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Lecture the Thirty-First.
ALGERNON SIDNEY-LADY RACHEL RUSSELL-GEORGE FOX-ROBERT BARCLAY
WILLIAM PENN-THOMAS ELLWOOD-JOHN AUBREY-ANTHONY WOOD-THOMAS
RYMER-JOHN FLAVEL-JOHN RAY.
FEW periods in the whole range of English history have been more re
markable for the development of character than that which embraces the Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and the Restoration; and in that important period, few characters present themselves to our contemplation, involving a deeper and more thrilling interest, than that heroic Sidney, who set up Marcus Brutus as his pattern, and like him became a willing sacrifice in the cause of liberty.
ALGERNON SIDNEY was the second son of Robert, Earl of Leicester, and Dorothy, eldest daughter of Henry Piercy, Earl of Northumberland. Of his birth no record has been preserved, though it is supposed to have occurred about 1620; and of his early life and education we are also ignorant. During his father's lieutenancy in Ireland, he served in the army against the rebels in that kingdom; and, in 1643, when the civil war in England broke out, he was permitted to return to that country, when he immediately joined the parliamentary forces, and, as colonel of a regiment of horse, was present and took a brilliant part in several engagements.
He was likewise successively governor of Chichester, Dublin, and Dover. In 1648, such was the prominence which colonel Sidney had attained, that, though a very young man for such an office, he was named as one of the members of the court, appointed to try the king; which, however, he did not attend, though apparently not from any disapproval of the intentions of those who composed it. The usurpation of Cromwell gave much offence to Sidney, who declined to accept office under either him or his son Richard; but when the Long Parliament recovered its power, he readily consented to act as one of the council of state.
At the time of the Restoration, Sidney was engaged in a continental embassy; and, being apprehensive of the vengeance of the royalists, he remained abroad for seventeen years, at the end of which, his father, who was
anxious to see him before his death, procured his pardon from the king. After his return to England, in 1677, he opposed the measures of the court, and has thus subjected himself to the censure of Hume, who thought that such conduct, after he had received the royal pardon, was ungrateful. Sido ney, however, himself evidently regarded the pardon as rather a cessation of injustice, than as an obligation to an implicit submission for the future. A more serious charge against the memory of this patriot is presented in Dalrymple’s ‘Memoirs of Great Britain,' published nearly a century after his death. Some English patriots, with Lord William Russell at their head, intrigued with Barillon, the French ambassador, to prevent the war between France and England, the purpose being to prevent Charles the Second from having the command of the large funds, which, on such an occasion, must be entrusted to him, lest he should use it against the liberties of the nation; while Louis was not less anxious to prevent the English from joining the list of his enemies. This act would never have been regarded as a moral stain upon the patriots, if Sir John Dalrymple had not discovered, amongst the papers of Barillon, one containing a list of persons who had received bribes from the French monarch, amongst which appears the name of Sidney, together with those of several other leading Whig members of parliament. We doubt not, however, from the consummate virtue of Sidney, as shown in all the circumstances of his life, that this list of names was entirely fictitious, and formed for the purpose of concealing the embezzlement of the money by the French ambassador.
Towards the close of Charles the Second's reign, the Whigs made a strenuous effort to exclude the Duke of York from the throne; and in these proceedings Sidney took a very conspicuous part. This attempt having failed, he joined in the conspiracy for insurrection, the design of which was to accomplish the same object. This conspiracy was exposed in consequence of the detection of an inferior plot for the assassination of the king, in which the patriots Russell, Sidney, and others, were dexterously inculpated by the wurt. Sidney was tried for high treason before the infamous Jeffries; and, although the only witness against him was the abandoned Lord Howard, and nothing could be produced that even ostensibly strengthened his testimony, he was condemned by a servile jury, and beheaded on the seventh of December, 1683, glorying in his martyrdom for that old cause' in which he had been engaged from his youth.
Sidney was a man of remarkable attainments in every branch of knowledge that pertained to government; and his sagacious discernment of the character of James the Second, thoroughly evinced the depth of his penetration. The career of that monarch, and the revolution which so speedily followed his accession to the throne, form, perhaps, the best commentary that could be offered on the closing part of our patriot's eventful life. Of his writings little has been preserved besides his Discourses on Government. These discourses were first published in 1698, and of them Lord Orrery remarks, that they are admirably written, and contain great historical knowledge, and a
remarkable propriety of diction; so that his name, in my opinion, ought to be much higher established in the temple of literature than I have hitherto found it placed.' As a specimen we present the following remarks :
LIBERTY AND GOVERNMENT.
