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and seholars, ever ready to applaud his justice. And if by ” conscience” is here meant, that 'sentiment which connects with our actions a reference to a God and a future judgement, it is surely a very hopeful thing, that a man, who can delibe rately brave the divine vengeance, should be intimidated from committing a crime, by thinking of the fearful duóin which ai waits him in the paragraphs of some historian!
In speaking of the fate of Charles I, Mr. Fox, in an argumenț of great candour and delicacy, disapproves of his execm tion, on the ground both of justice and policy, but especially the latter. He passes in too much laste over the character of Cromwell, and gives a rather equivocal estimate of it, except indeed as contrasted with that of Washington, whom he takes the occasion, afforded by the partial similarity of the situations of the two inen, to celebrate in terms of the highest possible eulogium.
We should hope the notion, that good political institutions will be certain of an efficacious operation, by the mere strength of the dead wisdom, if we may so call it, that resides in their construction, independently of the character of the men who are in the administration of them, has lost its infuence on the public mind; if not, the following striking lesson ought to contribute to expel such a vain fancy.
: The reign of Charles the Second forms one of the most singular, as well as of the most important periods of history. It is the æra of good laws and bad government. The abolition of the Court of Wards, the repeal of the writ De Herttico Comburendo, the Triennial Parliament Bill, the establishment of the rights of the House of Commons in regard to impeachment, the expiration of the License Act, and above all, the glorious statute of Habeas Corpus, have therefore induced a modern writer of
great eminence to fix the year 1679 as the period at which our conatitution had arrived at its greatest theoretical perfection, but he owns, in a short note, upon
passage alluded to, that the times immediately following were times of great practical oppression. What a field for medis tation does this short observation, from such a man, furtiish!' What reflections does it not suggest to a thinking mind, upon the inefficacy of hu. man laws, and the imperfection of human constitutions! We åte édled from the contemplation of the progress of our constitution, and our attention is fixed with the most minute acéutucy to a particular point, when it to said to have risen to its utmost perfection. Here we are then at the best moment of the best constitution that human wisdom ever framéd. What follows? A time of oppression and misery, not arising from external Čauses, such as war, pestilence or famine, nur even from any such alteration of the laws as might be supposed to impair this boasted perfection, but from a corrupt and wicked administration, which all the so much ad. mired checks of our constitution were not able to prevent. How vain then, how idle, how presumptuous is the opinion that laws can do every thicg! and how weak and pernicious the maxim founded upon it, that measures, not men, are to be attended to !"
The historian appears to have examined a great deal of evidence on the subject of the pretended popish plot, as the result of which he gives it as his opinion, that the greater part of those, who were concerned in the iniquitous prosecution of the papists, were rather under the iufluence of an extraordinary degree of blind credulity,” than guilty of “ the deliverate wickedness of planning and assisting in the perpetration of legal murder.” But he speaks in the following terms of the stigma which this affair fixed on the nation.
Yet the proceedings on the popish plot must always be considered as an indelible disgrace upon the English nation, in which king, parliament, judges, juries, witnesses, prosecutors, have all their respective, though certainly not equal, shares. Witnesses, of such a character as pot to deserve credit in the most trifling cause, upon the most immaterial facts, gave evidence so incredible, or, to speak more properly, so impossible to be true, that it ought not to have beeń believed if it had come from the mouth of i Cato; and upon such evidence, from such witnesses, were innocent men condemned to death and executed. Prosecutors, whether attornies and solicitors general, or managers of impeachment, acted with the fury which in such circumstances might be expected; juries partook naturally enough of the national ferment; and judges, whose duty it was to guard them against such impressions, were scandalously active in confirming them in their prejudices, and infiaming their passions. The king, who is sypposed to have disbelieved the whole of the plot, never once exercised the glorious prerogative of mercy. It is said that he dared not. His throne, perhaps his life, was at stake; and history does not furnish us with the example of any monarch, with whom the lives of innocent, or even meritorious subjects, ever appeared to be of much weight, when put in the balance against such considerations.' p.
