing untractable subjects. If,
instead of searching the records of her reign for precedents which
might seem to vindicate the mutilation of Prynne and the imprisonment of
Eliot, the Stuarts had attempted to discover the fundamental rules which
guided her conduct in all her dealings with her people, they would have
perceived that their policy was then most unlike to hers, when to a
superficial observer it would have seemed most to resemble hers.
Firm, haughty, sometimes unjust and cruel in her proceedings towards
individuals or towards small parties, she avoided with care, or
retracted with speed, every measure which seemed likely to alienate the
great mass of the people. She gained more honour and more love by the
manner in which she repaired her errors than she would have gained by
never committing errors. If such a man as Charles the First had been in
her place when the whole nation was crying out against the monopolies,
he would have refused all redress. He would have dissolved the
Parliament, and imprisoned the most popular members. He would have
called another Parliament. He would have given some vague and delusive
promises of relief in return for subsidies. When entreated to fulfil
his promises, he would have again dissolved the Parliament, and again
imprisoned his leading opponents. The country would have become more
agitated than before. The next House of Commons would have been more
unmanageable than {35}that which preceded it. The tyrant would have
agreed to all that the nation demanded. He would have solemnly ratified
an act abolishing monopolies forever. He would have received a large
supply in return for this concession; and within half a year new
patents, more oppressive than those which had been cancelled, would have
been issued by scores. Such was the policy which brought the heir of a
long line of kings, in early youth the darling of his countrymen, to a
prison and a scaffold.

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

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

                   “Many a baron bold,

                   And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old

                   In bearded majesty.”

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


(_Edinburgh Review_, July, 1832.)

This {37}is a very amusing and a very instructive book; but, even if it
were less amusing and less instructive, it would still be interesting as
a relic of a wise and virtuous man. M. Dumont was one of those persons,
the care of whose fame belongs in an especial manner to mankind. For he
was one of those persons who have, for the sake of mankind, neglected
the care of their own fame. In his walk through life there was no
obtrusiveness, no pushing, no elbowing, none of the little arts which
bring forward little men. With every right to the head of the board, he
took the lowest room, and well deserved to be greeted with--Friend, go
up higher. Though no man was more capable of achieving for himself
a separate and independent renown, he attached himself to others; he
laboured to raise their fame; he was content to receive as his share of
the reward the mere overflowings which redounded from the full measure
of their glory. Not that he was of a servile and idolatrous habit of
mind:--not that he was one of the tribe of Boswells,--those literary
Gibeonites, born to be hewers of wood and drawers of water to the

     (1) _Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, et sur les deux Premieres
     Assemblées Lêgislatives_. Par Etienne Dumont, de Genève:
     ouvrage posthume publié par M. J. L. Duval, Membre du
     Conseil Représentatif du Canton du Genève. 8vo. Paris: 1832.

{38}higher intellectual castes. Possessed of talents and acquirements
which made him great, he wished only to be useful. In the prime of
manhood, at the very time of life at which ambitious men are most
ambitious, he was not solicitous to proclaim that he furnished
information, arguments, and eloquence to Mirabeau. In his later years
he was perfectly willing that his renown should merge in that of Mr.

The services which M. Dumont has rendered to society can be fully
appreciated only by those who have studied Mr. Bentham’s works, both in
their rude and in their finished state. The difference both for show and
for use is as great as the difference between a lump of golden ore and
a rouleau of sovereigns fresh from the mint. Of Mr. Bentham we would
at all times speak with the reverence which is due to a great original
thinker, and to a sincere and ardent friend of the human race. If a
few weaknesses were mingled with his eminent virtues,--if a few
errors insinuated themselves among the many valuable truths which he
taught,--this is assuredly no time for noticing those weaknesses or
those errors in an unkind or sarcastic spirit. A great man has gone from
among us, full of years, of good works, and of deserved honours. In some
of the highest departments in which the human intellect can exert
itself he has not left his equal or his second behind him. From his
contemporaries he has had, according to the usual lot, more or less than
justice. He has had blind flatterers and blind detractors--flatterers
who could see nothing but perfection in his style, detractors who
could see nothing but nonsense in his matter. He will now have judges.
Posterity will pronounce its calm and impartial decision; and that
decision will, we firmly believe, place in the same rank {39}with
Galileo, and with Locke, the man who found jurisprudence a gibberish and
left it a science. Never was there a literary partnership so fortunate
as that of Mr. Bentham and M. Dumont. The raw material which Mr. Bentham
furnished was most precious; but it was unmarketable. He was, assuredly,
at once a great logician and a great rhetorician. But the effect of
his logic was injured by a vicious arrangement, and the effect or his
rhetoric by a vicious style. His mind was vigorous, comprehensive,
subtle, fertile of arguments, fertile of illustrations. But he spoke in
an unknown tongue; and, that the congregation might be edified, it was
necessary that some brother having the gift of interpretation should
expound the invaluable jargon. His oracles were of high import; but they
were traced on leaves and flung loose to the wind. So negligent was he
of the arts of selection, distribution, and compression, that to persons
who formed their judgment of him from his works in their undigested
state he seemed to be the least systematic of all philosophers. The
truth is, that his opinions formed a system, which, whether sound or
unsound, is more exact, more entire, and more consistent with itself
than any other. Yet to superficial readers of his works in their
original form, and indeed to all readers of those works who did not
bring great industry and great acuteness to the study, he seemed to be a
man of a quick and ingenious but ill-regulated mind,--who saw truth
only by glimpses,--who threw out many striking hints, but who had never
thought of combining his doctrines in one harmonious whole.

M. Dumont was admirably qualified to supply what was wanting in Mr.
Bentham. In the qualities in which the French writers surpass those
of all other nations,--{40}neatness, clearness, precision,
condensation,--he surpassed all French writers. If M. Dumont had never
been horn, Mr. Bentham would still have been a very great man. But he
would have been great to himself alone. The fertility of his mind would
have resembled the fertility of those vast American wildernesses in
which blossoms and decays a rich but unprofitable vegetation, “wherewith
the reaper filleth not his hand, neither he that bindeth up the sheaves
his bosom.” It would have been with his discoveries as it has been with
the “Century of Inventions.” His speculations on laws would have been
of no more practical use than Lord Worcester’s speculations on
steam-engines. Some generations hence, perhaps, when legislation had
found its Watt, an antiquarian might have published to the world the
curious fact, that, in the reign of George the Third, there had been a
man called Bentham, who had given hints of many discoveries made since
his time, and who had really, for his age, taken a most philosophical
view of the principles of jurisprudence.

Many persons have attempted to interpret between this powerful mind and
the public. But, in our opinion, M. Dumont alone has succeeded. It is
remarkable that, in foreign countries, where Mr. Bentham’s works are
known solely through the medium of the French version, his merit is
almost universally acknowledged. Even those who are most decidedly
opposed to his political opinions--the very chiefs of the Holy
Alliance--have publicly testified their respect for him. In England,
on the contrary, many persons who certainly entertained no prejudice
against him on political grounds were long in the habit of mentioning
him contemptuously. Indeed, what was said {41}of Bacon’s Philosophy may
be said of Bentham’s. It was in little repute among us, till judgments
in its favour came from beyond sea, and convinced us, to our shame, that
we had been abusing and laughing at one of the greatest men of the age.

M. Dumont might easily have found employments more gratifying to
personal vanity than that of arranging works not his own. But he could
have found no employment more useful or more truly honourable. The book
before us, hastily written as it is, contains abundant proof, if proof
were needed, that he did not become an editor because he wanted the
talents which would have made him eminent as a writer.

Persons who hold democratical opinions, and who have been accustomed
to consider M. Dumont as one of their party, have been surprised and
mortified to learn that he speaks with very little respect of the
French Revolution and of its authors. Some zealous Tories have naturally
expressed great satisfaction at finding their doctrines, in some
respects, confirmed by the testimony of an unwilling witness. The date
of the work, we think, explains every thing. If it had been written ten
years earlier, or twenty years later, it would have been very different
from what it is. It was written, neither during the first excitement
of the Revolution, nor at that later period when the practical good
produced by the Revolution had become manifest to the most prejudiced
observers; but in those wretched times when the enthusiasm had abated,
and the solid advantages were not yet fully seen. It was written in the
year 1799,--a year in which the most sanguine friend of liberty might
well feel some misgivings as to the effects of what the National
Assembly had done. The evils which attend every great change had been
{42}severely felt. The benefit was still to come. The price--a heavy
price--had been paid. The thing purchased had not yet been delivered.
Europe was swarming with French exiles. The fleets and armies of the
second coalition were victorious. Within France, the reign of terror was
over; but the reign of law had not commenced. There had been, indeed,
during three or four years, a written Constitution, by which rights
were defined and checks provided. But these rights had been repeatedly
violated; and those checks had proved utterly inefficient. The laws
which had been framed to secure the distinct authority of the
executive magistrates and of the legislative assemblies--the freedom of
election--the freedom of debate--the freedom of the press--the personal
freedom of citizens--were a dead letter. The ordinary mode in which
the Republic was governed was by _coups d’état_. On one occasion,
the legislative councils were placed under military restraint by the
directors. Then, again, directors were deposed by the legislative
councils. Elections were set aside by the executive authority. Shiploads
of writers and speakers were sent, without a legal trial, to die
of fever in Guiana. France, in short, was in that state in which
revolutions, effected by violence, almost always leave a nation. The
habit of obedience had been lost. The spell of prescription had been
broken. Those associations on which, far more than on any arguments
about property and order, the authority of magistrates rests had
completely passed away. The power of the government consisted merely in
the physical force which it could bring to its support. Moral force it
had none. It was itself a government sprung from a recent convulsion.
Its own fundamental maxim was, that rebellion might be justifiable.
{43}Its own existence proved that rebellion might be successful. The
people had been accustomed, during several years, to offer resistance to
the constituted authorities on the slightest provocation, and to see the
constituted authorities yield to that resistance. The whole political
world was “without form and void”--an incessant whirl of hostile atoms,
which, every moment, formed some new combination. The only man who could
fix the agitated elements of society in a stable form was following a
wild vision of glory and empire through the Syrian deserts. The time was
not yet come, when

                   “Confusion heard his voice; and wild uproar

                   Stood ruled:”

when, out of the chaos into which the old society had been resolved,
were to rise a new dynasty, a new peerage, a new church, and a new code.

The dying words of Madame Roland, “Oh Liberty! how many crimes are
committed in thy name!” were at that time echoed by many of the
most upright and benevolent of mankind. M. Guizot has, in one of his
admirable pamphlets, happily and justly described M. Laine as “an honest
and liberal man discouraged by the Revolution.” This description, at the
time when M. Dumont’s Memoirs were written, would have applied to almost
every honest and liberal man in Europe; and would, beyond all doubt,
have applied to M. Dumont himself. To that fanatical worship of the
all-wise and all-good people, which had been common a few years before,
had succeeded an uneasy suspicion that the follies and vices of the
people would frustrate all attempts to serve them. The wild and joyous
exultation with which the meeting of the States-General {44}and the
fall of the Bastile had been hailed, had passed away. In its place
was dejection, and a gloomy distrust of specious appearances. The
philosophers and philanthropists had reigned. And what had their reign
produced? Philosophy had brought with it mummeries as absurd as any
which had been practised by the most superstitious zealot of the darkest
age. Philanthropy had brought with it crimes as horrible as the massacre
of St. Bartholomew. This was the emancipation of the human mind. These
were the fruits of the great victory of reason over prejudice. France
had rejected the faith of Pascal and Descartes as a nursery fable, that
a courtezan might be her idol, and a madman her priest. She had asserted
her freedom against Louis, that she might bow down before Robespierre.
For a time men thought that all the boasted wisdom of the eighteenth
century was folly: and that those hopes of great political and social
ameliorations which had been cherished by Voltaire and Condorcet were
utterly delusive.

Under the influence of these feelings, M. Dumont has gone so far as
to say that the writings of Mr. Burke on the French Revolution, though
disfigured by exaggeration, and though containing doctrines subversive
of all public liberty, had been, on the whole, justified by events, and
had probably saved Europe from great disasters. That such a man as the
friend and fellow-labourer of Mr. Bentham should have expressed such
an opinion is a circumstance which well deserves the consideration of
uncharitable politicians. These Memoirs have not convinced us that the
French Revolution was not a great blessing to mankind. But they have
convinced us that very great indulgence is due to those who, while
the Revolution was actually {45}taking place, regarded it with unmixed
aversion and horror. We can perceive where their error lay. We can
perceive that the evil was temporary, and the good durable. But we
cannot be sure that, if our lot had been cast in their times, we should
not, like them, have been discouraged and disgusted--that we should not,
like them, have seen, in that great victory of the French people, only
insanity and crime.

It is curious to observe how some men are applauded, and others reviled,
for merely being what all their neighbours are,--for merely going
passively down the stream of events,--for merely representing the
opinions and passions of a whole generation. The friends of popular
government ordinarily speak with extreme severity of Mr. Pitt, and with
respect and tenderness of Mr. Canning. Yet the whole difference, we
suspect, consisted merely in this,--that Mr. Pitt died in 1806, and Mr.
Canning in 1827. During the years which were common to the public life
of both, Mr. Canning was assuredly not a more liberal statesman than his
patron. The truth is, that Mr. Pitt began his political life at the end
of the American War, when the nation was suffering from the effects of
corruption. He closed it in the midst of the calamities produced by the
French Revolution, when the nation was still strongly impressed with the
horrors of anarchy. He changed, undoubtedly. In his youth he had brought
in reform bills. In his manhood he brought in gagging bills. But the
change, though lamentable, was, in our opinion, perfectly natural, and
might have been perfectly honest. He changed with the great body of his
countrymen. Mr. Canning, on the other hand, entered into public life
when Europe was in dread of the Jacobins. He closed his public life when
Europe was suffering under {46}the tyranny of the Holy Alliance. He,
too, changed with the nation. As the crimes of the Jacobins had turned
the master into something very like a Tory, the events which followed
the Congress of Vienna turned the pupil into something very like a Whig.

So much are men the creatures of circumstances. We see that, if M.
Dumont had died in 1799, he would have died, to use the new cant word,
a decided “Conservative.” If Mr. Pitt had lived in 1832, it is our firm
belief that he would have been a decided Reformer.

The judgment passed by M. Dumont in this work on the French Revolution
must be taken with considerable allowances. It resembles a criticism on
a play of which only the first act has been performed, or on a building
from which the scaffolding has not yet been taken down. We have no doubt
that, if the excellent author had revised these memoirs thirty years
after the time at which they were written, he would have seen reason to
omit a few passages, and to add many qualifications and explanations.

He would not probably have been inclined to retract the censures, just,
though severe, which he has passed on the ignorance, the presumption,
and the pedantry, of the National Assembly. But he would have admitted
that, in spite of those faults, perhaps even by reason of those faults,
that Assembly had conferred inestimable benefits on mankind. It is clear
that, among the French of that day, political knowledge was absolutely
in its infancy. It would indeed have been strange if it had attained
maturity in the time of censors, of _lettres-de-cachet_, and of beds of
justice. The electors did not know how to elect. The representatives
did not know how to deliberate. M. Dumont taught the constituent body
of Montreuil how to perform their functions, and {47}found them apt to
learn. He afterwards tried, in concert with Mirabeau, to instruct the
National Assembly in that admirable system of Parliamentary tactics
which has been long established in the English House of Commons, and
which has made the House of Commons, in spite of all the defects in its
composition, the best and fairest debating society in the world. But
these accomplished legislators, though quite as ignorant as the mob of
Montreuil, proved much less docile, and cried out that they did not
want to go to school to the English. Their debates consisted of endless
successions of trashy pamphlets, all beginning with something about the
original compact of society, man in the hunting state, and other such
foolery. They sometimes diversified and enlivened these long readings by
a little rioting. They bawled; they hooted; they shook their fists. They
kept no order among themselves. They were insulted with impunity by
the crowd which filled their galleries. They gave long and solemn
considerations to trifles. They hurried through the most important
resolutions with fearful expedition. They wasted months in quibbling
about the words of that false and childish Declaration of Rights on
which they professed to found their new constitution, and which was at
irreconcilable variance with every clause of that constitution. They
annihilated in a single night privileges, many of which partook of the
nature of property, and ought therefore to have been most delicately

They are called the Constituent Assembly. Never was a name less
appropriate. They were not constituent, but the very reverse of
constituent. They constituted nothing that stood or that deserved to
last. They had not, and they could not possibly have, the information or
the habits of mind which are necessary {48}for the framing of that most
exquisite of all machines--a government. The metaphysical cant with
which they prefaced their constitution has long been the scoff of
all parties. Their constitution itself,--that constitution which
they described as absolutely perfect, and to which they predicted
immortality,--disappeared in a few months, and left no trace behind it.
They were great only in the work of destruction.

The glory of the National Assembly is this, that they were in truth,
what Mr. Burke called them in austere irony, the ablest architects of
ruin that ever the world saw. They were utterly incompetent to perform
any work which required a discriminating eye and a skilful hand. But the
work which was then to be done was a work of devastation. They had
to deal with abuses so horrible and so deeply rooted that the highest
political wisdom could scarcely have produced greater good to mankind
than was produced by their fierce and senseless temerity. Demolition
is undoubtedly a vulgar task; the highest glory of the statesman is to
construct. But there is a time for every thing,--a time to set up, and a
time to pull down. The talents of revolutionary leaders and those of the
legislator have equally their use and their season. It is the
natural, the almost universal, law, that the age of insurrections, and
proscriptions shall precede the age of good government, of temperate
liberty, and liberal order.

And how should it be otherwise? It is not in swaddling-bands that
we learn to walk. It is not in the dark that we learn to distinguish
colours. It is not under oppression that we learn how to use freedom.
The ordinary sophism by which misrule is defended is, when truly stated,
this:--The people must continue {49}in slavery, because slavery has
generated in them all the vices of slaves. Because they are ignorant,
they must remain under a power which has made and which keeps them
ignorant. Because they have been made ferocious by misgovernment, they
must be misgoverned for ever. If the system under which they live were
so mild and liberal that under its operation they had become humane
and enlightened, it would be safe to venture on a change. But, as this
system has destroyed morality, and prevented the development of the
intellect,--as it has turned men, who might under different training
have formed a virtuous and happy community, into savage and stupid wild
beasts,--therefore it ought to last for ever. The English Revolution,
it is said, was truly a glorious Revolution. Practical evils were
redressed; no excesses were committed; no sweeping confiscations took
place; the authority of the laws was scarcely for a moment suspended;
the fullest and freest discussion was tolerated in Parliament; the
nation showed, by the calm and temperate manner in which it asserted its
liberty, that it was fit to enjoy liberty. The French Revolution was,
on the other hand, the most horrible event recorded in history,--all
madness and wickedness,--absurdity in theory, and atrocity in practice.
What folly and injustice in the revolutionary laws! What grotesque
affectation in the revolutionary ceremonies! What fanaticism! What
licentiousness! What cruelty! Anacharsis Clootz and Marat,--feasts of
the Supreme Being, and marriages of the Loire--trees of liberty, and
heads dancing on pikes--the whole forms a kind of infernal farce, made
up of every thing ridiculous, and every thing frightful. This it is to
give freedom to those who have neither wisdom nor virtue. {50}It is not
only by bad men interested in the defence of abuses that arguments like
these have been urged against all schemes of political improvement.
Some of the highest and purest of human beings conceived such scorn and
aversion for the follies and crimes of the French Revolution that they
recanted, in the moment of triumph, those liberal opinions to which they
had clung in defiance of persecution. And, if we inquire why it was that
they began to doubt whether liberty were a blessing, we shall find that
it was only because events had proved, in the clearest manner, that
liberty is the parent of virtue and of order. They ceased to abhor
tyranny merely because it had been signally shown that the effect of
tyranny on the hearts and understandings of men is more demoralising and
more stupifying than had ever been imagined by the most zealous friend
of moral rights. The truth is, that a stronger argument against the old
monarchy of France maybe drawn from the _noyades_ and the _fusillades_
than from the Bastile and the _Parc-aux-cerfs_. We believe it to be a
rule without an exception, that the violence of a revolution corresponds
to the degree of misgovernment which has produced that revolution.
Why was the French Revolution so bloody and destructive? Why was our
revolution of 1641 comparatively mild? Why was our revolution of 1688
milder still? Why was the American Revolution, considered as an internal
movement, the mildest of all? There is an obvious and complete solution
of the problem. The English under James the First and Charles the First
were less oppressed than the French under Louis the Fifteenth and Louis
the Sixteenth. The English were less oppressed after the Restoration
than before the great Rebellion. And America under George the Third was
less oppressed than England under the Stuarts. The re-action {51}was
exactly proportioned to the pressure,--the vengeance to the provocation.

When Mr. Burke was reminded in his later years of the zeal which he had
displayed in the cause of the Americans, he vindicated himself from the
charge of inconsistency, by contrasting the wisdom and moderation of the
Colonial insurgents of 1776 with the fanaticism and wickedness of the
Jacobins of 1792. He was in fact bringing an argument _a fortiori_
against himself. The circumstances on which he rested his vindication,
fully proved that the old government of France stood in far more need
of a complete change than the old government of America. The difference
between Washington and Robespierre,--the difference between Franklin and
Barere,--the difference between the destruction of a few barrels of
tea and the confiscation of thousands of square, miles,--the difference
between the tarring and feathering of a tax-gatherer and the massacres
of September,--measure the difference between the government of America
under the rule of England and the government of France under the rule of
the Bourbons.

Louis the Sixteenth made great voluntary concessions to his people;
and they sent him to the scaffold. Charles the Tenth violated the
fundamental laws of the state, established a despotism, and butchered
his subjects for not submitting quietly to that despotism. He failed in
his wicked attempt. He was at the mercy of those whom he had injured.
The pavements of Paris were still heaped up in barricades;--the
hospitals were still full of the wounded;--the dead were still
unburied;--a thousand families were in mourning;--a hundred thousand
citizens were in arms. The crime was recent;--the life of the criminal
was in the hands {52}of the sufferers;--and they touched not one hair of
his head. In the first, revolution, victims were sent to death by scores
for the most trifling acts proved by the lowest testimony, before the
most partial tribunals. After the second revolution, those ministers who
had signed the ordinances,--those ministers, whose guilt, as it was of
the foulest kind, was proved by the clearest evidence,--were punished
only with imprisonment. In the first revolution, property was attacked.
In the second, it was held sacred. Both revolutions, it is true, left
the public mind of France in an unsettled state. Both revolutions were
followed by insurrectionary movements. But, after the first revolution,
the insurgents were almost always stronger than the law; and, since the
second revolution, the law has invariably been found stronger than the
insurgents. There is, indeed, much in the present state of France which
may well excite the uneasiness of those who desire to see her free,
happy, powerful, and secure. Yet, if we compare the present state of
France with the state in which she was forty years ago, how vast a
change for the better has taken place! How little effect, for example,
during the first revolution, would the sentence of a judicial body have
produced on an armed and victorious body! If, after the 10th of August,
or after the proscription of the Gironde, or after the 9th of Thermidor,
or after the carnage of Vendémiaire, or after the arrests of Fructidor,
any tribunal had decided against the conquerors in favour of the
conquered, with what contempt, with what derision, would its award have
been received! The judges would have lost their heads, or would have
been sent to die in some unwholesome colony. The fate of the victim whom
they had endeavoured to save would only have been made darker and more
hopeless {53}by their interference. We have lately seen a signal proof
that, in France, the law is now stronger than the sword. We have seen a
government, in the very moment of triumph and revenge, submitting itself
to the authority of a court of law. A just and independent sentence
has been pronounced--a sentence worthy of the ancient renown of
that magistracy to which belong the noblest recollections of French
history--which, in an age of persecutors, produced L’Hôpital,--which,
in an age of courtiers, produced D’Aguesseau--which, in an age of
wickedness and madness, exhibited to mankind a pattern of every virtue
in the life and in the death of Malesherbes. The respectful manner in
which that sentence has been received is alone sufficient to show how
widely the French of this generation differ from their fathers. And how
is the difference to be explained? The race, the soil, the climate are
the same. If those dull, honest Englishmen, who explain the events of
1793 and 1791 by saying that the French are naturally frivolous and
cruel, were in the right, why is the guillotine now standing idle?
Not surely for want of Carlists, of aristocrats, of people guilty of
incivism, of people suspected of being suspicious characters. Is not the
true explanation this, that the Frenchman of 1832 has been far better
governed than the Frenchman of 1798,--that his soul has never been
galled by the oppressive privileges of a separate caste,--that he has
been in some degree accustomed to discuss political questions, and
to perform political functions,--that he has lived for seventeen or
eighteen years under institutions which, however defective, have yet
been far superior to any institutions that had before existed in France?

As the second French Revolution has been far milder {54}than the first,
so that great change which has just been effected in England has
been milder even than the second French Revolution,--milder than any
revolution recorded in history. Some orators have described the
reform of the House of Commons as a revolution. Others have denied the
propriety of the term. The question, though in seeming merely a
question of definition, suggests much curious and interesting matter for
reflection. If we look at the magnitude of the reform, it may well
be called a revolution. If we look at the means by which it has been
effected, it is merely an act of Parliament, regularly brought in, read,
committed, and passed. In the whole history of England, there is no
prouder circumstance than this,--that a change, which could not, in any
other age, or in any other country, have been effected without physical
violence, should here have been effected by the force of reason,
and under the forms of law. The work of three civil wars has been
accomplished by three sessions of Parliament. An ancient and deeply
rooted system of abuses has been fiercely attacked and stubbornly
defended. It has fallen; and not one sword has been drawn; not one
estate has been confiscated; not one family has been forced to emigrate.
The bank has kept its credit. The funds have kept their price. Every man
has gone forth to his work and to his labour till the evening. During
the fiercest excitement of the contest,--during the first fortnight of
that immortal May,--there was not one moment at which any sanguinary
act committed on the person of any of the most unpopular men in England
would not have filled the country with horror and indignation.

And, now that the victory is won, has it been abused? An immense mass of
power has been transferred {55}from an oligarchy to the nation. Are
the members of the vanquished oligarchy insecure? Does the nation seem
disposed to play the tyrant? Are not those who, in any other state of
society, would have been visited with the severest vengeance of the
triumphant party,--would have been pining in dungeons, or flying to
foreign countries,--still enjoying their possessions and their honours,
still taking part as freely as ever in public affairs? Two years ago
they were dominant. They are now vanquished. Yet the whole people would
regard with horror any man who should dare to propose any vindictive
measure. So common is this feeling,--so much is it a matter of course
among us,--that many of our readers will scarcely understand what we see
to admire in it.

To what are we to attribute the unparalleled moderation and humanity
which the English people have displayed at this great conjuncture? The
answer is plain. This moderation, this humanity, are the fruits of a
hundred and fifty years of liberty. During many generations we have had
legislative assemblies which, however defective their constitution might
be, have always contained many members chosen by the people, and many
others eager to obtain the approbation of the people;--assemblies in
which perfect freedom of debate was allowed;--assemblies in which the
smallest minority had a fair hearing;--assemblies in which abuses,
even when they were not redressed, were at least exposed. For many
generations we have had the trial by jury, the Habeas Corpus Act, the
freedom of the press, the right of meeting to discuss public affairs,
the right of petitioning the legislature. A vast portion of the
population has long been accustomed to the exercise of political
functions, and has been thoroughly {56}seasoned to political excitement.
In most other countries there is no middle course between absolute
submission and open rebellion. In England there has always been for
centuries a constitutional opposition. Thus our institutions had been so
good that they had educated us into a capacity for better institutions.
There is not a large town in the kingdom which does not contain better
materials for a legislature than all France could furnish in 1789. There
is not a spouting-club at any pot-house in London in which the rules of
debate are not better understood, and more strictly observed than in the
Constituent Assembly. There is scarcely a Political Union which could
not frame in half an hour a declaration of rights superior to that which
occupied the collective wisdom of France for several months.

It would be impossible even to glance at all the causes of the French
Revolution, within the limits to which we must confine ourselves. One
thing is clear. The government, the aristocracy, and the church, were
rewarded after their works. They reaped that which they had sown. They
found the nation such as they had made it. That the people had become
possessed of irresistible power before they had attained the slightest
knowledge of the art of government--that practical questions of vast
moment were left to be solved by men to whom politics had been only
matter of theory--that a legislature was composed of persons who were
scarcely fit to compose a debating society--that the whole nation was
ready to lend an ear to any flatterer who appealed to its cupidity, to
its fears, or to its thirst for vengeance--all this was the effect of
misrule, obstinately continued in defiance of solemn warnings, and of
the visible signs of an approaching retribution. {57}Even while the
monarchy seemed to be in its highest and most palmy state, the causes
of that great destruction had already begun to operate. They may be
distinctly traced even under the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. That
reign is the time to which the Ultra-Royalists refer as the Golden Age
of France. It was in truth one of those periods which shine with an
unnatural and delusive splendour, and which are rapidly followed by
gloom and decay.

Concerning Louis the Fourteenth himself, the world seems at last to
have formed a correct judgment. He was not a great general; he was not
a great statesman; but he was, in one sense of the words, a great king.
Never was there so consummate a master of what our James the First would
have called king-craft,--of all those arts which most advantageously
display the merits of a prince, and most completely hide his defects.
Though his internal administration was bad,--though the military
triumphs which gave splendour to the early part of his reign, were not
achieved by himself,--though his later years were crowded with defeats
and humiliations,--though he was so ignorant that he scarcely understood
the Latin of his mass-book,--though he fell under the control of a
cunning Jesuit, and of a more cunning old woman,--he succeeded in
passing himself off on his people as a being above humanity. And this
is the more extraordinary, because he did not seclude himself from the
public gaze like those Oriental despots, whose faces are never seen, and
whose very names it is a crime to pronounce lightly. It has been said
that no man is a hero to his valet;--and all the world saw as much
of Louis the Fourteenth as his valet could see. Five hundred people
assembled to see him shave and put on his breeches in the morning.
{58}He then kneeled down at the side of his bed, and said his prayer,
while the whole assembly awaited the end in solemn silence,--the
ecclesiastics on their knees and the laymen with their hats before their
faces. He walked about his gardens with a train of two hundred courtiers
at his heels. All Versailles came to see him dine and sup. He was put to
bed at night in the midst of a crowd as great as that which had met
to see him rise in the morning. He took his very emetics in state, and
vomited majestically in the presence of all the _grandes_ and _petites
entrées_. Yet, though he constantly exposed himself to the public gaze
in situations in which it is scarcely possible for any man to preserve
much personal dignity, he to the last impressed those who surrounded him
with the deepest awe and reverence. The illusion which he produced on
his worshippers can be compared only to those illusions to which lovers
are proverbially subject during the season of courtship. It was an
illusion which affected even the senses. The contemporaries of Louis
thought him tall. Voltaire, who might have seen him, and who had
lived with some of the most distinguished members of his court, speaks
repeatedly of his majestic stature. Yet it is as certain as any fact
can be, that he was rather below than above the middle size. He had, it
seems, a way of holding himself, a way of walking, a way of swelling his
chest and rearing his head, which deceived the eyes of the multitude.
Eighty years after his death, the royal cemetery was violated by the
revolutionists; his coffin was opened; his body was dragged out; and
it appeared that the prince, whose majestic figure had been so long and
loudly extolled, was in truth a little man. (1) That fine

     (1) Even M de Chataubriand, to whom we should have thought
     all the Bourbons would have seemed at least six feet high,
     admits this fact. “C’est une erreur,” says he in his strange
     memoirs of the Duke of Berri, “de croire que Louis XIV.
     étoit d’une haute stature. Une cuirasse qui nous reste de
     lui, et les exhumations de St. Denys, n’ont laissé sur ce
     point aucun doute.”

{59}expression of Juvenal is singularly applicable, both in its literal
and in its metaphorical sense, to Louis tin; Fourteenth:

                             “Mors sola fatetur,

                   Quantula sint hominum corpuscula.”

His person and his government have had the same fate. He had the art of
making both appear grand and august, in spite of the clearest evidence
that both were below the ordinary standard. Death and time have exposed
both the deceptions. The body of the great king has been measured more
justly than it was measured by the courtiers who were afraid to look
above his shoe-tie. His public character has been scrutinized by men
free from the hopes and fears of Boileau and Molière. In the grave, the
most majestic of princes is only five feet eight. In history, the hero
and the politician dwindles into a vain and feeble tyrant,--the slave
of priests and women,--little in war,--little in government,--little in
every thing but the art of simulating greatness.

He left to his infant successor a famished and miserable people, a
beaten and humbled army, provinces turned into deserts by misgovernment
and persecution, factions dividing the court, a schism raging in the
church, an immense debt, an empty treasury, immeasurable palaces, an
innumerable household, inestimable jewels and furniture. All the sap and
nutriment of the state seemed to have been drawn to feed one bloated and
unwholesome excrescence. The nation was withered. The court was morbidly
flourishing. {60}Yet it does not appear that the associations which
attached the people to the monarchy had lost strength during his reign.
He had neglected or sacrificed their dearest interests; but he had
struck their imaginations. The very things which ought to have made him
most unpopular,--the prodigies of luxury and magnificence with which his
person was surrounded, while, beyond the inclosure of his parks, nothing
was to be seen but starvation and despair,--seemed to increase the
respectful attachment which his subjects felt for him. That governments
exist only for the good of the people, appears to be the most obvious
and simple of all truths. Yet history proves that it is one of the most
recondite. We can scarcely wonder that it should be so seldom present
to the minds of rulers, when we see how slowly, and through how much
suffering, nations arrive at the knowledge of it.

There was indeed one Frenchman who had discovered those principles which
it now seems impossible to miss,--that the many are not made for the use
of one,--that the truly good government is not that which concentrates
magnificence in a court, but that which diffuses happiness among a
people,--that a king who gains victory after victory, and adds province
to province, may deserve, not the admiration, but the abhorrence and
contempt of mankind. These were the doctrines which Fénelon taught.
Considered as an epic poem, Telemachus can scarcely be placed above
Glover’s Leonidas or Wilkie’s Epigoniad. Considered as a treatise on
politics and morals, it abounds with errors of detail; and the truths
which it inculcates seem trite to a modern reader. But, if we compare
the spirit in which it is written with the spirit which pervades the
rest of the French literature {61}of that age, we shall perceive that,
though in appearance trite, it was in truth one of the most original
works that have ever appeared. The fundamental principles of Fenelon’s
political morality, the tests by which he judged of institutions and of
men, were absolutely new to his countrymen. He had taught them indeed,
with the happiest effect, to his royal pupil. But how incomprehensible
they were to most people, we learn from Saint Simon. That amusing
writer tells us, as a thing almost incredible, that the Duke of Burgundy
declared it to be his opinion that kings existed for the good of
the people, and not the people for the good of kings. Saint Simon is
delighted with the benevolence of this saying; but startled by its
novelty, and terrified by its boldness. Indeed he distinctly says that
it was not safe to repeat the sentiment in the court of Louis. Saint
Simon was, of all the members of that court, the least courtly. He was
as nearly an oppositionist as any man of his time. His disposition was
proud, bitter, and cynical. In religion he was a Jansenist; in politics,
a less hearty royalist than most of his neighbours. His opinions and his
temper had preserved him from the illusions which the demeanour of Louis
produced on others. He neither loved nor respected the king. Yet even
this man,--one of the most liberal men in France,--was struck dumb
with astonishment at hearing the fundamental axiom of all government
propounded,--an axiom which, in our time, nobody in England or France
would dispute,--which the stoutest Tory takes for granted as much as the
fiercest Radical, and concerning which the Carlist would agree with the
most republican deputy of the “extreme left.” No person will do justice
to Fenelon, who does not {62}constantly keep in mind that Telemachus
was written in an age and nation in which bold and independent thinkers
stared to hear that twenty millions of human beings did not exist
for the gratification of one. That work is commonly considered as a
school-book, very fit for children, because its style is easy and its
morality blameless, but unworthy of the attention of statesmen and
philosophers. We can distinguish in it, if we are not greatly mistaken,
the first faint dawn of a long and splendid day of intellectual
light,--the dim promise of a great deliverance,--the undeveloped germ of
the charter and of the code.

What mighty interests were staked on the life of the Duke of Burgundy!
and how different an aspect might the history of France have borne if he
had attained the age of his grandfather or of his son;--if he had been
permitted to show how much could be done for humanity by the highest
virtue in the highest fortune! There is scarcely anything in history
more remarkable than the descriptions which remain to us of that
extraordinary man. The fierce and impetuous temper which he showed in
early youth,--the complete change which a judicious education produced
in his character,--his fervid piety,--his large benevolence,--the
strictness with which he judged himself,--the liberality with which he
judged others,--the fortitude with which alone, in the whole court, he
stood up against the commands of Louis, when a religious scruple
was concerned,--the charity with which alone, in the whole court,
he defended the profligate Orleans against calumniators,--his great
projects for the good of the people,--his activity in business,--his
taste for letters,--his strong domestic attachments,--even the
ungraceful person and the shy and awkward manner which concealed
{63}from the eyes of the sneering courtiers of his grandfather so many
rare endowments,--make his character the most interesting that is to
be found in the annals of his house. He had resolved, if he came to the
throne, to disperse that ostentatious court, which was supported at
an expense ruinous to the nation,--to preserve peace,--to correct the
abuses which were found in every part of the system of revenue,--to
abolish or modify oppressive privileges,--to reform the administration
of justice,--to revive the institution of the States General. If he had
ruled over France during forty or fifty years, that great movement
of the human mind, which no government could have arrested, which bad
government only rendered more violent, would, we are inclined to think,
have been conducted, by peaceable means, to a happy termination.

Disease and sorrow removed from the world that wisdom and virtue of
which it was not worthy. During two generations France was ruled by men
who, with all the vices of Louis the Fourteenth, had none of the art
by which that magnificent prince passed off his vices for virtues. The
people had now to see tyranny naked. That foul Duessa was stripped
of her gorgeous ornaments. She had always been hideous; but a strange
enchantment had made her seem fair and glorious in the eyes of her
willing slaves. The spell was now broken; the deformity was made
manifest; and the lovers, lately so happy and so proud, turned away
loathing and horror-struck.

First came the Regency. The strictness, with which Louis had, towards
the close of his life, exacted from those around him an outward
attention to religious duties, produced an effect similar to that which
the rigour of the Puritans had produced in England. It {64}was the boast
of Madame de Maintenon, in the time of her greatness, that devotion had
become the fashion. A fashion indeed it was; and, like a fashion, it
passed away. The austerity of the tyrant’s old age had injured the
morality of the higher orders more than even the licentiousness of his
youth. Not only had he not reformed their vices, but, by forcing them to
be hypocrites, he had shaken their belief in virtue. They had found it
so easy to perform the grimace of piety, that it was natural for them
to consider all piety as grimace. The times were changed. Pensions,
regiments, and abbeys, were no longer to be obtained by regular
confession and severe penance; and the obsequious courtiers, who had
kept Lent like monks of La Trappe, and who had turned up the whites of
their eyes at the edifying parts of sermons preached before the king,
aspired to the title of _roué_ as ardently as they had aspired to that
of _dévot_; and went, during Passion Week, to the revels of the Palais
Royal as readily as they had formerly repaired to the sermons of

The Regent was in many respects the fac-simile of our Charles the
Second. Like Charles, he was a good-natured man, utterly destitute
of sensibility. Like Charles, he had good natural talents, which a
deplorable indolence rendered useless to the state. Like Charles, he
thought all men corrupt and interested, and yet did not dislike them
for being so. His opinion of human nature was Gulliver’s; but he did not
regard human nature with Gulliver’s horror. He thought that he and his
fellow-creatures were Yahoos; and he thought a Yahoo a very agreeable
kind of animal. No princes were ever more social than Charles and Philip
of Orleans; yet no princes ever had less capacity for {65}friendship.
The tempers of these clever cynics were so easy, and their minds so
languid, that habit supplied in them the place of affection, and made
them the tools of people for whom they cared not one straw. In love,
both were mere sensualists without delicacy or tenderness. In politics,
both were utterly careless of faith and of national honour. Charles shut
up the Exchequer. Philip patronised the System. The councils of Charles
were swayed by the gold of Barillon; the councils of Philip by the gold
of Walpole. Charles for private objects made war on Holland, the natural
ally of England. Philip for private objects made war on the Spanish
branch of the house of Bourbon, the natural ally, indeed the creature,
of France. Even in trifling circumstances the parallel might be carried
on. Both these princes were fond of experimental philosophy, and passed
in the laboratory much time which would have been more advantageously
passed at the council-table. Both were more strongly attached to their
female relatives than to any other human being; and in both cases it was
suspected that this attachment was not perfectly innocent. In personal
courage, and in all the virtues which are connected with personal
courage, the Regent was indisputably superior to Charles. Indeed Charles
but narrowly escaped the stain of cowardice. Philip was eminently brave,
and, like most brave men, was generally open and sincere. Charles added
dissimulation to his other vices.

The administration of the Regent was scarcely less pernicious, and
infinitely more scandalous, than that of the deceased monarch. It was
by magnificent public works, and by wars conducted on a gigantic scale,
that Louis had brought distress on his people. The Regent aggravated
that distress by frauds of which a lame {66}duck on the stock-exchange
would have been ashamed. France, even while suffering under the most
severe calamities, had reverenced the conqueror. She despised the

When Orleans and the wretched Dubois had disappeared, the power passed
to the Duke of Bourbon; a prince degraded in the public eye by the
infamously lucrative part which he had taken in the juggles of the
System, and by the humility with which he bore the caprices of a loose
and imperious woman. It seemed to be decreed that every branch of the
royal family should successively incur the abhorrence and contempt of
the nation.

Between the fall of the Duke of Bourbon and the death of Fleury, a few
years of frugal and moderate government intervened. Then recommenced the
downward progress of the monarchy. Profligacy in the court, extravagance
in the finances, schism in the church, faction in the Parliaments,
unjust war terminated by ignominious peace,--all that indicates and all
that produces the ruin of great empires, make up the history of that
miserable period. Abroad, the French were beaten and humbled every
where, by land and by sea, on the Elbe and on the Rhine, in Asia and in
America. At home, they were turned over from vizier to vizier, and from
sultana to sultana, till they had reached that point beneath which there
was no lower abyss of infamy,--till the yoke of Maupeou had made them
pine for Choiseul,--till Madame du Barri had taught them to regret
Madame de Pompadour.

But, unpopular as the monarchy had become, the aristocracy was more
unpopular still;--and not without reason. The tyranny of an individual
is far more {67}supportable than the tyranny of a caste. The old
privileges were galling and hateful to the new wealth and the
new knowledge. Every thing indicated the approach of no common
revolution,--of a revolution destined to change, not merely the form
of government, but the distribution of property and the whole social
system,--of a revolution the effects of which were to be felt at every
fireside in France,--of a new Jaquerie, in which the victory was to
remain with _Jaques bonhomme_. In the van of the movement were the
moneyed men and the men of letters,--the wounded pride of wealth and
the wounded pride of intellect. An immense multitude, made ignorant and
cruel by oppression, was raging in the rear.

We greatly doubt whether any course which could have been pursued by
Louis the Sixteenth could have averted a great convulsion. But we are
sure that, if there was such a course, it was the course recommended
by M. Turgot. The church and the aristocracy, with that blindness to
danger, that incapacity of believing that anything can be except what
has been, which the long possession of power seldom fails to generate,
mocked at the counsel which might have saved them. They would not have
reform; and they had revolution. They would not pay a small contribution
in place of the odious corvées; and they lived to see their castles
demolished, and their lands sold to strangers. They would not endure
Turgot; and they were forced to endure Robespierre.

Then the rulers of France, as if smitten with judicial blindness,
plunged headlong into the American war. They thus committed at once two
great errors. They encouraged the spirit of revolution. They augmented
{68}at the same time those public burdens, the pressure of which is
generally the immediate cause of revolutions. The event of the war
carried to the height the enthusiasm of speculative democrats. The
financial difficulties produced by the war carried to the height the
discontent of that larger body of people who cared little about theories
and much about taxes.

The meeting of the States-General was the signal for the explosion of
all the hoarded passions of a century. In that assembly, there were
undoubtedly very able men. But they had no practical knowledge of the
art of government. All the great English revolutions have been conducted
by practical statesmen. The French Revolution was conducted by mere
speculators. Our constitution has never been so far behind the age as to
have become an object of aversion to the people. The English revolutions
have therefore been undertaken for the purpose of defending, correcting,
and restoring,--never for the mere purpose of destroying. Our countrymen
have always, even in times of the greatest excitement, spoken reverently
of the form of government under which they lived, and attacked only what
they regarded as its corruptions. In the very act of innovating they
have constantly appealed to ancient prescription; they have seldom
looked abroad for models; they have seldom troubled themselves with
Utopian theories; they have not been anxious to prove that liberty is a
natural right of men; they have been content to regard it as the lawful
birthright of Englishmen. Their social contract is no fiction. It
is still extant on the original parchment, sealed with wax which was
affixed at Runnymede, and attested by the lordly names of the Marischals
and Fitzherberts. No general arguments about the original equality of
men, no fine {69}stories out of Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos, have
ever affected them so much as their own familiar words,--Magna
Charta,--Habeas Corpus,--Trial by Jury,--Bill of Rights. This part of
our national character has undoubtedly its disadvantages. An Englishman
too often reasons on politics in the spirit rather of a lawyer than of
a philosopher. There is too often something narrow, something exclusive,
something Jewish, if we may use the word, in his love of freedom. He
is disposed to consider popular rights as the special heritage of the
chosen race to which he belongs. He is inclined rather to repel than to
encourage the alien proselyte who aspires to a share of his privileges.
Very different was the spirit of the Constituent Assembly. They had
none of our narrowness; but they had none of our practical skill in the
management of affairs. They did not understand how to regulate the order
of their own debates; and they thought themselves able to legislate for
the whole world. All the past was loathsome to them. All their agreeable
associations were connected with the future. Hopes were to them all that
recollections are to us. In the institutions of their country they found
nothing to love or to admire. As far back as they could look, they saw
only the tyranny of one class and the degradation of another,--Frank
and Gaul, knight and villein, gentleman and _roturier_. They hated the
monarchy, the church, the nobility. They cared nothing for the States or
the Parliament. It was long the fashion to ascribe all the follies which
they committed to the writings of the philosophers. We believe that
it was misrule, and nothing but misrule, that put the sting into those
writings. It is not time that the French abandoned experience for
theories. They took up with theories because {70}they had no experience
of good government. It was because they had no charter that they ranted
about the original contract. As soon as tolerable institutions were
given to them, they began to look to those institutions. In 1830 their
rallying cry was _Vive la Charte_. In 1789 they had nothing but theories
round which to rally. They had seen social distinctions only in a
bad form; and it was therefore natural that they should be deluded by
sophisms about the equality of men. They had experienced so much evil
from the sovereignty of kings that they might be excused for lending a
ready ear to those who preached, in an exaggerated form, the doctrine of
the sovereignty of the people.

The English, content with their own national recollections and names,
have never sought for models in the institutions of Greece or Rome. The
French, having nothing in their own history to which they could look
back with pleasure, had recourse to the history of the great ancient
commonwealths: they drew their notions of those commonwealths, not from
contemporary writers, but from romances written by pedantic moralists
long after the extinction of public liberty. They neglected Thucydides
for Plutarch. Blind themselves, they took blind guides. They had no
experience of freedom; and they took their opinions concerning it
from men who had no more experience of it than themselves, and whose
imaginations, inflamed by mystery and privation, exaggerated the unknown
enjoyment;--from men who raved about patriotism without having ever had
a country, and eulogised tyrannicide while crouching before tyrants.
The maxim which the French legislators learned in this school was, that
political liberty is an end, and not a means; that it is not merely
valuable as the great safe-guard of order, of property, {71}and of
morality, but that it is in itself a high and exquisite happiness to
which order, property, and morality ought without one scruple to be
sacrificed. The lessons which may be learned from ancient history are
indeed most useful and important; but they were not likely to be learned
by men who, in all their rhapsodies about the Athenian democracy, seemed
utterly to forget that in that democracy there were ten slaves to one
citizen; and who constantly decorated their invectives against the
aristocrats with panegyrics on Brutus and Cato,--two aristocrats,
fiercer, prouder, and more exclusive, than any that emigrated with the
Count of Artois.

We have never met with so vivid and interesting a picture of the
National Assembly as that which M. Dumont has set before us. His
Mirabeau, in particular, is incomparable. All the former Mirabeaus
were daubs in comparison. Some were merely painted from the
imagination--others were gross caricatures: this is the very individual,
neither god nor demon, but a man--a Frenchman,--a Frenchman of the
eighteenth century, with great talents, with strong passions, depraved
by bad education, surrounded by temptations of every kind,--made
desperate at one time by disgrace, and then again intoxicated by fame.
All his opposite and seemingly inconsistent qualities are in this
representation so blended together as to make up a harmonious and
natural whole. Till now, Mirabeau was to us, and, we believe, to most
readers of history, not a man, but a string of antitheses. Henceforth he
will be a real human being, a remarkable and eccentric being indeed, but
perfectly conceivable.

He was fond, M. Dumont tells us, of giving odd compound nicknames. Thus,
M. de Lafayette was {72}Grandison-Cromwell; the king of Prussia was
Alaric-Cottin; D’Espremenil was Crispin-Catiline. We think that Mirabeau
himself might be described, after his own fashion, as a Wilkes-Chatham.
He had Wilkes’s sensuality, Wilkes’s levity, Wilkes’s insensibility to
shame. Like Wilkes, he had brought on himself the censure even of men
of pleasure by the peculiar grossness of his immorality, and by the
obscenity of his writings. Like Wilkes, he was heedless, not only of
the laws of morality, but of the laws of honour. Yet he affected, like
Wilkes, to unite the character of the demagogue to that of the fine
gentleman. Like Wilkes, he conciliated, by his good humour and his high
spirits, the regard of many who despised his character. Like Wilkes,
he was hideously ugly; like Wilkes, he made a jest of his own ugliness;
and, like Wilkes, he was, in spite of his ugliness, very attentive to
his dress, and very successful in affairs of gallantry.

Resembling Wilkes in the lower and grosser parts of his character, he
had, in his higher qualities, some affinity to Chatham. His eloquence,
as far as we can judge of it, bore no inconsiderable resemblance to that
of the great English minister. He was not eminently successful in long
set speeches. He was not, on the other hand, a close and ready debater.
Sudden bursts, which seemed to be the effect of inspiration--short
sentences which came like lightning, dazzling, burning, striking down
every thing before them--sentences which, spoken at critical moments,
decided the fate of great questions--sentences which at once became
proverbs--sentences which everybody still knows by heart--in these
chiefly lay the oratorical power both of Chatham and of Mirabeau. There
have been far greater speakers, and far greater statesmen, than either
{73}of them; but we doubt whether any men have, in modern times,
exercised such vast personal influence over stormy and divided
assemblies. The power of both was as much moral as intellectual. In true
dignity of character, in private and public virtue, it may seem
absurd to institute any comparison between them; but they had the same
haughtiness and vehemence of temper. In their language and manner there
was a disdainful self-confidence, an imperiousness, a fierceness of
passion, before which all common minds quailed. Even Murray and Charles
Townshend, though intellectually not inferior to Chatham, were always
cowed by him. Barnave, in the same manner, though the best debater in
the National Assembly, flinched before the energy of Mirabeau. Men,
except in bad novels, are not all good or all evil. It can scarcely be
denied that the virtue of Lord Chatham was a little theatrical. On the
other hand there was in Mirabeau, not indeed any thing deserving the
name of virtue, but that imperfect substitute for virtue which is found
in almost all superior minds,--a sensibility to the beautiful and the
good, which sometimes amounted to sincere enthusiasm; and which, mingled
with the desire of admiration, sometimes gave to his character a lustre
resembling the lustre of true goodness,--as the “faded splendour wan”
 which lingered round the fallen archangel resembled the exceeding
brightness of those spirits who had kept their first estate.

There are several other admirable portraits of eminent men in these
Memoirs. That of Sieyes in particular, and that of Talleyrand, are
masterpieces, full of life and expression. But nothing in the book has
interested us more than the view which M. Dumont has presented to
us, unostentatiously, and, we {74}may say, unconsciously, of his own
character. The sturdy rectitude, the large charity, the good-nature, the
modesty, the independent spirit, the ardent philanthropy, the unaffected
indifference to money and to fame, make up a character which, while it
has nothing unnatural, seems to us to approach nearer to perfection than
any of the Grandisons and Allworthys of fiction. The work is not indeed
precisely such a work as we had anticipated--it is more lively, more
picturesque, more amusing than we had promised ourselves; and it is, on
the other hand, less profound and philosophic. But, if it is not, in
all respects, such as might have been expected from the intellect of M.
Dumont, it is assuredly such as might have been expected from his heart.


(_Edinburgh Review_, January, 1833.)

The {75}days when Miscellanies in Prose and Verse by a Person of
Honour, and Romances of M. Scuderi, done into English by a Person of
Quality, were attractive to readers and profitable to booksellers,
have long gone by. The literary privileges once enjoyed by lords are
as obsolete as their right to kill the King’s deer on their way to
Parliament, or as their old remedy of _scandalum magnatum_. Yet we
must acknowledge that, though our political opinions are by no means
aristocratical, we always feel kindly disposed towards noble authors.
Industry and a taste for intellectual pleasures are peculiarly
respectable in those who can afford to be idle and who have every
temptation to be dissipated. It is impossible not to wish success to a
man who, finding himself placed, without any exertion or any merit
on his part, above the mass of society, voluntarily descends from his
eminence in search of distinctions which he may justly call his own.

This is, we think, the second appearance of Lord Mahon in the character
of an author. His first book was creditable to him, but was in every
respect inferior to the work which now lies before us. He has

     (1) _History of the War of the Succession in Spain_. By Lord
     Mahon. 8vo London: 1832.

{76}undoubtedly some of the most valuable qualities of a historian,
great diligence in examining authorities, great judgment in weighing
testimony, and great impartiality in estimating characters. We are not
aware that he has in any instance forgotten the duties belonging to his
literary functions in the feelings of a kinsman. He does no more than
justice to his ancestor Stanhope; he does full justice to Stanhope’s
enemies and rivals. His narrative is very perspicuous, and is also
entitled to the praise, seldom, we grieve to say, deserved by modern
writers, of being very concise. It must be admitted, however, that, with
many of the best qualities of a literary veteran, he has some of the
faults of a literary novice. He has not yet acquired a great command of
words. His style is seldom easy, and is now and then unpleasantly stiff.
He is so bigoted a purist that he transforms the Abbé d’Estrées into
an Abbot. We do not like to see French words introduced into English
composition; but, after all, the first law of writing, that law to which
all other laws are subordinate, is this, that the words employed shall
be such as convey to the reader the meaning of the writer. Now an Abbot
is the head of a religious house; an Abbé is quite a different sort of
person. It is better undoubtedly to use an English word than a French
word: but it is better to use a French word than to misuse an English

Lord Mahon is also a little too fond of uttering moral reflections in a
style too sententious and oracular. We will give one instance: “Strange
as it seems, experience shows that we usually feel far more animosity
against those whom we have injured than against those who injure us: and
this remark holds good with every degree of intellect, with every class
of fortune, {77}with a prince or a peasant, a stripling or an elder, a
hero or a prince.” This remark might have seemed strange at the court
of Nimrod or Chedorlaomer; but it has now been for many generations
considered as a truism rather than a paradox. Every boy has written
on the thesis “_Odisse quem laeseris_.” Scarcely any lines in English
Poetry are better known than that vigorous couplet,

               “Forgiveness to the injured does belong;

               But they ne’er pardon who have done the wrong.”

The historians and philosophers have quite done with this maxim, and
have abandoned it, like other maxims which have lost their gloss, to bad
novelists, by whom it will very soon be worn to rags.

It is no more than justice to say that the faults of Lord Mahon’s book
are precisely the faults which time seldom fails to cure, and that the
book, in spite of those faults, is a valuable addition to our historical

Whoever wishes to be well acquainted with the morbid anatomy of
governments, whoever wishes to know how great states may be made feeble
and wretched, should study the history of Spain. The empire of Philip
the Second was undoubtedly one of the most powerful and splendid that
ever existed in the world. In Europe, he ruled Spain, Portugal, the
Netherlands on both sides of the Rhine, Franche Comte, Roussillon, the
Milanese, and the Two Sicilies. Tuscany, Parma, and the other small
states of Italy, were as completely dependent on him as the Nizam and
the Rajah of Berar now are on the East India Company. In Asia, the King
of Spain was master of the Philippines and of all those rich settlements
which the Portuguese had made on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel,
in the {78}Peninsula of Malacca, and in the spice-islands of the Eastern
Archipelago. In America, his dominions extended on each side of the
equator into the temperate zone. There is reason to believe that his
annual revenue amounted, in the season of his greatest power, to a sum
near ten times as large as that which England yielded to Elizabeth. He
had a standing army of fifty thousand excellent troops, at a time when
England had not a single battalion in constant pay. His ordinary naval
force consisted of a hundred and forty galleys. He held, what no other
prince in modern times has held, the dominion both of the land and of
the sea. During the greater part of his reign, he was supreme on both
elements. His soldiers marched up to the capital of France; his ships
menaced the shores of England.

It is no exaggeration to say that, during several years, his power over
Europe was greater than even that of Napoleon. The influence of the
French conqueror never extended beyond low-water mark. The narrowest
strait was to his power what it was of old believed that a running
stream was to the sorceries of a witch. While his army entered every
metropolis from Moscow to Lisbon, the English fleets blockaded every
port from Dantzic to Trieste. Sicily, Sardinia, Majorca, Guernsey,
enjoyed security through the whole course of a war which endangered
every throne on the Continent. The victorious and imperial nation which
had filled its museums with the spoils of Antwerp, of Florence, and of
Rome, was suffering painfully from the want of luxuries which use had
made necessaries. While pillars and arches were rising to commemorate
the French conquests, the conquerors were trying to manufacture coffee
out of succory and sugar out of beet-root. The influence of Philip
on the Continent {79}was as great as that of Napoleon. The Emperor of
Germany was his kinsman. France, torn by religious dissensions, was
never a formidable opponent, and was sometimes a dependent ally. At the
same time, Spain had what Napoleon desired in vain, ships, colonies, and
commerce. She long monopolised the trade of America and of the Indian
Ocean. All the gold of the West, and all the spices of the East, were
received and distributed by her. During many years of war, her commerce
was interrupted only by the predatory enterprises of a few roving
privateers. Even after the defeat of the Armada, English statesmen
continued to look with great dread on the maritime power of Philip. “The
King of Spain,” said the Lord Keeper to the two Houses in 1593, “since
he hath usurped upon the kingdom of Portugal, hath thereby grown mighty
by chaining the East Indies: so as, how great soever he was before, he
is now thereby manifestly more great:.... He keepeth a navy armed to
impeach all trade of merchandise from England to Gascoigne and Guienne,
which he attempted to do this last vintage; so as he is now become as
a frontier enemy to all the west of England, as well as all the south
parts, as Sussex, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight. Yea, by means of
his interest in St. Maloes, a port full of shipping for the war, he is a
dangerous neighbour to the Queen’s isles of Jersey and Guernsey, ancient
possessions of this crown, and never conquered in the greatest wars with

The ascendency which Spain then had in Europe was, in one sense, well
deserved. It was an ascendency which had been gained by unquestioned
superiority in all the arts of policy and of war. In the sixteenth
century, Italy was not more decidedly the land {80}of the fine arts,
Germany was not more decidedly the land of bold theological speculation,
than Spain was the land of statesmen and of soldiers. The character
which Virgil has ascribed to his countrymen might have been claimed by
the grave and haughty chiefs, who surrounded the throne of Ferdinand the
Catholic, and of his immediate successors. That majestic art, “regere
imperio populos,” was not better understood by the Romans in the
proudest days of their republic, than by Gonsalvo and Ximenes, Cortez
and Alva. The skill of the Spanish diplomatists was renowned throughout
Europe. In England the name of Gondomar is still remembered. The
sovereign nation was unrivalled both in regular and irregular warfare.
The impetuous chivalry of France, the serried phalanx of Switzerland,
were alike found wanting when brought face to face with the Spanish
infantry. In the wars of the New World, where something different from
ordinary strategy was required in the general and something different
from ordinary discipline in the soldier, where it was every day
necessary to meet by some new expedient the varying tactics of a
barbarous enemy, the Spanish adventurers, sprung from the common people,
displayed a fertility of resource, and a talent for negotiation and
command, to which history scarcely affords a parallel.

The Castilian of those times was to the Italian what the Roman, in the
days of the greatness of Rome, was to the Greek. The conqueror had less
ingenuity, less taste, less delicacy of perception than the conquered;
but far more pride, firmness, and courage, a more solemn demeanour, a
stronger sense of honour. The subject had more subtlety in speculation,
the ruler more energy in action. The vices of the former were those of
a {81}coward; the vices of the latter were those of a tyrant. It may be
added, that the Spaniard, like the Roman, did not disdain to study the
arts and the language of those whom he oppressed. A revolution took
place in the literature of Spain, not unlike that revolution which,
as Horace tells us, took place in the poetry of Latium: “Capta ferum
victorem cepit.” The slave took prisoner the enslaver. The old Castilian
ballads gave place to sonnets in the style of Petrarch, and to heroic
poems in the stanza of Ariosto, as the national songs of Rome were
driven out by imitations of Theocritus, and translations from Menander.

In no modern society, not even in England during the reign of Elizabeth,
has there been so great a number of men eminent at once in literature
and in the pursuits of active life, as Spain produced during the
sixteenth century. Almost every distinguished writer was also
distinguished as a soldier and a politician, Boscan bore arms with
high reputation. Garcilaso de Vega, the author of the sweetest and
most graceful pastoral poem of modern times, after a short but splendid
military career, fell sword in hand at the head of a storming party.
Alonzo de Ercilla bore a conspicuous part in that war of Arauco, which
he afterwards celebrated in one of the best heroic poems that Spain has
produced. Hurtado de Mendoza, whose poems have been compared to those
of Horace, and whose charming little novel is evidently the model of Gil
Bias, has been handed down to us by history as one of the sternest of
those iron pro-consuls who were employed by the House of Austria to
crush the lingering public spirit of Italy. Lope sailed in the Armada;
Cervantes was wounded at Lepanto.

It is curious to consider with how much awe our ancestors {82}in those
times regarded a Spaniard. He was, in their apprehension, a kind of
dæmon, horribly malevolent, but withal most sagacious and powerful.
“They be verye wyse and politicke,” says an honest Englishman, in a
memorial addressed to Mary, “and can, thorowe ther wysdome, reform and
brydell theyr owne natures for a tyme, and applye their conditions to
the maners of those men with whom they meddell gladlye by friendshippe;
whose mischievous maners a man shall never knowe untyll he come under
ther subjection: but then shall he parfectlye parceyve and fele them:
which thynge I praye God England never do: for in dissimulations untyll
they have ther purposes, and afterwards in oppression and tyrannye,
when they can obtayne them, they do exceed all other nations upon the
earthe.” This is just such language as Anninius would have used about
the Romans, or as an Indian statesman of our times might use about the
English. It is the language of a man burning with hatred, but cowed by
those whom he hates; and painfully sensible of their superiority, not
only in power, but in intelligence.

But how art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How
art thou cut down to the ground, that didst weaken the nations! If we
overleap a hundred years, and look at Spain towards the close of the
seventeenth centnry, what a change do we find! The contrast is as great
as that which the Rome of Gallienus and Honorius presents to the Rome of
Marins and Caesar. Foreign conquest had begun to eat into every part of
that gigantic monarchy on which the sun never set. Holland was gone, and
Portugal, and Artois, and Roussillon, and Franche Comté. In the
East, the empire founded by the Dutch far surpassed {83}in wealth and
splendour that which their old tyrants still retained. In the West,
England had seized, and still held, settlements in the midst of the
Mexican sea.

The mere loss of territory was, however, of little moment. The reluctant
obedience of distant provinces generally costs more than it is worth.
Empires which branch out widely are often more flourishing for a little
timely pruning. Adrian acted judiciously when he abandoned the conquests
of Trajan; and England was never so rich, so great, so formidable to
foreign princes, so absolutely mistress of the sea, as since the loss
of her American colonies. The Spanish empire was still, in outward
appearance, great and magnificent. The European dominions subject to the
last feeble Prince of the House of Austria were far more extensive
than those of Lewis the Fourteenth. The American dependencies of the
Castilian crown still extended far to the North of Cancer and far to the
South of Capricorn. But within this immense body there was an incurable
decay, an utter want of tone, an utter prostration of strength. An
ingenious and diligent population, eminently skilled in arts and
manufactures, had been driven into exile by stupid and remorseless
bigots. The glory of the Spanish pencil had departed with Velasquez and
Murillo. The splendid age of Spanish literature had closed with Solis
and Calderon. During the seventeenth century many states had formed
great military establishments. But the Spanish army, so formidable under
the command of Alva and Farnese, had dwindled away to a few thousand
men, ill paid and ill disciplined. England, Holland, and France had
great navies. But the Spanish navy was scarcely equal to the tenth part
of that mighty force which, in {84}the time of Philip the Second, had
been the terror of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The arsenals were
deserted. The magazines were unprovided. The frontier fortresses were
ungarrisoned. The police was utterly inefficient for the protection
of the people. Murders were committed in the face of day with perfect
impunity. Bravoes and discarded serving-men, with swords at their sides,
swaggered every day through the most public streets and squares of
the capital, disturbing the public peace, and setting at defiance the
ministers of justice. The finances were in frightful disorder. The
people paid much. The government received little. The American viceroys
and the farmers of the revenue became rich, while the merchants broke,
while the peasantry starved while the body-servants of the sovereign
remained unpaid, while the soldiers of the royal guard repaired daily to
the doors of convents, and battled there with the crowd of beggars for
a porringer of broth and a morsel of bread. Every remedy which was
tried aggravated the disease. The currency was altered; and this frantic
measure produced its never-failing effects. It destroyed all credit,
and increased the misery which it was intended to relieve. The American
gold, to use the words of Ortiz, was to the necessities of the state
but as a drop of water to the lips of a man raging with thirst. Heaps of
unopened despatches accumulated in the offices, while the Ministers were
concerting with bedchamber-women and Jesuits the means of tripping up
each other. Every foreign power could plunder and insult with impunity
the heir of Charles the Fifth. Into such a state had the mighty kingdom
of Spain fallen, while one of its smallest dependencies, a country not
so large as the province of Estremadura or Andalusia, situated under
{85}an inclement sky, and preserved only by artificial means from the
inroads of the ocean, had become a power of the first class, and treated
on terms of equality with the courts of London and Versailles.

The manner in which Lord Mahon explains the financial situation of
Spain by no means satisfies us. “It will be found,” says he, “that those
individuals deriving their chief income from mines, whose yearly produce
is uncertain and varying, and seems rather to spring from fortune than
to follow industry, are usually careless, unthrifty, and irregular in
their expenditure. The example of Spain might tempt us to apply the same
remark to states.” Lord Mahon would find it difficult, we suspect, to
make out his analogy. Nothing could be more uncertain and varying than
the gains and losses of those who were in the habit of putting into the
state lotteries. But no part of the public income was more certain than
that which was derived from the lotteries. We believe that this case is
very similar to that of the American mines. Some veins of ore exceeded
expectation; some fell below it. Some of the private speculators drew
blanks, and others gained prizes. But the revenue of the state depended,
not on any particular vein, but on the whole annual produce of two great
continents. This annual produce seems to have been almost constantly
on the increase during the seventeenth century. The Mexican mines were,
through the reigns of Philip the Fourth and Charles the Second, in a
steady course of improvement; and in South America, though the district
of Potosi was not so productive as formerly, other places more than made
up for the deficiency. We very much doubt whether Lord Mahon can prove
that the income which the Spanish government derived from the mines
{86}of America fluctuated more than the income derived from the internal
taxes of Spain itself.

All the causes of the decay of Spain resolve themselves into one cause,
bad government. The valour, the intelligence, the energy which, at the
close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, had
made the Spaniards the first nation in the world, were the fruits of
the old institutions of Castile and Arragon, institutions eminently
favourable to public liberty. Those institutions the first Princes
of the House of Austria attacked and almost wholly destroyed. Their
successors expiated the crime. The effects of a change from good
government to bad government is not fully felt for some time after
the change has taken place. The talents and the virtues which a good
constitution generates may for a time survive that constitution. Thus
the reigns of princes who have established absolute monarchy on the
ruins of popular forms of government often shine in history with a
peculiar brilliancy. But when a generation or two has passed away,
then comes signally to pass that which was written by Montesquieu, that
despotic governments resemble those savages who cut down the tree in
order to get at the fruit. During the first years of tyranny, is reaped
the harvest sown during the last years of liberty. Thus the Augustan age
was rich in great minds formed in the generation of Cicero and Caesar.
The fruits of the policy of Augustus were reserved for posterity. Philip
the Second was the heir of the Cortez and of the Justiza Mayor; and
they left him a nation which seemed able to conquer all the world. What
Philip left to his successors is well known.

The shock which the great religious schism of the sixteenth century gave
to Europe, was scarcely felt {87}in Spain. In England, Germany, Holland,
France, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, that shock had produced, with some
temporary evil, much durable good. The principles of the Reformation had
triumphed in some of those countries. The Catholic Church had maintained
its ascendency in others. But though the event had not been the same in
all, all had been agitated by the conflict. Even in France, in Southern
Germany, and in the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, the public mind
had been stirred to its inmost depths. The hold of ancient prejudice had
been somewhat loosened. The Church of Rome, warned by the danger which
she had narrowly escaped, had, in those parts of her dominion, assumed a
milder and more liberal character. She sometimes condescended to submit
her high pretensions to the scrutiny of reason, and availed herself more
sparingly than in former times of the aid of the secular arm. Even when
persecution was employed, it was not persecution in the worst and most
frightful shape. The severities of Lewis the Fourteenth, odious as they
were, cannot be compared with those which, at the first dawn of the
Reformation, had been inflicted on the heretics in many parts of Europe.

The only effect which the Reformation had produced in Spain had been to
make the Inquisition more vigilant and the commonalty more bigoted. The
times of refreshing came to all neighboring; countries. One people alone
remained, like the fleece of the Hebrew warrior, dry in the midst of
that benignant and fertilising dew. While other nations were putting
away childish things, the Spaniard still thought as a child and
understood as a child. Among the men of the seventeenth century, he
was the man of the fifteenth {88}century or of a still darker period,
delighted to behold an _Auto da fe_, and ready to volunteer on a

The evils produced by a bad government and a bad religion, seemed
to have attained their greatest height during the last years of the
seventeenth century. While the kingdom was in this deplorable state, the
King, Charles, second of the name, was hastening to an early grave. His
days had been few and evil. He had been unfortunate in all his wars,
in every part of his internal administration, and in all his domestic
relations. His first wife, whom he tenderly loved, died very young. His
second wife exercised great influence over him, but seems to have been
regarded by him rather with fear than with love. He was childless; and
his constitution was so completely shattered that, at little more than
thirty years of age, he had given up all hopes of posterity. His mind
was even more distempered than his body. He was sometimes sunk in
listless melancholy, and sometimes harassed by the wildest and most
extravagant fancies. He was not, however, wholly destitute of the
feelings which became his station. His sufferings were aggravated by the
thought that his own dissolution might not improbably be followed by the
dissolution of his empire.

Several princes laid claim to the succession. The King’s eldest sister
had married Lewis the Fourteenth. The Dauphin would, therefore, in
the common course of inheritance, have succeeded to the crown. But the
Infanta had, at the time of her espousals, solemnly renounced, in her
own name, and in that of her posterity, all claim to the succession.
This renunciation had been confirmed in due form by the Cortes. A
younger sister of the King had been the first wife of {89}Leopold,
Emperor of Germany. She too had at her marriage renounced her claims to
the Spanish crown; but the Cortes had not sanctioned the renunciation,
and it was therefore considered as invalid by the Spanish jurists. The
fruit of this marriage was a daughter, who had espoused the Elector
of Bavaria. The Electoral Prince of Bavaria inherited her claim to the
throne of Spain. The Emperor Leopold was son of a daughter of Philip
the Third, and was therefore first cousin to Charles. No renunciation
whatever had been exacted from his mother at the time of her marriage.

The question was certainly very complicated. That claim which, according
to the ordinary rules of inheritance, was the strongest, had been
barred by a contract executed in the most binding form. The claim of
the Electoral Prince of Bavaria was weaker. But so also was the contract
which bound him not to prosecute his claim. The only party against whom
no instrument of renunciation could be produced was the party who, in
respect of blood, had the weakest claim of all.

As it was clear that great alarm would be excited throughout Europe if
either the Emperor or the Dauphin should become King of Spain, each of
those Princes offered to waive his pretensions in favour of his second
son; the Emperor, in favour of the Archduke Charles, the Dauphin, in
favour of Philip Duke of Anjou.

Soon after the peace of Ryswick, William the Third and Lewis the
Fourteenth determined to settle the question of the succession without
consulting either Charles or the Emperor. France, England, and Holland,
became parties to a treaty by which it was stipulated {90}that the
Electoral Prince of Bavaria should succeed to Spain, the Indies, and
the Netherlands. The Imperial family were to be bought off with the
Milanese; and the Dauphin was to have the Two Sicilies.

The great object of the King of Spain and of all his counsellors was to
avert the dismemberment of the monarchy. In the hope of attaining this
end, Charles determined to name a successor. A will was accordingly
framed by which the crown was bequeathed to the Bavarian Prince.
Unhappily, this will had scarcely been signed when the Prince died. The
question was again unsettled, and presented greater difficulties than

A new Treaty of Partition was concluded between France, England, and
Holland. It was agreed that Spain, the Indies, and the Netherlands,
should descend to the Archduke Charles. In return for this great
concession made by the Bourbons to a rival house, it was agreed that
France should have the Milanese, or an equivalent in a more commodious
situation. The equivalent in view was the province of Lorraine.