Such as enter into society must, in some degree, diminish their liberty. Reason leads them to this. No one man or family is able to provide that which is requisite for their convenience or security, whilst every one has an equal right to every thing, and none acknowledges a superior to determine the controversies that upon such occasions must continually arise, and will probably be so many and great, that mankind can not bear them. Therefore, though I do not believe that Bellarmine said a commonwealth could not exercise its power; for he could not be ignorant, that Rome and Athens did exercise theirs, and that all the regular kingdoms in the world are commonwealths; yet there is nothing of absurdity in saying, that man can not continue in the perpetual and entire fruition of the liberty that God hath given him. The liberty of one is thwarted by that of another; and whilst they are equal, none will yield to any, otherwise than by a general consent. This is the ground of all just governments; for violence or fraud can create no right; and the same consent gives the form to them all, how much soever they differ from each other. Some small number of men, living within the precincts of one city, have, as it were, cast into a common stock the right which they had of governing themselves and children, and by common consent joining in one body, exercised such power over every single person as seemed beneficial to the whole; and this men call perfect democracy. Others choose rather to be governed by a select number of such as most excelled in wisdom and virtue; and this, according to the signification of the word, was called aristocracy; or when one man excelled all others, the government was put into his hands, under the name of monarchy. But the wisest, best, and far greatest part of mankind, rejecting these simple species, did form governments mixed or composed of the three, as shall be proved hereafter, which commonly received their respected denominations from the part that prevailed, and did deserve praise or blame as they were well or ill proportioned.
It were a folly hereupon to say, that the liberty for which we contend is of no use to us, since we can not endure the solitude, barbarity, weakness, want, misery, and dangers that accompany it whilst we live alone; nor can enter into a society without resigning it; for the choice of that society, and the liberty of framing it according to our own wills, for our own good, is all we seek. This remains to us whilst we form governments, that we ourselves are judges how far it is good for us to recede from our natural liberty; which is of so great importance, that from thence only we can know whether we are freemen or slaves; and the difference between the best government and the worst doth wholly depend on a right or wrong exercise of that power. If men are naturally free, such as have wisdom and understanding will always frame good governments; but if they are born under the necessity of a perpetual slavery, no wisdom can be of use to them; but all must forever depend on the will of their lords, how cruel, mad, proud, or wicked soever they be.
The Grecians, amongst others who followed the light of reason, knew no other original title to the government of a nation, than that wisdom, valour, and justice, which was beneficial to the people. These qualities gave beginning to those governments which we call Heroum Regna (the governments of the Heroes); and the veneration paid to such as enjoyed them, proceeded from a grateful sense of the good received from them: they were thought to be descended from the gods, who in virtue and beneficence surpassed other men. The same attended their descendants, till they came to abuse their power, and by their vices showed themselves like to, or worse than others, who could best perform their duty.
Upon the same grounds we may conclude, that no privilege is peculiarly annexed to any form of government; but that all magistrates are equally the ministers of God, who perform the work for which they are instituted ; and that the people which institutes them may proportion, regulate, and terminate their power as to time, measure, and number of persons, as seems most convenient to themselves, which can be no other than their own good. For it can not be imagined that a multitude of people should send for Numa, or any other person to whom they owed nothing, to reign over them, that he might live in glory and pleasure, or for any other reason than that it might be good for them and their posterity. This shows the work of all magistrates to be always and everywhere the same, even the doings of justice, and procuring the welfare of those that create them. This we learn from common sense : Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the best human authors, lay it as an immovable foundation, upon which they build their arguments relating to matters of that
Lady Rachel Russell, whose heroic conduct and conjugal attachment have secured for her an elevated place in the history of her country, is no less remarkable for the literary position which she derives from her letters.
