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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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A French student of English letters (M. Paul Oursel) has written
the following lines:

"Depuis deux siecles les Essais forment une branche importante de
la litterature anglaise; pour designer un ecrivain de cette
classe, nos voisons emploient un mot qui n'a pas d'equivalent en
francais; ils disent: un essayist. Qu'est-ce qu'un essayist?
L'essayist se distingue du moraliste, de l'historien, du critique
litteraire, du biographe, de l'ecrivain politique; et pourtant il
emprunte quelque trait a chacun d'eux; il ressemble tour a tour a
l'un ou a l'autre ; il est aussi philosophe, il est satirique,
humoriste a ses heures; il reunit en sa personne des qualities
multiples; il offre dans ses ecrits un specimen de tous les
genres. On voit qu'il n'est pas facile de definir l'essayist;
mais l'exemple suppleera a la definition. On connaitra exactement
le sens du mot quand on aura etudie l'ecrivain qui, d'apres le
jugement de ces compatriotes, est l'essayist par excellence, ou,
comme on disait dans les anciens cours de litterature, le Prince
des essayists."

Macaulay is indeed the prince of essayists, and his reign is
unchallenged. "I still think--says Professor Saintsbury (Corrected
Impressions, p. 89 f.)--that on any subject which Macaulay has
touched, his survey is unsurpassable for giving a first bird's-
eye view, and for creating interest in the matter. . . . And he
certainly has not his equal anywhere for covering his subject in
the pointing-stick fashion. You need not--you had much better
not--pin your faith on his details, but his Pisgah sights are
admirable. Hole after hole has been picked in the "Clive" and the
"Hastings," the "Johnson" and the "Addison," the "Frederick" and
the "Horace Walpole," yet every one of these papers contains
sketches, summaries, precis, which have not been made obsolete or
valueless by all the work of correction in detail."

Two other appreciations from among the mass of critical
literature that has accumulated round Macaulay's work may be
fitly cited, This from Mr. Frederic Harrison:-

"How many men has Macaulay succeeded in reaching, to whom all
other history and criticism is a sealed book, or a book in an
unknown tongue! If he were a sciolist or a wrongheaded fanatic,
this would be a serious evil. But, as he is substantially right
in his judgments, brimful of saying common-sense and generous
feeling, and profoundly well read in his own periods and his
favourite literature, Macaulay has conferred most memorable
services on the readers of English throughout the world. He
stands between philosophic historians and the public very much as
journals and periodicals stand between the masses and great
libraries. Macaulay is a glorified journalist and reviewer, who
brings the matured results of scholars to the man in the street
in a form that he can remember and enjoy, when he could not make
use of a merely learned book. He performs the office of the
ballad-maker or story-teller in an age before books were known or
were common. And it is largely due to his influence that the best
journals and periodicals of our day are written in a style so
clear, so direct, so resonant."

And this from Mr. Cotter Morison

"Macaulay did for the historical essay what Haydn did for the
sonata, and Watt for the steam engine; he found it rudimentary
and unimportant, and left it complete and a thing of power. . . .
To take a bright period or personage of history, to frame it in a
firm outline, to conceive it at once in article-size, and then to
fill in this limited canvas with sparkling anecdote, telling bits
of colour, and facts, all fused together by a real genius for
narrative, was the sort of genre-painting which Macaulay applied
to history. . . . And to this day his essays remain the best of
their class, not only in England, but in Europe. . . . The best
would adorn any literature, and even the less successful have a
picturesque animation, and convey an impression of power that
will not easily be matched. And, again, we need to bear in mind
that they were the productions of a writer immersed in business,
written in his scanty moments of leisure, when most men would
have rested or sought recreation. Macaulay himself was most
modest in his estimate of their value. . . . It was the public
that insisted on their re-issue, and few would be bold enough to
deny that the public was right."

It is to Mr. Morison that the plan followed in the present
edition of the Essays is due. In his monograph on Macaulay
(English Men of Letters series) he devotes a chapter to the
Essays and "with the object of giving as much unity as possible
to a subject necessarily wanting it," classifies the Essays into
four groups, (1)English history, (2)Foreign history,
(3)Controversial, (4)Critical and Miscellaneous. The articles in
the first group are equal in bulk to those of the three other
groups put together, and are contained in the first volume of
this issue. @"They form a fairly complete survey of English
history from the time of Elizabeth to the later years of the
reign of George III, and are fitly introduced by the Essay on
Hallam's History, which forms a kind of summary or microcosm of
the whole period.

The scheme might be made still more complete by including certain
articles (and especially the exquisite biographies contributed by
Macaulay to the Encyclopaedia Britannica) which are published in
the volume of " Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches." Exigencies
of space have, however, compelled the limitation of the present
edition to the " Essays" usually so-called. These have also been
reprinted in the chronological arrangement ordinarily followed
(see below) in The Temple Classics (5 vols. 1900), where an
exhaustive bibliography, etc., has been appended to each Essay.

Chief dates in the life of Thomas Babington Macaulay, afterwards Baron

1800 (Oct. 25). Birth at Rothley Temple, Leicestershire.
1818-1825. Life at Cambridge (Fellow of Trinity, 1824).
1825. Essay on Milton contributed to Edinburgh Review.
1826. Joined the Northern Circuit.
1830 @M.P. for Calne (gift of the Marquis of Lansdowne).
1833. M.P. for Leeds.
1834-38. Legal Adviser to the Supreme Council of India. Work at
the Indian Penal Code.
1839. M.P. for Edinburgh, and Secretary at War In Melbourne's
1842. Lays of Ancient Rome.
1843. Collected edition of the Essays.
1847. Rejected at the Election of M.P. for Edinburgh.
1848. England from the Accession of James II. vols.
i. and ii.
1852. M.P. for Edinburgh; serious illness.
1855. History of England, vols. iii. and iv.
1857. Raised to the peerage.
1859 (Dec. 28). Death at Holly Lodge, Kensington. (Buried in
Westminster Abbey, 9th January 1860.)

The following are the works of Thomas Babington Macaulay:

Pompeii (Prize poem), 1819; Evening (prize poem), 1821; Lays of
Ancient Rome (1842); Ivry and the Armada (Quarterly Magazine),
added to Edition of 1848; Critical and Historical Essays
(Edinburgh Review), 1843.

The Essays originally appeared as follows:

Milton, August 1825; Machiavelli, March 1827; Hallam's
"Constitutional History," September 1828; Southey's "Colloquies,"
January 1830; R. Montgomery's Poems, April 1830; Civil
Disabilities of Jews, January 1831; Byron, June 1831; Croker's
"Boswell," September 1831; Pilgrim's Progress, December 1831;
Hampden, December 1831; Burleigh, April 1832; War of Succession
in Spain, January 1833; Horace Walpole, October 1833; Lord
Chatham, January 1834; Mackintosh's "History of Revolution," July
1835; Bacon, July 1837; Sir William Temple, October 1838;
"Gladstone on Church and State," April 1839; Clive, January 1840;
Ranke's "History of the Popes," October 1840; Comic Dramatists,
January 1841; Lord Holland, July 1841; Warren Hastings, October
1841; Frederick the Great, April 1842; Madame D'Arblay, January
1843; Addison, July 1843; Lord Chatham (2nd Art.), October 1844.

History of England, vols. i. and ii., 1848; vols. iii. and iv.,
1855; vol. v., Ed. Lady Trevelyan, 1861; Ed. 8 vols., 1858-62
(Life by Dean Milman); Ed. 4 vols., People's Edition, with Life
by Dean Milman, 1863-4; Inaugural Address (Glasgow), 1849;
Speeches corrected by himself, 1854 (unauthorized version, 1853,
by Vizetelly); Miscellaneous Writings, 2 vols. 1860 (Ed. T. F.
Ellis). These include poems, lives (Encyclo. Britt. 8th ed.), and
contributions to Quarterly Magazine, and the following from
Edinburgh Review:

Dryden, January 1828; History, May 1828; Mill on Government,
March 1829; Westminster Reviewer's Defence of Mill, June 1829;
Utilitarian Theory of Government, October 1829; Sadler's "Law of
Population," July 1830; Sadler's "Refutation Refuted," January
1831 Mirabeau, July 1832; Barere, April 1844.

Complete Works (Ed. Lady Trevelyan), 8 vols., 1866.


Sir G.0. Trevelyan: The Life and Letters Of Lord Macaulay (2
vols. 8vo., 1876, 2nd ed. with additions, 1877, subsequent
editions 1878 and 1881).

J. Cotter Morison: Macaulay [English Men of Letters], (1882).

Mark Pattison : Art. "Macaulay" in Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Leslie Stephen: Hours in a Library [new ed. 1892], ii. 243-376.
Art. "Macaulay" in Dictionary of National Biography.

Frederic Harrison: Macaulay's Place in Literature (1894).
Studies in Early Victorian Literature, chap. iii. (1895).

G. Saintsbury: Corrected Impressions, chaps. ix. x. (189,5).
A History of Nineteenth Century Literature, pp. 224-232 (1896).

P. Oursel: Les Essais de Lord Macaulay (1882).

D.H. Macgregor: Lord Macaulay (1901).

Sir R.C. Jebb: Macaulay (1900).

F.C. Montague. Macaulay's Essays (3 vols. 1901).

A. J. G. August 1907.

(September 1828)

The Constitutional History of England, from the Accession of
Henry VII. to the Death of George II. By HENRY HALLAM. In 2 vols.

History, at least in its state of ideal perfection, is a compound
of poetry and philosophy. It impresses general truths on the mind
by a vivid representation of particular characters and incidents.
But, in fact, the two hostile elements of which it consists have
never been known to form a perfect amalgamation; and at length,
in our own time, they have been completely and professedly
separated. Good histories, in the proper sense of the word, we
have not. But we have good historical romances, and good
historical essays. The imagination and the reason, if we may use
a legal metaphor, have made partition of a province of literature
of which they were formerly seized per my et per tout; and now
they hold their respective portions in severalty, instead of
holding the whole in common.

To make the past present, to bring the distant near, to place us
in the society of a great man or on the eminence which overlooks
the field of a mighty battle, to invest with the reality of human
flesh and blood beings whom we are too much inclined to consider
as personified qualities in an allegory, to call up our ancestors
before us with all their peculiarities of language, manners, and
garb, to show us over their houses, to seat us at their tables,
to rummage their old-fashioned ward-robes, to explain the uses of
their ponderous furniture, these parts of the duty which properly
belongs to the historian have been appropriated by the historical
novelist. On the other hand, to extract the philosophy of
history, to direct on judgment of events and men, to trace the
connection of cause and effects, and to draw from the occurrences
of former time general lessons of moral and political wisdom, has
become the business of a distinct class of writers.

Of the two kinds of composition into which history has been thus
divided, the one may he compared to a map, the other to a painted
landscape. The picture, though it places the country before us,
does not enable us to ascertain with accuracy the dimensions, the
distances, and the angles. The map is not a work of imitative
art. It presents no scene to the imagination; but it gives us
exact information as to the bearings of the various points, and
is a more useful companion to the traveller or the general than
the painted landscape could be, though it were the grandest that
ever Rosa peopled with outlaws, or the sweetest over which Claude
ever poured the mellow effulgence of a setting sun.

