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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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opinion of an event which alone has made us to differ from the
slaves who crouch beneath despotic sceptres. Many evils, no
doubt, were produced by the civil war. They were the price of our
liberty. Has the acquisition been worth the sacrifice? It is the
nature of the Devil of tyranny to tear and rend the body which he
leaves. Are the miseries of continued possession less horrible
than the struggles of the tremendous exorcism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"As ever in his great taskmaster's eye."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(October 1838)

Memoirs of the Life, Works, and Correspondence of Sir William
Temple. By the Right Hon. THOMAS PEREGRINE COURTENAY. Two vols.
8vo. London: 1836.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Che fece per viltate il gran rifiuto."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

England was in a very different situation with respect to foreign
powers from that which she had occupied during the splendid
administration of the Protector. She was engaged in war with the
United Provinces, then governed with almost regal power by the
Grand Pensionary, John de Witt; and though no war had ever cost
the kingdom so much, none had ever been more feebly and meanly
conducted. France had espoused the interests of the States-
General. Denmark seemed likely to take the same side. Spain,
indignant at the close political and matrimonial alliance which
Charles had formed with the House of Braganza, was not disposed
to lend him any assistance. The great plague of London had
suspended trade, had scattered the ministers and nobles, had
paralysed every department of the public service, and had
increased the gloomy discontent which misgovernment had begun to
excite throughout the nation. One continental ally England
possessed, the Bishop of Munster, a restless and ambitious
prelate, bred a soldier, and still a soldier in all his tastes
and passions. He hated the Dutch for interfering in the affairs
of his see, and declared himself willing to risk his little
dominions for the chance of revenge. He sent, accordingly, a
strange kind of ambassador to London, a Benedictine monk, who
spoke bad English, and looked, says Lord Clarendon, "like a
carter." This person brought a letter from the Bishop, offering
to make an attack by land on the Dutch territory. The English
ministers eagerly caught at the proposal, and promised a subsidy
of 5OO,OOO rix-dollars to their new ally. It was determined to
send an English agent to Munster; and Arlington, to whose
department the business belonged, fixed on Temple for this post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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