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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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circumstance only raises our opinion of the talents which made
such a fight with such scanty means. Let readers who are not
acquainted with the controversy imagine a Frenchman, who has
acquired just English enough to read the Spectator with a
dictionary, coming forward to defend the genuineness of Ireland's
Vortigern against Malone; and they will have some notion of the
feat which Atterbury had the audacity to undertake, and which,
for a time, it was really thought that he had performed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(July 1835)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nun tis enieies Patroklios deilio
Mnisastho pasin gar epistato meilichos einai
Zoos eun' nun d' au Thanatos kai Moira kichanei

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The unconquerable will
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
With courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We do not believe that he could have succeeded. But we do not
think his plan so utterly frantic and hopeless as it has
generally been thought; and we are sure that, if he had been
allowed to gain his first point, the people would have had no
remedy left but an appeal to physical force, which would have
been made under most unfavourable circumstances. He conceived
that the Tories, hampered by their professions of passive
obedience, would have submitted to his pleasure, and that the
Dissenters, seduced by his delusive promises of relief, would
have given him strenuous support. In this way he hoped to obtain
a law, nominally for the removal of all religious disabilities,
but really for the excluding of all Protestants from all offices.
It is never to be forgotten that a prince who has all the
patronage of the State in his hands can, without violating the
letter of the law, establish whatever test he chooses. And, from
the whole conduct of James, we have not the smallest doubt
that he would have availed himself of his power to the utmost.
The statute-book might declare all Englishmen equally capable of
holding office; but to what end, if all offices were in the gift
of a sovereign resolved not to employ a single heretic? We firmly
believe that not one post in the government, in the army, in the
navy, on the bench, or at the bar, not one peerage, nay not one
ecclesiastical benefice in the royal gift, would have been

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