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The old struggle recommenced; but not precisely after the old fashion. The sovereign was not, indeed, a man whom any common warning would have restrained from the grossest violations of law. But it was no common warning that he had received. All round him were the recent signs of the vengeance of an oppressed nation, the fields on which the sub-noblest blood of the island had been poured forth,-the castles shattered by the cannon of the parliamentary armies,—the hall where sat the stern tribunal to whose bar had been led, through lowering ranks of pikemen, the captive heir of a hundred kings,-the stately pilasters before which the great execution had been so fearlessly done in the face of heaven and earth. The restored prince, admonished by the fate of his father, never ventured to attack his Parliaments with open and arbitrary violence. It was at one time by means of the Parliament itself, at another time by means
not establish free government as a salutary nised. The theory of the English constitution improvement, but claim it as an undoubted was the same on the day when the hand of and immemorial inheritance. Nevertheless, Charles II. was kissed by the kneeling Houses there can be no doubt that, during the period at Whitehall as on the day when his father set of which we speak, all the mutual relations of up the royal standard at Nottingham. There all the orders of the state did practically under- was a short period of doting fondness, an hys. go an entire change. The letter of the law terica passio of loyal repentance and love. But might be unaltered, but at the beginning of the emotions of this sort are transitory; and the seventeenth century the power of the crown interests on which depends the progress of was, in fact, decidedly predominant in the great societies are permanent. The transport state; and at the end of that century the power of reconciliation was soon over, and the old of Parliament, and especially of the Lower struggle recommenced. House, had become, in fact, decidedly predominant. At the beginning of the century the sovereign perpetually violated, with little or no opposition, the clear privileges of Parliament. At the close of the century the Parliament had virtually drawn to itself just as much as it chose of the prerogative of the crown. The sovereign retained the shadow of that authority of which the Tudors had held the He had a legislative veto which he never ventured to exercise, a power of appointing ministers whom an address of the Commons could at any moment force him to discard, a power of declaring war, which, without parliamentary support, could not be carried on for a single day. The Houses of Parliament were now not merely legislative assemblies-not merely checking assemblies: they were great Councils of State, whose voice, when loudly and firmly raised, was decisive on all questions of foreign and domestic policy. There was no part of the whole system of government with which they had not power to interfere by advice equivalent to command, and if they abstained from intermeddling with some department of the executive administration, they were withheld from doing so only by their own moderation, and by the confidence which they reposed in the ministers of the crown. There is perhaps no other instance in history of a change so complete in the real constitution of an empire, unaccompanied by any corresponding change in the theoretical constitution. The disguised transformation of the Roman commonwealth into a despotic monarchy, under the long administration of Augustus, is perhaps the nearest parallel. This great alteration did not take place with-gether in the treasury for the members of the out strong and constant resistance on the part House of Commons. The gold of France was of the kings of the house of Stuart. Till 1642 largely employed for the same purpose. Yet that resistance was generally of an open, vio- it was found, as indeed might have been forelent, and lawless nature. If the Commons seen, that there is a natural limit to the effect refused supplies, the sovereign levied a "be- which can be produced by means like these. nevolence." If the Commons impeached a There is one thing which the most corrupt favourite minister, the sovereign threw the senates are unwilling to sell, and that is the efs of the Opposition into prison. Of these power which makes them worth buying. The rts to keep down the Parliament by des- same selfish motives which induce them to potic force without the pretext of law, the last, take a price for a particular vote, will induce the most celebrated, and the most wicked, was them to oppose every measure of which the the attempt to seize the five members. That effect would be to lower the importance, and attempt was the signal for civil war, and was consequently the price, of their votes. About followed by eighteen years of blood and con- the income of their power, so to speak, they fusion. are quite ready to make bargains. But they are not easily persuaded to part with any frag ment of the principal. It is curious to observe how, during the long continuance of this Parliament-the pensionary Parliament, as it was nicknamed by contemporaries--though every circumstance seemed to be favourable to the
the courts of law, that he attempted to regain for the crown its old predominance. He began with great advantages. The Parliament of 1661 was called while the nation was still full of joy and tenderness. The great majority of the House of Commons were zealous royal ists. All the means of influence which the patronage of the crown afforded were used without limit. Bribery was reduced to a system. The king, when he could spare money from his pleasures for nothing else, could spare it for purposes of corruption. While the defence of the coasts was neglected, while ships rotted, while arsenals lay empty, while turbulent crowds of unpaid seamen swarmed in the streets of the seaports, something could still be scraped to
