תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

operation can het to operate canand partialities of

Art. I. The History of England from the Acceffoon of. James I. to the

Revolution. Vols. Vi, and VII. By Cacharine Macaulay Graham. 4to. II. 10 s. Dilly. 1781. WITHILE the prejudices and partialities of mankind are

V suffered to operate (and it is well known that their operation can never be restrained), it will be impoßible for the historian, whose narrative is confined to events in which every one fancies himself interested, to give fatisfaction to all.

· The truth of this observation' has been sufficiently experienced by the Authoress of the present volumes. Those, who differ from her in the complexion of their political tenets, fail not to charge her with principles, which are not only not to be found in. her writings, even by implication, but which the invariably dila, avows. This disingenuous procedure, at the same time that it. is injurious to the individual, too frequently suppresses the spirit of liberal enquiry, and has an indirect tendency to fap the foun-", dations of truth.

In the Preface to the present volumes, the Authorefs not only explains the motives, but enters into a full vindication of her literary conduct. Her vindication is animated, and appears to be juft. The candid Reader will not be displeased with an extract from this part of her performance.

• I well know what perfonat disadvantage 1 set out with, from that impartiality which I had determined to observe on the conduct of the different factions, which have harassed the internal peace of this empire; and when I gave up the emoluments of favour, the counte- · nance of the great, and the gratificarion of popular applause, on a principle of public utility, I had some reason to expect eleem for my integrity and induftry, and especially as I have never thrown any perfonal abuse on any individual, in or out of power; nor have ever sullied my pen with those anonymous writings calculated to anguith VOL. 'LIV,


[ocr errors][ocr errors]


the feeling heart, to fix an indelible Rain on the manners of English. men, and to infli&t the poignancy of mental Tufferings not only on the defamed persons, but on all those who are attached to them, either by the ties of blood, or the yet stronger ties of affection. I have endeavoured, with the most indefatigable pains, to make my History useful to men of all conditions; and I am persuaded that no modesate churchman, or honeft lawyer, can, on cool reflection, be of. fended with the bidorjan's free observations on the condu&t of mea who have been the authors of much public and private mischief, and whose violent counsels, and dishoneft practices, have frequently dirturbed the peace, and endangered the liberties of the empire. If I have been levere on misguided princes, and bad ministers, it is with a view only to the iotereits of the people; and if all historians would preserve the same honest rule, initead of varnishing, with false colours, the vices of the powerful, it would, from that general defire which all men bave of preserving some degree of reporacion after dearta, form a kind of literary tribunal, productive of a very useful seformation in the condua of those favoured sons of fortune, on whose good or bad qualities the happiness and welfare of socieries depend. The candid ad the generous will, undoubtedly, from there coolderacions, behold, without malice or refentment, the wicked or weak conduct of their ancestors represented in its proper light; and especially when they reflect that it would be very unbecoming the chasacter, and contrary to the duty of an hißorian, to spare even the memory of a parent, if he was found defective in chofe patriotic virtues which eminently affect the welfare of society.

1. Jf the warmth of my temper has occafioned me to be guilty of any perulancies in my firft productions, they arose from the inexperience of the historian, and the early period of life in which the began to write history ; but though I have been pursued with virulent invectives, I have never yet been made acquainted with my literary faults. Criticisms formed with judgment and temper command ai tention ; but when personal invective supplies the place of argument, and the reputation of authors are attacked in order to decry their writings, it is a very strong fymptom in favour of those productions again it which the battery of abuse is levelled ; and in this case an individual, in the full enjoyment of that internal satisfaction which a faithful exertion of mental abilities affords che rational mind, mud look down with contempt on the angry crowd, nor suffer cheir fierce and loud clamours, in any respect, to divert him from pursuing the grand object of his honest ambition.'

Equally spirited is ber vindication of the glorious Sidney. The invidious and illiberal attacks that have been levelled at the character of that exalted patriot are fresh in the memory of every one.

