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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(April 1832)

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

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

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

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

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

Through the whole course of that miserable intrigue which was
carried on round the dying bed of Edward the Sixth, Cecil so
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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The history of the Reformation in England is full of strange
problems. The most prominent and extraordinary phaenomenon
which it presents to us is the gigantic strength of the
government contrasted with the feebleness of the religious
parties. During the twelve or thirteen years which followed the
death of Henry the Eighth, the religion of the state was thrice
changed. Protestantism was established by Edward; the Catholic
Church was restored by Mary; Protestantism was again established
by Elizabeth. The faith of the nation seemed to depend on the
personal inclinations of the sovereign. Nor was this all. An
established church was then, as a matter of course, a persecuting
church. Edward persecuted Catholics. Mary persecuted Protestants.
Elizabeth persecuted Catholics again. The father of those three
sovereigns had enjoyed the pleasure of persecuting both sects at
once, and had sent to death, on the same hurdle, the heretic who
denied the real presence, and the traitor who denied the royal
supremacy. There was nothing in England like that fierce and
bloody opposition which, in France, each of the religious
factions in its turn offered to the government. We had neither a
Coligny nor a Mayenne, neither a Moncontour nor an Ivry. No
English city braved sword and famine for the reformed doctrines
with the spirit of Rochelle, or for the Catholic doctrines with
the spirit of Paris. Neither sect in England formed a League.
Neither sect extorted a recantation from the sovereign. Neither
sect could obtain from an adverse sovereign even a toleration.
The English Protestants, after several years of domination, sank
down with scarcely a struggle under the tyranny of Mary. The

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