Arbuthnot, some years later, ridiculed the Partition Treaty with
exquisite humour and ingenuity. Everybody must remember his description
of the paroxysm of rage into which poor old Lord Strutt fell, on hearing
that his runaway servant Nick Frog, his clothier John Bull, and his old
enemy Lewis Baboon, had come with quadrants, poles, and inkhorns, to
survey his estate, and to draw his will for him. Lord Mahon speaks
of the arrangement with grave severity. He calls it, “an iniquitous
compact, concluded without the slightest reference to the welfare of
the states so readily parcelled and allotted; insulting to the pride of
Spain, {91}and tending to strip that country of its hard-won conquests.”
 The most serious part of this charge would apply to half the treaties
which have been concluded in Europe quite as strongly as to the
Partition Treaty. What regard was shown in the treaty of the Pyrenees
to the welfare of the people of Dunkirk and Roussillon, in the treaty of
Nimeguen to the welfare of the people of Franche Comte, in the treaty of
Utrecht to the welfare of the people of Flanders, in the treaty of 1735
to the welfare of the people of Tuscany? All Europe remembers, and our
latest posterity will, we fear, have reason to remember how coolly, at
the last great pacification of Christendom, the people of Poland, of
Norway, of Belgium, and of Lombardy, were allotted to masters whom they
abhorred. The statesmen who negotiated the Partition Treaty were not
so far beyond their age and ours in wisdom and virtue as to trouble
themselves much about the happiness of the people whom they were
apportioning among foreign rulers. But it will be difficult to prove
that the stipulations which Lord Mahon condemns were in any respect
unfavourable to the happiness of those who were to be transferred to new
sovereigns. The Neapolitans would certainly have lost nothing by being
given to the Dauphin, or to the Great Turk. Addison, who visited Naples
about the time at which the Partition Treaty was signed, has left us a
frightful description of the misgovernment under which that part of
the Spanish Empire groaned. As to the people of Lorraine, an union with
France would have been the happiest event which could have befallen
them. Lewis was already their sovereign for all purposes of cruelty and
exaction. He had kept their country during many years in his own hands.
At the peace of Ryswick, indeed, their {92}Duke had been allowed to
return. But the conditions which had been imposed on him made him a mere
vassal of France.

We cannot admit that the Treaty of Partition was objectionable because
it “tended to strip Spain of hard-won conquests.” The inheritance was so
vast, and the claimants so mighty, that without some dismemberment
it was scarcely possible to make a peaceable arrangement. If any
dismemberment was to take place, the best way of effecting it surely
was to separate from the monarchy those provinces which were at a great
distance from Spain, which were not Spanish in manners, in language, or
in feelings, which were both worse governed and less valuable than
the old kingdoms of Castile and Arragon, and which, having always
been governed by foreigners, would not be likely to feel acutely the
humiliation of being turned over from one master to another.

That England and Holland had a right to interfere is plain. The question
of the Spanish succession was not an internal question, but an European
question. And this Lord Mahon admits. He thinks that when the evil had
been done, and a French Prince was reigning at the Escurial, England and
Holland were justified in attempting, not merely to strip Spain of
its remote dependencies, but to conquer Spain itself; that they were
justified in attempting to put, not merely the passive Flemings and
Italians, but the reluctant Castilians and Asturians, under the dominion
of a stranger. The danger against which the Partition Treaty was
intended to guard was precisely the same danger which afterwards was
made the ground of war. It will be difficult to prove that a danger
which was sufficient to justify the war was insufficient {93}to justify
the provisions of the treaty. If, as Lord Mahon contends, it was better
that Spain should be subjugated by main force than that she should be
governed by a Bourbon, it was surely better that she should be deprived
of Sicily and the Milanese than that she should be governed by a

Whether the treaty was judiciously framed is quite another question. We
disapprove of the stipulations. But we disapprove of them, not because
we think them bad, but because we think that there was no chance of
their being executed. Lewis was the most faithless of politicians.
He hated the Dutch. He hated the Government which the Revolution had
established in England. He had every disposition to quarrel with his new
allies. It was quite certain that he would not observe his engagements,
if it should be for his interest to violate them. Even if it should be
for his interest to observe them, it might well be doubted whether
the strongest and clearest interest would induce a man so haughty and
self-willed to cooperate heartily with two governments which had always
been the objects of his scorn and aversion.

When intelligence of the second Partition Treaty arrived at Madrid, it
roused to momentary energy the languishing ruler of a languishing
state. The Spanish ambassador at the court of London was directed to
remonstrate with the government ef William; and his remonstrances were
so insolent that he was commanded to leave England. Charles retaliated
by dismissing the English and Dutch ambassadors. The French King, though
the chief author of the Partition Treaty, succeeded in turning the
whole wrath of Charles and of the Spanish people from himself, and in
directing it against the two maritime {94}powers. Those powers had now
no agent at Madrid. Their perfidious ally was at liberty to carry on his
intrigues unchecked; and he fully availed himself of this advantage.

A long contest was maintained with varying success by the factions which
surrounded the miserable King. On the side of the Imperial family was
the Queen, herself a Princess of that family. With her were allied the
confessor of the King, and most of the ministers. On the other side
were two of the most dexterous politicians of that age, Cardinal Porto
Carrero, Archbishop of Toledo, and Harcourt the ambassador of Lewis.

Harcourt was a noble specimen of the French aristocracy in the days
of its highest splendour, a finished gentleman, a brave soldier, and a
skilful diplomatist. His courteous and insinuating manners, his Parisian
vivacity tempered with Castilian gravity, made him the favourite of
the whole court. He became intimate with the grandees. He caressed the
clergy. He dazzled the multitude by his magnificent style of living.
The prejudices which the people of Madrid conceived against the French
character, the vindictive feelings generated during centuries of
national rivalry, gradually yielded to his arts; while the Austrian
ambassador, a surly, pompous, niggardly German, made himself and his
country more and more unpopular every day.

Harcourt won over the court and the city: Porto Carrero managed the
King. Never were knave and dupe better suited to each other. Charles
was sick, nervous, and extravagantly superstitious. Porto Carrero
had learned in the exercise of his profession the art of exciting and
soothing such minds; and he {95}employed that art with the calm and
demure cruelty which is the characteristic of wicked and ambitious

He first supplanted the confessor. The state of the poor King, during
the conflict between his two spiritual advisers, was horrible. At one
time he was induced to believe that his malady was the same with that of
the wretches described in the New Testament, who dwelt among the tombs,
whom no chains could bind, and whom no man dared to approach. At
another time a sorceress who lived in the mountains of the Asturias
was consulted about his malady. Several persons were accused of having
bewitched him. Porto Carrero recommended the appalling rite of exorcism,
which was actually performed. The ceremony made the poor King more
nervous and miserable than ever. But it served the turn of the Cardinal
who, after much secret trickery, succeeded in casting out, not the
devil, but the confessor.

The next object was to get rid of the Ministers. Madrid was supplied
with provisions by a monopoly. The government looked after this most
delicate concern as it looked after every thing else. The partisans
of the House of Bourbon took advantage of the negligence of the
administration. On a sudden the supply of food failed. Exorbitant prices
were demanded. The people rose. The royal residence was surrounded by an
immense multitude. The Queen harangued them. The priests exhibited the
host. All was in vain. It was necessary to awaken the King from his
uneasy sleep, and to carry him to the balcony. There a solemn promise
was given that the unpopular advisers of the crown should be forthwith
dismissed. The mob left the palace and proceeded to pull down {96}the
houses of the ministers. The adherents of the Austrian line were thus
driven from power, and the government was intrusted to the creatures of
Porto Carrero. The King left the city in which he had suffered so
cruel an insult for the magnificent retreat of the Escurial. Here his
hypochondriac fancy took a new turn. Like his ancestor Charles the
Fifth, he was haunted by a strange curiosity to pry into the secrets of
that grave to which he was hastening. In the cemetery which Philip the
Second had formed beneath the pavement of the church of St. Lawrence,
reposed three generations of Castilian princes. Into these dark vaults
the unhappy monarch descended by torch-light, and penetrated to that
superb and gloomy chamber where, round the great black crucifix, were
ranged the coffins of the kings and queens of Spain. There he commanded
his attendants to open the massy chests of bronze in which the relics of
his predecessors decayed. He looked on the ghastly spectacle with little
emotion till the coffin of his first wife was unclosed, and she
appeared before him--such was the skill of the embalmer--in all her
well-remembered beauty. He cast one glance on those beloved features,
unseen for eighteen years, those features over which corruption seemed
to have no power, and rushed from the vault, exclaiming, “She is with
God; and I shall soon be with her.” The awful sight completed the
ruin of his body and mind. The Escurial became hateful to him; and
he hastened to Aranjuez. But the shades and waters of that delicious
island-garden, so fondly celebrated in the sparkling verse of Calderon,
brought no solace to their unfortunate master. Having tried medicine,
exercise, and amusement in vain, he returned to Madrid to die. {97}He
was now beset on every side by the bold and skilful agents of the House
of Bourbon. The leading politicians of his court assured him that Lewis,
and Lewis alone, was sufficiently powerful to preserve the Spanish
monarchy undivided, and that Austria would be utterly unable to prevent
the Treaty of Partition from being carried into effect. Some celebrated
lawyers gave it as their opinion that the act of renunciation executed
by the late Queen of France ought to be construed according to the
spirit, and not according to the letter. The letter undoubtedly excluded
the French Princes. The spirit was merely this, that ample security
should be taken against the union of the French and Spanish crowns on
one head.

In all probability, neither political nor legal reasonings would have
sufficed to overcome the partiality which Charles felt for the House of
Austria. There had always been a close connection between the two great
royal lines which sprang from the marriage of Philip and Juana. Both had
always regarded the French as their natural enemies. It was necessary
to have recourse to religious terrors; and Porto Carrero employed those
terrors with true professional skill. The King’s life was drawing to a
close. Would the most Catholic prince commit a great sin on the brink
of the grave? And what could be a greater sin than, from an unreasonable
attachment to a family name, from an unchristian antipathy to a rival
house, to set aside the rightful heir of an immense monarchy? The tender
conscience and the feeble intellect of Charles were strongly
wrought upon by these appeals. At length Porto Carrero ventured on a
master-stroke. He advised Charles to apply for counsel to the Pope. The
King who, in the simplicity of his heart, considered {98}the successor
of St. Peter as an infallible guide in spiritual matters, adopted the
suggestion; and Porto Carrero, who knew that his Holiness was a mere
tool of France, awaited with perfect confidence the result of the
application. In the answer which arrived from Rome, the King was
solemnly reminded of the great account which he was soon to render, and
cautioned against the flagrant injustice which he was tempted to
commit. He was assured that the right was with the House of Bourbon, and
reminded that his own salvation ought to be dearer to him than the House
of Austria. Yet he still continued irresolute. His attachment to his
family, his aversion to France, were not to be overcome even by Papal
authority. At length he thought himself actually dying. Then the
cardinal redoubled his efforts. Divine after divine, well tutored for
the occasion, was brought to the bed of the trembling penitent. He was
dying in the commission of known sin. He was defrauding his relatives.
He was bequeathing civil war to his people. He yielded, and signed
that memorable Testament, the cause of many calamities to Europe. As he
affixed his name to the instrument, he burst into tears. “God,” he said,
“gives kingdoms and takes them away. I am already one of the dead.”

The will was kept secret during the short remainder of his life. On the
third of November 1700 he expired. All Madrid crowded to the palace.
The gates were thronged. The antechamber was filled with ambassadors and
grandees, eager to learn what dispositions the deceased sovereign had
made. At length the folding doors were flung open. The Duke of Abrantes
came forth, and announced that the whole Spanish monarchy was bequeathed
to Philip Duke of Anjou. {99}Charles had directed that, during the
interval which might elapse between his death and the arrival of his
successor, the government should be administered by a council, of which
Porto Carrero was the chief member.

Lewis acted, as the English ministers might have guessed that he would
act. With scarcely the show of hesitation, he broke through all the
obligations of the Partition Treaty, and accepted for his grandson
the splendid legacy of Charles. The new sovereign hastened to take
possession of his dominions. The whole court of France accompanied him
to Sceaux. His brothers escorted him to that frontier which, as they
weakly imagined, was to be a frontier no longer. “The Pyrenees,” said
Lewis, “have ceased to exist.” Those very Pyrenees, a few years later,
were the theatre of a war between the heir of Lewis and the prince whom
France was now sending to govern Spain.

If Charles had ransacked Europe to find a successor whose moral and
intellectual character resembled his own, he could not have chosen
better. Philip was not so sickly as his predecessor, but he was quite
as weak, as indolent, and as superstitious; he very soon became quite
as hypochondriacal and eccentric; and he was even more uxorious. He was
indeed a husband of ten thousand. His first object when he became King
of Spain, was to procure a wife. From the day of his marriage to the day
of her death, his first object was to have her near him, and to do what
she wished. As soon as his wife died his first object was to procure
another. Another was found as unlike the former as possible. But she was
a wife; and Philip was content. Neither by day nor by night, neither
in sickness nor in health, neither in time of business nor in time of
relaxation, did he ever suffer her to be absent from him for {100}half
an hour. His mind was naturally feeble; and he had received an
enfeebling education; he had been brought up amidst the dull
magnificence of Versailles. His grandfather was as imperious and as
ostentatious in his intercourse with the royal family as in public acts.
All those who grew up immediately under the eye of Lewis had the manners
of persons who had never known what it was to be at ease. They were all
taciturn, shy, and awkward. In all of them, except the Duke of Burgundy,
the evil went further than the manners. The Dauphin, the Duke of Berri,
Philip of Anjou, were men of insignificant characters. They had no
energy, no force of will. They had been so little accustomed to judge or
to act for themselves that implicit dependence had become necessary
to their comfort. The new King of Spain, emancipated from control,
resembled that wretched German captive who, when the irons which he
had worn for years were knocked off, fell prostrate on the floor of his
prison. The restraints which had enfeebled the mind of the young Prince
were required to support it. Till he had a wife he could do nothing; and
when he had a wife he did whatever she chose.

While this lounging, moping boy was on his way to Madrid, his
grandfather was all activity. Lewis had no reason to fear a contest
with the Empire singlehanded. He made vigorous preparations to encounter
Leopold. He overawed the States-General by means of a great army. He
attempted to soothe the English government by fair professions. William
was not deceived. He fully returned the hatred of Lewis and, if he
had been free to act according to his own inclinations, he would have
declared war as soon as the contents of the will were known. But he
was bound {101}by constitutional restraints. Both his person and his
measures were unpopular in England. His secluded life and his cold
manners disgusted a people accustomed to the graceful affability of
Charles the Second. His foreign accent and his foreign attachments were
offensive to the national prejudices. His reign had been a season of
distress, following a season of rapidly increasing prosperity. The
burdens of the late war and the expense of restoring the currency had
been severely felt. Nine clergymen out of ten were Jacobites at heart,
and had sworn allegiance to the new dynasty, only in order to save their
benefices. A large proportion of the country gentlemen belonged to the
same party. The whole body of agricultural proprietors was hostile to
that interest which the creation of the national debt had brought into
notice, and which was believed to be peculiarly favoured by the Court,
the monied interest. The middle classes were fully determined to keep
out James and his family. But they regarded William only as the less
of two evils; and as long as there was no imminent danger of a
counter-revolution, were disposed to thwart and mortify the sovereign by
whom they were, nevertheless, ready to stand, in case of necessity,
with their lives and fortunes. They were sullen and dissatisfied.
“There was,” as Somers expressed it in a remarkable letter to William,
“a deadness and want of spirit in the nation universally.” Every thing in
England was going on as Lewis could have wished. The leaders of the Whig
party had retired from power, and were extremely unpopular on account of
the unfortunate issue of the Partition Treaty. The Tories, some of whom
still cast a lingering look towards St. Germain’s, were in office, and
had a decided majority in the House of Commons. William {102}was so much
embarrassed by the state of parties in England that he could not
venture to make war on the House of Bourbon. He was suffering under a
complication of severe and incurable diseases. There was every reason to
believe that a few months would dissolve the fragile tie which bound up
that feeble body with that ardent and unconquerable soul. If Lewis could
succeed in preserving peace for a short time, it was probable that all
his vast designs would be securely accomplished. Just at this crisis,
the most important crisis of his life, his pride and his passions
hurried him into an error, which undid all that forty years of victory
and intrigue had done, which produced the dismemberment of the kingdom
of his grandson, and brought invasion, bankruptcy, and famine on his

James the Second died at St. Germain’s. Lewis paid him a farewell visit,
and was so much moved by the solemn parting, and by the grief of the
exiled queen, that, losing sight of all considerations of policy,
and actuated, as it should seem, merely by compassion and by a not
ungenerous vanity, he acknowledged the Prince of Wales as King of

The indignation which the Castilians had felt when they heard that three
foreign powers had undertaken to regulate the Spanish succession was
nothing to the rage with which the English learned that their good
neighbour had taken the trouble to provide them with a king. Whigs and
Tories joined in condemning the proceedings of the French Court. The cry
for war was raised by the city of London, and echoed and reechoed from
every corner of the realm. William saw that his time was come. Though
his wasted and suffering body could hardly move without support, his
spirit was as energetic and resolute as when, {103}at twenty-three, he
bade defiance to the combined forces of England and France. He left the
Hague, where he had been engaged in negotiating with the States and
the Emperor a defensive treaty against the ambitious designs of the
Bourbons. He flew to London. He remodelled the ministry. He dissolved
the Parliament. The majority of the new House of Commons was with the
King; and the most vigorous preparations were made for war.

Before the commencement of active hostilities William was no more. But
the Grand Alliance of the European Princes against the Bourbons was
already constructed. “The master workman died,” says Mr. Burke; “but
the work was formed on true mechanical principles, and it was as truly
wrought.” On the fifteenth of May, 1702, war was proclaimed by concert
at Vienna, at London, and at the Hague.

Thus commenced that great struggle by which Europe, from the Vistula to
the Atlantic Ocean, was agitated during twelve years. The two hostile
coalitions were, in respect of territory, wealth, and population, not
unequally matched. On the one side were France, Spain, and Bavaria; on
the other England, Holland, the Empire, and a crowd of inferior Powers.

That part of the war which Lord Mahon has undertaken to relate; though
not the least important, is certainly the least attractive. In Italy,
in Germany, and in the Netherlands, great means were at the disposal of
great generals. Mighty battles were fought. Fortress after fortress
was subdued. The iron chain of the Belgian strongholds was broken. By
a regular and connected series of operations extending through several
years, the French were driven back from the Danube and the Po into their
own provinces. The {104}war in Spain, on the contrary, is made up of
events which seem to have no dependence on each other. The turns of
fortune resemble those which take place in a dream. Victory and defeat
are not followed by their usual consequences. Armies spring out of
nothing, and melt into nothing. Yet, to judicious readers of history,
the Spanish conflict is perhaps more interesting than the campaigns
of Marlborough and Eugene. The fate of the Milanese and of the Low
Countries was decided by military skill. The fate of Spain was decided
by the peculiarities of the national character.

When the war commenced, the young King was in a most deplorable
situation. On his arrival at Madrid he found Porto Carrero at the head
of affairs, and he did not think fit to displace the man to whom he
owed his crown. The cardinal was a mere intriguer, and in no sense a
statesman. He had acquired, in the Court and in the Confessional, a rare
degree of skill in all the tricks by which weak minds are managed.
But of the noble science of government, of the sources of national
prosperity, of the causes of national decay, he knew no more than his
master. It is curious to observe the contrast between the dexterity
with which he ruled the conscience of a foolish valetudinarian, and the
imbecility which he showed when placed at the head of an empire. On
what grounds Lord Mahon represents the Cardinal as a man “of splendid
genius,” “of vast abilities,” we are unable to discover. Lewis was of
a very different opinion, and Lewis was very seldom mistaken in his
judgment of character. “Every body,” says he, in a letter to his
ambassador, “knows how incapable the Cardinal is. He is an object of
contempt to his countrymen.”

A few miserable savings were made, which ruined {105}individuals without
producing any perceptible benefit to the state. The police became more
and more inefficient. The disorders of the capital were increased by
the arrival of French adventurers, the refuse of Parisian brothels and
gaming-houses. These wretches considered the Spaniards as a subjugated
race whom the countrymen of the new sovereign might cheat and insult
with impunity. The King sate eating and drinking all night, lay in bed
all day, yawned at the council table, and suffered the most important
papers to lie unopened for weeks. At length he was roused by the only
excitement of which his sluggish nature was susceptible. His grandfather
consented to let him have a wife. The choice was fortunate. Maria
Louisa, Princess of Savoy, a beautiful and graceful girl of thirteen,
already a woman in person and mind, at the age when the females of
colder climates are still children, was the person selected. The King
resolved to give her the meeting in Catalonia. He left his capital, of
which he was already thoroughly tired. At setting out he was mobbed by a
gang of beggars. He, however, made his way through them, and repaired to

Lewis was perfectly aware that the Queen would govern Philip. He,
accordingly, looked about for somebody to govern the Queen. He selected
the Princess Orsini to be first lady of the bedchamber, no insignificant
post in the household of a very young wife, and a very uxorious husband.
The princess was the daughter of a French peer, and the widow of a
Spanish grandee. She was, therefore, admirably fitted by her position to
be the instrument of the Court of Versailles at the Court of Madrid.
The Duke of Orleans called her, in words too coarse for translation,
the Lieutenant of Captain Maintenon; and the appellation {106}was
well deserved. She aspired to play in Spain the part which Madame de
Maintenon had played in France. But, though at least equal to her
model in wit, information, and talents for intrigue, she had not that
self-command, that patience, that imperturbable evenness of temper,
which had raised the widow of a buffoon to be the consort of the
proudest of kings. The Princess was more than fifty years old, but was
still vain of her fine eyes, and her fine shape; she still dressed in
the style of a girl; and she still carried her flirtations so far as to
give occasion for scandal. She was, however, polite, eloquent, and
not deficient in strength of mind. The bitter Saint Simon owns that no
person whom she wished to attach could long resist the graces of her
manners and of her conversation.

We have not time to relate how she obtained, and how she preserved her
empire over the young couple in whose household she was placed, how she
became so powerful, that neither minister of Spain nor ambassador from
France could stand against her, how Lewis himself was compelled to court
her, how she received orders from Versailles to retire, how the Queen
took part with her favourite attendant, how the King took part with the
Queen, and how, after much squabbling, lying, shuffling, bullying, and
coaxing, the dispute was adjusted. We turn to the events of the war.

When hostilities were proclaimed at London, Vienna, and the Hague,
Philip was at Naples. He had been with great difficulty prevailed upon,
by the most urgent representations from Versailles, to separate himself
from his wife, and to repair without her to his Italian dominions, which
were then menaced by the Emperor. The Queen acted as Regent, and, child
as she was, seems to {107}have been quite as competent to govern the
kingdom as her husband or any of his ministers.

In August, 1702, an armament, under the command of the Duke of Ormond,
appeared off Cadiz. The Spanish authorities had no funds and no regular
troops. The national spirit, however, supplied in some degree what
was wanting. The nobles and farmers advanced money. The peasantry were
formed into what the Spanish writers call bands of heroic patriots, and
what General Stanhope calls a “rascally foot militia.” If the invaders
had acted with vigour and judgment, Cadiz would probably have
fallen. But the chiefs of the expedition were divided by national and
professional feelings, Dutch against English, and land against sea.
Sparre, the Dutch general, was sulky and perverse. Bellasys, the English
general, embezzled the stores. Lord Mahon imputes the ill temper of
Sparre to the influence of the republican institutions of Holland. By
parity of reason, we suppose that he would impute the peculations
of Bellasys to the influence of the monarchical and aristocratical
institutions of England. The Duke of Ormond, who had the command of the
whole expedition, proved on this occasion, as on every other, destitute
of the qualities which great emergencies require. No discipline was
kept; the soldiers were suffered to rob and insult those whom it was
most desirable to conciliate. Churches were robbed; images were pulled
down; nuns were violated. The officers shared the spoil instead of
punishing the spoilers; and at last the armament, loaded, to use the
words of Stanhope, “with a great deal of plunder and infamy,” quitted
the scene of Essex’s glory, leaving the only Spaniard of note who had
declared for them to be hanged by his countrymen. {108}The fleet was
off the coast of Portugal on the way back to England, when the Duke of
Ormond received intelligence that the treasure ships from America
had just arrived in Europe, and had, in order to avoid his armament,
repaired to the harbour of Vigo. The cargo consisted, it was said, of
more than three millions sterling tin gold and silver, besides much
valuable merchandise. The prospect of plunder reconciled all disputes.
Dutch and English, admirals and generals, were equally eager for action.
The Spaniards might with the greatest ease have secured the treasure by
simply landing it; but it was a fundamental law of Spanish trade that
the galleons should unload at Cadiz, and at Cadiz only. The Chamber of
Commerce at Cadiz, in the true spirit of monopoly, refused, even at this
conjuncture, to bate one jot of its privilege. The matter was referred
to the Council of the Indies. That body deliberated and hesitated just a
day too long. Some feeble preparations for defence were made. Two
ruined towers at the mouth of the bay of Vigo were garrisoned by a few
ill-armed and untrained rustics; a boom was thrown across the entrance
of the basin; and a few French ships of war, which had convoyed the
galleons from America, were moored within. But all was to no purpose.
The English ships broke the boom; Ormond and his soldiers scaled the
forts; the French burned their ships, and escaped to the shore. The
conquerors shared some millions of dollars; some millions more were
sunk. When all the galleons had been captured or destroyed came an order
in due form allowing them to unload.

When Philip returned to Madrid in the beginning of 1703, he found the
finances more embarrassed, the people more discontented, and the hostile
coalition more {109}formidable than ever. The loss of the galleons had
occasioned a great deficiency in the revenue. The Admiral of Castile,
one of the greatest subjects in Europe, had fled to Lisbon and sworn
allegiance to the Archduke. The King of Portugal soon after acknowledged
Charles as King of Spain, and prepared to support the title of the House
of Austria by arms.

On the other side, Lewis sent to the assistance of his grandson an army
of 12,000 men, commanded by the Duke of Berwick. Berwick was the son
of James the Second and Arabella Churchill. He had been brought up to
expect the highest honours which an English subject could enjoy; but the
whole course of his life was changed by the revolution which overthrew
his infatuated father. Berwick became an exile, a man without a country;
and from that time forward his camp was to him in the place of a
country, and professional honour was his patriotism. He ennobled his
wretched calling. There was a stern, cold, Brutus-like virtue in the
manner in which he discharged the duties of a soldier of fortune. His
military fidelity was tried by the strongest temptations, and was found
invincible. At one time he fought against his uncle: at another time he
fought against the cause of his brother; yet he was never suspected of
treachery, or even of slackness.

Early in 1704, an army composed of English, Dutch, and Portuguese, was
assembled on the western frontier of Spain. The Archduke Charles had
arrived at Lisbon, and appeared in person at the head of his troops. The
military skill of Berwick held the Allies, who were commanded by Lord
Galway, in check through the whole campaign. On the south, however, a
great blow was struck. An English fleet, under Sir George Rooke,
having on board several regiments commanded {110}by the Prince of
Hesse Darmstadt, appeared before the rock of Gibraltar. That celebrated
stronghold, which nature has made all but impregnable, and against which
all the resources of the military art have been employed in vain,
was taken as easily as if it had been an open village in a plain. The
garrison went to say their prayers instead of standing on their guard. A
few English sailors climbed the rock. The Spaniards capitulated; and the
British flag was placed on those ramparts from which the combined armies
and navies of France and Spain have never been able to pull it down.
Rooke proceeded to Malaga, gave battle in the neighbourhood of that port
to a French squadron, and after a doubtful action returned to England.

But greater events were at hand. The English government had determined
to send an expedition to Spain, under the command of Charles Mordaunt
Earl of Peterborough. This man was, if not the greatest, yet assuredly
the most extraordinary character of that age, the King of Sweden himself
not excepted. Indeed, Peterborough maybe described as a polite,
learned and amorous Charles the Twelfth. His courage had all the French
impetuosity, and all the English steadiness. His fertility and activity
of mind were almost beyond belief. They appeared in every thing that
he did, in his campaigns, in his negotiations, in his familiar
correspondence, in his lightest and most unstudied conversation. He was
a kind friend, a generous enemy, and in deportment a thorough gentleman.
But his splendid talents and virtues were rendered almost useless to his
country, by his levity, his restlessness, his irritability, his morbid
craving for novelty and for excitement. His weaknesses had not only
brought him, on more than one occasion, into serious trouble; but had
{111}impelled him to some actions altogether unworthy of his humane and
noble nature. Repose was insupportable to him. He loved to fly round
Europe faster than a travelling courier. He was at the Hague one week,
at Vienna the next. Then he took a fancy to see Madrid; and he had
scarcely reached Madrid, when he ordered horses and set off for
Copenhagen. No attendants could keep up with his speed. No bodily
infirmities could confine him. Old age, disease, imminent death,
produced scarcely any effect on his intrepid spirit. Just before he
underwent the most horrible of surgical operations, his conversation was
as sprightly as that of a young man in the full vigour of health. On
the day after the operation, in spite of the entreaties of his medical
advisers, he would set out on a journey. His figure was that of
a skeleton. But his elastic mind supported him under fatigues and
sufferings which seemed sufficient to bring the most robust man to the
grave. Change of employment was as necessary to him as change of place.
He loved to dictate six or seven letters at once. Those who had to
transact business with him complained that though he talked with great
ability on every subject, he could never be kept to the point. “Lord
Peterborough,” said Pope, “would say very pretty and lively things in
his letters, but they would be rather too gay and wandering; whereas,
were Lord Bolingbroke to write to an emperor, or to a statesman, he
would fix on that point which was the most material, would set it in
the strongest and finest light, and manage it so as to make it the most
serviceable to his purpose.” What Peterborough was to Bolingbroke as a
writer, he was to Marlborough as a general. He was, in truth, the
last of the knights-errant, brave to temerity, liberal to profusion,
courteous {112}in his dealings with enemies, the protector of the
oppressed, the adorer of women. His virtues and vices were those of the
Round Table. Indeed, his character can hardly be better summed up, than
in the lines in which the author of that clever little poem, _Monks and
Giants_, has described Sir Tristram.

                   “His birth, it seems, by Merlin’s calculation,

                   Was under Venus, Mercury, and Mars;

                   His mind with all their attributes was mixed,

                   And, like those planets, wandering and unfixed.

                   “From realm to realm he ran, and never staid:

                   Kingdoms and crowns he won, and gave away:

                   It seemed as if his labours were repaid

                   By the mere noise and movement of the fray:

                   No conquests nor acquirements had he made;

                   His chief delight was, on some festive day

                   To ride triumphant-, prodigal, and proud,

                   And shower his wealth amidst the shouting crowd.

                   “His schemes of war were sudden, unforeseen,

                   Inexplicable, both to friend and foe;

                   It seemed as if some momentary spleen

                   Inspired the project and impelled the blow;

                   And most his fortune and success were seen

                   With means the most inadequate and low;

                   Most master of himself, and least encumbered,

                   When overmatched, entangled and outnumbered.”

In June, 1705, this remarkable man arrived in Lisbon with five thousand
Dutch and English soldiers. There the Archduke embarked with a large
train of attendants, whom Peterborough entertained munificently during
the voyage at his own expense. From Lisbon the armament proceeded to
Gibraltar, and, having taken the Prince of Hesse Darmstadt on board,
steered towards the north-east alone the coast of Spain.

The first place at which the expedition touched, {113}after leaving
Gibraltar, was Alter, in Valencia. The wretched misgovernment of Philip
had excited great discontent throughout this province. The invaders
were eagerly welcomed. The peasantry flocked to the shore, bearing
provisions, and shouting, “Long live Charles the Third.” The
neighbouring fortress of Dénia surrendered without a blow.

The imagination of Peterborough took fire. He conceived the hope of
finishing the war at one blow. Madrid was but a hundred and fifty miles
distant. There was scarcely one fortified place on the road. The troops
of Philip were either on the frontiers of Portugal or on the coast of
Catalonia. At the capital there was no military force, except a few
horse who formed a guard of honour round the person of Philip. But the
scheme of pushing into the heart of a great kingdom with an army of only
seven thousand men, was too daring to please the Archduke. The Prince of
Hesse Darmstadt, who, in the reign of the late Kino-of Spain, had been
Governor of Catalonia, and who overrated his own influence in that
province, was of opinion that they ought instantly to proceed thither,
and to attack Barcelona. Peterborough was hampered by his instructions,
and found it necessary to submit.

On the sixteenth of August the fleet arrived before Barcelona; and
Peterborough found that the task assigned to him by the Archduke and the
Prince was one of almost insuperable difficulty. One side of the city
was protected by the sea; the other by the strong fortifications of
Monjuich. The walls were so extensive that thirty thousand men would
scarcely have been sufficient to invest them. The garrison was as
numerous as the besieging army. The best officers in the Spanish service
were in the town. The hopes {114}which the Prince of Darmstadt had
formed of a gen-end rising in Catalonia, were grievously disappointed.
The invaders were joined only by about fifteen hundred armed peasants,
whose services cost more than they were worth.

No general was ever in a more deplorable situation than that in which
Peterborough was now placed, he had always objected to the scheme
of besieging Barcelona. His objections had been overruled. He had to
execute a project which he had constantly represented as impracticable.
His camp was divided into hostile factions, and he was censured by all.
The Archduke and the Prince blamed him for not proceeding instantly to
take the town; but suggested no plan by which seven thousand men could
be enabled to do the work of thirty thousand. Others blamed their
general for giving up his own opinion to the childish whims of
Charles, and for sacrificing his men in an attempt to perform what was
impossible. The Dutch commander positively declared that his soldiers
should not stir: Lord Peterborough might give what orders he chose; but
to engage in such a siege was madness; and the men should not be sent to
certain death where there was no chance of obtaining any advantage.

At length, after three weeks of inaction, Peterborough announced his
fixed determination to raise the siege. The heavy cannon were sent on
board. Preparations were made for reembarking the troops. Charles and
the Prince of Hesse were furious; but most of the officers blamed their
general for having delayed so long the measure which he had at last
found it necessary to take. On the 12th of September there were
rejoicings and public entertainments in Barcelona for this great
deliverance. On the following morning {115}the English flag was flying
on the ramparts of Monjuich.

The genius and energy of one man had supplied the place of forty

At midnight Peterborough had called on the Prince of Hesse, with whom
he had not for some time been on speaking terms. “I have resolved, sir,”
 said the Earl, “to attempt an assault; you may accompany us if you think
fit, and see whether I and my men deserve what you have been pleased to
say of us.” The Prince was startled. The attempt, he said, was hopeless,
but he was ready to take his share; and, without further discussion, he
called for his horse.

Fifteen hundred English soldiers were assembled under the Earl. A
thousand more had been posted as a body of reserve at a neighbouring
convent, under the command of Stanhope. After a winding march along the
foot of the hills, Peterborough and his little army reached the walls
of Monjuich. There they halted till daybreak. As soon as they were
descried, the enemy advanced into the outer ditch to meet them. This was
the event on which Peterborough had reckoned, and for which his men were
prepared. The English received the fire, rushed forward, leaped into the
ditch, put the Spaniards to flight, and entered the works together
with the fugitives. Before the garrison had recovered from their first
surprise, the Earl was master of the outworks, had taken several pieces
of cannon, and had thrown up a breastwork to defend his men. He
then sent off for Stanhope’s reserve. While he was waiting for this
reinforcement, news arrived that three thousand men were marching from
Barcelona towards Monjuich. He instantly rode out to take a view of
them; but no sooner had he left his troops than they were seized with
a panic. Their situation {116}was indeed full of danger; they had been
brought into Monjuich they scarcely knew how; their numbers were
small: their general was gone: their hearts failed them, and they were
proceeding to evacuate the fort. Peterborough received information of
these, occurrences in time to stop the retreat. He galloped up to the
fugitives, addressed a few words to them, and put himself at their head.
The sound of his voice and the sight of his face restored all their
courage, and they marched back to their former position.

The Prince of Hesse had fallen in the confusion of the assault; but
every thing else went well. Stanhope arrived; the detachment which had
inarched out of Barcelona retreated; the heavy cannon were disembarked,
and brought to bear on the inner fortifications of Monjuich, which
speedily fell. Peterborough, with his usual generosity, rescued the
Spanish soldiers from the ferocity of his victorious army, and paid the
last honours with great pomp to his rival the Prince of Hesse.

The reduction of Monjuich was the first of a series of brilliant
exploits. Barcelona fell; and Peterborough had the glory of taking, with
a handful of men, one of the largest and strongest towns of Europe. He
had also the glory, not less dear to his chivalrous temper, of saving
the life and honour of the beautiful Duchess of Popoli, whom he met
flying with dishevelled hair from the fury of the soldiers. He availed
himself dexterously of the jealousy with which the Catalonians regarded
the inhabitants of Castile. He guaranteed to the province in the capital
of which he was now quartered all its ancient rights and liberties,
and thus succeeded in attaching the population to the Austrian cause.
{117}The open country now declared in favour of Charles. Tarragona,
Tortosa, Gerona, Lerida, San Mateo, threw open their gates. The Spanish
government sent the Count of Las Torres with seven thousand men to
reduce San Mateo. The Earl of Peterborough, with only twelve hundred
men, raised the siege. His officers advised him to be content with this
extraordinary success. Charles urged him to return to Barcelona; but no
remonstrances could stop such a spirit in the midst of such a career.
It was the depth of winter. The country was mountainous. The roads were
almost impassable. The men were ill-clothed. The horses were knocked up.
The retreating army was far more numerous than the pursuing army. But
difficulties and dangers vanished before the energy of Peterborough. He
pushed on, driving Las Torres before him. Nules surrendered to the mere
terror of his name; and, on the fourth of February, 1706, he arrived in
triumph at Valencia. There he learned that a body of four thousand men
was on the march to join Las Torres. He set out at dead of night from
Valencia, passed the Xucar, came unexpectedly on the encampment of the
enemy, and slaughtered, dispersed, or took the whole reinforcement. The
Valencians could scarcely believe their eyes when they saw the prisoners
brought in.

In the mean time the Courts of Madrid and Versailles, exasperated and
alarmed by the fall of Barcelona and by the revolt of the surrounding
country, determined to make a great effort. A large army, nominally
commanded by Philip, but really under the orders of Marshal Tessé,
entered Catalonia. A fleet under the Count of Toulouse, one of the
natural children of Lewis the Fourteenth, appeared before the port
of Barcelona. {118}The city was attacked at once by sea and land. The
person of the Archduke was in considerable danger. Peterborough, at
the head of about three thousand men, inarched with great rapidity from
Valencia. To give battle, with so small a force, to a great regular army
under the conduct of a Marshal of France, would have been madness. The
Earl therefore made war after the fashion of the Minas and Empecinados
of our own time. He took his post on the neighbouring mountains,
harassed the enemy with incessant alarms, cut off their stragglers,
intercepted their communications with the interior, and introduced
supplies, both of men and provisions into the town. He saw, however,
that the only hope of the besieged was on the side of the sea. His
commission from the British government gave him supreme power, not only
over the army, but, whenever he should be actually on board, over
the navy also. He put out to sea at night in an open boat, without
communicating his design to any person. He was picked up, several
leagues from the shore, by one of the ships of the English squadron. As
soon as he was on board, he announced himself as first in command, and
sent a pinnace with his orders to the Admiral. Had these orders been
given a few hours earlier, it is probable that the whole French fleet
would have been taken. As it was, the Count of Toulouse put out to sea.
The port was open. The town was relieved. On the following night
the enemy raised the siege and retreated to Roussillon. Peterborough
returned to Valencia, a place which he preferred to every other in
Spain; and Philip, who had been some weeks absent from his wife, could
endure the misery of separation no longer, and flew to rejoin her at

At Madrid, however, it was impossible for him or for {119}her to remain.
The splendid success which Peterborough had obtained on the eastern
coast of the Peninsula had inspired the sluggish Galway with emulation.
He advanced into the heart of Spain. Berwick retreated. Alcantara,
Ciudad Rodrigo, and Salamanca fell, and the conquerors marched towards
the capital.

Philip was earnestly pressed by his advisers to remove the seat of
government to Burgos. The advanced guard of the allied army was already
seen on the heights above Madrid. It was known that the main body was at
hand. The unfortunate Prince fled with his Queen and his household.
The royal wanderers, after travelling eight days on bad roads, under a
burning sun, and sleeping eight nights in miserable hovels, one of which
fell down and nearly crushed them both to death, reached the Metropolis
of Old Castile. In the mean time the invaders had entered Madrid in
triumph, and had proclaimed the Archduke in the streets of the imperial
city. Arragon, ever jealous of the Castilian ascendency, followed the
example of Catalonia. Saraoossa revolted without seeing an enemy. The
governor whom Philip had set over Carthagena betrayed his trust, and
surrendered to the Allies the best arsenal and the last ships which
Spain possessed.

Toledo had been for some time the retreat of two ambitious, turbulent,
and vindictive intriguers, the Queen Dowager and Cardinal Porto Carrero.
They had long been deadly enemies. They had led the adverse factions
of Austria and France. Each had in turn domineered over the weak and
disordered mind of the late King. At length the impostures of the priest
had triumphed over the blandishments of the woman; Porto Carrero had
remained victorious; and the Queen had fled in shame and mortification,
from the court where {120}she had once been supreme. In her retirement
she was soon joined by him whose arts had destroyed her influence. The
cardinal, having held power just long enough to convince all parties of
his incompetency, had been dismissed to his See, cursing his own folly
and the ingratitude of the House which he had served too well.

Common interests and common enmities reconciled the fallen rivals. The
Austrian troops were admitted into Toledo without opposition. The Queen
Dowager flung off that mournful garb which the widow of a King of Spain
wears through her whole life, and blazed forth in jewels. The Cardinal
blessed the standards of the invaders in his magnificent cathedral, and
lighted up his palace in honour of the great deliverance. It seemed that
the struggle had terminated in favour of the Archduke, and that nothing
remained for Philip but a prompt flight into the dominions of his

So judged those who were ignorant of the character and habits of the
Spanish people. There is no country in Europe which it is so easy
to overrun as Spain: there is no country in Europe which it is more
difficult to conquer. Nothing can be more contemptible than the regular
military resistance which Spain offers to an invader; nothing more
formidable than the energy which she puts forth when her regular
military resistance has been beaten down. Her armies have long borne too
much resemblance to mobs; but her mobs have had, in an unusual degree,
the spirit of armies. The soldier, as compared with other soldiers, is
deficient in military qualities; but the peasant has as much of those
qualities as the soldier. In no country have such strong fortresses been
taken by surprise: in no country have unfortified towns made so furious
and {121}obstinate a resistance to great armies. War in Spain has, from
the days of the Romans, had a character of its own it is a fire which
cannot he raked out; it burns fiercely under the embers; and long after
it has, to all seeming, been extinguished, bursts forth more violently
than ever. This was seen in the last war. Spain had no army which could
have looked in the face an equal number of French or Prussian soldiers;
but one day laid the Prussian monarchy in the dust; one day put the
crown of France at the disposal of invaders. No Jena, no Waterloo, would
have enabled Joseph to reign in quiet at Madrid.

The conduct of the Castilians throughout the War of the Succession was
most characteristic. With all the odds of number and situation on their
side, they had been ignominiously beaten. All the European dependencies
of the Spanish crown were lost. Catalonia, Arragon, and Valencia had
acknowledged the Austrian Prince. Gibraltar had been taken by a few
sailors; Barcelona stormed by a few dismounted dragoons. The invaders
had penetrated into the centre of the Peninsula, and were quartered at
Madrid and Toledo. While these events had been in progress, the nation
had scarcely given a sign of life. The rich could hardly be prevailed on
to give or to lend for the support of war; the troops had shown neither
discipline nor courage; and now at last, when it seemed that all was
lost, when it seemed that the most sanguine must relinquish all hope,
the national spirit awoke, fierce, proud, and unconquerable. The people
had been sluggish when the circumstances might well have inspired hope;
they reserved all their energy for what appeared to be a season of
despair. Castile, Leon, Andalusia, Estremadura, rose at once; every
peasant {122}procured a firelock or a pike; the Allies were masters
only of the ground on which they trod. No soldier could wander a hundred
yards from the main body of the invading army without imminent risk of
being poniarded. The country through which the conquerors had passed to
Madrid, and which, as they thought, they had subdued, was all in arms
behind them. Their communications with Portugal were cut off. In the
mean time, money began, for the first time, to flow rapidly into the
treasury of the fugitive king. “The day before yesterday,” says the
Princess Orsini, in a letter written at this time, “the priest of
a village which contains only a hundred and twenty houses brought a
hundred and twenty pistoles to the Queen. ‘My flock,’ said he, ‘are
ashamed to send you so little; but they beg you to believe that in this
purse there are a hundred and twenty hearts faithful even to the death.’
The good man wept as he spoke; and indeed we wept too. Yesterday another
small village, in which there are only twenty houses, sent us fifty

While the Castilians were everywhere arming in the cause of Philip, the
Allies ware serving that cause as effectually by their mismanagement.
Galway staid at Madrid, where his soldiers indulged in such boundless
licentiousness that one half of them were in the hospitals. Charles
remained dawdling in Catalonia. Peterborough had taken Requena, and
wished to march from Valencia towards Madrid, and to effect a junction
with Galway; but the Archduke refused his consent to the plan. The
indignant general remained accordingly in his favourite city, on the
beautiful shores of the Mediterranean, reading Don Quixote, giving
balls and suppers, trying in vain to get some good {123}sport out of the
Valencia bulls, and making love, not in vain, to the Valencian women.

At length the Archduke advanced into Castile, and ordered Peterborough
to join him. But it was too late. Berwick had already compelled
Galway to evacuate Madrid; and, when the whole force of the Allies
was collected at Guadalaxara, it was found to be decidedly inferior in
numbers to that of the enemy.

Peterborough formed a plan for regaining possession of the capital.
His plan was rejected by Charles. The patience of the sensitive and
vainglorious hero was worn out. He had none of that serenity of temper
which enabled Marlborough to act in perfect harmony with Eugene, and
to endure the vexatious interference of the Dutch deputies. He demanded
permission to leave the army. Permission was readily granted; and he set
out for Italy. That there might be some pretext for his departure, he
was commissioned by the Archduke to raise a loan in Genoa on the credit
of the revenues of Spain.

From that moment to the end of the campaign the tide of fortune ran
strong against the Austrian cause. Berwick had placed his army between
the Allies and the frontiers of Portugal. They retreated on Valencia,
and arrived in that province, leaving about ten thousand prisoners in
the hands of the enemy.

In January, 1707, Peterborough arrived at Valencia from Italy, no longer
bearing a public character, but merely as a volunteer. His advice was
asked, and it seems to have been most judicious. He gave it as his
decided opinion that no offensive operations against Castile ought to be
undertaken. It would be easy, he said, to defend Arragon, Catalonia, and
Valencia, against Philip. The inhabitants of those parts of {124}Spain
were attached to the cause of the Archduke; and the armies of the House
of Bourbon would be resisted by the whole population. In a short time
the enthusiasm of the Castilians might abate. The government of Philip
might commit unpopular acts. Defeats in the Netherlands might compel
Lewis to withdraw the succours which he had furnished to his grandson.
Then would be the time to strike a decisive blow. This excellent advice
was rejected. Peterborough, who had now received formal letters of
recall from England, departed before the opening of the campaign; and
with him departed the good fortune of the Allies. Scarcely any general
had ever done so much with means so small. Scarcely any general had ever
displayed equal originality and boldness. He possessed, in the highest
degree, the art of conciliating those whom he had subdued. But he was
not equally successful in winning the attachment of those with whom he
acted. He was adored by the Catalonians and Valencians; but he was hated
by the prince whom he had all but made a great king, and by the generals
whose fortune and reputation were staked on the same venture with
his own. The English government could not understand him. He was so
eccentric that they gave him no credit for the judgment which he really
possessed. One day he took towns with horse-soldiers; then again he
turned some hundreds of infantry into cavalry at a minute’s notice. He
obtained his political intelligence chiefly by means of love affairs,
and filled his despatches with epigrams. The ministers thought that it
would be highly impolitic to intrust the conduct of the Spanish war to
so volatile and romantic a person. They therefore gave the command to
Lord Galway, an experienced veteran, a man who was in war {125}what
Moliere’s doctors were in medicine, who thought it much more honourable
to fail according to rule, than to succeed by innovation, and who would
have been very much ashamed of himself if he had taken Monjuich by means
so strange as those which Peterborough employed. This great commander
conducted the campaign of 1707 in the most scientific manner. On the
plain of Almanza he encountered the army of the Bourbons. He drew up his
troops according to the methods prescribed by the best writers, and in
a few hours lost eighteen thousand men, a hundred and twenty standards,
all his baggage and all his artillery. Valencia and Arragon were
instantly conquered by the French, and, at the close of the year, the
mountainous province of Catalonia was the only part of Spain which still
adhered to Charles.

“Do you remember, child,” says the foolish woman in the Spectator to
her husband, “that the pigeon-house fell the very afternoon that our
careless wench spilt the salt upon the table?”

“Yes, my dear,” replies the gentleman, “and the next post brought us an
account of the battle of Almanza.” The approach of disaster in Spain had
been for some time indicated by omens much clearer than the mishap of
the saltcellar; an ungrateful prince, an undisciplined army, a divided
council, envy triumphant over merit, a man of genius recalled, a pedant
and a sluggard intrusted with supreme command. The battle of Almanza
decided the fate of Spain. The loss was such as Marlborough or Eugene
could scarcely have retrieved, and was certainly not to be retrieved by
Stanhope and Staremberg.

Stanhope, who took the command of the English army in Catalonia, was a
man of respectable abilities, {126}both in military and civil affairs,
but fitter, we conceive, for a second than for a first place. Lord
Mahon, with his usual candour, tells us, what we believe was not known
before, that his ancestor’s most distinguished exploit, the conquest
of Minorea, was suggested by Marlborough. Staremberg, a methodical
tactician of the German school, was sent by the emperor to command
in Spain. Two languid campaigns followed, during which neither of the
hostile armies did any thing memorable, but during which both were
nearly starved.

At length, in 1710, the chiefs of the Allied forces resolved to venture
on bolder measures. They began the campaign with a daring move, pushed
into Arragon, defeated the troops of Philip at Almenara, defeated
them again at Saragossa, and advanced to Madrid. The King was again a
fugitive. The Castilians sprang to arms with the same enthusiasm which
they had displayed in 1700. The conquerors found the capital a desert.
The people shut themselves up in their houses, and refused to pay any
mark of respect to the Austrian prince. It was necessary to hire a few
children to shout before him in the streets. Meanwhile, the court
of Philip at Valladolid was thronged by nobles and prelates. Thirty
thousand people followed their King from Madrid to his new residence.
Women of rank, rather than remain behind, performed the journey on foot.
The peasants enlisted by thousands. Money, arms, and provisions, were
supplied in abundance by the zeal of the people. The country round
Madrid was infested by small parties of irregular horse. The Allies
could not send off a despatch to Arragon, or introduce a supply of
provisions into the capital. It was unsafe for the Archduke to hunt
{127}in the immediate vicinity of the palace which he occupied.

The wish of Stanhope was to winter in Castile. But he stood alone in the
council of war; and, indeed, it is not easy to understand how the Allies
could have maintained themselves, through so unpropitious a season, in
the midst of so hostile a population. Charles, whose personal safety was
the first object of the generals, was sent with an escort of cavalry to
Catalonia in November; and in December the army commenced its retreat
towards Arragon.

But the Allies had to do with a master-spirit. The King of France
had lately sent the Duke of Vendome to command in Spain. This man was
distinguished by the filthiness of his person, by the brutality of
his demeanour, by the gross buffonery of his conversation, and by the
impudence with which he abandoned himself to the most nauseous of all
vices. His sluggishness was almost incredible. Even when engaged in a
campaign, he often passed whole days in his bed. His strange torpidity
had been the cause of some of the most serious disasters which the
armies of the House of Bourbon had sustained. But when he was roused
by any great emergency, his resources, his energy, and his presence of
mind, were such as had been found in no French general since the death
of Luxembourg.

At this crisis, Vendome was all himself. He set out from Talavera with
his troops, and pursued the retreating army of the Allies with a speed
perhaps never equalled, in such a season, and in such a country. He
marched night and day. He swam, at the head of his cavalry, the flooded
stream of Henares, and, in a few days, overtook Stanhope, who was at
Brihuega {128}with the left wing of the Allied army. “Nobody with me,”
 says the English general, “imagined that they had any foot within
some days’ march of us; and our misfortune is owing to the incredible
diligence which their army made.” Stanhope had but just time to send
off a messenger to the centre of the army, which was some leagues from
Brihuega, before Vendome was upon him. The town was invested on every
side. The walls were battered with cannon. A mine was sprung under one
of the gates. The English kept up a terrible fire till their powder
was spent. They then fought desperately with the bayonet against
overwhelming odds. They burned the houses which the assailants
had taken. But all was to no purpose. The British general saw that
resistance could produce only a useless carnage. He concluded a
capitulation; and his gallant little army became prisoners of war on
honourable terms.

Scarcely had Vendôme signed the capitulation, when he learned that
Staremberg was marching to the relief of Stanhope. Preparations were
instantly made for a general action. On the day following that on which
the English had delivered up their arms, was fought the obstinate and
bloody fight of Villa-Viciosa. Staremberg remained master of the field.
Vendome reaped all the fruits of the battle. The Allies spiked their
cannon, and retired towards Arragon. But even in Arragon they found
no place of rest. Vendome was behind them. The guerrilla parties were
around them. They fled to Catalonia; but Catalonia was invaded by a
French army from Roussillon. At length the Austrian general, with
six thousand harassed and dispirited men, the remains of a great and
victorious army, took refuge in Barcelona, {129}almost the only place in
Spain which still recognised the authority of Charles.

Philip was now much safer at Madrid than his grandfather at Paris. All
hope of conquering Spain in Spain was at an end. But in other quarters
the House of Bourbon was reduced to the last extremity. The French
armies had undergone a series of defeats in Germany, in Italy, and in
the Netherlands. An immense force, flushed with victory, and commanded
by the greatest generals of the age, was on the borders of France. Lewis
had been forced to humble himself before the conquerors. He had even
offered to abandon the cause of his grandson; and his offer had been
rejected. But a great turn in affairs was approaching.

The English administration which had commenced the war against the House
of Bourbon was an administration composed of Tories. But the war was a
Whig war. It was the favourite scheme of William, the Whig King. Lewis
had provoked it by recognising, as sovereign of England, a prince
peculiarly hateful to the Whigs. It had placed England in a position
of marked hostility to that power from which alone the Pretender could
expect efficient succour. It had joined England in the closest union
to a Protestant and republican state, to a state which had assisted in
bringing about the Revolution, and which was willing; to guarantee the
execution of the Act of Settlement. Marlborough and Godolphin found that
they were more zealously supported by their old opponents than by
their old associates. Those ministers who were zealous for the war
were gradually converted to Whiggism. The rest dropped off, and were
succeeded by Whigs. Cowper became Chancellor. Sunderland, in spite of
the very just antipathy of Anne, was made Secretary {130}of State. On
the death of the Prince of Denmark a more extensive change took place.
Wharton became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Somers President of the
Council. At length the administration was wholly in the hands of the Low
Church party.

In the year 1710 a violent change took place. The Queen had always been
a Tory at heart. Her religious feelings were all on the side of the
Established Church. Her family feelings pleaded in favour of her exiled
brother. Her selfish feelings disposed her to favour the zealots of
prerogative. The affection which she felt for the Duchess of Marlborough
was the great security of the Whigs. That affection had at length turned
to deadly aversion. While the great party which had long swayed the
destinies of Europe was undermined by bedchamber women at St. James’s,
a violent storm gathered in the country. A foolish parson had preached
a foolish sermon against the principles of the Revolution. The wisest
member of the government were for letting the man alone. But Godolphin,
inflamed with all the zeal of a new-made Whig, and exasperated by
a nickname which was applied to him in this unfortunate discourse,
insisted that the preacher should be impeached. The exhortations of the
mild and sagacious Somers were disregarded. The impeachment was brought;
the doctor was convicted; and the accusers were ruined. The clergy came
to the rescue of the persecuted clergyman. The country gentlemen came
to the rescue of the clergy. A display of Tory feelings, such as England
had not witnessed since the closing years of Charles the Second’s reign,
appalled the Ministers and gave boldness to the Queen. She turned
out the Whigs, called Harley and St. John to power, and dissolved
the Parliament. The {131}elections went strongly against the late
government. Stanhope, who had in his absence been put in nomination
for Westminster, was defeated by a Tory candidate. The new Ministers,
finding themselves masters of the new Parliament, were induced by the
strongest motives to conclude a peace with France. The whole system of
alliance in which the country was engaged was a Whig system. The general
by whom the English armies had constantly been led to victory, and for
whom it was impossible to find a substitute, was now, whatever he might
formerly have been, a Whig general. If Marlborough were discarded it
was probable that some great disaster would follow. Yet, if he were
to retain his command, every great action which he might perform would
raise the credit of the party in opposition.

A peace was therefore concluded between England and the Princes of
the House of Bourbon. Of that peace Lord Mahon speaks in terms of the
severest reprehension. He is, indeed, an excellent Whig of the time of
the first Lord Stanhope. “I cannot but pause for a moment,” says he, “to
observe how much the course of a century has inverted the meaning of our
party nicknames, how much a modern Tory resembles a Whig of Queen Anne’s
reign, and a Tory of Queen Anne’s reign a modern Whig.”

We grant one half of Lord Mahon’s proposition: from the other half
we altogether dissent. We allow that a modern Tory resembles, in many
things, a Whig of Queen Anne’s reign. It is natural that such should be
the case. The worst things of one age often resemble the best things of
another. A modern shopkeeper’s house is as well furnished as the house
of a considerable merchant in Anne’s reign. Very plain people now
{132}wear finer cloth than Beau Fielding or Beau Edgeworth could have
procured in Queen Anne’s reign. We would rather trust to the apothecary
of a modern village than to the physician of a large town in Anne’s
reign. A modern boarding-school miss could tell the most learned
professor of Anne’s reign some things in geography, astronomy, and
chemistry, which would surprise him.

The science of government is an experimental science; and therefore it
is, like all other experimental sciences, a progressive science. Lord
Mahon would have been a very good Whig in the days of Harley. But
Harley, whom Lord Mahon censures so severely, was very Whiggish when
compared even with Clarendon; and Clarendon was quite a democrat when
compared with Lord Burleigh. If Lord Mahon lives, as we hope he will,
fifty years longer, we have no doubt that, as he now boasts of the
resemblance which the Tories of our time bear to the Whigs of the
Revolution, he will then boast of the resemblance borne by the Tories of
1882 to those immortal patriots, the Whigs of the Reform Bill.

Society, we believe, is constantly advancing in knowledge. The tail is
now where the head was some generations ago. But the head and the tail
still keep their distance. A nurse of this century is as wise as a
justice of the quorum and custalorum in Shallow’s time. The wooden
spoon of this year would puzzle a senior wrangler of the reign of George
the Second. A boy from the National School reads and spells better than
half the knights of the shire in the October Club. But there is still as
wide a difference as ever between justices and nurses, senior wranglers
and wooden spoons, members of Parliament and children at charity
{133}schools. In the same way, though a Tory may now be very like what a
Whig was a hundred and twenty years ago, the Whig is as much in advance
of the Tory as ever. The stag, in the Treatise on the Bathos, who
“feared his hind feet would o’ertake the fore,” was not more mistaken
than Lord Mahon, if he thinks that he has really come up with the Whigs.
The absolute position of the parties has been altered; the relative
position remains unchanged. Through the whole of that great movement,
which began before these party-names existed, and which will continue
after they have become obsolete, through the whole of that great
movement of which the Charter of John, the institution of the House of
Commons, the extinction of Villanage, the separation from the see of
Rome, the expulsion of the Stuarts, the reform of the Representative
System, are successive stages, there have been, under some name or
other, two sets of men, those who were before their age, and those who
were behind it, those who were the wisest among their contemporaries,
and those who* gloried in being no wiser than their great grandfathers.
It is delightful to think, that, in due time, the last of those who
straggle in the rear of the great march will occupy the place now
occupied by the advanced guard. The Tory Parliament of 1710 would have
passed for a most liberal Parliament in the days of Elizabeth; and there
are at present few members of the Conservative Club who would not have
been fully qualified to sit with Halifax and Somers at the Kit-cat.

Though, therefore, we admit that a modern Tory bears some resemblance
to a Whig of Queen Anne’s reign, we can by no means admit that a Tory of
Anne’s reign resembled a modern Whig. Have the modern Whigs passed laws
for the purpose of closing the {134}entrance of the House of Commons
against the new interests created by trade? Do the modern Whigs bold the
doctrine of divine right? Have the modern Whigs laboured to exclude all
Dissenters from office and Power? The modern Whigs are, indeed, at the
present moment, like the Tories of 1712, desirous of peace, and of close
union with France. But is there no difference between the France of
1712 and the France of 1832? Is France now the stronghold of the “Popish
tyranny” and the “arbitrary power” against which our ancestors fought
and prayed? Lord Mahon will find, we think, that his parallel is, in
all essential circumstances, as incorrect as that which Finellen drew
between Macedon and Monmouth, or as that which an ingenious Tory lately
discovered between Archbishop Williams and Archbishop Vernon.

We agree with Lord Mahon in thinking highly of the Whigs of Queen Anne’s
reign. But that part of their conduct which he selects for especial
praise is precisely the part which we think most objectionable. We
revere them as the great champions of political and of intellectual
liberty. It is true that, when raised to power, they were not exempt
from the faults which power naturally engenders. It is true that they
were men born in the seventeenth century, and that they were therefore
ignorant of many truths which are familiar to the men of the nineteenth
century. But they were, what the reformers of the Church were before
them, and what the reformers of the House of Commons have been since,
the leaders of their species in a right direction. It is true that they
did not allow to political discussion that latitude which to us appears
reasonable and safe; but to them we owe the removal of the Censorship.
It is true that they did not carry {135}the principle of religious
liberty to its full extent; but to them we owe the Toleration Act.

Though, however, we think that the Whigs of Anne’s reign, were, as a
body, far superior in wisdom and public virtue to their contemporaries
the Tories, we by no means hold ourselves bound to defend all the
measures of our favourite party. A life of action, if it is to be
useful, must be a life of compromise. But speculation admits of no
compromise. A public man is often under the necessity of consenting
to measures which he dislikes, lest he should endanger the success of
measures which he thinks of vital importance. But the historian lies
under no such necessity. On the contrary, it is one of his most sacred
duties to point out clearly the errors of those whose general conduct he

It seems to us, then, that, on the great question which divided England
during the last four years of Anne’s reign, the Tories were in the
right, and the Whigs in the wrong. That question was, whether England
ought to conclude peace without exacting from Philip a resignation of
the Spanish crown?

No Parliamentary struggle, from the time of the Exclusion Bill to the
time of the Reform Bill, has been so violent as that which took place
between the authors of the Treaty of Utrecht and the War Party. The
Commons were for peace; the Lords were for vigorous hostilities. The
queen was compelled to choose which of her two highest prerogatives
she would exercise, whether she would create Peers or dissolve the
Parliament. The ties of party superseded the ties of neighbourhood and
of blood. The members of the hostile factions would scarcely speak to
each other, or bow to each other. The women appeared at the theatres
{136}bearing the badges of their political sect. The schism extended to
the most remote counties of England. Talents, such as had seldom before
been displayed in political controversy, were enlisted in the service
of the hostile parties. On one side was Steele, gay, lively, drunk
with animal spirits and with factions animosity, and Addison, with his
polished satire, his inexhaustible fertility of fancy, and his graceful
simplicity of style. In the front of the opposite ranks appeared a
darker and fiercer spirit, the apostate politician, the ribald priest,
the perjured lover, a heart burning with hatred against the whole
human race, a mind richly stored with images from the dunghill and the
lazar-house. The ministers triumphed, and the peace was concluded.
Then came the reaction. A new sovereign ascended the throne. The Whigs
enjoyed the confidence of the King and of the Parliament. The unjust
severity with which the Tories had treated ‘Marlborough and Walpole
was more than retaliated. Harley and Prior were thrown into prison;
Boling-broke and Ormond were compelled to take refuge in a foreign land.
The wounds inflicted in this desperate conflict continued to rankle for
many years. It was long before the members of either party could discuss
the question of the peace of Utrecht with calmness and impartiality.
That the Whig Ministers had sold us to the Dutch; that the Tory
Ministers had sold us to the French; that the war had been earned
on only to fill the pockets of Marlborough; that the peace had been
concluded only to facilitate the return of the Pretender: these
imputations and many others, utterly unfounded, or grossly exaggerated,
were hurled backward and forward by the political disputants of the
last century. In our time the question may be discussed without
{137}irritation. We will state, as concisely as possible, the reasons
which have led us to the conclusion at which we have arrived.

The dangers which were to be apprehended from the peace were two;
first, the danger that Philip might be induced, by feelings of private
affection, to act in strict concert with the elder branch of his house,
to favour the French trade at the expense of England, and to side with
the French government in future wars; secondly, the danger that the
posterity of the Duke of Burgundy might become extinct, that Philip
might become heir by blood to the French crown, and that thus two great
monarchies might be united under one sovereign.

The first danger appears to us altogether chimerical. Family affection
has seldom produced much effect on the policy of princes. The state of
Europe at the time of the peace of Utrecht proved that in politics
the ties of interest are much stronger than those of consanguinity or
affinity. The Elector of Bavaria had been driven from his dominions by
his father-in-law; Victor Amadeus was in arms against his sons-in-law;
Anne was seated on a throne from which she had assisted to push a
most indulgent father. It is true that Philip had been accustomed from
childhood to regard his grandfather with profound veneration. It was
probable, therefore, that the influence of Lewis at Madrid would be
very great. But Lewis was more than seventy years old; he could not live
long; his heir was an infant in the cradle. There was surely no reason
to think that the policy of the King of Spain would be swayed by his
regard for a nephew whom he had never seen.

In fact, soon after the peace, the two branches of the {138}House of
Bourbon began to quarrel. A close alliance was formed between Philip and
Charles, lately competitors for the Castilian crown. A Spanish princess,
betrothed to the King of France, was sent back in the most insulting
manner to her native country; and a decree was put forth by the Court of
Madrid commanding every Frenchman to leave Spain. It is true that, fifty
years after the peace of Utrecht, an alliance of peculiar strictness was
formed between the French and Spanish governments. But both governments
were actuated on that occasion, not by domestic affection, but by common
interests, and common enmities. Their compact, though called the Family
Compact, was as purely a political compact as the league of Cambrai or
the league of Pilnitz.

The second danger was that Philip might have succeeded to the crown of
his native country. This did not happen: but it might have happened; and
at one time it seemed very likely to happen. A sickly child alone stood
between the King of Spain and the heritage of Lewis the Fourteenth.
Philip, it is true, solemnly renounced his claim to the French crown.
But the manner in which he had obtained possession of the Spanish crown
had proved the inefficacy of such renunciations. The French lawyers
declared Philip’s renunciation null, as being inconsistent with the
fundamental law of the realm. The French people would probably have
sided with him whom they would have considered as the rightful heir.
Saint Simon, though much less zealous for hereditary monarchy than most
of his countrymen, and though strongly attached to the Regent, declared,
in the presence of that prince, that, he never would support the
claims of the House of Orleans against those of the King of Spain.
“If {139}such,” he said, “be my feelings, what must be the feelings
of others?” Bolingbroke, it is certain, was fully convinced that the
renunciation was worth no more than the paper on which it was written,
and demanded it only for the purpose of blinding the English Parliament
and people.

Yet, though it was at one time probable that the posterity of the Duke
of Burgundy would become ex tinct, and though it is almost certain that,
if the posterity of the Duke of Burgundy had become extinct, Philip
would have successfully preferred his claim to the crown of France, we
still defend the principle of the Treaty of Utrecht. In the first place,
Charles had, soon after the battle of Villa-Viciosa, inherited, by the
death of his elder brother, all the dominions of the House of Austria.
Surely, if to these dominions he had added the whole monarchy of Spain,
the balance of power would have been seriously endangered. The union
of the Austrian dominions and Spain would not, it is true, have been
so alarming an event as the union of France and Spain. But Charles was
actually Emperor. Philip was not, and never might be, King of France.
The certainty of the less evil might well be set against the chance of
the greater evil.

But, in fact, we do not believe that Spain would long have remained
under the government either of an Emperor or of a King of France. The
character of the Spanish people was a better security to the nations of
Europe than any will, any instrument of renunciation, or any treaty. The
same energy which the people of Castile had put forth when Madrid was
occupied by the Allied armies, they would have again put forth as soon
as it appeared that their country was {140}about to become a French
province. Though they were no longer masters abroad, they were by no
means disposed to see foreigners set over them at home. If Philip had
attempted to govern Spain by mandates from Versailles, a second Grand
Alliance would easily have effected what the first had failed to
accomplish. The Spanish nation would have rallied against him as
zealously as it had before rallied round him. And of this he seems to
have been fully aware. For many years the favourite hope of his heart
was that he might ascend the throne of his grandfather; but he seems
never to have thought it possible that he could reign at once in the
country of his adoption and in the country of his birth.

These were the dangers of the peace; and they seem to us to be of no
very formidable kind. Against these dangers are to be set off’ the evils
of war and the risk of failure. The evils of the war, the waste of life,
the suspension of trade, the expenditure of wealth, the accumulation of
debt, require no illustration. The chances of failure it is difficult at
this distance of time to calculate with accuracy. But we think that an
estimate approximating to the truth may, without much difficulty, be
formed. The Allies had been victorious in Germany, Italy, and Flanders.
It was by no means improbable that they might fight their way into the
very heart of France. But at no time since the commencement of the war
had their prospects been so dark in that country which was the very
object of the struggle. In Spain they held only a few square leagues.
The temper of the great majority of the nation was decidedly hostile to
them. If they had persisted, if they had obtained success equal to their
highest expectations, if they had gained a series of victories as splendid
{141}as those of Blenheim and Ramilies, if Paris had fallen, if
Lewis had been a prisoner, we still doubt whether they would have
accomplished their object. They would still have had to carry on
interminable hostilities against the whole population of a country which
affords peculiar facilities to irregular warfare, and in which invading
armies suffer more from famine than from the sword.

We are, therefore, for the peace of Utrecht. We are indeed no admirers
of the statesmen who concluded that peace. Harley, we believe, was a
solemn trifler, St. John a brilliant knave. The great body of their
followers consisted of the country clergy and the country gentry;
two classes of men who were then inferior in intelligence to decent
shopkeepers or farmers of our time. Parson Barnabas, Parson Trulliber,
Sir Wilful Witwould, Sir Francis Wronghead, Squire Western, Squire
Sullen, such were the people who composed the main strength of the Tory
party during the sixty years which followed the Revolution. It is true
that the means by which the Tories came into power in 1710 were most
disreputable. It is true that the manner in which they used their power
was often unjust and cruel. It is true that, in order to bring
about their favourite project of peace, they resorted to slander and
deception, without the slightest scruple. It is true that they passed
off on the British nation a renunciation which they knew to be invalid.
It is true that they gave up the Catalans to the vengeance of Philip,
in a manner inconsistent with humanity and national honour. But on the
great question of Peace or War, we cannot but think that, though
their motives may have been selfish and malevolent, their decision was
beneficial to the state. {142}But we have already exceeded our limits.
It remains only for us to bid Lord Mahon heartily farewell, and
to assure him that, whatever dislike we may feel for his political
opinions, we shall always meet him with pleasure on the neutral ground
of literature.


(_Edinburgh Review_, October, 1833.)

We {143}cannot transcribe this titlepage without strong feelings of
regret. The editing of these volumes was the last of the useful and
modest services rendered to literature by a nobleman of amiable manners,
of untarnished public and private character, and of cultivated mind. On
this, as on other occasions, Lord Dover performed his part diligently,
judiciously, and without the slightest ostentation. He had two merits
which are rarely found together in a commentator. He was content to
be merely a commentator, to keep in the background, and to leave the
foreground to the author whom he had undertaken to illustrate. Yet,
though willing to be an attendant, he was by no means a slave; nor did
he consider it as part of his duty to see no faults in the writer
to whom he faithfully and assiduously rendered the humblest literary

The faults of Horace Walpole’s head and heart are indeed sufficiently
glaring. His writings, it is true, rank as high among the delicacies of
intellectual epicures as the Strasburg pies among the dishes

     (1) _Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir
     Horace Mann, British Envoy at the Court of Tuscany_. Now
     first published from the Originals in the Possession of the
     Earl of Waldgeark. Edited by Lord Dover. 2 vols. 8vo.
     London: 1838.

{144}described in the _Almanach des Grourmands_. But as the
_pâté-de-foie-gras_ owes its excellence to the diseases of the wretched
animal which furnishes it, and would be good for nothing if it were not
made of livers preternaturally swollen, so none but an unhealthy and
disorganised mind could have produced such literary luxuries as the
works of Walpole.

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

The conformation of his mind was such that whatever was little seemed to
him great, and whatever was great seemed to him little. Serious business
was a trifle to him, and trifles were his serious business. To chat with
blue stockings, to write little copies of complimentary verses on little
occasions, to superintend a private press, to preserve from natural
decay {145}the perishable topics of Ranelagli and White’s, to record
divorces and bets, Miss Chudleigh’s absurdities and George Selwyn’s good
sayings, to decorate a grotesque house with pie-crust battlements,
to procure rare engravings and antique chimney-boards, to match odd
gauntlets, to lay out a maze of walks within five acres of ground, these
were the grave employments of his long life. From these he turned to
politics as to an amusement. After the labours of the print-shop and
the auction-room he unbent his mind in the House of Commons. And,
having indulged in the recreation of making laws and voting millions,
he returned to more important pursuits, to researches after Queen Mary’s
comb, Wolsey’s red hat, the pipe which Van Tromp smoked during his last
sea-fight, and the spur which King William struck into the flank of

In every thing in which Walpole busied himself, in the fine arts, in
literature, in public affairs, he was drawn by some strange attraction
from the great to the little, and from the useful to the odd. The
politics in which he took the keenest interest, were politics scarcely
deserving of the name. The growlings of George the Second, the
flirtations of Princess Emily with the Duke of Grafton, the amours of
Prince Frederic and Lady Middlesex, the squabbles between Gold Stick in
waiting and the Master of the Buck-hounds, the disagreements between the
tutors of Prince George, these matters engaged almost all the attention
which Walpole could spare from matters more important still, from
bidding for Zinckes and Petitots, from cheapening fragments of tapestry
and handles of old lances, from joining bits of painted glass, and from
setting up memorials of departed cats and dogs. While he was fetching
and carrying the gossip of Kensington {146}Palace and Carlton House,
he fancied that he was engaged in politics, and when he recorded that
gossip, he fancied that he was writing history.