Speaking of the noble ideas * on which Mr. Sidney, after his

Viz. •In the hopes either of regulating the English monarchy on more correct principles, or of re.ellablishing that mode of government, which, he conceived, would more naturally produce the security of the subject, and the honour of the nation.


feturn to England, joined the popular patty, our Historian proteeds :

• Such sentiments carried into practice, and sealed with the blood of this illustrious Englishman, it is to have been imagined, would have rendered his memory sacred to that country on which his writ. ings and heroic virtues bave reflected lustre; but there is a spirit of bitterness, of rancour, of envy, and the worst species of levelling gone forth among us, which even the crown of martyrdom cannot escape. We are told, that when the Romans once beheld their Caro in a fituation not quite agreeable to that conäitent dignity which graced the public and the private virtues of this godlike man, they modestly Itepped aside, and inflead of triumphing over loumanity, by proclaiming aloud this small blemish in an exalted character, they turned their eyes from the wounding light. This was the generosity of ancient manness; but what was the condu&t of Englishmen on the affertion of the French minifter, Barillon, publiched near a hundred years after the martyrdom of their last eminent patriot, that he had received two several sums from the court of France? Why, insead of turning their eyes from the scandalous page, or even of examining into the nature of an affertion which, inaccurately considered, carries the form of an act somewhat derogatory to the honour of their hero, they exulied in the weakness of humanity, and consequently in their own shame. In the fancied corruption of the most perfect pattern of human excellence they found an authority for enormous deviations from common honefty, and by inculcaling the doctrine of an irrefiftible depravity, and levelling every human character, they ima. gined they had, in some measure, conciliated seputation with the mammon of unrighteousnels; for if every man is a villain in bis heart, there can surely be no infamy. Thus whilft Eogland has been considered and respected by foreigners as the mother of heroes, legis. Jators, patriots, and martyrs, her owo sons take a satisfaction in convincing the admiring world, that they were under a gross mistake, and tha: England never produced any character considerably above the stamp of vulgar life ; but there is a glaring impolicy as well as ineanness and wickedness in these attempts. Let the man who farteps on the spoils of corruption, who wantons in the parade of ill. götten riches, who fealls on the bread of the deluded, let him (uf. fer the honest man to reap that meagie harvelt which he disdains; let him be suffered to enjoy his poverty and his honest fame; let him at least reft secure in the sanctuary of martyrdom, left by persuading all mankind that virtue is a non-entity, che market hould be overs ftocked with villains; that ihe price of his commodity should be lowered; and that abler politicians should attain the object of his degrés, for this he may be assured, that all those eminent talents which are necessary to conllitute a truly great man, could never fail of meeting with an unlimited success in the ways of a corrupt ad.. vancement,

• There is, undoubtedly, much of malice and of falsehood in the párty-writings of our ancellors; but that general spirit of levelling: which pervades modern society, is a new circumstance of corruprion among us, and takes its rise from an excess of vanity, which is in. deed common to the human character, bui which owes its luxoriano Dd 2


· growth to circumstances which help to destroy that humility whick must ever racionally attend on insignificance, and seduces every man into a false persuasion of self-importance. What with the opportunity of puffing in the public newspapers, a feather well adjufted, a title, a ribbon, unexpected riches acquired in the Ealt, or a success. ful monopoly, every individual becomes of consequence; and when the mountains are levelled, the mole-hills will appear: but if with the breath of calumny and flander, if with the poisonous ink of detraction, we fully the characters of the illustrious dead, what hope can we reasonably entertain, that the prefent degeneracy of manners should pot increafe with a rapid course through all succeeding ages! The contemplation of a great character never fails to warm the young and generous student into the noble attempt of imitarive virtue, and helps to guard the mind against the impulse of selflh paffions, and the contagion of example. It is indeed only by dwelling on the sublime beauties of heroic character, that we can discover that amazing opposition of the hateful and the lovely in moral excellence and moral deformity, and that we can be animated into a passion for difinte. rested virtue ; but what patterns shall we select for the model of youthful emulation, if we admit of modern scepticism in regard to the reality of that virtue which we have long adored in the sacred memories of our forefathers; besides, it must deaden all generous attempts to an exalted conduct, when one fupposed error in the judgment, one failing of humanity brought to public view by accident, or private malice, Thall obscure the lustre of a life of glory, and level a great character to the base ftandard of common humanity; for as go indi. vidual, whild he continues in a state of frailty, can be certain that he shall always enjoy his understanding free from any alloy of error, or any cloud of insanity; or that he shall every moment of his existence bear the sovereign rule over his temper, his pallions, and his preju. dices; he will never, with all the labour and the forbearance neces. fary to build up an eminent virtue, be induced to purchase that trarfitory faine which may only serve to render bin a more conspicuous object of the contempt of she multitude.