33. It is most melancholy to contemplate a great nation, which not very long before had been animated, in however rude a manner, and however ill instructed in political science, with a high spirit of liberty, which had raised its strong arm against the impositions of a monarch who thought it necessary for a governor to be a despot, and had prostrated him and his armies in the dust; submitting at last to the unqualified despotism of a much more odious tyrant. The view is still more mortifying, when we consider that this tyrant bad never performed any one great action, and possessed no one virtue under heaven, to palliate even in appearance his depravity, and lessen, to the people, the ignominy of being his slaves. But it is most mortifying of all to find, that these slaves were beaten and trodden ins to such fatuity, that they voluntarily abdicated all the rights of both men and brutes, and humbly lauded the master who sported with their privileges, their property, and their blood. No inconsiderable part of this volume consists of descriptions of such national humiliation ; and we transcribe a short specimen, immediately following the account of Charles's turning off his last parliament, with the full resolution never to call another; “to which resolution, indeed, Lewis had bound him, as one of the conditions on which he was to receive bis stipend.”
• No measure was ever attended with more complete success. The most flattering addresses poured in from all parts of the kingdom; divine right, and indiscriminate obedience, were every where the favorite doctrines; and men seemed to vie with each other who should have the honour of the greatest share in the glorious work of slavery, by securing to the king, for the present, and, after him, to the duke, absolute and uncontroulable power.
They, who, either because Charles had been called a forgiving prince by his Hatterers, (upon what ground I could never discover.) or from some supposed connection between indolence and good nature, had deceived themselves into a hope, that his tyranny would be of the milder, sort, found themselves much disappointed in their expectations. The whole history of te remaining part of his reign, exhibits an uninterrupted series of attacks upon the liberty, property, and lives of his subjects.'' p. 43.
The most outrageous operations of Charles's tyranny were carried on in Scotland. This work exhibits, in considerable detail, the horrible system of proscription and murder, which has given him a very reasonable claim to the company, in history or any where else, of Tiberius ; for so we must be allowed to think, notwithstanding Mr. Fox, has taken exception to Burnet's classing these two names together, forgetting that he himself had done the very same thing in an earlier page, which we have already quoted. The following was a tolerable prologue to the tragedy.
• The covenant, which had been so solemnly taken by the whole kingdom, and, among the rest, by the king himself, had been declared to be unlawful, and a refusal to abjure it had been made subject to the severest penalties. Episcopacy, which was detested by a great majority of the dation, had been established, and all publick exercise of religion, in the forms to which the people were most attached, had been prohibited. The attendance upon field conventicles had been made highly penal, and the preaching at them capital; by which means, according to the computation of a late writer, no less remarkable for the accuracy of his facts, than for the force and justness of his reasonings, at least seventeen thousand persons in one district were involved in criminality, and became the object of persecution. After this, letters had been issued by government, forbidding the intercommuning with persons who had neglected, or refused, to appear before the privy council when cited for the above crimes ; a proceeding by which, not only all succour or assistance to such persons, but according to the strict sense of the word made use of, all intercourse with them, was rendered criminal, and subjected him who disobeyed the prohibition to the same penalties, whether capital or other, which were affixed to the alleged crimes of the parties with whom he had intercommuned. These measures not proving effectual, a demand was made upon the landholders, in the district supposed to be disaffected, of bonds, whereby they were to become responsible for their wives, families, tenants, and servants : and likewise for the wives, families, and servants, of their tepants, and finally for all persons living on their estates; that they should not withdraw from the church, frequent 64 preach at conventicles, or give any succour, or have any intercourse with persons with whom it was forbidden to intercommune; and the penalties at. tached to the breach of this engagement, the keeping of which was obviously dut of the power of him who was required to make it, were to be the same as those, whether capital or other,' to which the several whom he engaged, might be liable. The landholders,' not being willing to subscribe to their own destruction, refused to execute the bonds, and this was thought sufficient grounds for considering the district to which they belonged, as in a state of rebellion. English
and Frish armies were ordered to the frontiers-; a train of artillery, and the militia, were sent into the district itself, and six thousand Highlanders, who were let loose upon its inhabitants, to exercise every species of pillage and plunder, were connived at, or rather encouraged, in excesses of a still more atrocious nature."