It is remarkable that the practice of separating the two
ingredients of which history is composed has become prevalent on
the Continent as well as in this country. Italy has already
produced a historical novel, of high merit and of still higher
promise. In France, the practice has been carried to a length
somewhat whimsical. M. Sismondi publishes a grave and stately
history of the Merovingian Kings, very valuable, and a little
tedious. He then sends forth as a companion to it a novel, in
which he attempts to give a lively representation of characters
and manners. This course, as it seems to us, has all the
disadvantages of a division of labour, and none of its
advantages. We understand the expediency of keeping the functions
of cook and coachman distinct. The dinner will he better dressed,
and the horses better managed. But where the two situations are
united, as in the Maitre Jacques of Moliere, we do not see that
the matter is much mended by the solemn form with which the
pluralist passes from one of his employments to the other.

We manage these things better in England. Sir Waiter Scott gives
us a novel; Mr. Hallam a critical and argumentative history. Both
are occupied with the same matter. But the former looks at it
with the eye of a sculptor. His intention is to give an express
and lively image of its external form. The latter is an
anatomist. His task is to dissect the subject to its inmost
recesses, and to lay bare before us all the springs of motion and
all the causes of decay.

Mr. Hallam is, on the whole, far better qualified than any other
writer of our time for the office which he has undertaken. He has
great industry and great acuteness. His knowledge is extensive,
various, and profound. His mind is equally distinguished by the
amplitude of its grasp, and by the delicacy of its tact. His
speculations have none of that vagueness which is the common
fault of political philosophy. On the contrary, they are
strikingly practical, and teach us not only the general rule, but
the mode of applying it to solve particular cases. In this
respect they often remind us of the Discourses of Machiavelli.

The style is sometimes open to the charge of harshness. We have
also here and there remarked a little of that unpleasant trick,
which Gibbon brought into fashion, the trick, we mean, of telling
a story by implication and allusion. Mr. Hallam however, has an
excuse which Gibbon had not. His work is designed for readers who
are already acquainted with the ordinary books on English
history, and who can therefore unriddle these little enigmas
without difficulty. The manner of the book is, on the whole, not
unworthy of the matter. The language, even where most faulty, is
weighty and massive, and indicates strong sense in every line. It
often rises to an eloquence, not florid or impassioned, but high,
grave, and sober; such as would become a state paper, or a
judgment delivered by a great magistrate, a Somers or a

In this respect the character of Mr. Hallam's mind corresponds
strikingly with that of his style. His work is eminently
judicial. Its whole spirit is that of the bench, not that of the
bar. He sums up with a calm, steady impartiality, turning neither
to the right nor to the left, glossing over nothing, exaggerating
nothing, while the advocates on both sides are alternately biting
their lips to hear their conflicting misstatements and sophisms
exposed. On a general survey, we do not scruple to pronounce the
Constitutional History the most impartial book that we ever read.
We think it the more incumbent on us to bear this testimony
strongly at first setting out, because, in the course of our
remarks, we shall think it right to dwell principally on those
parts of it from which we dissent.

There is one peculiarity about Mr. Hallam which, while it adds to
the value of his writings, will, we fear, take away something
from their popularity. He is less of a worshipper than any
historian whom we can call to mind. Every political sect has its
esoteric and its exoteric school, its abstract doctrines for the
initiated, its visible symbols, its imposing forms, its
mythological fables for the vulgar. It assists the devotion of
those who are unable to raise themselves to the contemplation of
pure truth by all the devices of Pagan or Papal superstition. It
has its altars and its deified heroes, its relics and
pilgrimages, its canonized martyrs and confessors, its festivals
and its legendary miracles. Our pious ancestors, we are told,
deserted the High Altar of Canterbury, to lay all their oblations
on the shrine of St. Thomas. In the same manner the great and
comfortable doctrines of the Tory creed, those particularly which
relate to restrictions on worship and on trade, are adored by
squires and rectors in Pitt Clubs, under the name of a minister
who was as bad a representative of the system which has been
christened after him as Becket of the spirit of the Gospel. On
the other hand, the cause for which Hampden bled on the field and
Sidney on the scaffold is enthusiastically toasted by many an
honest radical who would be puzzled to explain the difference
between Ship-money and the Habeas Corpus Act. It may be added
that, as in religion, so in politics, few even of those who are
enlightened enough to comprehend the meaning latent under the
emblems of their faith can resist the contagion of the popular
superstition. Often, when they flatter themselves that they are
merely feigning a compliance with the prejudices of the vulgar,
they are themselves under the influence of those very prejudices.
It probably was not altogether on grounds of expediency that
Socrates taught his followers to honour the gods whom the state
honoured, and bequeathed a cock to Esculapius with his dying
breath. So there is often a portion of willing credulity and
enthusiasm in the veneration which the most discerning men pay to
their political idols. From the very nature of man it must be so.
The faculty by which we inseparably associate ideas which have
often been presented to us in conjunction is not under the
absolute control of the will. It may be quickened into morbid
activity. It may be reasoned into sluggishness. But in a certain
degree it will always exist. The almost absolute mastery which
Mr. Hallam has obtained over feelings of this class is perfectly
astonishing to us, and will, we believe, be not only astonishing
but offensive to many of his readers. It must particularly
disgust those people who, in their speculations on politics, are
not reasoners but fanciers; whose opinions, even when sincere,
are not produced, according to the ordinary law of intellectual
births, by induction or inference, but are equivocally generated
by the heat of fervid tempers out of the overflowing of tumid
imaginations. A man of this class is always in extremes. He
cannot be a friend to liberty without calling for a community of
goods, or a friend to order without taking under his protection
the foulest excesses of tyranny. His admiration oscillates
between the most worthless of rebels and the most worthless of
oppressors, between Marten, the disgrace of the High Court of
justice, and Laud, the disgrace of the Star-Chamber. He can
forgive anything but temperance and impartiality. He has a
certain sympathy with the violence of his opponents, as well as
with that of his associates. In every furious partisan he sees
either his present self or his former self, the pensioner that
is, or the Jacobin that has been. But he is unable to comprehend
a writer who, steadily attached to principles, is indifferent
about names and badges, and who judges of characters with equable
severity, not altogether untinctured with cynicism, but free from
the slightest touch of passion, party spirit, or caprice.

We should probably like Mr. Hallam's book more if, instead of
pointing out with strict fidelity the bright points and the dark
spots of both parties, he had exerted himself to whitewash the
one and to blacken the other. But we should certainly prize it
far less. Eulogy and invective may be had for the asking. But for
cold rigid justice, the one weight and the one measure, we know
not where else we can look.

No portion of our annals has been more perplexed and
misrepresented by writers of different parties than the history
of the Reformation. In this labyrinth of falsehood and
sophistry, the guidance of Mr. Hallam is peculiarly valuable. It
is impossible not to admire the even-handed justice with which he
deals out castigation to right and left on the rival persecutors.

It is vehemently maintained by some writers of the present day
that Elizabeth persecuted neither Papists nor Puritans as such,
and that the severe measures which she occasionally adopted were
dictated, not by religious intolerance, but by political
necessity. Even the excellent account of those times which Mr.
Hallam has given has not altogether imposed silence on the
authors of this fallacy. The title of the Queen, they say, was
annulled by the Pope; her throne was given to another; her
subjects were incited to rebellion; her life was menaced; every
Catholic was bound in conscience to be a traitor; it was
therefore against traitors, not against Catholics, that the penal
laws were enacted.

In order that our readers may be fully competent to appreciate
the merits of this defence, we will state, as concisely as
possible, the substance of some of these laws.

As soon as Elizabeth ascended the throne, and before the least
hostility to her government had been shown by the Catholic
population, an act passed prohibiting the celebration of the
rites of the Romish Church on pain of forfeiture for the first
offence, of a year's imprisonment for the second, and of
perpetual imprisonment for the third.

A law was next made in 1562, enacting, that all who had ever
graduated at the Universities or received holy orders, all
lawyers, and all magistrates, should take the oath of supremacy
when tendered to them, on pain of forfeiture and imprisonment
during the royal pleasure. After the lapse of three mouths, the
oath might again be tendered to them; and if it were again
refused, the recusant was guilty of high treason. A prospective
law, however severe, framed to exclude Catholics from the liberal
professions, would have been mercy itself compared with this
odious act. It is a retrospective statute; it is a retrospective
penal statute; it is a retrospective penal statute against a
large class. We will not positively affirm that a law of this
description must always, and under all circumstances, be
unjustifiable. But the presumption against it is most violent;
nor do we remember any crisis either in our own history, or in
the history of any other country, which would have rendered such
a provision necessary. In the present case, what circumstances
called for extraordinary rigour? There might be disaffection
among the Catholics. The prohibition of their worship would
naturally produce it. But it is from their situation, not from
their conduct, from the wrongs which they had suffered, not from
those which they had committed, that the existence of discontent
among them must be inferred. There were libels, no doubt, and
prophecies, and rumours and suspicions, strange grounds for a law
inflicting capital penalties, ex post facto, on a large body of

Eight years later, the bull of Pius deposing Elizabeth produced a
third law. This law, to which alone, as we conceive, the defence
now under our consideration can apply, provides that, if any
Catholic shall convert a Protestant to the Romish Church, they
shall both suffer death as for high treason.

We believe that we might safely content ourselves with stating
the fact, and leaving it to the judgment of every plain
Englishman. Recent controversies have, however, given so much
importance to this subject, that we will offer a few remarks on

In the first place, the arguments which are urged in favour of
Elizabeth apply with much greater force to the case of her sister
Mary. The Catholics did not, at the time of Elizabeth's
accession, rise in arms to seat a Pretender on her throne. But
before Mary had given, or could give, provocation, the most
distinguished Protestants attempted to set aside her rights in
favour of the Lady Jane. That attempt, and the subsequent
insurrection of Wyatt, furnished at least as good a plea for the
burning of Protestants, as the conspiracies against Elizabeth
furnish for the hanging and embowelling of Papists.

The fact is that both pleas are worthless alike. If such
arguments are to pass current, it will be easy to prove that
there was never such a thing as religious persecution since the
creation. For there never was a religious persecution in which
some odious crime was not, justly or unjustly, said to be
obviously deducible from the doctrines of the persecuted party.
We might say, that the Caesars did not persecute the Christians;
that they only punished men who were charged, rightly or wrongly,
with burning Rome, and with committing the foulest abominations
in secret assemblies; and that the refusal to throw frankincense
on the altar of Jupiter was not the crime, but only evidence of
the crime. We might say, that the massacre of St. Bartholomew was
intended to extirpate, not a religious sect, but a political
party. For, beyond all doubt, the proceedings of the Huguenots,
from the conspiracy of Amboise to the battle of Moncontour, had
given much more trouble to the French monarchy than the Catholics
have ever given to the English monarchy since the Reformation;
and that too with much less excuse.