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

About politics, in the high sense of the word, he knew nothing, and
cared nothing. He called himself a Whig. His father’s son could scarcely
assume any other name. It pleased him also to affect a foolish dislike
of kings as kings, and a foolish love and admiration of rebels as
rebels: and perhaps, while kings were not in danger, and while rebels
were not in being, he really believed that he held the doctrines which
he professed. To go no further than the letters now before us, he is
perpetually boasting to his friend Mann of his aversion to royalty
and to royal persons. He calls the crime of Damien “that least bad of
murders, the murder of a king.” He hung up in his villa an engraving of
the death-warrant of Charles, with the inscription “_Major Charta_.” Yet
the most superficial knowledge of history might have taught him that the
Restoration, and the crimes and follies of the twenty-{147}eight
years which followed the Restoration, were the effects of this Greater
Charter. Nor was there much in the means by which that instrument was
obtained that could gratify a judicious lover of liberty. A man must
hate kings very bitterly, before he can think it desirable that the
representatives of the people should be turned out of doors by dragoons,
in order to get at a king’s head. Walpole’s Whiggism, however, was of a
very harmless kind. He kept it, as he kept the old spears and helmets at
Strawberry Hill, merely for show. He would just as soon have thought of
taking down the arms of the ancient Templars and Hospitallers from the
walls of his hall, and setting off on a crusade to the Holy Land, as of
acting in the spirit of those daring warriors and statesmen, great even
in their errors, whose names and seals were affixed to the warrant which
he prized so highly. He liked revolution and regicide only when they
were a hundred years old. His republicanism, like the courage of a
bully, or the love of a fribble, was strong and ardent when there was no
occasion for it, and subsided when he had an opportunity of bringing it
to the proof. As soon as the revolutionary spirit really began to stir
in Europe, as soon as the hatred of kings became something more than a
sonorous phrase, he was frightened into a fanatical royalist, and became
one of the most extravagant alarmists of those wretched times. In
truth, his talk about liberty, whether he knew it or not, was from the
beginning a mere cant, the remains of a phraseology which had meant
something in the mouths of those from whom he had learned it, but which,
in his mouth, meant about as much as the oath by which the Knights of
some modern orders bind themselves to redress the wrongs of all injured
ladies. {148}He had been fed in his boyhood with Whig speculations on
government. He must often have seen, at Houghton or in Downing Street,
men who had been Whigs when it was as dangerous to be a Whig as to be
a highwayman, men who had voted for the Exclusion Bill, who had been
concealed in garrets and cellars after the battle of Sedgemoor, and who
had set their names to the declaration that they would live and die with
the Prince of Orange. He had acquired the language of these men, and he
repeated it by rote, though it was at variance with all his tastes and
feelings; just as some old Jacobite families persisted in praying for
the Pretender, and in passing their glasses over the water decanter,
when they drank the King’s health, long after they had become loyal
supporters of the government of George the Third. He was a Whig by the
accident of hereditary connection; but he was essentially a courtier;
and not the less a courtier because he pretended to sneer at the objects
which excited his admiration and envy. His real tastes perpetually show
themselves through the thin disguise. While professing all the contempt
of Bradshaw or Ludlow for crowned heads, he took the trouble to write
a book concerning Royal Authors. He pryed with the utmost anxiety into
the most minute particulars relating to the Royal family. When he was
a child, he was haunted with a longing to see George the First, and
gave his mother no peace till she had found a way of gratifying his
curiosity. The same feeling, covered with a thousand disguises, attended
him to the grave. No observation that dropped from the lips of Majesty
seemed to him too trifling to be recorded. The French songs of Prince
Frederic, compositions certainly not deserving of preservation on
account of {149}their intrinsic merit, have been carefully preserved for
us by this contemner of royalty. In truth, every page of Walpole’s works
bewrays him. This Diogenes, who would be thought to prefer his tub to
a palace, and who has nothing to ask of the masters of Windsor
and Versailles but that they will stand out of his light, is a
gentleman-usher at heart.

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

One of his innumerable whims was an extreme unwillingness to be
considered a man of letters. Not that he was indifferent to literary
fame. Far from it. {150}Scarcely any writer lias ever troubled himself
so much about the appearance which his works were to make before
posterity. But he had set his heart on incompatible objects. He wished
to be a celebrated author, and yet to be a mere idle gentleman, one of
those Epicurean gods of the earth who do nothing at all, and who pass
their existence in the contemplation of their own perfections. He did
not like to have any thing in common with the wretches who lodged in the
little courts behind St. Martin’s Church, and stole out on Sundays to
dine with their bookseller. He avoided the society of authors. He spoke
with lordly contempt of the most distinguished among them. He tried to
find out some way of writing books, as M. Jourdain’s father sold cloth,
without derogating from his character of _Gentilhomme_. “Lui, marchand?
C’est pure médisance: il ne la jamais été. Tout ce qu’il faisait, c’est
qu’il était fort obligeant, fort officieux; et comme il se connaissait
fort bien en étoffes, il en allait choisir de tous les côtés, les
faisait apporter chez lui, et en donnait à ses amis pour de l’argent.”
 There are several amusing instances of Walpole’s feeling on this subject
in the letters now before us. Mann had complimented him on the learning
which appeared in the “Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors;” and it
is curious to see how impatiently Walpole bore the imputation of having
attended to any thing so unfashionable as the improvement of his mind.
“I know nothing. How should I? I who have always lived in the big busy
world; who lie a-bed all the morning, calling it morning as long as you
please; who sup in company; who have played at faro half my life, and
now at loo till two and three in the morning; who have always loved
pleasure {151}haunted auctions.... How I have laughed when some of the
Magazines have called me the learned gentleman. Pray don’t be like the
Magazines.” This folly might be pardoned in a boy. But a man between
forty and fifty years old, as Walpole then was, ought to be quite as
much ashamed of playing at loo till three every morning as of being that
vulgar thing, a learned gentleman.

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

His judgment of literature, of contemporary literature especially, wars
altogether perverted by his aristocratical feelings.

No writer surely was ever guilty of so much false and absurd criticism.
He almost invariably speaks with contempt of those books which are now
universally allowed to be the best that appeared in his time; and, on
the other hand, he speaks of writers of rank and fashion as if they
were entitled to the same precedence in literature which would have been
allowed to them in a drawing-room. In these letters, for example, he
says that he would rather have written the most absurd lines in Lee than
{152}Thomson’s Seasons. The periodical paper called “The World,” on
the other hand, was by “our first writers.” Who, then, were the first
writers of England in the year 1758? Walpole has told us in a note. Our
readers will probably guess that Hume, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson,
Johnson, Warburton, Collins, Akenside, Gray, Dyer, Young, Warton, Mason,
or some of those distinguished men, were in the list. Not one of them.
Our first writers, it seems, were Lord Chesterfield, Lord Bath, Mr.
W. Whithed, Sir Charles Williams, Mr. Soame Jenyns, Mr. Cambridge, Mr.
Coventry. Of these seven personages, Whithed was the lowest in station,
but was the most accomplished tuft-hunter of his time. Coventry was of
a noble family. The other five had among them two seats in the House
of Lords, two seats in the House of Commons, three seats in the Privy
Council, a baronetcy, a blue riband, a red riband, about a hundred
thousand pounds a year, and not ten pages that are worth reading. The
writings of Whithed, Cambridge, Coventry, and Lord Bath are forgotten.
Soame Jenyns is remembered chiefly by Johnson’s review of the foolish
Essay on the Origin of Evil. Lord Chesterfield stands much lower in the
estimation of posterity than he would have done if his letters had never
been published. The lampoons of Sir Charles Williams are now read only
by the curious, and, though not without occasional flashes of wit, have
always seemed to us, we must own, very poor performances.

Walpole judged of French literature after the same fashion. He
understood and loved the French language. Indeed, he loved it too well.
His style is more deeply tainted with Gallicism than that of any other
English writer with whom we are acquainted. {153}His composition often
reads, for a page together, like a rude translation from the French.
We meet every minute with such sentences as these, “One knows what
temperaments Annibal Caracci painted.”

“The impertinent personage!”

“She is dead rich.”

“Lord Dalkeith is dead of the small-pox in three days.”

“It will not be seen whether he or they are most patriot.”

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

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

Walpole had neither hopes nor fears. Though the most Frenchified English
writer of the eighteenth century, he troubled himself little about the
portents which were daily to be discerned in the French literature
of his time. While the most eminent Frenchmen were studying with
enthusiastic delight English politics and English philosophy, he was
studying as intently the gossip of the old court of France. The fashions
and scandal of Versailles and Marli, fashions and scandal a hundred
years old, occupied him infinitely more than a great moral revolution
which was taking place in his sight. He took a prodigious interest in
every noble sharper whose vast volume of wig and infinite length of
riband had figured at the dressing or at the tucking up of Lewis the
Fourteenth, and of every profligate woman of quality who had carried her
train of lovers backward and forward from king to parliament, and from
parliament to king during the wars of the Fronde. These were the people
of whom he treasured up the smallest memorial, of whom he loved to hear
the most trifling anecdote, and for whose likenesses he would have given
any price. Of the great French writers of his own time, Montesquieu is
the only one of whom he speaks with enthusiasm. And even of Montesquieu
he speaks with less enthusiasm than of that abject thing, Crébillon the
younger, a scribbler as licentious as Louvet and as dull as Rapin. A man
must be strangely constituted who can take interest in pedantic journals
of the blockades laid by the Duke of A. to the hearts {156}of the
Marquise de B. and the Comtesse de C. This trash Walpole extols in
language sufficiently high for the merits of Don Quixote. He wished
to possess a likeness of Crebillon; and Liotard, the first painter of
miniatures then living, was employed to preserve the features of
the profligate dunce. The admirer of the _Sopha_ and of the _Lettres
Athéniennes_ had little respect to spare for the men who were then at
the head of French literature. He kept carefully out of their way. He
tried to keep other people from paying them any attention. He could
not deny that Voltaire and Rousseau were clever men; but he took every
opportunity of depreciating them. Of D’Alembert he spoke with a contempt
which, when the intellectual powers of the two men are compared, seems
exquisitely ridiculous. D’Alembert complained that he was accused of
having written Walpole’s squib against Rousseau. “I hope,” says Walpole,
“that nobody will attribute D’Alembert’s works to me.” He was in little

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

It is easy to describe him by negatives. He had not a creative
imagination. He had not a pure taste. He was not a great reasoner. There
is indeed scarcely any writer in whose works it would be possible
to find {157}so many contradictory judgments, so many sentences of
extravagant nonsense. Nor was it only in his familiar correspondence
that he wrote in this flighty and inconsistent manner, but in long and
elaborate books, in books repeatedly transcribed and intended for the
public eye. We will give an instance or two; for without instances,
readers not very familiar with his works will scarcely understand our
meaning. In the Anecdotes of Painting, he states, very truly, that the
art declined after the commencement of the civil wars. He proceeds to
inquire why this happened. The explanation, we should have thought,
would have been easily found. He might have mentioned the loss of a king
who was the most munificent and judicious patron that the fine arts have
ever had in England, the troubled state of the country, the distressed
condition of many of the aristocracy, perhaps also the austerity of the
victorious party. These circumstances, we conceive, fully account for
the phænomenon. But this solution was not odd enough to satisfy Walpole.
He discovers another cause for the decline of the art, the want of
models. Nothing worth painting, it seems, was left to paint. “How
picturesque,” he exclaims, “was the figure of an Anabaptist!”--as if
puritanism had put out the sun and withered the trees; as if the civil
wars had blotted out the expression of character and passion from the
human lip and brow; as if many of the men whom Vandyke painted had not
been living in the time of the Commonwealth, with faces little the worse
for wear; as if many of the beauties afterwards portrayed by Lely
were not in their prime before the Restoration; as if the garb or the
features of Cromwell and Milton were less picturesque than those of the
round-faced peers, as like each other as {158}eggs to eggs, who look
out from the middle of the periwigs of Kneller. In the Memoirs, again,
Walpole sneers at the Prince of Wales, afterwards George the Third, for
presenting a collection of books to one of the American colleges
during the Seven Years’ War, and says that, instead of books, His Royal
Highness ought to have sent arms and ammunition; as if a war ought to
suspend all study and all education; or as if it was the business of the
Prince of Wales to supply the colonies with military stores out of his
own pocket. We have perhaps dwelt too long on these passages; but we
have done so because they are specimens of Walpole’s manner. Everybody
who reads his works with attention, will find that they swarm with
loose, and foolish observations like those which we have cited;
observations which might pass in conversation or in a hasty letter,
but which are unpardonable in books deliberately written and repeatedly

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

                        “Turned every man the wrong side out,

                   And never gave to truth and virtue that

                   Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.”

In this way any man may, with little sagacity and little {159}trouble,
be considered by those whose good opinion is not worth having as a great
judge of character.

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

There are contradictions without end in the sketches of character which
abound in Walpole’s works. But if we were to form our opinion of his
eminent contemporaries from a general survey of what he has written
concerning them, we should say that Pitt was a strutting, ranting,
mouthing actor, Charles Townshend an impudent and voluble jack-pudding,
Murray a demure, cold-blooded, cowardly hypocrite, Hardwicke an insolent
upstart, with the understanding of a pettifogger and the heart of
a hangman, Temple an impertinent poltroon, Egmont a solemn coxcomb,
Lyttelton a poor creature whose only wish was to go to heaven in a
coronet, Onslow a pompous proser, Washington a braggart, Lord Camden
sullen, Lord Townshend malevolent, Seeker an atheist who had shammed
Christian for a mitre, Whitefield an impostor who swindled his converts
out of their watches. The Walpoles fare little better than their
neighbours. Old Horace is constantly represented as a coarse, brutal,
niggardly buffoon, and his son as worthy of such a father. In short,
{160}if we are to trust this discerning judge of human nature.

England in his time contained little sense and no virtue, except what
was distributed between himself, Lord Waldgrave, and Marshal Conway.

Of such a writer it is scarcely necessary to say, that his works
are destitute of every charm which is derived from elevation or
from tenderness of sentiment. When he chose to be humane, and
magnanimous,--for he sometimes, by way of variety, tried this
affectation,--he overdid his part most ludicrously. None of his many
disguises sat so awkwardly upon him. For example, he tells us that he
did not choose to be intimate with Mr. Pitt. And why? Because Mr.
Pitt had been among the persecutors of his father? Or because, as he
repeatedly assures us, Mr. Pitt was a disagreeable man in private life?
Not at all; but because Mr. Pitt was too fond of war, and was great
with too little reluctance. Strange that a habitual scoffer like Walpole
should imagine that this cant could impose on the dullest reader! If
Molière had put such a speech into the mouth of Tartuffe, we should have
said that the fiction was unskilful, and that Orgon could not have been
such a fool as to be taken in by it. Of the twenty-six years during
which Walpole sat in Parliament, thirteen were years of war. Yet he
did not, during all those thirteen years, utter a single word or give a
single vote tending to peace. His most intimate friend, the only friend,
indeed, to whom he appears to have been sincerely attached, Conway, was
a soldier, was fond of his profession, and was perpetually entreating
Mr. Pitt to give him employment. In this Walpole saw nothing but
what was admirable. Conway was a hero for soliciting the command of
expeditions which Mr. Pitt was a monster for sending out. {161}What
than is the charm, the irresistible charm, of Walpole’s writings? It
consists, we think, in the art of amusing without exciting. He never
convinces the reason, or fills the imagination, or touches the heart;
but he keeps the mind of the reader constantly attentive and constantly
entertained. He had a strange ingenuity peculiarly his own, an ingenuity
which appeared in all that he did, in his building, in his gardening, in
his upholstery, in the matter and in the manner of his writings. If we
were to adopt the classification, not a very accurate classification,
which Akenside has given of the pleasures of the imagination, we should
say that with the Sublime and the Beautiful Walpole had nothing to do,
but that the third province, the Odd, was his peculiar domain. The motto
which he prefixed to his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors might have
been inscribed with perfect propriety over the door of every room in his
house, and on the title-page of every one of his books; “Dove diavolo,
Messer Ludovico, avete pigliate tante coglionerie?” In his villa, every
apartment is a museum; every piece of furniture is a curiosity: there
is something strange in the form of the shovel; there is a long story
belonging to the bell-rope. We wander among a profusion of rarities, of
trifling intrinsic value, but so quaint in fashion, or connected
with such remarkable names and events, that they may well detain our
attention for a moment. A moment is enough. Some new relic, some new
unique, some new carved work, some new enamel, is forthcoming in an
instant. One cabinet of trinkets is no sooner closed than another is
opened. It is the same with Walpole’s writings. It is not in their
utility, it is not in their beauty, that their attraction lies. They are
to the works of great historians {162}and poets, what Strawberry Hill is
to the Museum of Sir Hans Sloane or to the Gallery of Florence. Walpole
is constantly showing us things, not of very great value indeed, yet
things which we are pleased to see, and which we can see nowhere else.
They are baubles; but they are made curiosities either by his grotesque
workmanship or by some association belonging to them. His style is one
of those peculiar styles by which every body is attracted, and which
nobody can safely venture to imitate. He is a mannerist whose manner
has become perfectly easy to him. His affectation is so habitual and so
universal that it can hardly be called affectation. The affectation
is the essence of the man. It pervades all his thoughts and all his
expressions. If it were taken away, nothing would be left. He coins new
words, distorts the senses of old words, and twists sentences into forms
which make grammarians stare. But all this he does, not only with an
air of ease, but as if he could not help doing it. His wit was, in its
essential properties, of the same kind with that of Cowley and Donne.
Like theirs, it consisted in an exquisite perception of points of
anal-ogv and points of contrast too subtile for common observation. Like
them, Walpole perpetually startles us by the ease with which he yokes
together ideas between which there would seem, at first sight, to be no
connection. But he did not, like them, affect the gravity of a lecture,
and draw his illustrations from the laboratory and from the schools. His
tone was light and fleeting; his topics were the topics of the club and
the ball-room; and therefore his strange combinations and far-fetched
allusions, though very closely resembling those which tire us to death
in the poems of the time of Charles the First, are read with pleasure
constantly new. {163}No man who has written so much is so seldom
tiresome. In his books there are scarcely any of those passages which,
in our school days, we used to call _skip_. Yet he often wrote on
subjects which are generally considered as dull, on subjects which men
of great talents have in vain endeavoured to render popular. When we
compare the Historic Doubts about Richard the Third with Whitaker’s and
Chalmers’s books on a far more interesting question, the character of
Mary Queen of Scots; when we compare the Anecdotes of Painting with the
works of Anthony Wood, of Nichols, of Granger, we at once see Walpole’s
superiority, not in industry, not in learning, not in accuracy, not in
logical power, but in the art of writing what people will like to read.
He rejects all but the attractive parts of his subject. He keeps only
what is in itself amusing, or what can be made so by the artifice of
his diction. The coarser morsels of antiquarian learning he abandons
to others, and sets out an entertainment worthy of a Roman epicure,
an entertainment consisting of nothing but delicacies, the brains of
singing birds, the roe of mullets, the sunny halves of peaches. This, we
think, is the great merit of his romance. There is little skill in
the delineation of the characters. Manfred is as commonplace a tyrant,
Jerome as commonplace a confessor, Theodore as commonplace a young
gentleman, Isabella and Matilda as commonplace a pair of young ladies,
as are to be found in any of the thousand Italian castles in which
_condottieri_ have revelled or in which imprisoned duchesses have pined.
We cannot say that we much admire the big man whose sword is dug up in
one quarter of the globe, whose helmet drops from the clouds in another,
and who, after clattering and rustling; {164}for some days, ends by
kicking the house down. But the story, whatever its value may be, never
flags for a single moment. There are no digressions, or unseasonable
descriptions, or long speeches. Every sentence carries the action
forward. The excitement is constantly renewed. Absurd as is the
machinery, insipid as are the human actors, no reader probably ever
thought the book dull.

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

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

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

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

Sir Robert deserved this high eulogium, we think, as little as he
deserved the abusive epithets which have often been coupled with his
name. A fair character of him still remains to be drawn; and, whenever
it shall be drawn, it will be equally unlike the portrait by Coxe and
the portrait by Smollett. {166}He had, undoubtedly, great talents and
great virtues. He was not, indeed, like the leaders of the party which
opposed his government, a brilliant orator. He was not a profound
scholar, like Carteret, or a wit and a fine gentleman, like
Chesterfield. In all these respects his deficiencies were remarkable.
His literature consisted of a scrap or two of Horace and an anecdote
or two from the end of the Dictionary. His knowledge of history was so
limited that, in the great debate on the Excise Bill, he was forced to
ask Attorney-General Yorke who Empson and Dudley were. His manners were
a little too coarse and boisterous even for that age of Westerns and
Topehalls. When he ceased to talk of politics, he could talk of nothing
but women; and he dilated on his favourite theme with a freedom which
shocked even that plain-spoken generation, and which was quite unsuited
to his age and station. The noisy revelry of his summer festivities
at Houghton gave much scandal to grave people, and annually drove his
kinsman and colleague, Lord Townshend, from the neighbouring mansion of

But, however ignorant Walpole might be of general history and of general
literature, he was better acquainted than any man of his day with what
it concerned him most to know, mankind, the English nation, the Court,
the House of Commons, and the Treasury. Of foreign affairs he knew
little; but his judgment was so good that his little knowledge went
very far. He was an excellent parliamentary debater, an excellent
parliamentary tactician, an excellent man of business. No man ever
brought more industry or more method to the transacting of affairs. No
minister in his time did so much; yet no minister had so much leisure.
{167}He was a good-natured man who had during thirty years seen nothing
but the worst parts of human nature in other men. He was familiar with
the malice of kind people, and the perfidy of honourable people. Proud
men had licked the dust before him. Patriots had begged him to come up
to the price of their puffed and advertised integrity. He said after his
fall that it was a dangerous thing to be a minister, that there were few
minds which would not be injured by the constant spectacle of meanness
and depravity. To his honour it must be confessed that few minds have
come out of such a trial so little damaged in the most important parts.
He retired, after more than twenty years of supreme power, with a temper
not soured, with a heart not hardened, with simple tastes, with frank
manners, and with a capacity for friendship. No stain of treachery, of
ingratitude, or of cruelty rests on his memory. Factious hatred, while
flinging on his name every other foul aspersion, was compelled to own
that he was not a man of blood. This would scarcely seem a high
eulogium on a statesman of our times. It was then a rare and honourable
distinction. The contests of parties in England had long been carried on
with a ferocity unworthy of a civilised people. Sir Robert Walpole was
the minister who gave to our Government that character of lenity which
it has since generally preserved. It was perfectly known to him that
many of his opponents had dealings with the Pretender. The lives of some
were at his mercy. He wanted neither Whig nor Tory precedents for using
his advantage unsparingly. But with a clemency to which posterity has
never done justice, he suffered himself to be thwarted, vilified, and at
last overthrown, by a party which included many men whose necks were
in his power. {168}That he practised corruption on a large scale is, we
think, indisputable. But whether he deserves all the invectives which
have been uttered against him on that account may be questioned. No man
ought to be severely censured for not being beyond his age in virtue.
To buy the votes of constituents is as immoral as to buy the votes of
representatives. The candidate who gives five guineas to the freeman is
as culpable as the man who gives three hundred guineas to the
member. Yet we know, that, in our time, no man is thought wicked or
dishonourable, no man is cut, no man is black-balled, because, under
the old system of election, he was returned in the only way in which
he could be returned, for East Retford, for Liverpool, or for Stafford.
Walpole governed by corruption, because, in his time, it was impossible
to govern otherwise. Corruption was unnecessary to the Tudors; for their
Parliaments were feeble. The publicity which has of late years been
given to parliamentary proceedings has raised the standard of morality
among public men. The power of public opinion is so great that, even
before the reform of the representation, a faint suspicion that a
minister had given pecuniary gratifications to Members of Parliament in
return for their votes would have been enough to ruin him. But, during
the century which followed the Restoration, the House of Commons was
in that situation in which assemblies must be managed by corruption,
or cannot be managed at all. It was not held in awe as in the sixteenth
century, by the throne. It was not held in awe as in the nineteenth
century, by the opinion of the people. Its constitution was
oligarchical. Its deliberations were secret. Its power in the State
was immense. The Government had every conceivable motive to offer
{169}bribes. Many of the members, if they were not men of strict honour
and probity, had no conceivable motive to refuse what the Government
offered. In the reign of Charles the Second, accordingly, the practice
of buying votes in the House of Commons was commenced by the daring
Clifford, and carried to a great extent by the crafty and shameless
Danby. The Revolution, great and manifold as were the blessings of which
it was directly or remotely the cause, at first aggravated this evil.
The importance of the House of Commons was now greater than ever. The
prerogatives of the Crown were more strictly limited than ever; and
those associations in which, more than in its legal prerogatives, its
power had consisted, were completely broken. No prince was ever in so
helpless and distressing a situation as William the Third. The party
which defended his title was, on general grounds, disposed to curtail
his prerogative. The party which was, on general grounds, friendly to
prerogative, was adverse to his title. There was no quarter in which
both his office and his person could find favour. But while the
influence of the House of Commons in the Government was becoming
paramount, the influence of the people over the House of Commons was
declining. It mattered little in the time of Charles the First whether
that House were or were not chosen by the people; it was certain to act
for the people, because it would have been at the mercy of the Court but
for the support of the people. Now that the Court was at the mercy of
the House of Commons, those members who were not returned by popular
elections had nobody to please but themselves. Even those who were
returned by popular election did not live, as now, under a constant
sense of responsibility. The constituents were not, as now, daily
apprised {170}of the votes and speeches of their representatives. The
privileges which had in old times been indispensably necessary to the
security and efficiency of Parliaments were now superfluous. But
they were still carefully maintained, by honest legislators from
superstitious veneration, by dishonest legislators for their own selfish
ends. They had been an useful defence to the Commons during a long and
doubtful conflict with powerful sovereigns. They were now no longer
necessary for that purpose; and they became a defence to the members
against their constituents. That secrecy which had been absolutely
necessary in times when the Privy Council was in the habit of sending
the leaders of Opposition to the Tower was preserved in times when a
vote of the House of Commons was sufficient to hurl the most powerful
minister from his post.

The Government could not go on unless the Parliament could be kept in
order. And how was the Parliament to be kept in order? Three hundred
years ago it would have been enough for a statesman to have the
support of the Crown. It would now, we hope and believe, be enough for
him to enjoy the confidence and approbation of the great body of the
middle class. A hundred years ago it would not have been enough to have
both Crown and people on his side. The Parliament had shaken off the
control of the Royal prerogative. It had not yet fallen under the
control of public opinion. A large proportion of the members had
absolutely no motive to support any administration except their own
interest, in the lowest sense of the word. Under these circumstances,
the country could be governed only by corruption. Bolingbroke, who was
the ablest and the most vehement of those who raised the clamour against
corruption, had no better remedy to {171}propose than that the Royal
prerogative should be strengthened. The remedy would no doubt have been
efficient. The only question is, whether it would not have been worse
than the disease. The fault was in the constitution of the Legislature;
and to blame those ministers who managed the Legislature in the only
way in which it could be managed is gross injustice. They submitted
to extortion because they could not help themselves. We might as well
accuse the poor Lowland farmers who paid black mail to Rob Roy of
corrupting the virtue of the Highlanders, as accuse Sir Robert Walpole
of corrupting the virtue of Parliament. His crime was merely this, that
he employed his money more dexterously, and got more support in return
for it, than any of those who preceded or followed him.

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

One of the maxims which, as his son tells us, he was most in the habit
of repeating, was, _quieta non movere_. It was indeed the maxim by which
he generally regulated his public conduct. It is the maxim of a man
more solicitous to hold power long than to use it well. It is remarkable
that, though he was at the head of affairs during more than twenty
years, not one great measure, not one important change for the better or
for the worse in any part of our institutions, marks the period of his
supremacy. Nor was this because he did not clearly see that many changes
were very desirable. He had been brought up in the school of toleration,
at the feet of Somers and of Burnet. He disliked the shameful laws
against Dissenters. But he never could {172}be induced to bring forward
a proposition for repealing them. The sufferers represented to him the
injustice with which they were treated, boasted of their firm attachment
to the House of Brunswick and to the Whig party, and reminded him of
his own repeated declarations of good will to their cause. He listened,
assented, promised, and did nothing. At length, the question was brought
forward by others, and the Minister, after a hesitating and evasive
speech, voted against it. The truth was that he remembered to the latest
day of his life that terrible explosion of high-church feeling which the
foolish prosecution of a foolish parson had occasioned in the days of
Queen Anne. If the Dissenters had been turbulent he would probably have
relieved them: but while he apprehended no danger from them, he would
not run the slightest risk for their sake. He acted in the same manner
with respect to other questions. He knew the state of the Scotch
Highlands. He was constantly predicting another insurrection in that
part of the empire. Yet, during his long tenure of power, he never
attempted to perform what was then the most obvious and pressing duty of
a British Statesman, to break the power of the Chiefs, and to establish
the authority of law through the furthest corners of the Island. Nobody
knew better than he that, if this were not done, great mischiefs would
follow. But the Highlands were tolerably quiet in his time. He was
content to meet daily emergencies by daily expedients; and he left the
rest to his successors. They had to conquer the Highlands in the
midst of a war with France and Spain, because he had not regulated the
Highlands in a time of profound peace.

Sometimes, in spite of all his caution, he found that measures which he
had hoped to carry through quietly {173}had caused great agitation. When
this was the case he generally modified or withdrew them. It was thus
that he cancelled Wood’s patent in compliance with the absurd outcry
of the Irish. It was thus that he frittered away the Porteous Bill
to nothing, for fear of exasperating the Scotch. It was thus that he
abandoned the Excise Bill, as soon as he found that it was offensive to
all the great towns of England. The language which he held about that
measure in a subsequent session is strikingly characteristic. Pulteney
had insinuated that the scheme would be again brought forward. “As to
the wicked scheme,” said Walpole, “as the gentleman is pleased to call
it, which he would persuade gentlemen is not yet laid aside, I for my
part assure this House I am not so mad as ever again to engage in any
thing that looks like an Excise; though, in my private opinion, I still
think it was a scheme that would have tended very much to the interest
of the nation.” The conduct of Walpole with regard to the Spanish war is
the great blemish of his public life. Archdeacon Coxe imagined that he
had discovered one grand principle of action to which the whole public
conduct of his hero ought to be referred. “Did the administration of
Walpole,” says the biographer, “present any uniform principle which may
be traced in every part, and which gave combination and consistency to
the whole? Yes, and that principle was, The Love; of Peace.” It would be
difficult, we think, to bestow a higher eulogium on any statesman. But
the enlogimn is far too high for the merits of Walpole. The great ruling
principle of his public conduct was indeed a love of peace, but not
in the sense in which Archdeacon Coxe uses the phrase. The peace which
Walpole sought was not the peace of the country, but the peace {174}of
his own administration. During the greater part of his public life,
indeed, the two objects were inseparably connected. At length he was
reduced to the necessity of choosing between them, of plunging the
State into hostilities for which there was no just ground, and by which
nothing was to be got, or of facing a violent opposition in the
country, in Parliament, and even in the royal closet. No person was more
thoroughly convinced than he of the absurdity of the cry against Spain.
But his darling power was at stake, and his choice was soon made. He
preferred an unjust war to a stormy session. It is impossible to say
of a Minister who acted thus that the love of peace was the one grand
principle to which all his conduct is to be referred. The governing
principle of his conduct was neither love of peace nor love of war, but
love of power.

The praise to which he is fairly entitled is this, that he understood
the tine interest of his country better than any of his contemporaries,
and that he pursued that interest whenever it was not incompatible with
the interests of his own intense and grasping ambition. It was only in
matters of public moment that he shrank from agitation and had recourse
to compromise. In his contests for personal influence there was no
timidity, no flinching. He would have all or none. Every member of the
Government who would not submit to his ascendency was turned out or
forced to resign. Liberal of every thing else, he was avaricious of
powers Cautious everywhere else, when power was at stake he had all
the boldness of Richelieu or Chatham. He might easily have secured his
authority if he could have been induced to divide it with others. But he
would not part with one fragment of it to purchase defenders for all the
rest. The effect of this policy {175}was that he had able enemies and
feeble allies. His most distinguished coadjutors left him one by one,
and joined the ranks of the Opposition. He faced the increasing array
of his enemies with unbroken spirit, and thought it far better that they
should attack his power than that they should share it.

The Opposition was In every sense formidable. At its head were two royal
personages, the exiled head of the House of Stuart, the disgraced heir
of the House of Brunswick. One set of members received directions from
Avignon. Another set held their consultations and banquets at Norfolk
House. The majority of the landed gentry, the majority of the parochial
clergy, one of the universities, and a strong party in the City of
London and in the other great towns, were decidedly adverse to the
Government. Of the men of letters, some were exasperated by the neglect
with which the Minister treated them, a neglect which was the more
remarkable, because his predecessors, both Whig and Tory, had paid court
with emulous munificence to the wits and the poets; others were honestly
inflamed by party zeal; almost all lent their aid to the Opposition. In
truth, all that was alluring to ardent and imaginative minds was on that
side; old associations, new visions of political improvement, high-flown
theories of loyalty, high-flown theories of liberty, the enthusiasm of
the Cavalier, the enthusiasm of the Roundhead. The Tory gentleman,
fed in the common-rooms of Oxford with the doctrines of Filmer and
Sacheverell, and proud of the exploits of his great grandfather, who
had charged with Rupert at Marston, who had held out the old manor-house
against Fairfax, and who, after the King’s return, had been set down for
a Knight of the Royal Oak, flew to that section of the {176}opposition
which, under pretence of assailing the existing administration, was in
truth assailing the reigning dynasty. The young republican, fresh from
his Livy and his Lucan, and glowing with admiration of Hampden, of
Russell, and of Sydney, hastened with equal eagerness to those benches
from which eloquent voices thundered nightly against the tyranny and
perfidy of courts. So many young politicians were caught by these
declamations that Sir Robert, in one of his best speeches, observed that
the opposition consisted of three bodies, the Tories, the discontented
Whigs, who were known by the name of the Patriots, and the Boys. In fact
almost every young man of warm temper and lively imagination, whatever
his political bias might be, was drawn into the party adverse to the
Government; and some of the most distinguished among them, Pitt, for
example, among public men, and Johnson, among men of letters, afterwards
openly acknowledged their mistake.

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

The circumstance that the Opposition was divided into two parties,
diametrically opposed to each other in political opinions, was long the
safety of Walpole. It was at last his ruin. The leaders of the minority
knew that it would be difficult for them to bring forward any important
measure without producing an immediate schism in their party. It was
with very {177}great difficulty that the Whigs in opposition had
been induced to give a sullen and silent vote for the repeal of the
Septennial Act. The Tories, on the other hand, could not be induced
to support Pulteney’s motion for an addition to the income of Prince
Frederic. The two parties had cordially joined in calling out for a war
with Spain; but they now had their war. Hatred of Walpole was almost
the only feeling which was common to them. On this one point, therefore,
they concentrated their whole strength. With gross ignorance, or gross
dishonesty, they represented the Minister as the main grievance of the
state. His dismissal, his punishment, would prove the certain cure for
all the evils which the nation suffered. What was to be done after his
fall, how misgovernment was to be prevented in future, were questions
to which there were as many answers as there were noisy and ill-informed
members of the Opposition. The only cry in which all could join was,
“Down with Walpole!” So much did they narrow the disputed ground, so
purely personal did they make the question, that they threw out friendly
hints to the other members of the Administration, and declared that they
refused quarter to the Prime Minister alone. His tools might keep their
heads, their fortunes, even their places, if only the great father of
corruption were given up to the just vengeance of the nation.

If the fate of Walpole’s colleagues had been inseparably bound up with
his, he probably would, even after the unfavourable elections of 1744,
have been able to weather the storm. But as soon as it was understood
that the attack was directed against him alone, and that, if he were
sacrificed, his associates might expect advantageous and honourable
terms, {178}the ministerial ranks began to waver, and the murmur
of _sauve qui peat_ was heard. That Walpole had foul play is almost
certain, but to what extent it is difficult to say. Lord Islay was
suspected; the Duke of Newcastle something more than suspected. It would
have been strange, indeed, if his Grace had been idle when treason was

                   “Ch’ i’ ho de’ traditor’ sempre sospetto,

                   E Gan fu traditor prima che nato.”

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

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

Every thing was in confusion. It has been said that the confusion was
produced by the dexterous policy of Walpole; and, undoubtedly, he did
his best to sow dissension amongst his triumphant enemies. Rut there was
little for him to do. Victory had completely dissolved the hollow truce,
which the two sections of the Opposition had but imperfectly observed,
even while the event of the contest was still doubtful. A thousand
questions were opened in a moment. A thousand conflicting claims were
preferred. It was impossible to follow any line of policy which would
not have been offensive to a large portion {179}of the successful party.
It was impossible to find places for a tenth part of those who thought
that they had a right to office. While the parliamentary leaders were
preaching patience and confidence, while their followers were clamouring
for reward, a still louder voice was heard from without, the terrible
cry of a people angry, they hardly knew with whom, and impatient they
hardly knew for what. The day of retribution had arrived. The Opposition
reaped that which they had sown. Inflamed with hatred and cupidity,
despairing of success by any ordinary mode of political warfare, and
blind to consequences which, though remote, were certain, they had
conjured up a devil whom they could not lay. They had made the public
mind drunk with calumny and declamation. They had raised expectations
which it was impossible to satisfy. The downfall of Walpole was to
be the beginning of a political millennium; and every enthusiast had
figured to himself that millennium according to the fashion of his own
wishes. The republican expected that the power of the Crown would
be reduced to a mere shadow, the high Tory that the Stuarts would be
restored, the moderate Tory that the golden days which the Church and
the landed interest had enjoyed during the last years of Queen Anne,
would immediately return. It would have been impossible to satisfy
everybody. The conquerors satisfied nobody We have no reverence for
the memory of those who were then called the patriots. We are for the
principles of good government against Walpole, and for Walpole against
the Opposition. It was most desirable that a purer system should be
introduced; but, if the old system was to be retained, no man was so fit
as Walpole to be at the head of affairs. There {180}were grievous abuses
in the government, abuses more than sufficient to justify a strong
opposition. But the party opposed to Walpole, while they stimulated the
popular fury to the highest point, were at no pains to direct it aright.
Indeed they studiously misdirected it. They misrepresented the evil.
They prescribed inefficient and pernicious remedies. They held up a
single man as the sole cause of all the vices of a bad system which had
been in full operation before his entrance into public life, and which
continued to be in full operation when some of these very brawlers had
succeeded to his power. They thwarted his best measures. They drove
him into an unjustifiable war against his will. Constantly talking
in magnificent language about tyranny, corruption, wicked ministers,
servile courtiers, the liberty of Englishmen, the Great Charter, the
rights for which our fathers bled, Timoleon, Brutus, Hampden, Sydney,
they had absolutely nothing to propose which would have been an
improvement on our institutions. Instead of directing the public mind to
definite reforms which might have completed the work of the revolution,
which might have brought the legislature into harmony with the nation,
and which might have prevented the Crown from doing by influence what
it could no longer do by prerogative, they excited a vague craving for
change, by which they profited for a single moment, and of which, as
they well deserved, they were soon the victims.

Among the reforms which the state then required, there were two of
paramount importance, two which would alone have remedied almost every
gross abuse, and without which all other remedies would have been
unavailing, the publicity of parliamentary proceedings, and the
abolition of the rotten boroughs. Neither of {181}these was thought of.
It seems to us clear that, if these were not adopted, all other measures
would have been illusory. Some of the patriots suggested changes which
would, beyond all doubt, have increased the existing evils a hundred
fold. These men wished to transfer the disposal of employments and the
command of the army from the Crown to the Parliament; and this on the
very ground that the Parliament had long been a grossly corrupt body.
The security against malpractices was to be that the members, instead of
having a portion of the public plunder doled out to them by a minister,
were to help themselves.

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

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

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

                   “See private life by wisest arts reclaimed,

                   See ardent youth to noblest manners framed,

                   See us achieve whate’er was sought by you,

                   If Curio--only Curio--will be true.”

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

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

The colleagues of Walpole had, after his retreat, admitted some of
the chiefs of the Opposition into the {184}Government, and soon found
themselves compelled to submit to the ascendency of one of their new
allies. This was Lord Carteret, afterwards Earl Granville. No public
man of that age had greater courage, greater ambition, greater activity,
greater talents for debate or for declamation. No public man had such
profound and extensive learning. He was familiar with the ancient
writers, and loved to sit up till midnight discussing philological and
metrical questions with Bentley. His knowledge of modern languages
was prodigious. The privy council, when he was present, needed no
interpreter. He spoke and wrote French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese,
German, even Swedish. He had pushed his researches into the most obscure
nooks of literature. He was as familiar with Canonists and Schoolmen as
with orators and poets. He had read all that the universities of Saxony
and Holland had produced on the most intricate questions of public law.
Harte, in the preface to the second edition of his History of Gustavus
Adolphus, bears a remarkable testimony to the extent and accuracy of
Lord Carteret’s knowledge. “It was my good fortune or prudence to keep
the main body of my army (or in other words my matters of fact) safe
and entire. The late Earl of Granville was pleased to declare himself of
this opinion; especially when he found that I had made Chemnitius one of
my principal guides; for his Lordship was apprehensive I might not have
seen that valuable and authentic book, which is extremely scarce. I
thought myself happy to have contented his Lordship even in the lowest
degree: for he understood the German and Swedish histories to the
highest perfection.”

With all this learning, Carteret was far from being a pedant. His was
not one of those cold spirits of which {185}the fire is put out by the
fuel. In council, in debate, in society, he was all life and energy.
His measures were strong, prompt, and daring, his oratory animated and
glowing. His spirits were constantly high. No misfortune, public or
private, could depress him. He was at once the most unlucky and the
happiest public man of his time.

He had been Secretary of State in Walpole’s Administration, and had
acquired considerable influence over the mind of George the First. The
other ministers could speak no German. The King could speak no English.
All the communication that Walpole held with his master was in very bad
Latin. Carteret dismayed his colleagues by the volubility with which he
addressed his Majesty in German. They listened with envy and terror to
the mysterious gutturals which might possibly convey suggestions very
little in unison with their wishes.

Walpole was not a man to endure such a colleague as Carteret. The King
was induced to give up his favourite. Carteret joined the Opposition,
and signalised himself at the head of that party till, after the
retirement of his old rival, he again became Secretary of State.

During some months he was chief Minister, indeed sole Minister. He
gained the confidence and regard of George the Second. He was at the
same time in high favour with the Prince of Wales. As a debater in
the House of Lords, he had no equal among his colleagues. Among
his opponents, Chesterfield alone could be considered as his match.
Confident in his talents, and in the royal favour, he neglected
all those means by which the power of Walpole had been created and
maintained. His head was full of treaties {186}and expeditions, of
schemes for supporting the Queen of Hungary and for humbling the House
of Bourbon. He contemptuously abandoned to others all the drudgery, and,
with the drudgery, all the fruits of corruption. The patronage of the
Church and of the Bar he left to the Pelhams as a trifle unworthy of his
care. One of the judges, Chief Justice Willes, if we remember rightly,
went to him to beg some ecclesiastical preferment for a friend. Carteret
said, that he was too much occupied with continental politics to think
about the disposal of places and benefices. “You may rely on it, then,”
 said the Chief Justice, “that people who want places and benefices will
go to those who have more leisure.” The prediction was accomplished.
It would have been a busy time indeed in which the Pelhams had wanted
leisure for jobbing; and to the Pelhams the whole cry of place-hunters
and pension-hunters resorted. The parliamentary influence of the two
brothers became stronger every day, till at length they were at the head
of a decided majority in the House of Commons. Their rival, meanwhile,
conscious of his powers, sanguine in his hopes, and proud of the storm
which he had conjured up on the Continent, would brook neither superior
nor equal. “His rants,” says Horace Walpole, “are amazing; so are his
parts and his spirits.” He encountered the opposition of his colleagues,
not with the fierce haughtiness of the first Pitt, or the cold unbending
arrogance of the second, but with a gay vehemence, a good-humoured
imperiousness, that bore every thing down before it. The period of his
ascendency was known by the name of the “Drunken Administration;” and
the expression was not altogether figurative. His habits were extremely
convivial; and champagne probably lent its aid to keep {187}him in that
state of joyous excitement in which his life was passed.

That a rash and impetuous man of genius like Carteret should not have
been able to maintain his ground in Parliament against the crafty and
selfish Pelhams is not strange. But it is less easy to understand why
he should have been generally unpopular throughout the country. His
brilliant talents, his bold and open temper, ought, it should seem,
to have made him a favourite with the public. But the people had been
bitterly disappointed; and he had to face the first burst of their rage.
His close connection with Pulteney, now the most detested man in the
nation, was an unfortunate circumstance. He had, indeed, only three
partisans, Pulteney, the King, and the Prince of Wales, a most singular

He was driven from his office. He shortly after made a bold, indeed a
desperate, attempt to recover power. The attempt failed. From that time
he relinquished all ambitious hopes, and retired laughing to his books
and his bottle. No statesman ever enjoyed success with so exquisite
a relish, or submitted to defeat with so genuine and unforced a
cheerfulness. Ill as he had been used, he did not seem, says Horace
Walpole, to have any resentment, or indeed any feeling except thirst.

These letters contain many good stories, some of them, no doubt, grossly
exaggerated, about Lord Carteret; how, in the height of his greatness,
he fell in love at first sight on a birthday with Lady Sophia Fermor,
the handsome daughter of Lord Pomfret; how he plagued the Cabinet
every day with reading to them her ladyship’s letters; how strangely
he brought home his bride; what fine jewels he gave her; how {188}he
fondled her at Ranelagh; and what queen-like state she kept in Arlington
Street. Horace Walpole has spoken less bitterly of Carteret than of
any public man of that time, Fox perhaps excepted; and this is the more
remarkable, because Carteret was one of the most inveterate enemies of
Sir Robert. In the Memoirs, Horace Walpole, after passing in review all
the great men whom England had produced within his memory, concludes by
saying, that in genius none of them equalled Lord Granville. Smollett,
in Humphrey Clinker, pronounces a similar judgment in coarser language.
“Since Granville was turned out, there has been no minister in this
nation worth the meal that whitened his periwig.”

Carteret fell: and the reign of the Pelhams commenced. It was Carteret’s
misfortune to be raised to power when the public mind was still smarting
from recent disappointment. The nation had been duped, and was eager for
revenge. A victim was necessary, and on such occasions the victims of
popular rage are selected like the victim of Jephthah. The first person
who comes in the way is made the sacrifice. The wrath of the people
had now spent itself; and the unnatural excitement was succeeded by an
unnatural calm. To an irrational eagerness for something new,
succeeded an equally irrational disposition to acquiesce in every thing
established. A few months back the people had been disposed to impute
every crime to men in power, and to lend a ready ear to the high
professions of men in opposition. They were now disposed to surrender
themselves implicitly to the management of Ministers, and to look with
suspicion and contempt on all who pretended to public spirit. The name
of patriot had become a by-word of derision. Horace Walpole scarcely
{189}exaggerated when he said that, in those times, the most popular
declaration which a candidate could make on the hustings was that he had
never been and never would be a patriot. At this conjuncture took place
the rebellion of the Highland clans. The alarm produced by that
event quieted the strife of internal factions. The suppression of the
insurrection crushed for ever the spirit of the Jacobite party. Room
was made in the Government for a few Tories. Peace was patched up with
France and Spain. Death removed the Prince of Wales, who had contrived
to keep together a small portion of that formidable opposition of which
he had been the leader in the time of Sir Robert Walpole. Almost every
man of weight in the House of Commons was officially connected with the
Government. The even tenor of the session of Parliament was ruffled only
by an occasional harangue from Lord Egmont on the army estimates.
For the first time since the accession of the Stuarts there was no
opposition. This singular good fortune, denied to the ablest statesmen,
to Salisbury, to Strafford, to Clarendon, to Somers, to Walpole, had
been reserved for the Pelhams.

Henry Pelham, it is true, was by no means a contemptible person. His
understanding was that of Walpole on a somewhat smaller scale. Though
not a brilliant orator, he was, like his master, a good debater, a good
parliamentary tactician, a good man of business. Like his master he
distinguished himself by the neatness and clearness of his financial
expositions. Here the resemblance ceased. Their characters were
altogether dissimilar. Walpole was good-humoured, but would have his
way: his spirits were high, and his manners frank even to coarseness.
The temper of Pelham was yielding, but peevish: his habits were regular,
and his {190}deportment strictly decorous. Walpole was constitutionally
fearless, Pelham constitutionally timid. Walpole had to face a strong
opposition; but no man in the Government durst wag a finger against him.
Almost all the opposition which Pelham had to encounter was from members
of the Government of which he was the head. His own paymaster spoke
against his estimates. His own secretary-at-war spoke against his
Regency Bill. In one day Walpole turned Lord Chesterfield, Lord
Burlington, and Lord Clinton out of the royal household, dismissed the
highest dignitaries of Scotland from their posts, and took away the
regiments of the Duke of Bolton and Lord Cobham, because he suspected
them of having encouraged the resistance to his Excise Bill. He would
far rather have contended with the strongest minority, under the ablest
leaders, than have tolerated mutiny in his own party. It would have
gone hard with any of his colleagues, who had ventured, on a Government
question, to divide the House of Commons against him. Pelham, on the
other hand, was disposed to bear any thing rather than drive from office
any man round whom a new opposition could form. He therefore endured
with fretful patience the insubordination of Pitt and Fox. He thought it
far better to connive at their occasional infractions of discipline
than to hear them, night after night, thundering against corruption and
wicked ministers from the other side of the House.

We wonder that Sir Walter Scott never tried his hand on the Duke of
Newcastle. An interview between his Grace and Jeanie Deans would have
been delightful, and by no means unnatural. There is scarcely any public
man in our history of whose manners and conversation so many
particulars have been {191}preserved. Single stories may be unfounded or
exaggerated. But all the stories about him, whether told by people who
were perpetually seeing him in Parliament and attending his levee in
Lincoln’s Inn Fields, or by Grub Street writers who never had more than
a glimpse of his star through the windows of his gilded coach, are of
the same character. Horace Walpole and Smollett differed in their tastes
and opinions as much as two human beings could differ. They kept
quite different society. Walpole played at cards with countesses, and
corresponded with ambassadors. Smollett passed his life surrounded
by printer’s devils and famished scribblers. Yet Walpole’s Duke
and Smollett’s Duke are as like as if they were both from one hand.
Smollett’s Newcastle runs out of his dressing-room, with his face
covered with soap-suds, to embrace the Moorish envoy. Walpole’s
Newcastle pushes his way into the Duke of Grafton’s sick room to kiss
the old nobleman’s plasters. No man was so unmercifully satirised. But
in truth he was himself a satire ready made. All that the art of the
satirist does for other men, nature had done for him. Whatever was
absurd about him stood out with grotesque prominence from the rest of
the character. He was a living, moving, talking, caricature. His gait
was a shuffling trot; his utterance a rapid stutter; he was always in
a hurry; he was never in time; he abounded in fulsome caresses and in
hysterical tears. His oratory resembled that of Justice Shallow. It
was nonsense effervescent with animal spirits and impertinence. Of his
ignorance many anecdotes remain, some well authenticated, some probably
invented at coffee-houses, but all exquisitely characteristic.
“Oh--yes--yes--to be sure--Annapolis must be defended--troops must
be {192}sent to Annapolis--Pray where is Annapolis?”--“Cape Breton an
island! wonderful!--show it me in the map. So it is, sure enough. My
dear sir, you always bring us good news. I must go and tell the King
that Cape Breton is an island.”

And this man was, during near thirty years, Secretary of State, and,
during near ten years, First Lord of the Treasury! His large fortune,
his strong hereditary connection, his great parliamentary interest,
will not alone explain this extraordinary fact. His success is a signal
instance of what may be effected by a man who devotes his whole heart
and soul without reserve to one object. He was eaten up by ambition. His
love of influence and authority resembled the avarice of the old usurer
in the Fortunes of Nigel. It was so intense a passion that it supplied
the place of talents, that it inspired even fatuity with cunning. “Have
no money dealings with my father,” says Martha to Lord Glenvarloch;
“for, dotard as he is, he will make an ass of you.” It was as dangerous
to have any political connection with Newcastle as to buy and sell with
old Trapbois. He was greedy after power with a greediness all his own.
He was jealous of all his colleagues, and even of his own brother. Under
the disguise of levity he was false beyond all example of political
falsehood. All the able men of his time ridiculed him as a dunce, a
driveller, a child who never knew his own mind for an hour together; and
he overreached them all round.

If the country had remained at peace, it is not impossible that this man
would have continued at the head of affairs without admitting any other
person to a share of his authority until the throne was filled by a
new Prince, who brought with him new maxims of {193}government, new
favourites, and a strong will. But the inauspicious commencement of the
Seven Years’ War brought on a crisis to which Newcastle was altogether
unequal. After a calm of fifteen years the spirit of the nation was
again stirred to its inmost depths. In a few days the whole aspect of
the political world was changed.

But that change is too remarkable an event to be discussed at the end of
an article already more than sufficiently long. It is probable that we
may, at no remote time, resume the subject.


(_Edinburgh Review_, January, 1834.)

Though {194}several years have elapsed since the publication of this
work, it is still, we believe, a new publication to most of our readers,
is or are we surprised at this. The book is large, and the style heavy.
The information which Mr. Thackeray has obtained from the State Paper
Office is new; but much of it is very uninteresting. The rest of his
narrative is very little better than Gifford’s or Tomline’s Life of the
second Pitt, and tells us little or nothing that may not be found quite
as well told in the Parliamentary History, the Annual Register, and
other works equally common.

Almost every mechanical employment, it is said, has a tendency to injure
some one or other of the bodily organs of the artisan. Grinders of
cutlery die of consumption; weavers are stunted in then’ growth;
smiths become blear-eyed. In the same manner almost every intellectual
employment has a tendency to produce some intellectual malady.
Biographers, translators, editors, all, in short, who employ themselves
in illustrating

     (1) _A History of the Right Honourable William Pitt, Earl of
     Chatham, containing his Speeches in Parliament, a
     considerable Portion of his Correspondence when Secretary of
     State, upon French, Spanish, and American Affairs, never
     before published; and an Account of the principal Events and
     Persons of his Time, connected with his Life, Sentiments,
     and Administration_. By the Rev. Francis Thackeray, A. M. 2
     vols. 4to. London: 1827.

{195}the lives or the writings of others, are peculiarly exposed to the
_Lues Boswelliana_, or disease of admiration. But we scarcely remember
ever to have seen a patient so far gone in this distemper as Mr.
Thackeray. He is not satisfied with forcing us to confess that Pitt was
a great orator, a vigorous minister, an honourable and high-spirited
gentleman. He will have it that all virtues and all accomplishments met
in his hero. In spite of Gods, men, and columns, Pitt must be a poet, a
poet capable of producing a heroic poem of the first order; and we are
assured that we ought to find many charms in such lines as these:

                   “Midst all the tumults of the warring sphere,

                   My light-charged bark may haply glide;

                   Some gale may waft, some conscious thought shall cheer,

                   And the small freight unanxious glide.” (1)

Pitt was in the army for a few months in time of peace. Mr. Thackeray
accordingly insists on our confessing that, if the young cornet had
remained in the service he would have been one of the ablest commanders
that ever lived. But this is not all. Pitt, it seems, was not merely
a great poet _in esse_, and a great general _in posse_, but a finished
example of moral excellence, the just man made perfect. He was in
the right when he attempted to establish an inquisition, and to give
bounties for perjury, in order to get Walpole’s head. He was in the
right when he declared Walpole to have been an excellent minister. He
was in the right when, being in opposition, he maintained that no peace
ought to be made with Spain, till she should formally renounce the right
of search.

     (1) The quotation is faithfully made from Mr. Thackeray.
     Perhaps Pitt wrote guide in the fourth line.

{196}He was in the right when, being in office, he silently acquiesced
in a treaty by which Spain did not renounce the right of search. When
he left the Duke of Newcastle, when he coalesced with the Duke of
Newcastle, when he thundered against subsidies, when he lavished
subsidies with unexampled profusion, when he execrated the Hanoverian
connection, when he declared that Hanover ought to be as dear to us as
Hampshire, he was still invariably speaking the language of a virtuous
and enlightened statesman.

The truth is that there scarcely ever lived a person who had so little
claim to this sort of praise as Pitt. He was undoubtedly a great man.
But his was not a complete and well-proportioned greatness. The public
life of Hampden or of Somers resembles a regular drama, which can be
criticised as a whole, and every scene of which is to be viewed in
connection with the main action. The public life of Pitt, on the
other hand, is a rude though striking piece, a piece abounding in
incongruities, a piece without any unity of plan, but redeemed by some
noble passages, the effect of which is increased by the tameness or
extravagance of what precedes and of what follows. His opinions were
un-fixed. His conduct at some of the most important conjunctures of his
life was evidently determined by pride and resentment. He had one fault,
which of all human faults is most rarely found in company with true
greatness. He was extremely affected. He was an almost solitary instance
of a man of real genius, and of a brave, lofty, and commanding spirit,
without simplicity of character. He was an actor in the Closet, an actor
at Council, an actor in Parliament; and even in private society he could
not lay aside his theatrical tones and attitudes. We know that one of
the most {197}distinguished of his partisans often complained that he
could never obtain admittance to Lord Chatham’s room till every thing
was ready for the representation, till the dresses and properties were
all correctly disposed, till the light was thrown with Rembrandt-like
effect on the head of the illustrious performer, till the flannels had
been arranged with the air of a Grecian drapery, and the crutch placed
as gracefully as that of Belisarius or Lear.

Yet, with all his faults and affectations, Pitt had, in a very
extraordinary degree, many of the elements of greatness. He had genius,
strong passions, quick sensibility, and vehement enthusiasm for the
grand and the beautiful. There was something about him which ennobled
tergiversation itself. He often went wrong, very wrong. But, to quote
the language of Wordsworth,

                             “He still retained,

               “‘Mid such abasement, what he had received

               From nature, an intense and glowing mind.”

In an age of low and dirty prostitution, in the age of Dodington and
Sandys, it was something to have a man who might perhaps, under some
strong excitement, have been tempted to ruin his country, but who never
would have stooped to pilfer from her, a man whose errors arose, not
from a sordid desire of gain, but from a fierce thirst for power, for
glory, and for vengeance. History owes to him this attestation, that, at
a time when any thing short of direct embezzlement of the public
money was considered as quite fair in public men, he showed the most
scrupulous disinterestedness; that, at a time when it seemed to be
generally taken for granted that Government could be upheld only by the
basest and most immoral arts, he appealed to the better {198}and nobler
parts of human nature; that he made a brave and splendid attempt to do,
by means of public opinion, what no other statesman of his day thought
it possible to do, except by means of corruption; that he looked for
support, not, like the Pelhams, to a strong aristocratical connection,
not like Bute, to the personal favour of the sovereign, but to the
middle class of Englishmen; that he inspired that class with a firm
confidence in his integrity and ability; that, backed by them, he forced
an unwilling court and an unwilling oligarchy to admit him to an ample
share of power; and that he used his power in such a manner as clearly
proved him to have sought it, not for the sake of profit or patronage,
but from a wish to establish for himself a great and durable reputation
by means of eminent services rendered to the state.

The family of Pitt was wealthy and respectable. His grandfather was
Governor of Madras, and brought back from India that celebrated diamond,
which the Regent Orleans, by the advice of Saint Simon, purchased for
upwards of two millions of livres, and which is still considered as
the most precious of the crown jewels of France. Governor Pitt bought
estates and rotten boroughs, and sat in the House of Commons for Old
Sarum. His son Robert was at one time member for Old Sarum, and
at another for Oakhampton. Robert had two sons. Thomas, the elder,
inherited the estates and the parliamentary interest of his father. The
second was the celebrated William Pitt.

He was born in November, 1708. About the early part of his life little
more is known than that he was educated at Eton, and that at seventeen
he was entered at Trinity College, Oxford. During the second year of his
residence at the University, George the {199}First died; and the event
was, after the fashion of that generation, celebrated by the Oxonians
in many middling copies of verses. On this occasion Pitt published some
Latin lines, which Mr. Thackeray has preserved. They prove that the
young student had but a very limited knowledge even of the mechanical
part of his art. All true Etonians will hear with concern that their
illustrious schoolfellow is guilty of making the first syllable in
_labenti_ short. (1) The matter of the poem is as worthless as that of
any college exercise that was ever written before or since. There is,
of course, much about Mars, Themis, Neptune, and Cocytus. The muses are
earnestly entreated to weep over the urn of Cæsar; for Cæsar, says the
Poet, loved the Muses; Cæsar, who could not read a line of Pope, and who
loved nothing but punch and fat women.

Pitt had been, from his school-days, cruelly tormented by the gout, and
was advised to travel for his health. He accordingly left Oxford without
taking a degree, and visited France and Italy. He returned, however,
without having received much benefit from his excursion, and
continued, till the close of his life, to suffer most severely from his
constitutional malady.

His father was now dead, and had left very little to the younger
children. It was necessary that William should choose a profession. He
decided for the army, and a cornet’s commission was procured for him in
the Blues.

But, small as his fortune was, his family had both the power and the
inclination to serve him. At the general election of 1784, his elder
brother Thomas was

     (1) So Mr. Thackeray has printed the poem. But it may be
     charitably hoped that Pitt wrote labenti.

{200}chosen both for Old Sarum and for Oakhampton. When Parliament met
in 1735, Thomas made his election to serve for Oakhampton, and William
was returned for Old Sarum.

Walpole had now been, during fourteen years, at the head of affairs. He
had risen to power under the most favorable circumstances. The whole of
the Whig party, of that party which professed peculiar attachment to
the principles of the Revolution, and which exclusively enjoyed the
confidence of the reigning house, had been united in support of his
administration. Happily for him, he had been out of office when the
South-Sea Act was passed; and though he does not appear to have foreseen
all the consequences of that measure, he had strenuously opposed it,
as he had opposed all the measures, good and bad, of Sunderland’s
administration. When the South-Sea Company were voting dividends of
fifty per cent., when a hundred pounds of their stock were selling for
eleven hundred pounds, when Threadneedle Street was daily crowded with
the coaches of dukes and prelates, when divines and philosophers
turned gamblers, when a thousand kindred bubbles were daily blown into
existence, the periwig-company, and the Spanish-jackass-company, and the
quicksilver-fixation-company, Walpole’s calm good sense preserved him
from the general infatuation. He condemned the prevailing madness in
public, and turned a considerable sum by taking advantage of it in
private. When the crash came, when ten thousand families were reduced
to beggary in a day, when the people, in the frenzy of their rage and
despair, clamoured, not only against the lower agents in the juggle,
but against the Hanoverian favourites, against the English ministers,
against the King himself, when Parliament met, {201}eager for
confiscation and blood, when members of the House of Commons proposed
that the directors should be treated like parricides in ancient Rome,
tied up in sacks, and thrown into the Thames, Walpole was the man on
whom all parties turned their eyes. Four years before he had been driven
from power by the intrigues of Sunderland and Stanhope; and the lead in
the House of Commons had been intrusted to Craggs and Aislabie. Stanhope
was no more. Aislabie was expelled from Parliament on account of his
disgraceful conduct regarding the South-Sea scheme. Craggs was perhaps
saved by a timely death from a similar mark of infamy. A large minority
in the House of Commons voted for a severe censure on Sunderland,
who, finding it impossible to withstand the force of the prevailing
sentiment, retired from office, and outlived his retirement but a
very short time. The schism which had divided the Whig party was now
completely healed. Walpole had no opposition to encounter except that of
the Tories; and the Tories were naturally regarded by the King with the
strongest suspicion and dislike.

For a time business went on with a smoothness and a despatch such as had
not been known since the days of the Tudors. During the session of 1724,
for example, there was hardly a single division except on private bills.
It is not impossible that, by taking the course which Pelham afterwards
took, by admitting into the government all the rising talents and
ambition of the Whig party, and by making room here and there for a Tory
not unfriendly to the House of Brunswick, Walpole might have averted
the tremendous conflict in which he passed the later years of his
administration, and in which he was at length vanquished. The Opposition
which overthrew him was an Opposition {202}created by his own policy, by
his own insatiable love of power.

In the very act of forming his Ministry he turned one of the ablest and
most attached of his supporters into a deadly enemy. Pulteney had strong
public and private claims to a high situation in the new arrangement.
His fortune was immense. His private character was respectable. He was
already a distinguished speaker. He had acquired official experience
in an important post. He had been, through all changes of fortune,
a consistent Whig. When the Whig party was split into two sections,
Pulteney had resigned a valuable place, and had followed the fortunes of
Walpole. Yet, when Walpole returned to power, Pulteney was not invited
to take office. An angry discussion took place between the friends.
The Ministry offered a peerage. It was impossible for Pulteney not to
discern the motive of such an offer. He indignantly refused to accept
it. For some time he continued to brood over his wrongs, and to watch
for an opportunity of revenge. As soon as a favourable conjuncture
arrived he joined the minority, and became the greatest leader of
Opposition that the House of Commons had ever seen.

Of all the members of the Cabinet, Carteret was the most eloquent and
accomplished. His talents for debate were of the first order; his
knowledge of foreign affairs was superior to that of any living
statesman; his attachment to the Protestant succession was undoubted.
But there was not room in one Government for him and Walpole. Carteret
retired, and was, from that time forward, one of the most persevering
and formidable enemies of his old colleague.

If there was any man with whom Walpole could {203}have consented to make
a partition of power, that man was Lord Townshend. They were distant
kinsmen by birth, near kinsmen by marriage. They had been friends
from childhood. They had been schoolfellows at Eton. They were country
neighbors in Norfolk. They had been in office together under Godolphin.
They had gone into opposition together when Harley rose to power. They
had been persecuted by the same House of Commons. They had, after the
death of Anne, been recalled together to office. They had again been
driven out together by Sunderland, and had again come back together
when the influence of Sunderland had declined. Their opinions on public
affairs almost always coincided. They were both men of frank, generous,
and compassionate natures. Their intercourse had been for many years
affectionate and cordial. But the ties of blood, of marriage, and of
friendship, the memory of mutual services, the memory of common triumphs
and common disasters, were insufficient to restrain that ambition which
domineered over all the virtues and vices of Walpole. He was resolved,
to use his own metaphor, that the firm of the house should be, not
Townshend and Walpole, but Walpole and Townshend. At length the rivals
proceeded to personal abuse before a large company, seized each other by
the collar, and grasped their swords. The women squalled. The men parted
the combatants. By friendly intervention the scandal of a duel
between cousins, brothers-in-law, old friends, and old colleagues, was
prevented. But the disputants could not long continue to act together.
Townshend retired, and, with rare moderation and public spirit, refused
to take any part in politics. He could not, he said, trust his temper.
He feared that the recollection of his private wrongs might impel him
{204}to follow the example of Pulteney, and to oppose measures which he
thought generally beneficial to the country. He therefore never visited
London after his resignation, but passed the closing years of his life
in dignity and repose among his trees and pictures at Rainham.

Next went Chesterfield. He too was a Whig; and a friend of the
Protestant succession. He was an orator, a courtier, a wit, and a man of
letters. He was at the head of ton in days when, in order to be at the
head of ton, it was not sufficient to be dull and supercilious. It was
evident that he submitted impatiently to the ascendency of Walpole. He
murmured against the Excise Bill. His brothers voted against it in the
House of Commons. The Minister acted with characteristic caution and
characteristic energy; caution in the conduct of public affairs; energy
where his own supremacy was concerned. He withdrew his Bill, and turned
out all his hostile or wavering colleagues. Chesterfield was stopped on
the great staircase of St. James’s and summoned to deliver up the staff
which he bore as Lord Steward of the Household. A crowd of noble
and powerful functionaries, the Dukes of Montrose and Bolton, Lord
Burlington, Lord Stair, Lord Cobham, Lord Marchmont, Lord Clinton, were
at the same time dismissed from the service of the Crown.

Not long after these events the Opposition was reinforced by the Duke of
Argyle, a man vainglorious indeed and fickle, but brave, eloquent, and
popular. It was in a great measure owing to his exertions that the
Act of Settlement had been peaceably carried into effect in England
immediately after the death of Anne, and that the Jacobite rebellion
which, during the following year, broke out in Scotland, had been
suppressed. He too carried over to the minority the aid of his great
{205}name, his talents, and his paramount influence in his native

In each of these cases taken separately, a skilful defender of Walpole
might perhaps make out a case for him. But when we see that during a
long course of years all the footsteps are turned the same way, that
all the most eminent of those public men who agreed with the Minister in
their general views of policy left him, one after another, with sore
and irritated minds, we find it impossible not to believe that the real
explanation of the phænomenon is to be found in the words of his son,
“Sir Robert Walpole loved power so much that he would not endure a
rival.” Hume has described this famous minister with great felicity in
one short sentence,--“moderate in exercising power, not equitable in
engrossing it.” Kind-hearted, jovial, and placable as Walpole was, he
was yet a man with whom no person of high pretensions and high spirit
could long continue to act. He had, therefore, to stand against an
Opposition containing all the most accomplished statesmen of the age,
with no better support than that which he received from persons like
his brother Horace or Henry Pelham, whose industrious mediocrity gave
no cause for jealousy, or from clever adventurers, whose situation and
character diminished the dread which their talents might have inspired.
To this last class belonged Fox, who was too poor to live without
office; Sir William Yonge, of whom Walpole himself said, that nothing
but such parts could buoy up such a character, and that nothing but such
a character could drag down such parts; and Winnington, whose private
morals lay, justly or unjustly, under imputations of the worst kind.

The discontented Whigs were, not perhaps in number, {206}but certainly
in ability, experience, and weight, by far the most important part of
the Opposition. The Tories furnished little more than rows of ponderous
fox hunters, fat with Staffordshire or Devonshire ale, men who drank
to the King over the water, and believed that all the fundholders were
Jews, men whose religion consisted in hating the Dissenters, and whose
political researches had led them to fear, like Squire Western, that
their land might be sent over to Hanover to be put in the sinking-fund.
The eloquence of these zealous squires, the remnant of the once
formidable October Club, seldom went beyond a hearty Aye or No. Very few
members of this party had distinguished themselves much in Parliament,
or could, under any circumstances, have been called to fill any high
office; and those few had generally, like Sir William Wyndham, learned
in the company of their new associates the doctrines of toleration and
political liberty, and might indeed with strict propriety be called

It was to the Whigs in Opposition, the Patriots, as they were called,
that the most distinguished of the English youth who at this season
entered into public life attached themselves. These inexperienced
politicians felt all the enthusiasm which the name of liberty naturally
excites in young and ardent minds. They conceived that the theory of
the Tory Opposition and the practice of Walpole’s Government were alike
inconsistent with the principles of liberty. They accordingly repaired
to the standard which Pulteney had set up. While opposing the Whig
minister, they professed a firm adherence to the purest doctrines of
Whiggism. He was the schismatic; they were the true Catholics, the
peculiar people, the depositaries {207}of the orthodox faith of Hampden
and Russell, the one sect which, amidst the corruptions generated by
time and by the long possession of power, had preserved inviolate the
principles of the Revolution. Of the young men who attached themselves
to this portion of the Opposition the most distinguished were Lyttelton
and Pitt.

When Pitt entered Parliament, the whole political world was attentively
watching the progress of an event which soon added great strength to the
Opposition, and particularly to that section of the Opposition in which
the young statesman enrolled himself. The Prince of Wales was gradually
becoming more and more estranged from his father and his father’s
ministers, and more and more friendly to the Patriots.

Nothing is more natural than that, in a monarchy where a constitutional
Opposition exists, the heir-apparent of the throne should put himself
at the head of that Opposition. He is impelled to such a course by every
feeling of ambition and of vanity. He cannot be more than second in the
estimation of the party which is in. He is sure to be the first member
of the party which is out. The highest favour which the existing
administration can expect from him is that he will not discard them.
But, if he joins the Opposition, all his associates expect that he will
promote them; and the feelings which men entertain towards one from whom
they hope to obtain great advantages which they have not are far warmer
than the feelings with which they regard one who, at the very utmost,
can only leave them in possession of what they already have. An
heir-apparent, therefore, who wishes to enjoy, in the highest
perfection, all the pleasure that can be derived from eloquent flattery
and profound respect, will always join those {208}who are struggling to
force themselves into power. This is, we believe, the true explanation
of a fact which Lord Granville attributed to some natural peculiarity in
the illustrious House of Brunswick. “This family,” said he at Council,
we suppose after his daily halt-gallon of Burgundy, “always has
quarrelled, and always will quarrel, from generation to generation.” He
should have known something of the matter; for he had been a favourite
with three successive generations of the royal house. We cannot quite
admit his explanation; but the fact is indisputable. Since the accession
of George the First, there have been four Princes of Wales, and they
have all been almost constantly in Opposition.

Whatever might have been the motives which induced Prince Frederic to
join the party opposed to the government, his support infused into
many members of that party a courage and an energy of which they stood
greatly in need. Hitherto it had been impossible for the discontented
Whig! not to feel some misgivings when they found themselves dividing,
night after night, with uncompromising Jacobites who were known to be
in constant communication with the exiled family, or with Tories who had
impeached Somers, who had murmured against Harley and St. John as too
remiss in the cause of the Church and the landed interest, and who, if
they were not inclined to attack the reigning family, yet considered
the introduction of that family as, at best, only the less of two great
evils, as a necessary but painful and humiliating preservative against
Popery. The Minister might plausibly say that Pulteney and Carteret, in
the hope of gratifying their own appetite for office and for revenge,
did not scruple to serve the purposes of a faction hostile to the
Protestant {209}succession. The appearance of Frederic at the head of
the patriots silenced this reproach. The leaders of the Opposition
might now boast that their course was sanctioned by a person as deeply
interested as the King himself in maintaining the Act of Settlement,
and that, instead of serving the purposes of the Tory party, they had
brought that party over to the side of Whiggism. It must indeed be
admitted that, though both the King and the Prince behaved in a manner
little to their honour, though the father acted harshly, the son
disrespectfully, and both ‘childishly, the royal family was rather
strengthened than weakened by the disagreement of its two most
distinguished members. A large class of politicians, who had considered
themselves as placed under sentence of perpetual exclusion from
office, and who, in their despair, had been almost ready to join in a
counter-revolution as the only mode of removing the proscription under
which they lay, now saw with pleasure an easier and safer road to power
opening before them, and thought it far better to wait till, in the
natural course of things, the Crown should descend to the heir of the
House of Brunswick, than to risk their lands and their necks in a rising
for the House of Stuart. The situation of the royal family resembled the
situation of those Scotch families in which father and son took opposite
sides during the rebellion, in order that, come what might, the estate
might not be forfeited.