The days of trouble passed by, the exiles returned; the throne was again set up in its high place; the peerage and the hierarchy recovered their ancient splendour. The fundamental laws which had been recited in the Petition of Right were again solemnly recog
crown, the power of the crown was constantly growing power of the Commons. He was for sinking, and that of the Commons constantly allowing them their old authority, and not one rising. The meetings of the Houses were more atom more. He would never have claimed for frequent than in former reigns; their inter- the crown a right to levy taxes from the peoference was more harassing to the government ple, without the consent of Parliament. But than in former reigns; they had begun to make when the Parliament, in the first Dutch war, peace, to make war, to pull down, if they did most properly insisted on knowing how it was not set up, administrations. Already a new that the money which they had voted had proclass of statesmen had appeared, unheard of duced so little effect, and began to inquire before that time, but common ever since. Un- through what hands it had passed, and on der the Tudors and the earlier Stuarts, it was what services it had been expended, Clarendon generally by courtly arts or by official skill considered this as a monstrous innovation. He and knowledge that a politician raised himself told the king, as he himself says, "that he to power. From the time of Charles II. down could not be too indulgent in the defence of the to our own days a different species of talent, privileges of Parliament, and that he hoped he parliamentary talent, has been the most valu- would never violate any of them; but he deable of all the qualifications of an English sired him to be equally solicitous to prevent the statesman. It has stood in the place of all excesses in Parliament, and not to suffer them other acquirements. It has covered ignorance, to extend their jurisdiction to cases they have weakness, rashness, the most fatal maladminis-nothing to do with; and that to restrain them tration. A great negotiator is nothing when within their proper bounds and limits is as compared with a great debater; and a minis- necessary as it is to preserve them from being ter who can make a successful speech need invaded; and that this was such a new entrouble himself little about an unsuccessful croachment as had no bottom." This is a sinexpedition. This is the talent which has made gle instance. Others might easily be given. judges without law, and diplomatists without French-which has sent to the Admiralty men who did not know the stern of a ship from her bowsprit, and to the India Board men who did not know the difference between a rupee and a pagoda-which made a foreign secretary of Mr. Pitt, who, as George II. said, had never opened Vattel--and which was very near making a chancellor of the exchequer of Mr. Sheridan, who could not work a sum in long division. This was the sort of talent which raised Clifford from obscurity to the head of affairs. To this talent Danby--by birth a simple country gentleman-owed his white staff, his garter, and his dukedom. The encroachment of the power of the Parliament on the power of the crown resembled fatality, or the operation of some great law of nature. The will of the individual on the throne or of the individuals in the two Houses seemed to go for nothing. The king might be eager to encroach, yet something constantly drove him back. The Parliament might be loyal, even servile, yet something constantly urged them forward.
The bigotry, the strong passions, the haughty and disdainful temper, which made Clarendon's great abilities a source of almost unmixed evil to himself, and to the public, had no place in the character of Temple. To Temple, however, as well as to Clarendon, the rapid change which was taking place in the real working of the constitution gave great disquiet; particularly as he had never sat in the English Parliament, and therefore regarded it with none of the predilection which men naturally feel for a body to which they belong, and for a theatre on which their own talents have been advantageously displayed.
To wrest by force from the House of Com mons its newly acquired powers was impossi ble; nor was Temple a man to recommend such a stroke, even if it had been possible But was it possible that the House of Com mons might be induced to let those powers drop-that, as a great revolution had been ef fected without any change in the outward form of the government, so a great counter-revolu. tion might be effected in the same mannerthat the crown and the Parliament might be placed in nearly the same relative position in which they had stood in the reign of Elizabeth, and this might be done without one sword drawn, without one execution, and with the general acquiescence of the nation?
These things were done in the green tree. What then was likely to be done in the dry? The Popish Plot and the general election came together, and found a people predisposed to the most violent excitation. The composition of the House of Commons was changed. The legislature was filled with men who leaned to Republicanism in politics, and to Presbyterianism in religion. They no sooner met than they commenced a series of attacks on the government, which, if successful, must have made them supreme in the state.
Where was this to end? To us who have seen the solution, the question presents few difficulties. But to a statesman of the age of Charles II.-to a statesman who wished, without depriving the Parliament of its privileges, to maintain the monarch in his old supremacy -it must have appeared very perplexing.