The true distinction is perfectly obvious. To punish a man
because he has committed a crime, or because he is believed,
though unjustly, to have committed a crime, is not persecution.
To punish a man, because we infer from the nature of some
doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who
hold the same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime is
persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and wicked.

When Elizabeth put Ballard and Babington to death, she was not
persecuting. Nor should we have accused her government of
persecution for passing any law, however severe, against overt
acts of sedition. But to argue that, because a man is a Catholic,
he must think it right to murder a heretical sovereign, and that
because he thinks it right, he will attempt to do it, and then,
to found on this conclusion a law for punishing him as if he had
done it, is plain persecution.

If, indeed, all men reasoned in the same manner on the same data,
and always did what they thought it their duty to do, this mode
of dispensing punishment might be extremely judicious. But as
people who agree about premises often disagree about conclusions,
and as no man in the world acts up to his own standard of right,
there are two enormous gaps in the logic by which alone penalties
for opinions can be defended. The doctrine of reprobation, in the
judgment of many very able men, follows by syllogistic necessity
from the doctrine of election. Others conceive that the
Antinomian heresy directly follows from the doctrine of
reprobation; and it is very generally thought that licentiousness
and cruelty of the worst description are likely to be the fruits,
as they often have been the fruits, of Antinomian opinions. This
chain of reasoning, we think, is as perfect in all its parts as
that which makes out a Papist to be necessarily a traitor. Yet it
would be rather a strong measure to hang all the Calvinists, on
the ground that if they were spared, they would infallibly commit
all the atrocities of Matthias and Knipperdoling. For, reason the
matter as we may, experience shows us that a man may believe in
election without believing in reprobation, that he may believe in
reprobation without being an Antinomian, and that he may be an
Antinomian without being a bad citizen. Man, in short, is so
inconsistent a creature that it is impossible to reason from his
belief to his conduct, or from one part of his belief to another.

We do not believe that every Englishman who was reconciled to the
Catholic Church would, as a necessary consequence, have thought
himself justified in deposing or assassinating Elizabeth. It is
not sufficient to say that the convert must have acknowledged the
authority of the Pope, and that the Pope had issued a bull
against the Queen. We know through what strange loopholes the
human mind contrives to escape, when it wishes to avoid a
disagreeable inference from an admitted proposition. We know how
long the Jansenists contrived to believe the Pope infallible in
matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doctrines
which he pronounced to be heretical. Let it pass, however, that
every Catholic in the kingdom thought that Elizabeth might he
lawfully murdered. Still the old maxim, that what is the business
of everybody is the business of nobody, is particularly likely to
hold good in a case in which a cruel death is the almost
inevitable consequence of making any attempt.

Of the ten thousand clergymen of the Church of England, there is
scarcely one who would not say that a man who should leave his
country and friends to preach the Gospel among savages, and who
should, after labouring indefatigably without any hope of reward,
terminate his life by martyrdom, would deserve the warmest
admiration. Yet we can doubt whether ten of the ten thousand ever
thought of going on such an expedition. Why should we suppose
that conscientious motives, feeble as they are constantly found
to be in a good cause, should be omnipotent for evil? Doubtless
there was many a jolly Popish priest in the old manor-houses of
the northern counties, who would have admitted, in theory, the
deposing power of the Pope, but who would not have been ambitious
to be stretched on the rack, even though it were to be used,
according to the benevolent proviso of Lord Burleigh, "as
charitably as such a thing can be," or to be hanged, drawn, and
quartered, even though, by that rare indulgence which the Queen,
of her special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion,
sometimes extended to very mitigated cases, he were allowed a
fair time to choke before the hangman began to grabble in his

But the laws passed against the Puritans had not even the
wretched excuse which we have been considering. In this case, the
cruelty was equal, the danger, infinitely less. In fact, the
danger was created solely by the cruelty. But it is superfluous
to press the argument. By no artifice of ingenuity can the stigma
of persecution, the worst blemish of the English Church, be
effaced or patched over. Her doctrines, we well know, do not tend
to intolerance. She admits the possibility of salvation out of
her own pale. But this circumstance, in itself honourable to her,
aggravates the sin and the shame of those who persecuted in her
name. Dominic and De Montfort did not, at least, murder and
torture for differences of opinion which they considered as
trifling. It was to stop an infection which, as they believed,
hurried to certain perdition every soul which it seized, that
they employed their fire and steel. The measures of the English
government with respect to the Papists and Puritans sprang from a
widely different principle. If those who deny that the founders
of the Church were guilty of religious persecution mean only that
the founders of the Church were not influenced by any religious
motive, we perfectly agree with them. Neither the penal code of
Elizabeth, nor the more hateful system by which Charles the
Second attempted to force Episcopacy on the Scotch, had an origin
so noble. The cause is to be sought in some circumstances which
attended the Reformation in England, circumstances of which the
effects long continued to be felt, and may in some degree be
traced even at the present day.

In Germany, in France, in Switzerland, and in Scotland, the
contest against the Papal power was essentially a religious
contest. In all those countries, indeed, the cause of the
Reformation, like every other great cause, attracted to itself
many supporters influenced by no conscientious principle, many
who quitted the Established Church only because they thought her
in danger, many who were weary of her restraints, and many who
were greedy for her spoils. But it was not by these adherents
that the separation was there conducted. They were welcome
auxiliaries; their support was too often purchased by unworthy
compliances; but, however exalted in rank or power, they were not
the leaders in the enterprise. Men of a widely different
description, men who redeemed great infirmities and errors by
sincerity, disinterestedness, energy and courage, men who, with
many of the vices of revolutionary chiefs and of polemic divines,
united some of the highest qualities of apostles, were the real
directors. They might be violent in innovation and scurrilous in
controversy. They might sometimes act with inexcusable severity
towards opponents, and sometimes connive disreputably at the
vices of powerful allies. But fear was not in them, nor
hypocrisy, nor avarice, nor any petty selfishness. Their one
great object was the demolition of the idols and the purification
of the sanctuary. If they were too indulgent to the failings of
eminent men from whose patronage they expected advantage to the
church, they never flinched before persecuting tyrants and
hostile armies. For that theological system to which they
sacrificed the lives of others without scruple, they were ready
to throw away their own lives without fear. Such were the authors
of the great schism on the Continent and in the northern part of
this island. The Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse,
the Prince of Conde and the King of Navarre, the Earl of Moray
and the Earl of Morton, might espouse the Protestant opinions, or
might pretend to espouse them; but it was from Luther, from
Calvin, from Knox, that the Reformation took its character.

England has no such names to show; not that she wanted men of
sincere piety, of deep learning, of steady and adventurous
courage. But these were thrown into the background. Elsewhere men
of this character were the principals. Here they acted a
secondary part. Elsewhere worldliness was the tool of zeal. Here
zeal was the tool of worldliness. A King, whose character may be
best described by saying that he was despotism itself
personified, unprincipled ministers, a rapacious, aristocracy, a
servile Parliament, such were the instruments by which England
was delivered from the yoke of Rome. The work which had been
begun by Henry, the murderer of his wives, was continued by
Somerset, the murderer of his brother, and completed by
Elizabeth, the murderer of her guest. Sprung from brutal passion,
nurtured by selfish policy, the Reformation in England displayed
little of what had, in other countries, distinguished it;
unflinching and unsparing devotion, boldness of speech, and
singleness of eye. These were indeed to be found; but it was in
the lower ranks of the party which opposed the authority of Rome,
in such men as Hooper, Latimer, Rogers, and Taylor. Of those who
had any important share in bringing the Reformation about, Ridley
was perhaps the only person who did not consider it as a mere
political job. Even Ridley did not play a very prominent part.
Among the statesmen and prelates who principally gave the tone to
the religious changes, there is one, and one only, whose conduct
partiality itself can attribute to any other than interested
motives. It is not strange, therefore, that his character should
have been the subject of fierce controversy. We need not say that
we speak of Cranmer.

Mr. Hallam has been severely censured for saying with his usual
placid severity, that, "if we weigh the character of this prelate
in an equal balance, he will appear far indeed removed from the
turpitude imputed to him, by his enemies; yet not entitled to any
extraordinary veneration." We will venture to expand the sense of
Mr. Hallam, and to comment on it thus:--If we consider Cranmer
merely as a statesman, he will not appear a much worse man than
Wolsey, Gardiner, Cromwell, or Somerset. But, when an attempt is
made to set him up as a saint, it is scarcely possible for any
man of sense who knows the history of the times to preserve his
gravity. If the memory of the archbishop had been left to find
its own place, he would have soon been lost among the crowd which
is mingled

"A quel cattivo coro
Degli angeli, che non furon ribelli,
Ne fur fedeli a Dio, per se foro."

And the only notice which it would have been necessary to take of
his name would have been

"Non ragioniam di lui; ma guarda, e passa."

But, since his admirers challenge for him a place in the noble
army of martyrs, his claims require fuller discussion.

The origin of his greatness, common enough in the scandalous
chronicles of courts, seems strangely out of place in a
hagiology. Cranmer rose into favour by serving Henry in the
disgraceful affair of his first divorce. He promoted the marriage
of Anne Boleyn with the King. On a frivolous pretence he
pronounced that marriage null and void. On a pretence, if
possible still more frivolous, he dissolved the ties which
bound the shameless tyrant to Anne of Cleves. He attached
himself to Cromwell while the fortunes of Cromwell flourished.
He voted for cutting off Cromwell's head without a trial,
when the tide of royal favour turned. He conformed backwards
and forwards as the King changed his mind. He assisted,
while Henry lived, in condemning to the flames those who
denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. He found out,
as soon as Henry was dead, that the doctrine was false.
He was, however, not at a loss for people to burn. The
authority of his station and of his grey hairs was employed to
overcome the disgust with which an intelligent and virtuous child
regarded persecution. Intolerance is always bad. But the
sanguinary intolerance of a man who thus wavered in his creed
excites a loathing, to which it is difficult to give vent without
calling foul names. Equally false to political and to religious
obligations, the primate was first the tool of Somerset, and then
the tool of Northumberland. When the Protector wished to put his
own brother to death, without even the semblance of a trial, he
found a ready instrument in Cranmer. In spite of the canon law,
which forbade a churchman to take any part in matters of blood,
the archbishop signed the warrant for the atrocious sentence.
When Somerset had been in his turn destroyed, his destroyer
received the support of Cranmer in a wicked attempt to change the
course of the succession.