In April, 1786, Frederic was married to the Princess of Saxe Gotha, with
whom he afterwards lived on terms very similar to those on which his
father had lived with Queen Caroline. The Prince adored his wife, and
thought her in mind and person the most attractive of her sex. But he
thought that conjugal fidelity {210}was an unprincely virtue; and, in
order to be like Henry the Fourth, and the Regent Orleans, he affected
a libertinism for which he had no taste, and frequently quitted the only
woman whom he loved for ugly and disagreeable mistresses.

The address which the House of Commons presented to the King on the
occasion of the Prince’s marriage was moved, not by the Minister, but by
Pulteney, the leader of the Whigs in Opposition. It was on this motion
that Pitt, who had not broken silence during the session in which he
took his seat, addressed the House for the first time. “A contemporary
historian,” says Mr. Thackeray, “describes Mr. Pitt’s first speech as
superior even to the models of ancient eloquence. According to Tindal,
it was more ornamented than the speeches of Demosthenes, and less
diffuse than those of Cicero.” This unmeaning phrase has been a hundred
times quoted. That it should ever have been quoted, except to be laughed
at, is strange. The vogue which it has obtained may serve to show in how
slovenly a way most people are content to think. Did Tindal, who first
used it, or Archdeacon Coxe and Mr. Thackeray, who have borrowed it,
ever in their lives hear any speaking which did not deserve the same
compliment? Did they ever hear speaking less ornamented than that of
Demosthenes, or more diffuse than that of Cicero? We know no living
orator, from Lord Brougham down to Mr. Hunt, who is not entitled to the
same eulogy. It would be no very flattering compliment to a man’s figure
to say, that he was taller than the Polish Count, and shorter than
Giant O’Brien, fatter than the _Anatomie Vivante_, and more slender than
Daniel Lambert. {211}Pitt’s speech, as it is reported in the Gentleman’s
Magazine, certainly deserves Tindal’s compliment, and deserves no other.
It is just as empty and wordy as a maiden speech on such an occasion
might be expected to be. But the fluency and the personal advantages of
the young orator instantly caught the ear and eye of his audience. He
was, from the day of his first appearance, always heard with attention;
and exercise soon developed the great powers which he possessed.

In our time, the audience of a member of Parliament is the nation.
The three or four hundred persons who may be present while a speech is
delivered may be pleased or disgusted by the voice and action of the
orator; but, in the reports which are read the next day by hundreds of
thousands, the difference between the noblest and the meanest figure,
between the richest and the shrillest tones, between the most graceful
and the most uncouth gesture, altogether vanishes. A hundred years ago,
scarcely any report of what passed within the walls of the House of
Commons was suffered to get abroad. In those times, therefore, the
impression which a speaker might make on the persons who actually heard
him was every thing. His fame out of doors depended entirely on the
report of those who were within the doors. In the Parliaments of that
time, therefore, as in the ancient commonwealths, those qualifications
which enhance the immediate effect of a speech, were far more important
ingredients in the composition of an orator than at present. All those
qualifications Pitt possessed in the highest degree. On the stage, he
would have been the finest Brutus or Coriolanus ever seen. Those who
saw him in his decay, when his health was broken, when his {212}mind was
untuned, when he had been removed from that stormy assembly of which
he thoroughly knew the temper, and over which he possessed unbounded
influence, to a small, a torpid, and an unfriendly audience, say that
his speaking was then, for the most part, a low, monotonous muttering,
audible only to those who sat close to him, that when violently excited,
he sometimes raised his voice for a few minutes, but that it soon sank
again into an unintelligible murmur. Such was the Earl of Chatham;
but such was not William Pitt. His figure, when he first appeared in
Parliament, was strikingly graceful and commanding, his features high
and noble, his eye full of fire. His voice, even when it sank to a
whisper, was heard to the remotest benches; and when he strained it to
its full extent, the sound rose like the swell of the organ of a great
cathedral, shook the house with its peal, and was heard through lobbies
and down staircases, to the Court of Requests and the precincts of
Westminster Hall. He cultivated all these eminent advantages with
the most assiduous care. His action is described by a very malignant
observer as equal to that of Garrick. His play of countenance was
wonderful: he frequently disconcerted a hostile orator by a single
glance of indignation or scorn. Every tone, from the impassioned cry
to the thrilling aside, was perfectly at his command. It is by no means
improbable that the pains which he took to improve his great personal
advantages had, in some respects, a prejudicial operation, and tended
to nourish in him that passion for theatrical effect which, as we have
already remarked, was one of the most conspicuous blemishes in his

But it was not solely or principally to outward accomplishments that
Pitt owed the vast influence {213}which, during nearly thirty years, he
exercised over the House of Commons. He was undoubtedly a great
orator; and, from the descriptions given by his contemporaines, and the
fragments of his speeches which still remain, it is not difficult to
discover the nature and extent of his oratorical powers.

He was no speaker of set speeches. His few prepared discourses were
complete failures. The elaborate panegyric which he pronounced on
General Wolfe was considered as the very worst of all his performances.
“No man,” says a critic who had often heard him, “ever knew so little
what he was going to say.” Indeed his facility amounted to a vice.
He was not the master, but the slave of his own speech. So little
selfcommand had he when once he felt the impulse, that he did not like
to take part in a debate when his mind was full of an important secret
of state. “I must sit still,” he once said to Lord Shelburne on such an
occasion; “for, when once I am up, every thing that is in my mind comes

Yet he was not a great debater. That he should not have been so when
first he entered the House of Commons is not strange. Scarcely any
person has ever become so without long practice and many failures. It
was by slow degrees, as Burke said, that Charles Fox became the most
brilliant and powerful debater that ever lived. Charles Fox himself
attributed his own success to the resolution which he formed when very
young, of speaking, well or ill, at least once every night. “During five
whole sessions,” he used to say, “I spoke every night but one; and I
regret only that I did not speak on that night too.” Indeed, with
the exception of Mr. Stanley, whose knowledge of the science of
parliamentary defence resembles an {214}instinct, it would be difficult
to name any eminent debater who had not made himself a master of his art
at the expense of his audience.

But, as this art is one which even the ablest men have seldom acquired
without long practice, so it is one which men of respectable abilities,
with assiduous and intrepid practice, seldom fail to acquire. It is
singular that, in such an art, Pitt, a man of great parts, of great
fluency, of great boldness, a man whose whole life was passed in
parlimentary conflict, a man who, during several years was the leading
minister of the Crown in the House of Commons, should never have
attained to high excellence. He spoke without premeditation; but his
speech followed the course of his own thoughts, and not the coux*se of
the previous discussion. He could, indeed, treasure up in his memory
some detached expression of an opponent, and make it the text for lively
ridicule or solemn reprehension. Some of the most celebrated bursts
of his eloquence were called forth by an unguarded word, a laugh, or a
cheer. But this was the only sort of reply in which he appears to have
excelled. He was perhaps the only great English orator who did not
think it any advantage to have the last word, and who generally spoke
by choice before his most formidable antagonists. His merit was almost
entirely rhetorical. He did not succeed either in exposition or in
refutation; but his speeches abounded in lively illustrations, striking
apophthegms, well told anecdotes, happy allusions, passionate appeals.
His invective and sarcasm were terrific. Perhaps no English orator was
ever so much feared.

But that which gave most effect to his declamation was the air of
sincerity, of vehement feeling, of moral {215}elevation, which belonged
to all that he said. His style was not always in the purest taste.
Several contemporary judges pronounced it too florid. Walpole, in the
midst of the rapturous eulogy which he pronounces on one of Pitt’s
greatest orations, owns that some of the metaphors were too forced. Some
of Pitt’s quotations and classical stories are too trite for a clever
schoolboy. But these were niceties for which the audience eared little.
The enthusiasm of the orator infected all who heard him; his ardour
and his noble bearing put fire into the most frigid conceit, and gave
dignity to the most puerile allusion.

His powers soon began to give annoyance to the Government; and Walpole
determined to make an example of the patriotic cornet. Pitt was
accordingly dismissed from the service. Mr. Thackeray says that the
Minister took this step, because he plainly saw that it would have
been vain to think of buying over so honourable and disinterested an
opponent. We do not dispute Pitt’s integrity; but we do not know what
proof he had given of it when he was turned out of the army; and we are
sure that Walpole was not likely to give credit for inflexible honesty
to a young adventurer, who had never had an opportunity of refusing
any thing. The truth is, that it was not Walpole’s practice to buy off
enemies. Mr. Burke truly says, in the Appeal to the Old Whigs, that
Walpole gained very few over from the Opposition. Indeed that great
minister knew his business far too well. He knew that, for one mouth
which is stopped with a place, fifty other mouths will be instantly
opened. He knew that it would have been very bad policy in him to
give the world to understand that more was to be got by thwarting his
measures than by supporting them. {216}Those maxims are as old as the
origin of parliamentary corruption in England. Pepys learned them, as he
tells us, from the counsellors of Charles the Second.

Pitt was no loser. He was made Groom of the Bedchamber to the Prince
of W ales, and continued to declaim against the ministers with unabated
violence and with increasing ability. The question of maritime right,
then agitated between Spain and England, called forth all his powers.
He clamoured for war with a vehemence which it is not easy to reconcile
with reason or humanity, but which appears to Mr. Thackeray worthy of
the highest admiration. We will not stop to argue a point on which we
had long thought that all well-informed people were agreed. We could
easily show, we think, that if any respect be due to international law,
if right, where societies of men are concerned, be any thing but another
name for might, if we do not adopt the doctrine of the Buccaniers,
which seems to be also the doctrine of Mr. Thackeray, that treaties
mean nothing within thirty degrees of the line, the war with Spain was
altogether unjustifiable. But the truth is, that the promoters of that
war have saved the historian the trouble of trying them. They have
pleaded guilty. “I have seen,” says Burke, “and with some care examined,
the original documents concerning certain important transactions of
those times. They perfectly satisfied me of the extreme injustice of
that war, and of the falsehood of the colours which Walpole, to his
ruin, and guided by a mistaken policy, suffered to be daubed over that
measure. Some years after, it was my fortune to converse with many
of the principal actors against that minister, and with those who
principally excited that clamour. None of them, no not one, did in the
least defend the measure, or {217}attempt to justify their conduct. They
condemned it as freely as they would have done in commenting upon any
proceeding in history in which they were totally unconcerned.” Pitt,
on subsequent occasions, gave ample proof that he was one of these
penitents. But his conduct, even where it appeared most criminal to
himself, appears admirable to his biographer.

The elections of 1741 were unfavourable to Walpole; and after a long
and obstinate struggle he found it necessary to resign. The Duke of
Newcastle and Lord Hardwicke opened a negotiation with the leading
patriots, in the hope of forming an administration on a Whig basis. At
this conjuncture, Pitt and those persons who were most nearly connected
with him acted in a manner very little to their honour. They attempted
to come to an understanding with Walpole, and offered, if he would
use his influence with the King in their favour, to screen him from
prosecution. They even went so far as to engage for the concurrence of
the Prince of Wales. But Walpole knew that the assistance of the Boys,
as he called the young Patriots, would avail him nothing if Pulteney and
Carteret should prove intractable, and would be superfluous if the great
leaders of the Opposition could be gained. He, therefore, declined the
proposal. It is remarkable that Mr. Thackeray, who has thought it worth
while to preserve Pitt’s bad college verses, has not even alluded to
this story, a story which is supported by strong testimony, and which
may be found in so common a book as Coxe’s Life of Walpole.

The new arrangements disappointed almost every member of the Opposition,
and none more than Pitt. He was not invited to become a placeman; and
he {218}therefore stuck firmly to his old trade of patriot. Fortunate it
was for him that he did so. Had he taken office at this time, he would
in all probability have shared largely in the unpopularity of Pulteney,
Sandys, and Carteret. He was now the fiercest and most implacable of
those who called for vengeance on Walpole. He spoke with great energy
and ability in favour of the most unjust and violent propositions which
the enemies of the fallen minister could invent. He urged the House of
Commons to appoint a secret tribunal for the purpose of investigating
the conduct of the late First Lord of the Treasury. This was done.
The great majority of the inquisitors were notoriously hostile to the
accused statesman. Yet they were compelled to own that they could find
no fault in him. They therefore called for new powers, for a bill of
indemnity to witnesses, or, in plain words, for a bill to reward all
who might give evidence, true or false, against the Earl of Orford.
This bill Pitt supported, Pitt, who had himself offered to be a screen
between Lord Orford and public justice. These are melancholy facts. Mr.
Thackeray omits them, or hurries over them as fast as he can; and, as
eulogy is his business, he is in the right to do so. But, though
there are many parts of the life of Pitt which it is more agreeable
to contemplate, we know none more instructive. What must have been the
general state of political morality, when a young man, considered, and
justly considered, as the most public-spirited and spotless statesman
of his time, could attempt to force his way into office by means so

The Bill of Indemnity was rejected by the Lords. Walpole withdrew
himself quietly from the public eye: and the ample space which he had
left vacant was soon {210}occupied by Carteret. Against Carteret Pitt
began to thunder with as much zeal as he had ever manifested against
Sir Robert. To Carteret he transferred most of the hard names which
were familiar to his eloquence, sole minister, wicked minister, odious
minister, execrable minister. The chief topic of Pitt’s invective was
the favour shown to the German dominions of the House of Brunswick. He
attacked with great violence, and with an ability which raised him to
the very first rank among the parliamentary speakers, the practice of
paying Hanoverian troops with English money. The House of Commons
had lately lost some of its most distinguished ornaments. Walpole and
Pulteney had accepted peerages; Sir William Wynd-ham was dead; and among
the rising men none could be considered as, on the whole, a match for

During the recess of 1744, the old Duchess of Marlborough died. She
carried to her grave the reputation of being decidedly the best hater
of her time. Yet her love had been infinitely more destructive than her
hatred. More than thirty years before, her temper had ruined the party
to which she belonged and the husband whom she adored. Time had made her
neither wiser nor kinder. Whoever was at any moment great and prosperous
was the object of her fiercest detestation. She had hated Walpole; she
now hated Carteret. Pope, long before her death, predicted the fate of
her vast property.

               “To heirs unknown descends the unguarded store,

               Or wanders, heaven-directed, to the poor.”

Pitt was then one of the poor; and to him Heaven directed a portion of
the wealth of the haughty Dowager. She left him a legacy of ten thousand
pounds, in consideration of “the noble defence he had made {220}for the
support of the laws of England, and to prevent the ruin of his country.”

The will was made in August. The Duchess died in October. In November
Pitt was a courtier. The Pelhams had forced the King, much against his
will, to part with Lord Carteret, who had now become Earl Granville.
They proceeded, after this victory, to form the Government on that
basis, called by the cant name of “the broad bottom.” Lyttelton had a
seat at the Treasury, and several other friends of Pitt were provided
for. But Pitt himself was, for the present, forced to be content with
promises. The King resented most highly some expression which the ardent
orator had used in the debate on the Hanoverian troops. But Newcastle
and Pelham expressed the strongest confidence that time and their
exertions would soften the royal displeasure.

Pitt, on his part, omitted nothing that might facilitate his admission
to office. He resigned his place in the household of Prince Frederic,
and, when Parliament met, exerted his eloquence in support of the
Government. The Pelhams were really sincere in their endeavours to
remove the strong prejudices which had taken root in the King’s mind.
They knew that Pitt was not a man to be deceived with ease or offended
with impunity. They were afraid that they should not be long able to
put him off with promises. Nor was it their interest so to put him off.
There was a strong tie between him and them. He was the enemy of their
enemy. The brothers hated and dreaded the eloquent, aspiring, and
imperious Granville. They had traced his intrigues in many quarters.
They knew his influence over the royal mind. They knew that, as soon as
a favourable opportunity should, arrive, {221}he would be recalled to
the head of affairs. They resolved to bring things to a crisis; and the
question on which they took issue with their master was, whether Pitt
should or should not be admitted to office. They chose their time with
more skill than generosity. It was when rebellion was actually raging in
Britain, when the Pretender was master of the northern extremity of the
island, that they tendered their resignations. The King found himself
deserted, in one day, by the whole strength of that party which
had placed his family on the throne. Lord Granville tried to form a
government; but it soon appeared that the parliamentary interest of the
Pelhams was irresistible, and that the King’s favourite statesman could
count only on about thirty Lords and eighty members of the House of
Commons. The scheme was given up. Granville went away laughing. The
ministers came back stronger than ever; and the King was now no longer
able to refuse any thing that they might be pleased to demand. He could
only mutter that it was very hard that Newcastle, who was not fit to ha
chamberlain to the most insignificant prince in Germany, should dictate
to the King of England.

One concession the ministers graciously made. They agreed that Pitt
should not be placed in a situation in which it would be necessary for
him to have frequent interviews with the King. Instead, therefore,
of making their new ally Secretary-at-War as they had intended, they
appointed him Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, and in a few months promoted
him to the office of Paymaster of the Forces.

This was, at that time, one of the most lucrative offices in the
Government. The salary was but a small part of the emolument which the
Paymaster derived {222}from his place. He was allowed to keep a large
sum, which, even in time of peace, was seldom less than one hundred
thousand pounds, constantly in his hands; and the interest on this sum
he might appropriate to his own use. This practice was not secret,
nor was it considered as disreputable. It was the practice of men of
undoubted honour, both before and after the time of Pitt. He, however,
refused to accept one farthing beyond the salary which the law had
annexed to his office. It had been usual for foreign princes who
received the pay of England to give to the Paymaster of the Forces
a small percentage on the subsidies. These ignominious vails Pitt
resolutely declined.

Disinterestedness of this kind was, in his days, very rare. His conduct
surprised and amused politicians. It excited the warmest admiration
throughout the body of the people. In spite of the inconsistencies of
which Pitt had been guilty, in spite of the strange contrast between his
violence in Opposition and his tameness in office, he still possessed
a large share of the public confidence. The motives which may lead a
politician to change his connections or his general line of conduct are
often obscure; but disinterestedness in pecuniary matters everybody can
understand. Pitt was thenceforth considered as a man who was proof to
all sordid temptations. If he acted ill, it might be from an error in
judgment; it might be from resentment; it might be from ambition.
But poor as he was, he had vindicated himself from all suspicion of

Eight quiet years followed, eight years during which the minority, which
had been feeble ever since Lord Granville had been overthrown, continued
to dwindle till it became almost invisible. Peace was made with France
and Spain in 1748. Prince Frederic died in 1751; {223}and with him died
the very semblance of opposition. All the most distinguished survivors
of the party which had supported Walpole and of the party which had
opposed him were united under his successor. The fiery and vehement
spirit of Pitt had for a time been laid to rest. He silently acquiesced
in that very system of continental measures which he had lately
condemned. He ceased to talk disrespectfully about Hanover. He did not
object to the treaty with Spain, though that treaty left us exactly
where we had been when he uttered his spirit-stirring harangues against
the pacific policy of Walpole. Now and then glimpses of his former self
appeared; but they were few and transient. Pelham knew with whom he
had to deal, and felt that an ally, so little used to control, and so
capable of inflicting injury, might well be indulged in an occasional
fit of waywardness.

Two men, little, if at all, inferior to Pitt in powers of mind, held,
like him, subordinate offices in the Government. One of these,
Murray, was successively Solicitor-General and Attorney-General. This
distinguished person far surpassed Pitt in correctness of taste, in
power of reasoning, in depth and variety of knowledge. His parliamentary
eloquence never blazed into sudden flashes of dazzling brilliancy;
but its clear, placid, and mellow splendour was never for an instant
overclouded. Intellectually he was, we believe, fully equal to Pitt; but
he was deficient in the moral qualities to which Pitt owed most of his
success. Murray wanted the energy, the courage, the all-grasping and
all-risking ambition, which make men great in stirring times. His heart
was a little cold, his temper cautious even to timidity, his manners
decorous even to formality. He never exposed his fortunes or his fame
to any {224}risk which he could avoid. At one time he might, in all
probability, have been Prime Minister. But the object of his wishes
was the judicial bench. The situation of Chief Justice might not be so
splendid as that of First Lord of the Treasury; but it was dignified; it
was quiet; it was secure; and therefore it was the favourite situation
of Murray.

Fox, the father of the great man whose mighty efforts in the cause
of peace, of truth, and of liberty, have made that name immortal, was
Secretary-at-War. He was a favourite with the King, with the Duke of
Cumberland, and with some of the most powerful members of the great Whig
connection. His parliamentary talents were of the highest order. As a
speaker he was in almost all respects the very opposite to Pitt.
His figure was ungraceful; his face, as Reynolds and Nollekens have
preserved it to us, indicated a strong understanding; but the features
were coarse, and the general aspect dark and lowering. His manner was
awkward; his delivery was hesitating; he was often at a stand for want
of a word; but as a debater, as a master of that keen, weighty, manly
logic, v Inch is suited to the discussion of political questions, he
has perhaps never been surpassed except by his son. In reply he was as
decidedly superior to Pitt as in declamation he was Pitt’s inferior.
Intellectually the balance was nearly even between the rivals. But here,
again, the moral qualities of Pitt turned the scale. Fox had undoubtedly
many virtues. In natural disposition as well as in talents, he bore a
great resemblance to his more celebrated son. He had the same sweetness
of ‘temper, the same strong passions, the same openness, boldness, and
impetuosity, the same cordiality towards friends, the same placability
towards enemies. No man {225}was more warmly or justly beloved by his
family or by his associates. But unhappily he had been trained in a
bad political school, in a school, the doctrines of which were, that
political virtue is the mere coquetry of political prostitution, that
every patriot has his price, that Government can be carried on only by
means of corruption, and that the state is given as a prey to statesmen.
These maxims were too much in vogue throughout the lower ranks of
Walpole’s party, and were too much encouraged by Walpole himself, who,
from contempt of what is in our day vulgarly called humbug, often ran
extravagantly and offensively into the opposite extreme. The loose
political morality of Fox presented a remarkable contrast to the
ostentatious purity of Pitt. The nation distrusted the former, and
placed implicit confidence in the latter. But almost all the statesmen
of the age had still to learn that the confidence of the nation
was worth having. While things went on quietly, while there was no
opposition, while every thing was given by the favour of a small ruling
junto, Fox had a decided advantage over Pitt; but when dangerous times
came, when Europe was convulsed with war, when Parliament was broken up
into factions, when the public mind was violently excited, the
favourite of the people rose to supreme power, while his rival sank into

Early in the year 1754 Henry Pelham died unexpectedly. “Now I shall have
no more peace,” exclaimed the old King, when he heard the news. He was
in the right. Pelham had succeeded in bringing together and keeping
together all the talents of the kingdom. By his death, the highest post
to which an English subject can aspire was left vacant; and at the same
moment, the influence which had yoked together and {226}reigned in so
many turbulent and ambitious spirits was withdrawn.

Within a week after Pelham’s death, it was determined that the Duke
of Newcastle should be placed at the head of the treasury; but the
arrangement was still far from complete. Who was to be the leading
Minister of the Crown in the House of Commons? Was the office to be
intrusted to a man of eminent talents? And would not such a man in such
a place demand and obtain a larger share of power and patronage
than Newcastle would be disposed to concede? Was a mere drudge to be
employed? And what probability was there that a mere drudge would be
able to manage a large and stormy assembly, abounding with able and
experienced men?

Pope has said of that wretched miser Sir John Cutler,

                   “Cutler saw tenants break and houses fall

                   For very want: he could not build a wall.”

Newcastle’s love of power resembled Cutler’s love of money. It was an
avarice which thwarted itself, a penny-wise and pound-foolish cupidity.
An immediate outlay was so painful to him that he would not venture to
make the most desirable improvement. If he could have found it in his
heart to cede at once a portion of his authority, he might probably have
ensured the continuance of what remained. But he thought it better to
construct a weak and rotten government, which tottered at the smallest
breath, and lull in the first storm, than to pay the necessary price for
sound and durable materials. He wished to find some person who would be
willing to accept the lead of the House of Commons on terms similar
to those on which Secretary Craggs had acted under Sunderland,
{227}five-and-thirty years before. Craggs could hardly be called a
minister. He was a mere agent for the Minister. He was not trusted with
the higher secrets of state, but obeyed implicitly the directions of
his superior, and was, to use Doddington’s expression, merely Lord
Sunderland’s man. But times were changed. Since the days of Sunderland,
the importance of the House of Commons had been constantly on the
increase. During many years, the person who conducted the business of
the Government in that blouse had almost always been Prime Minister.
In these circumstances, it was not to be supposed that any person who
possessed the talents necessary for the situation would stoop to accept
it on such terms as Newcastle was disposed to offer.

Pitt was ill at Bath; and, had he been well and in London, neither the
King nor Newcastle would have been disposed to make any overtures to
him. The cool and wary Murray had set his heart on professional objects.
Negotiations were opened with Fox. Newcastle behaved like himself, that
is to say, childishly and basely. The proposition which he made was that
Fox should be Secretary of State, with the lead of the House of Commons;
that the disposal of the secret-service money, or, in plain words, the
business of buying members of Parliament, should be left to the First
Lord of the Treasury; but that Fox should be exactly informed of the way
in which this fund was employed.

To these conditions Fox assented. But the next day every thing was in
confusion. Newcastle had changed his mind. The conversation which took
place between Fox and the Duke is one of the most curious in English
history. “My brother,” said Newcastle, “when he was at the Treasury,
never told anybody {228}what he did with the secret-service money. No
more will I.” The answer was obvious. Pelham had been, not only First
Lord of the Treasury, but also manager of the House of Commons; and it
was therefore unnecessary for him to confide to any other person his
dealings with the members of that House. “But how,”’ said Fox, “can I
lead in the Commons without information on this head? How can I talk to
gentlemen when I do not know which of them have received gratifications
and which have not? And who,” he continued, “is to have the disposal of
places?”--“I myself,” said the Duke.--“How then am I to manage the House
of Commons?”--“Oh, let the members of the House of Commons come to me.”
 Fox then mentioned the general election which was approaching, and
asked how the ministerial boroughs were to be filled up. “Do not trouble
yourself,” said Newcastle; “that is all settled.” This was too much for
human nature to bear. Fox refused to accept the Secretaryship of State
on such terms; and the Duke confided the management of the House of
Commons to a dull, harmless man, whose name is almost forgotten in our
time, Sir Thomas Robinson.

When Pitt returned from Bath he affected great moderation, though his
haughty soul was boiling with resentment. He did not complain of the
manner in which he had been passed by, but said openly that, in his
opinion, Fox was the fittest man to lead the House of Commons. The
rivals, reconciled by their common interest and their common enmities,
concerted a plan of operations for the next session. “Sir Thomas
Robinson lead us!” said Pitt to Fox. “The Duke might as well send his
jack-boot to lead us.”

The elections of 1754 were favourable to the administration. {229}But
the aspect of foreign affairs was threatening. In India the English and
the French had been employed, ever since the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle,
in cutting each other’s throats. They had lately taken to the same
practice in America. It might have been foreseen that stirring times
were at hand, times which would call for abilities very different from
those of Newcastle and Robinson.

In November the Parliament met; and before the end of that month the new
Secretary of State had been so unmercifully baited by the Paymaster of
the Forces and the Secretary at War that he was thoroughly sick of his
situation. Fox attacked him with great force and acrimony. Pitt affected
a kind of contemptuous tenderness for Sir Thomas, and directed his
attacks principally against Newcastle. On one occasion he asked in tones
of thunder whether Parliament sat only to register the edicts of one too
powerful subject? The Duke was scared out of his wits. He was afraid
to dismiss the mutineers; he was afraid to promote them; but it was
absolutely necessary to do something. Fox, as the less proud and
intractable of the refractory pair, was preferred. A seat in the Cabinet
was offered to him on condition that he would give efficient support
to the ministry in Parliament. In an evil hour for his fame and his
fortunes he accepted the offer, and abandoned his connection with Pitt,
who never forgave this desertion.

Sir Thomas, assisted by Fox, contrived to get through the business
of the year without much trouble. Pitt was waiting his time. The
negotiations pending between France and England took every day a more
unfavourable aspect. Towards the close of the session the King sent
a message to inform the House of Commons {230}that he had found it
necessary to make preparations for war. The House returned an address
of thanks, and passed a vote of credit. During the recess, the old
animosity of both nations was inflamed by a series of disastrous events.
An English force was cut off in America; and several French merchantmen
were taken in the West Indian seas. It was plain that an appeal to arms
was at hand.

The first object of the King was to secure Hanover; and Newcastle was
disposed to gratify his master. Treaties were concluded, after the
fashion of those times, with several petty German princes, who bound
themselves to find soldiers if England would find money; and, as it was
suspected that Frederic the Second had set his heart on the electoral
dominions of his uncle, Russia was hired to keep Prussia in awe.

When the stipulations of these treaties were made known, there arose
throughout the kingdom a murmur from which a judicious observer might
easily prognosticate the approach of a tempest. Newcastle encountered
strong opposition, even from those whom he had always considered as
his tools. Legge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, refused to sign the
Treasury warrants which were necessary to give effect to the treaties.
Those persons who were supposed to possess the confidence of the young
Prince of Wales and of his mother held very menacing language. In this
perplexity Newcastle sent for Pitt, hugged him, patted him, smirked at
him, wept over him, and lisped out the highest compliments and the most
splendid promises. The King, who had hitherto been as sulky as possible,
would be civil to him at the levee; he should be brought into the
Cabinet; he should be consulted about every thing; if he would only be
as good as to support {231}the Hessian subsidy in the House of Commons.
Pitt coldly declined the proffered seat in the Cabinet, expressed the
highest love and reverence for the King, and said that, if his Majesty
felt a strong personal interest in the Hessian treaty he would so far
deviate from the line which he had traced out for himself as to
give that treaty his support. “Well, and the Russian subsidy,” said
Newcastle. “No,” said Pitt, “not a system of subsidies.” The Duke
summoned Lord Hardwicke to his aid; but Pitt was inflexible. Murray
would do nothing. Robinson could do nothing. It was necessary to have
recourse to Fox. He became Secretary of State, with the full authority
of a leader in the House of Commons; and Sir Thomas was pensioned off on
the Irish establishment.

In November, 1755, the Houses met. Public expectation was wound up
to the height. After ten quiet years there was to be an Opposition
countenanced by the heir apparent of the throne, and headed by the
most brilliant orator of the age. The debate on the address was long
remembered as one of the greatest parliamentary conflicts of that
generation. It began at three in the afternoon, and lasted till five the
next morning. It was on this night that Gerard Hamilton delivered that
single speech from which his nickname was derived. His eloquence threw
into the shade every orator except Pitt, who declaimed against the
subsidies for an hour and a half with extraordinary energy and effect.
Those powers which had formerly spread terror through the majorities
of Walpole and Carteret were now displayed in their highest perfection
before an audience long unaccustomed to such exhibitions. One fragment
of this celebrated oration remains in a state of tolerable preservation.
It is {232}the comparison between the coalition of Fox and Newcastle,
and the junction of the Rhone and the Saone. “At Lyons,”’ said Pitt, “I
was taken to see the place where the two rivers meet, the one gentle,
feeble, languid, and, though languid, yet of no depth, the other a
boisterous and impetuous torrent: but different as they are, they meet
at last.” The amendment moved by the Opposition was rejected by a great
majority; and Pitt and Legge were immediately dismissed from their

During several months the contest in the House of Commons was extremely
sharp. Warm debates took place on the estimates, debates still warmer on
the subsidiary treaties. The Government succeeded in every division;
but the fame of Pitt’s eloquence, and the influence of his lofty and
determined character, continued to increase through the Session; and the
events which followed the prorogation made it utterly impossible for any
other person to manage the Parliament or the country.

The war began in every part of the world with events disastrous
to England, and even more shameful than disastrous. But the most
humiliating of these events was the loss of Minorca. The Duke of
Richelieu, an old fop who had passed his life from sixteen to sixty in
seducing women for whom he cared not one straw, landed on that island,
and succeeded in reducing it. Admiral Byng was sent from Gibraltar to
throw succours into Port-Mahon; but he did not think fit to engage the
French squadron, and sailed back without having effected his purpose.
The people were inflamed to madness. A storm broke forth, which appalled
even those who remembered the days of Excise and of South-Sea. The shops
were filled {233}with libels and caricatures. The walls were covered
with placards. The city of London called for vengeance, and the cry was
echoed from every corner of the kingdom. Dorsetshire, Huntingdonshire,
Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Somersetshire, Lancashire, Suffolk,
Shropshire, Surry, sent up strong addresses to the throne, and
instructed their representatives to vote for a strict inquiry into the
causes of the late disasters. In the great towns the feeling was as
strong as in the counties. In some of the instructions it was even
recommended that the supplies should be stopped.

The nation was in a state of angry and sullen despondency, almost
unparalleled in history. People have, in all ages, been in the habit of
talking about the good old times of their ancestors, and the degeneracy
of their contemporaries. This is in general merely a cant. But in 1756
it was something more. At this time appeared Brown’s Estimate, a book
now remembered only by the allusions in Cowper’s Table Talk and in
Burke’s Letters on a Regicide Peace. It was universally read, admired,
and believed. The author fully convinced his readers that they were a
race of cowards and scoundrels; that nothing could save them; that they
were on the point of being enslaved by their enemies, and that they
richly deserved their fate. Such were the speculations to which ready
credence was given at the outset of the most glorious war in which
England had ever been engaged.

Newcastle now began to tremble for his place, and for the only thing
which was dearer to him than his place, his neck. The people were not in
a mood to be trifled with. Their cry was for blood. For this once
they might be contented with the sacrifice of Byng. But what if fresh
disasters should take place? What {234}if an unfriendly sovereign should
ascend the throne? What if a hostile House of Commons should be chosen?

At length, in October, the decisive crisis came, the new Secretary of
State had been long sick of the perfidy and levity of the First Lord
of the Treasury, and began to fear that he might be made a scapegoat
to save the old intriguer who, imbecile as he seemed, never wanted
dexterity where danger was to be avoided. Fox threw up his office.
Newcastle had recourse to Murray; but Murray had now within his reach
the favourite object of his ambition. The situation of Chief-Justice of
the King’s Bench was vacant; and the Attorney-General was fully resolved
to obtain it, or to go into Opposition. Newcastle offered him any terms,
the Duchy of Lancaster for life, a tellership of the Exchequer, any
amount of pension, two thousand a year, six thousand a year. When the
Ministers found that Murray’s mind was made up, they pressed for delay,
the delay of a session, a month, a week, a day. Would he only make his
appearance once more in the House of Commons? Would he only speak in
favour of the address? He was inexorable, and peremptorily said that
they might give or withhold the Chief-Justiceship, but that he would be
Attorney-General no longer.

Newcastle now contrived to overcome the prejudices of the King, and
overtures were made to Pitt, through Lord Hardwicke. Pitt knew his
power, and showed that he knew it. He demanded as an indispensable
condition that Newcastle should be altogether excluded from the new

The Duke was in a state of ludicrous distress. He ran about chattering
and crying, asking advice and listening to none. In the mean time, the
Session drew near. The public excitement was unabated. Nobody {235}could
be found to face Pitt and Fox in the House of Commons. Newcastle’s heart
failed him, and he tendered his resignation.

The King; sent for Fox, and directed him to form the plan of an
administration in concert with Pitt. But Pitt had not forgotten old
injuries, and positively refused to act with Fox.

The King now applied to the Duke of Devonshire, and this mediator
succeeded in making an arrangement. He consented to take the Treasury.
Pitt became Secretary of State, with the lead of the House of Commons.
The Great Seal was put into commission. Legge returned to the Exchequer;
and Lord Temple, whose sister Pitt had lately married, was placed at the
head of the Admiralty.

It was clear from the first that this administration would last but a
very short time. It lasted not quite five months; and, during those five
months, Pitt and Lord Temple were treated with rudeness by the King,
and found but feeble support in the House of Commons. It is a remarkable
fact, that the Opposition prevented the re-election of some of the
new Ministers. Pitt, who sat for one of the boroughs which were in the
Pelham interest, found some difficulty in obtaining a seat after his
acceptance of the seals. So destitute was the new Government of that
sort of influence without which no Government could then be durable. One
of the arguments most frequently urged against the Reform Bill was that,
under a system of popular representation, men whose presence in the
House of Commons was necessary to the conducting of public business
might often find it impossible to find seats. Should this inconvenience
ever be felt, there cannot be the slightest difficulty in devising and
applying a remedy. But those {236}who threatened us with this evil ought
to have remembered that, under the old system, a great man called to
power at a great crisis by the voice of the whole nation was in danger
of being excluded, by an aristocratical cabal, from that House of which
he was the most distinguished ornament.

The most important event of this short administration was the trial
of Byng. On that subject public opinion is still divided. We think
the punishment of the Admiral altogether unjust and absurd. Treachery,
cowardice, ignorance amounting to what lawyers have called _crassa
ignorantia_, are fit objects of severe penal inflictions. But Byng was
not found guilty of treachery, of cowardice, or of gross ignorance of
his profession He died for doing what the most loyal subject, the most
intrepid warrior, the most experienced seaman, might have done. He died
for an error in judgment, an error such as the greatest commanders,
Frederic, Napoleon, Wellington, have often committed, and have often
acknowledged. Such errors are not proper objects of punishment, for this
reason, that the punishing of such errors tends not to prevent them,
but to produce them. The dread of an ignominious death may stimulate
sluggishness to exertion, may keep a traitor to his standard, may
prevent a coward from running away, but it has no tendency to bring out
those qualities which enable men to form prompt and judicious decisions
in great emergencies. The best marksman may be expected to fail when
the apple which is to be his mark is set on his child’s head. We
cannot conceive any thing more likely to deprive an officer of his
self-possession at the time when he most needs it than the knowledge
that, if the judgment of his superiors should not agree with his, he
will be executed with {237}every circumstance of shame. Queens, it has
often been said, run far greater risk in childbed than private women,
merely because their medical attendants are more anxious. The surgeon
who attended Marie Louise was altogether unnerved by his emotions.
“Compose yourself,” said Bonaparte; “imagine that you are assisting a
poor girl in the Faubourg Saint Antoine.” This was surely a far
wiser course than that of the Eastern king in the Arabian Knights’
Entertainments, who proclaimed that the physicians who failed to cure
his daughter should have their heads chopped off. Bonaparte knew mankind
well; and, as he acted towards this surgeon, he acted towards his
officers. No sovereign was ever so indulgent to mere errors of judgment;
and it is certain that no sovereign ever had in his service so many
military men fit for the highest commands.

Pitt acted a brave and honest part on this occasion. He ventured to
put both his power and his popularity to hazard, and spoke manfully for
Byng, both in Parliament and in the royal presence. But the King was
inexorable. “The House of Commons, Sir,” said Pitt, “seems inclined to

“Sir,” answered the King, “you have taught me to look for the sense of
my people in other places than the House of Commons.” The saying has
more point than most of those which are recorded of George the Second,
and, though sarcastically meant, contains a high and just compliment to

The King disliked Pitt, but absolutely hated Temple. The new Secretary
of State, his Majesty said, had never read Vatel, and was tedious and
pompous, but respectful. The First Lord of the Admiralty was grossly
impertinent. Walpole tells one story, which, {238}we fear, is much too
good to be true. He assures us that Temple entertained his royal master
with an elaborate parallel between Byng’s behaviour at Minorca, and his
Majesty’s behaviour at Oudenarde, in which the advantage was all on the
side of the Admiral.

This state of things could not last. Early in April, Pitt and all his
friends were turned out, and Newcastle was summoned to St. James’s. But
the public discontent was not extinguished. It had subsided when Pitt
was called to power. But it still glowed under the embers; and it now
burst at once into a flame. The stocks fell. The Common Council met. The
freedom of the city was voted to Pitt. All the greatest corporate towns
followed the example. “For some weeks,” says Walpole, “it rained gold

This was the turning point of Pitt’s life. It might have been expected
that a man of so haughty and vehement a nature, treated so ungraciously
by the Court, and supported so enthusiastically by the people, would
have eagerly taken the first opportunity of showing his power and
gratifying his resentment; and an opportunity was not wanting. The
members for many counties and large towns had been instructed to vote
for an inquiry into the circumstances which had produced the miscarriage
of the preceding year. A motion for inquiry had been carried in the
House of Commons, without opposition; and, a few days after Pitt’s
dismissal, the investigation commenced. Newcastle and his colleagues
obtained a vote of acquittal; but the minority were so strong that they
could not venture to ask for a vote of approbation, as they had at first
intended; and it was thought by some shrewd observers that, if Pitt had
exerted himself {239}to the utmost of his power, the inquiry might have
ended in a censure, if not in an impeachment.

Pitt showed on this occasion a moderation and selfgovernment which was
not habitual to him. He had found by experience, that he could not stand
alone. His eloquence and his popularity had done much, very much for
him. Without rank, without fortune, without borough interest, hated
by the King, hated by the aristocracy, he was a person of the first
importance in the state. He had been suffered to form a ministry, and to
pronounce sentence of exclusion on all his rivals, on the most powerful
nobleman of the Whig party, on the ablest debater in the House of
Commons. And he now found that he had gone too far. The English
Constitution was not, indeed, without a popular element. But other
elements generally predominated. The confidence and admiration of the
nation might make a statesman formidable at the head of an Opposition,
might load him with framed and glazed parchments and gold boxes, might
possibly, under very peculiar circumstances, such as those of the
preceding year, raise him for a time to power. But, constituted as
Parliament then was, the favourite of the people could not depend on
a majority in the people’s own House. The Duke of Newcastle, however
contemptible in morals, manners, and understanding, was a dangerous
enemy. His rank, his wealth, his unrivalled parliamentary interest,
would alone have made him important. But this was not all. The Whig
aristocracy regarded him as their leader. His long possession of power
had given him a kind of prescriptive right to possess it still. The
House of Commons had been elected when he was at the head of affairs.
The members for the ministerial boroughs had all been {240}nominated by
him. The public offices swarmed with his creatures.

Pitt desired power; and he desired it, we really believe, from high and
generous motives. He was, in the strict sense of the word, a patriot. He
had none of that philanthropy which the great French writers of his time
preached to all the nations of Europe. He loved England as an Athenian
loved the City of the Violet Crown, as a Roman loved the City of the
Seven Hills. He saw his country insulted and defeated. He saw the
national spirit sinking. Yet he knew what the resources of the empire,
vigorously employed, could effect; and he felt that he was the man to
employ them vigorously. “My Lord,” he said to the Duke of Devonshire,
“I am sure that I can save this country, and that nobody else can.”

Desiring, then, to be in power, and feeling that his abilities and the
public confidence were not alone sufficient to keep him in power against
the wishes of the Court and of the aristocracy, he began to think of a
coalition with Newcastle.

Newcastle was equally disposed to a reconciliation. He, too, had
profited by his recent experience. He had found that the Court and
the aristocracy, though powerful, were not every thing in the state.
A strong oligarchical connection, a great borough interest, ample
patronage, and secret-service money, might, in quiet times, be all that
a Minister needed; but it was unsafe to trust wholly to such support
in time of war, of discontent, and of agitation. The composition of the
House of Commons was not wholly aristocratical; and, whatever be the
composition of large deliberative assemblies, their spirit is always in
some degree popular. Where there are free debates, eloquence must have
{241}admirers, and reason must make converts. Where there is a free
press, the governors must live in constant awe of the opinions of the

Thus these two men, so unlike in character, so lately mortal enemies,
were necessary to each other. Newcastle had fallen in November, for
want of that public confidence which Pitt possessed, and of that
parliamentary support which Pitt was better qualified than any man of
his time to give. Pitt had fallen in April, for want of that species
of influence which Newcastle had passed his whole life in acquiring and
hoarding. Neither of them had power enough to support himself. Each
of them had power enough to overturn the other. Their union would be
irresistible. Neither the King nor any party in the state would be able
to stand against them.

Under these circumstances, Pitt was not disposed to proceed to
extremities against his predecessors in office. Something, however, was
due to consistency; and something was necessary for the preservation of
his popularity. He did little; but that little he did in such a manner
as to produce great effect. He came down to the House in all the pomp of
gout, his legs swathed in flannels, his arm dangling in a sling. He kept
his seat through several fatiguing days, in spite of pain and languor.
He uttered a few sharp and vehement sentences; but during the greater
part of the discussion, his language was unusually gentle.

When the inquiry had terminated without a vote either of approbation
or of censure, the great obstacle to a coalition was removed. Many
obstacles, however, remained. The King was still rejoicing in his
deliverance from the proud and aspiring Minister who had been forced on
him by the cry of the nation. His {242}Majesty’s indignation was excited
to the highest point when it appeared that Newcastle, who had, during
thirty years, been loaded with marks of royal favour, and who had
bound himself, by a solemn promise, never to coalesce with Pitt, was
meditating a new perfidy. Of all the statesmen of that age, Fox had the
largest share of royal favour. A coalition between Fox and Newcastle was
the arrangement which the King wished to bring about. But the Duke was
too cunning to fall into such a snare. As a speaker in Parliament, Fox
might perhaps be, on the whole, as useful to an administration as his
great rival; but he was one of the most unpopular men in England. Then,
again, Newcastle felt all that jealousy of Fox, which, according to the
proverb, generally exists between two of a trade. Fox would certainly
intermeddle with that department which the Duke was most desirous to
reserve entire to himself, the jobbing department. Pitt, on the other
hand, was quite willing to leave the drudgery of corruption to any who
might be inclined to undertake it.

During eleven weeks England remained without a ministry; and in the mean
time Parliament was sitting, and a war was raging. The prejudices of the
King, the haughtiness of Pitt, the jealousy, levity, and treachery of
Newcastle, delayed the settlement. Pitt knew the Duke too well to trust
him without security. The Duke loved power too much to be inclined to
give security. While they were haggling, the King was in vain attempting
to produce a final rupture between them, or to form a Government without
them. At one time he applied to Lord Waldgrave, an honest and sensible
man, but unpractised in affairs. Lord Waldgrave had the courage to
accept the Treasury, {243}but soon found that no administration formed
by him had the smallest chance of standing a single week.

At length the King’s pertinacity yielded to the necessity of the case.
After exclaiming with great bitterness, and with some justice, against
the Whigs, who ought, he said, to be ashamed to talk about liberty while
they submitted to the footmen of the Duke of Newcastle, his Majesty
submitted. The influence of Leicester House prevailed on Pitt to abate
a little, and but a little, of his high demands; and all at once, out
of the chaos in which parties had for some time been rising, falling,
meeting, separating, arose a government as strong at home as that of
Pelham, as successful abroad as that of Godolphin.

Newcastle took the Treasury. Pitt was Secretary of State, with the lead
in the House of Commons, and with the supreme direction of the war
and of foreign affairs. Fox, the only man who could have given much
annoyance to the new Government, was silenced with the office of
Paymaster, which, during the continuance of that war, was probably
the most lucrative place in the whole Government. He was poor, and the
situation was tempting; yet it cannot but seem extraordinary that a man
who had played a first part in politics, and whose abilities had been
found not unequal to that part, who had sat in the Cabinet, who had led
the House of Commons, who had been twice intrusted by the King with the
office of forming a ministry, who was regarded as the rival of Pitt,
and who at one time seemed likely to be a successful rival, should have
consented, for the sake of emolument, to take a subordinate place,
and to give silent votes for all the measures of a government to the
deliberations of which he was not summoned. {244}The first acts of the
new administration were characterized rather by vigour than by judgment.
Expeditions were sent against different parts of the French coast with
little success. The small island of Aix was taken, Rochefort threatened,
a few ships burned in the harbour of St. Maloes, and a few guns and
mortars brought home as trophies from the fortifications of Cherbourg.
But soon conquest of a very different kind filled the kingdom with pride
and rejoicing. A succession of victories undoubtedly brilliant, and, as
it was thought, not barren, raised to the highest point the fame of the
minister to whom the conduct of the war had been intrusted. In July,
1758, Louisburg fell. The whole island of Cape Breton was reduced.
The fleet to which the Court of Versailles had confided the defence
of French America was destroyed. The captured standards were borne in
triumph from Kensington Palace to the city, and were suspended in St.
Paul’s Church, amidst the roar of guns and kettle-drums, and the shouts
of an immense multitude. Addresses of congratulation came in from all
the great towns of England. Parliament met only to decree thanks and
monuments, and to bestow, without one murmur, supplies more than double
of those which had been given during the war of the Grand Alliance.

The year 1759 opened with the conquest of Gorec. Next fell Guadaloupe;
then Ticonderoga; then Niagara. The Toulon squadron was completely
defeated by Boscawen off Cape Inigos. But the greatest exploit of the
year was the achievement of Wolfe on the heights of Abraham. The news of
his glorious death and of the fall of Quebec reached London in the very
week in which the Houses met. All was joy and triumph. Envy and faction
were forced to join in the {245}general applause. Whigs and Tories
vied with each other in extolling the genius and energy of Pitt. His
colleagues were never talked of or thought of. The House of Commons, the
nation, the colonies, our allies, our enemies, had their eyes fixed on
him alone.

Scarcely had Parliament voted a monument to Wolfe when another great
event called for fresh rejoicings. The Brest fleet, under the command
of Conflans, had put out to sea. It was overtaken by an English squadron
under Hawke. Conflans attempted to take shelter close under the French
coast. The shore was rocky: the night was black: the wind was furious:
the waves of the Bay of Biscay ran high. But Pitt had infused into every
branch of the service a spirit which had long been unknown. No British
seaman was disposed to err on the same side with Byng. The pilot told
Hawke that the attack could not be made without the greatest danger.
“You have done your duty in remonstrating,” answered Hawke; “I will
answer for every thing. I command you to lay me alongside the French
admiral.” Two French ships of the line struck. Four were destroyed. The
rest hid themselves in the rivers of Britanny.

The year 1760 came; and still triumph followed triumph. Montreal was
taken; the whole province of Canada was subjugated; the French fleets
underwent a succession of disasters in the seas of Europe and America.

In the meantime conquests equalling in rapidity, and far surpassing in
magnitude, those of Cortes and Pizarro, had been achieved in the East.
In the space of three years the English had founded a mighty empire.
The French had been defeated in every part of India. Chandernagore had
surrendered to Clive, {246}Pondicherry to Coote. Throughout Bengal,
Bahar. Orissa and the Carnatic, the authority of the East India Company
was more absolute than that of Acbar or Aurungzebe had ever been.

On the continent of Europe the odds were against England. We had but one
important ally, the King of Prussia; and he was attacked, not only by
France, but also by Russia and Austria. Yet even on the Continent, the
energy of Pitt triumphed over all difficulties. Vehemently as he had
condemned the practice of subsidising foreign princes, he now carried
that practice farther than Carteret himself would have ventured to
do. The active and able Sovereign of Prussia received such pecuniary
assistance as enabled him to maintain the conflict on equal terms
against his powerful enemies. On no subject had Pitt ever spoken with
so much eloquence and ardour as on the mischiefs of the Hanoverian
connection. He now declared, not without much show of reason, that
it would be unworthy of the English people to suffer their King to be
deprived of his electoral dominions in an English quarrel. He assured
his countrymen that they should be no losers, and that he would conquer
America for them in Germany. By taking this line he conciliated the
King, and lost no part of his influence with the nation. In Parliament,
such was the ascendency which his eloquence, his success, his high
situation, his pride, and his intrepidity had obtained for him, that he
took liberties with the House of which there had been no example, and
which have never since been imitated. No orator could there venture to
reproach him with inconsistency. One unfortunate man made the attempt,
and was so much disconcerted by the scornful demeanour of the Minister
that he stammered, stopped, and {247}sat down. Even the old Tory country
gentlemen, to whom the very name of Hanover had been odious, gave their
hearty Ayes to subsidy after subsidy. In a lively contemporary satire,
much more lively indeed than delicate, this remarkable conversion is not
unhappily described.

                        “No more they make a fiddle-faddle

                        About a Hessian horse or saddle.

                        No more of continental measures;

                        No more of wasting British treasures.

                        Ten millions, and a vote of credit,

                        ’Tis right. He can’t be wrong who did it.”

The success of Pitt’s continental measures was such as might have been
expected from their vigour. When he came into power, Hanover was in
imminent danger; and before he had been in office three months, the
whole electorate was in the hands of France. But the face of affairs was
speedily changed. The invaders were driven out. An army, partly English,
partly Hanoverian, partly composed of soldiers furnished by the petty
princes of Germany, was placed under the command of Prince Ferdinand
of Brunswick. The French were beaten in 1758 at Crevelt. In 1759 they
received a still more complete and humiliating defeat at Minden.

In the meantime, the nation exhibited all the signs of wealth and
prosperity. The merchants of London had never been more thriving. The
importance of several great commercial and manufacturing towns, of
Glasgow in particular, dates from this period. The fine inscription on
the monument of Lord Chatham in Guildhall records the general opinion of
the citizens of London, that under his administration commerce had been
“united with and made to flourish by war.” {248}It must be owned that
these signs of prosperity were in some degree delusive. It must be owned
that some of our conquests were rather splendid than useful. It must
be owned that the expense of the war never entered into Pitt’s
consideration. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the cost of
his victories increased the pleasure with which he contemplated them.
Unlike other men in his situation, he loved to exaggerate the sums
which the nation was laying out under his direction. He was proud of the
sacrifices and efforts which his eloquence and his success had induced
his countrymen to make. The price at which he purchased faithful service
and complete victory, though far smaller than that which his son, the
most profuse and incapable of war ministers, paid for treachery, defeat,
and shame, was long and severely felt by the nation.

Even as a war minister, Pitt is scarcely entitled to all the praise
which his contemporaries lavished on him. We, perhaps from ignorance,
cannot discern in his arrangements any appearance of profound or
dexterous combination. Several of his expeditions, particularly those
which were sent to the coast of France, were at once costly and absurd.
Our Indian conquests, though they add to the splendour of the period
during which he was at the head of affairs, were not planned by him. He
had undoubtedly great energy, great determination, great means at his
command. His temper was enterprising; and, situated as he was, he had
only to follow his temper. The wealth of a rich nation, the valour of a
brave nation, were ready to support him in every attempt.

In one respect, however, he deserved all the praise that he has ever
received. The success of our arms was perhaps owing less to the skill
of his dispositions {240}than to the national resources and the national
spirit. But that the national spirit rose to the emergency, that the
national resources were contributed with unexampled cheerfulness, this
was undoubtedly his work. The ardour of his soul had set the whole
kingdom on fire. It inflamed every soldier who dragged the cannon up the
heights of Quebec, and every sailor who boarded the French ships among
the rocks of Britanny. The Minister, before he had been long in office,
had imparted to the commanders whom he employed his own impetuous,
adventurous, and defying character. They, like him, were disposed to
risk every thing, to play double or quits to the last, to think nothing
done while any thing remained undone, to fail rather than not to
attempt. For the errors of rashness there might be indulgence. For
over-caution, for faults like those of Lord George Sackville, there
was no mercy. In other times, and against other enemies, this mode of
warfare might have failed. But the state of the French government and of
the French nation gave every advantage to Pitt. The fops and intriguers
of Versailles were appalled and bewildered by his vigour. A panic
spread through all ranks of society. Our enemies soon considered it as
a settled thing that they were always to be beaten. Thus victory begot
victory; till, at last, wherever the forces of the two nations met, they
met with disdainful confidence on one side, and with a craven fear on
the other.

The situation which Pitt occupied at the close of the reign of George
the Second was the most enviable ever occupied by any public man in
English history. He had conciliated the King; he domineered over the
House of Commons; he was adored by the people; he was admired by all
Europe. He was the first Englishman {250}of his time: and he had made
England the first country in the world. The Great Commoner, the name by
which he was often designated, might look down with scorn on coronets
and garters. The nation was drunk with joy and pride. The Parliament was
as quiet as it had been under Pelham. The old party distinctions were
almost effaced; nor was their place yet supplied by distinctions of
a still more important kind. A new generation of country squires
and rectors had arisen who knew not the Stuarts. The Dissenters were
tolerated; the Catholics not cruelly persecuted. The Church was drowsy
and indulgent. The great civil and religious conflict which began at
the Reformation seemed to have terminated in universal repose. Whigs
and Tories, Churchmen and Puritans, spoke with equal reverence of the
constitution, and with equal enthusiasm of the talents, virtues, and
services of the Minister.

A few years sufficed to change the whole aspect of affairs. A nation
convulsed by faction, a throne assailed by the fiercest invective, a
House of Commons hated and despised by the nation, England set against
Scotland, Britain set against America, a rival legislature sitting
beyond the Atlantic, English blood shed by English bayonets, our armies
capitulating, our conquests wrested from us, our enemies hastening to
take vengeance for past humiliation, our flag scarcely able to maintain
itself in our own seas, such was the spectacle which Pitt lived to see.
But the history of this great revolution requires far more space than we
can at present bestow. We leave the Great Commoner in the zenith of his
glory. It is not impossible that we may take some other opportunity of
tracing his life to its melancholly, yet not inglorious close.


(_Edinburgh Review_, July, 1835.)

It {251}is with unfeigned diffidence that we venture to give our
opinion of the last work of Sir James Mackintosh. We have in vain tried
to perform what ought to be to a critic an easy and habitual act. We
have in vain tried to separate the book from the writer, and to judge
of it as if it bore some unknown name. But it is to no purpose. All
the lines of that venerable countenance are before us. All the little
peculiar cadences of that voice from which scholars and statesmen loved
to receive the lessons of a serene and benevolent

     (1) _History of the Revolution in England, in 1688.
     Comprising a View of the Reign of James the Second, from his
     Accession to the Enterprise of the Prince, of Orange_, by
     the lute Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh; _and
     completed to the Settlement of the Crown, by the Editor. To
     which is prefixed a Notice of the Life, Writings, and
     Speeches of Sir James Mackintosh_. 4to. London: 1834.*

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

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

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

{252}wisdom are in our ears. We will attempt to preserve strict
impartiality. But we are not ashamed to own that we approach this relic
of a virtuous and most accomplished man with feelings of respect and
gratitude which may possibly pervert our judgment.

It is hardly possible to avoid instituting a comparison between this
work and another celebrated Fragment. Our readers will easily guess that
we allude to Mr. Fox’s History of James the Second The two books relate
to the same subject. Both were posthumously published. Neither had
received the last corrections. The authors belonged to the same
political party, and held the same opinions concerning the merits
and defects of the English constitution, and concerning most of the
prominent characters and events in English history. Both had
thought much on the principles of government; yet they were not mere
speculators. Both had ransacked the archives of rival kingdoms, and
pored on folios which had mouldered for ages in deserted libraries; yet
they were not mere antiquaries. They had one eminent qualification for
writing history: they had spoken history, acted history, lived history.
The turns of political fortune, the ebb and flow of popular feeling, the
hidden mechanism by which parties are moved, all these things were
the subjects of their constant thought and of their most familiar
conversation. Gibbon has remarked that he owed part of his success as
a historian to the observations which he had made as an officer in the
militia and as a member of the House of Commons. The remark is most
just. We have not the smallest doubt that his campaign, though he never
saw an enemy, and his parliamentary attendance, though he never made a
speech, were of far {253}more use to him than years of retirement and
study would have been. If the time that he spent on parade and at mess
in Hampshire, or on the Treasury bench and at Brookes’s during the
storms which overthrew Lord North and Lord Shelburne, had been passed in
the Bodleian Library, he might have avoided some inaccuracies; he might
have enriched his notes with a greater number of references; but he
would never have produced so lively a picture of the court, the camp,
and the senate-house. In this respect Mr. Fox and Sir James Mackintosh
had great advantages over almost every English historian who has written
since the time of Burnet. Lord Lyttelton had indeed the same advantages;
but he was incapable of using them. Pedantry was so deeply fixed in
his nature that the hustings, the Treasury, the Exchequer, the House of
Commons, the House of Lords, left him the same dreaming schoolboy that
they found him.

When we compare the two interesting works of which we have been
speaking, we have little difficulty in giving the preference to that of
Sir James Mackintosh. Indeed the superiority of Mr. Fox to Sir Janies as
an orator is hardly more clear than the superiority of Sir James to Mr.
Fox as an historian. Mr. Fox with a pen in his hand, and Sir James on
his legs in the House of Commons, were, we think, each out of his proper
element. They were men, it is true, of far too much judgment and ability
to fail scandalously in any undertaking to which they brought the whole
power of their minds. The history of James the Second will always keep
its place in our libraries as a valuable book; and Sir James
Mackintosh succeeded in winning and maintaining a high place among the
parliamentary speakers of his time. Yet we could {254}never read a page
of Mr. Fox’s writing, we could never listen for a quarter of an hour
to the speaking of Sir James, without feeling that there was a constant
effort, a tug up hill. Nature, or habit which had become nature,
asserted its rights. Mr. Fox wrote debates. Sir James Mackintosh spoke

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

While Mr. Fox winnowed and sifted his phraseology with a care which
seems hardly consistent with the simplicity and elevation of his mind,
and of which the effect really was to debase and enfeeble his style,
he was little on his guard against those more serious improprieties of
manner into which a great orator who undertakes to write history is
in danger of falling. There is about the whole book a vehement,
contentious, replying manner. Almost every argument is put in the form
of an interrogation, an ejaculation, or a sarcasm. The writer seems
to be addressing himself to some imaginary audience, to be tearing in
pieces a defence of the Stuarts which has just been pronounced by an
imaginary Tory. Take, for example, his answer to Hume’s remarks on the
execution of Sydney; and substitute “the honourable gentleman” or
“the noble Lord” for the name of Hume. The whole passage sounds like a
powerful reply, thundered at three in the morning from the Opposition
Bench. While we read it, we can almost fancy that we see and hear the
great English debater, such as he has been described to us by the few
who can still remember the Westminster scrutiny and the {256}Oczakow
Negotiations, in the full paroxysm of inspiration, foaming, screaming,
choked by the rushing multitude of his words.

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

With Sir James Mackintosh the case was reversed. His proper place
was his library, a circle of men of letters, or a chair of moral and
political philosophy. He distinguished himself highly in Parliament. But
nevertheless Parliament was not exactly the sphere for him. The effect
of his most successful speeches was small when compared with the
quantity of ability and learning which was expended on them. We could
easily name men who, not possessing a tenth part of his intellectual
powers, hardly ever address the House of Commons without producing a
greater impression than was produced by his most splendid and elaborate
orations. His luminous and philosophical disquisition on the Reform Bill
was spoken to empty benches. {257}Those, indeed, who had the wit to keep
their seats, picked up hints which, skilfully used, made the fortune
of more than one speech. But “it was caviare to the general.” And even
those who listened to Sir James with pleasure and admiration could not
but acknowledge that he rather lectured than debated. An artist who
should waste on a panorama, or a scene, or on a transparency, the
exquisite finishing which we admire in some of the small Dutch
interiors, would not squander his powers more than this eminent man too
often did. His audience resembled the boy in the Heart of Mid-Lothian,
who pushes away the lady’s guineas with contempt, and insists on
having the white money. They preferred the silver with which they were
familiar, and which they were constantly passing about from hand to
hand, to the gold which they had never before seen, and with the value
of which they were unacquainted.

It is much to be regretted, we think, that Sir James Mackintosh did not
wholly devote his later years to philosophy and literature. His talents
were not those which enable a speaker to produce with rapidity a series
of striking but transitory impressions, and to excite the minds of five
hundred gentlemen at midnight, without saying any thing that any one of
them will be able to remember in the morning. His arguments were of a
very different texture from those which are produced in Parliament at a
moment’s notice, which puzzle a plain man who, if he had them before him
in writing, would soon detect their fallacy, and which the great debater
who employs them forgets within half an hour, and never thinks of again.
Whatever was valuable in the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh was
the ripe fruit of study and of {258}meditation. It was the same with
his conversation. In his most familiar talk there was no wildness, no
inconsistency, no amusing nonsense, no exaggeration for the sake of
momentary effect. His mind was a vast magazine, admirably arranged.
Every thing was there; and every thing was in its place. His judgments
on men, on sects, on books, had been often and carefully tested and
weighed, and had then been committed, each to his proper receptacle,
in the most capacious and accurately constructed memory that any human
being ever possessed. It would have been strange indeed if you had asked
for any thing that was not to be found in that immense storehouse. The
article which you required was not only there. It was ready. It was in
its own proper compartment.. In a moment it was brought down, unpacked,
and displayed. If those who enjoyed the privilege--for a privilege
indeed it was--of listening to Sir Janies Mackintosh, had been disposed
to find some fault in his conversation, they might perhaps have observed
that he yielded too little to the impulse of the moment. He seemed to be
recollecting, not creating. He never appeared to catch a sudden glimpse
of a subject in a new light. You never saw his opinions in the making,
still rude, still inconsistent, and requiring to be fashioned by thought
and discussion. They came forth, like the pillars of that temple in
which no sound of axes or hammers was heard, finished, rounded, and
exactly suited to their places. What Mr. Charles Lamb has said with so
much humour and some truth, of the conversation of Scotchmen in general,
was certainly true of this eminent Scotchman. He did not find, but
bring. You could not cry halves to any thing that turned up while you
were in his company. {259}The intellectual and moral qualities which are
most important in a historian, he possessed in a very high degree. He
was singularly mild, calm, and impartial in his judgments of men, and
of parties. Almost all the distinguished writers who have treated of
English history are advocates. Mr. Hallam and Sir James Mackintosh
alone are entitled to be called judges. But the extreme austerity of Mr.
Hallam takes away something from the pleasure of reading his learned,
eloquent, and judicious writings. He is a judge, but a hanging judge,
the Page or Buller of the High Court of Literary Justice. His black cap
is in constant requisition. In the long calendar of those whom he
has tried, there is hardly one who has not, in spite of evidence to
character and recommendations to mercy, been sentenced and left for
execution. Sir James, perhaps, erred a little on the other side. He
liked a maiden assize, and came away with white gloves, after sitting in
judgment on batches of the most notorious offenders. He had a quick eye
for the redeeming parts of a character, and a large toleration for the
infirmities of men exposed to strong temptations. But this lenity did
not arise from ignorance or neglect of moral distinctions. Though he
allowed perhaps too much weight to every extenuating circumstance that
could be urged in favour of the transgressor, he never disputed the
authority of the law, or showed his ingenuity by refining away its
enactments. On every occasion he showed himself firm where principles
were in question, but full of charity towards individuals.

We have no hesitation in pronouncing this Fragment decidedly the best
history now extant of the reign of James the Second. It contains much
new and curious information, of which excellent use has {260}been made.
But we are not sure that the book is not in some degree open to the
charge which the idle citizen in the Spectator brought against his
pudding; “Mem. too many plums, and no suet.” There is perhaps too much
disquisition and too little narrative; and indeed this is the fault
into which, judging from the habits of Sir James’s mind, we should have
thought him most likely to fall. What we assuredly did not anticipate
was, that the narrative would be better executed than the disquisitions.
We expected to find, and we have found, many just delineations of
character, and many digressions full of interest, such as the account of
the order of Jesuits, and of the state of prison discipline in England
a hundred and fifty years ago. We expected to find, and we have
found, many reflections breathing the spirit of a calm and benignant
philosophy. But we did not, we own, expect to find that Sir James could
tell a story as well as Voltaire or Hume. Yet such is the fact; and
if any person doubts it, we would advise him to read the account of
the events which followed the issuing of King James’s declaration,
the meeting of the clergy, the violent scene at the privy council, the
commitment, trial, and acquittal of the bishops. The most superficial
reader must be charmed, we think, by the liveliness of the narrative.
But no person who is not acquainted with that vast mass of intractable
materials of which the valuable and interesting part has been extracted
and condensed can fully appreciate the skill of the writer. Here, and
indeed throughout the book, we find many harsh and careless expressions
which the author would probably have removed if he had lived to complete
his work. But, in spite of these blemishes, we must say that we should
find it difficult to point out, {261}in any modern history, any passage
of equal length and at the same time of equal merit. We find in it
the diligence, the accuracy, and the judgment of Hallam, united to the
vivacity and the colouring of Southey. A history of England, written
throughout in this manner, would be the most fascinating book in the
language. It would be more in request at the circulating libraries than
the last novel.

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

The style of this Fragment is weighty, manly, and unaffected. There are,
as we have said, some expressions which seem to us harsh, and some which
we think inaccurate. These would probably have been corrected, if Sir
James had lived to superintend the publication. We ought to add that the
printer has by no {262}means done his duty. One misprint, in particular,
is so serious as to require notice. Sir James Mackintosh has paid a high
and just tribute to the genius, the integrity, and the courage of a
good and great man, a distinguished ornament of English literature,
a fearless champion of English liberty, Thomas Burnet, Master of the
Charter-House, and author of that most eloquent and imaginative work,
the _Tellaris Theoria Sacra_. Wherever the name of this celebrated man
occurs, it is printed “Bennet,” both in the text and in the index.
This cannot be mere negligence. It is plain that Thomas Burnet and his
writings were never heard of by the gentleman who has been employed
to edite this volume, and who, not content with deforming Sir James
Mackintosh’s text by such blunders, has prefixed to it a bad Memoir, has
appended to it a bad Continuation, and has thus succeeded in expanding
the volume into one of the thickest, and debasing it into one of the
worst that we ever saw. Never did we fall in with so admirable an
illustration of the old Greek proverb, which tells us that half is
sometimes more than the whole. Never, did we see a case in which the
increase of the bulk was so evidently a diminution of the value.

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

The Memoir contains much that is worth reading; {263}for it contains
many extracts from the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh. But when we
pass from what the biographer has done with his scissors to what he has
done with his pen, we can find nothing to praise in his work. Whatever
may have been the intention with which he wrote, the tendency of his
narrative is to convey the impression that Sir James Mackintosh,
from interested motives, abandoned the doctrines of the _Vindicice
Grallicae_. Had such charges appeared in their natural place, we should
leave them to their natural fate. We would not stoop to defend Sir
James Mackintosh from the attacks of fourth-rate magazines and pothouse
newspapers. But here his own fame is turned against him. A book of which
not one copy would ever have been bought but for his name in the title
page is made the vehicle of the imputation. Under such circumstances
we cannot help exclaiming, in the words of one of the most amiable of
Homer’s heroes,

[Illustration: 0277]

We have no difficulty in admitting that, during the ten or twelve years
which followed the appearance of the _Vindicio Gallicae_, the opinions
of Sir James Mackintosh underwent some change. But did this chancre pass
on him alone? Was it not common? Was it not almost universal? Was there
one honest friend of liberty in Europe or in America whose ardour had
not been damped, whose faith in the high destinies of mankind had not
been shaken? Was there one observer to whom the French Revolution, or
revolutions in general, appeared in exactly the same light on the day
when the Bastile fell, and on the day when the Girondists were dragged
to the scaffold, the day when the Directory {264}shipped off their
principal opponents for Guiana, or the day when the Legislative Body
was driven from its hall at the point of the bayonet? We do not speak
of light-minded and enthusiastic people, of wits like Sheridan, or
poets like Alfieri; but of the most virtuous and intelligent practical
statesmen, and of the deepest, the calmest, the most impartial political
speculators of that time. What was the language and conduct of Lord
Spencer, of Lord Fitzwilliam, of Mr. Grattan? What is the tone of M.
Dumont’s Memoirs, written just at the close of the eighteenth century?
What Tory could have spoken with greater disgust and contempt of the
French Revolution and its authors? Nay, this writer, a republican, and
the most upright and zealous of republicans, has gone so far as to say
that Mr. Burke’s work on the Revolution had saved Europe. The name of M.
Dumont naturally suggests that of Mr. Bentham. He, we presume, was not
ratting for a place; and what language did he hold at that time? Look at
his little treatise entitled _Sophismes Anarchiques_. In that treatise
he says, that the atrocities of the Revolution were the natural
consequences of the absurd principles on which it was commenced; that,
while the chiefs of the constituent assembly gloried in the thought that
they were pulling down aristocracy, they never saw that their doctrines
tended to produce an evil a hundred times more formidable, anarchy; that
the theory laid down in the Declaration of the Rights of Man had, in a
great measure, produced the crimes of the Reign of ‘Terror; that none
but an eyewitness could imagine the horrors of a state of society in
which comments on that Declaration were put forth by men with no food
in their bellies, with rags on their backs, and pikes in their hands.
He praises the English Parliament for the dislike {265}which it has
always shown to abstract reasonings, and to the affirming of general
principles. In M. Dumont’s preface to the Treatise on the Principles
of Legislation, a preface written under the eye of Mr. Bentham, and
published with his sanction, are the following still more remarkable
expressions: “M. Bentham est bien loin d’attacher une. préférence
exclusive à aucune forme de gouvernement. Il pense que la meilleure
constitution pour un peuple est celle à laquelle il est accoutumé....Le
vice fondamental des théories sur les constitutions politiques, c’est de
commencer par attaquer celles qui existent, et d’exciter tout au moins
des inquiétudes et des jalousies de pouvoir. Une telle disposition n’est
point favorable au perfectionnement des lois. La seule époque où l’on
puisse entreprendre avec succès des grandes réformes de législation, est
celle où les passions publiques sont calmes, et où le gouvernement jouit
de la stabilité la plus grande. L’objet de M. Bentham, en cherchant
dans le vice des lois la cause de la plupart des maux, a été constamment
d’éloigner le pins grand de tous, le bouleversement de l’autorité, les
révolutions de propriété et de pouvoir.”