Clarendon had, when minister, struggled, honestly perhaps, but, as was his wont, obstinately, proudly, and offensively, against the
The English people--it was probab, thus that Temple argued-will not bear to be governed by the unchecked power of the sove reign, nor ought they to be so governed. At present there is no check but the Parliament. The limits which separate the power of checking those who govern, from the power of governing, are not easily to be defined. The Parliament, therefore, supported by the nation, is rapidly drawing to itself all the powers of government. If it were possible to frame some other check on the power of the crown, some check which might be less galling to the sove reign than that by which he is now constantly tormented, and yet which might appear to the people to be a tolerable security against mal
administration, Parliaments would probably meet, and their power, though still a part of the meddle less; and they would be less supported theory of the constitution, became obsolete in by public opinion in their meddling. That practice. We do not, of course, imagine that the king's hands may not be rudely tied by Temple either expected or wished that Parlia others, he must consent to tie them lightly ments should be thus disused; but he did exhimself. That the executive administration pect, we think, that something like what had may not be usurped by the checking body, happened in Holland would happen in Eng something of the character of a checking body land, and that a large portion of the functions must be given to the body which conducts the lately assumed by Parliament would be quietly executive administration. The Parliament is transferred to the miniature Parliament which now arrogating to itself every day a larger he proposed to create. share of the functions of the Privy Council. Had this plan, with some modifications, been We must stop the evil by giving to the Privy tried at an earlier period, in a more composed Council something of the constitution of a state of the public mind, and by a better sove Parliament. Let the nation see that all the reign, we are by no means certain that it would king's measures are directed by a cabinet not have effected the purpose for which it was composed of representatives of every order in designed. The restraint imposed on the king the state-by a cabinet which contains, not by the Council of Thirty, whom he had himself placemen alone, but independent and popular chosen, would have been feeble indeed when noblemen and gentlemen who have large es- compared with the restraint imposed by Parliatates and no salaries, and who are not likely to ment. But it would have been more constant. sacrifice the public welfare, in which they have It would have acted every year, and all the a deep stake, and the credit which they have year round; and before the Revolution the ses attained with the country, to the pleasure of a sions of Parliament were short and the recourt from which they receive nothing. When cesses long. The advice of the Council would the ordinary administration is in such hands probably have prevented any very monstrous as these, the people will be quite content to see and scandalous measures: and would conse. the Parliament become what it formerly was-quently have prevented the discontents which an extraordinary check. They will be quite followed such measures, and the salutary laws willing that the House of Commons should which are the fruits of such discontents. We meet only once in three years for a short ses- believe, for example, that the second Dutch sion, and should take as little part in matters war would never have been approved by such of state as they did a hundred years ago. a Council as that which Temple proposed. We are quite certain that the shutting up of the Exchequer would never even have been men tioned in such a Council. The people, pleased to think that Lord Russell, Lord Cavendish, and Mr. Powle, unplaced and unpensioned, were daily representing their grievances, and defending their rights in the royal presence, would not have pined quite so much for the meeting of Parliaments. The Parliament, when it met, would have found fewer and less glaring abuses to attack. There would have been less misgovernment and less reform. We should not have been cursed with the Cabal, or blessed with the Habeas Corpus Act. In the mean time, the Council would, unless some at least of its powers had been delegated to a smaller body, have been feeble, dilatory, divided, unfit for every thing which requires secrecy and despatch, and peculiarly unfit for the administration of war.
The Revolution put an end, in a very differ ent way, to the long contest between the king and the Parliament. From that time, the House of Commons has been predominant in the state. The cabinet has really been, from that time, a committee nominated by the crown out of the prevailing party in Parliament. Though the minority in the Commons are constantly proposing to condemn executive mea
Thus we believe that Temple reasoned: for on this hypothesis his scheme is intelligible; and on any other hypothesis appears to us, as it does to Mr. Courtenay, exceedingly absurd and unmeaning. This Council was strictly what Barillon called it--an assembly of states. There are the representatives of all the great sections of the community--of the Church, of the Law, of the Peerage, of the Commons. The exclusion of one-half of the councillors from office under the crown-an exclusion which is quite absurd when we consider the Council merely as an executive board--becomes at once perfectly reasonable when we consider the Council as a body intended to restrain the crown, as well as to exercise the powers of the crown--to perform some of the functions of a Parliament, as well as the functions of a cabinet. We see, too, why Temple dwelt so much on the private wealth of the members--why he instituted a comparison between their united income and the united incomes of the members of the House of Commons. Such a parallel would have been idle in the case of a mere cabinet. It is extremely significant in the case of a body intended to supersede the House of Commons in some very important functions.
We can hardly help thinking that the notion of this Parliament on a small scale was sug-sures, or call for papers which may enable the gested to Temple by what he had himself seen House to sit in judgment on such measures, in the United Provinces. The original Assem- these propositions are scarcely ever carried; bly of the States-General consisted, as he tells and if a proposition of this kind is carried us, of above eight hundred persons. But this against the government, a change of Ministry great body was represented by a smaller coun- almost necessarily follows. Growing and cil of about thirty, which bore the name and struggling power always gives more annoy exercised the powers of the States-General. ance and is more unmanageable than estab At last the real States altogether ceased to lished power. The House of Commons gave
infinitely more trouble to the ministers of Charles II. than to any minister of later times; for, in the time of Charles II. the House was checking ministers in whom it did not confide. Now that its ascendency is fully established, it either confides in ministers or turns them out. This is undoubtedly a far better state of things than that which Temple wished to introduce. The modern cabinet is a far better Executive Council than his. The worst House of Commons that has sat since the Revolution was a far more efficient check on misgovernment than his fifteen independent councillors would have been. Yet, every thing considered, it seems to us that his plan was the work of an observant, ingenious, and fertile mind.