The apology made for him by his admirers only renders his conduct
more contemptible. He complied, it is said, against his better
judgment, because he could not resist the entreaties of Edward. A
holy prelate of sixty, one would think, might be better employed
by the bedside of a dying child, than in committing crimes at the
request of the young disciple. If Cranmer had shown half as much
firmness when Edward requested him to commit treason as he had
before shown when Edward requested him not to commit murder, he
might have saved the country from one of the greatest misfortunes
that it ever underwent. He became, from whatever motive, the
accomplice of the worthless Dudley. The virtuous scruples of
another young and amiable mind were to be overcome. As Edward had
been forced into persecution, Jane was to be seduced into
treason. No transaction in our annals is more unjustifiable than
this. If a hereditary title were to be respected, Mary possessed
it. If a parliamentary title were preferable, Mary possessed that
also. If the interest of the Protestant religion required a
departure from the ordinary rule of succession, that interest
would have been best served by raising Elizabeth to the throne.
If the foreign relations of the kingdom were considered, still
stronger reasons might be found for preferring Elizabeth to Jane.
There was great doubt whether Jane or the Queen of Scotland had
the better claim; and that doubt would, in all probability, have
produced a war both with Scotland and with France, if the project
of Northumberland had not been blasted in its infancy. That
Elizabeth had a better claim than the Queen of Scotland was
indisputable. To the part which Cranmer, and unfortunately some
better men than Cranmer, took in this most reprehensible scheme,
much of the severity with which the Protestants were afterwards
treated must in fairness be ascribed.

The plot failed; Popery triumphed; and Cranmer recanted. Most
people look on his recantation as a single blemish on an
honourable life, the frailty of an unguarded moment. But, in
fact, his recantation was in strict accordance with the system on
which he had constantly acted. It was part of a regular habit. It
was not the first recantation that he had made; and, in all
probability, if it had answered its purpose, it would not have
been the last. We do not blame him for not choosing to be burned
alive. It is no very severe reproach to any person that he does
not possess heroic fortitude. But surely a man who liked the fire
so little should have had some sympathy for others. A persecutor
who inflicts nothing which he is not ready to endure deserves
some respect. But when a man who loves his doctrines more than
the lives of his neighbours, loves his own little finger better
than his doctrines, a very simple argument a fortiori will enable
us to estimate the amount of his benevolence.

But his martyrdom, it is said, redeemed everything. It is
extraordinary that so much ignorance should exist on this subject
The fact is that, if a martyr be a man who chooses to die rather
than to renounce his opinions, Cranmer was no more a martyr than
Dr. Dodd. He died solely because he could not help it. He never
retracted his recantation till he found he had made it in vain.
The Queen was fully resolved that, Catholic or Protestant, he
should burn. Then he spoke out, as people generally speak out
when they are at the point of death and have nothing to hope or
to fear on earth. If Mary had suffered him to live, we suspect
that he would have heard mass and received absolution, like a
good Catholic, till the accession of Elizabeth, and that he would
then have purchased, by another apostasy, the power of burning
men better and braver than himself.

We do not mean, however, to represent him as a monster of
wickedness. He was not wantonly cruel or treacherous, He was
merely a supple, timid, interested courtier, in times of frequent
and violent change. That which has always been represented as his
distinguishing virtue, the facility with which he forgave his
enemies, belongs to the character. Slaves of his class are never
vindictive, and never grateful. A present interest effaces past
services and past injuries from their minds together. Their only
object is self-preservation; and for this they conciliate those
who wrong them, just as they abandon those who serve them. Before
we extol a man for his forgiving temper, we should inquire
whether he is above revenge, or below it.

Somerset had as little principle as his coadjutor. Of Henry, an
orthodox Catholic, except that he chose to be his own Pope, and
of Elizabeth, who certainly had no objection to the theology of
Rome, we need say nothing. These four persons were the great
authors of the English Reformation. Three of them had a direct
interest in the extension of the royal prerogative. The fourth
was the ready tool of any who could frighten him. It is not
difficult to see from what motives, and on what plan, such
persons would be inclined to remodel the Church. The scheme was
merely to transfer the full cup of sorceries from the Babylonian
enchantress to other hands, spilling as little as possible by the
way. The Catholic doctrines and rites were to be retained in the
Church of England. But the King was to exercise the control which
had formerly belonged to the Roman Pontiff. In this Henry for a
time succeeded. The extraordinary force of his character, the
fortunate situation in which he stood with respect to foreign
powers, and the vast resources which the suppression of the
monasteries placed at his disposal, enabled him to oppress both
the religious factions equally. He punished with impartial
severity those who renounced the doctrines of Rome, and those who
acknowledged her jurisdiction. The basis, however, on which he
attempted to establish his power was too narrow to be durable. It
would have been impossible even for him long to persecute both
persuasions. Even under his reign there had been insurrections on
the part of the Catholics, and signs of a spirit which was likely
soon to produce insurrection on the part of the Protestants. It
was plainly necessary, therefore, that the Crown should form an
alliance with one or with the other side. To recognise the Papal
supremacy, would have been to abandon the whole design.
Reluctantly and sullenly the government at last joined the
Protestants. In forming this junction, its object was to procure
as much aid as possible for its selfish undertaking, and to make
the smallest possible concessions to the spirit of religious

From this compromise the Church of England sprang. In many
respects, indeed, it has been well for her that, in an age of
exuberant zeal, her principal founders were mere politicians. To
this circumstance she owes her moderate articles, her decent
ceremonies, her noble and pathetic liturgy. Her worship is not
disfigured by mummery. Yet she has preserved, in a far greater
degree than any of her Protestant sisters, that art of striking
the senses and filling the imagination in which the Catholic
Church so eminently excels. But, on the other hand, she continued
to be, for more than a hundred and fifty years, the servile
handmaid of monarchy, the steady enemy of public liberty. The
divine right of kings, and the duty of passively obeying all
their commands, were her favourite tenets. She held those tenets
firmly through times of oppression, persecution, and
licentiousness; while law was trampled down; while judgment was
perverted; while the people were eaten as though they were bread.
Once, and but once, for a moment, and but for a moment, when her
own dignity and property were touched, she forgot to practise the
submission which she had taught.

Elizabeth clearly discerned the advantages which were to be
derived from a close connection between the monarchy and the
priesthood. At the time of her accession, indeed, she evidently
meditated a partial reconciliation with Rome; and, throughout her
whole life, she leaned strongly to some of the most obnoxious
parts of the Catholic system. But her imperious temper, her keen
sagacity, and her peculiar situation, soon led her to attach
herself completely to a church which was all her own. On the same
principle on which she joined it, she attempted to drive all her
people within its pale by persecution. She supported it by severe
penal laws, not because she thought conformity to its discipline
necessary to salvation; but because it was the fastness which
arbitrary power was making strong for itself, because she
expected a more profound obedience from those who saw in her both
their civil and their ecclesiastical chief than from those who,
like the Papists, ascribed spiritual authority to the Pope, or
from those who, like some of the Puritans, ascribed it only to
Heaven. To dissent from her establishment was to dissent from an
institution founded with an express view to the maintenance and
extension of the royal prerogative.

This great Queen and her successors, by considering conformity
and loyalty as identical at length made them so. With respect to
the Catholics, indeed, the rigour of persecution abated after her
death. James soon found that they were unable to injure him, and
that the animosity which the Puritan party felt towards them
drove them of necessity to take refuge under his throne. During
the subsequent conflict, their fault was anything but disloyalty.
On the other hand, James hated the Puritans with more than the
hatred of Elizabeth. Her aversion to them was political; his was
personal. The sect had plagued him in Scotland, where he was
weak; and he was determined to be even with them in England,
where he was powerful. Persecution gradually changed a sect into
a faction. That there was anything in the religious opinions of
the Puritans which rendered them hostile to monarchy has never
been proved to our satisfaction. After our civil contests, it
became the fashion to say that Presbyterianism was connected with
Republicanism; just as it has been the fashion to say, since the
time of the French Revolution, that Infidelity is connected with
Republicanism. It is perfectly true that a church constituted on
the Calvinistic model will not strengthen the hands of the
sovereign so much as a hierarchy which consists of several ranks,
differing in dignity and emolument, and of which all the members
are constantly looking to the Government for promotion. But
experience has clearly shown that a Calvinistic church, like
every other church, is disaffected when it is persecuted, quiet
when it is tolerated, and actively loyal when it is favoured and
cherished. Scotland has had a Presbyterian establishment during a
century and a half. Yet her General Assembly has not, during that
period, given half so much trouble to the government as the
Convocation of the Church of England gave during the thirty years
which followed the Revolution. That James and Charles should have
been mistaken in this point is not surprising. But we are
astonished, we must confess, that men of our own time, men who
have before them the proof of what toleration can effect, men who
may see with their own eyes that the Presbyterians are no such
monsters when government is wise enough to let them alone, should
defend the persecutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries as indispensable to the safety of the church and the

How persecution protects churches and thrones was soon made
manifest. A systematic political opposition, vehement, daring,
and inflexible, sprang from a schism about trifles, altogether
unconnected with the real interests of religion or of the state.
Before the close of the reign of Elizabeth this opposition began
to show itself. It broke forth on the question of the monopolies.
Even the imperial Lioness was compelled to abandon her prey, and
slowly and fiercely to recede before the assailants. The spirit
of liberty grew with the growing wealth and intelligence of the
people. The feeble struggles and insults of James irritated
instead of suppressing it; and the events which immediately
followed the accession of his son portended a contest of no
common severity, between a king resolved to be absolute, and a
people resolved to be free.

The famous proceedings of the third Parliament of Charles, and
the tyrannical measures which followed its dissolution, are
extremely well described by Mr. Hallam. No writer, we think, has
shown, in so clear and satisfactory a manner, that the Government
then entertained a fixed purpose of destroying the old
parliamentary constitution of England, or at least of reducing it
to a mere shadow. We hasten, however, to a part of his work
which, though it abounds in valuable information and in remarks
well deserving to be attentively considered, and though it is,
like the rest, evidently written in a spirit of perfect
impartiality, appears to us, in many points, objectionable.

We pass to the year 1640. The fate of the short Parliament held
in that year clearly indicated the views of the king. That a
Parliament so moderate in feeling should have met after so many
years of oppression is truly wonderful. Hyde extols its loyal and
conciliatory spirit. Its conduct, we are told, made the excellent
Falkland in love with the very name of Parliament. We think,
indeed, with Oliver St. John, that its moderation was carried too
far, and that the times required sharper and more decided
councils. It was fortunate, however, that the king had another
opportunity of showing that hatred of the liberties of his
subjects which was the ruling principle of all his conduct. The
sole crime of the Commons was that, meeting after a long
intermission of parliaments, and after a long series of cruelties
and illegal imposts, they seemed inclined to examine grievances
before they would vote supplies. For this insolence they were
dissolved almost as soon as they met.

Defeat, universal agitation, financial embarrassments,
disorganisation in every part of the government, compelled
Charles again to convene the Houses before the close of the same
year. Their meeting was one of the great eras in the history of
the civilised world. Whatever of political freedom exists either
in Europe or in America has sprung, directly or indirectly, from
those institutions which they secured and reformed. We never turn
to the annals of those times without feeling increased admiration
of the patriotism, the energy, the decision, the consummate
wisdom, which marked the measures of that great Parliament, from
the day on which it met to the commencement of civil hostilities.