To so conservative a frame of mind had the excesses of the French
Revolution brought the most illustrious reformers of that time. And
why is one person to be singled out from among millions, and arraigned
before posterity as a traitor to his opinions, only because events
produced on him the effect which they produced on a whole generation?
People who, like Mr. Brothers in the last generation, and Mr. Percival
in this, have been favoured with revelations from heaven, may be quite
independent of the vulgar sources of knowledge. But such poor creatures
as Mackintosh, Dumont, and Bentham, {266}had nothing but observation and
reason to guide them; and they obeyed the guidance of observation and of
reason. How is it in physics? A traveller falls in with a berry which he
has never before seen. He tastes it, and finds it sweet and refreshing.
He praises it, and resolves to introduce it into his own country. But in
a few minutes he is taken violently sick; he is convulsed; he is at
the point of death. He of course changes his opinion, pronounces
this delicious food a poison, blames his own folly in tasting it, and
cautions his friends against it. After a long and violent struggle he
recovers, and finds himself much exhausted by his sufferings, but free
from some chronic complaints which had been the torment of his life.
He then changes his opinion again, and pronounces this fruit a very
powerful remedy, which ought to be employed only in extreme cases and
with great caution, but which ought not to be absolutely excluded from
the Pharmacopoeia. And would it not be the height of absurdity to call
such a man fickle and inconsistent, because he had repeatedly altered
his judgment? If he had not altered his judgment, would he have been a
rational being? It was exactly the same with the French Revolution. That
event was a new phænomenon in politics. Nothing that had gone before
enabled any person to judge with certainty of the course which affairs
might take. At first the effect was the reform of great abuses; and
honest men rejoiced. Then came commotion, proscription, confiscation,
bankruptcy, the assignats, the maximum, civil war, foreign war,
revolutionary tribunals, guillotinades, noyades, fusillades. Yet a
little while, and a military despotism rose out of the confusion, and
menaced the independence of every state in Europe. And yet again a
little while, and {267}the old dynasty returned, followed by a train of
emigrants eager to restore the old abuses. We have now, we think, the
whole before us. We should therefore be justly accused of levity or
insincerity if our language concerning those events were constantly
changing. It is our deliberate opinion that the French Revolution, in
spite of all its crimes and follies, was a great blessing to mankind.
But it was not only natural, but inevitable, that those who had only
seen the first act should be ignorant of the catastrophe, and should be
alternately elated and depressed as the plot went on disclosing
itself to them. A man who had held exactly the same opinion about the
Revolution in 1789, in 1794, in 1804, in 1814, and in 1884, would
have been either a divinely inspired prophet, or an obstinate fool.
Mackintosh was neither. He was simply a wise and good man; and the
change which passed on his mind was a change which passed on the mind
of almost every wise and good man in Europe. In fact, few of his
contemporaries changed so little. The rare moderation and calmness
of his temper preserved him alike from extravagant elation and from
extravagant despondency. He was never a Jacobin. He was never an
Antijacobin. His mind oscillated undoubtedly; but the extreme points of
the oscillation were not very remote. Herein he differed greatly from
some persons of distinguished talents who entered into life at nearly
the same time with him. Such persons we have seen rushing from one wild
extreme to another, out-Paining Paine, out-Castlereaghing Castlereagh,
Pantisocratists, Ultra-Tories, heretics, persecutors, breaking the
old laws against sedition, calling for new and sharper laws against
sedition, writing democratic dramas, writing Laureate odes, panegyrising
{268}Marten, panegyrising Land, consistent in nothing but an intolerance
which in any person would be censurable, but which is altogether
unpardonable in men who, by their own confession, have had such ample
experience of their own fallibility. We readily concede to some of these
persons the praise of eloquence and poetical invention; nor are we
by any means disposed, even where they have been gainers by their
conversion, to question their sincerity. It would be most uncandid to
attribute to sordid motives actions which admit of a less discreditable
explanation. We think that the conduct of these persons has been
precisely what was to be expected from men who were gifted with strong
imagination and quick sensibility, but who were neither accurate
observers nor logical reasoners. It was natural that such men should see
in the victory of the third estate of France the dawn of a new Saturnian
age. It was natural that the rage of their disappointment should be
proportioned to the extravagance of their hopes. Though the direction of
their passions was altered, the violence of those passions was the same.
The force of the rebound was proportioned to the force of the original
impulse. The pendulum swung furiously to the left, because it had been
drawn too far to the right.

We own that nothing gives us so high an idea of the judgment and temper
of Sir James Mackintosh as the manner in which he shaped his course
through those times. Exposed successively to two opposite infections, he
took both in their very mildest form. Hie constitution of his mind was
such that neither of the diseases which wrought such havoc all round him
could in any serious degree, or for any great length of time, derange
his intellectual health. He, {269}like every honest and enlightened man
in Europe, saw with delight the great awakening; of the French nation.
Yet he never, in the season of his wannest enthusiasm, proclaimed
doctrines inconsistent with the safety of property and the just
authority of governments. He, like almost every other honest and
enlightened man, was discouraged and perplexed by the terrible events
which followed. Yet he never in the most gloomy times abandoned the
cause of peace, of liberty, and of toleration. In that great convulsion
which overset almost every other understanding, he was indeed so much
shaken that he leaned sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the
other; but he never lost his balance. The opinions in which he at last
reposed, and to which, in spite of strong temptations, he adhered with
a firm, a disinterested, an ill-requited fidelity, were a just mean
between those which he had defended with youthful ardour and with more
than manly prowess against Mr. Burke, and those to which he had inclined
during the darkest and saddest years in the history of modern Europe.
We are much mistaken if this be the picture either of a weak or of a
dishonest mind.

What the political opinions of Sir James Mackintosh were in his later
years is written in the annals of his country. Those annals will
sufficiently refute what the Editor has ventured to assert in the
very advertisement to this work. “Sir James Mackintosh,” says he,
“was avowedly and emphatically a Whig of the Revolution: and since
the agitation of religious liberty and parliamentary reform became
a national movement, the great transaction of 1688 has been more
dispassionately, more correctly, and less highly estimated.” If these
words mean any thing, they must {270}mean that the opinions of Sir James
Mackintosh concerning religious liberty and parliamentary reform went
no further than those of the authors of the Revolution; in other words,
that Sir James Mackintosh opposed Catholic Emancipation, and approved of
the old constitution of the House of Commons. The allocation is confuted
by twenty volumes of Parliamentary Debates, nay by innumerable passages
in the very Fragment which this writer has defaced. We will venture to
say that Sir James Mackintosh often did more for religions liberty and
for parliamentary reform in a quarter of an hour, than most of those
zealots who are in the habit of depreciating him, have done or will do
in the whole course of their lives.

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

We shall not, we hope, be suspected of a bigoted attachment to the
doctrines and practices of past generations. Our creed is that the
science of government is an experimental science, and that, like all
other experimental sciences, it is generally in a state of progression.
No man is so obstinate an admirer of the old times as to deny that
medicine, surgery, botany, chemistry, engineering, navigation, are
better understood {271}now than in any former age. We conceive that it
is the same with political science. Like those physical sciences
which we have mentioned, it has always been working itself clearer and
clearer, and depositing impurity after impurity. There was a time when
the most powerful of human intellects were deluded by the gibberish of
the astrologer and the alchemist; and just so there was a time when the
most enlightened and virtuous statesmen thought it the first duty of a
government to persecute heretics, to found monasteries, to make war
on Saracens. But time advances; facts accumulate; doubts arise. Faint
glimpses of truth begin to appear, and shine more and more unto the
perfect day. The highest intellects, like the tops of mountains, are the
first to catch and to reflect the dawn. They are bright, while the
level below is still in darkness. But soon the light, which at first
illuminated only the loftiest eminences, descends on the plain and
penetrates to the deepest valley. First come hints, then fragments of
systems, then defective systems, then complete and harmonious systems.
The sound opinion, held for a time by one bold speculator, becomes the
opinion of a small minority, of a strong minority, of a majority of
mankind. Thus, the great progress goes on, till schoolboys laugh at
the jargon which imposed on Bacon, till country rectors condemn the
illiberality and intolerance of Sir Thomas More.

Seeing these things, seeing that, by the confession of the most
obstinate enemies of innovation, our race has hitherto been almost
constantly advancing in knowledge, and not seeing any reason to believe
that, precisely at the point of time at which we came into the world, a
change took place in the faculties of the human mind, or in the mode
of discovering truth, we {272}are reformers: we are on the side of
progress. From the great advances which European society lias made,
during the last four centuries, in every species of knowledge, we infer,
not that there is no more room for improvement, but that, in every
science which deserves the name, immense improvements may be confidently

But the very considerations which lead us to look for ward with sanguine
hope to the future prevent us from looking back with contempt on the
past. We do not flatter ourselves with the notion that we have attained
perfection, and that no more truth remains to be found. We believe that
we are wiser than our ancestors. We believe, also, that our posterity
will be wiser than we. It would be gross injustice in our grandchildren
to talk of us with contempt, merely because they may have surpassed us;
to call Watt a fool, because mechanical powers may be discovered which
may supersede the use of steam; to deride the efforts which have been
made in our time to improve the discipline of prisons, and to enlighten
the minds of the poor, because future philanthropists may devise better
places of confinement than Air. Bentham’s Panopticon, and better
places of education than Air. Lancaster’s Schools. As we would have our
descendants judge us, so ought we to judge our fathers. In order to form
a correct estimate of their merits, we ought to place ourselves in their
situation, to put out of our minds, for a time, all that knowledge which
they, however eager in the pursuit of truth, could not have, and which
we, however negligent we may have been, could not help having. It
was not merely difficult, but absolutely impossible, for the best and
greatest of men, two hundred years ago, to be what a very commonplace
person {273}in our days may easily be, and indeed must necessarily be.
But it is too much that the benefactors of mankind, after having been
reviled by the dunces of their own generation for going too far, should
be reviled by the dunces of the next generation for not going far

The truth lies between two absurd extremes. On one side is the bigot who
pleads the wisdom of our ancestors as a reason for not doing what they
in our place would be the first to do; who opposes the Reform Bill
because Lord Somers did not see the necessity of Parliamentary Reform;
who would have opposed the Revolution because Ridley and Cranmer
professed boundless submission to the royal prerogative; and who would
have opposed the Reformation because the Fitzwalters and Mareschals,
whose seals are set to the Great Charter, were devoted adherents to the
Church of Rome. On the other side is the sciolist who speaks with scorn
of the Great Charter, because it did not reform the Church; of the
Reformation, because it did not limit the prerogative; and of the
Revolution, because it did not purify the House of Commons. The former
of these errors we have often combated, and shall always be ready to
combat. The latter, though rapidly spreading, has not, we think, yet
come under our notice. The former error bears directly on practical
questions, and obstructs useful reforms. It may, therefore, seem to
be, and probably is, the more mischievous of the two. But the latter
is equally absurd; it is at least equally symptomatic of a shallow
understanding; and an unamiable temper: and, if it should ever become
general, it will, we are satisfied, produce very prejudicial effects.
Its tendency is to deprive the benefactors of mankind of {274}their
honest fame, and to put the best and the worst men of past times on the
same level. The author of a great reformation is almost always unpopular
in his own age. He generally passes his life in disquiet and danger. It
is therefore for the interest of the human race that the memory of
such men should be had in reverence, and that they should be supported
against the scorn and hatred of their contemporaries by the hope of
leaving a great and imperishable name. To go on the forlorn hope of
truth is a service of peril. Who will undertake it, if it be not also a
service of honour? It is easy enough, after the ramparts are carried,
to find men to plant the flag on the highest tower. The difficulty is to
find men who are ready to go first into the breach; and it would be bad
policy indeed to insult their remains because they fell in the breach,
and did not live to penetrate to the citadel.

Now here we have a book which is by no means a favourable specimen of
the English literature of the nineteenth century, a book indicating
neither extensive knowledge nor great powers of reasoning. And, if we
were to judge by the pity with which the writer speaks of the great
statesmen and philosophers of a former age, we should guess that he was
the author of the most original and important inventions in political
science. Yet not so: for men who are able to make discoveries are
generally disposed to make allowances. Men who are eagerly pressing
forward in pursuit of truth are grateful to every one who has cleared an
inch of the way for them. It is, for the most part, the man who has
just capacity enough to pick up and repeat the commonplaces which
are fashionable in his own time who looks with disdain on the very
intellects to which it is owing that those {275}commonplaces are not
still considered as startling paradoxes or damnable heresies. This
writer is just the man who, if he had lived in the seventeenth century,
would have devoutly believed that the Papists burned London, who would
have swallowed the whole of Oates’s story about the forty thousand
soldiers, disguised as pilgrims, who were to meet in Gallicia, and sail
thence to invade England, who would have carried a Protestant flail
under his coat, and who would have been angry if the story of the
warmingpan had been questioned. It is quite natural that such a man
should speak with contempt of the great reformers of that time, because
they did not know some things which he never would have known but for
the salutary effects of their exertions. The men to whom we owe it that
we have a House of Commons are sneered at because they did not suffer
the debates of the House to be published. The authors of the Toleration
Act are treated as bigots, because they did not go the whole length
of Catholic Emancipation. Just so we have heard a baby, mounted on the
shoulders of its father, cry out, “How much taller I am than Papa!”

This gentleman can never want matter for pride, if he finds it so
easily. He may boast of an indisputable superiority to all the greatest
men of all past ages. He can read and write: Homer probably did not
know a letter. He has been taught that the earth goes round the sun:
Archimedes held that the sun went round the earth. He is aware that
there is a place called New Holland: Columbus and Gama went to their
graves in ignorance of the fact. He has heard of the Georgium Sidus:
Newton was ignorant of the existence of such a planet. He is acquainted
with the use of gunpowder: Hannibal and Cæsar won their {276}victories
with sword and spear. We submit, however, that this is not the way in
which men are to be estimated.

We submit that a wooden spoon of our day would not be justified in
calling Galileo and Napier blockheads, because they never heard of the
differential calculus. We submit that Caxton’s press in Westminster
Abbey, rude as it is, ought to be looked at with quite as much respect
as the best constructed machinery that ever, in our time, impressed the
clearest type on the finest paper. Sydenham first discovered that the
cool regimen succeeded best in cases of small-pox. By this discovery he
saved the lives of hundreds of thousands; and we venerate his memory
for it, though he never heard of inoculation. Lady Mary Montague brought
inoculation into use; and we respect her for it, though she never heard
of vaccination. Jenner introduced vaccination; we admire him for it, and
we shall continue to admire him for it, although some still safer and
more agreeable preservative should be discovered. It is thus that we
ought to judge of the events and the men of other times. They were
behind us. It could not be otherwise. But the question with respect to
them is not where they were, but which way they were going. Were their
faces set in the right or in the wrong direction? Were they in the front
or in the rear of their generation? Did they exert themselves to help
onward the great movement of the human race, or to stop it? This is not
charity, but simple justice and common sense. It is the fundamental law
of the world in which we live that truth shall grow, first the blade,
then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. A person who
complains of the men of 1688 for not having been men of 1885 might just
as well complain of a projectile for describing {277}a parabola, or of
quicksilver for being heavier than water.

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

In this respect, two historians of our own time may be proposed as
models, Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Mill. Differing in most things, in
this they closely resemble each other. Sir James is lenient. Mr. Mill
is severe. But neither of them ever omits, in the apportioning of praise
and of censure, to make ample allowance for the state of political
science and political morality {278}in former ages. In the work before
us, Sir James Mackintosh speaks with just respect of the Whigs of the
Revolution, while he never fails to condemn the conduct of that party
towards the members of the Church of Rome. His doctrines are the liberal
and benevolent doctrines of the nineteenth century. But he never forgets
that the men whom he is describing were men of the seventeenth century.

From Mr. Mill this indulgence, or, to speak more properly, this justice,
was less to be expected. That gentleman, in some of his works, appears
to consider politics not as an experimental, and therefore a progressive
science, but as a science of which all the difficulties may be resolved
by short synthetical arguments drawn from truths of the most vulgar
notoriety. Were this opinion well founded, the people of one generation
would have little or no advantage over those of another generation.
But though Mr. Mill, in some of his Essays, has been thus misled, as we
conceive, by a fondness for neat and precise forms of demonstration,
it would be gross injustice not to admit that, in his History, he has
employed a very different method of investigation with eminent ability
and success. We know no writer who takes so much pleasure in the truly
useful, noble, and philosophical employment of tracing the progress
of sound opinions from their embryo state to their full maturity. He
eagerly culls from old despatches and minutes every expression in which
he can discern the imperfect germ of any great truth which has since
been fully developed. He never fails to bestow praise on those who,
though far from coming up to his standard of perfection, yet rose in a
small degree above the common level of their contemporaries. It is thus
that the annals of past times ought to be written. {279}It is thus,
especially, that the annals of our own country ought to be written.

The history of England is emphatically the history of progress. It is
the history of a constant movement of the public mind, of a constant
change in the institutions of a great society. We see that society, at
the beginning of the twelfth century, in a state more miserable than the
state in which the most degraded nations of the East now are. We see
it subjected to the tyranny of a handful of armed foreigners. We see a
strong distinction of caste separating the victorious Norman from the
vanquished Saxon. We see the great body of the population in a state
of personal slavery. We see the most debasing and cruel superstition
exercising boundless dominion over the most elevated and benevolent
minds. We see the multitude sunk in brutal ignorance, and the studious
few engaged in acquiring what did not deserve the name of knowledge. In
the course of seven centuries the wretched and degraded race have become
the greatest and most highly civilised people that ever the world
saw, have spread their dominion over every quarter of the globe, have
scattered the seeds of mighty empires and republics over vast continents
of which no dim intimation had ever reached Ptolemy or Strabo, have
created a maritime power which would annihilate in a quarter of an hour
the navies of Tyre, Athens, Carthage, Venice, and Genoa together,
have earned the science of healing, the means of locomotion and
correspondence, every mechanical art, every manufacture, every thing
that promotes the convenience of life, to a perfection which our
ancestors would have thought magical, have produced a literature
which may boast of works not inferior to the noblest which Greece has
{280}bequeathed to us, have discovered the laws which regulate the
motions of the heavenly bodies, have speculated with exquisite subtilty
on the operations of the human mind, have been the acknowledged leaders
of the human race in the career of political improvement. The history of
England is the history of this great change in the moral, intellectual,
and physical state of the inhabitants of our own island. There is much
amusing and instructive episodical matter; but this is the main action.
To us, we will own, nothing is so interesting and delightful as to
contemplate the steps by which the England of Domesday Book, the England
of the Curfew and the Forest Laws, the England of crusaders, monks,
schoolmen, astrologers, seifs, outlaws, became the England which we know
and love, the classic ground of liberty and philosophy, the school of
all knowledge, the mart of all trade. The Charter of Henry Beauclerk,
the Great Charter, the first assembling of the House of Commons, the
extinction of personal slavery, the separation from the See of Rome,
the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Revolution, the
establishment of the liberty of unlicensed printing the abolition of
religious disabilities, the reform of the representative system, all
these seem to us to be the successive stages of one great revolution;
nor can we fully comprehend any one of these memorable events unless we
look at it in connection with those which preceded, and with those which
followed it. Each of those great and ever memorable struggles, Saxon
against Norman, Villein against Lord, Protestant against Papist,
Roundhead against Cavalier, Dissenter against Churchman, Manchester
against Old Sa-rum, was, in its own order and season, a struggle, on
the result of which were staked the dearest interests of the {281}human
race; and every man who, in the contest which, in his time, divided our
country, distinguished himself on the right side, is entitled to our
gratitude and respect.

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

We said that the history of England is the history of progress; and,
when we take a comprehensive view of it, it is so. But, when examined in
small separate portions, it may with more propriety be called a history
of actions and re-actions. We have often thought that the motion of the
public mind in our country resembles that of the sea when the tide is
rising. Each successive wave rushes forward, breaks, and rolls back; but
the great flood is steadily coming in. A person who looked on the waters
only for a moment might fancy that they were retiring. A person who
looked on them only for five minutes might fancy that they were rushing
capriciously to and fro. But when he keeps his eye on them for a
quarter of an hour, and sees one sea-mark disappear after another, it is
impossible for him to doubt of the general direction in which {282}the
ocean is moved. Just such has been the course of events in England. In
the history of the national mind, which is, in truth, the history of
the nation, we must carefully distinguish between that recoil which
regularly follows every advance and a great general ebb. If we take
short intervals, if we compare 1640 and 1660, 1680 and 1685, 1708 and
1712, 1782 and 1794, we find a retrogression. But if we take centuries,
if, for example, we compare 1794 with 1660 or with 1685, we cannot doubt
in which direction society is proceeding.

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

In 1660 the whole nation was mad with loyal excitement. If we had to
choose a lot from among all the multitude of those which men have drawn
since the beginning of the world, we would select that of Charles the
Second on the day of his return. He was in a situation in which the
dictates of ambition coincided with those of benevolence, in which it
was easier to be virtuous than to be wicked, to be loved, than to be
hated, to earn pure and imperishable glory than to become infamous. For
once the road of goodness was a smooth descent. He had done nothing
to merit the affection of his people. But they had paid him in advance
without measure. Elizabeth, after the destruction of the Armada, or
after the abolition of monopolies, had not excited a thousandth part of
the enthusiasm with which the young exile was welcomed home. He was
not, like Lewis the Eighteenth, imposed on his subjects by foreign
conquerors; nor did he, like Lewis the Eighteenth, come back to a
country {283}which had undergone a complete change. The house of
Bourbon was placed in Paris as a trophy of the victory of the European
confederation. The return of the ancient princes was inseparably
associated in the public mind with the cession of extensive provinces,
with the payment of an immense tribute, with the devastation of
flourishing departments, with the occupation of the kingdom by hostile
armies, with the emptiness of those niches in which the gods of Athens
and Rome had been the objects of a new idolatry, with the nakedness
of those walls on which the Transfiguration had shone with light as
glorious as that which overhung Mount Tabor. They came back to a land
in which they could recognise nothing. The seven sleepers of the legend,
who closed their eyes when the Pagans were persecuting the Christians,
and woke when the Christians were persecuting each other, did not find
themselves in a world more completely new to them. Twenty years had done
the work of twenty generations. Events had come thick. Men had lived
fast. The old institutions and the old feelings had been torn up by the
roots. There was a new Church founded and endowed by the usurper; a new
nobility whose titles were taken from fields of battle, disastrous to
the ancient line; a new chivalry whose crosses had been won by exploits
which had seemed likely to make the banishment of the emigrants
perpetual. A new code was administered by a new magistracy. A new body
of proprietors held the soil by a new tenure. The most ancient local
distinctions had been effaced. The most familiar names had become
obsolete. There was no longer a Normandy or a Burgundy, a Brittany or a
Guienne. The France of Lewis the Sixteenth had passed away as completely
as one of the Preadamite {284}worlds. Its fossil remains might now and
then excite curiosity. But it was as impossible to put life into the
old institutions as to animate the skeletons which are embedded in the
depths of primeval strata. It was as absurd to think that France could
again be placed under the feudal system, as that our globe could be
overrun by mammoths. The revolution in the laws and in the form of
government was but an outward sign of that mightier revolution which
had taken place in the heart and brain of the people, and which affected
every transaction of life, trading, farming, studying, marrying, and
giving in marriage. The French whom the emigrant prince had to govern
were no more like the French of his youth, than the French of his youth
were like the French of the Jaquerie. He came back to a people who knew
not him nor his house, to a people to whom a Bourbon was no more than a
Carlovin-gian or a Merovingian. He might substitute the white flag for
the tricolor; he might put lilies in the place of bees; he might order
the initials of the Emperor to be carefully effaced. But he could turn
his eyes nowhere without meeting some object which reminded him that he
was a stranger in the palace of his fathers. He returned to a country in
which even the passing traveller is every moment reminded that there has
lately been a great dissolution and reconstruction of the social system.
To win the hearts of a people, under such circumstances, would have been
no easy task even for Henry the Fourth.

In the English Revolution the case was altogether different. Charles was
not imposed on his countrymen, but sought by them. His restoration was
not attended by any circumstance which could inflict a wound on their
national pride. Insulated by our geographical {285}position, insulated
by our character, we had fought out our quarrels and effected our
reconciliation among ourselves. Our great internal questions had never
been mixed up with the still greater question of national independence.
The political doctrines of the Roundheads were not, like those of the
French philosophers, doctrines of universal application. Our ancestors,
for the most part, took their stand, not on a general theory, but on the
particular constitution of the realm. They asserted the rights, not of
men, but of Englishmen. Their doctrines therefore were not contagious;
and, had it been otherwise, no neighbouring country was then susceptible
of the contagion. The language in which our discussions were generally
conducted was scarcely known even to a single man of letters out of the
islands. Our local situation made it almost impossible that we should
effect great conquests on the Continent. The kings of Europe had,
therefore, no reason to fear that their subjects would follow the
example of the English Puritans, and looked with indifference, perhaps
with complacency, on the death of the monarch and the abolition of the
monarchy. Clarendon complains bitterly of their apathy. But we believe
that this apathy was of the greatest service to the royal cause. If a
French or Spanish army had invaded England, and if that army had been
cut to pieces, as we have no doubt that it would have been, on the
first day on which it came face to face with the soldiers of Preston
and Dunbar, with Colonel-Fight-the-good-Fight, and Captain
Smite-them-hip-and-thigh, the House of Cromwell would probably now
have been reigning in England. The nation would have forgotten all
the misdeeds of the man who had cleared the soil of foreign invaders.
{286}Happily for Charles, no European state, even when at war with the
Commonwealth, chose to bind up its cause with that of the wanderers who
were playing in the garrets of Paris and Cologne at being princes and
chancellors. Under the administration of Cromwell, England was more
respected and dreaded than any power in Christendom; and, even under
the ephemeral governments which followed his death, no foreign state
ventured to treat her with contempt. Thus Charles came back, not as a
mediator between his people and a victorious enemy, but as a mediator
between internal factions. He found the Scotch Covenanters and the Irish
Papists alike subdued. He found Dunkirk and Jamaica added to the empire.
He was heir to the conquests and to the influence of the able usurper
who had excluded him.

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

Thus the old constitution of England was without difficulty
reestablished; and of all the parts of the old constitution the
monarchical part was, at the time, dearest to the body of the people.
It had been injudiciously depressed, and it was in consequence unduly
exalted. From the day when Charles the First became a prisoner had
commenced a reaction in favour of his person and of his office. From the
day when the axe fell on his neck before the windows of his palace, that
reaction became rapid and violent. At the Restoration it had attained
such a point that it could go no further. The people were ready to place
at the mercy of their Sovereign all their most ancient and precious
rights. The most servile doctrines were publicly avowed. The most
moderate and constitutional opposition was condemned. Resistance was
spoken of with {289}more horror than any crime which a human being can
commit. The Commons were more eager than the King himself to avenge the
wrongs of the royal house; more desirous than the bishops themselves to
restore the church; more ready to give money than the ministers to ask
for it. They abrogated the excellent law passed in the first session
of the Long Parliament, with the general consent of all honest men, to
insure the frequent meeting of the great council of the nation. They
might probably have been induced to go further, and to restore the High
Commission and the Star Chamber. All the contemporary accounts represent
the nation as in a state of hysterical excitement, of drunken joy. In
the immense multitude which crowded the beach at Dover, and bordered the
road along which the King travelled to London, there was not one who was
not weeping. Bonfires blazed. Bells jingled. The streets were thronged
at night by boon-companions, who forced all the passers-by to swallow on
bended knees brimming glasses to the health of his Most Sacred Majesty,
and the damnation of Rednosed Noll. That tenderness to the fallen which
has, through many generations, been a marked feature of the national
character, was for a time hardly discernible. All London crowded to
shout and laugh round the gibbet where hung the rotting remains of a
prince who had made England the dread of the world, who had been the
chief founder of her maritime greatness and of her colonial empire, who
had conquered Scotland and Ireland, who had humbled Holland and Spain,
the terror of whose name had been as a guard round every English
traveller in remote countries, and round every Protestant congregation
in the heart of Catholic empires. When some of those brave and honest
{290}though misguided men who had sat in judgment on their King were
dragged on hurdles to a death of prolonged torture, their last prayers
were interrupted by the hisses and execrations of thousands.

Such was England in 1660. In 1678 the whole face of things had changed.
At the former of those epochs eighteen years of commotion had made the
majority of the people ready to buy repose at any price. At the latter
epoch eighteen years of misgovernment had made the same majority
desirous to obtain security for their liberties at any risk. The fury
of their returning loyalty had spent itself in its first outbreak. In
a very few months they had hanged and half-hanged, quartered and
embowelled enough to satisfy them. The Roundhead party seemed to be not
merely overcome, but too much broken and scattered ever to rally again.
Then commenced the reflux of public opinion. The nation began to find
out to what a man it had intrusted without conditions, all its dearest
interests, on what a man it had lavished all its fondest affection. On
the ignoble nature of the restored exile, adversity had exhausted all
her discipline in vain. He had one immense advantage over most other
princes. Though born in the purple, he was far better acquainted with
the vicissitudes of life and the diversities of character than most of
his subjects, He had known restraint, danger, penury, and dependence.
He had often suffered from ingratitude, insolence, and treachery. He
had received many signal proofs of faithful and heroic attachment He
had seen, if ever man saw, both sides of human nature. But only one side
remained in his memory. He had learned only to despise and to distrust
his species, to consider integrity in men, and modesty in women, as
mere acting; nor did he think it worth {291}while to keep his opinion to
himself. He was incapable of friendship; yet he was perpetually led by
favourites without being in the smallest degree duped by them. He knew
that their regard to his interests was all simulated; but from a
certain easiness which had no connection with humanity, he submitted,
half-laughing at himself, to be made the tool of any woman whose person
attracted him, or of any man whose tattle diverted him. He thought
little and cared less about religion. He seems to have passed his life
in dawdling suspense between Hobbism and Popery. He was crowned in
his youth with the Covenant in his hand; he died at last with the Host
sticking in his throat, and, during most of the intermediate years, was
occupied in persecuting both Covenanters and Catholics. He was not
a tyrant from the ordinary motives. He valued power for its own sake
little, and fame still less. He does not appear to have been vindictive,
or to have found any pleasing excitement in cruelty. What he wanted was
to be amused, to get through the twenty-four hours pleasantly without
sitting down to dry business. Sauntering was, as Sheffield expresses it,
the true Sultana Queen of his Majesty’s affections. A sitting in council
would have been insupportable to him if the Duke of Buckingham had not
been there to make mouths at the Chancellor. It has been said, and is
highly probable, that in his exile he was quite disposed to sell his
rights to Cromwell for a good round sum. To the last, his only quarrel
with his Parliaments was that they often gave him trouble, and would
not always give him money. If there was a person for whom he felt a real
regard, that person was his brother. If there was a point about which he
really entertained a scruple of conscience or of honour, that point
was the descent {292}of the crown. Yet he was willing to consent to the
Exclusion Bill for six hundred thousand pounds; and the negotiation was
broken off only because he insisted on being paid beforehand. To do him
justice, his temper was good; his manners agreeable; his natural
talents above mediocrity. But he was sensual, frivolous, false, and
cold-hearted, beyond almost any prince of whom history makes mention.

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

Such was the nation which, awaking from its rapturous trance, found
itself sold to a foreign, a despotic, a Popish court, defeated on its
own seas and rivers {293}by a state of far inferior resources, and
placed under the rule of pandars and buffoons. Our ancestors saw the
best and ablest divines of the age turned out of their benefices by
hundreds. They saw the prisons filled with men guilty of no other
crime than that of worshipping God according to the fashion generally
prevailing throughout Protestant Europe. They saw a Popish Queen on the
throne, and a Popish heir on the steps of the throne. They saw unjust
aggression followed by feeble war, and feeble war ending in disgraceful
peace. They saw a Dutch fleet riding triumphant in the Thames. They saw
the Triple Alliance broken, the Exchequer shut up, the public credit
shaken, the arms of England employed, in shameful subordination to
France, against a country which seemed to be the last asylum of civil
and religious liberty. They saw Ireland discontented, and Scotland in
rebellion. They saw, meantime, Whitehall swarming with sharpers and
courtesans. They saw harlot after harlot, and bastard after bastard, not
only raised to the highest honours of the peerage, but supplied out of
the spoils of the honest, industrious, and ruined public creditor, with
ample means of supporting the new dignity. The government became more
odious every day. Even in the bosom of that very House of Commons which
had been elected by the nation in the ecstasy of its penitence, of
its joy, and of its hope, an opposition sprang up and became powerful.
Loyalty which had been proof against all the disasters of the civil war,
which had survived the routs of Naseby and Worcester, which had never
flinched from sequestration and exile, which the Protector could never
intimidate or seduce, began to fail in this last and hardest trial. The
storm had long been gathering. At {294}length it burst with a fury which
threatened the whole frame of society with dissolution.

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

                        “The unconquerable will

                   And study of revenge, immortal hate,

                   With courage never to submit or yield,

                   And what is else not to be overcome.”

Then were again seen in the streets faces which called up strange
and terrible recollections of the days when the saints, with the high
praises of God in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,
had bound kings with chains, and nobles with links of iron. Then were
again heard voices which had shouted “Privilege” by the coach of
Charles I. in the time of his tyranny, and had called for “Justice” in
Westminster Hall on the day of his trial. It has been the fashion to
represent the excitement of this period as the effect of the Popish
plot. To us it seems clear that the Popish plot was rather the effect
than the cause of the general agitation. It was not the disease, but a
symptom, though, like many other symptoms, it aggravated the severity of
the disease. In 1660 or 1661 it would have been utterly out of {295}the
power of such men as Oates or Bedloe to give any serious disturbance to
the Government. They would have been laughed at, pilloried, well pelted,
soundly whipped, and speedily forgotten. In 1678 or 1679 there would
have been an outbreak, if those men had never been born. For years
things had been steadily tending to such a consummation. Society was one
vast mass of combustible matter. No mass so vast and so combustible ever
waited long for a spark.

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

Our ancestors knew, from the experience of several generations at home
and abroad, how restless and encroaching was the disposition of the
Church of Rome. {296}The heir-apparent of the crown was a bigoted member
of that church. The reigning King seemed far more inclined to show
favour to that church than to the Presbyterians. He was the intimate
ally, or rather the hired servant, of a powerful King, who had already
given proofs of his determination to tolerate within his dominions no
other religion than that of Rome. The Catholics had begun to talk a
bolder language than formerly, and to anticipate the restoration
of their worship in all its ancient dignity and splendour. At this
juncture, it is rumoured that a Popish plot has been discovered. A
distinguished Catholic is arrested on suspicion. It appears that he has
destroyed almost all his papers. A few letters, however, have escaped
the flames; and these letters are found to contain much alarming matter,
strange expressions about subsidies from France, allusions to a vast
scheme which would “give the greatest blow to the Protestant religion
that it had ever received,” and which “would utterly subdue a pestilent
heresy.” It was natural that those who saw these expressions, in letters
which had been overlooked, should suspect that there was some horrible
villany in those which had been carefully destroyed. Such was the
feeling of the House of Commons: “Question, question, Coleman’s
letters!” was the cry which drowned the voices of the minority.

Just after the discovery of these papers, a magistrate who had
been distinguished by his independent spirit, and who had taken the
deposition of the informer, is found murdered, under circumstances which
make it almost incredible that he should have fallen either by robbers
or by his own hands. Many of our readers can remember the state of
London just after the murders {297}of Mar and Williamson, the terror
which was on every face, the careful barring of doors, the providing
of blunderbusses and watchmen’s rattles. We know of a shopkeeper who on
that occasion sold three hundred rattles in about ten hours. Those who
remember that panic may be able to form some notion of the state of
England after the death of Godfrey. Indeed, we must say that, after
having read and weighed all the evidence now extant on that mysterious
subject, we incline to the opinion that he was assassinated, and
assassinated by Catholics, not assuredly by Catholics of the least
weight or note, but by some of those crazy and vindictive fanatics who
may be found in every large sect, and who are peculiarly likely to
be found in a persecuted sect. Some of the violent Cameronians had
recently, under similar exasperation, committed similar crimes.

It was natural that there should be a panic; and it was natural that
the people should, in a panic, be unreasonable and credulous. It must
be remembered also that they had not at first, as we have, the means of
comparing the evidence which was given on different trials. They were
not aware of one tenth part of the contradictions and absurdities which
Oates had committed. The blunders, for example, into which he fell
before the Council, his mistake about the person of Don John of Austria,
and about the situation of the Jesuits’ College at Paris, were not
publicly known. He was a bad man; but the spies and deserters by whom
governments are informed of conspiracies are generally bad men. His
story was strange and romantic; but it was not more strange or romantic
than a well-authenticated Popish plot, which some few people then living
might remember, the Gunpowder treason. Oates’s account of the burning
of London was in itself not more im {298}probable than the project of
blowing up King, Lords, and Commons, a project which had not only been
entertained by very distinguished Catholics, but which had very narrowly
missed of success. As to the design on the King’s person, all the world
knew that, within a century, two kings of France and a prince of Orange
had been murdered by Catholics, purely from religious enthusiasm, that
Elizabeth had been in constant danger of a similar fate, and that such
attempts, to say the least, had not been discouraged by the highest
authority of the Church of Rome. The characters of some of the accused
persons stood high; but so did that of Anthony Babington, and that of
Everard Digby. Those who suffered denied their guilt to the last; but
no persons versed in criminal proceedings would attach any importance
to this circumstance. It was well known also that the most distinguished
Catholic casuists had written largely in defence of regicide, of mental
reservation and of equivocation. It was not quite impossible that men
whose minds had been nourished with the writings of such casuists might
think themselves justified in denying a charge which, if acknowledged,
would bring great scandal on the Church. The trials of the accused
Catholics were exactly like all the state trials of those days; that is
to say, as infamous as they could be. They were neither fairer nor less
fair than those of Algernon Sydney, of Rosewell, of Cornish, of all the
unhappy men, in short, whom a predominant party brought to what was
then facetiously called justice. Till the Revolution purified our
institutions and our manners, a state-trial was merely a murder preceded
by the uttering of certain gibberish and the performance of certain

The Opposition had now the great body of the {299}nation with them.
Thrice the King dissolved the Parliament; and thrice the constituent
body sent him back representatives fully determined to keep strict watch
on all his measures, and to exclude his brother from the throne. Had
the character of Charles resembled that of his father, this intestine
discord would infallibly have ended in a civil war. Obstinacy and
passion would have been his ruin. His levity and apathy were his
security. He resembled one of those light Indian boats which are safe
because they are pliant, which yield to the impact of every wave, and
which therefore bound without danger through a surf in which a vessel
ribbed with heart of oak would inevitably perish. The only thing about
which his mind was unalterably made up was that, to use his own phrase,
he would not go on his travels again for any body or for any thing. His
easy, indolent behaviour produced all the effects of the most artful
policy. He suffered things to take their course; and if Achitophel had
been at one of his ears, and Machiavel at the other, they could have
given him no better advice than to let things take their course. He gave
way to the violence of the movement, and waited for the corresponding
violence of the rebound. He exhibited himself to his subjects in the
interesting character of an oppressed king, who was ready to do any
thing to please them, and who asked of them in return, only some
consideration for his conscientious scruples and for his feelings of
natural affection, who was ready to accept any ministers, to grant any
guarantees to public liberty, but who could not find it in his heart to
take away his brother’s birthright. Nothing more was necessary. He had
to deal with a people whose noble weakness it has always been not to
press too hardly on {300}the vanquisher, with a people the lowest and
most brutal of whom cry “Shame!” if they see a man struck when he is on
the ground. The resentment which the nation had felt towards the Court
began to abate as soon as the Court was manifestly unable to offer
any resistance. The panic which Godfrey’s death had excited gradually
subsided. Every day brought to light some new falsehood or contradiction
in the stories of Oates and Bedloe. The people were glutted with the
blood of Papists, as they had, twenty years before, been glutted with
the blood of regicides. When the first sufferers in the plot were
brought to the bar, the witnesses for the defence were in danger of
being torn in pieces by the mob. Judges, jurors, and spectators seemed
equally indifferent to justice, and equally eager for revenge. Lord
Stafford, the last sufferer, was pronounced not guilty by a large
minority of his peers; and when he protested his innocence on the
scaffold, the people cried out, “God bless you, my lord; we believe you,
my lord.” The attempt to make a son of Lucy Waters King of England was
alike offensive to the pride of the nobles and to the moral feeling
of the middle class. The old Cavalier party, the great majority of the
landed gentry, the clergy and the universities almost to a man, began to
draw together, and to form in close array round the throne.

A similar reaction had begun to take place in favour of Charles the
First during the second session of the Long Parliament; and, if that
prince had been holiest or sagacious enough to keep himself strictly
within the limits of the law, we have not the smallest doubt that he
would in a few months have found himself at least as powerful as his
best friends, Lord Falkland, Culpeper, {301}or Hyde, would have wished
to see him. By illegally impeaching the leaders of the Opposition, and
by making in person a wicked attempt on the House of Commons, he stopped
and turned back that tide of loyal feeling which was just beginning to
run strongly. The son, quite as little restrained by law or by honour
as the father, was, luckily for himself, a man of a lounging, careless
temper, and, from temper, we believe, rather than from policy, escaped
that great error which cost the father so dear. Instead of trying to
pluck the fruit before it was ripe, he lay still till it fell mellow
into his very mouth. If he had arrested Lord Shaftesbury and Lord
Russell in a manner not warranted by law, it is not improbable that he
would have ended his life in exile. He took the sure course. He employed
only his legal prerogatives, and he found them amply sufficient for his

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

Nevertheless, while this flux and reflux of opinion went on, the cause
of public liberty was steadily gaining. There had been a great reaction
in favour of the throne at the Restoration. But the Star-Chamber, the
High Commission, the Ship-money, had forever disappeared. There was
now another similar reaction. But the Habeas-Corpus Act had been passed
during {302}the short predominance of the Opposition, and it was not

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

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

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

By what means this vast power was in three years {304}broken down, by
what perverse and frantic misgovernment the tyrant revived the spirit
of the vanquished Whigs, turned to fixed hostility the neutrality of the
trimmers, and drove from him the landed gentry, the Church, the army,
his own creatures, his own children, is well known to our readers. But
we wish to say something about one part of the question, which in our
own time has a little puzzled some very worthy men, and about which the
author of the Continuation before us has said much with which we can by
no means concur.

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

Now, we admit that if the premises can be made out, {305}the conclusion
follows. If it can be shown that James did sincerely wish to establish
perfect freedom of conscience, we shall think his conduct deserving
of indulgence, if not of praise. We shall not be inclined to censure
harshly even his illegal acts. We conceive that so noble and salutary an
object would have justified resistance on the part of subjects. We can
therefore scarcely deny that it would at least excuse encroachment on
the part of a king. But it can be proved, we think, by the strongest
evidence, that James had no such object in view; and that, under the
pretence of establishing perfect religious liberty, he was trying to
establish the ascendency and the exclusive dominion of the Church of

It is true that he professed himself a supporter of toleration. Every
sect clamours for toleration when it is down. We have not the smallest
doubt that, when Bonner was in the Marshalsea, he thought it a very hard
thing that a man should be locked up in a gaol for not being able to
understand the words, “This is my body,” in the same way with the lords
of the council. It would not be very wise to conclude that a beggar is
full of Christian charity, because he assures you that God will reward
you if you give him a penny; or that a soldier is humane, because he
cries out lustily for quarter when a bayonet is at his throat. The
doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has
been held by all bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words,
and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the
right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger you ought to
tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the
stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error.
{306}The Catholics lay under severe restraints in England. James wished
to remove those restraints; and therefore he held a language favourable
to liberty of conscience. But the whole history of his life proves
that this was a mere pretence. In 1679 he held similar language, in a
conversation with the magistrates of Amsterdam; and the author of the
Continuation refers to this circumstance as a proof that the King had
long entertained a strong feeling on the subject. Unhappily it proves
only the utter insincerity of all the King’s later professions. If he
had pretended to be converted to the doctrines of toleration after his
accession to the throne, some credit might have been due to him. But we
know most certainly that, in 1679, and long after that year, James was a
most bloody and remorseless persecutor. After 1679, he was placed at
the head of the government of Scotland. And what had been his conduct
in that country? He had hunted down the scattered remnant of the
Covenanters with a barbarity of which no other prince of modern times,
Philip the Second excepted, had ever shown himself capable. He had
indulged himself in the amusement of seeing the torture of the Boot
inflicted on the wretched enthusiasts whom persecution had driven to
resistance. After his accession, almost his first act was to obtain
from the servile parliament of Scotland a law for inflicting death on
preachers at conventicles held within houses, and on both preachers and
hearers at conventicles held in the open air. All this he had done for a
religion which was not his own. All this he had done, not in defence
of truth against error, but in defence of one damnable error against
another, in defence of the Episcopalian against the Presbyterian
apostasy. Lewis the Fourteenth is justly censured for {307}trying to
dragoon his subjects to heaven. But it was reserved for James to torture
and murder for the difference between two roads to hell. And this man,
so deeply imbued with the poison of intolerance that, rather than not
persecute at all, he would persecute people out of one heresy into
another, this man is held up as the champion of religious liberty. This
man, who persecuted in the cause of the unclean panther, would not, we
are told, have persecuted for the sake of the milk-white and immortal

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

Who again was his closest ally? And what was the policy of that ally?
The subjects of James, it is true, did not know half the infamy of their
sovereign. They did not know, as we know, that, while he was
lecturing them on the blessings of equal toleration, he was constantly
congratulating his good brother Lewis on the success of that intolerant
policy which had turned the fairest tracts of France into deserts,
and driven into exile myriads of the most peaceable, industrious, and
skilful artisans in the world. But {309}the English did know that the
two princes were bound together in the closest union. They saw their
sovereign with toleration on his lips, separating himself from those
states which had first set the example of toleration, and connecting
himself by the strongest ties with the most faithless and merciless
persecutor who could then be found on any continental throne.

By what advice again was James guided? Who were the persons in whom he
placed the greatest confidence, and who took the warmest interest in his
schemes? The ambassador of France, the Nuncio of Rome, and Father Petre
the Jesuit. And is not this enough to prove that the establishment of
equal toleration was not his plan? Was Lewis for toleration? Was the
Vatican for toleration? Was the order of Jesuits for toleration? We know
that the liberal professions of James were highly approved by those
very governments, by those very societies, whose theory and practice it
notorious was to keep no faith with heretics and to give no quarter to
heretics. And are we, in order to save James’s reputation for sincerity,
to believe that all at once those governments and those societies had
changed their nature, had discovered the criminality of all their former
conduct, had adopted principles far more liberal than those of Locke, of
Leighton, or of Tillotson? Which is the more probable supposition,
that the King who had revoked the edict of Nantes, the Pope under whose
sanction the Inquisition was then imprisoning and burning, the religious
order which, in every controversy in which it had ever been engaged, had
called in the aid either of the magistrate or of the assassin, should
have become as thorough-going friends to religious liberty as Dr.
Franklin and Mr. Jefferson, or that {310}a Jesuit-ridden bigot should be
induced to disemble for the good of the Church?

The game which the Jesuits were playing was no new game. A hundred years
before they had preached up political freedom, just as they were now
preaching up religious freedom. They had tried to raise the republicans
against Henry the Fourth and Elizabeth, just as they were now trying to
raise the Protestant Dissenters against the Established Church. In
the sixteenth century, the tools of Philip the Second were constantly
preaching doctrines that bordered on Jacobinism, constantly insisting on
the right of the people to cashier kings, and of every private
citizen to plunge his dagger into the heart of a wicked ruler. In the
seventeenth century, the persecutors of the Huguenots were crying
out against the tyranny of the Established Church of England, and
vindicating with the utmost fervour the right of every man to adore God
after his own fashion. In both cases they were alike insincere. In both
cases the fool who had trusted them would have found himself miserably
duped. A good and wise man would doubtless disapprove of the arbitrary
measures of Elizabeth. Put would he have really served the interests of
political liberty, if he had put faith in the professions of the Romish
casuists, joined their party, and taken a share in Northumberland’s
revolt, or in Babington’s conspiracy? Would he not have been assisting
to establish a far worse tyranny than that which he was trying to put
down? In the same manner, a good and wise man would doubtless see
very much to condemn in the conduct of the Church of England under the
Stuarts. But was he therefore to join the King and the Catholics against
that Church? {311}And was it not plain that, by so doing, he would
assist in setting up a spiritual despotism, compared with which the
despotism of the Establishment was as a little finger to the loins, as a
rod of whips to a rod of scorpions?

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

The plan of James seems to us perfectly intelligible. The toleration
which, with the concurrence and applause of all the most cruel
persecutors in Europe, he was offering to his people, was meant simply
to divide them. This is the most obvious and vulgar of political
artifices. We have seen it employed a hundred times within our own
memory. At this moment we see the Carlists in France hallooing on the
Extreme Left against the Centre Left. Four years ago the same trick was
practised in England. We heard old buyers and sellers of boroughs, men
who had been seated in the House of Commons by the unsparing use of
ejectments, and who had, through their whole lives, opposed every
measure which tended to increase the power of the democracy, abusing
the Reform Bill as not democratic enough, appealing to the labouring
classes, execrating the tyranny of the ten-pound householders, and
exchanging compliments and caresses with the most noted incendiaries of
our time. The cry of universal toleration was employed by James, just
as the cry of universal suffrage was lately employed by some veteran
Tories. The object of the mock democrats of our {312}time was to produce
a conflict between the middle classes and the multitude, and thus
to prevent all reform. The object of James was to produce a conflict
between the Church and the Protestant Dissenters, and thus to facilitate
the victory of the Catholics over both.

We do not believe that he could have succeeded. But we do not think his
plan so utterly frantic and hopeless as it has generally been thought;
and we are sure that, if he had been allowed to gain his first point,
the people would have had no remedy left but an appeal to physical
force, which would have been made under most unfavourable circumstances.
He conceived that the Tories, hampered by their professions of
passive obedience, would have submitted to his pleasure, and that the
Dissenters, seduced by his delusive promises of relief, would have given
him strenuous support. In this way he hoped to obtain a law, nominally
for the removal of all religious disabilities, but really for the
excluding of all Protestants from all offices. It is never to be
forgotten that a prince who has all the patronage of the state in his
hands can, without violating the letter of the law, establish whatever
test he chooses. And, from the whole conduct of James, we have not the
smallest doubt that he would have availed himself of his power to the
utmost. The statute-book might declare all Englishmen equally capable
of holding office; but to what end, if all offices were in the gift of
a sovereign resolved not to employ a single heretic? We firmly believe
that not one post in the government, in the army, in the navy, on
the bench, or at the bar, not one peerage, nay not one ecclesiastical
benefice in the royal gift, would have been bestowed on any Protestant
{313}of any persuasion. Even while the King had still strong motives to
dissemble, he had made a Catholic Dean of Christ Church and a Catholic
President of Magdalen College. There seems to be no doubt that the See
of York was kept vacant for another Catholic. If James had been suffered
to follow this course for twenty years, every military man from a
general to a drummer, every officer of a ship, every judge, every King’s
counsel, every lord-lieutenant of a county, every justice of the peace,
every ambassador, every minister of state, every person employed in the
royal household, in the custom-house, in the postoffice, in the excise,
would have been a Catholic. The Catholics would have had a majority in
the House of Lords, even if that majority had been made, as Sunderland
threatened, by bestowing coronets on a whole troop of the Guards.
Catholics would have had, we believe, the chief weight even in the
Convocation. Every bishop, every dean, every holder of a crown living,
every head of every college which was subject to the royal power, would
have belonged to the Church of Rome. Almost all the places of liberal
education would have been under the direction of Catholics. The whole
power of licensing books would have been in the hands of Catholics. All
this immense mass of power would have been steadily supported by the
arms and by the gold of France, and would have descended to an heir
whose whole education would have been conducted with a view to one
single end, the complete reestablishment of the Catholic religion. The
House of Commons would have been the only legal obstacle. But the rights
of a great portion of the electors were at the mercy of the courts of
law; and the courts of law were absolutely {314}dependent on the Crown.
We cannot therefore think it altogether impossible that a house might
have been packed which would have restored the days of Mary.

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

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

Only imagine a man acting for one single day on the supposition that
all his neighbours believe all that they profess, and act up to all that
they believe. Imagine a man acting on the supposition that he may safely
offer the deadliest injuries and insults to everybody who {315}says
that revenge is sinful; or that he may safely intrust all his property
without security to any person who says that it is wrong to steal. Such
a character would be too absurd for the wildest farce. Yet the folly of
James did not stop short of this incredible extent. Because the clergy
had declared that resistance to oppression was in no case lawful,
he conceived that he might oppress them exactly as much as he chose,
without the smallest danger of resistance. He quite forgot that, when
they magnified the royal prerogative, the prerogative was exerted on
their side, that, when they preached endurance, they had nothing to
endure, that, when they declared it unlawful to resist evil, none but
Whigs and Dissenters suffered any evil. It had never occurred to
him that a man feels the calamities of his enemies with one sort of
sensibility, and his own with quite a different sort. It had never
occurred to him as possible that a reverend divine might think it the
duty of Baxter and Bunyan to bear insults and to lie in dungeons without
murmuring, and yet, when he saw the smallest chance that his own prebend
might be transferred to some sly Father from Italy or Flanders, might
begin to discover much matter for useful meditation in the texts
touching Ehud’s knife and Jael’s hammer. His majesty was not aware, it
should seem, that people do sometimes reconsider their opinions; and
that nothing more disposes a man to reconsider his opinions than a
suspicion, that, if he adheres to them, he is very likely to be a beggar
or a martyr. Yet it seems strange that these truths should have escaped
the royal mind Those Churchmen who had signed the Oxford Declaration in
favour of passive obedience had also signed the thirty-nine Articles.
And yet the very man who confidently expected that, by a little coaxing
and bullying, {316}he should induce them to renounce the Articles, was
thunderstruck when he found that they were disposed to soften down the
doctrines of the Declaration. Nor did it necessarily follow that,
even if the theory of the Tories had undergone no modification, their
practice would coincide with their theory. It might, one should think,
have crossed the mind of a man of fifty, who had seen a great deal of
the world, that people sometimes do what they think wrong. Though a
prelate might hold that Paul directs us to obey even a Nero, it might
not on that account he perfectly safe to treat the Right Reverend Father
in God after the fashion of Nero, in the hope that he would continue
to obey on the principles of Paul. The King indeed had only to look at
home. He was at least as much attached to the Catholic Church as any
Tory gentleman or clergyman could be to the Church of England. Adultery
was at least as clearly and strongly condemned by his Church as
resistance by the Church of England. Yet his priests could not keep him
from Arabella Sedley. While he was risking his crown for the sake of his
soul, he was risking his soul for the sake of an ugly, dirty mistress.
There is something delightfully grotesque in the spectacle of a man
who, while living in the habitual violation of his own known duties, is
unable to believe that any temptation can draw any other person aside
from the path of virtue.

James was disappointed in all his calculations. His hope was that the
Tories would follow their principles, and that the Non-conformists would
follow their interests. Exactly the reverse took place. The great
body of the Tories sacrificed the principle of non-resistance to their
interests; the great body of Non-conformists rejected the delusive
offers of the King, and stood {317}firmly by their principles. The two
parties whose strife had convulsed the empire during half a century
were united for a moment; and all the vast royal power which three
years before had seemed immovably fixed vanished at once like chaff in a

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

The editor of this volume quotes the Declaration of Right, and tells us
that, by looking at it, we may “judge at a glance whether the authors of
the Revolution achieved all they might and ought, in their position, to
have achieved; whether the Commons of England did their duty to their
constituents, their country, posterity, and universal freedom.” We
are at a loss to imagine how he can have read and transcribed the
Declaration of Right, and yet have so utterly misconceived its nature.
That famous document is, as its very name imports, declaratory, and
not remedial. It was never meant to be a measure of reform. It
neither contained, nor was designed to contain, any allusion to those
innovations which the authors of the Revolution considered as desirable,
and which they speedily proceeded to make. The Declaration was merely a
recital of certain old and wholesome laws which had been violated by
the Stuarts, and a solemn protest against the validity of any precedent
which might be set up in opposition to those laws. The words run thus:
“They do claim, demand, and insist upon all and singular the premises
as their undoubted rights and liberties.” Before a man begins to make
improvements on his estate, {318}he must know its boundaries. Before a
legislature sits down to reform a constitution, it is fit to ascertain
what that constitution really is. This is all that the Declaration
was intended to do; and to quarrel with it because it did not directly
introduce any beneficial changes is to quarrel with meat for not being

The principle on which the authors of the Revolution acted cannot be
mistaken. They were perfectly aware that the English institutions stood
in need of reform. But they also knew that an important point was gained
if they could settle once for all, by a solemn compact, the matters
which had, during several generations, been in controversy between the
Parliament and the Crown. They therefore most judiciously abstained from
mixing up the irritating and perplexing question of what ought to be the
law with the plain question of what was the law. As to the claims set
forth in the Declaration of Right, there was little room for debate.
Whigs and Tories were generally agreed as to the illegality of the
dispensing power and of taxation imposed by the royal prerogative.
The articles were therefore adjusted in a very few days. But if the
Parliament had determined to revise the whole constitution, and to
provide new securities against misgovemment, before proclaiming the new
sovereigns, months would have been lost in disputes. The coalition which
had delivered the country would have been instantly dissolved. The Whigs
would have quarrelled with the Tories, the Lords with the Commons, the
Church with the Dissenters; and all this storm of conflicting interests
and conflicting theories would have been raging round a vacant throne.
In the mean time, the greatest power on the Continent was attacking
our allies, and meditating a descent on our own territories. Dundee was
preparing {319}to raise the Highlands. The authority of James was still
owned by the Irish. If the authors of the Revolution had been fools
enough to take this course, we have little doubt that Luxembourg would
have been upon them in the midst of their constitution-making. They
might probably have been interrupted in a debate on Filmer’s and
Sydney’s theories of government by the entrance of the musqueteers of
Lewis’s household, and have been marched off, two and two, to frame
imaginary monarchies and commonwealths in the Tower. We have had in our
own time abundant experience of the effects of such folly. We have seen
nation after nation enslaved, because the friends of liberty wasted in
discussions upon abstract questions the time which ought to have been
employed in preparing for vigorous national defence. This editor,
apparently, would have had the English Revolution of 1688 end as the
Revolutions of Spain and Naples ended in our days. Thank God, our
deliverers were men of a very different order from the Spanish and
Neapolitan legislators. They might, on many subjects, hold opinions
which, in the nineteenth century, would not be considered as liberal.
But they were not dreaming pedants. They were statesmen accustomed
to the management of great affairs. Their plans of reform were not so
extensive as those of the lawgivers of Cadiz; but what they planned,
that they effected; and what they effected, that they maintained against
the fiercest hostility at home and abroad.

Their first object was to seat William on the throne; and they were
right. We say this without any reference to the eminent personal
qualities of William, or to the follies and crimes of James. If the two
princes had interchanged characters, our opinion would still {320}have
been the same. It was even more necessary to England at that time that
her king should be a usurper than that he should be a hero. There could
be no security for good government without a change of dynasty. The
reverence for hereditary right and the doctrine of passive obedience had
taken such a hold on the minds of the Tories, that, if James had been
restored to power on any conditions, their attachment to him would in
all probability have revived, as the indignation which recent oppression
had produced faded from their minds. It had become indispensable to have
a sovereign whose title to his throne was strictly bound up with the
title of the nation to its liberties. In the compact between the Prince
of Orange and the Convention, there was one most important article
which, though not expressed, was perfectly understood by both parties,
and for the performance of which the country had securities far better
than all the engagements that Charles the First or Ferdinand the Seventh
ever took in the day of their weakness, and broke in the day of their
power. The article to which we allude was this, that William would in
all things conform himself to what should appear to be the fixed and
deliberate sense of his Parliament. The security for the performance
was this, that he had no claim to the throne except the choice of
Parliament, and no means of maintaining himself on the throne but the
support of Parliament. All the great and inestimable reforms which
speedily followed the Revolution were implied in those simple
words; “The Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, assembled at
Westminster, do resolve that William and Mary, Prince and Princess of
Orange, be, and be declared King and Queen of England.”

And what were the reforms of which we speak? We {321}will shortly
recount some which we think the most important; and we will then leave
our readers to judge whether those who consider the Revolution as a mere
change of dynasty, beneficial to a few aristocrats, but useless to
the body of the people, or those who consider it as a happy era in the
history of the British nation and of the human species, have judged more
correctly of its nature.

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

The second of those great reforms which the Revolution produced was the
final establishment of the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland. We shall not
now inquire whether the Episcopal or the Calvinistic form of Church
government be more agreeable to primitive practice. Far be it from us to
disturb with our doubts the repose of any Oxonian Bachelor of Divinity
who conceives that the English prelates with their baronies and palaces,
their purple and their fine linen, their mitred carriages and their
sumptuous tables, are the true successors of those ancient bishops who
lived by catching fish and mending tents. We say only that the Scotch,
doubtless from their own inveterate stupidity and malice, were not
Episcopalians; that they could not be made Episcopalians; that the
whole power of government had been in vain employed for the purpose
of converting them; that the fullest instruction on the mysterious
questions of the Apostolical succession and the imposition of hands had
been imparted by the very logical process of putting the legs of the
students into wooden boots, and driving two or more wedges between their
knees; that a course of divinity lectures, of the most edifying kind,
had been given in {323}the grass-market of Edinburgh; yet that, in spite
of all the exertions of those great theological professors, Lauderdale
and Dundee, the Covenanters were as obstinate as ever. To the contest
between the Scotch nation and the Anglican Church are to be ascribed
near thirty years of the most frightful misgovernment ever seen in any
part of Great Britain. If the Revolution had produced no other effect
than that of freeing the Scotch from the yoke of an establishment which
they detested, and giving them one to which they were attached, it would
have been one of the happiest events in our history.

The third great benefit which the country derived from the Revolution
was the alteration in the mode of granting the supplies. It had been the
practice to settle on every prince, at the commencement of his reign,
the produce of certain taxes which, it was supposed, would yield a
sum sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of government. The
distribution of the revenue was left wholly to the sovereign. He might
be forced by a war, or by his own profusion, to ask for an extraordinary
grant. But, if his policy were economical and pacific, he might reign
many years without once being under the necessity of summoning his
Parliament, or of taking their advice when he had summoned them. This
was not all. The natural tendency of every society in which property
enjoys tolerable security is to increase in wealth. With the national
wealth, the produce of the customs, of the excise, and of the
post-office, would of course increase; and thus it might well happen
that taxes which, at the beginning of a long reign, were barely
sufficient to support a frugal government in time of peace, might,
before the end of that reign, enable the {324}sovereign to imitate the
extravagance of Nero or Heliogabalus, to raise great armies, to carry
on expensive wars. Something of this sort had actually happened under
Charles the Second, though his reign, reckoned from the Restoration,
lasted only twenty-five years. His first Parliament settled on him taxes
estimated to produce twelve hundred thousand pounds a year. This they
thought sufficient, as they allowed nothing for a standing army in time
of peace. At the time of Charles’s death, the annual produce of these
taxes considerably exceeded a million and a half; and the King
who, during the years which immediately followed his accession, was
perpetually in distress, and perpetually asking his Parliaments for
money, was at last able to keep a body of regular troops without any
assistance from the House of Commons. If his reign had been as long as
that of George the Third, he would probably, before the close of it,
have been in the annual receipt of several millions over and above
what the ordinary expenses of civil government required; and of those
millions he would have been as absolutely master as the King now is
of the sum allotted for his privy-purse. He might have spent them in
luxury, in corruption, in paying troops to overawe his people, or in
carrying into effect wild schemes of foreign conquest. The authors of
the Revolution applied a remedy to this great abuse. They settled on the
King, not the fluctuating produce of certain fixed taxes, but a fixed
sum sufficient for the support of his own royal state. They established
it as a rule that all the expenses of the army, the navy, and the
ordnance, should be brought annually under the review of the House
of Commons, and that every sum voted should be applied to the service
specified in the vote. The direct effect of this {325}change was
important. The indirect effect has been more important still. From that
time the House of Commons has been really the paramount power in the
state. It has, in truth, appointed and removed ministers, declared war,
and concluded peace. No combination of the King and the Lords has ever
been able to effect any thing against the Lower House, backed by its
constituents. Three or four times, indeed, the sovereign has been able
to break the force of an opposition by dissolving the Parliament. But
if that experiment should fail, if the people should be of the same mind
with their representatives, he would clearly have no course left but to
yield, to abdicate, or to fight.

The next great blessing which we owe to the Revolution is the
purification of the administration of justice in political cases. Of the
importance of this change no person can judge who is not well acquainted
with the earlier volumes of the State Trials. These volumes are, we do
not hesitate to say, the most frightful record of baseness and depravity
that is extant in the world. Our hatred is altogether turned away from
the crimes and the criminals, and directed against the law and its
ministers. We see villanies as black as ever were imputed to any
prisoner at any bar daily committed on the bench and in the jury-box.
The worst of the bad acts which brought discredit on the old Parliaments
of France, the condemnation of Lally, for example, or even that of
Calas, may seem praiseworthy when compared with the atrocities which
follow each other in endless succession as we turn over that huge
chronicle of the shame of England. The magistrates of Paris and Toulouse
were blinded by prejudice, passion, or bigotry. But the abandoned judges
of our own country committed murder with their eyes open. {326}The cause
of this is plain. In France there was no constitutional opposition. If
a man held language offensive to the government, he was at once sent to
the Bastile or to Vincennes. But in England, at least after the days
of the Long Parliament, the King could not, by a mere act of his
prerogative, rid himself of a troublesome politician. He was forced to
remove those who thwarted him by means of perjured witnesses, packed
juries, and corrupt, hard-hearted, browbeating judges. The Opposition
naturally retaliated whenever they had the upper hand. Every time that
the power passed from one party to the other, there was a proscription
and a massacre, thinly disguised under the forms of judicial procedure.
The tribunals ought to be sacred places of refuge, where, in all the
vicissitudes of public affairs, the innocent of all parties may find
shelter. They were, before the Revolution, an unclean public shambles,
to which each party in its turn dragged its opponents, and where each
found the same venal and ferocious butchers waiting for its custom.
Papist or Protestant, Tory or Whig, Priest or Alderman, all was one to
those greedy and savage natures, provided only there was money to earn,
and blood to shed.

Of course, these worthless judges soon created around them, as was
natural, a breed of informers more wicked, if possible, than themselves.
The trial by jury afforded little or no protection to the innocent. The
juries were nominated by the sheriffs. The sheriffs were in most
parts of England nominated by the Crown. In London, the great scene
of political contention, those officers were chosen by the people. The
fiercest parliamentary election of our time will give but a faint notion
of the storm which raged in the city on {327}the day when two interested
parties, each bearing its badge, met to select the men in whose hands
were to be the issues of life and death for the coming year. On that
day, nobles of the highest descent did not think it beneath them to
canvass and marshal the livery, to head the procession, and to watch
the poll. On that day, the great chiefs of parties waited in an agony
of suspense for the messenger who was to bring from Guildhall the news
whether their lives and estates were, for the next twelve months, to
be at the mercy of a friend or of a foe. In 1681, Whig sheriffs were
chosen; and Shaftesbury defied the whole power of the government. In
1682 the sheriffs were Tories.

Shaftesbury fled to Holland. The other chiefs of the party broke up
their councils, and retired in haste to their country-seats. Sydney
on the scaffold told those sheriffs that his blood was on their heads.
Neither of them could deny the charge; and one of them wept with shame
and remorse.

Thus every man who then meddled with public affairs, took his life in
his hand. The consequence was that men of gentle natures stood aloof
from contests in which they could not engage without hazarding their own
necks and the fortunes of their children. This was the course adopted by
Sir William Temple, by Evelyn, and by many other men who were, in every
respect, admirably qualified to serve the State. On the other hand,
those resolute and enterprising men who put their heads and lands to
hazard in the game of politics naturally acquired, from the habit of
playing for so deep a stake, a reckless and desperate turn of mind.
It was, we seriously believe, as safe to be a highwayman as to be a
distinguished leader of Opposition. This may serve to explain, and in
some degree {328}to excuse, the violence with which the factions of that
age are justly reproached. They were fighting, not merely for office,
but for life. It they reposed for a moment from the work of agitation,
if they suffered the public excitement to flag, they were lost men.
Hume, in describing this state of things, has employed an image which
seems hardly to suit the general simplicity of his style, but which
is by no means too strong for the occasion. “Thus,” says he, “the two
parties actuated by mutual rage, but cooped up within the narrow limits
of the law, levelled with poisoned daggers the most deadly blows against
each other’s breast, and buried in their factious divisions all regard
to truth, honour, and humanity.”

From this terrible evil the Revolution set us free. The law which
secured to the judges them seats during life or good behaviour did
something. The law subsequently passed for regulating trials in cases
of treason did much more. The provisions of that law show, indeed, very
little legislative skill. It is not framed on the principle of securing
the innocent, but on the principle of giving a great chance of escape to
the accused, whether innocent or guilty. This, however, is decidedly a
fault on the right side. The evil produced by the occasional escape of
a bad citizen is not to be compared with the evils of that Reign of
Terror, for such it was, which preceded the Revolution. Since the
passing of this law scarcely one single person has suffered death
in England as a traitor, who had not been convicted on overwhelming
evidence, to the satisfaction of all parties, of the highest crime
against the State. Attempts have been made in times of great excitement,
to bring in persons guilty of high treason for acts which, though
sometimes highly blamable, did {329}not necessarily imply a design
falling within the legal definition of treason. All those attempts have
failed. During a hundred and forty years no statesman, while engaged in
constitutional opposition to a government, has had the axe before his
eyes. The smallest minorities, struggling against the most powerful
majorities, in the most agitated times, have felt themselves perfectly
secure. Pulteney and Fox were the two most distinguished leaders of
Opposition since the Revolution. Both were personally obnoxious to the
Court. But the utmost harm that the utmost anger of the Court could
do to them was to strike off the “Right Honourable” from before their

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

We are aware that the great improvements which we have recapitulated
were, in many respects, imperfectly and unskilfully executed. The
authors of those improvements sometimes, while they removed or mitigated
a great practical evil, continued to recognise the erroneous principle
from which that evil had sprung. Sometimes when they had adopted a sound
principle, they shrank from following it to all the conclusions to
which it would have led them. Sometimes they failed to perceive that the
remedies which they applied to one disease of the State were certain to
generate another disease, and to render another remedy necessary. Their
knowledge was inferior to ours: nor were they {330}always able to act
up to their knowledge. The pressure of circumstances, the necessity of
compromising differences of opinion, the power and violence of the party
which was altogether hostile to the new settlement, must be taken into
the account. When these things are fairly weighed, there will, we think,
be little difference of opinion among liberal and right-minded men as to
the real value of what the great events of 1688 did for this country.

We have recounted what appear to us the most important of those changes
which the Revolution produced in our laws. The changes which it produced
in our laws, however, were not more important than the change which
it indirectly produced in the public mind. The Whig party had during
seventy years, an almost uninterrupted possession of power. It had
always been the fundamental doctrine of that party, that power is a
trust for the people; that it is given to magistrates, not for
their own, but for the public advantage; that, where it is abused by
magistrates, even by the highest of all, it may lawfully be withdrawn.
It is perfectly true, that the Whigs were not more exempt than other men
from the vices and infirmities of our nature, and that, when they had
power, they sometimes abused it. But still they stood firm to their
theory. That theory was the badge of their party. It was something more.
It was the foundation on which rested the power of the houses of Nassau
and Brunswick. Thus, there was a government interested in propagating a
class of opinions which most governments are interested in discouraging,
a government which looked with complacency on all speculations
favourable to public liberty, and with extreme aversion on all
speculations {331}favourable to arbitrary power. There was a King who
decidedly preferred a republican to a believer in the divine right
of kings; who considered every attempt to exalt his prerogative as an
attack on his title; and who reserved all his favours for those who
declaimed on the natural equality of men, and the popular origin of
government. This was the state of things from the Revolution till
the death of George the Second. The effect was what might have been
expected. Even in that profession which has generally been most disposed
to magnify the prerogative, a great change took place. Bishopric
after bishopric and deanry after deanry were bestowed on Whigs
and Latitudinarians. The consequence was that Whiggism and
Latitudinarianism were professed by the ablest and most aspiring

Hume complained bitterly of this at the close of his history. “The Whig
party,” says he, “for a course of near seventy years, has almost without
interruption enjoyed the whole authority of government, and no honours
or offices could be obtained but by their countenance and protection.
But this event, which in some particulars has been advantageous to
the state, has proved destructive to the truth of history, and has
established many gross falsehoods, which it is unaccountable how any
civilised nation could have embraced, with regard to its domestic
occurrences. Compositions the most despicable, both for style and
matter,”--in a note he instances the writings of Locke, Sydney, Hoadley,
and Rapin,--“have been extolled and propagated and read as if they had
equalled the most celebrated remains of antiquity. And forgetting that
a regard to liberty, though a laudable passion, ought commonly to
be subservient {332}to a reverence for established government, the
prevailing faction has celebrated only the partisans of the former.” We
will not here enter into an argument about the merit of Rapin’s History
or Locke’s political speculations. We call Hume merely as evidence to
a fact well known to all reading men, that the literature patronised by
the English Court and the English ministry, during the first half of
the eighteenth century, was of that kind which courtiers and ministers
generally do all in their power to discountenance, and tended to
inspire zeal for the liberties of the people rather than respect for the
authority of the government.

There was still a very strong Tory party in England. But that party was
in opposition. Many of its members still held the doctrine of passive
obedience. But they did not admit that the existing dynasty had any
claim to such obedience. They condemned resistance. But by resistance
they meant the keeping out of James the Third, and not the turning out
of George the Second. No Radical of our times could grumble more at the
expenses of the royal household, could exert himself more strenuously
to reduce the military establishment, could oppose with more earnestness
every proposition for arming the executive with extraordinary powers, or
could pour more unmitigated abuse on placemen and courtiers If a writer
were now, in a massive Dictionary, to define a Pensioner as a traitor
and a slave, the Excise as a hateful tax, the Commissioners of the
Excise as wretches, if he were to write a satire full of reflections on
men who receive “the price of boroughs and of souls,” who “explain their
country’s dear-bought rights away,” {333}or

                        “whom pensions can incite

               To vote a patriot black, a courtier white,”

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

Thus doctrines favourable to public liberty were inculcated alike by
those who were in power and by those who were in opposition. It was by
means of these doctrines alone that the former could prove that they
had a King _de jure_. The servile theories of the latter did not prevent
them from offering every molestation to one whom they considered as
merely a King _de facto_. The attachment of one party to the House of
Hanover, of the other to that of Stuart, induced both to talk a language
much more favourable to popular rights than to monarchical power. What
took place at the first representation of Cato is no bad illustration
of the way in which the two great sections of the community almost
invariably acted. A play, the whole merit of which consists in its
stately rhetoric, a rhetoric sometimes not unworthy of Lucan, about
hating tyrants and dying for freedom, is brought on the stage in a time
of great political excitement. Both parties crowd to the theatre. Each
affects to consider every line as a compliment to itself, and an
attack on its opponents. The curtain falls amidst an unanimous roar of
applause. The Whigs of the Kit Cat embrace the author, and assure
him that he has rendered an inestimable service to liberty. The Tory
secretary of state presents a purse to the chief actor for defending the
cause of liberty so well. The history of that night was, in miniature,
the history of two generations. {334}We well know how much sophistry
there was in the reasonings, and how much exaggeration in the
declamations of both parties. But when we compare the state in which
political science was at the close of the reign of George the Second
with the state in which it had been when James the Second came to the
throne, it is impossible not to admit that a prodigious improvement had
taken place. We are no admirers of the political doctrines laid down in
Blackstone’s Commentaries. But if we consider that those Commentaries
were read with great applause in the very schools where, seventy or
eighty years before, books had been publicly burned by order of the
University of Oxford for containing the damnable doctrine that the
English monarchy is limited and mixed, we cannot deny that a salutary
change had taken place. “The Jesuits,” says Pascal, in the last of
his incomparable letters, “have obtained a Papal decree, condemning
Galileo’s doctrine about the motion of the earth. It is all in vain. If
the world is really turning round, all mankind together will not be able
to keep it from turning, or to keep themselves from turning with it.”
 The decrees of Oxford were as ineffectual to stay the great moral and
political revolution as those of the Vatican to stay the motion of our
globe. That learned University found itself not only unable to keep the
mass from moving, but unable to keep itself from moving along with the
mass. Nor was the effect of the discussions and speculations of that
period confined to our own country. While the Jacobite party was in
the last dotage and weakness of its paralytic old age, the political
philosophy of England began to produce a mighty effect on France, and,
through France, on Europe.