The next proceeding was analogous, as operating against, a whole district, to what we call swearing the peace against an, in, dividual. The historian makes the following striking observation. A Government swearing the peace against
. its subjects, was a new spectacle ; but if a private subject, under fear of another, hath a right to such a security, how much more the government itseki? was thought an unanswerable argument. Such are the sophistries which tyrants dçem satisfactory. Thus are they willing even to 'descend from their loftiness, into the
situation of subjects or private men, when it is for the purpose of acquiring additional powers of persecution ; and thus truly formidable and terrific are they when they pretend alarm and fear.' p. 112.
The scene becomes more liatesul at every step; till at length we behold one general spectacle of massacre, in which the inost iufernal riots of cruelty to which military, rushans, fully let loose, could be stimulated, were authorised and applauded by, a government, which colleges, and dignitaries, and a large and preponderating part of the nation, adored as of divine aur thority, and really deserved, as a reward of such a faith, the privilege of adoring. It is after viewing such a course of transactions, that we want expressions of somewhat more emphatical reprobation, in closing the account with this wicked me. narch, than those, though very strong and comprehensive,whichi Mr. Fox: has used in the concliding delineation of his charac ter. It was very proper to notice his politeness and affability, bis facility of temper, and his kindness to his mistressés ; but we think they should not have been so mentioned, as to have even the slightest appearapce of a set off against the malignity of his.wickedness and the atrocities of his government..
The manner in which Charles's kindness to his mistresses is mentioned, is a remarkable illustration of the importance of personal morality to a historian, as well as to a statesman.
His recommendation of the Dutchess of Portsmouth and Mrs. Gwyn, upon his death bed, to his successor, is much to his honour ; and they who censure it, seem, in their zeal to show themselves strict mo. ralists, to have suffered their notions of vice and virtue to have fallen into strange confusion. Charles's conneetion with those ladies might be vicious, but at a moment when that connection was upon the point of being finally and irrevocably dissolved, to concern himself about their future "welfare, and to recommend them to his brother witli earnest tenderness, was virtue. It is not for the interest of morality that the good and evil actions of bad men, should be confounded: p. 64. We do not know that any moralist ever forbade a depart. ing criminal to be concerned for the welfare of his surviving companions in guilt, only it would be enjoined that penitence should mingle with this concern ;-but
everia ralist will be indignant at this gentle equivocal mode of touching that vice, by which it is notorious that the example ! of the king contributed to deprave the 'morals of the nation, as much as his political measures to exterminate its freedom. It is most signally remarkable, what a careful sitence is maintạined, in this work, respecting the state of morals during this reign. Is it then no business of history to take account of such a thing? Even regarding the matter in a political view, is the depravity of a people never to he reckoned among the causes, and the most powerful causes, of their sinking quietly under des potism?
The commencement of James's reign, as far as the work before us has illustrated it, was a mere continuation of the preceding, as James, at his accession, graciously promised his subjects it should. This promise was received with grateful joy by a large proportion of the English nation, and by the governing party even in Scotland, whose fulsome abomiz nable address of congratulation is given in this work. Their joy and loyalty were carried to the height of enthusiasm, no doubtz when they found the same infernal work of massacre animated to redonbled activity, and were honoured with the charge of executing an act, which extended, to all persons hearing conventicle preaching, the punishment of death.
Though James was a papist, Mr. Fox has proved, by the most decisive arguments, that his grand leading object was the establishment of an absolute despotism; and that any designs he might entertain of introducing: popery, would have been kept in reserve till this was accomplished. Mean while, he much courted the zealous adherents of the established church, and he plainly intimated that they had been found the firmest friends of such government, as that of bis father, his brother, and himself. It is strange that a man of Mr. Fox's candour should, throughont the book, have contrived to find the