The impeachment of Strafford was the first, and perhaps the
greatest blow. The whole conduct of that celebrated man proved
that he had formed a deliberate scheme to subvert the fundamental
laws of England. Those parts of his correspondence which have
been brought to light since his death, place the matter beyond a
doubt. One of his admirers has, indeed, offered to show "that the
passages which Mr. Hallam has invidiously extracted from the
correspondence between Laud and Strafford, as proving their
design to introduce a thorough tyranny, refer not to any such
design, but to a thorough reform in the affairs of state, and the
thorough maintenance of just authority." We will recommend two or
three of these passages to the especial notice of our readers.

All who know anything of those times, know that the conduct of
Hampden in the affair of the ship-money met with the warm
approbation of every respectable Royalist in England. It drew
forth the ardent eulogies of the champions of the prerogative and
even of the Crown lawyers themselves. Clarendon allows Hampden's
demeanour through the whole proceeding to have been such, that
even those who watched for an occasion against the defender of
the people, were compelled to acknowledge themselves unable to
find any fault in him. That he was right in the point of law is
now universally admitted. Even had it been otherwise, he had a
fair case. Five of the judges, servile as our Courts then were,
pronounced in his favour. The majority against him was the
smallest possible. In no country retaining the slightest vestige
of constitutional liberty can a modest and decent appeal to the
laws be treated as a crime. Strafford, however, recommends that,
for taking the sense of a legal tribunal on a legal question,
Hampden should be punished, and punished severely, "whipt," says
the insolent apostate, "whipt into his senses. If the rod," he
adds, "be so used that it smarts not, I am the more sorry." This
is the maintenance of just authority.

In civilised nations, the most arbitrary governments have
generally suffered justice to have a free course in private
suits. Stratford wished to make every cause in every court
subject to the royal prerogative. He complained that in Ireland
he was not permitted to meddle in cases between party and party.
"I know very well," says he, "that the common lawyers will be
passionately against it, who are wont to put such a prejudice
upon all other professions, as if none were to be trusted, or
capable to administer justice, but themselves: yet how well this
suits with monarchy, when they monopolise all to be governed by
their year-books, you in England have a costly example." We are
really curious to know by what arguments it is to be proved, that
the power of interfering in the law-suits of individuals is part
of the just authority of the executive government.

It is not strange that a man so careless of the common civil
rights, which even despots have generally respected, should treat
with scorn the limitations which the constitution imposes on the
royal prerogative. We might quote pages: but we will content
ourselves with a single specimen: "The debts of the Crown being
taken off, you may govern as you please: and most resolute I am
that may be done without borrowing any help forth of the King's

Such was the theory of that thorough reform in the state which
Strafford meditated. His whole practice, from the day on which he
sold himself to the court, was in strict conformity to his
theory. For his accomplices various excuses may be urged;
ignorance, imbecility, religious bigotry. But Wentworth had no
such plea. His intellect was capacious. His early prepossessions
were on the side of popular rights. He knew the whole beauty and
value of the system which he attempted to deface. He was the
first of the Rats, the first of those statesmen whose patriotism
has been only the coquetry of political prostitution, and whose
profligacy has taught governments to adopt the old maxim of the
slave-market, that it is cheaper to buy than to breed, to import
defenders from an Opposition than to rear them in a Ministry. He
was the first Englishman to whom a peerage was a sacrament of
infamy, a baptism into the communion of corruption. As he was the
earliest of the hateful list, so was he also by far the greatest;
eloquent, sagacious, adventurous, intrepid, ready of invention,
immutable of purpose, in every talent which exalts or destroys
nations pre-eminent, the lost Archangel, the Satan of the
apostasy. The title for which, at the time of his desertion, he
exchanged a name honourably distinguished in the cause of the
people, reminds us of the appellation which, from the moment of
the first treason, fixed itself on the fallen Son of the Morning,

"Satan;--so call him now--His former name
Is heard no more in heaven."

The defection of Strafford from the popular party contributed
mainly to draw on him the hatred of his contemporaries. It has
since made him an object of peculiar interest to those whose
lives have been spent, like his, in proving that there is no
malice like the malice of a renegade; Nothing can be more natural
or becoming than that one turncoat should eulogize another.

Many enemies of public liberty have been distinguished by their
private virtues. But Strafford was the same throughout. As was
the statesman, such was the kinsman and such the lover. His
conduct towards Lord Mountmorris is recorded by Clarendon. For a
word which can scarcely be called rash, which could not have been
made the subject of an ordinary civil action, the Lord Lieutenant
dragged a man of high rank, married to a relative of that saint
about whom he whimpered to the peers, before a tribunal of
slaves. Sentence of death was passed. Everything but death was
inflicted. Yet the treatment which Lord Ely experienced was still
more scandalous. That nobleman was thrown into prison, in order
to compel him to settle his estate in a manner agreeable to his
daughter-in-law, whom, as there is every reason to believe,
Strafford had debauched. These stories do not rest on vague
report. The historians most partial to the minister admit their
truth, and censure them in terms which, though too lenient for
the occasion, axe still severe. These facts are alone sufficient
to justify the appellation with which Pym branded him "the wicked

In spite of all Strafford's vices, in spite of all his dangerous
projects, he was certainly entitled to the benefit of the law;
but of the law in all its rigour; of the law according to the
utmost strictness of the letter, which killeth. He was not to be
torn in pieces by a mob, or stabbed in the back by an assassin.
He was not to have punishment meted out to him from his own
iniquitous measure. But if justice, in the whole range of its
wide armoury, contained one weapon which could pierce him, that
weapon his pursuers were bound, before God and man, to employ.

"If he may
Find mercy in the law, 'tis his : if none,
Let him not seek't of us."

Such was the language which the Commons might justly use.

Did then the articles against Strafford strictly amount to high
treason? Many people, who know neither what the articles were,
nor what high treason is, will answer in the negative, simply
because the accused person, speaking for his life, took that
ground of defence. The journals of the Lords show that the judges
were consulted. They answered, with one accord, that the articles
on which the earl was convicted amounted to high treason. This
judicial opinion, even if we suppose it to have been erroneous,
goes far to justify the Parliament. The judgment pronounced in
the Exchequer Chamber has always been urged by the apologists of
Charles in defence of his conduct respecting ship-money. Yet on
that occasion there was but a bare majority in favour of the
party at whose pleasure all the magistrates composing the
tribunal were removable. The decision in the case of Strafford
was unanimous; as far as we can judge, it was unbiassed; and,
though there may be room for hesitation, we think, on the whole,
that it was reasonable. "It may be remarked," says Mr. Hallam,
"that the fifteenth article of the impeachment, charging
Strafford with raising money by his own authority, and quartering
troops on the people of Ireland, in order to compel their
obedience to his unlawful requisitions, upon which, and upon one
other article, not upon the whole matter, the Peers voted him
guilty, does, at least, approach very nearly, if we may not say
more, to a substantive treason within the statute of Edward the
Third, as a levying of war against the King." This most sound and
just exposition has provoked a very ridiculous reply. "It should
seem to be an Irish construction this," says, an assailant of Mr.
Hallam, "which makes the raising money for the King's service,
with his knowledge, and by his approbation, to come under the
head of levying war on the King, and therefore to be high
treason." Now, people who undertake to write on points of
constitutional law should know, what every attorney's clerk and
every forward schoolboy on an upper form knows, that, by a
fundamental maxim of our polity, the King can do no wrong; that
every court is bound to suppose his conduct and his sentiments to
be, on every occasion, such as they ought to be; and that no
evidence can be received for the purpose of setting aside this
loyal and salutary presumption. The Lords therefore, were bound
to take it for granted that the King considered arms which were
unlawfully directed against his people as directed against his
own throne.

The remarks of Mr. Hallam on the bill of attainder, though, as
usual, weighty and acute, do not perfectly satisfy us. He defends
the principle, but objects to the severity of the punishment.
That, on great emergencies, the State may justifiably pass a
retrospective act against an offender, we have no doubt whatever.
We are acquainted with only one argument on the other side, which
has in it enough of reason to bear an answer. Warning, it is
said, is the end of punishment. But a punishment inflicted, not
by a general rule, but by an arbitrary discretion, cannot serve
the purpose of a warning. It is therefore useless; and useless
pain ought not to be inflicted. This sophism has found its way
into several books on penal legislation. It admits however of a
very simple refutation. In the first place, punishments ex post
facto are not altogether useless even as warnings. They are
warnings to a particular class which stand in great need of
warnings to favourites and ministers. They remind persons of this
description that there maybe a day of reckoning for those who
ruin and enslave their country in all forms of the law. But this
is not all. Warning is, in ordinary cases, the principal end of
punishment; but it is not the only end. To remove the offender,
to preserve society from those dangers which are to be
apprehended from his incorrigible depravity, is often one of the
ends. In the case of such a knave as Wild, or such a ruffian as
Thurtell, it is a very important end. In the case of a powerful
and wicked statesman, it is infinitely more important; so
important, as alone to justify the utmost severity, even though
it were certain that his fate would not deter others from
imitating his example. At present, indeed, we should think it
extremely pernicious to take such a course, even with a worse
minister than Strafford, if a worse could exist; for, at present,
Parliament has only to withhold its support from a Cabinet to
produce an immediate change of hands. The case was widely
different in the reign of Charles the First. That Prince had
governed during eleven years without any Parliament; and, even
when Parliament was sitting, had supported Buckingham against
its most violent remonstrances.

Mr. Hallam is of opinion that a bill of pains and penalties ought
to have been passed; but he draws a distinction less just, we
think, than his distinctions usually are. His opinion, so far as
we can collect it, is this, that there are almost insurmountable
objections to retrospective laws for capital punishment, but
that, where the punishment stops short of death, the objections
are comparatively trifling. Now the practice of taking the
severity of the penalty into consideration, when the question is
about the mode of procedure and the rules of evidence, is no
doubt sufficiently common. We often see a man convicted of a
simple larceny on evidence on which he would not be convicted of
a burglary. It sometimes happens that a jury, when there is
strong suspicion, but not absolute demonstration, that an act,
unquestionably amounting to murder, was committed by the prisoner
before them, will find him guilty of manslaughter. But this is
surely very irrational. The rules of evidence no more depend on
the magnitude of the interests at stake than the rules of
arithmetic. We might as well say that we have a greater chance
of throwing a size when we are playing for a penny than when we
are playing for a thousand pounds, as that a form of trial which
is sufficient for the purposes of justice, in a matter affecting
liberty and property, is insufficient in a matter affecting life.
Nay, if a mode of proceeding be too lax for capital cases, it is,
a fortiori, too lax for all others; for in capital cases, the
principles of human nature will always afford considerable
security. No judge is so cruel as he who indemnifies himself
for scrupulosity in cases of blood, by licence in affairs of
smaller importance. The difference in tale on the one side far
more than makes up for the difference in weight on the other.