Here another vast field opens itself before us. But {335}we must
resolutely turn away from it. We will conclude by advising all our
readers to study Sir James Mackintosh’s valuable Fragment, and by
expressing our hope that they will soon be able to study it without
those accompaniments which have hitherto impeded its circulation.


(_Edinburgh Review_, July, 1837.)

We {336}return our hearty thanks to Mr. Montagu for this truly valuable
work. From the opinions which he expresses as a biographer we often
dissent. But about his merit as a collector of the materials out of
which opinions are formed, there can be no dispute; and we readily
acknowledge that we are in a great measure indebted to his minute
and accurate researches for the means of refuting what we cannot but
consider as his errors.

The labour which has been bestowed on this volume has been a labour of
love. The writer is evidently enamoured of the subject. It fills his
heart. It constantly overflows from his lips and his pen. Those who are
acquainted with the Courts in which Mr. Montagu practises with so much
ability and success well know how often he enlivens the discussion of
a point of law by citing some weighty aphorism, or some brilliant
illustration, from the _De Augmentis_ or the _Novum Organum_. The Life
before us doubtless owes much of its value to the honest and generous
enthusiasm of the writer. This feeling has stimulated his activity,
has sustained his perseverance, has called forth all his ingenuity and
eloquence: but, on the other

     (1) _The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England.
     A new Edition_. By Basil Montagu, Esq., 16 vols. 8vo.
     London: 1825-1834

{337}hand, we must frankly say that it has, to a great extent, perverted
his judgment.

We are by no means without sympathy for Mr. Montagu even in what we
consider as his weakness. There is scarcely any delusion which has a
better claim to be indulgently treated than that under the influence
of which a man ascribes every moral excellence to those who have left
imperishable monuments of their genius. The causes of this error lie
deep in the inmost recesses of human nature. We are all inclined to
judge of others as we find them. Our estimate of a character always
depends much on the manner in which that character affects our own
interests and passions. We find it difficult to think well of those
by whom we are thwarted or depressed; and we are ready to admit every
excuse for the vices of those who are useful or agreeable to us. This
is, we believe, one of those illusions to which the whole human race is
subject, ana which experience and reflection can only partially remove.
It is, in the phraseology of Bacon, one of the _idolatribus_. Hence it
is that the moral character of a man eminent in letters or in the fine
arts is treated, often by contemporaries, almost always by posterity,
with extraordinary tenderness. The world derives pleasure and advantage
from the performances of such a man. The number of those who suffer by
his personal vices is small, even in his own time, when compared with
the number of those to whom his talents are a source of gratification.
In a few years all those whom he has injured disappear. But his works
remain, and are a source of delight to millions. The genius of
Sallust is still with us. But the Numidians whom he plundered, and the
unfortunate husbands who caught him in their houses at unseasonable
hours, are forgotten. {338}We suffer ourselves to be delighted by the
keenness of Clarendon’s observation, and by the sober majesty of his
style, till we forget the oppressor and the bigot in the historian.
Falstaff and Tom Jones have survived the gamekeepers whom Shakspeare
cudgelled and the landladies whom Fielding bilked. A great writer is the
friend and benefactor of his readers; and they cannot but judge of him
under the deluding influence of friendship and gratitude. We all know
how unwilling we are to admit the truth of any disgraceful story about
a person whose society we like, and from whom we have received favours:
how long we struggle against evidence, how fondly, when the facts cannot
be disputed, we cling to the hope that there may be some explanation or
some extenuating circumstance with which we are unacquainted. Just such
is the feeling which a man of liberal education naturally entertains
towards the great minds of former ages. The debt which he owes to them
is incalculable. They have guided him to truth. They have filled his
mind with noble and graceful images. They have stood by him in all
vicissitudes, comforters in sorrow, nurses in sickness, companions
in solitude. These friendships are exposed to no danger from the
occurrences by which other attachments are weakened or dissolved. Time
glides on; fortune is inconstant; tempers are soured; bonds which
seemed indissoluble are daily sundered by interest, by emulation, or by
caprice. But no such cause can affect the silent converse which we
hold with the highest of human intellects. That placid intercourse is
disturbed by no jealousies or resentments. These are the old friends
who are never seen with new faces, who are the same in wealth and in
poverty, in glory and in obscurity. With the dead there is no rivalry.
In the {339}dead there is no change. Plato is never sullen. Cervantes is
never petulant. Demosthenes never comes unseasonably. Dante never stays
too long. No difference of political opinion can alienate Cicero. No
heresy can excite the horror of Bossuet.

Nothing, then, can be more natural than that a person endowed
with sensibility and imagination should entertain a respectful and
affectionate feeling towards those great men with whose minds he holds
daily communion. Yet nothing can be more certain than that such men
have not always deserved to be regarded with respect or affection. Some
writers, whose works will continue to instruct and delight mankind
to the remotest ages, have been placed in such situations that their
actions and motives are as well known to us as the actions and motives
of one human being can be known to another; and unhappily their conduct
has not always been such as an impartial judge can contemplate with
approbation. But the fanaticism of the devout worshipper of genius is
proof against all evidence and all argument. The character of his idol
is matter of faith; and the province of faith is not to be invaded by
reason. He maintains his superstition with a credulity as boundless, and
a zeal as unscrupulous, as can be found in the most ardent partisans of
religious or political factions. The most decisive proofs are rejected;
the plainest rules of morality are explained away; extensive and
important portions of history are completely distorted. The enthusiast
misrepresents facts with all the effrontery of an advocate, and
confounds right and wrong with all the dexterity of a Jesuit; and all
this only in order that some man who has been in his grave during many
ages may have a fairer character than he deserves. {340}Middleton’s
Life of Cicero is a striking instance of the influence of this sort of
partiality. Never was there a character which it was easier to read than
that of Cicero. Never was there a mind keener or more critical than
that of Middleton. Had the biographer brought to the examination of his
favourite statesman’s conduct but a very small part of the acuteness
and severity which he displayed when he was engaged in investigating
the high pretensions of Epiphanius and Justin Martyr, he could not have
failed to produce a most valuable history of a most interesting portion
of time. But this most ingenious and learned man, though,

                        “So wary held and wise

                   That, as ’twas said, he scarce received

                   For gospel what the church believed,”

had a superstition of his own. The great Iconoclast was himself an
idolater. The great _Avvocato del Diavolo_, while he disputed, with no
small ability, the claims of Cyprian and Athanasius to a place in the
Calendar, was himself composing a lying legend in honour of St. Tully.
He was holding up as a model of every virtue a man whose talents and
acquirements, indeed, can never be too highly extolled, and who was by
no means destitute of amiable qualities, but whose whole soul was under
the dominion of a girlish vanity and a craven fear. Actions for which
Cicero himself, the most eloquent and skilful of advocates, could
contrive no excuse, actions which in his confidential correspondence he
mentioned with remorse and shame, are represented by his biographer as
wise, virtuous, heroic. The whole history of that great revolution
which overthrew the Roman aristocracy, the whole state of parties, the
character of every public man, is {341}elaborately misrepresented, in
order to make out something which may look like a defence of one most
eloquent and accomplished trimmer.

The volume before us reminds us now and then of the Life of Cicero. But
there is this marked difference. Dr. Middleton evidently had an uneasy
consciousness of the weakness of his cause, and therefore resorted
to the most disingenuous shifts, to unpardonable distortions and
suppression of facts. Mr. Montagu’s faith is sincere and implicit. He
practises no trickery. He conceals nothing. He puts the facts before us
in the full confidence that they will produce on our minds the effect
which they have produced on his own. It is not till he comes to reason
from facts to motives that his partiality shows itself; and then he
leaves Middleton himself far behind. His work proceeds on the assumption
that Bacon was an eminently virtuous man. From the tree Mr. Montagu
judges of the fruit. He is forced to relate many actions which, if
any man but Bacon had committed them, nobody would have dreamed of
defending, actions which are readily and completely explained by
supposing Bacon to have been a man whose principles were not strict, and
whose spirit was not high, actions which can be explained in no other
way without resorting to some grotesque hypothesis for which there
is not a tittle of evidence. But any hypothesis is, in Mr. Montagu’s
opinion, more probable than that his hero should ever have done any
thing very wrong.

This mode of defending Bacon seems to us by no means Baconian. To take
a man’s character for granted, and then from his character to infer the
moral quality of all his actions, is surely a process the very reverse
of that which is recommended in the _Novum {342}Organum_. Nothing, we
are sure, could have led Mr. Montagu to depart so far from his master’s
precepts, except zeal for his master’s honour. We shall follow a
different course. We shall attempt, with the valuable assistance which
Mr. Montagu has afforded us, to frame such an account of Bacon’s life as
may enable our readers correctly to estimate his character.

It is hardly necessary to say that Francis Bacon was the son of Sir
Nicholas Bacon, who held the great seal of England during the first
twenty years of the reign of Elizabeth. The fame of the father has been
thrown into shade by that of the son. But Sir Nicholas was no ordinary
man. He belonged to a set of men whom it is easier to describe
collectively than separately, whose minds were formed by one system of
discipline, who belonged to one rank in society, to one university, to
one party, to one sect, to one administration, and who resembled each
other so much in talents, in opinions, in habits, in fortunes, that one
character, we had almost said one life, may, to a considerable extent,
serve for them all.

They were the first generation of statesmen by profession that England
produced. Before their time the division of labour had, in this respect,
been very imperfect. Those who had directed public affairs had been,
with few exceptions, warriors or priests; warriors whose rule courage
was neither guided by science nor softened by humanity, priests whose
learning and abilities were habitually devoted to the defence of
tyranny and imposture. The Hotspurs, the Nevilles, the Cliffords, rough,
illiterate, and unreflecting, brought to the council-board the fierce
and imperious disposition which they had acquired amidst the tumult
of predatory war, or in the gloomy repose of the garrisoned and moated
{343}castle. On the other side was the calm and subtle prelate, versed
in all that was then considered as learning, trained in the Schools
to manage words, and in the confessional to manage hearts, seldom
superstitious, but skilful in practising on the superstition of others,
false, as it was natural that a man should be whose profession imposed
on all who were not saints the necessity of being hypocrites, selfish,
as it was natural that a man should be who could form no domestic ties
and cherish no hope of legitimate posterity, more attached to his order
than to his country, and guiding the politics of England with a constant
side-glance at Rome.

But the increase of wealth, the progress of knowledge, and the
reformation of religion produced a great change. The nobles ceased to
be military chieftains; the priests ceased to possess a monopoly of
learning; and a new and remarkable species of politicians appeared.

These men came from neither of the classes which had, till then, almost
exclusively furnished ministers of state. They were all laymen; yet they
were all men of learning; and they were all men of peace. They were not
members of the aristocracy. They inherited no titles, no large domains,
no armies of retainers, no fortified castles. Yet they were not low men,
such as those whom princes, jealous of the power of a nobility, have
sometimes raised from forges and cobblers’ stalls to the highest
situations. They were all gentlemen by birth. They had all received a
liberal education. It is a remarkable fact that they were all members of
the same university. The two great national seats of learning had even
then acquired the characters which they still retain. In intellectual
activity, and in readiness to admit improvements, the superiority
was then, as it has ever since been, on the side of the less ancient
{344}and splendid institution. Cambridge had the honour of educating
those celebrated Protestant Bishops whom Oxford had the honour of
burning; and at Cambridge were formed the minds of all those statesmen
to whom chiefly is to be attributed the secure establishment of the
reformed religion in the north of Europe.

The statesmen of whom we speak passed their youth surrounded by the
incessant din of theological controversy. Opinions were still in a state
of chaotic anarchy, intermingling, separating, advancing, receding.
Sometimes the stubborn bigotry of the Conservatives seemed likely to
prevail. Then the impetuous onset of the Reformers for a moment carried
all before it. Then again the resisting mass made a desperate stand,
arrested the movement, and forced it slowly back. The vacillation which
at that time appeared in English legislation, and which it has been
the fashion to attribute to the caprice and to the power of one or two
individuals, was truly a national vacillation. It was not only in the
mind of Henry that the new theology obtained the ascendant one day, and
that the lessons of the nurse and of the priest regained their influence
on the morrow. It was not only in the House of Tudor that the husband
was exasperated by the opposition of the wife, that the son dissented
from the opinions of the father, that the brother persecuted the sister,
that one faster persecuted another. The principles of Conservation
and Reform carried on their warfare in every part of society, in every
congregation, in every school of learning, round the hearth of every
private family, in the recesses of every reflecting mind.

It was in the midst of this ferment that the minds of the persons
whom we are describing were developed. They were born Reformers. They
belonged by nature {345}to that order of men who always form the front
ranks in the great intellectual progress. They were, therefore, one
and all, Protestants. In religious matters, however, though there is no
reason to doubt that they were sincere, they were by no means zealous.
None of them chose to run the smallest personal risk during the reign
of Mary. None of them favoured the unhappy attempt of Northumberland
in favour of his daughter-in-law. None of them shared in the desperate
councils of Wyatt. They contrived to have business on the Continent;
or, if they staid in England, they heard mass and kept Lent with great
decorum. When those dark and perilous years had gone by, and when
the crown had descended to a new sovereign, they took the lead in the
reformation of the Church. But they proceeded, not with the impetuosity
of theologians, but with the calm determination of statesmen. They
acted, not like men who considered the Romish worship as a system too
offensive to God, and too destructive of souls to be tolerated for an
hour, but like men who regarded the points in dispute among Christians
as in themselves unimportant, and who were not restrained by any
scruple of conscience from professing, as they had before professed, the
Catholic faith of Mary, the Protestant faith of Edward, or any of the
numerous intermediate combinations which the caprice of Henry and the
servile policy of Cranmer had formed out of the doctrines of both the
hostile parties. They took a deliberate view of the state of their
own country and of the Continent: they satisfied themselves as to the
leaning of the public mind; and they chose their side. They placed
themselves at the head of the Protestants of Europe, and staked all
their fame and fortunes on the success of their party. {346}It is
needless to relate how dexterously, how resolutely, how gloriously
they directed the polities of England during the eventful years which
followed, how they succeeded in uniting their friends and separating
their enemies, how they humbled the pride of Philip, how they backed the
unconquerable spirit of Coligni, how they rescued Holland from tyranny,
how they, founded the maritime greatness of their country, how they
outwitted the artful politicians of Italy, and tamed the ferocious
chieftains of Scotland. It is impossible to deny that they committed
many acts which would justly bring on a statesman of our time censures
of the most serious kind. But, when we consider the state of morality
in their age, and the unscrupulous character of the adversaries against
whom they had to contend, we are forced to admit that it is not
without reason that their names are still held in veneration by their

There were, doubtless, many diversities in their intellectual and moral
character. But there was a strong family likeness. The constitution of
their minds was remarkably sound. No particular faculty was preeminently
developed; but manly health and vigour were equally diffused through
the whole. They were men of letters. Their minds were by nature and
by exercise well fashioned for speculative pursuits. It was by
circumstances, rather than by any strong bias of inclination, that
they were led to take a prominent part in active life. In active life,
however, no men could be more perfectly free from the faults of mere
theorists and pedants. No men observed more accurately the signs of the
times. No men had a greater practical acquaintance with human nature.
Their policy was generally characterized {347}rather by vigilance, by
moderation, and by firmness, than by invention, or by the spirit of

They spoke and wrote in a manner worthy of their excellent sense. Their
eloquence was less copious and less ingenious, but far purer and more
manly than that of the succeeding generation. It was the eloquence of
men who had lived with the first translators of the Bible, and with the
authors of the Book of Common Prayer. It was luminous, dignified, solid,
and very slightly tainted with that affectation which deformed the
style of the ablest men of the next age. If, as sometimes chanced, these
politicians were under the necessity of taking a part in the theological
controversies on which the dearest interests of kingdoms were then
staked, they acquitted themselves as if their whole lives had been
passed in the Schools and the Convocation.

There was something in the temper of these celebrated men which secured
them against the proverbial inconstancy both of the court and of the
multitude. No intrigue, no combination of rivals, could deprive them
of the confidence of their Sovereign. No parliament attacked their
influence. No mob coupled their names with any odious grievance. Their
power ended only with their lives. In this respect, their fate presents
a most remarkable contrast to that of the enterprising and brilliant
politicians of the preceding and of the succeeding generation. Burleigh
was minister during forty years. Sir Nicholas Bacon held the great
seal more than twenty years. Sir Walter Mildmay was Chancellor of the
Exchequer twenty-three years. Sir Thomas Smith was Secretary of State
eighteen years; Sir Francis Walsingham about as long. They all died in
office, and in the enjoyment of public respect {348}and royal favour.
Far different had been the fate of Wolsey, Cromwell, Norfolk, Somerset,
and Northumberland. Far different also was the fate of Essex, of
Raleigh, and of the still more illustrious man whose life we propose to

The explanation of this circumstance is perhaps contained in the motto
which Sir Nicholas Bacon inscribed over the entrance of his hall at
Gorhambury, _Mediocria firma._

This maxim was constantly borne in mind by himself and his colleagues.
They were more solicitous to lay the foundations of their power deep
than to raise the structure to a conspicuous but insecure height. None
of them aspired to be sole Minister. None of them provoked envy by an
ostentatious display of wealth and influence. None of them affected to
outshine the ancient aristocracy of the kingdom. They were free
from that childish love of titles which characterized the successful
courtiers of the generation which preceded them, and of that which
followed them. Only one of those whom we have named was made a peer; and
he was content with the lowest degree of the peerage. As to money, none
of them could, in that age, justly be considered as rapacious. Some
of them would, even in our time, deserve the praise of eminent
disinterestedness. Their fidelity to the State was incorruptible. Their
private morals were without stain. Their households were sober and

Among these statesmen Sir Nicholas Bacon was generally considered as
ranking next to Burleigh. He was called by Camden “Saeris conciliis
alterum columen,” and by George Buchanan,

                        “diu Britannici

                   Regni secundum columen.”

{349}The second wife of Sir Nicholas and mother of Francis Bacon was
Anne, one of the daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke, a man of distinguished
learning who had been tutor to Edward the Sixth. Sir Anthony had paid
considerable attention to the education of his daughters, and lived
to see them all splendidly and happily married. Their classical
acquirements made them conspicuous even among the women of fashion of
that age. Katherine, who became Lady Killigrew, wrote Latin Hexameters
and Pentameters which would appear with credit in the _Musae Etonenses_.
Mildred, the wife of Lord Burleigh, was described by Roger Ascham as
the best Greek scholar among the young women of England, Lady Jane Grey
always excepted. Anne, the mother of Francis Bacon, was distinguished
both as a linguist and as a theologian. She corresponded in Greek with
Bishop Jewel, and translated his _Apologia_ from the Latin, so correctly
that neither he nor Archbishop Parker could suggest a single alteration.
She also translated a series of sermons on fate and freewill from the
Tuscan of Bernardo Ochino. This fact is the more curious, because
Ochino was one of that small and audacious band of Italian reformers,
anathematized alike by Wittenberg, by Geneva, by Zurich, and by Rome,
from which the Socinian sect deduces its origin.

Lady Bacon was doubtless a lady of highly cultivated mind after the
fashion of her age. But we must not suffer ourselves to be deluded into
the belief that she and her sisters were more accomplished women than
many who are now living. On this subject there is, we think, much
misapprehension. We have often heard men who wish, as almost all men of
sense wish, that women should be highly educated, speak with rapture of
{350}the English ladies of the sixteenth century, and lament that they
can find no modern damsel resembling those fair pupils of Ascham and
Aylmer who compared, over their embroidery, the styles of Isocrates and
Lysias, and who, while the horns were sounding and the dogs in full cry,
sat in the lonely oriel, with eyes rivetted to that immortal page which
tells how meekly and bravely the first great martyr of intellectual
liberty took the cup from his weeping gaoler. But surely these
complaints have very little foundation. We would by no means disparage
the ladies of the sixteenth century or their pursuits. But we conceive
that those who extol them at the expense of the women of our time forget
one very obvious and very important circumstance. In the time of Henry
the Eighth and Edward the Sixth, a person who did not read Greek and
Latin could read nothing, or next to nothing. The Italian was the
only modern language which possessed any thing that could be called a
literature. All the valuable books then extant in all the vernacular
dialects of Europe would hardly have filled a single shelf. England
did not yet possess Shakspeare’s plays and the Fairy Queen, nor
France Montaigne’s Essays, nor Spain Don Quixote. In looking round a
well-furnished library, how many English or French books can we find
which were extant when Lady Jane Grey and Queen Elizabeth received their
education? Chaucer, Gower, Froissart, Comines, Rabelais, nearly complete
the list. It was therefore absolutely necessary that a woman should be
uneducated or classically educated. Indeed, without a knowledge of one
of the ancient languages no person could then have any clear notion of
what was passing in the political, the literary, or the religious world.
The Latin was in the sixteenth century all {351}and more than all that
the French was in the eighteenth. It was the language of courts as well
as of the schools. It was the language of diplomacy; it was the language
of theological and political controversy. Being a fixed language,
while the living languages were in a state of fluctuation, and being
universally known to the learned and the polite, it was employed by
almost every writer who aspired to a wide and durable reputation. A
person who was ignorant of it was shut out from all acquaintance,
not merely with Cicero and Virgil, not merely with heavy treatises on
canon-law and school-divinity, but with the most interesting memoirs,
state papers, and pamphlets of his own time, nay even with the most
admired poetry and the most popular squibs which appeared on the
fleeting topics of the day, with Buchanan’s complimentary verses, with
Erasmus’s dialogues, with Hutten’s epistles.

This is no longer the case. All political and religious controversy is
now conducted in the modern languages. The ancient tongues are used only
in comments on the ancient writers. The great productions of Athenian
and Roman genius are indeed still what they were. But though their
positive value is unchanged, their relative value, when compared
with the whole mass of mental wealth possessed by mankind, has been
constantly falling. They were the intellectual all of our ancestors.
They are but a part of our treasures. Over what tragedy could Lady Jane
Grey have wept, over what comedy could she have smiled, if the ancient
dramatists had not been in her library? A modern reader can make shift
without Odipus and Medea, while he possesses Othello and Hamlet. If he
knows nothing of Pyrgopolynices and Thraso, he is familiar with Bobadil,
and Bessus, and Pistol, and {352}Parolles. If he cannot enjoy the
delicious irony of Plato, he may find some compensation in that of
Pascal. If he is shut out from Nephelococcygia, he may take refuge in
Lilliput. We are guilty, we hope, of no irreverence towards those great
nations to which the human race owes art, science, taste, civil and
intellectual freedom, when we say, that the stock bequeathed by them
to us has been so carefully improved that the accumulated interest now
exceeds the principal. We believe that the books which have been written
in the languages of western Europe, during the last two hundred
and fifty years,--translations from the ancient languages of course
included,--are of greater value than all the books which at the
beginning of that period were extant in the world. With the modern
languages of Europe English women are at least as well acquainted as
English men. When, therefore, we compare the acquirements of Lady Jane
Grey with those of an accomplished young woman of our own time, we have
no hesitation in awarding the superiority to the latter. We hope that
our readers will pardon this digression. It is long; but it can hardly
be called unseasonable, if it tends to convince them that they are
mistaken in thinking that the great-great-grandmothers of their
great-great-grandmothers were superior women to their sisters and their

Francis Bacon, the youngest son of Sir Nicholas, was born at York House,
his father’s residence in the Strand, on the twenty-second of January,
1561. The health of Francis was very delicate; and to this circumstance
may be partly attributed that gravity of carriage, and that love of
sedentary pursuits, which distinguished him from other boys. Every
body knows {353}how much his premature readiness of wit and sobriety of
deportment amused the Queen, and how she used to call him her young Lord
Keeper. We are told that, while still a mere child, he stole away from
his playfellows to a vault in St. James’s Fields, for the purpose of
investigating the cause of a singular echo which he had observed
there. It is certain that, at only twelve, he busied himself with very
ingenious speculations on the art of legerdemain; a subject which, as
Professor Dugald Stewart has most justly observed, merits much more
attention from philosophers than it has ever received. These are
trifles. But the eminence which Bacon afterwards attained makes them

In the thirteenth year of his age he was entered at Trinity College,
Cambridge. That celebrated school of learning enjoyed the peculiar
favour of the Lord Treasurer and the Lord Keeper, and acknowledged the
advantages which it derived from their patronage in a public letter
which bears date just a month after the admission of Francis Bacon.
The master was Whitgift, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, a
narrowminded, mean, and tyrannical priest, who gained power by servility
and adulation, and employed it in persecuting both those who agreed
with Calvin about Church Government, and those who differed from Calvin
touching the doctrine of Reprobation. He was now in a chrysalis
state, putting off the worm and putting on the dragon-fly, a kind of
intermediate grub between sycophant and oppressor. He was indemnifying
himself for the court which he found it expedient to pay to the
Ministers by exercising much petty tyranny within his own college. It
would be unjust, however, to deny him the praise of having rendered
about this time one important service to letters. He stood up manfully
{354}against those who wished to make Trinity College a mere appendage
to Westminster School; and by this act, the only good act, as far as
we remember, of his long public life, he saved the noblest place of
education in England from the degrading fate of King’s College and New

It has often been said that Bacon, while still at College, planned
that great intellectual revolution with which his name is inseparably
connected. The evidence on this subject, however, is hardly sufficient
to prove what is in itself so improbable as that any definite scheme
of that kind should have been so early formed, even by so powerful and
active a mind. But it is certain that, after a residence of three years
at Cambridge, Bacon departed, carrying with him a profound contempt for
the course of study pursued there, a fixed conviction that the system
of academic education in England was radically vicious, a just scorn for
the trifles on which the followers of Aristotle had wasted their powers,
and no great reverence for Aristotle himself.

In his sixteenth year he visited Paris, and resided there for some time,
under the care of Sir Amias Paulet, Elizabeth’s minister at the French
court, and one of the ablest and most upright of the many valuable
servants whom she employed. France was at that time in a deplorable
state of agitation. The Huguenots and the Catholics were mustering
all their force for the fiercest and most protracted of their many
struggles; while the Prince, whose duty it was to protect and to
restrain both, had by his vices and follies, degraded himself so deeply
that he had no authority over either. Bacon, however, made a tour
through several provinces, and appears to have passed some time at
{355}Poitiers. We have abundant proof that during his stay on the
Continent he did not neglect literary and scientific pursuits. But
his attention seems to have been chiefly directed to statistics and
diplomacy. It was at this time that he wrote those Notes on the State of
Europe which are printed in his works. He studied the principles of
the art of deciphering with great interest, and invented one cipher so
ingenious that, many years later, he thought it deserving of a place in
the _De Augmentis_. In February, 1580, while engaged in these pursuits,
he received intelligence of the almost sudden death of his father, and
instantly returned to England.

His prospects were greatly overcast by this event. He was most desirous
to obtain a provision which might enable him to devote himself to
literature and politics. He applied to the Government; and it seems
strange that he should have applied in vain. His wishes were moderate.
His hereditary claims on the administration were great. He had himself
been favourably noticed by the Queen. His uncle was Prime Minister. His
own talents were such as any minister might have been eager to enlist in
the public service. But his solicitations were unsuccessful. The truth
is that the Cecils disliked him, and did all that they could decently
do to keep him down. It has never been alleged that Bacon had done any
thing to merit this dislike; nor is it at all probable that a man whose
temper was naturally mild, whose manners were courteous, who, through
life, nursed his fortunes with the utmost care, and who was fearful even
to a fault of offending the powerful, would have given any just cause
of displeasure to a kinsman who had the means of rendering him essential
service and of doing him irreparable injury. The real explanation,
{356}we believe, is this. Robert Cecil, the Treasurer’s second son, was
younger by a few months than Bacon. He had been educated with the
utmost care, had been initiated while still a boy, in the mysteries
of diplomacy and court-intrigue, and was just at this time about to be
produced on the stage of public life. The wish nearest to Burleigh’s
heart was that his own greatness might descend to this favourite child.
But even Burleigh’s fatherly partiality could hardly prevent him from
perceiving that Robert, with all his abilities and acquirements, was
no match for his cousin Francis. This seems to us the only rational
explanation of the Treasurer’s conduct. Mr. Montagu is more charitable.
He supposes that Burleigh was influenced merely by affection for his
nephew, and was “little deposed to encourage him to rely on others
rather than on himself, and to venture on the quicksands of politics,
instead of the certain profession of the law.” If such were Burleigh’s
feelings, it seems strange that he should have suffered his son to
venture on those quicksands from which he so carefully preserved his
nephew. But the truth is that, if Burleigh had been so disposed, he
might easily have secured to Bacon a comfortable provision which should
have been exposed to no risk. And it is certain that he showed as little
disposition to enable his nephew to live by a profession as to enable
him to live without a profession. That Bacon himself attributed the
conduct of his relatives to jealousy of his superior talents, we
have not the smallest doubt. In a letter written many years later
to Villiers, he expresses himself thus: “Countenance, encourage, and
advance able men in all kinds, degrees, and professions. For in the time
of the Cecils, the father and the son, able men were by design and of
purpose suppressed.” {357}Whatever Burleigh’s motives might be, his
purpose was unalterable. The supplications which Francis addressed to
his uncle and aunt were earnest, humble, and almost servile. He was the
most promising and accomplished young man of his time. His father had
been the brother-in-law, the most useful colleague, the nearest friend
of the Minister. But all this availed poor Francis nothing. He was
forced, much against his will, to betake himself to the study of the
law. He was admitted at Gray’s Inn; and, during some years he laboured
there in obscurity.

What the extent of his legal attainments may have been it is difficult
to say. It was not hard for a man of his powers to acquire that very
moderate portion of technical knowledge which, when joined to quickness,
tact, wit, ingenuity, eloquence, and knowledge of the world, is
sufficient to raise an advocate to the highest professional eminence.
The general opinion appears to have been that which was on one occasion
expressed by Elizabeth. “Bacon,” said she, “hath a great wit and much
learning; but in law showeth to the uttermost of his knowledge, and is
not deep.” The Cecils, we suspect, did their best to spread this opinion
by whispers and insinuations. Coke openly proclaimed it with that
rancorous insolence which was habitual to him. No reports are more
readily believed than those which disparage genius, and soothe the envy
of conscious mediocrity. It must have been inexpressibly consoling to
a stupid sergeant, the forerunner of him who, a hundred and fifty
years later, “shook his head at Murray as a wit,” to know that the most
profound thinker and the most accomplished orator of the age was very
imperfectly acquainted with the law touching _bastardeigne_ and _mulier
puisné_, and confounded {358}the right of free fishery with that of
common of piscary.

It is certain that no man in that age, or indeed during the century
and a half which followed, was better acquainted than Bacon with the
philosophy of law. His technical knowledge was quite sufficient, with
the help of his admirable talents and of his insinuating address,
to procure clients. He rose very rapidly into business, and soon
entertained hopes of being called within the bar. He applied to Lord
Burleigh for that purpose, but received a testy refusal. Of the grounds
of that refusal we can, in some measure, judge by Bacon’s answer, which
is still extant. It seems that the old Lord, whose temper age and
gout had by no means altered for the better, and who loved to mark his
dislike of the showy, quick-witted young men of the rising generation,
took this opportunity to read Francis a very sharp lecture on his vanity
and want of respect for his betters. Francis returned a most submissive
reply, thanked the Treasurer for the admonition, and promised to profit
by it. Strangers meanwhile were less unjust to the young barrister
than his nearest kinsman had been. In his twenty-sixth year he became a
bencher of his Inn; and two years later he was appointed Lent reader. At
length in 1500, he obtained for the first time some show of favour from
the Court. He was sworn in Queen’s Counsel extraordinary. But this mark
of honour was not accompanied by any pecuniary emolument. He continued,
therefore, to solicit his powerful relatives for some provision which
might enable him to live without drudging at his profession. He bore,
with a patience and serenity which, we fear, bordered on meanness, the
morose humours of his uncle, and the sneering reflections which {359}his
cousin cast on speculative men, lost in philosophical dreams, and too
wise to be capable of transacting public business. At length the
Cecils were generous enough to procure for him the reversion of the
Registrarship of the Star Chamber. This was a lucrative place; but, as
many years elapsed before it fell in, he was still under the necessity
of labouring for his daily bread.

In the Parliament which was called in 1593 he sat as member for the
county of Middlesex, and soon attained eminence as a debater. It is
easy to perceive from the scanty remains of his oratory that the same
compactness of expression and richness of fancy which appear in his
writings characterized his speeches; and that his extensive acquaintance
with literature and history enabled him to entertain his audience with
a vast variety of illustrations and allusions which were generally happy
and apposite, but which were probably not least pleasing to the taste
of that age when they were such as would now be thought childish or
pedantic. It is evident also that he was, as indeed might have been
expected, perfectly free from those faults which are generally found in
an advocate who, after having risen to eminence at the bar, enters
the House of Commons; that it was his habit to deal with every great
question, not in small detached portions, but as a whole; that he
refined little, and that his reasonings were those of a capacious
rather than a subtle mind. Ben Jonson, a most unexceptionable judge, has
described Bacon’s eloquence in words, which, though often quoted, will
bear to be quoted again. “There happened in my time one noble speaker
who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language, where he could
spare or pass by a jest, was nobly censorious. No man ever spoke more
neatly, {360}more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness,
less idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted
of his own graces. His hearers could not cough or look aside from him
without loss, he commanded where he spoke, and had his judges angry and
pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power.
The fear of every man that heard him was lest he should make an end.”
 From the mention which is made of judges, it would seem that Jonson had
heard Bacon only at the Bar. Indeed we imagine that the House of Commons
was then almost inaccessible to strangers. It is not probable that a
man of Bacon’s nice observation would speak in Parliament exactly as
he spoke in the Court of Queen’s Bench. But the graces of manner and
language must, to a great extent, have been common between the Queen’s
Counsel and the Knight of the Shire.

Bacon tried to play a very difficult game in politics. He wished to be
at once a favourite at Court and popular with the multitude. If any
man could have succeeded in this attempt, a man of talents so rare,
of judgment so prematurely ripe, of temper so calm, and of manners so
plausible, might have been expected to succeed. Nor indeed did he wholly
fail. Once, however, he indulged in a burst of patriotism which cost him
a long and bitter remorse, and which he never ventured to repeat. The
Court asked for large subsidies and for speedy payment. The remains
of Bacon’s speech breathe all the spirit of the Long Parliament. “The
gentlemen,” said he, “must sell their plate, and the fanners their
brass pots, ere this will be paid; and for us, we are here to search
the wounds of the realm, and not to skim them over. The dangers {361}are
these. First, we shall breed discontent and endanger her Majesty’s
safety, which must consist more in the love of the people than their
wealth. Secondly, this being granted in this sort, other princes
hereafter will look for the like; so that we shall put an evil precedent
on ourselves and our posterity; and in histories, it is to be observed,
of all nations the English are not to be subject, base, or taxable.” The
Queen and her ministers resented this outbreak of public spirit in the
highest manner. Indeed, many an honest member of the House of Commons
had, for a much smaller matter, been sent to the Tower by the proud
and hot-blooded Tudors. The young patriot condescended to make the most
abject apologies. He adjured the Lord Treasurer to show some favour to
his poor servant and ally. He bemoaned himself to the Lord Keeper, in
a letter which may keep in countenance the most unmanly of the epistles
which Cicero wrote during his banishment. The lesson was not thrown
away. Bacon never offended in the same manner again.

He was now satisfied that he had little to hope from the patronage of
those powerful kinsmen whom he had solicited during twelve years with
such meek pertinacity; and he began to look towards a different quarter.
Among the courtiers of Elizabeth had lately appeared a new favourite,
young, noble, wealthy, accomplished, eloquent, brave, generous,
aspiring; a favourite who had obtained from the grey-headed Queen such
marks of regard as she had scarce vouchsafed to Leicester in the season
of the passions; who was at once the ornament of the palace and the idol
of the city; who was the common patron of men of letters and of men of
the sword; who was the common {362}refuge of the persecuted Catholic and
of the persecuted Puritan. The calm prudence which had enabled Burleigh
to shape his course through so many dangers, and the vast experience
which he had acquired in dealing with two generations of colleagues
and rivals, seemed scarcely sufficient to support him in this new
competition; and Robert Cecil sickened with fear and envy as he
contemplated the rising fame and influence of Essex.

The history of the factions which, towards the close of the reign of
Elizabeth, divided her court and her council, though pregnant with
instruction, is by no means interesting or pleasing. Both parties
employed the means which are familiar to unscrupulous statesmen; and
neither had, or even pretended to have, any important end in view. The
public mind was then reposing from one great effort, and collecting
strength for another. That impetuous and appalling rush with which the
human intellect had moved forward in the career of truth and liberty,
during the fifty years which followed the separation of Luther from
the communion of the Church of Rome, was now over. The boundary between
Protestantism and Popery had been fixed very nearly where it still
remains. England, Scotland, the Northern kingdoms were on one side;
Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, on the other. The line of demarcation
ran, as it still runs, through the midst of the Netherlands, of Germany,
and of Switzerland, dividing province from province, electorate from
electorate, and canton from canton. France might be considered as a
debatable land, in which the contest was still undecided. Since that
time, the two religions have done little more than maintain their
ground. A few occasional incursions have been made. But the general
frontier remains {363}the same. During two hundred and fifty years no
great society has risen up like one man, and emancipated itself by one
mighty effort from the superstition of ages. This spectacle was common
in the sixteenth century. Why has it ceased to be so? Why has so violent
a movement been followed by so long a repose? The doctrines of the
Reformers are not less agreeable to reason or to revelation now than
formerly. The public mind is assuredly not less enlightened now than
formerly. Why is it that Protestantism, after carrying every thing
before it in a time of comparatively little knowledge and little
freedom, should make no perceptible progress in a reasoning and tolerant
age; that the Luthers, the Calvins, the Knoxes, the Zwingles, should
have left no successors; that during two centuries and a half fewer
converts should have been brought over from the Church of Rome than at
the time of the Reformation were sometimes gained in a year? This has
always appeared to us one of the most curious and interesting problems
in history. On some future occasion we may perhaps attempt to solve it.
At present it is enough to say that, at the close of Elizabeth’s reign,
the Protestant party, to borrow the language of the Apocalypse, had left
its first love and had ceased to do its first works.

The great straggle of the sixteenth century was over. The great struggle
of the seventeenth century had not commenced. The confessors of Mary’s
reign were dead. The members of the Long Parliament were still in their
cradles. The Papists had been deprived of all power in the state. The
Puritans had not yet attained any formidable extent of power. True it is
that a student, well acquainted with the history of the next generation,
can easily discern in the proceedings {364}of the last Parliaments of
Elizabeth the germ of great and ever memorable events. But to the eye of
a contemporary nothing of this appeared. The two sections of ambitious
men who were struggling for power differed from each other on no
important public question. Both belonged to the Established Church. Both
professed boundless loyalty to the Queen. Both approved the war with
Spain. There is not, so far as we are aware, any reason to believe that
they entertained different views concerning the succession of the Crown.
Certainly neither faction had any great measure of reform in view.
Neither attempted to redress any public grievance. The most odious and
pernicious grievance under which the nation then suffered was a source
of profit to both, and was defended by both with equal zeal. Raleigh
held a monopoly of cards, Essex a monopoly of sweet wines. In fact, the
only ground of quarrel between the parties was that they could not agree
as to their respective shares of power and patronage.

Nothing in the political conduct of Essex entitles him to esteem; and
the pity with which we regard his early and terrible end is diminished
by the consideration, that he put to hazard the lives and fortunes of
his most attached friends, and endeavoured to throw the whole country
into confusion, for objects purely personal. Still, it is impossible not
to be deeply interested for a man so brave, high-spirited, and generous;
for a man who, while he conducted himself towards his sovereign with a
boldness such as was then found in no other subject, conducted himself
towards his dependents with a delicacy such as has rarely been found in
any other patron. Unlike the vulgar herd of benefactors, he desired to
inspire, not gratitude, but affection. He {365}tried to make those whom
he befriended feel towards him as towards an equal. His mind, ardent,
susceptible, naturally disposed to admiration of all that is great and
beautiful, was fascinated by the genius and accomplishments of Bacon. A
close friendship was soon formed between them, a friendship destined to
have a dark, a mournful, a shameful end.

In 1504 the office of Attorney-General became vacant, and Bacon hoped
to obtain it. Essex made his friend’s cause his own, sued, expostulated,
promised, threatened, but all in vain. It is probable that the dislike
felt by the Cecils for Bacon had been increased by the connection which
he had lately formed with the Earl. Robert was then on the point of
being made Secretary of State. He happened one day to be in the same
coach with Essex, and a remarkable conversation took place between them.
“My Lord,” said Sir Robert, “the Queen has determined to appoint an
Attorney-General without more delay. I pray your Lordship to let me know
whom you will favour.”

“I wonder at your question,” replied the Earl. “You cannot but know
that resolutely, against all the world, I stand for your cousin, Francis

“Good Lord!” cried Cecil, unable to bridle his temper, “I wonder your
Lordship should spend your strength on so unlikely a matter. Can you
name one precedent of so raw a youth promoted to so great a place?”
 This objection came with a singularly bad grace from a man who, though
younger than Bacon, was in daily expectation of being made Secretary
of State. The blot was too obvious to be missed by Essex, who seldom
forbore to speak his mind. “I have made no search,” said he, “for
precedents of young men who have filled the office of Attorney-General.
But I could name to you, {366}Sir Robert, a man younger than Francis,
less learned, and equally inexperienced, who is suing and striving
with all his might for an office of far greater weight.” Sir Robert had
nothing to say but that he thought his own abilities equal to the place
which he hoped to obtain, and that his father’s long services deserved
such a mark of gratitude from the Queen; as if his abilities were
comparable to his cousin’s, or as if Sir Nicholas Bacon had done
no service to the State. Cecil then hinted that, if Bacon would be
satisfied with the Solicitorship, that might be of easier digestion to
the Queen. “Digest me no digestions,” said the generous and ardent Earl.
“The Attorneyship for Francis is that I must have; and in that I will
spend all my power, might, authority, and amity; and with tooth and nail
procure the same for him against whomsoever; and whosoever getteth this
office out of my hands for any other, before he have it, it shall cost
him the coming by. And this be you assured of, Sir Robert, for now I
fully declare myself; and for my own part, Sir Robert, I think strange
both of my Lord Treasurer and you, that can have the mind to seek the
preference of a stranger before so near a kinsman; for if you weigh in
a balance the parts every way of his competitor and him, only excepting
five poor years of admitting to a house of court before Francis, you
shall find in all other respects whatsoever no comparison between them.”

When the office of Attorney-General was filled up the Earl pressed the
Queen to make Bacon Solicitor-General, and, on this occasion, the
old Lord Treasurer professed himself not unfavourable to his nephew’s
pretensions. But, after a contest which lasted more than a year and
a half, and in which Essex, to use his own {367}words, “spent all his
power, might, authority, and amity,” the place was given to another.
Essex felt this disappointment keenly, but found consolation in the most
munificent and delicate liberality. He presented Bacon with an estate
worth near two thousand pounds, situated at Twickenham; and this, as
Bacon owned many years after, “with so kind and noble circumstances as
the manner was worth more than the matter.”

It was soon after these events that Bacon first appeared before the
public as a writer. Early in 1597 he published a small volume of Essays,
which was afterwards enlarged by successive additions to many times
its original bulk. This little work was, as it well deserved to be,
exceedingly popular. It was reprinted in a few months; it was
translated into Latin, French, and Italian; and it seems to have at once
established the literary reputation of its author. But, though Bacon’s
reputation rose, his fortunes were still depressed. He was in great
pecuniary difficulties; and on one occasion, was arrested in the street
at the suit of a goldsmith for a debt of three hundred pounds, and was
carried to a spunging-house in Coleman Street.

The kindness of Essex was in the mean time indefatigable. In 1596 he
sailed on his memorable expedition to the coast of Spain. At the
very moment of his embarkation, he wrote to several of his friends,
commending to them, during his own absence, the interests of Bacon. He
returned, after performing the most brilliant military exploit that was
achieved on the Continent by English arms during the long interval
which elapsed between the battle of Agincourt and that of Blenheim. His
valour, his talents, his humane and generous disposition, had made
him the idol of his {368}countrymen, and had extorted praise from
the enemies whom he had conquered. (1) He had always been proud and
headstrong; and his splendid success seems to have rendered his faults
more offensive than ever. But to his friend Francis he was still the
same. Bacon had some thoughts of making his fortune by marriage, and
had begun to pay court to a widow of the name of Hatton. The eccentric
manners and violent temper of this woman made her a disgrace and a
torment to her connections. But Bacon was not aware of her faults, or
was disposed to overlook them for the sake of her ample fortune. Essex
pleaded his friend’s cause with his usual ardour. The letters which the
Earl addressed to Lady Hatton and to her mother are still extant, and
are highly honourable to him. “If,” he wrote, “she were my sister or my
daughter, I protest I would as confidently resolve to further it as I
now persuade you;” and again, “if my faith be any thing, I protest, if
I had one as near me as she is to you, I had rather match her with him,
than with men of far greater titles.” The suit, happily for Bacon, was
unsuccessful. The lady indeed was kind to him in more ways than one.
She rejected him; and she accepted his enemy. She married that
narrow-minded, bad-hearted pedant, Sir Edward Coke, and did her best to
make him as miserable as he deserved to be.

The fortunes of Essex had now reached their height, and began to
decline. He possessed indeed all the qualities which raise men to
greatness rapidly. But he had neither the virtues or the vices which
enable men to retain greatness long. His frankness, his keen sensibility
to insult and injustice were by no means

     (1) See Cervantes’s _Novela de la Espanola Inglesa_.

{369}agreeable to a sovereign natural impatient of opposition, and
accustomed, during forty years, to the most extravagant flattery and the
most abject submission. The daring and contemptuous manner in which
he bade defiance to his enemies excited their deadly hatred. His
administration in Ireland was unfortunate, and in many respects highly
blamable. Though his brilliant courage and his impetuous activity fitted
him admirably for such enterprises as that of Cadiz, he did not possess
the caution, patience, and resolution necessary for the conduct of a
protracted war, in which difficulties were to be gradually surmounted,
in which much discomfort was to be endured, and in which few splendid
exploits could be achieved. For the civil duties of his high place he
was still less qualified. Though eloquent and accomplished, he was in no
sense a statesman. The multitude indeed still continued to regard even
his faults with fondness. But the Court had ceased to give him credit,
even for the merit which he really possessed. The person on whom, during
the decline of his influence, he chiefly depended, to whom he confided
his perplexities, whose advice he solicited, whose intercession he
employed, was his friend Bacon. The lamentable truth must be told. This
friend, so loved, so trusted, bore a principal part in mining the Earl’s
fortunes, in shedding his blood, and in blackening his memory.

But let us be just to Bacon. We believe that, to the last, he had no
wish to injure Essex. Nay, we believe that he sincerely exerted himself
to serve Essex, as long as he thought he could serve Essex without
injuring himself. The advice which he gave to his noble benefactor was
generally most judicious. He did all in his power to dissuade the Earl
from accepting the Government of Ireland. “For,” says he, {370}“I did as
plainly see his overthrow chained as it were by destiny to that
journey, as it is possible for a man to ground a judgment upon future
contingents.” The prediction was accomplished. Essex returned in
disgrace. Bacon attempted to mediate between his friend and the Queen;
and, we believe, honestly employed all his address for that purpose.
But the task which he had undertaken was too difficult, delicate, and
perilous, even for so wary and dexterous an agent. He had to manage two
spirits equally proud, resentful, and ungovernable. At Essex House, he
had to calm the rage of a young hero incensed by multiplied wrongs and
humiliations, and then to pass to Whitehall for the purpose of soothing
the peevishness of a sovereign, whose temper, never very gentle, had
been rendered morbidly irritable by age, by declining health, and by the
long habit of listening to flattery and exacting implicit obedience.
It is hard to serve two masters. Situated as Bacon was, it was scarcely
possible for him to shape his course so as not to give one or both of
his employers reason to complain. For a time he acted as fairly as, in
circumstances so embarrassing, could reasonably be expected. At length
he found that, while he was trying to prop the fortunes of another, he
was in danger of shaking his own. He had disobliged both the parties
whom he wished to reconcile. Essex thought him wanting in zeal as a
friend: Elizabeth thought him wanting in duty as a subject. The Earl
looked on him as a spy of the Queen; the Queen as a creature of the
Earl. The reconciliation which he had laboured to effect appeared
utterly hopeless. A thousand signs, legible to eyes far less keen than
his, announced that the fall of his patron was at hand. He shaped his
course accordingly. When Essex was {371}brought before the council
to answer for his conduct in Ireland, Bacon, after a faint attempt to
excuse himself from taking part against his friend, submitted himself’
to the Queen’s pleasure, and appeared at the bar in support of the
charges. But a darker scene was behind. The unhappy young nobleman, made
reckless by despair, ventured on a rash and criminal enterprise, which
rendered him liable to the highest penalties of the law. What course was
Bacon to take? This was one of those conjunctures which show what men
are. To a high-minded man, wealth, power, court-favor, even personal
safety, would have appeared of no account, when opposed to friendship,
gratitude, and honour. Such a man would have stood by the side of Essex
at the trial, would have “spent all his power, might, authority, and
amity” in soliciting a mitigation of the sentence, would have been a
daily visitor at the cell, would have received the last injunctions and
the last embrace on the scaffold, would have employed all the powers
of his intellect to guard from insult the fame of his generous though
erring friend. An ordinary man would neither have incurred the danger of
succouring Essex, nor the disgrace of assailing him. Bacon did not even
preserve neutrality. He appeared as counsel for the prosecution. In
that situation he did not confine himself to what would have been amply
sufficient to procure a verdict. He employed all his wit, his rhetoric,
and his learning, not to insure a conviction,--for the circumstances
were such that a conviction was inevitable,--but to deprive the unhappy
prisoner of all those excuses which, though legally of no value, yet
tended to diminish the moral guilt of the crime, and which, therefore,
though they could not justify the peers in pronouncing an acquittal,
might {372}incline the Queen to grant a pardon. The Earl urged as a
palliation of his frantic acts that he was surrounded by powerful and
inveterate enemies, that they had ruined his fortunes, that they sought
his life, and that their persecutions had driven him to despair. This
was true; and Bacon well knew it to be true. But he affected to treat it
as an idle pretence. He compared Essex to Pisistratus who, by
pretending to be in imminent danger of assassination, and by exhibiting
self-inflicted wounds, succeeded in establishing tyranny at Athens. This
was too much for the prisoner to bear. He interrupted his ungrateful
friend by calling on him to quit the part of an advocate, to come
forward as a witness, and to tell the Lords whether, in old times, he
Francis Bacon, had not under his own hand, repeatedly asserted the truth
of what he now represented as idle pretexts. It is painful to go on with
this lamentable story. Bacon returned a shuffling answer to the Earl’s
question, and, as if the allusion to Pisistratus were not sufficiently
offensive, made another allusion still more unjustifiable. He compared
Essex to Henry Duke of Guise, and the rash attempt in the city to the
day of the barricades at Paris. Why Bacon had recourse to such a topic
it is difficult to say. It was quite unnecessary for the purpose of
obtaining a verdict. It was certain to produce a strong impression
on the mind of the haughty and jealous princess on whose pleasure the
Earl’s fate depended. The faintest allusion to the degrading tutelage
in which the last Valois had been held by the House of Lorraine was
sufficient to harden her heart against a man who in rank, in military
reputation, in popularity among the citizens of the capital, bore some
resemblance to the Captain of the League.

{373}Essex was convicted. Bacon made no effort to save him, though the
Queen’s feelings were such that he might have pleaded his benefactor’s
cause, possibly with success, certainly without any serious danger to
himself. The unhappy nobleman was executed. His fate excited strong,
perhaps unreasonable feelings of compassion and indignation. The Queen
was received by the citizens of London with gloomy looks and faint
acclamations. She thought it expedient to publish a vindication of her
late proceedings. The faithless friend who had assisted in taking the
Earl’s life was now employed to murder the Earl’s fame. The Queen had
seen some of Bacon’s writings, and had been pleased with them. He
was accordingly selected to write “A Declaration of the Practices and
Treasons attempted and committed by Robert Earl of Essex,” which was
printed by authority. In the succeeding reign, Bacon had not a word
to say in defence of this performance, a performance abounding in
expressions which no generous enemy would have employed respecting a man
who had so dearly expiated his offences. His only excuse was, that he
wrote it by command, that he considered himself as a mere secretary,
that he had particular instructions as to the way in which he was to
treat every part of the subject, and that, in fact, he had furnished
only the arrangement and the style.

We regret to say that the whole conduct of Bacon through the course
of these transactions appears to Mr. Montagu not merely excusable, but
deserving of high admiration. The integrity and benevolence of this
gentleman are so well known that our readers will probably be at a loss
to conceive by what steps he can have arrived at so extraordinary
a conclusion: and we are half afraid that they will suspect us of
practising {374}some artifice upon them when we report the principal
arguments which he employs.

In order to get rid of the charge of ingratitude, Mr. Montagu attempts
to show that Bacon lay under greater obligations to the Queen than
to Essex. What these obligations were it is not easy to discover.
The situation of Queen’s Counsel, and a remote reversion, were surely
favours very far below Bacon’s personal and hereditary claims. They were
favours which had not cost the Queen a groat, nor had they put a groat
into Bacon’s purse. It was necessary to rest Elizabeth’s claims to
gratitude on some other ground; and this Mr. Montagu felt. “What perhaps
was her greatest kindness,” says he, “instead of having hastily advanced
Bacon, she had, with a continuance of her friendship, made him bear the
yoke in his youth. Such were his obligations to Elizabeth.” Such
indeed they were. Being the son of one of her oldest and most faithful
ministers, being himself the ablest and most accomplished young man of
his time, he had been condemned by her to drudgery, to obscurity, to
poverty. She had depreciated his acquirements. She had checked him in
the most imperious manner, when in Parliament he ventured to act an
independent part. She had refused to him the professional advancement to
which he had a just claim. To her it was owing that, while younger men,
not superior to him in extraction, and far inferior to him in every kind
of personal merit, were filling the highest offices of the state,
adding manor to manor, rearing palace after palace, he was lying at a
spunging-house for a debt of three hundred pounds. Assuredly if Bacon
owed gratitude to Elizabeth, he owed none to Essex. If the Queen really
was his best friend, the Earl was his worst enemy. {375}We wonder that
Mr. Montagu did not press this argument a little further. He might have
maintained that Bacon was excusable in revenging himself on a man who
had attempted to rescue his youth from the salutary yoke imposed on it
by the Queen, who had wished to advance him hastily, who, not content
with attempting to inflict the Attorney-Generalship upon him, had been
so cruel as to present him with a landed estate.

Again, we can hardly think Mr. Montagu serious when he tells us that
Bacon was bound for the sake of the public not to destroy his own hopes
of advancement, and that he took part against Essex from a wish to
obtain power which might enable him to be useful to his country. We
really do not know how to refute such arguments except by stating them.
Nothing is impossible which does not involve a contradiction. It is
barely possible that Bacon’s motives for acting as he did on this
occasion may have been gratitude to the Queen for keeping him poor, and
a desire to benefit his fellow-creatures in some high situation. And
there is a possibility that Bonner may have been a good Protestant who,
being convinced that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,
heroically went through all the drudgery and infamy of persecution,
in order that he might inspire the English people with an intense and
lasting hatred of Popery. There is a possibility that Jeffreys may have
been an ardent lover of liberty, and that he may have beheaded Algernon
Sydney, and burned Elizabeth Gaunt, only in order to produce a reaction
which might lead to the limitation of the prerogative. There is a
possibility that Thurtell may have killed Weare only in order to give
the youth of England an impressive warning against gaming and {376}bad
company. There is a possibility that Fauntleroy may have forged powers
of attorney, only in order that his fate might turn the attention of
the public to the defects of the penal law. These things, we say, are
possible. But they are so extravagantly improbable that a man who should
act on such suppositions would be fit only for Saint Luke’s. And we do
not see why suppositions on which no rational man would act in ordinary
life should be admitted into history.

Mr. Montagu’s notion that Bacon desired power only in order to do good
to mankind appears somewhat strange to us, when we consider how Bacon
afterwards used power, and how he lost it. Surely the service which he
rendered to mankind by taking Lady Wharton’s broad pieces and Sir John
Kennedy’s cabinet was not of such vast importance as to sanctify all the
means which might conduce to that end. If the case were fairly stated,
it would, we much fear, stand thus: Bacon was a servile advocate, that
he might be a corrupt judge.

Mr. Montagu maintains that none but the ignorant and unreflecting can
think Bacon censurable for any thing that he did as counsel for the
Crown, and that no advocate can justifiably use any discretion as to the
party for whom he appears. We will not at present inquire whether the
doctrine which is held on this subject by English lawyers be or be not
agreeable to reason and morality; whether it be right that a man should,
with a wig on his head, and a band round his neck, do for a guinea what,
without those appendages, he would think it wicked and infamous to
do for an empire; whether it be right that, not merely believing but
knowing a statement to be true, he should do all that can be done
by sophistry, by rhetoric, by solemn {377}asseveration, by indignant
exclamation, by gesture, by play of features, by terrifying one honest
witness, by perplexing another, to cause a jury to think that statement
false. It is not necessary on the present occasion to decide these
questions. The professional rules, be they good or bad, are rules
to which many wise and virtuous men have conformed, and are daily
conforming. If, therefore, Bacon did no more than these rules required
of him, we shall readily admit that he was blameless, or, at least,
excusable. But we conceive that his con duct was not justifiable
according to any professional rules that now exist, or that ever existed
in England. It has always been held that, in criminal cases in which
the prisoner was denied the help of counsel, and, above all, in capital
cases, advocates were both entitled and bound to exercise a discretion.
It is true that, after the Revolution, when the Parliament began to
make inquisition for the innocent blood which had been shed by the last
Stuarts, a feeble attempt was made to defend the lawyers who had been
accomplices in the murder of Sir Thomas Armstrong, on the ground that
they had only acted professionally. The wretched sophism was silenced
by the execrations of the House of Commons. “Things will never be well
done,” said Mr. Foley, “till some of that profession be made examples.”

“We have a new sort of monsters in the world,” said the younger Hampden,
“haranguing a man to death. These I call bloodhounds. Sawyer is very
criminal and guilty of this murder.”

“I speak to discharge my conscience,” said Mr. Garroway. “I will not
have the blood of this man at my door. Sawyer demanded judgment against
him and execution. I believe him guilty of the death {378}of this man.
Do what you will with him.”

“If the profession of the law,” said the elder Hampden, “gives a man
authority to murder at this rate, it is the interest of all men to rise
and exterminate that profession.” Nor was this language held only by
unlearned country gentlemen. Sir William Williams, one of the ablest and
most unscrupulous lawyers of the age, took the same view of the case.
He had not hesitated, he said, to take part in the prosecution of the
Bishops, because they were allowed counsel. But he maintained that,
where the prisoner was not allowed counsel, the Counsel for the Crown
was bound to exercise a discretion, and that every lawyer who neglected
this distinction was a betrayer of the law. But it is unnecessary to
cite authority. It is known to every body who has ever looked into
a court of quarter-sessions that lawyers do exercise a discretion in
criminal cases; and it is plain to every man of common sense that, if
they did not exercise such a discretion, they would be a more hateful
body of men than those bravoes who used to hire out their stilettoes in

Bacon appeared against a man who was indeed guilty of a great offence,
but who had been his benefactor and friend. He did more than this.
Nay, he did more than a person who had never seen Essex would have been
justified in doing. He employed all the art of an advocate in order to
make the prisoner’s conduct appear more inexcusable and more dangerous
to the state than it really had been. All that professional duty could,
in any case, have required of him would have been to conduct the cause
so as to insure a conviction. But from the nature of the circumstances
there could not be the smallest doubt that the Earl would be found
guilty. The character of the {379}crime was unequivocal. It had been
committed recently, in broad daylight, in the streets of the capital,
in the presence of thousands. If ever there was an occasion on which
an advocate had no temptation to resort to extraneous topics, for
the purpose of blinding the judgment and inflaming the passions of a
tribunal, this was that occasion. Why then resort to arguments which,
while they could add nothing to the strength of the case, considered in
a legal point of view, tended to aggravate the moral guilt of the fatal
enterprise, and to excite fear and resentment in that quarter from which
alone the Earl could now expect mercy? Why remind the audience of the
arts of the ancient tyrants? Why deny, what every body knew to be the
truth, that a powerful faction at court had long sought to effect the
ruin of the prisoner? Why, above all, institute a parallel between the
unhappy culprit and the most wicked and most successful rebel of the
age? Was it absolutely impossible to do all that professional duty
required without reminding a jealous sovereign of the League, of the
barricades, and of all the humiliations which a too powerful subject had
heaped on Henry the Third?

But if we admit the plea which Mr. Montagu urges in defence of what
Bacon did as an advocate, what shall we say of the “Declaration of the
Treasons of Robert Earl of Essex?” Here at least there was no pretence
of professional obligation. Even those who may think it the duty of
a lawyer to hang, draw, and quarter his benefactors, for a proper
consideration, will hardly say that it is his duty to write abusive
pamphlets against them, after they are in their graves. Bacon excused
himself by saying that he was not answerable for the matter of the book,
and that he furnished only {380}the language. But why did lie endow such
purposes with words? Could no hack writer, without virtue or shame, be
found to exaggerate the errors, already so dearly expiated, of a gentle
and noble spirit? Every age produces those links between the man and the
baboon. Every age is fertile of Oldmixons, of Kenricks, and of Antony
Pasquins. But was it for Bacon so to prostitute his intellect? Could he
not feel that, while he rounded and pointed some period dictated by the
envy of Cecil, or gave a plausible form to some slander invented by the
dastardly malignity of Cobliam, he was not sinning merely against his
friend’s honour and his own? Could he not feel that letters, eloquence,
philosophy, were all degraded in his degradation?

The real explanation of all this is perfectly obvious; and nothing but
a partiality amounting to a ruling passion could cause any body to miss
it. The moral qualities of Bacon were not of a high order. We do not say
that he was a bad man. He was not inhuman or tyrannical. He bore with
meekness his high civil honours, and the far higher honours gained by
his intellect. He was very seldom, if ever, provoked into treating any
person with malignity and insolence. Ko man more readily held up the
left cheek to those who had smitten the right. No man was more expert at
the soft answer which turneth away wrath. He was never charged, by any
accuser entitled to the smallest credit, with licentious habits. His
even temper, his flowing courtesy, the general respectability of
his demeanour, made a favourable impression on those who saw him in
situations which do not severely try the principles. His faults were--we
write it with pain--coldness of heart, and meanness of spirit. He seems
to have been incapable of feeling strong affection, of {381}facing great
dangers, of making great sacrifices. His desires were set on things
below. Wealth, precedence, titles, patronage, the mace, the seals, the
coronet, large houses, fair gardens, rich manors, massive services of
plate, gay hangings, curious cabinets, had as great attractions for him
as for any of the courtiers who dropped on their knees in the dirt when
Elizabeth passed by, and then hastened home to write to the King of
Scots that her Grace seemed to be breaking fast. For these objects he
had stooped to every thing and endured every thing. For these he
had sued in the humblest manner, and, when unjustly and ungraciously
repulsed, had thanked those who had repulsed him, and had begun to sue
again. For these objects, as soon as he found that the smallest show
of independence in Parliament was offensive to the Queen, he had abased
himself to the dust before her, and implored forgiveness in terms better
suited to a convicted thief than to a knight of the shire. For these he
joined, and for these he forsook, Lord Essex. He continued to plead his
patron’s cause with the Queen as long as he thought that by pleading
that cause he might serve himself. Nay, he went further; for his
feelings, though not warm, were kind; he pleaded that cause as long as
he thought that he could plead it without injury to himself. But when it
became evident that Essex was going headlong to his ruin, Bacon began to
tremble for his own fortunes. What he had to fear would not indeed have
been very alarming to a man of lofty character. It was not death. It was
not imprisonment. It was the loss of court favour. It was the being left
behind by others in the career of ambition. It was the having leisure
to finish the _Instauratio Magna_. The Queen looked coldly on him. The
courtiers began to consider him as a marked {382}man. He determined to
change his line of conduct, and to proceed in a new course with so much
vigour as to make up for lost time. When once he had determined to act
against his friend, knowing himself to be suspected, he acted with
more zeal than would have been necessary or justifiable if he had been
employed against a stranger. He exerted his professional talents to shed
the Earl’s blood, and his literary talents to blacken the Earl’s memory.

It is certain that his conduct excited at the time great and general
disapprobation. While Elizabeth lived, indeed, this disapprobation,
though deeply felt, was not loudly expressed. But a great change was at
hand. The health of the Queen had long been decaying; and the operation
of age and disease was now assisted by acute mental suffering. The
pitiable melancholy of her last days has generally been ascribed to her
fond regret for Essex. But we are disposed to attribute her dejection
partly to physical causes, and partly to the conduct of her courtiers
and ministers. They did all in their power to conceal from her the
intrigues which they were carrying on at the Court of Scotland. But her
keen sagacity was not to be so deceived. She did not know the whole. But
she knew that she was surrounded by men who were impatient for that new
world which was to begin at her death, who had never been attached to
her by affection, and who were now but very slightly attached to her by
interest. Prostration and flattery could not conceal from her the cruel
truth, that those whom she had trusted and promoted had never loved her,
and were fast ceasing to fear her. Unable to avenge herself, and too
proud to complain, she suffered sorrow and resentment to prey on her
heart, till, after a {383}long career of power, prosperity, and glory,
she died sick and weary of the world.

James mounted the throne: and Bacon employed all his address to obtain
for himself a share of the favour of his new master. This was no
difficult task. The faults of James, both as a man and as a prince, were
numerous; but insensibility to the claims of genius and learning was
not among them. He was indeed made up of two men, a witty, well-read
scholar, who wrote, disputed and harangued, and a nervous, drivelling;
idiot, who acted. If he had been a Canon of Christ Church, or a
Prebendary of Westminster, it is not improbable that he would have left
a highly respectable name to posterity; that he would have distinguished
himself among the translators of the Bible, and among the Divines who
attended the Synod of Dort; and that he would have been regarded by the
literary world as no contemptible rival of Vossius and Casanbon. But
fortune placed him in a situation in which his weaknesses covered him
with disgrace, and in which his accomplishments brought him no honour.
In a college, much eccentricity and childishness would have been readily
pardoned in so learned a man. But all that learning; could do for him on
the throne was to make people think him a pedant as well as a fool.

Bacon was favourably received at Court; and soon found that his chance
of promotion was not diminished by the death of the Queen. He was
solicitous to be knighted, for two reasons which are somewhat amusing.

The King had already dubbed half London, and Bacon found himself the
only untitled person in his mess at Gray’s Inn. This was not very
agreeable to him. He had also, to quote his own words, “found an
Alderman’s daughter, a handsome maiden, to his {384}liking.” On both
these grounds, he begged his cousin Robert Cecil, “if it might please
his good Lordship,” to use his interest in his behalf. The application
was successful. Bacon was one of three hundred gentlemen who, on the
coronation-day, received the honour, if it is to be so called, of
knighthood. The handsome maiden, a daughter of Alderman Barnham, soon
after consented to become Sir Francis’s lady.

The death of Elizabeth, though on the whole it improved Bacon’s
prospects, was in one respect an unfortunate event for him. The new King
had always felt kindly towards Lord Essex, and, as soon as he came to
the throne, began to show favour to the house of Devereux, and to those
who had stood by that house in its adversity. Everybody was now at
liberty to speak out respecting those lamentable events in which Bacon
had borne so large a share. Elizabeth was scarcely cold when the public
feeling began to manifest itself by marks of respect towards Lord
Southampton. That accomplished nobleman, who will be remembered to the
latest ages as the generous and discerning patron of Shakspeare, was
held in honour by his contemporaries chiefly on account of the devoted
affection which he had borne to Essex. He had been tried and convicted
together with his friend; but the Queen had spared his life, and, at the
time of her death, he was still a prisoner. A crowd of visitors hastened
to the Tower to congratulate him on his approaching deliverance. With
that crowd Bacon could not venture to mingle. The multitude loudly
condemned him; and his conscience told him that the multitude had but
too much reason. He excused himself to Southampton by letter, in terms
which, if he had, as Mr. Montagu conceives, done only what as a
subject and an advocate he was bound to do, {385}must be considered
as shamefully servile. He owns his fear that his attendance would give
offence, and that his professions of regard would obtain no credit.
“Yet,” says he, “it is as true as a thing that God knoweth, that this
great chancre hath wrought in me no other change towards your Lordship
than this, that I may safely be that to you now which I was truly

How Southampton received these apologies we are not informed. But it
is certain that the general opinion was pronounced against Bacon in a
manner not to be misunderstood. Soon after his marriage he put forth a
defence of his conduct, in the form of a letter to the Earl of Devon.
This tract seems to us to prove only the exceeding badness of a cause
for which such talents could do so little.

It is not probable that Bacon’s Defence had much effect on his
contemporaries. But the unfavourable impression which his conduct had
made appears to have been gradually effaced. Indeed it must be some very
peculiar cause that can make a man like him long unpopular. His talents
secured him from contempt, his temper and his manners from hatred. There
is scarcely any story so black that it may not be got over by a man of
great abilities, whose abilities are united with caution, good-humour,
patience, and affability, who pays daily sacrifice to Nemesis, who is a
delightful companion, a serviceable though not an ardent friend, and
a dangerous yet a placable enemy. Waller in the next generation was an
eminent instance of this. Indeed Waller had much more than may at first
sight appear in common with Bacon. To the higher intellectual qualities
of the great English philosopher, to the genius which has made an
immortal epoch in the history of {386}science, Waller had indeed no
pretensions. But the mind of Waller, as far as it extended, coincided
with that of Bacon, and might, so to speak, have been cut out of that
of Bacon. In the qualities which make a man an object of interest and
veneration to posterity, they cannot be compared together. But in the
qualities by which chiefly a man is known to his contemporaries there
was a striking similarity between them. Considered as men of the world,
as courtiers, as politicians, as associates, as allies, as enemies,
they had nearly the same merits, and the same defects. They were not
malignant. They were not tyrannical. But they wanted warmth of affection
and elevation of sentiment. There were many things which they loved
better than virtue, and which they feared more than guilt. Yet, even
after they had stooped to acts of which it is impossible to read the
account in the most partial narratives without strong disapprobation and
contempt, the public still continued to regard them with a feeling not
easily to be distinguished from esteem. The hyperbole of Juliet seemed
to be verified with respect to them. “Upon their brows shame was
ashamed to sit.” Everybody seemed as desirous to throw’ a veil over
their misconduct as if it had been his own. Clarendon, who felt, and who
had reason to feel, strong personal dislike towards Y aller, speaks of
him thus: “There needs no more to be said to extol the excellence and
power of his wit and pleasantness of his conversation, than that it was
of magnitude enough to cover a world of very great faults, that is, so
to cover them that they were not taken notice of to his reproach, viz. a
narrowness in his nature to the lowest degree, an abjectness and want of
courage to support him in any virtuous undertaking, an insinuation
and servile flattery to the height {387}the vainest and most imperious
nature could be contented with.... It had power to reconcile him to
those whom he had most offended and provoked, and continued to his
age with that rare felicity, that his company was acceptable where
his spirit was odious, and he was at least pitied where he was most
detested.” Much of this, with some softening, might, we fear, be
applied to Bacon. The influence of Waller’s talents, manners, and
accomplishments, died with him; and the world has pronounced an
unbiassed sentence on his character. A few flowing lines are not bribe
sufficient to pervert the judgment of posterity. But the influence
of Bacon is felt and will long be felt over the whole civilised world.
Leniently as he was treated by his contemporaries, posterity has treated
him more leniently still. Turn where we may, the trophies of that mighty
intellect are full in view. We are judging Manlius in sight of the

Under the reign of James, Bacon grew rapidly in fortune and favour. In
1604 he was appointed King’s Counsel, with a fee of forty pounds a year;
and a pension of sixty pounds a year was settled upon him. In 1607 he
became Solicitor-General, in 1612 Attorney-General. He continued to
distinguish himself in Parliament, particularly by his exertions in
favour of one excellent measure on which the King’s heart was set,
the union of England and Scotland. It was not difficult for such an
intellect to discover many irresistible arguments in favour of such a
scheme. He conducted the great case of the _Post Nati_ in the Exchequer
Chamber; and the decision of the judges, a decision the legality of
which may be questioned, but the beneficial effect of which must
be acknowledged, was in a great measure attributed to his dexterous
management. {388}While actively engaged in the House of Commons and in
the courts of law, he still found leisure for letters and philosophy.
The noble treatise on the “Advancement of Learning,” which at a later
period was expanded into the _De Augmentis_, appeared in 1605. The
“Wisdom of the Ancients,” a work which, if it had proceeded from any
other writer, would have been considered as a masterpiece of wit and
learning, but which adds little to the fame of Bacon, was printed
in 1609. In the mean time the _Novum Organum_ was slowly proceeding.
Several distinguished men of learning had been permitted to see sketches
or detached portions of that extraordinary book; and, though they were
not generally disposed to admit the soundness of the author’s views,
they spoke with the greatest admiration of his genius. Sir Thomas
Bodley, the founder of one of the most magnificent of English libraries,
was among those stubborn Conservatives who considered the hopes with
which Bacon looked forward to the future destinies of the human race
as utterly chimerical, and who regarded with distrust and aversion the
innovating spirit of the new schismatics in philosophy. Yet even Bodley,
after perusing the _Cogitata et Visa_, one of the most precious of those
scattered leaves out of which the great oracular volume was afterwards
made up, acknowledged that in “those very points, and in all proposals
and plots in that book, Bacon showed himself a master-workman;” and
that “it could not be gainsaid but all the treatise over did abound
with choice conceits of the present state of learning, and with worthy
contemplations of the means to procure it.” In 1612, a new edition of
the “Essays” appeared, with additions surpassing the original collection
both in bulk and quality. Nor did {389}these pursuits distract Bacon’s
attention from a work the most arduous, the most glorious, and the most
useful that even his mighty powers could have achieved, “the reducing
and recompiling,” to use his own phrase, “of the laws of England.”