That a man of Sidney's rank, acknowledged abilities, and unftained character, would have been received with open arms by the English government, had he been willing to render his talents subservient to his private interest, and the giving, strength and perma-, nence to the prerogatives of the crown, or to forward the criminal designs of the court, is, I think, a matter of so self-evident a nature, that all arguments tending to prove the position would be useless and ridiculous. That Sidney had rejected the importunities of his family, and the invitations of his friends; that he had refused to avail himself of the advantage which attends great parts and endowments, to establish an interest with the present government equal to what he had enjcyed with the last, appears from the whole tenour of his condoet, and from his letters of correspondence; and can the rankest party. writer, who poffefies any particle of common sense, or any degree of modefiy, deny that the firmelt principles of honour and integrity must regulate the desires and inclinations of that man who, from molives of conscience and opinion, could reject the opportunity of ac. quiring distinction and riches in his owa country, and submit to a


[ocr errors]

voluntary banishment and precarious fubaftence from the favour of * foreign prince! :

• If I was addresling a public renowned for candour and for dig cernment, I hoold say, that such a life as that of Sidney's, supported by his writings, and sealed with his blood, was more than fufficient to counterbalance any affertion wbich cocld be made in his disfavour: I should obferve, that the inflexibility of his temper in matters in which he believed himself to be in the right, would not suffer him meanly to supplicate his own father for money, or in the smallett point to recede from principle, though reduced to great straits and difficulties in a foreign country : I should affert, that it was more probable that Barillon might charge his mafter with money which was never paid, than that a man of Sidney's high spirit and inflexi. bility of temper should be prevailed on to take money from the court of France for any mean and dishonest purpose: but in the present ftate of manners and opinions, I shall exclude every supposition and every argument which might rationally be drawn from established character, and an incorrupt and active integrity, manifested by a long succession of repeated acts of forbearance, self-denial, and personal danger. I fall allow in its fullest latitude Mr. Barillon's assertion, that Algernon Sidney, who had been some years supported in those extremities which his integrity had brought him into, by a pension from the French King, received two several sums of money from the fame prince after his return to England, and “ I believe, says the minister, he may be gained to your Majesty's service :" but what was this service? Was it betraying the liberies of his country to a foreign or domestic tyrant? was it to increase the power of France to the prejudice of his native country? No ; it was to procure the diffolu. tion of a base and venal Parliament; it was to disband an army raised on the design of establishing despotism in England; it was to pull down a minister who had been the priocipal agent in concluding the King's infamous money-negociations with the court of France, and“ who had been the promoter of corruption in Parliament, and of ar. bitrary power in the late. “ The Sieur Algernon Sidney, writes Ba. sillon to bis master, is a man of very high designs, which tend to the re-establishment of a republic: he is in the party of the independents and other sectaries, and this party were masters during the late' troubles; they are not at present very powerful in Parliament, but they are strong in London ; and it is through the intrigues of the Sieur Algernon Sidney, that one of the two Sheriffs; named Bethel, has been elected.” Let that party, wbo inveigh againft Sidney for his prejudices in favour of a republic, say if this conduct was a de.' viation from principle; and if not, what becomes of the 'assertion that Sidney was bribed by the court of France ? Does not bribery confilt in the engaging a man to do that for money which is not agreeable to his inclinations, his opinions, and his principles ; and which he would not otherwise have done without it? If any part of Lord Howard's evidence is to be credited, he saw Sidney iake fixty guineas out of bis pocket for the purpose of forwarding the defigos of the popular party against Cherles. It is highly probable, that as the faction in England, on whom Sidney had any in.' Auence, were composed of Independents, the generality of whom

D: 3


« הקודםהמשך »