If there be any universal objection to retrospective punishment,
there is no more to be said. But such is not the opinion of Mr.
Hallam. He approves of the mode of proceeding. He thinks that a
punishment, not previously affixed by law to the offences of
Strafford, should have been inflicted; that Strafford should have
been, by act of Parliament, degraded from his rank, and condemned
to perpetual banishment. Our difficulty would have been at the
first step, and there only. Indeed we can scarcely conceive that
any case which does not call for capital punishment can call for
punishment by a retrospective act. We can scarcely conceive a man
so wicked and so dangerous that the whole course of law must be
disturbed in order to reach him, yet not so wicked as to deserve
the severest sentence, nor so dangerous as to require the last
and surest custody, that of the grave. If we had thought that
Strafford might be safely suffered to live in France, we should
have thought it better that he should continue to live in
England, than that he should be exiled by a special act. As to
degradation, it was not the Earl, but the general and the
statesman, whom the people had to fear. Essex said, on that
occasion, with more truth than elegance, "Stone dead hath no
fellow." And often during the civil wars the Parliament had
reason to rejoice that an irreversible law and an impassable
barrier protected them from the valour and capacity of Wentworth.

It is remarkable that neither Hyde nor Falkland voted against the
bill of attainder. There is, indeed, reason to believe that
Falkland spoke in favour of it. In one respect, as Mr. Hallam has
observed, the proceeding was honourably distinguished from others
of the same kind. An act was passed to relieve the children of
Strafford from the forfeiture and corruption of blood which were
the legal consequences of the sentence. The Crown had never shown
equal generosity in a case of treason. The liberal conduct of the
Commons has been fully and most appropriately repaid. The House
of Wentworth has since that time been as much distinguished by
public spirit as by power and splendour, and may at the present
moment boast of members with whom Say and Hampden would have been
proud to act.

It is somewhat curious that the admirers of Strafford should also
be, without a single exception, the admirers of Charles; for,
whatever we may think of the conduct of the Parliament towards
the unhappy favourite, there can be no doubt that the treatment
which he received from his master was disgraceful. Faithless
alike to his people and to his tools, the King did not scruple to
play the part of the cowardly approver, who hangs his accomplice.
It is good that there should be such men as Charles in every
league of villainy. It is for such men that the offer of pardon
and reward which appears after a murder is intended. They are
indemnified, remunerated and despised. The very magistrate who
avails himself of their assistance looks on them as more
contemptible than the criminal whom they betray. Was Strafford
innocent? Was he a meritorious servant of the Crown? If so, what
shall we think of the Prince, who having solemnly promised him
that not a hair of his head should be hurt, and possessing an
unquestioned constitutional right to save him, gave him up to the
vengeance of his enemies? There were some points which we know
that Charles would not concede, and for which he was willing to
risk the chances of the civil war. Ought not a King, who will
make a stand for anything, to make a stand for the innocent
blood? Was Strafford guilty? Even on this supposition, it is
difficult not to feel disdain for the partner of his guilt, the
tempter turned punisher. If, indeed, from that time forth, the
conduct of Charles had been blameless, it might have been said
that his eyes were at last opened to the errors of his former
conduct, and that, in sacrificing to the wishes of his Parliament
a minister whose crime had been a devotion too zealous to the
interests of his prerogative, he gave a painful and deeply
humiliating proof of the sincerity of his repentance. We may
describe the King's behaviour on this occasion in terms
resembling those which Hume has employed when speaking of the
conduct of Churchill at the Revolution. It required ever after
the most rigid justice and sincerity in the dealings of Charles
with his people to vindicate his conduct towards his friend. His
subsequent dealings with his people, however, clearly showed,
that it was not from any respect for the Constitution, or from
any sense of the deep criminality of the plans in which Strafford
and himself had been engaged, that he gave up his minister to the
axe. It became evident that he had abandoned a servant who,
deeply guilty as to all others, was guiltless to him alone,
solely in order to gain time for maturing other schemes of
tyranny, and purchasing the aid of the other Wentworths. He, who
would not avail himself of the power which the laws gave him to
save an adherent to whom his honour was pledged, soon showed that
he did not scruple to break every law and forfeit every pledge,
in order to work the ruin of his opponents.

"Put not your trust in princes!" was the expression of the fallen
minister, when he heard that Charles had consented to his death.
The whole history of the times is a sermon on that bitter text.
The defence of the Long Parliament is comprised in the dying
words of its victim.

The early measures of that Parliament Mr. Hallam in general
approves. But he considers the proceedings which took place after
the recess in the summer of 1641 as mischievous and violent. He
thinks that, from that time, the demands of the Houses were not
warranted by any imminent danger to the Constitution and that in
the war which ensued they were clearly the aggressors. As this is
one of the most interesting questions in our history, we will
venture to state, at some length, the reasons which have led us
to form an opinion on it contrary to that of a writer whose
judgment we so highly respect.

We will premise that we think worse of King Charles the First
than even Mr. Hallam appears to do. The fixed hatred of liberty
which was the principle of the King's public conduct the
unscrupulousness with which he adopted any means which might
enable him to attain his ends, the readiness with which he gave
promises, the impudence with which he broke them, the cruel
indifference with which he threw away his useless or damaged
tools, made him, at least till his character was fully exposed,
and his power shaken to its foundations, a more dangerous enemy to
the Constitution than a man of far greater talents and resolution
might have been. Such princes may still be seen, the scandals of
the southern thrones of Europe, princes false alike to the
accomplices who have served them and to the opponents who have
spared them, princes who, in the hour of danger, concede
everything, swear everything, hold out their cheeks to every
smiter, give up to punishment every instrument of their tyranny,
and await with meek and smiling implacability the blessed day of
perjury and revenge.

We will pass by the instances of oppression and falsehood which
disgraced the early part of the reign of Charles. We will leave
out of the question the whole history of his third Parliament,
the price which he exacted for assenting to the Petition of
Right, the perfidy with which he violated his engagements, the
death of Eliot, the barbarous punishments inflicted by the Star-
Chamber, the ship-money, and all the measures now universally
condemned, which disgraced his administration from 1630 to 1640.
We will admit that it might be the duty of the Parliament after
punishing the most guilty of his creatures, after abolishing the
inquisitorial tribunals which had been the instruments of his
tyranny, after reversing the unjust sentences of his victims to
pause in its course. The concessions which had been made were
great, the evil of civil war obvious, the advantages even of
victory doubtful. The former errors of the King might be imputed
to youth, to the pressure of circumstances, to the influence of
evil counsel, to the undefined state of the law. We firmly
believe that if, even at this eleventh hour, Charles had acted
fairly towards his people, if he had even acted fairly towards
his own partisans, the House of Commons would have given him a
fair chance of retrieving the public confidence. Such was the
opinion of Clarendon. He distinctly states that the fury of
opposition had abated, that a reaction had begun to take place,
that the majority of those who had taken part against the King
were desirous of an honourable and complete reconciliation and
that the more violent or, as it soon appeared, the more judicious
members of the popular party were fast declining in credit. The
Remonstrance had been carried with great difficulty. The
uncompromising antagonists of the court such as Cromwell, had
begun to talk of selling their estates and leaving England. The
event soon showed that they were the only men who really
understood how much inhumanity and fraud lay hid under the
constitutional language and gracious demeanour of the King.

The attempt to seize the five members was undoubtedly the real
cause of the war. From that moment, the loyal confidence with
which most of the popular party were beginning to regard the King
was turned into hatred and incurable suspicion. From that moment,
the Parliament was compelled to surround itself with defensive
arms. From that moment, the city assumed the appearance of a
garrison. From that moment, in the phrase of Clarendon, the
carriage of Hampden became fiercer, that he drew the sword and
threw away the scabbard. For, from that moment, it must have been
evident to every impartial observer, that, in the midst of
professions, oaths, and smiles, the tyrant was constantly looking
forward to an absolute sway, and to a bloody revenge.

The advocates of Charles have very dexterously contrived to
conceal from their readers the real nature of this transaction.
By making concessions apparently candid and ample, they elude the
great accusation. They allow that the measure was weak and even
frantic, an absurd caprice of Lord Digby, absurdly adopted by the
King. And thus they save their client from the full penalty of
his transgression, by entering a plea of guilty to the minor
offence. To us his conduct appears at this day as at the time it
appeared to the Parliament and the city. We think it by no means
so foolish as it pleases his friends to represent it, and far
more wicked.

In the first place, the transaction was illegal from beginning to
end. The impeachment was illegal. The process was illegal. The
service was illegal. If Charles wished to prosecute the five
members for treason, a bill against them should have been sent to
a grand jury. That a commoner cannot be tried for high treason by
the Lords at the suit of the Crown, is part of the very alphabet
of our law. That no man can be arrested by the King in person is
equally clear. This was an established maxim of our jurisprudence
even in the time of Edward the Fourth. "A subject," said Chief
Justice Markham to that Prince, "may arrest for treason: the King
cannot; for, if the arrest be illegal, the party has no remedy
against the King."

The time at which Charles took his step also deserves
consideration. We have already said that the ardour which the
Parliament had displayed at the time of its first meeting had
considerably abated, that the leading opponents of the court were
desponding, and that their followers were in general inclined to
milder and more temperate measures than those which had hitherto
been pursued. In every country, and in none more than in England,
there is a disposition to take the part of those who are
unmercifully run down, and who seem destitute of all means of
defence. Every man who has observed the ebb and flow of public
feeling in our own time will easily recall examples to illustrate
this remark. An English statesman ought to pay assiduous worship
to Nemesis, to be most apprehensive of ruin when he is at the
height of power and popularity, and to dread his enemy most when
most completely prostrated. The fate of the Coalition Ministry in
1784 is perhaps the strongest instance in our history of the
operation of this principle. A few weeks turned the ablest and
most extended Ministry that ever existed into a feeble
Opposition, and raised a King who was talking of retiring to
Hanover to a height of power which none of his predecessors had
enjoyed since the Revolution. A crisis of this description was
evidently approaching in 1642. At such a crisis, a Prince of a
really honest and generous nature, who had erred, who had seen
his error, who had regretted the lost affections of his people,
who rejoiced in the dawning hope of regaining them, would be
peculiarly careful to take no step which could give occasion of
offence, even to the unreasonable. On the other hand, a tyrant,
whose whole life was a lie, who hated the Constitution the more
because he had been compelled to feign respect for it, and to
whom his own honour and the love of his people were as nothing,
would select such a crisis for some appalling violation of the
law, for some stroke which might remove the chiefs of an
Opposition, and intimidate the herd. This Charles attempted. He
missed his blow; but so narrowly, that it would have been mere
madness in those at whom it was aimed to trust him again.

It deserves to be remarked that the King had, a short time
before, promised the most respectable Royalists in the House of
Commons, Falkland, Colepepper, and Hyde, that he would take no
measure in which that House was concerned, without consulting
them. On this occasion he did not consult them. His conduct
astonished them more than any other members of the Assembly.
Clarendon says that they were deeply hurt by this want of
confidence, and the more hurt, because, if they had been
consulted, they would have done their utmost to dissuade Charles
from so improper a proceeding. Did it never occur to Clarendon,
will it not at least occur to men less partial, that there was
good reason for this? When the danger to the throne seemed
imminent, the King was ready to put himself for a time into the
hands of those who, though they disapproved of his past conduct,
thought that the remedies had now become worse than the
distempers. But we believe that in his heart he regarded both the
parties in the Parliament with feelings of aversion which
differed only in the degree of their intensity, and that the
awful warning which he proposed to give, by immolating the
principal supporters of the Remonstrance, was partly intended for
the instruction of those who had concurred in censuring the ship-
money and in abolishing the Star-Chamber.