Unhappily he was at that very time employed in perverting those laws to
the vilest purposes of tyranny. When Oliver St. John was brought before
the Star Chamber for maintaining that the King had no right to levy
Benevolences, and was for his manly and constitutional conduct sentenced
to imprisonment during the royal pleasure and to a fine of five thousand
pounds, Bacon appeared as counsel for the prosecution. About the same
time he was deeply engaged in a still more disgraceful transaction.
An aged clergyman, of the name of Peacham, was accused of treason on
account of some passages of a sermon which was found in his study. The
sermon, whether written by him or not, had never been preached. It did
not appear that he had any intention of preaching it. The most servile
lawyers of those servile times were forced to admit that there were
great difficulties both as to the facts and as to the law. Bacon was
employed to remove those difficulties. He was employed to settle the
question of law by tampering with the judges, and the question of fact
by torturing the prisoner.

Three judges of the Court of King’s Bench were tractable. But Coke was
made of different stuff. Pedant, bigot, and brute as he was, he had
qualities which bore a strong, though a very disagreeable resemblance
to some of the highest virtues which a public man can possess. He was an
exception to a maxim which we believe to be generally true, that those
who trample on the helpless are disposed to cringe to the powerful.
{390}He behaved with gross rudeness to his juniors at the bar, and with
execrable cruelty to prisoners on trial for their lives. But he stood up
manfully against the King and the King’s favourites. No man of that age
appeared to so little advantage when he was opposed to an inferior, and
was in the wrong. But, on the other hand, it is but fair to admit that
no man of that age made so creditable a figure when he was opposed to
a superior, and happened to be in the right. On such occasions,
his half-suppressed insolence and his impracticable obstinacy had a
respectable and interesting appearance, when compared with the abject
servility of the bar and of the bench. On the present occasion he was
stubborn and surly. He declared that it was a new and a highly improper
practice in the judges to confer with a law-officer of the crown about
capital cases which they were afterwards to try; and for some time he
resolutely kept aloof. But Bacon was equally artful and persevering. “I
am not wholly out of hope,” said he in a letter to the King, “that my
Lord Coke himself, when I have in some dark manner put him in doubt that
he shall be left alone, will not be singular.” After some time Bacon’s
dexterity was successful; and Coke, sullenly and reluctantly, followed
the example of his brethren. But in order to convict Peacham it was
necessary to find facts as well as law. Accordingly, this wretched old
man was put to the rack, and, while undergoing the horrible infliction,
was examined by Bacon, but in vain. No confession could be wrung out of
him; and Bacon wrote to the King, complaining that Peacham had a dumb
devil. At length the trial came on. A conviction was obtained; but the
charges were so obviously futile, that the government could not, for
very shame, carry the sentence into execution; and {391}Peacham was
suffered to languish away the short remainder of his life in a prison.

All this frightful story Mr. Montagu relates fairly. He neither conceals
nor distorts any material fact. But he can see nothing deserving of
condemnation in Bacon’s conduct. He tells us most truly that we ought
not to try the men of one age by the standard of another; that Sir
Matthew Hale is not to be pronounced a bad man because he left a woman
to be executed for witchcraft; that posterity will not be justified
in censuring judges of our time, for selling offices in their courts,
according to the established practice, bad as that practice was; and
that Bacon is entitled to similar indulgence. “To persecute the lover
of truth,” says Mr. Montagu, “for opposing established customs, and
to censure him in after ages for not having been more strenuous in
opposition, are errors which will never cease until the pleasure of
self-elevation from the depression of superiority is no more.”

We have no dispute with Mr. Montagu about the general proposition. We
assent to every word of it. But does it apply to the present case? Is it
true that in the time of James the First it was the established practice
for the law-officers of the Crown, to hold private consultations with
the judges, touching capital cases which those judges were afterwards to
try? Certainly not. In the very page in which Mr. Montagu asserts that
“the influencing a judge out of court seems at that period scarcely to
have been considered as improper,” he gives the very words of Sir Edward
Coke on the subject. “I will not thus declare what may be my judgment by
these auricular confessions of _new_ and pernicious tendency, and _not
according to the customs of the realm_.” Is it possible to imagine that
Coke, who {392}had himself been Attorney-General during thirteen years,
who had conducted a far greater number of important state-prosecutions
than any other lawyer named in English history, and who had passed with
scarcely any interval from the Attorney-Generalship to the first scat
in the first criminal court in the realm, could have been startled at an
invitation to confer with the crown-lawyers, and could have pronounced
the practice new, if it had really been an established usage? We well
know that, where property only was at stake, it was then a common,
though a most culpable practice, in the judges, to listen to private
solicitations. But the practice ot tampering with judges in order to
procure capital convictions we believe to have been new, first, because
Coke, who understood those matters better than any man of his time,
asserted it to be new; and secondly, because neither Bacon nor Mr.
Montagu has shown a single precedent.

How then stands the case? Even thus: Bacon was not conforming to an
usage then generally admitted to be proper. He was not even the last
lingering adherent of an old abuse. It would have been sufficiently
disgraceful to such a man to be in this last situation. Yet this last
situation would have been honourable compared with that in which he
stood. He was guilty of attempting to introduce into the courts of law
an odious abuse for which no precedent could be found. Intellectually,
he was better fitted than any man that England has ever produced for the
work of improving her institutions. But, unhappily, we see that he did
not scruple to exert his great powers for the purpose of introducing
into those institutions new corruptions of the foulest kind.

The same, or nearly the same, may be said of the {393}torturing of
Peacham. If it be true that in the time of James the First the propriety
of torturing prisoners was generally allowed, we should admit this as an
excuse, though we should admit it less readily in the case of such a man
as Bacon than in the case of an ordinary lawyer or politician. But the
fact is, that the practice of torturing prisoners was then generally
acknowledged by lawyers to be illegal, and was execrated by the public
as barbarous. More than thirty years before Peacham’s trial, that
practice was so loudly condemned by the voice of the nation that
Lord Burleigh found it necessary to publish an apology for having
occasionally resorted to it. But though the dangers which then
threatened the government were of a very different kind from those which
were to be apprehended from any thing that Peacham could write, though
the life of the Queen and the dearest interests of the state were in
jeopardy, though the circumstances were such that all ordinary laws
might seem to be superseded by that highest law, the public safety, the
apology did not satisfy the country: and the Queen found it expedient to
issue an order positively forbidding the torturing of state-prisoners on
any pretence whatever. From that time, the practice of torturing, which
had always been unpopular, which had always been illegal, had also been
unusual. It is well known that in 1628, only fourteen years after the
time when Bacon went to the Tower to listen to the yells of Peacham,
the judges decided that Felton, a criminal who neither deserved nor was
likely to obtain any extraordinary indulgence, could not lawfully be put
to the question. We therefore say that Bacon stands in a very different
situation from that in which Mr. Montagu tries to place him. Bacon was
here distinctly behind his {394}age. He was one of the last of the tools
of power who persisted in a practice the most barbarous and the most
absurd that has ever disgraced jurisprudence, in a practice of which, in
the preceding generation, Elizabeth and her ministers had been ashamed,
in a practice which, a few years later, no sycophant in all the Inns of
Court had the heart or the forehead to defend. (1)

Bacon far behind his age! Bacon far behind Sir Edward Coke! Bacon
clinging to exploded abuses! Bacon withstanding the progress of
improvement! Bacon struggling to push back the human mind! The words
seem strange. They sound like a contradiction in terms. Yet the fact is
even so: and the explanation may be readily found by any person who
is not blinded by prejudice. Mr. Montagu cannot believe that so
extraordinary a man as Bacon could be guilty of a bad action; as if
history were not made up of the bad actions of extraordinary men, as
if all the most noted destroyers and deceivers of our species, all the
founders of arbitrary governments and false religions, had not been
extraordinary men, as if nine tenths of the calamities which have
befallen the human race had any other origin than the union of high
intelligence with low desires.

Bacon knew this well. He has told us that there

     (1) Since this Review was written, Mr. Jardine has published
     a very learned and ingenious Reading on the use of torture
     in England. It has not, however, been thought necessary to
     make any change in the observations on Peacham’s case.

     It is impossible to discuss within the limits of a note, the
     extensive question raised by Mr. Jardine. It is sufficient
     here to say that every argument by which he attempts to show
     that the use of the rack was anciently a lawful exertion of
     royal prerogative may be urged with equal force, nay with
     far greater force, to prove the lawfulness of benevolences,
     of ship-money, of Mompesson’s patent, of Eliot’s
     imprisonment, of every abuse, without exception, which is
     condemned by the Petition of Right and the Declaration of

{395}are persons “scientia tanquam angel’ alati, cupiditati-bus vero
tanquam serpentes qui humi reptant;” (1) and it did not require his
admirable sagacity and his extensive converse with mankind to make the
discovery. Indeed, he had only to look within. The difference between
the soaring angel and the creeping snake was but a type of the
difference between Bacon the philosopher and Bacon the Attorney-General,
Bacon seeking for truth, and Bacon seeking for the Seals. Those who
survey only one half of his character may speak of him with unmixed
admiration, or with unmixed contempt. But those only judge of him
correctly who take in at one view Bacon in speculation and Bacon in
action. They will have no difficulty in comprehending how one and the
same man should have been far before his age and far behind it, in one
line the boldest and most useful of innovators, in another line the most
obstinate champion of the foulest abuses. In his library, all his rare
powers were under the guidance of an honest ambition, of an enlarged
philanthropy, of a sincere love of truth. There, no temptation drew
him away from the right course. Thomas Aquinas could pay no fees, Duns
Scotus could confer no peerages. The Master of the Sentences had no rich
reversions in his gift. Far different was the situation of the great
philosopher when he came forth from his study and his laboratory to
mingle with the crowd which filled the galleries of Whitehall. In
all that crowd there was no man equally qualified to render great and
lasting services to mankind. But in all that crowd there was not a heart
more set on things which no man ought to suffer to be necessary to

     (1) _De Augmentes_. Lib. v. Cap. 1.

{396}his happiness, on things which can often be obtained only by the
sacrifice of integrity and honour. To be the leader of the human race in
the career of improvement, to found on the ruins of ancient intellectual
dynasties a more prosperous and a more enduring empire, to be revered by
the latest generations as the most illustrious among the benefactors of
mankind, all this was within his reach. But all this availed him nothing
while some quibbling special pleader was promoted before him to the
bench, while some heavy country gentleman took precedence of him by
virtue of a purchased coronet, while some pandar, happy in a fair wife,
could obtain a more cordial salute from Buckingham, while some buffoon,
versed in all the latest scandal of the court, could draw a louder laugh
from James.

During a long course of years, Bacon’s unworthy ambition was crowned
with success. His sagacity early enabled him to perceive who was likely
to become the most powerful man in the kingdom. He probably knew the
King’s mind before it was known to the King himself, and attached
himself to Villiers, while the less discerning crowd of courtiers still
continued to fawn on Somerset. The influence of the younger favourite
became greater daily. The contest between the rivals might, however,
have lasted long, but for that frightful crime which, in spite of all
that could be effected by the research and ingenuity of historians, is
still covered with so mysterious an obscurity. The descent of Somerset
had been a gradual and almost imperceptible lapse. It now became a
headlong fall; and Villiers, left without a competitor, rapidly rose
to a height of power such as no subject since Wolsey had attained.
{397}There were many points of resemblance between the two celebrated
courtiers who, at different times, extended their patronage to Bacon.
It is difficult to say whether Essex or Villiers was more eminently
distinguished by those graces of person and manner which have always
been rated in courts at much more than their real value. Both were
constitutionally brave; and both, like most men who are constitutionally
brave, were open and unreserved. Both were rash and headstrong. Both
were destitute of the abilities and of the information which are
necessary to statesmen. Yet both, trusting to the accomplishments which
had made them conspicuous in tilt-yards and ball-rooms, aspired to rule
the state. Both owed their elevation to the personal attachment of the
sovereign; and in both cases this attachment was of so eccentric a
kind, that it perplexed observers, that it still continues to perplex
historians, and that it gave rise to much scandal which we are inclined
to think unfounded. Each of them treated the sovereign whose favour he
enjoyed with a rudeness which approached to insolence. This petulance
ruined Essex, who had to deal with a spirit naturally as proud as his
own, and accustomed, during near half a century, to the most respectful
observance. But there was a wide difference between the haughty daughter
of Henry and her successor. James was timid from the cradle. His nerves,
naturally weak, had not been fortified by reflection or by habit. His
life, till he came to England, had been a series of mortifications and
humiliations. With all his high notions of the origin and extent of his
prerogatives, he was never his own master for a day. In spite of his
kingly title, in spite of his despotic theories, he was to the last a
slave at heart. Villiers treated him like {398}one; and this course,
though adopted, we believe, merely from temper, succeeded as well as if
it had been a system of policy formed after mature deliberation.

In generosity, in sensibility, in capacity for friendship, Essex far
surpassed Buckingham. Indeed, Buckingham can scarcely be said to
have had any friend, with the exception of the two princes over whom
successively he exercised so wonderful an influence. Essex was to the
last adored by the people. Buckingham was always a most unpopular man,
except perhaps for a very short time after his return from the childish
visit to Spain. Essex fell a victim to the rigour of the government
amidst the lamentations of the people. Buckingham, execrated by the
people, and solemnly declared a public enemy by the representatives of
the people, fell by the hand of one of the people, and was lamented by
none but his master.

The way in which the two favourites acted towards Bacon was highly
characteristic, and may serve to illustrate the old and true saying,
that a man is generally more inclined to feel kindly towards one on
whom he has conferred favours than towards one from whom he has received
them. Essex loaded Bacon with benefits, and never thought that he had
done enough. It seems never to have crossed the mind of the powerful
and wealthy noble that the poor barrister whom he treated with such
munificent kindness was not his equal. It was, we have no doubt, with
perfect sincerity that the Earl declared that he would willingly give
his sister or daughter in marriage to his friend. He was in general more
than sufficiently sensible of his own merits; but he did not seem to
know that he had ever deserved well of Bacon. On that cruel day when
they saw each other for the last time at the bar of the Lords, Essex
{399}taxed his perfidious friend with unkindness and insincerity, but
never with ingratitude. Even in such a moment, more bitter than the
bitterness of death, that noble heart was too great to vent itself in
such a reproach.

Villiers, on the other hand, owed much to Bacon. When their acquaintance
began, Sir Francis was a man of mature age, of high station, and of
established fame as a politician, an advocate, and a writer. Villiers
was little more than a boy, a younger son of a house then of no great
note. He was but just entering on the career of court favour; and none
but the most discerning observers could as yet perceive that he was
likely to distance all his competitors. The countenance and advice of
a man so highly distinguished as the Attorney-General must have been
an object of the highest importance to the young adventurer. But though
Villiers was the obliged party, he was far less warmly attached to
Bacon, and far less delicate in his conduct towards Bacon, than Essex
had been.

To do the new favourite justice, he early exerted his influence in
behalf of his illustrious friend. In 1616, Sir Francis was sworn of the
Privy Council, and in March, 1617, on the retirement of Lord Brackley,
was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal.

On the seventh of May, the first day of term, he rode in state to
Westminster Hall, with the Lord Treasurer on his right hand, the Lord
Privy Seal on his left, a long procession of students and ushers before
him, and a crowd of peers, privy-councillors, and judges following in
his train. Having entered his court, he addressed the splendid auditory
in a grave and dignified speech, which proves how well he understood
those judicial duties which he afterwards performed so ill. {400}Even
at that moment, the proudest moment of his life in the estimation of
the vulgar, and, it may be, even in his own, he cast back a look of
lingering affection towards those noble pursuits from which, as it
seemed, he was about to be estranged. “The depth of the three long
vacations,” said he, “I would reserve in some measure free from business
of estate, and for studies, arts, and sciences, to which of my own
nature I am most inclined.”

The years during which Bacon held the Great Seal were among the darkest
and most shameful in English history. Every thing at home and abroad was
mismanaged. First came the execution of Raleigh, an act which, if done
in a proper manner, might have been defensible, but which, under all
the circumstances, must be considered as a dastardly murder. Worse was
behind, the war of Bohemia, the successes of Tilly and Spinola, the
Palatinate conquered, the King’s son-in-law an exile, the house of
Austria dominant on the Continent, the Protestant religion and the
liberties of the Germanic body trodden under foot. Meanwhile, the
wavering and cowardly policy of England furnished matter of ridicule
to all the nations of Europe. The love of peace which James professed
would, even when indulged to an impolitic excess, have been respectable,
if it had proceeded from tenderness for his people. But the truth is
that, while he had nothing to spare for the defence of the natural
allies of England, he resorted without scruple to the most illegal
and oppressive devices, for the purpose of enabling Buckingham and
Buckingham’s relations to outshine the ancient aristocracy of the realm.
Benevolences were exacted. Patents of monopoly were multiplied. All
the resources which could have been employed to replenish a beggared
{401}Exchequer, at the close of a ruinous war, were put in motion during
this season of ignominious peace.

The vices of the administration must be chiefly ascribed to the weakness
of the King and to the levity and violence of the favourite. But it
is impossible to acquit the Lord Keeper of all share in the guilt. For
those odious patents, in particular, which passed the Great Seal while
it was in his charge, he must be held answerable. In the speech which
he made on first taking his seat in his court, he had pledged himself to
discharge this important part of his functions with the greatest caution
and impartiality. He had declared that he “would walk in the light,
that men should see that no particular turn or end led him, but a
general rule.” Mr. Montagu would have us believe that Bacon acted up
to these professions, and says that “the power of the favourite did not
deter the Lord Keeper from staying grants and patents when his public
duty demanded this interposition.” Does Mr. Montagu consider patents of
Monopoly as good things? Or does he mean to say that Bacon staid every
patent of monopoly that came before him? Of all patents in our history,
the most disgraceful was that which was granted to Sir Giles Mompesson,
supposed to be the original of Massinger’s Overreach, and to Sir Francis
Michell, from whom Justice Greedy is supposed to have been drawn, for
the exclusive manufacturing of gold and silver lace. The effect of this
monopoly was of course that the metal employed in the manufacture was
adulterated to the great loss of the public. But this was a trifle. The
patentees were armed with powers as great as have ever been given
to farmers of the revenue in the worst governed countries. They were
authorised to search houses and to arrest interlopers; and these
formidable {402}powers were used for purposes viler than even those
for which they were given, for the wreaking of old grudges, and for the
corrupting of female chastity. Was not this a ease in which public duty
demanded the interposition of the Lord Keeper? And did the Lord Keeper
interpose? He did. He wrote to inform the King, that he “had considered
of the fitness and conveniency of the gold and silver thread business,”
 “that it was convenient that it should be settled,” that he “did
conceive apparent likelihood that it would redound much to his Majesty’s
profit,” that, therefore, “it were good it were settled with all
convenient speed.” The meaning of all this was, that certain of the
house of Villiers were to go shares with Overreach and Greedy in the
plunder of the public. This was the way in which, when the favourite
pressed for patents, lucrative to his relations and to his creatures,
ruinous and vexatious to the body of the people, the chief guardian
of the laws interposed. Having assisted the patentees to obtain this
monopoly, Bacon assisted them also in the steps which they took for the
purpose of guarding it. He committed several people to close confinement
for disobeying his tyrannical edict. It is needless to say more. Our
readers are now able to judge whether, in the matter of patents, Bacon
acted conformably to his professions, or deserved the praise which his
biographer has bestowed on him.

In his judicial capacity his conduct was not less reprehensible. He
suffered Buckingham to dictate many of his decisions. Bacon knew as
well as any man that a judge who listens to private solicitations is
a disgrace to his post. He had himself, before he was raised to the
woolsack, represented this strongly to Villiers, then just entering on
his career. “By no {403}means,” said Sir Francis, in a letter of advice
addressed to the young courtier, “by no means be you persuaded to
interpose yourself, either by word or letter, in any cause depending in
any court of justice, nor suffer any great man to do it where you can
hinder it. If it should prevail, it perverts justice; but, if the judge
be so just and of such courage as he ought to be, as not to be inclined
thereby, yet it always leaves a taint of suspicion behind it.” Yet he
had not been Lord Keeper a month when Buckingham began to interfere in
Chancery suits; and Buckingham’s interference was, as might have been
expected, successful.

Mr. Montagu’s reflections on the excellent passage which we have quoted
above are exceedingly amusing. “No man,” says he, “more deeply felt
the evils which then existed of the interference of the Crown and
of statesmen to influence judges. How beautifully did he admonish
Buckingham, regardless as he proved of all admonition!” We should be
glad to know how it can be expected that admonition will be regarded by
him who receives it, when it is altogether neglected by him who gives
it. We do not defend Buckingham: but what was his guilt to Bacon’s?
Buckingham was young, ignorant, thoughtless, dizzy with the rapidity of
his ascent and the height of his position. That he should be eager to
serve his relations, his flatterers, his mistresses, that he should
not fully apprehend the immense importance of a pure administration of
justice, that he should think more about those who were bound to him
by private ties than about the public interest, all this was perfectly
natural, and not altogether unpardonable. Those who intrust a petulant,
hot-blooded, ill-informed lad with power, are more to blame, than he for
the mischief which he may do with {404}it. How could it be expected of a
lively page, raised by a wild freak of fortune to the first influence
in the empire, that he should have bestowed any serious thought on the
principles which ought to guide judicial decisions? Bacon was the ablest
public man then living in Europe. He was near sixty years old. He had
thought much, and to good purpose, on the general principles of law. He
had for many years borne a part daily in the administration of justice.
It was impossible that a man with a tithe of his sagacity and experience
should not have known that a judge who suffers friends or patrons to
dictate his decrees violates the plainest rules of duty. In fact, as we
have seen, he knew this well: he expressed it admirably. Neither on this
occasion nor on any other could his bad actions be attributed to any
defect of the head. They sprang from quite a different cause.

A man who stooped to render such services to others was not likely to
be scrupulous as to the means by which he enriched himself. He and his
dependents accepted large presents from persons who were engaged in
Chancery suits. The amount of the plunder which he collected in this
way it is impossible to estimate. There can be no doubt that he received
very much more than was proved on his trial, though, it may be, less
than was suspected by the public. His enemies stated his illicit gains
at a hundred thousand pounds. But this was probably an exaggeration.

It was long before the day of reckoning arrived. During the interval
between the second and third Parliaments of James, the nation was
absolutely governed by the Crown. The prospects of the Lord Keeper were
bright and serene. His great place rendered the {405}splendour of his
talents even more conspicuous, and gave an additional charm to the
serenity of his temper, the courtesy of his manners, and the eloquence
of his conversation. The pillaged suitor might mutter. The austere
Puritan patriot might, in his retreat, grieve that one on whom God had
bestowed without measure all the abilities which qualify men to take the
lead in great reforms should be found among the adherents of the worst
abuses. But the murmurs of the suitor and the lamentations of the
patriot had scarcely any avenue to the ears of the powerful. The King,
and the minister who was the King’s master, smiled on their illustrious
flatterer. The whole crowd of courtiers and nobles sought his favour
with emulous eagerness. Men of wit and learning hailed with delight
the elevation of one who had so signally shown that a man of profound
learning and of brilliant wit might understand, far better than any
plodding dunce, the art of thriving in the world.

Once, and but once, this course of prosperity was for a moment
interrupted. It should seem that even Bacon’s brain was not strong
enough to bear without some discomposure the inebriating effect of so
much good fortune. For some time after his elevation, he showed himself
a little wanting in that wariness and self-command to which, more than
even to his transcendent talents, his elevation was to be ascribed. He
was by no means a good hater. The temperature of his revenge, like that
of his gratitude, was scarcely ever more than lukewarm. But there was
one person whom he had long regarded with an animosity which, though
studiously suppressed, was perhaps the stronger for the suppression. The
insults and injuries which, when a young man struggling into note and
professional practice, {406}he had received from Sir Edward Coke, were
such as might move the most placable nature to resentment. About the
time at which Bacon received the Seals, Coke had, on account of his
contumacious resistance to the royal pleasure, been deprived of his
seat in the Court of King’s Bench, and had ever since languished in
retirement. But Coke’s opposition to the Court, we fear, was the effect
not of good principles, but of a bad temper. Perverse and testy as he
was, he wanted true fortitude and dignity of character. His obstinacy,
unsupported by virtuous motives, was not proof against disgrace. He
solicited a reconciliation with the favourite, and his solicitations
were successful. Sir John Villiers, the brother of Buckingham, was
looking out for a rich wife. Coke had a large fortune and an unmarried
daughter. A bargain was struck. But Lady Coke, the lady whom twenty
years before Essex had wooed on behalf of Bacon, would not hear of the
match. A violent and scandalous family quarrel followed. The mother
carried the girl away by stealth. The father pursued them and regained
possession of his daughter by force. The King was then in Scotland, and
Buckingham had attended him thither. Bacon was, during their absence, at
the head of affairs in England. He felt towards Coke as much malevolence
as it was in his nature to feel towards any body. His wisdom had been
laid to sleep by prosperity. In an evil hour he determined to interfere
in the disputes which agitated his enemy’s household. He declared for
the wife, countenanced the Attorney-General in filing an information in
the Star Chamber against the husband, and wrote letters to the King and
the favourite against the proposed marriage. The strong language which
he used in those letters shows that, sagacious {407}as he was, he did
not quite know his place, and that he was not fully acquainted with
the extent either of Buckingham’s power, or of the change which the
possession of that power had produced in Buckingham’s character. He soon
had a lesson which he never forgot. The favourite received the news
of the Lord Keeper’s interference with feelings of the most violent
resentment, and made the King even more angry than himself. Bacon’s eyes
were at once opened to his error, and to all its possible consequences.
He had been elated, if not intoxicated, by greatness. The shock sobered
him in an instant. He was all himself again. He apologized submissively
for his interference. He directed the Attorney-General to stop the
proceedings against Coke. He sent to tell Lady Coke that he could do
nothing for her. He announced to both the families that he was desirous
to promote the connection. Having given these proofs of contrition, he
ventured to present himself before Buckingham. But the young upstart did
not think that he had yet sufficiently humbled an old man who had been
his friend and his benefactor, who was the highest civil functionary in
the realm, and the most eminent man of letters in the world. It is said
that on two successive days Bacon repaired to Buckingham’s house, that
on two successive days he was suffered to remain in an antechamber among
foot-boys, seated on an old wooden box, with the Great Seal of England
at his side, and that when at length he was admitted, he flung himself
on the floor, kissed the favourite’s feet, and vowed never to rise
till he was forgiven. Sir Anthony Weldon, on whose authority this story
rests, is likely enough to have exaggerated the meanness of Bacon and
the insolence of Buckingham. But it is difficult to imagine {408}that
so circumstantial a narrative, written by a person who avers that he
was present on the occasion, can be wholly without foundation; and,
unhappily, there is little in the character either of the favourite or
of the Lord Keeper to make the narrative improbable. It is certain that
a reconciliation took place on terms humiliating to Bacon, who never
more ventured to cross any purpose of any body who bore the name of
Villiers. He put a strong curb on those angry passions which had for the
first time in his life mastered his prudence. He went through the
forms of a reconciliation with Coke, and did his best, by seeking
opportunities of paying little civilities, and by avoiding all that
could produce collision, to tame the untameable ferocity of his old

In the main, however, Bacon’s life, while he held the Great Seal, was,
in outward appearance, most enviable. In London he lived with great
dignity at York House, the venerable mansion of his father. Here it was
that, in January, 1620, he celebrated his entrance into his sixtieth
year amidst a splendid circle of friends. He had then exchanged the
appellation of Keeper for the higher title of Chancellor. Ben Jonson was
one of the party, and wrote on the occasion some of the happiest of his
rugged rhymes. All things, he tells us, seemed to smile about the old
house, “the fire, the wine, the men.” The spectacle of the accomplished
host, after a life marked by no great disaster, entering on a green
old age, in the enjoyment of riches, power, high honours, undiminished
mental activity, and vast literary reputation, made a strong impression
on the {409}poet, if we may judge from those well-known lines;

                   “England’s high Chancellor, the destined heir,

                   In his soft cradle, to his father’s chair.”

                   Whose even thread the Fates spin round and full

                   Out of their choicest and their whitest wool.”

In the intervals of rest which Bacon’s political and judicial functions
afforded, he was in the habit of retiring to Gorhambury. At that place
his business was literature, and his favourite amusement gardening,
which in one of his most interesting Essays he calls “the purest of
human pleasures.” In his magnificent grounds, he erected, at a cost of
ten thousand pounds, a retreat to which he repaired when he wished
to avoid all visitors, and to devote himself wholly to study. On such
occasions, a few young men of distinguished talents were sometimes
the companions of his retirement; and among them his quick eye soon
discerned the superior abilities of Thomas Hobbes. It is not probable
however, that he fully appreciated the powers of his disciple, or
foresaw the vast influence, both for good and for evil, which that most
vigorous and acute of human intellects was destined to exercise on the
two succeeding generations.

In January, 1621, Bacon had reached the zenith of his fortunes. He had
just published the _Novum Organum_; and that extraordinary book had
drawn forth the warmest expressions of admiration from the ablest men in
Europe. He had obtained honours of a widely different kind, but perhaps
not less valued by him. He had been created Baron Verulam. He had
subsequently been raised to the higher dignity of Viscount St. Albans.
His patent was drawn in the most flattering terms, and the Prince of
Wales signed it as a witness. The ceremony of investiture was performed
with great state at Theobalds, and Buckingham condescended to be one
of the chief actors. Posterity has felt that the greatest of English
philosophers could derive {410}no accession of dignity from any title
which James could bestow, and, in defiance of the royal letters patent,
has obstinately refused to degrade Francis Bacon into Viscount St.

In a few weeks was signally brought to the test the value of those
objects for which Bacon had sullied his integrity, had resigned his
independence, had violated the most sacred obligations of friendship and
gratitude, had flattered the worthless, had persecuted the innocent, had
tampered with judges, had tortured prisoners, had plundered suitors,
had wasted on paltry intrigues, all the powers of the most exquisitely
constructed intellect that has ever been bestowed on any of the children
of men. A sudden and terrible reverse was at hand. A Parliament had been
summoned. After six years of silence the voice of the nation was attain
to be heard. Only three days after the pageant which was performed at
Theobalds in honour of Bacon, the Houses met.

Want of money had, as usual, induced the King to convoke his Parliament.
It may be doubted, however, whether, if he or his ministers had been at
all aware of the state of public feeling, they would not have tried any
expedient, or borne with any inconvenience, rather than have ventured
to face the deputies of a justly exasperated nation. But they did not
discern those times. Indeed almost all the political blunders of James,
and of his more unfortunate son, arose from one great error. During the
fifty years which preceded the Long Parliament, a great and progressive
change was taking place in the public mind. The nature and extent of
this change was not in the least understood by either of the first two
Kings of the House of Stuart, or by any of their advisers. That the
nation became more and more discontented every year, that every House of
{411}Commons was more unmanageable than that which had preceded it, were
facts which it was impossible not to perceive. But the Court could not
understand why these things were so. The Court could not see that the
English people and the English Government, though they might once have
been well suited to each other, were suited to each other no longer;
that the nation had outgrown its old institutions, was every day more
uneasy under them, was pressing against them, and would soon burst
through them. The alarming phænomena, the existence of which no
sycophant could deny, were ascribed to every cause except the true one.
“In my first Parliament,” said James, “I was a novice. In my next, there
was a kind of beasts called undertakers,” and so forth. In the third
Parliament he could hardly be called a novice, and those beasts, the
undertakers, did not exist. Yet his third Parliament gave him more
trouble than either the first or the second.

The Parliament had no sooner met than the House of Commons proceeded, in
a temperate and respectful, but most determined manner, to discuss
the public grievances. Their first attacks were directed against those
odious patents, under cover of which Buckingham and his creatures
had pillaged and oppressed the nation. The vigour with which these
proceedings were conducted spread dismay through the Court. Buckingham
thought himself in danger, and, in his alarm, had recourse to an adviser
who had lately acquired considerable influence over him, Williams,
Dean of Westminster. This person had already been of great use to the
favourite in a very delicate matter. Buckingham had set his heart on
marrying Lady Catherine Manners, daughter and heiress of the Earl of
Rutland. But the difficulties were great. The Earl {412}was haughty and
impracticable, and the young lady was a Catholic. Williams soothed the
pride of the father, and found arguments which, for a time at least,
quieted the conscience of the daughter. For these services he had been
rewarded with considerable preferment in the Church; and he was now
rapidly rising to the same place in the regard of Buckingham which had
formerly been occupied by Bacon.

Williams was one of those who are wiser for others than for themselves.
His own public life was unfortunate, and was made unfortunate by
his strange want of judgment and self-command at several important
conjunctures. But the counsel which he gave on this occasion showed no
want of worldly wisdom. He advised the favourite to abandon all thoughts
of defending the monopolies, to find some foreign embassy for his
brother Sir Edward, who was deeply implicated in the villanies
of Mompesson, and to leave the other offenders to the justice of
Parliament. Buckingham received this advice with the warmest expressions
of gratitude, and declared that a load had been lifted from his heart.
He then repaired with Williams to the royal presence. They found the
King engaged in earnest consultation with Prince Charles. The plan of
operations proposed by the Dean was fully discussed, and approved in all
its parts.

The first victims whom the Court abandoned to the vengeance of the
Commons were Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Michell. It was some
time before Bacon began to entertain any apprehensions. His talents and
his address gave him great influence in the house of which he had lately
become a member, as indeed they must have in any assembly. In the House
of Commons he had many personal friends and many {413}warm admirers. But
at length, about six weeks after the meeting of Parliament, the storm

A committee of the lower House had been appointed to inquire into the
state of the Courts of Justice. On the fifteenth of March the chairman
of that committee, Sir Robert Philips, member for Bath, reported that
great abuses had been discovered. “The person,” said he, “against whom
these things are alleged is no less than the Lord Chancellor, a man so
endued with all parts, both of nature and art, as that I will say no
more of him, being not able to say enough.” Sir Robert then proceeded to
state, in the most temperate manner, the nature of the charges. A person
of the name of Aubrey had a case depending in Chancery. He had been
almost ruined by law-expenses, and his patience had been exhausted by
the delays of the court. He received a hint from some of the hangers-on
of the Chancellor that a present of one hundred pounds would expedite
matters. The poor man had not the sum required. However, having found
out an usurer who accommodated him with it at high interest, he carried
it to York House. The Chancellor took the money, and his dependents
assured the suitor that all would go right. Aubrey was, however,
disappointed; for, after considerable delay, “a killing decree” was
pronounced against him. Another suitor of the name of Egerton complained
that he had been induced by two of the Chancellor’s jackals to make his
Lordship a present of four hundred pounds, and that, nevertheless, he
had not been able to obtain a decree in his favour. The evidence to
these facts was overwhelming. Bacon’s friends could only entreat the
House to suspend its judgment, and to send up the case to the Lords,
in a form less offensive than an impeachment. {414}On the nineteenth
of March the King; sent a message to the Commons, expressing his deep
regret that so eminent a person as the Chancellor should be suspected
of misconduct. His Majesty declared that he had no wish to screen the
guilty from justice, and proposed to appoint a new kind of tribunal,
consisting of eighteen commissioners, who might be chosen from among the
members of the two Houses, to investigate the matter. The Commons were
not disposed to depart from their regular course of proceeding. On the
same day they held a conference with the Lords, and delivered in the
heads of the accusation against the Chancellor. At this conference Bacon
was not present. Overwhelmed with shame and remorse, and abandoned by
all those in whom he had weakly put his trust, he had shut himself up in
his chamber from the eyes of men. The dejection of his mind soon
disordered his body. Buckingham, who visited him by the King’s order,
“found his Lordship very sick and heavy.” It appears from a pathetic
letter which the unhappy man addressed to the Peers on the day of the
conference, that he neither expected nor wished to survive his disgrace.
During several days he remained in his bed, refusing to see any human
being. He passionately told his attendants to leave him, to forget him,
never again to name his name, never to remember that there had been such
a man in the world. In the mean time, fresh instances of corruption were
every day brought to the knowledge of his accusers. The number of
charges rapidly increased from two to twenty-three. The Lords entered on
the investigation of the case with laudable alacrity. Some witnesses
were examined at the bar of the House. A select committee was appointed
to take the depositions {415}of others; and the inquiry was rapidly
proceeding, when, on the twenty-sixth of March, the King adjourned the
Parliament for three weeks.

This measure revived Bacon’s hopes. He made the most of his short
respite. He attempted to work on the feeble mind of the King. He
appealed to all the strongest feelings of James, to his fears, to his
vanity, to his high notions of prerogative. Would the Solomon of the
age commit so gross an error as to encourage the encroaching spirit of
Parliaments? Would God’s anointed, accountable to God alone, pay homage
to the clamorous multitude? “Those,” exclaimed Bacon, “who now strike at
the Chancellor will soon strike at the Crown. I am the first sacrifice.
I wish I may be the last.” But all his eloquence and address were
employed in vain. Indeed, whatever Mr. Montagu may say, we are firmly
convinced that it was not in the King’s power to save Bacon, without
having recourse to measures which would have convulsed the realm. The
Crown had not sufficient influence over the Parliament to procure an
acquittal in so clear a case of guilt. And to dissolve a Parliament
which is universally allowed to have been one of the best Parliaments
that ever sat, which had acted liberally and respectfully towards the
Sovereign, and which enjoyed in the highest degree the favour of the
people, only in order to stop a grave, temperate, and constitutional
inquiry into the personal integrity of the first judge in the kingdom,
would have been a measure more scandalous and absurd than any of those
which were the ruin of the House of Stuart. Such a measure, while it
would have been as fatal to the Chancellor’s honour as a conviction,
would have endangered the very existence of the monarchy. The {416}King,
acting by the advice of Williams, very properly refused to engage in a
dangerous struggle with his people, for the purpose of saving from legal
condemnation a minister whom it was impossible to save from dishonour.
He advised Bacon to plead guilty, and promised to do all in his power to
mitigate the punishment. Mr. Montagu is exceedingly angry with James
on this account. But though we are, in general, very little inclined to
admire that Prince’s conduct, we really think that his advice was, under
all the circumstances, the best advice that could have been given.

On the seventeenth of April the Houses reassembled, and the Lords
resumed their inquiries into the abuses of the Court of Chancery. On the
twenty-second, Bacon addressed to the Peers a letter, which the
Prince of Wales condescended to deliver. In this artful and pathetic
composition, the Chancellor acknowledged his guilt in guarded and
general texans, and, while acknowledging, endeavoured to palliate it.
This, however, was not thought sufficient by his judges. They required
a more particular confession, and sent him a copy of the charges. On
the thirtieth, he delivered a paper in which he admitted, with few and
unimportant reservations, the truth of the accusations brought against
him, and threw himself entirely on the mercy of his peers. “Upon
advised consideration of the charges,” said he, “descending into my own
conscience, and calling my memory to account so far as I am able, I do
plainly and ingenuously confess that I am guilty of corruption, and do
renounce all defence.”

The Lords came to a resolution that the Chancellor’s confession appeared
to be full and ingenuous, and sent a committee to inquire of him whether
it was {417}really subscribed by himself. The deputies, among whom was
Southampton, the common friend, many years before, of Bacon and Essex,
performed their duty with great delicacy. Indeed the agonies of such
a mind and the degradation of such a name might well have softened the
most obdurate natures. “My Lords,” said Bacon, “it is my act, my hand,
my heart. I beseech your Lordships to be merciful to a broken reed.”
 They withdrew; and he again retired to his chamber in the deepest
dejection. The next day, the sergeant-at-arms and the usher of the House
of Lords came to conduct him to Westminster Hall, where sentence was to
be pronounced. But they found him so unwell that he could not leave his
bed; and this excuse for his absence was readily accepted. In no
quarter does there appear to have been the smallest desire to add to his

The sentence was, however, severe, the more severe, no doubt, because
the Lords knew that it would not be executed, and that they had an
excellent opportunity of exhibiting, at small cost, the inflexibility of
their justice, and their abhorrence of corruption. Bacon was condemned
to pay a fine of forty thousand pounds, and to be imprisoned in the
Tower during the King’s pleasure. He was declared incapable of holding
any office in the State or of sitting in Parliament; and he was banished
for life from the verge of the court. In such misery and shame ended
that long career of worldly wisdom and worldly prosperity.

Even at this pass Mr. Montagu does not desert his hero. He seems indeed
to think that the attachment of an editor ought to be as devoted as that
of Mr. Moore’s lovers; and cannot conceive what biography {418}was made

                             “if ’tis not the same

               Through joy and through torment, through glory and shame.”

He assures us that Bacon was innocent, that, he had the means of making
a perfectly satisfactory defence, that when he “plainly and ingenuously
confessed that he was guilty of corruption,” and when he afterwards
solemnly affirmed that his confession was “his act, his hand, his
heart,” he was telling a great lie, and that he refrained from bringing
forward proofs of his innocence, because he durst not disobey the King
and the favourite, who, for his own selfish objects, pressed him to
plead guilty.

Now, in the first place, there is not the smallest reason to believe
that, if James and Buckingham had thought that Bacon had a good defence,
they would have prevented him from making it. What conceivable motive
had they for doing so? Mr. Montagu perpetually repeats that it was their
interest to sacrifice Bacon. But he overlooks an obvious distinction. It
was their interest to sacrifice Bacon on the supposition of his guilt;
but not on the supposition of his innocence. James was very properly
unwilling to run the risk of protecting his Chancellor against the
Parliament. But if the Chancellor had been able, by force of argument,
to obtain an acquittal from the Parliament, we have no doubt that both
the King and Villiers would have heartily rejoiced. They would have
rejoiced, not merely on account of their friendship for Bacon, which
seems, however, to have been as sincere as most friendships of that
sort, but on selfish grounds. Nothing could have strengthened the
government more than such a victory. The King and the favourite
abandoned the Chancellor because they were unable to avert his disgrace,
and unwilling to share it. Mr. Montagu mistakes effect for cause.
{419}He thinks that Bacon did not prove his innocence, because he was
not supported by the Court. The truth evidently is that the Court did
not venture to support Bacon, because he could not prove his innocence.

Again, it seems strange that Mr. Montagu should not perceive that, while
attempting to vindicate Bacon’s reputation, he is really casting on
it the foulest of all aspersions. He imputes to his idol a degree of
meanness and depravity more loathsome than judicial corruption itself.
A corrupt judge may have many good qualities. But a man who, to please a
powerful patron, solemnly declares himself guilty of corruption when
he knows himself to be innocent, must be a monster of servility and
impudence. Bacon was, to say nothing of his highest claims to respect,
a gentleman, a nobleman, a scholar, a statesman, a man of the first
consideration in society, a man far advanced in years. Is it possible to
believe that such a man would, to gratify any human being, irreparably
ruin his own character by his own act? Imagine a grey-headed judge,
frill of years and honours, owning with tears, with pathetic assurances
of his penitence and of his sincerity, that he has been guilty of
shameful mal-practices, repeatedly asseverating the truth of his
confession, subscribing it with his own band, submitting to conviction,
receiving a humiliating sentence and acknowledging its justice, and
all this when he has it in his power to show that his conduct has been
irreproachable! The thing is incredible. But if we admit it to be true,
what must we think of such a man, if indeed be deserves the name of man,
who thinks any thing that kings and minions can bestow more precious
than honour, or any thing that they can inflict more terrible than
infamy? {420}Of this most disgraceful imputation we fully acquit Bacon.
He had no defence; and Mr. Montagu’s affectionate attempt to make a
defence for him has altogether failed.

The grounds on which Mr. Montagu rests the case are two; the first, that
the taking of presents was usual, and, what he seems to consider as the
same thing, not discreditable; the second, that these presents were not
taken as bribes.

Mr. Montagu brings forward many facts in support of his first
proposition. He is not content with showing that many English judges
formerly received gifts from suitors, but collects similar instances
from foreign nations and ancient times. He goes back to the
commonwealths of Greece, and attempts to press into his service a line
of Homer and a sentence of Plutarch, which, we fear, will hardly serve
his turn. The gold of which Homer speaks was not intended to fee the
judges, but was paid into court for the benefit of the successful
litigant; and the gratuities which Pericles, as Plutarch states,
distributed among the members of the Athenian tribunals, were legal
wages paid out of the public revenue. We can supply Mr. Montagu with
passages much more in point. Hesiod, who like poor Aubrey, had a
“killing decree” made against him in the Chancery of Ascra, forgot
decorum so far that he ventured to designate the learned persons who
presided in that court, as [Greek] Plutarch and Diodorus have handed
down to the latest ages the respectable name of Anytus, the son of
Anthemion, the first defendant who, eluding all the safeguards which
the ingenuity of Solon could devise, succeeded in corrupting a bench of
Athenian judges. We are indeed so far from grudging Mr. Montagu the
aid of Greece, that we will {421}give him Rome into the bargain. We
acknowledge that the honourable senators who tried Verres received
presents which were worth more than the fee-simple of York House and
Gorhambury together, and that the no less honorable senators and knights
who professed to believe in the _alibi_ of Clodius obtained marks still
more extraordinary of the esteem and gratitude of the defendant. In
short, we are ready to admit that, before Bacon’s time, and in Bacon’s
time, judges were in the habit of receiving gifts from suitors.

But is this a defence? We think not. The robberies of Cacus and Barabbas
are no apology for those of Turpin. The conduct of the two men of Belial
who swore away the life of Naboth has never been cited as an excuse for
the perjuries of Oates and Dangerfield. Mr. Montagu has confounded two
things which it is necessary carefully to distinguish from each other,
if we wish to form a correct judgment of the characters of men of other
countries and other times. That an immoral action is, in a particular
society, generally considered as innocent, is a good plea for an
individual who, being one of that society, and having adopted the
notions which prevail among his neighbors, commits that action. But the
circumstance that a great many people are in the habit of committing
immoral actions is no plea at all. We should think it unjust to call St.
Louis a wicked man, because in an age in which toleration was generally
regarded as a sin, he persecuted heretics. We should think it unjust to
call Cowper’s friend, John Newton, a hypocrite and monster, because at
a time when the slave-trade was commonly considered by the most
respectable people as an innocent and beneficial traffic, he went,
largely provided with hymn-books and handcuffs on a Guinea {422}voyage.
But the circumstance that there are twenty thousand thieves in London,
is no excuse for a fellow who is caught breaking into a shop. No man is
to be blamed for not making discoveries in morality, for not finding
out that something which everybody else thinks to be good is really bad.
But, if a man does that which he and all around him know to be bad, it
is no excuse for him that many others have done the same. We should be
ashamed of spending so much time in pointing out so clear a distinction,
but that Mr. Montagu seems altogether to overlook it.

Now to apply these principles to the case before us; let Mr. Montagu
prove that, in Bacon’s age, the practices for which Bacon was punished
were generally considered as innocent; and we admit that he has made out
his point. But this we defy him to do. That these practices were common
we admit. But they were common just as all wickedness to which there is
strong temptation always was and always will be common. They were common
just as theft, cheating, perjury, adultery have always been common. They
were common, not because people did not know what was right, but because
people liked to do what was wrong. They were common, though prohibited
by law. They were common, though condemned by public opinion. They
were common, because in that age law and public opinion united had not
sufficient force to restrain the greediness of powerful and unprincipled
magistrates. They were common, as every crime will be common when the
gain to which it leads is great, and the chance of punishment small.
But, though common, they were universally allowed to be altogether
unjustifiable; they were in the highest degree odious; and, though many
were guilty of them, none had the audacity publicly to avow and defend
them. {423}We could give a thousand proofs that the opinion then
entertained concerning these practices was such as we have described.
But we will content ourselves with calling; a single witness, honest
Hugh Latimer. His sermons, preached more than seventy years before
the inquiry into Bacon’s conduct, abound with the sharpest invectives
against those very practices of which Bacon was guilty, and which, as
Mr. Montagu seems to think, nobody ever considered as blamable till
Bacon was punished for them. We could easily fill twenty pages with the
homely, but just and forcible rhetoric of the brave old bishop. We shall
select a few passages as fair specimens, and no more than fair specimens
of the rest. “_Omnes diligunt munera_. They all love bribes. Bribery is
a princely kind of thieving. They will be waged by the rich, either to
give sentence against the poor, or to put off the poor man’s cause. This
is the noble theft of princes and magistrates. They are bribe-takers.
Nowadays they call them gentle rewards. Let them leave their colouring,
and call them by their Christian name--bribes.” And again; “Cambyses
was a great emperor, such another as our master is. He had many lord
deputies, lord presidents, and lieutenants under him. It is a great
while ago since I read the history. It chanced he had under him in one
of his dominions a briber, a gift-taker, a gratifier of rich men; he
followed gifts as fast as he that followed the pudding, a handmaker in
his office to make his son a great man, as the old saying is: Happy is
the child whose father goeth to the devil. The cry of the poor widow
came to the emperor’s ear, and caused him to flay the judge quick, and
laid his skin in the chair of judgment, that all judges that should give
judgment afterward should sit in the same skin. Surely it was {424}a
goodly sign, a goodly monument, the sign of the judge’s skin. I pray God
we may once see the skin in England.”

“I am sure,” says he in another sermon, “this is _scala inferni_, the
right way to hell, to be covetous, to take bribes, and pervert justice.
If a judge should ask me the way to hell, I would show him this way.
First, let him be a covetous man; let his heart be poisoned with
covetousness. Then let him go a little further and take bribes; and,
lastly, pervert judgment. Lo, here is the mother, and the daughter,
and the daughter’s daughter. Avarice is the mother: she brings forth
bribe-taking, and bribe-taking perverting of judgment. There lacks
a fourth thing to make up the mess, which, so help me God, if I were
judge, should be _hanyum tuum_, a Tyburn tippet to take with him; an it
were the judge of the King’s Bench, my Lord Chief Judge of England,
yea, an it were my Lord Chancellor himself, to Tyburn with him.” We will
quote but one more passage. “He that took the silver basin and ewer for
a bribe, thinketh that it will never come out. But he may now know that
I know it, and I know it not alone; there be more beside me that know
it. Oh, briber and bribery! He was never a good man that will so take
bribes. Nor can I believe that he that is a briber will be a good
justice. It will never be merry in England till we have the skins of
such. For what needeth bribing where men do their things uprightly?”

This was not the language of a great philosopher who had made new
discoveries in moral and political science. It was the plain talk of
a plain man, who sprang from the body of the people, who sympathised
strongly with their wants and their feelings, and who boldly uttered
their opinions. It was on account of the {425}fearless way in which
stout-hearted old Hugh exposed the misdeeds of men in ermine tippets
and gold collars, that the Londoners cheered him, as he walked down the
Strand to preach at Whitehall, struggled for a touch of his gown, and
bawled “Have at them, Father Latimer.” It is plain, from the passages
which we have quoted, and from fifty others winch we might quote, that,
long before Bacon was born, the accepting of presents by a judge was
known to be a wicked and shameful act, that the fine words under which
it was the fashion to veil such corrupt practices were even then seen
through by the common people, that the distinction on which Mr. Montagu
insists between compliments and bribes was even then laughed at as
a mere colouring. There may be some oratorical exaggeration in what
Latimer says about the Tyburn tippet and the sign of the judge’s
skin; but the fact that he ventured to use such expressions is amply
sufficient to prove that the gift-taking judges, the receivers of silver
basins and ewers, were regarded as such pests of the commonwealth that
a venerable divine might, without any breach of Christian charity,
publicly pray to God for their detection and their condign punishment.

Mr. Montagu tells us, most justly, that we ought not to transfer the
opinions of our age to a former age. But he has himself committed a
greater error than that against which he has cautioned his readers.
Without any evidence, nay, in the face of the strongest evidence, he
ascribes to the people of a former age a set of opinions which no people
ever held. But any hypothesis is in his view more probable than that
Bacon should have been a dishonest man. We firmly believe that, if
papers were to be discovered which should irresistibly prove that Bacon
was concerned in the poisoning of {426}Sir Thomas Overbury, Mr. Montagu
would tell us that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, it
was not thought improper in a man to put arsenic into the broth of his
friends, and that we ought to blame, not Bacon, but the age in which he

But why should we have recourse to any other evidence, when the
proceeding against Lord Bacon is itself the best evidence on the
subject? When Mr. Montagu tells us that we ought not to transfer the
opinions of our age to Bacon’s age, he appears altogether to forget
that it was by men of Bacon’s own age that Bacon was prosecuted, tried,
convicted, and sentenced. Did not they know what their own opinions
were? Did not they know whether they thought the taking of gifts by
a judge a crime or not? Mr. Montagu complains bitterly that Bacon
was induced to abstain from making a defence. But, if Bacon’s defence
resembled that which is made for him in the volume before us, it would
have been unnecessary to trouble the Houses with it. The Lords and
Commons did not want Bacon to tell them the thoughts of their own
hearts, to inform them that they did not consider such practices as
those in which they had detected him as at all culpable. Mr. Montagu’s
proposition may indeed be fairly stated thus:--It was very hard that
Bacon’s contemporaries should think it wrong in him to do what thev
did not think it wrong in him to do. Third indeed; and withal somewhat
improbable. Will any person say that the Commons who impeached Bacon for
taking presents, and the Lords who sentenced him to fine, imprisonment,
and degradation for taking presents, did not know that the taking of
presents was a crime? Or, will any person say that Bacon did not know
what the whole House of Commons and the {427}whole House of Lords knew?
Nobody who is not prepared to maintain one of these absurd propositions
can deny that Bacon committed what he knew to be a crime.

It cannot be pretended that the Houses were seeking occasion to ruin
Bacon, and that they therefore brought him to punishment on charges
which they themselves knew to be frivolous. In no quarter was there the
faintest indication of a disposition to treat him harshly. Through
the whole proceeding there was no symptom of personal animosity or of
factious violence in either House. Indeed, we will venture to say that
no State-Trial in our history is more creditable to all who took part
in it, either as prosecutors or judges. The decency, the gravity, the
public spirit, the justice moderated but not unnerved by compassion,
which appeared in every part of the transaction, would do honour to the
most respectable public men in our own times. The accusers, while they
discharged their duty to their constituents by bringing the misdeeds
of the Chancellor to light, spoke with admiration of his many eminent
qualities. The Lords, while condemning him, complimented him on the
ingenuousness of his confession, and spared him the humiliation of a
public appearance at their bar. So strong was the contagion of good
feeling that even Sir Edward Coke, for the first time in his life,
behaved like a gentleman. No criminal ever had more temperate
prosecutors than Bacon. No criminal ever had more favourable judges. If
he was convicted, it was because it was impossible to acquit him without
offering the grossest outrage to justice and common sense.

Mr. Montagu’s other argument, namely, that Bacon, though he took
gifts, did not take bribes, seems to us as futile as that which we have
considered. Indeed, {428}we might be content to leave it to be answered
by the plainest man among our readers. Demosthenes noticed it with
contempt more than two thousand years ago. Latimer, we have seen,
treated this sophistry with similar disdain. “Leave colouring,” said
he, “and call these things by their Christian name, bribes.” Mr. Montagu
attempts, somewhat unfairly, we must say, to represent the presents
which Bacon received as similar to the perquisites which suitors paid
to the members of the Parliaments of France. The French magistrate had a
legal right to his fee: and the amount of the fee was regulated by law.
Whether this be a good mode of remunerating judges is not the question.
But what analogy is there between payments of this sort and the presents
which Bacon received, presents which were not sanctioned by the law,
which were not made under the public eye, and of which the amount was
regulated only by private bargain between the magistrate and the suitor?

Again, it is mere trifling to say that Bacon could not have meant to
act corruptly because he employed the agency of men of rank, of bishops,
privy councillors, and members of Parliament; as if the whole history of
that generation was not full of the low actions of high people; as if it
was not notorious that men, as exalted in rank as any of the decoys that
Bacon employed, had pimped for Somerset and poisoned Overbury.

But, says Mr. Montagu, these presents “were made openly and with the
greatest publicity.” This would indeed be a strong argument in favour of
Bacon. But we deny the fact. In one, and one only, of the cases in which
Bacon was accused of corruptly receiving gifts, does he appear to have
received a gift publicly. This was in a matter depending between the
Company {429}of Apothecaries and the Company of Grocers. Bacon, in his
Confession, insisted strongly on the circumstance that he had on this
occasion taken a present publicly, as a proof that he had not taken it
corruptly. Is it not clear that, if he had taken the presents mentioned
in the other charges in the same public manner, he would have dwelt on
this point in his answer to those charges? The fact that he insists
so strongly on the publicity of one particular present is of itself
sufficient to prove that the other presents were not publicly taken. Why
he took this present publicly and the rest secretly, is evident. He on
that occasion acted openly, because he was acting honestly. He was
not on that occasion sitting judicially. He was called in to effect an
amicable arrangement between two parties. Both were satisfied with his
decision. Both joined in making him a present in return for his trouble.
Whether it was quite delicate in a man of his rank to accept a present
under such circumstances, may be questioned. But there is no ground in
this case for accusing him of corruption.

Unhappily, the very circumstances which prove him to have been innocent
in this case prove him to have been guilty on the other charges. Once,
and once only, he alleges that he received a present publicly. The
natural inference is that in all the other cases mentioned in the
articles against him he received presents secretly. When we examine the
single case in which he alleges that he received a present publicly,
we find that it is also the single case in which there was no gross
impropriety in his receiving a present. Is it then possible to doubt
that his reason for not receiving other presents in as public a manner
was that he knew that it was wrong to receive them?

One argument still remains, plausible in appearance. {430}but admitting
of easy and complete refutation. The two chief complainants, Aubrey and
Egerton, had both made presents to the Chancellor. But he had decided
against them both. Therefore, he had not received those presents as
bribes. “The complaints of his accusers were,” says Mr. Montagu, “not
that the gratuities had, but that they had not influenced Bacon’s
judgment, as he had decided against them.”

The truth is, that it is precisely in this way that an extensive system
of corruption is generally detected. A person who, by a bribe, has
procured a decree in his favour, is by no means likely to come forward
of his own accord as an accuser. He is content. He has his quid pro
quo. He is not impelled either by interested or by vindictive motives to
bring the transaction before the public. On the contrary, he has almost
as strong motives for holding his tongue as the judge himself can have.’
But when a judge practises corruption, as we fear that Bacon practised
it, on a large scale, and has many agents looking out in different
quarters for prey, it will sometimes happen that he will be bribed on
both sides. It will sometimes happen that he will receive money from
suitors who are so obviously in the wrong that he cannot with decency
do any thing to serve them. Thus lie will now and then be forced to
pronounce against a person from whom he has received a present; and he
makes that person a deadly enemy. The hundreds who have got what they
paid for remain quiet. It is the two or three who have paid, and have
nothing to show for their money, who are noisy.

The memorable case of the Goëzmans is an example of this. Beaumarchais
had an important suit depending before the Parliament of Paris. M.
Goëzman was the judge on whom chiefly the decision depended. It {431}was
hinted to Beaumarchais that Madame Goëzman might be propitiated by
a present. He accordingly offered a purse of gold to the lady, who
received it graciously. There can be no doubt that, if the decision of
the court had been favourable to him, these things would never have been
known to the world.

But he lost his cause. Almost the whole sum which he had expended in
bribery was immediately refunded; and those who had disappointed him
probably thought that he would not, for the mere gratification of
his malevolence, make public a transaction which was discreditable to
himself as well as to them. They knew little of him. He soon taught
them to curse the day in which they had dared to trifle with a man of so
revengeful and turbulent a spirit, of such dauntless effrontery, and
of such eminent talents for controversy and satire. He compelled the
Parliament to put a degrading stigma on M. Goëzman. He drove
Madame Goëzman to a convent. Till it was too late, his excited
passions did not suffer him to remember that he could effect their ruin
only by disclosures ruinous to himself. We could give other instances.
But it is needless. No person well acquainted with human nature can fail
to perceive that, if the doctrine for which Mr. Montagu contends were
admitted, society would be deprived of almost the only chance which it
has of detecting the corrupt practices of judges.

We return to our narrative. The sentence of Bacon had scarcely been
pronounced when it was mitigated. He was indeed sent to the Tower. But
this was merely a form. In two days he was set at liberty, and soon
after he retired to Gorhambury. His fine was speedily released by the
Crown. He was next suffered to present himself at Court; and at length,
in 1624, the {432}rest of his punishment was remitted. He was now at
liberty to resume his seat in the House of Lords, and he was actually
summoned to the next Parliament. But age, infirmity, and perhaps shame,
prevented him from attending. The Government allowed him a pension of
twelve hundred pounds a year; and his whole annual income is estimated
by Mr. Montagu at two thousand five hundred pounds, a sum which was
probably above the average income of a nobleman of that generation,
and which was certainly sufficient for comfort and even for splendour.
Unhappily, Bacon was fond of display, and unused to pay minute attention
to domestic affairs. He was not easily persuaded to give up any part
of the magnificence to which he had been accustomed in the time of his
power and prosperity. No pressure of distress could induce him to part
with the woods of Gorhambury. “I will not,” he said, “be stripped of
my feathers.” He travelled with so splendid an equipage and so large
a retinue that Prince Charles, who once fell in with him on the road,
exclaimed with surprise, “Well; do what we can, this man scorns to
go out in snuff.” This carelessness and ostentation reduced Bacon to
frequent distress. He was under the necessity of parting with York
House, and of taking up his residence, during his visits to London, at
his old chambers in Gray’s Inn. He had other vexations, the exact nature
of which is unknown. It is evident from his will that some part of his
wife’s conduct had greatly disturbed and irritated him.

But, whatever might be his pecuniary difficulties or his conjugal
discomforts, the powers of his intellect still remained undiminished.
Those noble studies for which he had found leisure in the midst of
professional drudgery and of courtly intrigues gave to this last sad
stage of {433}his life a dignity beyond what power or titles could
bestow. Impeached, convicted, sentenced, driven with ignominy from the
presence of his Sovereign, shut out from the deliberations of his fellow
nobles, loaded with debt, branded with dishonour, sinking under the
weight of years, sorrows, and diseases, Bacon was Bacon still. “My
conceit of his person,” says Ben Jonson very finely, “was never
increased towards him by his place or honours; but I have and do
reverence him for the greatness that was only proper to himself; in
that he seemed to me ever, by his work, one of the greatest men and most
worthy of admiration, that had been in many ages. In his adversity I
ever prayed that God would give him strength; for greatness he could not

The services which Bacon rendered to letters during the last five years
of his life, amidst ten thousand distractions and vexations, increase
the regret with which we think on the many years which he had wasted, to
use the words of Sir Thomas Bodley, “on such study as was not worthy of
such a student.” He commenced a Digest of the Laws of England, a History
of England under the Princes of the House of Tudor, a body of Natural
History, a Philosophical Romance. He made extensive and valuable
additions to his Essays. He published the inestimable Treatise _De
Augmentis Scientiarum_. The very trifles with which he amused himself in
hours of pain and languor bore the mark of his mind. The best collection
of jests in the world is that which he dictated from memory, without
referring to any book, on a day on which illness had rendered him
incapable of serious study.

The great apostle of experimental philosophy was {434}destined to be its
martyr. It had occurred to him that snow might be used with advantage
for the purpose of preventing animal substances from putrefying. On a
very cold day, early in the spring of the year 1626, he alighted from
his coach near Highgate, in order to try the experiment. He went into
a cottage, bought a fowl, and with his own hands stuffed it with
snow. While thus engaged he felt a sudden chill, and was soon so much
indisposed that it was impossible for him to return to Gray’s Inn.
The Earl of Arundel, with whom he was well acquainted, had a house at
Highgate. To that house Bacon was carried. The Earl was absent; but
the servants who were in charge of the place showed great respect and
attention to the illustrious guest. Here, after an illness of about
a week, he expired early on the morning of Easter-day, 1626. His mind
appears to have retained its strength and liveliness to the end. He did
not forget the fowl which had caused his death. In the last letter that
he ever wrote, with fingers which, as he said, could not steadily hold
a pen, he did not omit to mention that the experiment of the snow had
succeeded “excellently well.”

Our opinion of the moral character of this great man has already been
sufficiently explained. Had his life been passed in literary retirement,
he would, in all probability, have deserved to be considered, not only
as a great philosopher, but as a worthy and good-natured member of
society. But neither his principles nor his spirit were such as could
be trusted, when strong temptations were to be resisted, and serious
dangers to be braved.

In his will he expressed with singular brevity, energy, dignity, and
pathos, a mournful consciousness {435}that his actions had not been such
as to entitle him to the esteem of those under whose observation his
life had been passed, and, at the same time, a proud confidence that
his writings had secured for him a high and permanent place among the
benefactors of mankind. So at least we understand those striking words
which have been often quoted, but which we must quote once more; “For my
name and memory, I leave it to men’s charitable speeches, and to foreign
nations, and to the next age.”

His confidence was just. From the day of his death his fame has been
constantly and steadily progressive; and we have no doubt that his name
will be named with reverence to the latest ages, and to the remotest
ends of the civilised world.

The chief peculiarity of Bacon’s philosophy seems to us to have been
this, that it aimed at things altogether different from those which
his predecessors had proposed to themselves. This was his own opinion.
“Finis scientiarum,” says he, “a nemine adhuc bene positus est.” (1)
And again, “Omnium gravissimus error in deviatione ab ultimo doctrinarum
fine con-sistit.” (2) “Nec ipsa meta,” says he elsewhere, “adhuc ulli,
quod sciam, mortalium posita est et defixa.” (3) The more carefully his
works are examined, the more clearly, we think, it will appear that this
is the real clue to his whole system, and that he used means different
from those used by other philosophers, because he wished to arrive at an
end altogether different from theirs.

What then was the end which Bacon proposed to himself? It was, to use
his own emphatic expression,

     (1) Novum Organum, Lib. 1. Aph. 81.

     (2) De Augmentis, Lib. 1.

     (3) Cogitata et visa.

{436}“fruit.” It was the multiplying of human enjoyments and the
mitigating of human sufferings. It was “the relief of man’s estate.” (1)
It was “commodis humanis inservire.” (2) It was “efficaciter operari
ad sublevanda vitæ humanæ incommoda.” (3) It was “dotare vitam immanam
novis inventis et copiis.” (4) It was “genus humanum novis operibus
et potestatibus continno dotare.” (5) This was the object of all his
speculations in every department of science, in natural philosophy, in
legislation, in politics, in morals.

Two words form the key of the Baconian doctrine, Utility and Progress.
The ancient philosophy disdained to be useful, and was content to be
stationary. It dealt largely in theories of moral perfection, which were
so sublime that they never could be more than theories; in attempts
to solve insoluble enigmas; in exhortations to the attainment of
unattainable frames of mind. It could not condescend to the humble
office of ministering to the comfort of human beings. All the schools
contemned that office as degrading; some censured it as immoral. Once
indeed Posidonius, a distinguished writer of the age of Cicero and
Cæsar, so far forgot himself as to enumerate, among the hum-bier
blessings which mankind owed to philosophy, the discovery of the
principle of the arch, and the introduction of the use of metals.
This eulogy was considered as an affront, and was taken up with proper
spirit. Seneca vehemently disclaims these insulting compliments.6
Philosophy, according to him, has nothing to do with teaching men to
rear arched roofs over their heads. The true philosopher does not care

     1 Advancement of Learning, Book 1.

     2 De Angmentis, Lib. 7. C:ip. 1.

     3 Ib. Lib. 2. Cap. 2.

     4 Novum Organum, Lib. 1. Aph. 81.

     5 Cogilata el ma.

     6 Seneca, Epist. 90.

{437}whether he has an arched roof or any roof. Philosophy has nothing
to do with teaching men the uses of metals. She teaches us to be
independent of all material substances, of all mechanical contrivances.
The wise man lives according; to nature. Instead of attempting to add
to the physical comforts of his species, he regrets that his lot was not
cast in that golden age when the human race had no protection against
the cold but the skins of wild beasts, no screen from the sun but
a cavern. To impute to such a man any share in the invention or
improvement of a plough, a ship, or a mill, is an insult. “In my
own time,” says Seneca, “there have been inventions of this sort,
transparent windows, tubes for diffusing warmth equally through all
parts of a building, short-hand, which has been carried to such a
perfection that a writer can keep pace with the most rapid speaker.
But the inventing of such things is drudgery for the lowest slaves;
philosophy lies deeper. It is not her office to teach men how to use
their hands. The object of her lessons is to form the soul. Non est,
inqueim, instrumentorum ad usas necessaries opfex.” If the non were
left out, this last sentence would be no bad description of the Baconian
philosophy, and would, indeed, very much resemble several expressions in
the _Novum Organum_. “We shall next be told,” exclaims Seneca, “that the
first shoemaker was a philosopher.” For our own part, if we are forced
to make our choice between the first shoemaker, and the author of the
three books On Anger, we pronounce for the shoemaker. It may be worse
to be angry than to be wet. But shoes have kept millions from being wet;
and we doubt whether Seneca ever kept any body from being angry. {438}It
is very reluctantly that Seneca can be brought to confess that any
philosopher had ever paid the smallest attention to any thing that could
possibly promote what vulgar people would consider as the well-being of
mankind. He labors to clear Democritus from the disgraceful imputation
of having made the first arch, and Anacharsis from the charge of having
contrived the potter’s wheel. He is forced to own that such a thing
might happen; and it may also happen, he tells us, that a philosopher
may be swift of foot. But it is not in his character of philosopher
that he either wins a race or invents a machine. Iso, to be sure. The
business of a philosopher was to declaim in praise of poverty, with two
millions sterling out at usury, to meditate epigrammatic conceits about
the evils of luxury, in gardens which moved the envy of sovereigns, to
rant about liberty, while fawning on the insolent and pampered freedmen
of a tyrant, to celebrate the divine beauty of virtue with the same pen
which had just before written a defence of the murder of a mother by a

From the cant of this philosophy, a philosophy meanly proud of its own
unprofitableness, it is delightful to turn to the lessons of the great
English teacher. We can almost forgive all the faults of Bacon’s life
when we read that singularly graceful and dignified passage: “Ego certe,
ut de me ipso, quod res est, loquar, et in iis que nunc edo, et in iis
quæ in posterum meditor, dignitatem ingenii et nominis mei, si qua sit,
sæpius sciens et volens projicio, dum commodis humanis inserviam; quique
arehitectus fortasse in phi-losophia et scientiis esse debeam, etiam
operarius, et bajulus, et quidvis demum fio, cum baud pauca pue
omnino fieri necesse sit, alii an tern ob innatam superbiam {439}
{439}subterfugiant, ipse sustineam et exsequar.” (1) This _philanthropia_,
which, as he said in one of the most remarkable of his early letters,
“was so fixed in his mind, as it could not be removed,” this majestic
humility, this persuasion that nothing can be too insignificant for the
attention of the wisest, which is not too insignificant to give pleasure
or pain to the meanest, is the great characteristic distinction, the
essential spirit of the Baconian philosophy. We trace it in all that
Bacon has written on Physics, on Laws, on Morals. And we conceive that
from this peculiarity all the other peculiarities of his system directly
and almost necessarily sprang.

The spirit which appears in the passage of Seneca to which we have
referred, tainted the whole body of the ancient philosophy from the time
of Socrates downwards, and took possession of intellects with which that
of Seneca cannot for a moment be compared. It pervades the dialogues
of Plato. It may be distinctly traced in many parts of the works of
Aristotle. Bacon has dropped hints, from which it may be inferred that,
in his opinion, the prevalence of this feeling was in a great measure
to be attributed to the influence of Socrates. Our great countryman
evidently did not consider the revolution which Socrates effected in
philosophy as a happy event, and constantly maintained that the earlier
Greek speculators, Democritus in particular, were, on the whole,
superior to their more celebrated successors. (2)

Assuredly if the tree which Socrates planted and

     1 _De Augmentis_, Lib. 7. Cap. 1.

     2 _Novum, Organum_, Lib. 1. Aph. 71, 79. _De Augmeniis_,
     Lib. 3. Cap. 4. De Principiis atque originibus. _Cogitala el
     visa_. Redargutio philosophiarum.

{440}Plato watered is to be judged of by its flowers and leaves, it is
the noblest of trees. But if we take the homely test of Bacon, if we
judge of the tree by its fruits, our opinion of it may perhaps be less
favourable. When we sum up all the useful truths which we owe to that
philosophy, to what do they amount? We find, indeed, abundant proofs
that some of those who cultivated it were men of the first order of
intellect. We find among their writings incomparable specimens both
of dialectical and rhetorical art. We have no doubt that the ancient
controversies were of use, in so far as they served to exercise the
faculties of the disputants; for there is no controversy so idle that it
may not be of use in this way. But, when we look for something more, for
something which adds to the comforts or alleviates the calamities of the
human race, we are forced to own ourselves disappointed. We are forced
to say with Bacon that this celebrated philosophy ended in nothing but
disputation, that it was neither a vineyard nor an olive-ground, but
an intricate wood of briars and thistles, from which those who lost
themselves in it brought back many scratches and no food. (1)

We readily acknowledge that some of the teachers of this unfruitful
wisdom were among the greatest men that the world has ever seen. If we
admit the justice of Bacon’s censure, we admit it with regret, similar
to that which Dante felt when he learned the fate of those illustrious
heathens who were doomed to the first circle of Hell.

                   “Gran duol mi prese at cuor quando to ’ntesi,

                   Perocchë gente di motto valore

                   Conobbi che ’n quel limbo eran sospesi.”

But in truth the very admiration which we feel for

     (1) _Novum Organum_, Lib. 1. Aph. 73.

{441}the eminent philosophers of antiquity forces us to adopt the
opinion that their powers were systematically misdirected. For how else
could it be that such powers should effect so little for mankind? A
pedestrian may show as much muscular vigour on a treadmill as on the
highway road. But on the road his vigour will assuredly carry him
forward; and on the treadmill he will not advance an inch. The ancient
philosophy was a treadmill, not a path. It was made up of revolving
questions, of controversies which were always beginning again. It was
a contrivance for having much exertion and no progress. We must
acknowledge that more than once, while contemplating the doctrines of
the Academy and the Portico, even as they appear in the transparent
splendour of Cicero’s incomparable diction, we have been tempted to
mutter with the surly centurion in Persius, “Cur quis non prandeat hoc
est?” What is the highest good, whether pain be an evil, whether all
things be fated, whether we can be certain of any thing, whether we can
be certain that we are certain of nothing, whether a wise man can be
unhappy, whether all departures from right be equally reprehensible,
these, and other questions of the same sort, occupied the brains, the
tongues, and the pens of the ablest men in the civilised world during
several centuries. This sort of philosophy, it is evident, could not be
progressive. It might indeed sharpen and invigorate the minds of those
who devoted themselves to it; and so might the disputes of the orthodox
Lilliputians and the heretical Blefuscudians about the big ends and the
little ends of eggs. But such disputes could add nothing to the stock
of knowledge. The human mind accordingly, instead of marching, merely
marked time. It took as much trouble as would have sufficed to carry
it forward; {442}and yet remained on the same spot. There was no
accumulation of truth, no heritage of truth acquired by the labour of
one generation and bequeathed to another, to be again transmitted with
large additions to a third. Where this philosophy was in the time of
Cicero, there it continued to be in the time of Seneca, and there it
continued to be in the time of Favorinus. The same sects were still
battling with the same unsatisfactory arguments about the same
interminable questions. There had been no want of ingenuity, of zeal,
of industry. Every trace of intellectual cultivation was there, except
a harvest. There had been plenty of ploughing, harrowing, reaping,
threshing. But the garners contained only smut and stubble.

