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he could not have been unconscious; fourthly, upon the impossibility of procuring a formal expression of the will of the people; and lastly, upon the virtue and happiness of the people under his administration, and the disorders which immediately ensued upon the restoration of the Stuarts.
As it was not practicable to choose a free Parliament, nor fit to let the old one perpetuate themselves, Cromwell had no other choice, than either to abandon the state, take the administration upon himself, or put it into the hands of some other person, who had no better title. That he judged wisely, and for the benefit of his country, in assuming it himself, no reader of history can doubt; and after having once interfered, there was no retreat for him. To use the strong expression of a writer of our own times, "having grasped the wolf of empire by the ears, he must hold him fast; to let him go, was to be instantly devoured himself."
I cannot conclude, without presenting to your view two portraits, both drawn by disinterested contemporaries. "Cromwell's court," says Echard, "was regulated according to a most strict discipline, where every vice was banished, or severely punished. He maintained a constant appearance of piety, and was regular in his private and public devotions. He retired constantly every day to read the Scriptures and prayer, and some, who watched him narrowly, have reported, that after he had read and meditated a chapter, he prostrated himself with his face on the ground, and with tears poured out his soul to God, for a quarter of an hour. He was a strict observer of the Sabbath, and an encourager of goodness and austerity of life."
The other is by the blameless Evelyn, who lived in the court of Charles the Second, like Abdiel among the fallen angels;
Among the faithless, faithful only he;
"I can never forget," says he, in his Diary, on the day of the accession of James the Second, "the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming and all dissoluteness, and, as it were, total forgetfulness of God (it being Sunday evening), which, this day se'nnight I was witness of; the king sitting and toying with his concubines, Portsmouth, Cleaveland, and Mazarine, &c.; a French boy singing love songs in that glorious gallery; whilst about twenty of the great courtiers and other dissolute persons were at Basset round a large table-a bank of at least £2,000 in gold before them-upon which, two gentlemen, who were with me, made reflections with astonishment. Six days after was all in the dust!"
"Thrones fall and dynasties are changed:
Empires decay and sink
Beneath their own unwieldy weight:
Dominion passeth like a cloud away.
The imperishable mind
Survives all meaner things!”
Who, now, would not have been Oliver Cromwell, rather than Charles the Second.
SUBJECTS CONNECTED WITH POLITICAL ECONOMY,
POLITICAL SCIENCE, AND LEGISLATION.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN "THE PORTSMOUTH JOURNAL."