The Commons informed the King that their members should be
forthcoming to answer any charge legally brought against them.
The Lords refused to assume the unconstitutional office with
which he attempted to invest them. And what was then his conduct?
He went, attended by hundreds of armed men, to seize the objects
of his hatred in the House itself. The party opposed to him more
than insinuated that his purpose was of the most atrocious kind.
We will not condemn him merely on their suspicions. We will not
hold him answerable for the sanguinary expressions of the loose
brawlers who composed his train. We will judge of his act by
itself alone. And we say, without hesitation, that it is
impossible to acquit him of having meditated violence, and
violence which might probably end in blood. He knew that the
legality of his proceedings was denied. He must have known that
some of the accused members were men not likely to submit
peaceably to an illegal arrest. There was every reason to
expect that he would find them in their places, that they would
refuse to obey his summons, and that the House would support them
in their refusal. What course would then have been left to him?
Unless we suppose that he went on this expedition for the sole
purpose of making himself ridiculous, we must believe that he
would have had recourse to force. There would have been a
scuffle; and it might not, under such circumstances, have been in
his power, even if it had been in his inclination, to prevent a
scuffle from ending in a massacre. Fortunately for his fame,
unfortunately perhaps for what he prized far more, the interests
of his hatred and his ambition, the affair ended differently. The
birds, as he said, were flown, and his plan was disconcerted.
Posterity is not extreme to mark abortive crimes; and thus the
King's advocates have found it easy to represent a step, which,
but for a trivial accident, might have filled England with
mourning and dismay, as a mere error of judgment, wild and
foolish, but perfectly innocent. Such was not, however, at the
time, the opinion of any party. The most zealous Royalists were
so much disgusted and ashamed that they suspended their
opposition to the popular party, and, silently at least,
concurred in measures of precaution so strong as almost to amount
to resistance.

From that day, whatever of confidence and loyal attachment had
survived the misrule of seventeen years was, in the great body of
the people, extinguished, and extinguished for ever. As soon as
the outrage had failed, the hypocrisy recommenced. Down to the
very eve of this flagitious attempt Charles had been talking of
his respect for the privileges of Parliament and the liberties of
his people. He began again in the same style on the morrow; but
it was too late. To trust him now would have been, not
moderation, but insanity. What common security would suffice
against a Prince who was evidently watching his season with that
cold and patient hatred which, in the long-run, tires out every
other passion?

It is certainly from no admiration of Charles that Mr. Hallam
disapproves of the conduct of the Houses in resorting to arms.
But he thinks that any attempt on the part of that Prince to
establish a despotism would have been as strongly opposed by his
adherents as by his enemies, and that therefore the Constitution
might be considered as out of danger, or, at least that it had
more to apprehend from the war than from the King. On this
subject Mr. Hallam dilates at length, and with conspicuous
ability. We will offer a few considerations which lead us to
incline to a different opinion.

The Constitution of England was only one of a large family. In
all the monarchies of Western Europe, during the middle ages,
there existed restraints on the royal authority, fundamental
laws, and representative assemblies. In the fifteenth century,
the government of Castile seems to have been as free as that of
our own country. That of Arragon was beyond all question more so.
In France, the sovereign was more absolute. Yet even in France,
the States-General alone could constitutionally impose taxes;
and, at the very time when the authority of those assemblies was
beginning to languish, the Parliament of Paris received such an
accession of strength as enabled it, in some measure, to perform
the functions of a legislative assembly. Sweden and Denmark had
constitutions of a similar description.

Let us overleap two or three hundred years, and contemplate
Europe at the commencement of the eighteenth century. Every free
constitution, save one, had gone down. That of England had
weathered the danger, and was riding in full security. In Denmark
and Sweden, the kings had availed themselves of the disputes
which raged between the nobles and the commons, to unite all the
powers of government in their own hands. In France the
institution of the States was only mentioned by lawyers as a part
of the ancient theory of their government. It slept a deep sleep,
destined to be broken by a tremendous waking. No person
remembered the sittings of the three orders, or expected ever to
see them renewed. Louis the Fourteenth had imposed on his
parliament a patient silence of sixty years. His grandson, after
the War of the Spanish Succession, assimilated the constitution
of Arragon to that of Castile, and extinguished the last feeble
remains of liberty in the Peninsula. In England, on the other
hand, the Parliament was infinitely more powerful than it had
ever been. Not only was its legislative authority fully
established; but its right to interfere, by advice almost
equivalent to command, in every department of the executive
government, was recognised. The appointment of ministers, the
relations with foreign powers, the conduct of a war or a
negotiation, depended less on the pleasure of the Prince than on
that of the two Houses.

What then made us to differ? Why was it that, in that epidemic
malady of constitutions, ours escaped the destroying influence;
or rather that, at the very crisis of the disease, a favourable
turn took place in England, and in England alone? It was not
surely without a cause that so many kindred systems of
government, having flourished together so long, languished and
expired at almost the same time.

It is the fashion to say that the progress of civilisation is
favourable to liberty. The maxim, though in some sense true, must
be limited by many qualifications and exceptions. Wherever a poor
and rude nation, in which the form of government is a limited
monarchy, receives a great accession of wealth and knowledge, it
is in imminent danger of falling under arbitrary power.

In such a state of society as that which existed all over Europe
during the middle ages, very slight checks sufficed to keep the
sovereign in order. His means of corruption and intimidation were
very scanty. He had little money, little patronage, no military
establishment. His armies resembled juries. They were drawn out
of the mass of the people: they soon returned to it again: and
the character which was habitual prevailed over that which was
occasional. A campaign of forty days was too short, the
discipline of a national militia too lax, to efface from their
minds the feelings of civil life. As they carried to the camp the
sentiments and interests of the farm and the shop, so they
carried back to the farm and the shop the military
accomplishments which they had acquired in the camp. At home the
soldier learned how to value his rights, abroad how to defend

Such a military force as this was a far stronger restraint on the
regal power than any legislative assembly. The army, now the most
formidable instrument of the executive power, was then the most
formidable check on that power. Resistance to an established,
government, in modem times so difficult and perilous an
enterprise, was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the
simplest and easiest matter in the world. Indeed, it was far too
simple and easy. An insurrection was got up then almost as easily
as a petition is got up now. In a popular cause, or even in an
unpopular cause favoured by a few great nobles, a force of ten
thousand armed men was raised in a week. If the King were, like
our Edward the Second and Richard the Second, generally odious,
he could not procure a single bow or halbert. He fell at once and
without an effort. In such times a sovereign like Louis the
Fifteenth or the Emperor Paul would have been pulled down before
his misgovernment had lasted for a month. We find that all the
fame and influence of our Edward the Third could not save his
Madame de Pompadour from the effects of the public hatred.

Hume and many other writers have hastily concluded, that, in the
fifteenth century, the English Parliament was altogether servile,
because it recognised, without opposition, every successful
usurper. That it was not servile its conduct on many occasions of
inferior importance is sufficient to prove. But surely it was not
strange that the majority of the nobles, and of the deputies
chosen by the commons, should approve of revolutions which the
nobles and commons had effected. The Parliament did not blindly
follow the event of war, but participated in those changes of
public sentiment on which the event of war depended. The legal
check was secondary and auxiliary to that which the nation held
in its own hands.

There have always been monarchies in Asia, in which the royal
authority has been tempered by fundamental laws, though no
legislative body exists to watch over them. The guarantee is the
opinion of a community of which every individual is a soldier.
Thus, the king of Cabul, as Mr. Elphinstone informs us, cannot
augment the land revenue, or interfere with the jurisdiction of
the ordinary tribunals.

In the European kingdoms of this description there were
representative assemblies. But it was not necessary that those
assemblies should meet very frequently, that they should
interfere with all the operations of the executive government,
that they should watch with jealousy, and resent with prompt
indignation, every violation of the laws which the sovereign
might commit. They were so strong that they might safely be
careless. He was so feeble that he might safely be suffered to
encroach. If he ventured too far, chastisement and ruin were at
hand. In fact, the people generally suffered more from his
weakness than from his authority. The tyranny of wealthy and
powerful subjects was the characteristic evil of the times. The
royal prerogatives were not even sufficient for the defence of
property and the maintenance of police.

The progress of civilisation introduced a great change. War
became a science, and, as a necessary consequence, a trade. The
great body of the people grew every day more reluctant to undergo
the inconveniences of military service, and better able to pay
others for undergoing them. A new class of men, therefore,
dependent on the Crown alone, natural enemies of those popular
rights which are to them as the dew to the fleece of Gideon,
slaves among freemen, freemen among slaves, grew into importance.
That physical force which in the dark ages had belonged to the
nobles and the commons, and had, far more than any charter, or
any assembly, been the safeguard of their privileges, was
transferred entire to the King. Monarchy gained in two ways. The
sovereign was strengthened, the subjects weakened. The great mass
of the population, destitute of all military discipline and
organisation, ceased to exercise any influence by force on
political transactions. There have, indeed, during the last
hundred and fifty years, been many popular insurrections in
Europe: but all have failed except those in which the regular
army has been induced to join the disaffected.

Those legal checks which, while the sovereign remained dependent
on his subjects, had been adequate to the purpose for which they
were designed, were now found wanting. The dikes which had been
sufficient while the waters were low were not high enough to keep
out the springtide. The deluge passed over them and, according to
the exquisite illustration of Butler, the formal boundaries,
which had excluded it, now held it in. The old constitutions
fared like the old shields and coats of mail. They were the
defences of a rude age; and they did well enough against the
weapons of a rude age. But new and more formidable means of
destruction were invented. The ancient panoply became useless;
and it was thrown aside, to rust in lumber-rooms, or exhibited
only as part of an idle pageant.

Thus absolute monarchy was established on the Continent. England
escaped; but she escaped very narrowly. Happily our insular
situation, and the pacific policy of James, rendered standing
armies unnecessary here, till they had been for some time kept
up in the neighbouring kingdoms. Our public men, had therefore an
opportunity of watching the effects produced by this momentous
change on governments which bore a close analogy to that
established in England. Everywhere they saw the power of the
monarch increasing, the resistance of assemblies which were no
longer supported by a national force gradually becoming more and
more feeble, and at length altogether ceasing. The friends and
the enemies of liberty perceived with equal clearness the causes
of this general decay. It is the favourite theme of Strafford. He
advises the King to procure from the judges a recognition of his
right to raise an army at his pleasure. "This place well
fortified," says he, "for ever vindicates the monarchy at home
from under the conditions and restraints of subjects." We firmly
believe that he was in the right. Nay; we believe that, even if
no deliberate scheme, of arbitrary government had been formed, by
the sovereign and his ministers, there was great reason to
apprehend a natural extinction of the Constitution. If, for
example, Charles had played the part of Gustavus Adolphus, if he
had carried on a popular war for the defence of the Protestant
cause in Germany, if he had gratified the national pride by a
series of victories, if he had formed an army of forty or fifty
thousand devoted soldiers, we do not see what chance the nation
would have had of escaping from despotism. The judges would have
given as strong a decision in favour of camp-money as they gave
in favour of ship-money. If they had been scrupulous, it would
have made little difference. An individual who resisted would
have been treated as Charles treated Eliot, and as Strafford
wished to treat Hampden. The Parliament might have been summoned
once in twenty years, to congratulate a King on his accession, or
to give solemnity to some great measure of state. Such had been
the fate of legislative assemblies as powerful, as much
respected, as high-spirited, as the English Lords and Commons.