RACHEL WRIOTHESLEY, the second daughter of the Earl of Southampton, was born in 1636. When in the thirty-second year of her age, and widow of Lord Vaughan, she married Lord William Russell, son of the first Duke of Bedford. She was five years older than her second husband, and it is said that her amiable and prudent character was the means of reclaiming him from the youthful follies into which he had plunged at the time of the Restoration. His subsequent political career is known to every one familiar with English history; and if ever a man opposed the course of a government in a pure and patriotic spirit, it was he. The suspicious correspondence with Barillon, already alluded to, leaves him unsullied; for the ambassador distinctly mentions him and Lord Hollis as two who would not suffer themselves to be bribed. When brought to trial, in July, 1683, under the same circumstances as those that attended Sidney's case—with a packed jury and a brutal judge—and refused a counsel to conduct his defence, the only favor that was allowed him was to have an amanuensis. His lady stepped forth to undertake this office, to the admiration of all present. After the condemnation of her husband, she personally implored his pardon without avail. Ile loved her as such a wife deserved to be loved ; and when he took his final farewell of her, he remarked, “The bitterness of death is now past.' Lady Russell died in 1723, at the advanced age of eighty-seven. Fifty years after her death appeared that collection of her letters which gives her a name in English literature. As a specimen of these letters we present the following one, addressed to Dr. Fitzwilliam on her sorrow :
Woburne Abbey, 27th Nov., 1685. As you profess, good doctor, to take pleasure in your writings to me, from the testimony of a conscience to forward my spiritual welfare, so do I to receive them as one to me of your friendship in both worldly and spiritual concernments; doing 80, I need not waste my time nor yours to tell you they are very valuable to me. That you are so contented to read mine, I make the just allowance for; not for the worthiness of them, I know it can not be; but, however, it enables me to keep up an advantageous conversation without scruple of being too troublesome. You say something sometimes, by which I should think you seasoned, or rather tainted, with being so much where compliment or praising is best learned; but I conclude that often what one heartily wishes to be in a friend, one is apt to believe is so. The effect is not naught towards me, whom it animates to have a true, not false title to the least virtue you are disposed to attribute to me. Yet I am far from such a vigour of mind as surmounts the secret discontent so hard a destiny as mine has fixed in my breast; but there are times the mind can hardly feel displeasure, as while such friendly conversation entertained it; then a grateful sense moves one to express the courtesy.
If I could contemplate the conducts of providence with the uses you do, it would give ease indeed, and no disastrous events should much affect us. The new scenes of each day make me often conclude myself very void of temper and reason, that I still shed tears of sorrow and not of joy, that so good a man is landed safe on the happy shore of a blessed eternity ; doubtless he is at rest, though I find none without him, so true a partner he was in all my joys and griefs : I trust the Almighty will pass by this infirmity; I speak it in respect to the world, from whose enticing delights I can now be better weaned. I was too rich in possessions whilst I posbessed him : all relish is now gone, I bless God for it, and pray, and ask of all good people (do it for me from such you know are so) also to pray that I may more and more turn the stream of my affections upwards, and set my heart upon the ever-sattsfying perfections of God; not starting at his darkest providences, but remembering continually either his glory, justice, power is advanced by every one of them, and that mercy is over all his works, as we shall one day with ravishing delight see: in the meantime I endeavour to suppress all wild imaginations a melancholy fancy is apt to let in, and say with the man in the gospel, 'I believe, help thou my unbelief.'
At this period originated the Society of Friends, or, as they are usually called, Quakers. Their peculiar tenets are, that a learned education is unnecessary to a minister; that the existence of a separate clerical profession is unwarranted by the Bible ; that the Creator of the world is not a dweller in temples made with hands; and that the Scriptures are not the rule either of conduct or judgment, but that man should follow the light of Christ within.' They believe also that they are divinely commanded to abstain from taking off their hats to any one, whatever might be his rank ; to use the words thee and thou in addressing all persons with whom they communicate ; to bid nobody good-morning or good-night; and never to bend the knee to any one in authority, or to take an oath, even on the most solemn occasions.
GEORGE Fox, the founder of this remarkable sect, was the son of a weaver, and was born at Drayton, Leicestershire, in 1624. The narrow circumstances of his father prevented him from receiving any thing more than a very ordinary education, and in boyhood he was apprenticed to a shoemaker who traded in wool and cattle. Thus situated, he spent much of his youth in tending sheep-an employment which allowed him to indulge his natural propensity for musing and solitude. When about nineteen years of age, he was, on one occasion, vexed with a disposition to in