The ancient philosophers did not neglect natural science; but they
did not cultivate it for the purpose of increasing the power and
ameliorating the condition of man. The taint of barrenness had spread
from ethical to physical speculations. Seneca wrote largely on natural
philosophy, and magnified the importance of that study. But why? Not
because it tended to assuage suffering, to multiply the conveniences of
life, to extend the empire of man over the material world; but solely
because it tended to raise the mind above low cares, to separate it
from the body, to exercise its subtilty in the solution of very obscure
questions. (1) Thus natural philosophy was considered in the light
merely of a mental exercise. It was made subsidiary to the art of
disputation; and it consequently proved altogether barren of useful

There was one sect which, however absurd and pernicious some of its
doctrines may have been, ought,

     (1) Seneca, _Nat. Quoest. proef_. Lib. 3.

{443}it should seem, to have merited an exception from the general
censure which Bacon has pronounced on the ancient schools of wisdom. The
Epicurean, who referred all happiness to bodily pleasure, and all
evil to bodily pain, might have been expected to exert himself for
the purpose of bettering his own physical condition and that of his
neighbours. But the thought seems never to have occurred to any member
of that school. Indeed, their notion, as reported by their great poet,
was, that no more improvements were to be expected in the arts which
conduce to the comfort of life.

                        “Ad victum quae flagicat usus

                   Omnia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata.”

This contented despondency, this disposition to admire what has
been done, and to expect that nothing more will be done, is strongly
characteristic of all the schools which preceded the school of Fruit and
Progress. Widely as the Epicurean and the Stoic differed on most points,
they seem to have quite agreed in their contempt for pursuits so vulgar
as to be useful. The philosophy of both was a garrulous, declaiming,
canting, wrangling philosophy. Century after century they continued to
repeat their hostile war-cries, Virtue and Pleasure; and in the end
it appeared that the Epicurean had added as little to the quantity of
pleasure as the Stoic to the quantity of virtue. It is on the pedestal
of Bacon, not on that of Epicurus, that those noble lines ought to be

                   “O tenebris tantis tam clarum extollere lumen

                   Qui primus potuisti, illustrous commoda vitæ.”

In the fifth century Christianity had conquered Paganism, and Paganism
had infected Christianity. The Church was now victorious and corrupt.
The {444}rites of the Pantheon had passed into her worship, the
subtilties of the Academy into her creed. In an evil day, though with
great pomp and solemnity,--we quote the language of Bacon,--was the
ill-starred alliance stricken between the old philosophy and the new
faith. (1) Questions widely different from those which had employed
the ingenuity of Pyrrho and Carneades, but just as subtle, just as
interminable, and just as unprofitable, exercised the minds of the
lively and voluble Greeks. When learning began to revive in the West,
similar trifles occupied the sharp and vigorous intellects of the
Schoolmen. There was another sowing of the wind, and another reaping of
the whirlwind. The great work of improving the condition of the human
race was still considered as unworthy of a man of learning. Those
who undertook that task, if what they effected could be readily
comprehended, were despised as mechanics; if not, they were in danger of
being burned as conjurers.

There cannot be a stronger proof of the degree in which the human mind
had been misdirected than the history of the two greatest events which
took place du ring the middle ages. We speak of the invention of
Gunpowder and of the invention of Printing. The dates of both are
unknown. The authors of both are unknown. Nor was this because men were
too rude and ignorant to value intellectual superiority. The inventor of
gunpowder appears to have been contemporary with Petrarch and Boccaccio.
The inventor of printing was certainly contemporary with Nicholas
the Fifth, with Cosmo de’ Medici, and with a crowd of distinguished
scholars. But the human mind still retained that fatal bent which it had
received two

     (1) _Cogitata et visa._

{445}thousand years earlier. George of Trebisond and Marsilio Ficino
would not easily have been brought to believe that the inventor of the
printing-press had done more for mankind than themselves, or than those
ancient writers of whom they were the enthusiastic votaries.

At length the time arrived when the barren philosophy which had, during
so many ages, employed the faculties of the ablest of men, was destined
to fall. It had worn many shapes. It had mingled itself with many
creeds. It had survived revolutions in which empires, religions,
languages, races, had perished. Driven from its ancient haunts, it had
taken sanctuary in that Church which it had persecuted, and had, like
the daring friends of the poet, placed its seat

                             “next the seat of God,

                   And with its darkness dared affront his light.”

Words, and more words, and nothing but words, had been all the fruit of
all the toil of all the most renowned sages of sixty generations. But
the days of this sterile exuberance were numbered.

Many causes predisposed the public mind to a change. The study of
a great variety of ancient writers, though it did not give a right
direction to philosophical research, did much towards destroying that
blind reverence for authority which had prevailed when Aristotle ruled
alone. The rise of the Florentine sect of Platonists, a sect to which
belonged some of the finest minds of the fifteenth century, was not
an unimportant event. The mere substitution of the Academic for the
Peripatetic philosophy would indeed have done little good. But any thing
was better than the old habit of unreasoning servility. It was
{446}something to have a choice of tyrants. “A spark of freedom,” as
Gibbon has justly remarked, “was produced by this collision of adverse

Other causes might be mentioned. But it is chiefly to the great
reformation of religion that we owe the great reformation of philosophy.
The alliance between the Schools and the Vatican had for ages been so
close that those who threw off the dominion of the Vatican could not
continue to recognise the authority of the Schools. Most of the chiefs
of the schism treated the Peripatetic philosophy with contempt, and
spoke of Aristotle as if Aristotle had been answerable for all the
dogmas of Thomas Aquinas. “Nullo apud Lutheranos philosophiam esse in
pretio,” was a reproach which the defenders of the Church of Rome loudly
repeated, and which many of the Protestant leaders considered as a
compliment. Scarcely any text was more frequently cited by the reformers
than that in which St. Paul cautions the Colossians not to let any man
spoil them by philosophy. Luther, almost at the outset of his career,
went so far as to declare that no man could be at once a proficient in
the school of Aristotle and in that of Christ. Zwingle, Bucer,
Peter Martyr, Calvin, held similar language. In some of the Scotch
universities, the Aristotelian system was discarded for that of Ramus.
Thus, before the birth of Bacon, the empire cf the scholastic philosophy
had been shaken to its foundations. There was in the intellectual world
an anarchy resembling that which in the political world often follows
the overthrow of an old and deeply rooted government. Antiquity,
prescription, the sound of great names, had ceased to awe mankind. The
dynasty which had reigned for ages was at an end; and the vacant throne
was left to be struggled for by pretenders. {447}The first effect of
this great revolution, was, as Bacon most justly observed, (1) to give
for a time an undue importance to the mere graces of style. The new
breed of scholars, the Aschams and Buchanans, nourished with the finest
compositions of the Augustan age, regarded with loathing the dry,
crabbed, and barbarous diction of respondents and opponents, They were
far less studious about the matter of their writing than about the
manner. They succeeded in reforming Latinity; but they never even
aspired to effect a reform in philosophy.

At this time Bacon appeared. It is altogether incorrect to say, as
has often been said, that he was the first man who rose up against the
Aristotelian philosophy when in the height of its power. The authority
of that philosophy had, as we have shown, received a fatal blow long
before he was born. Several speculators, among whom Ramus is the best
known, had recently attempted to form new sects. Bacon’s own expressions
about the state of public opinion in the time of Luther are clear
and strong: “Accedebat,” says he, “odium et contemptus, illis ipsis
temporibus ortus erga Scholasticos.” And again, “Scholasticorum doctrina
despectui prorsus haberi copit tanquam aspera et barbara.” (2) The
part which Bacon played in this great change was the part, not of
Robespierre, but of Bonaparte. The ancient order of things had been
subverted. Some bigots still cherished with devoted loyalty the
remembrance of the fallen monarchy and exerted themselves to effect
a restoration. But the majority had no such feeling. Freed, yet not
knowing how to use their freedom,

     (1) _De Augments_, Lib. 1.

     (2)  Both these passages are in the first book of the De

{448}they pursued no determinate course, and had found no leader capable
of conducting them.

That leader at length arose. The philosophy which he taught was
essentially new. It differed from that of the celebrated ancient
teachers, not merely in method, but also in object. Its object was the
good of mankind, in the sense in which the mass of mankind always have
understood and always will understand the word good. “Meditor,” said
Bacon, “instaurationem philosophise ejusmodi quæ nihil inanis ant
abstracti habeat, quæque vitæ liumanæ conditiones in melius provehat.”

The difference between the philosophy of Bacon and that of his
predecessors cannot, we think, be better illustrated than by comparing
his views on some important subjects with those of Plato. We select
Plato, because we conceive that he did more than any other person
towards giving to the minds of speculative men that bent which they
retained till they received from Bacon a new impulse in a diametrically
opposite direction.

It is curious to observe how differently these great men estimated the
value of every kind of knowledge. Take Arithmetic for example. Plato,
after speaking slightly of the convenience of being able to reckon
and compute in the ordinary transactions of life, passes to what he
considers as a far more important advantage. The study of the properties
of numbers, he tells us, habituates the mind to the contemplation of
pure truth, and raises us above the material universe. He would have his
disciples apply themselves to this study, not that they may be able to
buy or sell, not that they may qualify themselves to be shop-keepers

     (1) _Redargutio Philosophiarum._

{449}or travelling merchants, but that they may learn to
withdraw their minds from the ever-shifting spectacle of this visible
and tangible world, and to fix them on the immutable essences of things.

Bacon, on the other hand, valued this branch of knowledge, only on
account of its uses with reference to that visible and tangible world
which Plato so much despised. He speaks with scorn of the mystical
arithmetic of the later Platonists, and laments the propensity of
mankind to employ, on mere matters of curiosity, powers the whole
exertion of which is required for purposes of solid advantage. He
advises arithmeticians to leave these trifles, and to employ themselves
in framing convenient expressions, which may be of use in physical
researches. (2)

The same reasons which led Plato to recommend the study of arithmetic
led him to recommend also the study of mathematics. The vulgar crowd
of geometricians, he says, will not understand him. They have practice
always in view. They do not know that the real use of the science is
to lead men to the knowledge of abstract, essential, eternal truth. (3)
Indeed, if we are to believe Plutarch, Plato carried this feeling so far
that he considered geometry as degraded by being applied to any
purpose of vulgar utility. Archytas, it seems, had framed machines of
extraordinary power on mathematical principles. (4) Plato remonstrated
with his friend, and declared that this was to degrade a noble
intellectual exercise into a low craft, fit only for carpenters and
wheelwrights. The office of geometry, he

     (1) Plato’s _Republic,_ Book 7.

     (2) _De Augmentis_, Lib. 3. Cap. 6.

     (3) Plato’s _Republic_, Book 7.

     (4) Plutarch, _Sympos_. viii. and _Life of Marcellus_. The
     machines of Archytas are also mentioned by Aulus Gellius and
     Diogenes Laertius

{450}said, was to discipline the mind, not to minister to the base
wants of the body. His interference was successful; and from that
time, according to Plutarch, the science of mechanics was considered as
unworthy of the attention of a philosopher.

Archimedes in a later age imitated and surpassed Archytas. But even
Archimedes was not free from the prevailing notion that geometry was
degraded by being employed to produce any thing useful. It was with
difficulty that he was induced to stoop from speculation to practice.
He was half ashamed of those inventions which were the wonder of hostile
nations, and always spoke of them slightingly as mere amusements, as
trifles in which a mathematician might be suffered to relax his mind
after intense application to the higher parts of his science.

The opinion of Bacon on this subject was diametrically opposed to that
of the ancient philosophers. He valued geometry chiefly, if not solely,
on account of those uses, which to Plato appeared so base. And it is
remarkable that the longer Bacon lived the stronger this feeling became.
When in 1605 he wrote the two books on the Advancement of Learning, he
dwelt on the advantages which mankind derived from mixed mathematics;
but he at the same time admitted that the beneficial effect produced by
mathematical study on the intellect, though a collateral advantage, was
“no less worthy than that which was principal and intended.” But it
is evident that his views underwent a change. When, near twenty years
later, he published the _De Augmentis_, which is the Treatise on the
Advancement of Learning, greatly expanded and carefully corrected, he
made important alterations in the part which related to mathematics.
{451}He condemned with severity the high pretensions of the
mathematicians, “delicias et fastum mathemati-corum.” Assuming the
well-being of the human race to be the end of knowledge, (1) he
pronounced that mathematical science could claim no higher rank than
that of an appendage or an auxiliary to other sciences. Mathematical
science, he says, is the handmaid of natural philosophy; she ought to
demean herself as such; and he declares that he cannot conceive by what
ill chance it has happened that she presumes to claim precedence over
her mistress. He predicts--a prediction which would have made Plato
shudder--that as more and more discoveries are made in physics, there
will be more and more branches of mixed mathematics. Of that collateral
advantage the value of which, twenty years before, he rated so highly,
he says not one word. This omission cannot have been the effect of mere
inadvertence. His own treatise was before him. From that treatise he
deliberately expunged whatever was favourable to the study of pure
mathematics, and inserted several keen reflections on the ardent
votaries of that study. This fact, in our opinion, admits of only one
explanation. Bacon’s love of those pursuits which directly tend to
improve the condition of mankind, and his jealousy of all pursuits
merely curious, had grown upon him, and had, it may be, become
immoderate. He was afraid of using any expression which might have the
effect of inducing any man of talents to employ in speculations,
useful only to the mind of the speculator, a single hour which might be
employed in extending the empire of man over matter. (2) If Bacon erred
here, we

     (1) Usui et commodis hominum consulirems.

     (2) Compare the passage relating to mathematics in the
     Second Book of the Advancement of Learning, with the _De
     Augmeniis_, Lib. 3. Cap. 6.

{452}must acknowledge that we greatly prefer his error to the opposite
error of Plato. We have no patience with a philosophy which, like those
Roman matrons who swallowed abortives in order to preserve their shapes,
takes pains to be barren for fear of being homely.

Let us pass to astronomy. This was one of the sciences which Plato
exhorted his disciples to learn, but for reasons for removed from common
habits of thinking. “Shall we set down astronomy,” says Socrates, “among
the subjects of study?” (1) “I think so,” answers his young friend
Glaucon: “to know something about the seasons, the months, and the
years is of use for military purposes, as well as for agriculture and

“It amuses me,” says Socrates, “to see how afraid you are, lest
the common herd of people should accuse you of recommending useless
studies.” He then proceeds, in that pure and magnificent diction which,
as Cicero said, Jupiter would use if Jupiter spoke Greek, to explain
that the use of astronomy is not to add to the vulgar comforts of life,
but to assist in raising the mind to the contemplation of things which
are to be perceived by the pure intellect alone. The knowledge of the
actual motions of the heavenly bodies Socrates considers as of little
value. The appearances which make the sky beautiful at night are, he
tells us, like the figures which a geometrician draws on the sand, mere
examples, mere helps to feeble minds. We must get beyond them; we must
neglect them; we must attain to an astronomy which is as independent of
the actual stars as geometrical truth is independent of the lines of an
ill-drawn diagram. This is, we imagine, very nearly, if not exactly, the
astronomy which Bacon

     (1) Plato’s _Republic_, Book 7.

{453}compared to the ox of Prometheus, (1) a sleek, wellshaped hide,
stuffed with rubbish, goodly to look at, but containing nothing to eat.
He complained that astronomy had, to its great injury, been separated
from natural philosophy, of which it was one of the noblest provinces,
and annexed to the domain of mathematics. The world stood in need, he
said, of a very different astronomy, of a living astronomy, (2) of
an astronomy which should set forth the nature, the motion, and the
influences of the heavenly bodies, as they really are. (3)

On the greatest and most useful of all human inventions, the invention
of alphabetical writing, Plato did not look with much complacency. He
seems to have thought that the use of letters had operated on the human
mind as the use of the go-cart in learning to walk, or of corks in
learning to swim, is said to operate on the human body. It was a support
which, in his opinion, soon became indispensable to those who used it,
which made vigorous exertion first unnecessary and then impossible.
The powers of the intellect would, he conceived, have been more fully
developed without this delusive aid. Men would have been compelled to
exercise? the understanding and the memory, and, by deep and assiduous
meditation, to make truth thoroughly their own. Now, on the contrary,
much knowledge is traced on paper, but little is engraved in the soul. A
man is certain that he can find information at a moment’s notice when
he wants it. He therefore suffers it to fade from his mind. Such a man
cannot in strictness

     (1) _De Augmentis_, Lib. 3. Cap. 4.

     (2) Astronomia viva.

     (3) “Quæ substantiam et motum et influxum colestium, prout
     re vera flint proponat.” Compare this language with Plato’s,

{454}be said to know any thing. He has the show without the reality of
wisdom. These opinions Plato has put into the mouth of an ancient king
of Egypt. (1) But it is evident from the context that they were his own;
and so they were understood to be by Quinctilian. (2) Indeed they are
in perfect accordance with the whole Platonic system.

Bacon’s views, as may easily be supposed, were widely different. (3) The
powers of the memory, he observes, without the help of writing, can do
little towards the advancement of any useful science. He acknowledges
that the memory may be disciplined to such a point as to be able to
perform very extraordinary feats. But on such feats he sets little
value. The habits of his mind, he tells us, are such that he is not
disposed to rate highly any accomplishment, however rare, which is of
no practical use to mankind. As to these prodigious achievements of the
memory, he ranks them with the exhibitions of rope-dancers and tumblers.
“The two performances,” he says, “are of much the same sort. The one is
an abuse of the powers of the body; the other is an abuse of the powers
of the mind. Both may perhaps excite our wonder; but neither is entitled
to our respect.”(4)

To Plato, the science of medicine appeared to be of very disputable
advantage. He did not indeed object to quick cures for acute disorders,
or for injuries produced by accidents. But the art which resists the
slow sap of a chronic disease, which repairs frames enervated by lust,
swollen by gluttony, or inflamed by wine, which encourages sensuality
by mitigating the natural punishment of the sensualist, and prolongs

     (1) Pinto’s Phaedrus.

     (2)  Quinctilian, XI.

     (3) De Augmentis Lib. 5. Cup. 5.

     (4) Pluto’s Republic, Book 3.

{455}when the intellect has ceased to retain its entire energy, had no
share of his esteem. A life protracted by medical skill he pronounced to
be a long death. The existence of the art of medicine ought, he said,
to be tolerated, so far as that art may serve to cure the occasional
distempers of men whose constitutions are good. As to those who have
bad constitutions, let them die; and the sooner the better. Such men
are unfit for war, for magistracy, for the management of their domestic
affairs, for severe study and speculation. If they engage in any
vigorous mental exercise, they are troubled with giddiness and fulness
of the head, all which they lay to the account of philosophy. The best
thing that can happen to such wretches is to have done with life at
once. He quotes mythical authority in support of this doctrine; and
reminds his disciples that the practice of the sons of Æsculapius, as
described by Homer, extended only to the cure of external injuries.

Far different was the philosophy of Bacon. Of all the sciences, that
which he seems to have regarded with the greatest interest was the
science which, in Plato’s opinion, would not be tolerated in a well
regulated community. To make men perfect was no part of Bacon’s plan.
His humble aim was to make imperfect men comfortable. The beneficence of
his philosophy resembled the beneficence of the common Father, whose sun
rises on the evil and the good, whose rain descends for the just and
the unjust. In Plato’s opinion man was made for philosophy; in Bacon’s
opinion philosophy was made for man; it was a means to an end; and that
end was to increase the pleasures and to mitigate the pains of millions
who are not and cannot be philosophers. That a valetudinarian who took
great pleasure in being wheeled along his terrace, who relished {456}his
boiled chicken and his weak wine and water, and who enjoyed a hearty
laugh over the Queen of Navarre’s tales, should be treated as a _caput
lupinum_ because he could not read the Timæus without a headache, was
a notion which the humane spirit of the English school of wisdom
altogether rejected. Bacon would not have thought it beneath the
dignity of a philosopher to contrive an improved garden chair for such
a valetudinarian, to devise some way of rendering his medicines more
palatable, to invent repasts which he might enjoy, and pillows on which
he might sleep soundly; and this though there might not be the
smallest hope that the mind of the poor invalid would ever rise to the
contemplation of the ideal beautiful and the ideal good. As Plato had
cited the religious legends of Greece to justify his contempt for the
more recondite parts of the art of healing, Bacon vindicated the dignity
of that art by appealing to the example of Christ, and reminded men that
the great Physician of the soul did not disdain to be also the physician
of the body. (1)

When we pass from the science of medicine to that of legislation, we
find the same difference between the systems of these two great men.
Plato, at the commencement of the Dialogue on Laws, lays it down as
a fundamental principle that the end of legislation is to make men
virtuous. It is unnecessary to point out the extravagant conclusions to
which such a proposition leads. Bacon well knew to how great an extent
the happiness of every society must depend on the virtue of its members;
and he also knew what legislators can and what they cannot do for the
purpose of promoting virtue. The view which he has given of the end of

     (1) De Augmentis, Lib. 4. Cap. 2.

{457}legislation, and of the principal means for the attainment of that
end, has always seemed to us eminently happy, even among the many happy
passages of the same kind with which his works abound. “Finis et scopus
quem leges intueri atopie ad quern jussion es et sanction es suas
dirigere debent, non alius est quam ut cives féliciter degant. Id fixet
si pietate et religione recte instituti, moribus honesti, armis ad
versus liostes externos tuti, legum auxilio adversus seditiones et
pri-vatas injurias muniti, imperio et magistratibus obse-quentes, copiis
et opibus locupletes et florentes fluent.” (1) The end is the well-being
of the people. The means are the imparting of moral and religious
education; the providing of every thing necessary for defence against
foreign enemies; the maintaining of internal order; the establishing of
a judicial, financial, and commercial system, under which wealth may be
rapidly accumulated and securely enjoyed.

Even with respect to the form in which laws ought to be drawn, there is
a remarkable difference of opinion between the Greek and the Englishman.
Plato thought a preamble essential; Bacon thought it mischievous. Each
was consistent with himself. Plato, considering the moral improvement of
the people as the end of legislation, justly inferred that a law which
commanded and threatened, but which neither convinced the reason, nor
touched the heart, must be a most imperfect law. He was not content with
deterring from theft a man who still continued to be a thief at heart,
with restraining a son who hated his mother from beating his mother.
The only obedience on which he set much value was the obedience which an

     (1) De Augmentis, Lib. 8. Cap. 3. Aph. 5.

{458}understanding yields to reason, and which a virtuous disposition
yields to precepts of virtue. He really seems to have believed that, by
prefixing to every law an eloquent and pathetic exhortation, he
should, to a great extent, render penal enactments superfluous. Bacon
entertained no such romantic hopes; and he well knew the practical
inconveniences of the course which Plato recommended. “Neque nobis,”
 says he, “prologi legum qui inepti olim liabiti sunt, et leges
in-troducunt disputantes non jubentes, utique placèrent, si priscos
mores ferre possemus....Quantum fieri potest prologi evitentur, et lex
incipiat a jussione.” (1)

Each of the great men whom we have compared intended to illustrate his
system by a philosophical romance; and each left his romance imperfect.
Had Plato lived to finish the Critias, a comparison between that noble
fiction and the new Atlantis would probably have furnished us with still
more striking instances than any which we have given. It is amusing
to think with what horror he would have seen such an institution as
Solomon’s House rising in his republic: with what vehemence he would
have ordered the brewhouses, the perfume-houses, and the dispensatories
to be pulled down; and with what inexorable rigour he would have driven
beyond the frontier all the Fellows of the College, Merchants of Light
and Depredators, Lamps and Pioneers.

To sum up the whole, we should say that the aim of the Platonic
philosophy was to exalt man into a god. The aim of the Baconian
philosophy was to provide man with what he requires while he continues
to be man. The aim of the Platonic philosophy was to raise

     (1) _De Augmentis_, Lib. 8. Cap. 3. Aph. 69.

{450}us far above vulgar wants. The aim of the Baconian philosophy was
to supply our vulgar wants. The former aim was noble; but the latter was

Plato drew a good bow; but, like Acestes in Virgil, he aimed at the
stars; and therefore, though there was no want of strength or skill,
the shot was thrown away. His arrow was indeed followed by a track of
dazzling radiance, but it struck nothing.

               “Volans liquidis in nubibus arsit arundo

               Signavitque viam flammis, tennisque recessit

               Consunipta in ventos.”

Bacon fixed his eye on a mark which was placed on the earth, and within
bow-shot, and hit it in the white. The philosophy of Plato began in
words and ended in words, noble words indeed, words such as were to
be expected from the finest of human intellects exercising boundless
dominion over the finest of human languages. The philosophy of Bacon
began in observations and ended in arts.

The boast of the ancient philosophers was that their doctrine formed the
minds of men to a high degree of wisdom and virtue. This was indeed the
only practical good which the most celebrated of those teachers even
pretended to effect; and undoubtedly, if they had effected this, they
would have deserved far higher praise than if they had discovered the
most salutary medicines or constructed the most powerful machines. But
the truth is that, in those very matters in which alone they professed
to do any good to mankind, in those very matters for the sake of which
they neglected all the vulgar interests of mankind, they did nothing, or
worse than nothing. They promised what was impracticable; they despised
what was practicable; they {460}filled the world with long words and
long beards; and they left it as wicked and as ignorant as they found

An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia. The
smallest actual good is better than the most magnificent promises
of impossibilities. The wise man of the Stoics would, no doubt, be a
grander object than a steam-engine. But there are steam-engines. And
the wise man of the Stoics is yet to be born. A philosophy which should
enable a man to feel perfectly happy while in agonies of pain would be
better than a philosophy which assuages pain. But we know that there
are remedies which will assuage pain and we know that the ancient sages
liked the toothache just as little as their neighbours. A philosophy
which should extinguish cupidity would be better than a philosophy which
should devise laws for the security of property. But it is possible to
make laws which shall, to a very great extent, secure property. And we
do not understand how any motives which the ancient philosophy furnished
could extinguish cupidity. Mre know indeed that the philosophers were no
better than other men. From the testimony of friends as well as of foes,
from the confessions of Epictetus and Seneca, as well as from the sneers
of Lucian and the fierce invectives of Juvenal, it is plain that these
teachers of virtue had all the vices of their neighbours, with the
additional vice of hypocrisy. Some people may think the object of the
Baconian philosophy a low object, but they cannot deny that, high or
low, it has been attained. They cannot deny that every year makes an
addition to what Bacon called “fruit.” They cannot deny that mankind
have made, and are making, great and constant progress in the road which
he pointed out to them. Was {461}there any such progressive movement
among the ancient philosophers? After they had been declaiming eight
hundred years, had they made the world better than when they began?
Our belief is that, among the philosophers themselves, instead of a
progressive improvement there was a progressive degeneracy. An abject
superstition which Democritus or Anaxagoras would have rejected with
scorn added the last disgrace to the long dotage of the Stoic and
Platonic schools. Those unsuccessful attempts to articulate which are
so delightful and interesting in a child shock and disgust us in an aged
paralytic; and in the same way, those wild mythological fictions which
charm us, when we hear them lisped by Greek poetry in its infancy,
excite a mixed sensation of pity and loathing, when mumbled by Greek
philosophy in its old age. We know that guns, cutlery, spy-glasses,
clocks, are better in our time than they were in the time of our
fathers, and were better in the time of our fathers than they were in
the time of our grandfathers. We might, therefore, be inclined to think
that, when a philosophy which boasted that its object was the elevation
and purification of the mind, and which for this object neglected the
sordid office of ministering to the comforts of the body, had flourished
in the highest honour during many hundreds of years, a vast moral
amelioration must have taken place. Was it so? Look at the schools of
this wisdom four centuries before the Christian era and four centuries
after that era. Compare the men whom those schools formed at those two
periods. Compare Plato and Libanius. Compare Pericles and Julian. This
philosophy confessed, nay boasted, that for every end but one it was
useless. Had it attained that one end? {462}Suppose that Justinian, when
he closed the schools of Athens, had called on the last few sages who
still haunted the Portico, and lingered round the ancient plane-trees,
to show their title to public veneration: suppose that he had said; “A
thousand years have elapsed since, in this famous city, Socrates posed
Protagoras and Hippias; during those thousand years a large proportion
of the ablest men of every generation has been employed in constant
efforts to bring to perfection the philosophy which you teach; that
philosophy has been munificently patronised by the powerful; its
professors have been held in the highest esteem by the public; it has
drawn to itself almost all the sap and vigour of the human intellect:
and what has it effected? What profitable truth has it taught us which
we should not equally have known without it? What has it enabled us to
do which we should not have been equally able to do without it?” Such
questions, we suspect, would have puzzled Simplicius and Isidore. Ask a
follower of Bacon what the new philosophy, as it was called in the
time of Charles the Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer
is ready; “It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has
extinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it
has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to
the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of
form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously
from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour
of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has
multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion;
it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse,
correspondence, all friendly offices, all despatch of business; it has
{463}enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the
air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to
traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, and the
ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These
are but a part of its fruits, and of its first fruits. For it is a
philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never
perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is
its goal to-day, and will be its starting-post to-morrow.”

Great and various as the powers of Bacon were, he owes his wide and
durable fame chiefly to this, that all those powers received their
direction from common sense. His love of the vulgar useful, his strong
sympathy with the popular notions of good and evil, and the openness
with which he avowed that sympathy, are the secret of his influence.
There was in his system no cant, no illusion. He had no anointing for
broken hones, no fine theories _de finibus_, no arguments to persuade
men out of their senses. He knew that men, and philosophers as well as
other men, do actually love life, health, comfort, honour, security,
the society of friends, and do actually dislike death, sickness, pain,
poverty, disgrace, danger, separation from those to whom they are
attached. He knew that religion, though it often regulates and moderates
these feelings, seldom eradicates them; nor did he think it desirable
for mankind that they should be eradicated. The plan of eradicating
them by conceits like those of Seneca, or syllogisms like those of
Chrysippus, was too preposterous to be for a moment entertained by
a mind like his. He did not understand what wisdom there could be in
changing names where it was impossible to change things; in denying that
blindness, hunger, the gout, {464}the rack, were evils, and calling them
[Greek], in refusing to acknowledge that health, safety, plenty, were
good things, and dubbing them by the name of [Greek]. In his opinions
on all these subjects, he was not a Stoic, nor an Epicurean, nor an
Academic, but what would have been called by Stoics, Epicureans, and
Academics a mere a mere common man. And it was precisely because he was
so that his name makes so great an era in the history of the world. It
was because he dug deep that he was able to pile high. It was because,
in order to lay his foundations, he went down into those parts of human
nature which lie low, but which are not liable to change, that the
fabric which he reared has risen to so stately an elevation, and stands
with such immovable strength.

We have sometimes thought that an amusing fiction might be written,
in which a disciple of Epictetus and a disciple of Bacon should be
introduced as fellow-travellers. They come to a village where the
small-pox has just begun to rage, and find houses shut up, intercourse
suspended, the sick abandoned, mothers weeping in terror over their
children. The Stoic assures the dismayed population that there
is nothing bad in the small-pox, and that to a wise man, disease,
deformity, death, the loss of friends, are not evils. The Baconian takes
ont a lancet and begins to vaccinate. They find a body of miners in
great dismay. An explosion of noisome vapours has just killed many of
those who were at work; and the survivors are afraid to venture into the
cavern. The Stoic assures them that such an accident is nothing but a
mere [Greek]. The Baconian, who has no such fine word at his command,
contents himself with devising a safety-lamp. They find a shipwrecked
merchant wringing his hands on the shore. {465}His vessel with an
inestimable cargo has just gone down, and lie is reduced in a moment
from opulence to beggary. The Stoic exhorts him not to seek happiness
in things which lie without himself, and repeats the whole chapter of
Epictetus [Greek]. The Baconian constructs a diving-bell, goes down in
it, and returns with the most precious effects from the wreck. It
would be easy to multiply illustrations of the difference between the
philosophy of thorns and the philosophy of fruit, the philosophy of
words and the philosophy of works.

Bacon has been accused of overrating the importance of those sciences
which minister to the physical well-being of man, and of underrating the
importance of moral philosophy; and it cannot be denied that persons who
read the _Novum Organam_ and the _De Augmentis_, without adverting to
the circumstances under which those works were written, will find much
that may seem to countenance the accusation. It is certain, however,
that though in practice he often went very wrong, and though, as his
historical work and his essays prove, he did not hold, even in theory,
very strict opinions on points of political morality, he was far too
wise a man not to know how much our wellbeing depends on the regulation
of our minds. The world for which he wished was not, as some people
seem to imagine, a world of water-wheels, power-looms, steam-carriages,
sensualists, and knaves. He would have been as ready as Zeno himself to
maintain that no bodily comforts which could be devised by the skill and
labour of a hundred generations would give happiness to a man whose mind
was under the tyranny of licentious appetite, of envy, of hatred, or
of fear. If he sometimes appeared to ascribe importance {466}too
exclusively to the arts which increase the outward comforts of
our species, the reason is plain. Those arts had been most unduly
depreciated. They had been represented as unworthy the attention of a
man of liberal education. “Cogitavit,” says Bacon of himself, “cam
esse opinionem sire æstilnationem humidam et dainnosam, minni nempe
majestatem mentis luminanæ, si in experimentis et rebus particularibus,
sensui subjectis, et in materia terminatis, din ac multum versetur:
præsertim cum hujusmodi res ad inquirendum laborioue ad meditandum
ignobiles, ad discendum asperre, ad practicam illiberales, numéro
infinitæ, et subtilitate pusillæ videri soleant, et ob hujusmodi
conditiones, glorio artium minus sint accommodate.” (1) This opinion
seemed to him “omnia in familia humana turbasse.” It had undoubtedly
caused many arts which were of the greatest utility, and which
were susceptible of the greatest improvements, to be neglected by
speculators, and abandoned to joiners, masons, smiths, weavers,
apothecaries. It was necessary to assert the dignity of those arts, to
bring them prominently forward, to proclaim that, as they have a
most serious effect on human happiness, they are not unworthy of
the attention of the highest human intellects. Again, it was by
illustrations drawn from these arts that Bacon could most easily
illustrate his principles. It was by improvements effected in these
arts that the soundness of his principles could be most speedily
and decisively brought to the test, and made manifest to common
understandings. He acted like a wise commander who thins every other

     (1) _Cogitata_. The expression _opinio humida_ may surprise
     a reader not accustomed to Bacon’s style. The allusion is to
     the maxim of Heraclitus the obscure: “Dry light is the
     best.” By dry light, Bacon understood the light of the
     intellect, not obscured by the mists of passion, interest,
     or prejudice

{467}part of his line to strengthen a point where the enemy is attacking
with peculiar fury, and on the fate of which the event of the battle
seems likely to depend. In the _Novum Organum_, however, he distinctly
and most truly declares that his philosophy is no less a Moral than
a Natural Philosophy, that, though his illustrations are drawn from
physical science, the principles which those illustrations are intended
to explain are just as applicable to ethical and political inquiries as
to inquiries into the nature of heat and vegetation. (1)

He frequently treated of moral subjects; and he brought to those
subjects that spirit which was the essence of his whole system. He has
left us many admirable practicable observations on what he somewhat
quaintly called the Georgies of the mind, on the mental culture which
tends to produce good dispositions. Some persons, he said, might accuse
him of spending labour on a matter so simple that his predecessors had
passed it by with contempt. He desired such persons to remember that
he had from the first announced the objects of his search to be not
the splendid and the surprising, but the useful and the true, not the
deluding dreams which go forth through the shining portal of ivory, but
the humbler realities of the gate of horn. (2)

True to this principle, he indulged in no rants about the fitness of
things, the all-sufficiency of virtue, and the dignity of human nature.
He dealt not at all in resounding nothings, such as those with which
Boling-broke pretended to comfort himself in exile, and in which Cicero
vainly sought consolation after the loss of Tullia. The casuistical
subtilties which occupied the

     (1) _Novum Organum_, Lib. 1. Aph. 127.

     (2) _De Augmentis_, Lib. 7. Cap. 3.

{468}attention of the keenest spirits of his age had, it should seem, no
attractions for him. The doctors whom Escobar afterwards compared to
the four beasts and the four-and-twenty elders in the Apocalypse Bacon
dismissed with most contemptuous brevity. “Inanes plerumque evadunt
et futiles.” (1) Nor did he ever meddle with those enigmas which have
puzzled hundreds of generations, and will puzzle hundreds more. He said
nothing about the grounds of moral obligation, or the freedom of
the human will. He had no inclination to employ himself in labours
resembling those of the damned in the Grecian Tartarus, to spin for ever
on the same wheel round the same pivot, to gape for ever after the
same deluding clusters, to pour water for ever into the same bottomless
buckets, to pace for ever to and fro on the same wearisome path after
the same recoiling stone. He exhorted his disciples to prosecute
researches of a very different description, to consider moral science
as a practical science, a science of which the object was to cure the
diseases and perturbations of the mind, and which could be improved only
by a method analogous to that which has improved medicine and surgery.
Moral philosophers ought, he said, to set themselves vigorously to work
for the purpose of discovering what are the actual effects produced on
the human character by particular modes of education, by the indulgence
of particular habits, by the study of particular books, by society, by
emulation, by imitation. Then we might hope to find out what mode of
training was most likely to preserve and restore moral health. (2)

What he was as a natural philosopher and a moral philosopher, that he
was also as a theologian. He was,

     (1) _Ib_., Lib. 7. Cap. 2.

     (2) _De Augmentis_, Lib. 7. Cap. 3.

{469}we are convinced, a sincere believer in the divine authority of the
Christian revelation. Nothing can be found in his writings, or in any
other writings, more eloquent and pathetic than some passages which were
apparently written under the influence of strong devotional feeling.
He loved to dwell on the power of the Christian religion to effect much
that the ancient philosophers could only promise. He loved to consider
that religion as the bond of charity, the curb of evil passions, the
consolation of the wretched, the support of the timid, the hope of the
dying. But controversies on speculative points of theology seem to
have engaged scarcely any portion of his attention. In what he wrote
on Church Government he showed, as far as he dared, a tolerant and
charitable spirit. He troubled himself not at all about Homoousians and
Homoionsians, Monothelites and Nestorians. He lived in an age in which
disputes on the most subtle points of divinity excited an intense
interest throughout Europe, and nowhere more than in England. He was
placed in the very thick of the conflict. He was in power at the time
of the Synod of Dort, and must for months have been daily deafened with
talk about election, reprobation, and final perseverance. Yet we do not
remember a line in his works from which it can be inferred that he was
either a Calvinist or an Arminian. While the world was resounding with
the noise of a disputatious philosophy and a disputatious theology,
the Baconian school, like Alworthy seated between Square and Thwackum,
preserved a calm neutrality, half scornful, half benevolent, and,
content with adding to the sum of practical good, left the war of words
to those who liked it.

We have dwelt long on the end of the Baconian {470}philosophy, because
from this peculiarity all the other peculiarities of that philosophy
necessarily arose. Indeed, scarcely any person who proposed to himself
the same end with Bacon could fail to hit upon the same means.

The vulgar notion about Bacon we take to be this, that he invented a new
method of arriving at truth, which method is called Induction, and that
he detected some fallacy in the syllogistic reasoning which had been in
vogue before his time. This notion is about as well founded as that of
the people who, in the middle ages, imagined that Virgil was a great
conjurer. Many who are far too well informed to talk such extravagant
nonsense entertain what we think incorrect notions as to what Bacon
really effected in this matter.

The inductive method has been practised ever since the beginning of
the world by every human being. It is constantly practised by the most
ignorant clown, by the most thoughtless schoolboy, by the very child
at the breast. That method leads the clown to the conclusion that if he
sows barley he shall not reap wheat. By that method the schoolboy learns
that a cloudy day is the best for catching trout. The very infant, we
imagine, is led by induction to expect milk from his mother or nurse,
and none from his father.

Not only is it not true that Bacon invented the inductive method; but
it is not true that he was the first person who correctly analysed that
method and explained its uses. Aristotle had long before pointed out the
absurdity of supposing that syllogistic reasoning could ever conduct men
to the discovery of any new principle, had shown that such discoveries
must be made by induction, and by induction alone, and had given the
history of the inductive process, concisely indeed, but with great
perspicuity and precision. {471}Again, we are not inclined to ascribe
much practical value to that analysis of the inductive method which
Bacon has given in the second book of the _Novum Organum_. It is indeed
an elaborate and correct analysis. But it is an analysis of that which
we are all doing from morning to night, and which we continue to do
even in our dreams. A plain man finds his stomach out of order. He never
heard Lord Bacon’s name. But he proceeds in the strictest conformity
with the rules laid down in the second book of the Novum Organum, and
satisfies himself that minced pies have done the mischief. “I ate minced
pies on Monday and Wednesday, and I was kept awake by indigestion
all night.” This is the comparentia ad intellectual instantiarum
convenientium. “I did not eat any on Tuesday and Friday, and I was quite
well.” This is the comparentia instantiarum in proximo qua natura
data privantur. “I ate very sparingly of them on Sunday, and was very
slightly indisposed in the evening. But on Christmas-day I almost
dined on them, and was so ill that I was in great danger.” This is the
_comparentia instantiarum secundum magis et minus_. “It cannot have been
the brandy which I took with them. For I have drunk brandy daily for
years without being the worse for it.” This is the _rejectio naturarum_.
Our invalid then proceeds to what is termed by Bacon the _Vindemiatio_,
and pronounces that minced pies do not agree with him.

We repeat that we dispute neither the ingenuity nor the accuracy of the
theory contained in the second book of the _Novum Organum_; but we think
that Bacon greatly overrated its utility. We conceive that the inductive
process, like many other processes, is not likely to be better performed
merely because men know {472}how they perform it. William Tell would not
have been one whit more likely to cleave the apple if he had known
that his arrow would describe a parabola under the influence of the
attraction of the earth. Captain Barclay would not have been more likely
to walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours, if he had known the place
and name of every muscle in his legs. Monsieur Jourdain probably did not
pronounce D and F more correctly after he had been apprised that D is
pronounced by touching the teeth with the end of the tongue, and F by
putting the upper teeth on the lower lip. We cannot perceive that the
study of Grammar makes the smallest difference in the speech of people
who have always lived in good society. Not one Londoner in ten thousand
can lay down the rules for the proper use of will and shall. Yet not
one Londoner in a million ever misplaces his will and shall. Doctor
Robertson could, undoubtedly, have written a luminous dissertation on
the use of’ those words. Yet, even in his latest work, he sometimes
misplaced them ludicrously. No man uses figures of speech with more
propriety because he knows that one figure is called a metonymy and
another a synecdoche. A drayman in a passion calls out, “You are a
pretty fellow,” without suspecting that he is uttering irony, and that
irony is one of the four primary tropes. The old systems of rhetoric
were never regarded by the most experienced and discerning judges as of
any use for the purpose of forming an orator-“Ego liane vim intelligo,”
 said Cicero, “esse in præceptis omnibus, non ut ea secuti oratores
eloquentiæ landem sint adepti, sed quæ sua sponte homines éloquentes
facerent, ea quosdam observasse, atque id egisse; sic esse non
eloquentiam ex artificio, sed artificium ex eloqnentia natum.” We must
own that we {473}entertain the same opinion concerning the study of
Logic which Cicero entertained concerning the study of Rhetoric. A
man of sense syllogizes in _celarent_ and sesare all day long without
suspecting it; and, though he may not know what an _ignoratio clenchi_
is, has no difficulty in exposing it whenever he falls in with it; which
is likely to be as often as he falls in with a Reverend Master of Arts
nourished on mode and figure in the cloisters of Oxford. Considered
merely as an intellectual feat, the _Organum_ of Aristotle can
scarcely be admired too highly. But the more we compare individual with
individual, school with school, nation with nation, generation with
generation, the more do we lean to the opinion that the knowledge of the
theory of logic has no tendency whatever to make men good reasoners.

What Aristotle did for the syllogistic process Bacon has, in the second
book of the _Novum Organum_, done for the inductive process; that is to
say, he has analysed it well. His rules are quite proper; but we do not
need them, because they are drawn from our own constant practice.

But, though everybody is constantly performing the process described
in the second book of the _Novum Organum_, some men perform it well and
some perform it ill. Some are led by it to truth, and some to error. It
led Franklin to discover the nature of lightning. It led thousands, who
had less brains than Franklin, to believe in animal magnetism. But this
was not because Franklin went through the process described by Bacon,
and the dupes of Mesmer through a different process. The _comparentiæ_
and _rejectiones_ of which we have given examples will be found in the
most unsound inductions. We have heard that an eminent judge of {474}the
last generation was in the habit of jocosely propounding after dinner a
theory, that the cause of the prevalence of Jacobinism was the practice
of bearing three names. He quoted on the one side Charles James Fox,
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Horne Tooke, John Philpot Curran,
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Theobald Wolfe Tone. These were _instantiae
convenientes_. He then proceeded to cite instances _absentio in
proximo_, William Pitt, John Scott, William Windham, Samuel Horsley,
Henry Dundas, Edmund Burke. He might have gone on to instances _secundum
magis et minus_. The practice of giving children three names has been
for some time a growing practice, and Jacobinism has also been growing.
The practice of giving children three names is more common in America
than in England. In England we still have a King and a House of Lords;
but the Americans are republicans. The rejectiones are obvious. Burke
and Theobald Wolfe Tone are both Irishmen; therefore the being an
Irishman is not the cause of Jacobinism. Horsley and Horne Tooke are
both clergymen; therefore the being a clergyman is not the cause of
Jacobinism. Fox and Windham were both educated at Oxford; therefore the
being educated at Oxford is not the cause of Jacobinism. Pitt and Horne
Tooke were both educated at Cambridge; therefore the being educated at
Cambridge is not the cause of Jacobinism. In this way, our inductive
philosopher arrives at what Bacon calls the Vintage, and pronounces that
the having three names is the cause of Jacobinism.

Here is an induction corresponding with Bacon’s analysis and ending in
a monstrous absurdity. In what then does this induction differ from the
induction which leads us to the conclusion that the presence {475}of
the sun is the cause of our having more light by day than by night? The
difference evidently is not in the kind of instances, but in the number
of instances; that is to say, the difference is not in that part of the
process for which Bacon has given precise rules, but in a circumstance
for which no precise rule can possibly be given. If the learned author
of the theory about Jacobinism had enlarged either of his tables a
little, his system would have been destroyed. The names of Tom Paine and
William Wyndham Grenville would have been sufficient to do the work.

It appears to us, then, that the difference between a sound and unsound
induction does not lie in this, that the author of the sound induction
goes through the process analysed in the second book of the _Novum
Organum_, and the author of the unsound induction through a different
process. They both perform the same process. But one performs it
foolishly or carelessly; the other performs it with patience, attention,
sagacity, and judgment. Now precepts can do little towards making men
patient and attentive, and still less towards making them sagacious
and judicious. It is very well to tell men to be on their guard against
prejudices, not to believe facts on slight evidence, not to be content
with a scanty collection of facts, to put out of their minds the _idola_
which Bacon has so finely described. But these rules are too general to
be of much practical use. The question is, What is a prejudice? How long
does the incredulity with which I hear a new theory propounded continue
to be a wise and salutary incredulity? When does it become an _idolum
specus_, the unreasonable pertinacity of a too sceptical mind? What is
slight evidence? What collection of facts is scanty? Will ten instances
do, or fifty, or a hundred? In how many {476}months would the first
human beings who settled on the shores of the ocean have been justified
in believing that the moon had an influence on the tides? After how many
experiments would Jenner have been justified in believing that he had
discovered a safeguard against the small-pox? These are questions to
which it would be most desirable to have a precise answer; but unhappily
they are questions to which no precise answer can be returned.

We think then that it is possible to lay down accurate rules, as Bacon
has done, for the performing of that part of the inductive process which
all men perform alike; but that these rules, though accurate, are not
wanted, because in truth they only tell us to do what we are all doing.
We think that it is impossible to lay down any precise rule for
the performing of that part of the inductive process which a great
experimental philosopher performs in one way, and a superstitious old
woman in another.

On this subject, we think, Bacon was in an error. He certainly
attributed to his rules a value which did not belong to them. He went so
far as to say, that, if his method of making discoveries were adopted,
little would depend on the degree of force or acuteness of any
intellect; that all minds would be reduced to one level, that his
philosophy resembled a compass or a rule which equalises all hands, and
enables the most unpractised person to draw a more correct circle or
line than the best draughtsmen can produce without such aid. (1) This
really seems to us as extravagant as it would have been in Lindley
Murray to announce that everybody who should learn his Grammar would
write as good English as Dryden, or in that very able writer,

     (1) _Novum Organum_, Præf. and Lib. 1. Aph. 122.

{477}the Archbishop of Dublin, to promise that all the readers of his
Logic would reason like Chillingworth, and that all the readers of his
Rhetoric would speak like Burke. That Bacon was altogether mistaken as
to this point will now hardly be disputed. His philosophy has flourished
during two hundred years, and has produced none of this levelling. The
interval between a man of talents and a dunce is as wide as ever; and is
never more clearly discernible than when they engage in researches which
require the constant use of induction.

It will be seen that we do not consider Bacon’s ingenious analysis of
the inductive method as a very useful performance. Bacon was not, as we
have already said, the inventor of the inductive method. He was not even
the person who first analysed the inductive method correctly, though he
undoubtedly analysed it more minutely than any who preceded him. He was
not the person who first showed that by the inductive method alone new
truth could be discovered. But he was the person who first turned the
minds of speculative men, long occupied in verbal disputes, to the
discovery of new and useful truth; and, by doing so, he at once gave to
the inductive method an importance and dignity which had never before
belonged to it. He was not the maker of that road; he was not the
discoverer of that road; he was not the person who first surveyed and
mapped that road. But he was the person who first called the public
attention to an inexhaustible mine of wealth, which had been utterly
neglected, and which was accessible by that road alone. By doing so, he
caused that road, which had previously been trodden only by peasants and
higglers, to be frequented by a higher class of travellers.

That which was eminently his own in his system {478}was the end which
he proposed to himself. The end being given, the means, as it appears to
us, could not well be mistaken. If others had aimed at the same object
with Bacon, we hold it to be certain that they would have employed the
same method with Bacon. It would have been hard to convince Seneca
that the inventing of a safety-lamp was an employment worthy of a
philosopher. It would have been hard to persuade Thomas Aquinas to
descend from the making of syllogisms to the making of gunpowder. But
Seneca would never have doubted for a moment that it was only by means
of a series of experiments that a safety-lamp could be invented. Thomas
Aquinas would never have thought that his _barbara_ and _baralipton_
would enable him to ascertain the proportion which charcoal ought to
bear to saltpetre in a pound of gunpowder. Neither common sense nor
Aristotle would have suffered him to fall into such an absurdity.

By stimulating men to the discovery of new truth, Bacon stimulated
them to employ the inductive method, the only method, even the ancient
philosophers and the schoolmen themselves being judges, by which new
truth can be discovered. By stimulating men to the discovery of useful
truth, he furnished them with a motive to perform the inductive process
well and carefully. His predecessors had been, in his phrase, not
interpreters, but anticipators of nature. They had been content with
the first principles at which they had arrived by the most scanty and
slovenly induction. And why was this? It was, we conceive, because their
philosophy proposed to itself no practical end, because it was merely an
exercise of the mind. A man who wants to contrive a new machine or a new
medicine has a strong motive to observe accurately and {479}patiently,
and to try experiment after experiment. But a man who merely wants a
theme for disputation or declamation has no such motive. He is therefore
content with premises grounded on assumption, or on the most scanty
and hasty induction. Thus, we conceive, the schoolmen acted. On their
foolish premises they often argued with great ability; and as their
object was “assensum subjugare, non res,” (1) to be victorious in
controversy, not to be victorious over nature, they were consistent. For
just as much logical skill could be shown in reasoning on false as on
true premises. But the followers of the new philosophy, proposing to
themselves the discovery of useful truth as their object, must have
altogether failed of attaining that object if they had been content to
build theories on superficial induction.

Bacon has remarked (2) that in ages when philosophy was stationary, the
mechanical arts went on improving. Why was this? Evidently because the
mechanic was not content with so careless a mode of induction as served
the purpose of the philosopher. And why was the philosopher more
easily satisfied than the mechanic? Evidently because the object of the
mechanic was to mould things, whilst the object of the philosopher was
only to mould words. Careful induction is not at all necessary to the
making of a good syllogism. But it is indispensable to the making of a
good shoe. Mechanics, therefore, have always been, as far as the range
of their humble but useful callings extended, not anticipators but
interpreters of nature. And when a philosophy arose, the object of which
was to do on a large scale what the mechanic does on a small scale, to

     (1) _Novum Organum_, Lib. 1. Aph. 29.

     (2) _De Augmentis_, Lib. 1.

{480}extend the power and to supply the wants of man, the truth of the
premises, which logically is a matter altogether unimportant, became a
matter of the highest importance; and the careless induction with which
men of learning had previously been satisfied gave place, of necessity,
to an induction far more accurate and satisfactory.

What Bacon did for inductive philosophy may, we think, be fairly stated
thus. The objects of preceding speculators were objects which could be
attained without careful induction. Those speculators, therefore, did
not perform the inductive process carefully. Bacon stirred up men to
pursue an object which could be attained only by induction, and by
induction carefully performed; and consequently induction was more
carefully performed. We do not think that the importance of what Bacon
did for inductive philosophy has ever been overrated. But we think
that the nature of his services is often mistaken, and was not fully
understood even by himself. It was not by furnishing philosophers with
rules for performing the inductive process well, but by furnishing
them with a motive for performing it well, that he conferred so vast a
benefit on society.

To give to the human mind a direction which it shall retain for ages is
the rare prerogative of a few imperial spirits. It cannot, therefore,
be uninteresting to inquire what was the moral and intellectual
constitution which enabled Bacon to exercise so vast an influence on the

In the temper of Bacon,--we speak of Bacon the philosopher, not of Bacon
the lawyer and politician,--there was a singular union of audacity and
sobriety. The promises which he made to mankind might, to a superficial
reader, seem to resemble the rants which a {481}great dramatist has put
into the mouth of an Oriental conqueror half-crazed by good fortune and
by violent passions.

                   “He shall have chariots easier than air,

                   Which I will have invented; and thyself

                   That art the messenger shall ride before him,

                   On a horse cut out of an entire diamond,

                   That shall be made to go with golden wheels,

                   I know not how yet.”

But Bacon performed what he promised. In truth, Fletcher would not have
dared to make Arbaces promise, in his wildest fits of excitement, the
tithe of what the Baconian philosophy has performed.

The true philosophical temperament may, we think, be described in four
words, much hope, little faith; a disposition to believe that any thing,
however extraordinary, may be done; an indisposition to believe that any
thing extraordinary has been done. In these points the constitution of
Bacon’s mind seems to us to have been absolutely perfect. He was at once
the Mammon and the Surly of his friend Ben. Sir Epicure did not indulge
in visions more magnificent and gigantic. Surly did not sift evidence
with keener and more sagacious incredulity.

Closely connected with this peculiarity of Bacon’s temper was a striking
peculiarity of his understanding. With great minuteness of observation
he had an amplitude of comprehension such as has never yet been
vouchsafed to any other human being. The small fine mind of Labruyère
had not a more delicate tact than the large intellect of Bacon. The
Essays contain abundant proofs that no nice feature of character, no
peculiarity in the ordering of a house, a garden, or a court-masque,
could escape the notice of one whose {482}mind was capable of taking in
the whole world of knowledge. His understanding resembled the tent which
the fairy Paribanou gave to Prince Ahmed. Fold it; and it seemed a toy
for the hand of a lady. Spread it; and the armies of powerful Sultans
might repose beneath its shade.

In keenness of observation he has been equalled, though perhaps never
surpassed. But the largeness of his mind was all his own. The glance
with which he surveyed the intellectual universe resembled that which
the Archangel, from the golden threshold of heaven, darted down into the
new creation.

               ’Round he surveyed,--and well might, where he stood

               So high above the circling canopy

               Of night’s extended shade,--from eastern point

               Of Libra, to the fleecy star which bears

               Andromeda far off Atlantic seas

               Beyond the horizon.”

His knowledge differed from that of other men, as a terrestrial globe
differs from an Atlas which contains a different country on every leaf.
The towns and roads of England, France, and Germany are better laid down
in the Atlas than on the globe. But while we are looking at England we
see nothing of France; and while we are looking at France we see nothing
of Germany. We may go to the Atlas to learn the bearings and distances
of York and Bristol, or of Dresden and Prague. But it is useless if we
want to know the bearings and distances of France and Martinique, or of
England and Canada. On the globe we shall not find all the market towns
in our own neighbourhood; but we shall learn from it the comparative
extent and the relative position of all the kingdoms of the earth.
“I have taken,” said Bacon, in a letter {483}written when he was only
thirty-one, to his uncle Lord Burleigh, “I have taken all knowledge to
be my province.” In any other young man, indeed in any other man, this
would have been a ridiculous flight of presumption. There have been
thousands of better mathematicians, astronomers, chemists, physicians,
botanists, mineralogists, than Bacon. No man would go to Bacon’s works
to learn any particular science or art, any more than he would go to a
twelve-inch globe in order to find his way from Kennington turnpike to
Clapham Common. The art which Bacon taught was the art of inventing
arts. The knowledge in which Bacon excelled all men was a knowledge of
the mutual relations of all departments of knowledge.

The mode in which he communicated his thoughts was peculiar to him. He
had no touch of that disputatious temper which he often censured in his
predecessors. He effected a vast intellectual revolution in opposition
to a vast mass of prejudices; yet he never engaged in any controversy:
nay, we cannot at present recollect, in all his philosophical works, a
single passage of a controversial character. All those works might
with propriety have been put into the form which he adopted in the work
entitled _Cogitata et visa_: “Francisons Baconus sic cogitavit.” These
are thoughts which have occurred to me: weigh them well: and take them
or leave them.

Borgia said of the famous expedition of Charles the Eighth, that the
French had conquered Italy, not with steel, but with chalk; for that the
only exploit which they had found necessary for the purpose of taking
military occupation of any place had been to mark the doors of the
houses where they meant to quarter. Bacon often quoted this saying, and
loved to apply it {484}to the victories of his own intellect. (1) His
philosophy, he said, came as a guest, not as an enemy. She found
no difficulty in gaining admittance, without a contest, into every
understanding fitted, by its structure and by its capacity, to receive
her. In all this we think that he acted most judiciously; first,
because, as he has himself remarked, the difference between his school
and other schools was a difference so fundamental that there was hardly
any common ground on which a controversial battle could be fought; and,
secondly, because his mind, eminently observant, preeminently
discursive and capacious, was, we conceive, neither formed by nature nor
disciplined by habit for dialectical combat.

Though Bacon did not arm his philosophy with the weapons of logic, he
adorned her profusely with all the richest decorations of rhetoric. His
eloquence, though not untainted with the vicious taste of his age, would
alone have entitled him to a high rank in literature. He had a wonderful
talent for packing thought close, and rendering it portable. In wit, if
by wit be meant the power of perceiving analogies between things which
appear to have nothing in common, he never had an equal, not even
Cowley, not even the author of Hudibras. Indeed, he possessed this
faculty, or rather this faculty possessed him, to a morbid degree. When
he abandoned himself to it without reserve, as he did in the _Sapientia
Veterum_, and at the end of the second book of the _De Augmentis_, the
feats which he performed were not merely admirable, but portentous,
and almost shocking. On these occasions we marvel at him as clowns on
a fair-day marvel at a juggler, and can hardly help thinking that the
devil must be in him.

      (1) _Novum Organum_, Lib. 1. Aph. 35. and elsewhere.

{485}These, however, were freaks in which his ingenuity now and then
wantoned, with scarcely any other object than to astonish and amuse. But
it occasionally happened that, when he was engaged in grave and
profound investigations, his wit obtained the mastery over all his other
faculties, and led him into absurdities into which no dull man could
possibly have fallen. We will give the most striking instance which at
present occurs to us. In the third book of the _De Augmentis_ he tells
us that there are some principles which are not peculiar to one science,
but are common to several. That part of philosophy which concerns
itself with these principles is, in his nomenclature, designated as
_philosophia prima_. He then proceeds to mention some of the principles
with which this _philosophia prima_ is conversant. One of them is this.
An infectious disease is more likely to be communicated while it is in
progress than when it has reached its height. This, says he, is true in
medicine. It is also true in morals; for we see that the example of very
abandoned men injures public morality less than the example of men in
whom vice has not yet extinguished all good qualities. Again, he tells
us that in music a discord ending in a concord is agreeable, and that
the same thing may be noted in the affections. Once more, he tells
us, that in physics the energy with which a principle acts is often
increased by the antiperistasis of its opposite; and that it is
the same in the contests of factions. If the making of ingenious and
sparkling similitudes like these be indeed the _philosophia prima_, we
are quite sure that the greatest philosophical work of the nineteenth
century is Mr. Moore’s Lalla Rookh. The similitudes which we have cited
are very happy similitudes. But that a man like Bacon should have taken
them for more, that he should have thought the {486}discovery of such
resemblances as these an important part of philosophy, has always
appeared to us one of the most singular facts in the history of letters.

The truth is that his mind was wonderfully quick in perceiving analogies
of all sorts. But, like several eminent men whom we could name, both
living and dead, he sometimes appeared strangely deficient in the power
of distinguishing rational from fanciful analogies, analogies which are
arguments from analogies which are mere illustrations, analogies like
that which Bishop Butler so ably pointed out, between natural and
revealed religion, from analogies like that which Addison discovered,
between the series of Grecian gods carved by Phidias and the series of
English kings painted by Kneller. This want of discrimination has led to
many strange political speculations. Sir William Temple deduced a theory
of government from the properties of the pyramid. Mr. Southey’s whole
system of finance is grounded on the phænomena of evaporation and rain.
In theology, this perverted ingenuity has made still wilder work. From
the time of Iremeus and Origen down to the present day, there has not
been a single generation in which great divines have not been led
into the most absurd expositions of Scripture, by mere incapacity
to distinguish analogies proper, to use the scholastic phrase, from
analogies metaphorical. (1) It is curious that Bacon has himself
mentioned this very kind of delusion among the _idola specus_; and has
mentioned in language which, we are inclined to think, shows that he
knew himself to be subject to it. It is the vice, he tells us, of subtle
minds to attach too much importance to slight distinctions; it, is the
vice, on the other hand, of high and discursive

     (1) See some interesting remark? on this subject in Bishop
     Berkeley’s Minute Philosopher, Dialogue IV.

{487}intellects to attach too much importance to slight resemblances;
and he adds that, when this last propensity is indulged to excess, it
leads men to catch at shadows instead of substances. (1)

Yet we cannot wish that Bacon’s wit had been less luxuriant. For, to say
nothing of the pleasure which it affords, it was in the vast majority of
cases employed for the purpose of making obscure truth plain, of making
repulsive truth attractive, of fixing in the mind forever truth which
might otherwise have left but a transient impression.

The poetical faculty was powerful in Bacon’s mind, but not, like his
wit, so powerful as occasionally to usurp the place of his reason, and
to tyrannize over the whole man. No imagination was ever at once so
strong and so thoroughly subjugated. It never stirred but at a signal
from good sense. It stopped at the first check from good sense. Yet,
though disciplined to such obedience, it gave noble proofs of its
vigour. In truth, much of Bacon’s life was passed in a visionary world,
amidst things as strange as any that are described in the Arabian Tales,
or in those romances on which the curate and barber of Don Quixote’s
village performed so cruel an auto-de-fe, amidst buildings more
sumptuous than the palace of Aladdin, fountains more wonderful than the
golden water of Parizade, conveyances more rapid than the hippogryph of
Ruggiero, arms more formidable than the lance of Astolfo, remedies
more efficacious than the balsam of Fierabras. Yet in his magnificent
day-dreams there was nothing wild, nothing but what sober reason
sanctioned. He knew that all the secrets feigned by poets to have been
written in the books of enchanters are worthless when compared

     (1) _Novum Organum_, Lib. 1. Aph. 55.

{488}with the mighty secrets which are really written in the book of
nature, and which, with time and patience, will be read there. He knew
that all the wonders wrought by all the talismans in fable were trifles
when compared to the wonders which might reasonably be expected from the
philosophy of fruit, and that, if his words sank deep into the minds of
men, they would produce effects such as superstition had never ascribed
to the incantations of Merlin and Michael Scot. It was here that he
loved to let his imagination loose. He loved to picture to himself
the world as it would be when his philosophy should, in his own noble
phrase, “have enlarged the bounds of human empire.” (1) We might refer
to many instances. But we will content ourselves with the strongest,
the description of the House of Solomon in the New Atlantis. By most of
Bacon’s contemporaries, and by some people of our time, this remarkable
passage would, we doubt not, be considered as an ingenious rodomontade,
a counterpart to the adventures of Sinbad or Baron Munchausen. The truth
is, that there is not to be found in any human composition a passage
more eminently distinguished by profound and serene wisdom. The boldness
and originality of the fiction is far less wonderful than the nice
discernment which carefully excluded from that long list of prodigies
every thing that can be pronounced impossible, every thing that can be
proved to lie beyond the mighty magic of induction and of time. Already
some parts, and not the least startling parts, of this glorious prophecy
have been accomplished, even according to the letter; and the whole,
construed according to the spirit, is daily accomplishing all around us.

One of the most remarkable circumstances in the

      (1) New Atlantis.

{489}history of Bacon’s mind is the order in which its powers expanded
themselves. With him the fruit came first and remained till the last;
the blossoms did not appear till late. In general, the development of
the fancy is to the development of the judgment what the growth of a
girl is to the growth of a boy. The fancy attains at an earlier period
to the perfection of its beauty, its power, and its fruitfulness; and,
as it is first to ripen, it is also first to fade. It has generally lost
something of its bloom and freshness before the sterner faculties
have reached maturity; and is commonly withered and barren while those
faculties still retain all their energy. It rarely happens that the
fancy and the judgment grow together. It happens still more rarely that
the judgment grows faster than the fancy. This seems, however, to have
been the case with Bacon. His boyhood and youth appear to have been
singularly sedate. His gigantic scheme of philosophical reform is said
by some writers to have been planned before he was fifteen, and was
undoubtedly planned while he was still young. He observed as vigilantly,
meditated as deeply, and judged as temperately when he gave his first
work to the world as at the close of his long career. But in eloquence,
in sweetness and variety of expression, and in richness of illustration,
his later writings are far superior to those of his youth. In this
respect the history of his mind bears some resemblance to the history
of the mind of Burke. The treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful, though
written on a subject which the coldest metaphysician could hardly treat
without being occasionally betrayed into florid writing, is the most
unadorned of all Burke’s works. It appeared when he was twenty-five or
twenty-six. When, at forty, he wrote the Thoughts on the Causes of the
existing Discontents, {490}his reason and his judgment had readied
their full maturity; but his eloquence was still in its splendid dawn.
At fifty, his rhetoric was quite as rich as good taste would permit; and
when he died, at almost seventy, it had become ungracefully gorgeous. In
his youth he wrote on the emotions produced by mountains and cascades,
by the master-pieces of painting and sculpture, by the faces and necks
of beautiful women, in the style of a Parliamentary report. In his old
age he discussed treaties and tariffs in the most fervid and brilliant
language of romance. It is strange that the Essay on the Sublime and
Beautiful, and the Letter to a Noble Lord, should be the productions of
one man. But it is far more strange that the Essay should have been a
production of his youth, and the Letter of his old age.

We will give very short specimens of Bacon’s two styles. In 1597, he
wrote thus: “Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire them; and
wise men use them; for they teach not their own use: that is a wisdom
without them, and won by observation. Read not to contradict, nor to
believe, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others
to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. Reading maketh
a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. And
therefore if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if
he confer little, have a present wit; and if he read little, have much
cunning to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise, poets
witty, the mathematics subtle, natural philosophy deep, morals grave,
logic and rhetoric able to contend,” It will hardly be disputed that
this is a passage to be “chewed and digested.” We do not believe that
Thucydides himself {491}has anywhere compressed so much thought into so
small a space.

In the additions which Bacon afterwards made to the Essays, there is
nothing superior in truth or weight to what we have quoted. But his
style was constantly becoming richer and softer. The following passage,
first published in 1625, will show the extent of the change: “Prosperity
is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the
New, which carrieth the greater benediction and the clearer evidence of
God’s favour. Yet, even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David’s
harp you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil
of the Holy Ghost hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of
Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears
and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see
in needleworks and embroideries it is more pleasing to have a lively
work upon a sad and solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy
work upon a lightsome ground. Judge therefore of the pleasure of the
heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue is like precious
odours, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed; for prosperity
doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.”

It is by the Essays that Bacon is best known to the multitude. The
_Novum Organum_ and the _De Augmentis_ are much talked of, but little
read. They have produced indeed a vast effect on the opinions of
mankind; but they have produced it through the operation of intermediate
agents. They have moved the intellects which have moved the world. It
is in the Essays alone that the mind of Bacon is brought into immediate
contact with the minds of ordinary readers. There he {492}opens an
exoteric school, and talks to plain men, in language which everybody
understands, about things in which everybody is interested. He has thus
enabled those who must otherwise have taken his merits on trust to
judge for themselves; and the great body of readers have, during
several generations, acknowledged that the man who has treated with such
consummate ability questions with which they are familiar may well be
supposed to deserve all the praise bestowed on him by those who have sat
in his inner school.

Without any disparagement to the admirable treatise _De Augmentis_,
we must say that, in our judgment, Bacon’s greatest performance is
the first book of the _Novum Organum_. All the peculiarities of his
extraordinary mind are found there in the highest perfection. Many of
the aphorisms, but particularly those in which he gives examples of the
influence of the _idola_, show a nicety of observation that has never
been surpassed. Every part of the book blazes with wit, but with wit
which is employed only to illustrate and decorate truth. No book ever
made so great a revolution in the mode of thinking, overthrew so many
prejudices, introduced so many new opinions. Yet no book was ever
written in a less contentious spirit. It truly conquers with chalk and
not with steel. Proposition after proposition enters into the mind,
is received not as an invader, but as a welcome friend, and though
previously unknown, becomes at once domesticated. But what we most
admire is the vast capacity of that intellect which, without effort,
takes in at once all the domains of science, all the past, the
present, and the future, all the errors of two thousand years, all the
encouraging signs of the passing times, all the bright hopes of the
coming age. Cowley, who was among the most ardent, and not {493}among
the least discerning followers of the new philosophy, has, in one of his
finest poems, compared Bacon to Moses standing on Mount Pisgah. It is to
Bacon, we think, as he appears in the first book of the _Novum Organum_,
that the comparison applies with peculiar felicity. There we see the
great Lawgiver looking round from his lonely elevation on an infinite
expanse; behind him a wilderness of dreary sands, and bitter waters, in
which successive generations have sojourned, always moving, yet never
advancing, reaping no harvest, and building no abiding city; before him
a goodly land, a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey.
While the multitude below saw only the flat sterile desert in which
they had so long wandered, bounded on every side by a near horizon,
or diversified only by some deceitful mirage, he was gazing from a far
higher stand on a far lovelier country, following with his eye the long
course of fertilising rivers, through ample pastures, and under the
bridges of great capitals, measuring the distances of marts and havens,
and portioning out all those wealthy regions from Dan to Beersheba.

It is painful to turn back from contemplating Bacon’s philosophy to
contemplate his life. Yet without so turning back it is impossible
fairly to estimate his powers. He left the University at an earlier age
than that at which most people repair thither. While yet a boy he was
plunged into the midst of diplomatic business. Thence he passed to the
study of a vast technical system of law, and worked his way up through a
succession of laborious offices, to the highest post in his profession.
In the mean time he took an active part in every Parliament; he was
an adviser of the Crown: he paid court with the greatest assiduity and
address to {494}all whose favour was likely to be of use to him;
he lived much in society; he noted the slightest peculiarities of
character, and the slightest changes of fashion. Scarcely any man has
led a more stirring life than that which Bacon led from sixteen to
sixty. Scarcely any man has been better entitled to be called a thorough
man of the world. The founding of a new philosophy, the imparting of a
new direction to the minds of speculators, this was the amusement of his
leisure, the work of hours occasionally stolen from the Woolsack and
the Council Board. This consideration, while it increases the admiration
with which we regard his intellect, increases also our regret that such
an intellect should so often have been unworthily employed. He well
knew the better course, and had, at one time, resolved to pursue it. “I
confess,” said he in a letter written when he was still young, “that I
have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends.” Had his
civil ends continued to be moderate, he would have been, not only the
Moses, but the Joshua of philosophy. He would have fulfilled a
large part of his own magnificent predictions. He would have led his
followers, not only to the verge, but into the heart of the promised
land. He would not merely have pointed out, but would have divided the
spoil. Above all, he would have left, not only a great, but a spotless
name. Mankind would then have been able to esteem their illustrious
benefactor. We should not then be compelled to regard his character with
mingled contempt and admiration, with mingled aversion and gratitude.
We should not then regret that there should be so many proofs of the
narrowness and selfishness of a heart, the benevolence of which was yet
large enough to take in all races and all ages. We {495}should not then
have to blush for the disingenuousness of the most devoted worshipper
of speculative truth, for the servility of the boldest champion of
intellectual freedom. We should not then have seen the same man at one
time far in the van, at another time far in the rear of his generation.
We should not then be forced to own that he who first treated
legislation as a science was among the last Englishmen who used the
rack, that he who first summoned philosophers to the great work of
interpreting nature, was among the last Englishmen who sold justice.
And we should conclude our survey of a life placidly, honourably,
beneficently passed, “in industrious observations, grounded conclusions,
and profitable inventions and discoveries,” (1) with feelings very
different from those with which we now turn away from the checkered
spectacle of so much glory and so much shame.

     (1)  From a Letter of Bacon to Lord Burleigh.


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