The two Houses, surrounded by the ruins of so many free
constitutions overthrown or sapped by the new military system,
were required to intrust the command of an army and the conduct
of the Irish war to a King who had proposed to himself the
destruction of liberty as the great end of his policy. We are
decidedly of opinion that it would have been fatal to comply.
Many of those who took the side of the King on this question
would have cursed their own loyalty, if they had seen him return
from war; at the head of twenty thousand troops, accustomed to
carriage and free quarters in Ireland.

We think with Mr. Hallam that many of the Royalist nobility and
gentry were true friends to the Constitution, and that, but for
the solemn protestations by which the King bound himself to
govern according to the law for the future, they never would have
joined his standard. But surely they underrated the public
danger. Falkland is commonly selected as the most respectable
specimen of this class. He was indeed a man of great talents and
of great virtues but, we apprehend, infinitely too fastidious for
public life. He did not perceive that, in such times as those on
which his lot had fallen, the duty of a statesman is to choose
the better cause and to stand by it, in spite of those excesses
by which every cause, however good in itself, will he disgraced.
The present evil always seemed to him the worst. He was always
going backward and forward; but it should be remembered to his
honour that it was always from the stronger to the weaker side
that he deserted. While Charles was oppressing the people,
Falkland was a resolute champion of liberty. He attacked
Strafford. He even concurred in strong measures against
Episcopacy. But the violence of his party annoyed him, and drove
him to the other party, to be equally annoyed there. Dreading the
success of the cause which he had espoused, disgusted by the
courtiers of Oxford, as he had been disgusted by the patriots of
Westminster, yet bound by honour not to abandon the cause, for
which he was in arms, he pined away, neglected his person, went
about moaning for peace, and at last rushed desperately on death,
as the best refuge in such miserable times. If he had lived
through the scenes that followed, we have little doubt that he
would have condemned himself to share the exile and beggary of
the royal family; that he would then have returned to oppose all
their measures; that he would have been sent to the Tower by the
Commons as a stifler of the Popish Plot, and by the King as an
accomplice in the Rye-House Plot; and that, if he had escaped
being hanged, first by Scroggs, and then by Jeffreys, he would,
after manfully opposing James the Second through years of
tyranny, have been seized with a fit of compassion, at the very
moment of the Revolution, have voted for a regency, and died a

We do not dispute that the royal party contained many excellent
men and excellent citizens. But this we say, that they did not
discern those times. The peculiar glory of the Houses of
Parliament is that, in the great plague and mortality of
constitutions, they took their stand between the living and the
dead. At the very crisis of our destiny, at the very moment when
the fate which had passed on every other nation was about to pass
on England, they arrested the danger.

Those who conceive that the parliamentary leaders were desirous
merely to maintain the old constitution, and those who represent
them as conspiring to subvert it, are equally in error. The old
constitution, as we have attempted to show, could not be
maintained. The progress of time, the increase of wealth, the
diffusion of knowledge, the great change in the European system
of war, rendered it impossible that any of the monarchies of the
middle ages should continue to exist on the old footing. The
prerogative of the crown was constantly advancing. If the
privileges of the people were to remain absolutely stationary,
they would relatively retrograde. The monarchical and
democratical parts of the government were placed in a situation
not unlike that of the two brothers in the Fairy Queen, one of
whom saw the soil of his inheritance daily, washed away by the
tide and joined to that of his rival. The portions had at first
been fairly meted out. By a natural and constant transfer, the
one had been extended; the other had dwindled to nothing. A new
partition, or a compensation, was necessary to restore the
original equality.

It was now, therefore, absolutely necessary to violate the formal
part of the constitution, in order to preserve its spirit. This
might have been done, as it was done at the Revolution, by
expelling the reigning family, and calling to the throne princes
who, relying solely on an elective title, would find it necessary
to respect the privileges and follow the advice of the assemblies
to which they owed everything, to pass every bill which the
Legislature strongly pressed upon them, and to fill the offices
of state with men in whom the Legislature confided. But, as the
two Houses did not choose to change the dynasty, it was necessary
that they should do directly what at the Revolution was done
indirectly. Nothing is more usual than to hear it said that, if
the Houses had contented themselves with making such a reform in
the government under Charles as was afterwards made under
William, they would have had the highest claim to national
gratitude; and that in their violence they overshot the mark. But
how was it possible to make such a settlement under Charles?
Charles was not, like William and the princes of the Hanoverian
line, bound by community of interests and dangers to the
Parliament. It was therefore necessary that he should be bound by
treaty and statute.

Mr. Hallam reprobates, in language which has a little surprised
us, the nineteen propositions into which the Parliament digested
its scheme. Is it possible to doubt that, if James the Second had
remained in the island, and had been suffered, as he probably
would in that case have been suffered, to keep his crown,
conditions to the full as hard would have been imposed on him? On
the other hand, we fully admit that, if the Long Parliament had
pronounced the departure of Charles from London an abdication,
and had called Essex or Northumberland to the throne, the new
prince might have safely been suffered to reign without such
restrictions. His situation would have been a sufficient

In the nineteen propositions we see very little to blame except
the articles against the Catholics. These, however, were in the
spirit of that age; and to some sturdy churchmen in our own, they
may seem to palliate even the good which the Long Parliament
effected. The regulation with respect to new creations of Peers
is the only other article about which we entertain any doubt. One
of the propositions is that the judges shall hold their offices
during good behaviour. To this surely no exception will be taken.
The right of directing the education and marriage of the princes
was most properly claimed by the Parliament, on the same ground
on which, after the Revolution, it was enacted, that no king, on
pain of forfeiting, his throne, should espouse a Papist. Unless
we condemn the statesmen of the Revolution, who conceived that
England could not safely be governed by a sovereign married to a
Catholic queen, we can scarcely condemn the Long Parliament
because, having a sovereign so situated, they thought it
necessary to place him under strict restraints. The influence of
Henrietta Maria had already been deeply felt in political
affairs. In the regulation of her family, in the education and
marriage of her children, it was still more likely to be felt;
There might be another Catholic queen; possibly a Catholic king.
Little, as we are disposed to join in the vulgar clamour on this
subject, we think that such an event ought to be, if possible,
averted; and this could only be done, if Charles was to be left
on the throne, by placing his domestic arrangements under the
control of Parliament.

A veto on the appointment of ministers was demanded. But this
veto Parliament has virtually possessed ever since the
Revolution. It is no doubt very far better that this power of the
Legislature should be exercised as it is now exercised, when any
great occasion calls for interference, than that at every change
the Commons should have to signify their approbation or
disapprobation in form. But, unless a new family had been placed
on the throne, we do not see how this power could have been
exercised as it is now exercised. We again repeat that no
restraints which could be imposed on the princes who reigned
after the Revolution could have added to the security, which
their title afforded. They were compelled to court their
parliaments. But from Charles nothing was to be expected which
was not set down in the bond.

It was not stipulated that the King should give up his negative
on acts of Parliament. But the Commons, had certainly shown a
strong disposition to exact this security also. "Such a
doctrine," says Mr. Hallam, "was in this country as repugnant to
the whole history of our laws, as it was incompatible with the
subsistence of the monarchy in anything more than a nominal
preeminence." Now this article has been as completely carried
into elect by the Revolution as if it had been formally inserted
in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. We are
surprised, we confess, that Mr. Hallam should attach so much
importance to a prerogative which has not been exercised for a
hundred and thirty years, which probably will never, be exercised
again, and which can scarcely, in any conceivable case, be
exercised for a salutary purpose.

But the great security, the security without which every other
would have been insufficient, was the power of the sword. This
both parties thoroughly understood. The Parliament insisted on
having the command of the militia and the direction of the Irish
war. "By God, not for an hour!" exclaimed the King. "Keep the
militia," said the Queen, after the defeat of the royal party.
"Keep the militia; that will bring back everything." That, by the
old constitution, no military authority was lodged in the
Parliament, Mr. Hallam has clearly shown. That it is a species of
authority which ought, not to be permanently lodged in large and
divided assemblies, must, we think in fairness be conceded.
Opposition, publicity, long discussion, frequent compromise;
these are the characteristics of the proceedings of such
assemblies. Unity, secrecy, decision, are the qualities which
military arrangements require. There were, therefore, serious
objections to the proposition of the Houses on this subject. But,
on the other hand, to trust such a King, at such a crisis, with
the very weapon which, in hands less dangerous, had destroyed so
many free constitutions, would have been the extreme of rashness.
The jealousy with which the oligarchy of Venice and the States of
Holland regarded their generals and armies induced them
perpetually to interfere in matters of which they were
incompetent to judge. This policy secured them against military
usurpation, but placed them, under great disadvantages in war.
The uncontrolled power which the King of France exercised over
his troops enabled him to conquer his enemies, but enabled him
also to oppress his people. Was there any intermediate course?
None, we confess altogether free from objection. But on the
whole, we conceive that the best measure would have been that
which the Parliament over and over proposed, namely, that for a
limited time the power of the sword should be left to the two
Houses, and that it should revert to the Crown when the
constitution should be firmly established, and when the new
securities of freedom should be so far strengthened by
prescription that it would be difficult to employ even a standing
army for the purpose of subverting them.

Mr. Hallam thinks that the dispute might easily have been
compromised, by enacting that, the King should have no power to
keep a standing army on foot without the consent of Parliament.
He reasons as if the question had been merely theoretical, and as
if at that time no army had been wanted. "The kingdom," he says,
"might have well dispensed, in that age, with any military
organisation" Now, we think that Mr. Hallam overlooks the most
important circumstance in the whole case. Ireland was actually in
rebellion; and a great expedition would obviously be necessary to
reduce that kingdom to obedience. The Houses had therefore to
consider, not at abstract question of law, but an urgent
practical question, directly involving the safety of the state.
They had to consider the expediency of immediately giving a great
army to a King who was, at least, as desirous to put down the
Parliament of England as to conquer the insurgents of Ireland.

Of course we do not mean to defend all the measures of the
Houses. Far from it. There never was a perfect man. It would,
therefore, be the height of absurdity to expect a perfect party
or a perfect assembly. For large bodies are far more likely to
err than individuals. The passions are inflamed by sympathy; the
fear of punishment and the sense of shame are diminished by
partition. Every day we see men do for their faction what they
would die rather than do for themselves.

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