It is certain that, just before the Restoration, he declared to the regicides that he would be damned, body and soul, rather than suffer a hair of their heads to be hurt; and that, just after the Restoration, he was one of the judges who sentenced them to death. It is certain that he was a principal member of the mos! profligate administration ever known; and that he was afterwards a principal member of the most profligate Opposition ever known. It is certain that, in power, he did not scruple to violate the great fundamental principle of the constitution, in order to exalt the Catholics; and that, out of power, he did not scruple to violate every principle of justice, in order to destroy them. There were in that age honest men,-William Penn is an instance-who valued toleration so highly, that they would
On this occasion, as on every occasion on which he came prominently forward, Temple had the rare good fortune to please the public as well as the sovereign. The general exultation was great when it was known that the old Council, made up of the most odious tools of power, was dismissed-that small interior committees, rendered odious by the recent memory of the Cabal, were to be disused-and that the king would adopt no measure till it had been discussed and approved by a body, of which one half consisted of independent gentlemen and noblemen, and in which such persons as Russell, Cavendish, and Temple himself had seats. Town and country were in a ferment of joy. The bells were rung, bon-willingly have seen it established, even by an fires were lighted, and the acclamations of Eng-illegal exertion of the prerogative. There land were re-echoed by the Dutch. who con- were many honest men who dreaded arbitrary zidered the influence obtained by Temple as a power so much, that, on account of the alliance certain omen of good for Europe. It is, indeed, between Popery and arbitrary power, they much to the honour of his sagacity, that every were disposed to grant no toleration to Papists one of his great measures should, in such times, On both those classes we look with indulgence have pleased every party which he had any though we think both in the wrong. Bul interest in pleasing. This was the case with Shaftesbury belonged to neither class. He the Triple Alliance-with the Treaty which united all that was worst in both. From the concluded the Second Dutch War-with the friends of toleration he borrowed their contempt marriage of the Prince of Orange-and, finally, for the constitution; and from the friends of with the institution of this new Council. liberty their contempt for the rights of conscience. We never can admit that his conduct as a member of the Cabal was redeemed by his conduct as a leader of Opposition. On the contrary, his life was such, that every part of it, as if by a skilful contrivance, reflects infamy on every other. We should never have known how abandoned a prostitute he was in place if we had not known how desperate an incen diary he was out of it. To judge of him fairly we must bear in mind that the Shaftesbury who in office, was the chief author of the Declara tion of Indulgence, was the same Shaftesbury who, out of office, excited and kept up the sa vage hatred of the rabble of London against the very class to whom that Declaration of Indulgence was intended to give illegal relief.
It is amusing to see the excuses that are made for him. We will give two specimens. It is acknowledged that he was one of the ministry who had made the alliance with France against Holland, and that this alliance was most pernicious. What, then, is the de fence? Even this-that he betrayed his mas ter's counsels to the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, and tried to rouse all the Pro testant powers of Germany to defend the States. Again, it is acknowledged that he was deeply
The only people who grumbled were those popular leaders of the House of Commons who were not among the thirty; and if our view of the measure be correct, they were precisely the people who had good reason to grumble. They were precisely the people whose activity and whose influence the new Council was intended to destroy.
But there was very soon an end of the bright hopes and loud applauses with which the publication of this scheme had been hailed. The perfidious levity of the king and the ambition of the chiefs of parties produced the instant, entire, and irremediable failure of a plan which nothing but firmness, public spirit, and selfdenial on the part of all concerned in it could conduct to a happy issue. Even before the project was divulged, its author had already found reason to apprehend that it would fail. Considerable difficulty was experienced in framing the list of councillors. There were two men in particular about whom the king and Temple could not agree,-two men deeply taintrd with the vices common to the English statesmen of that age, but unrivalled in talents, address, and influence. These were the Earl of Shaftesbury, and George Saville Viscount Halifax.
It was a favourite exercise among the Greek sophists to write panegyrics on characters proverbial for depravity. One professor of rheto ric sent to Socrates a panegyric on Busiris; and Isocrates himself wrote another which has come down to us. It is, we presume, from an ambition of the same kind that some writers have lately shown a disposition to eulogize Shaftesbury. But the attempt is vain. The charges against him rest on evidence not to be invalidated by any arguments which human wit can devise; or by any information which may be found in old trunks and escrutoires.
"A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleased with the danger when the waves went high,
concerned in the Declaration of Indulgence,
While Shaftesbury was still living, his cha-
With more heads than a beast in vision,"
The dates of the two poems will, we think, explain this discrepancy. The third part of Hudibras appeared in 1678, when the character of Shaftesbury had as yet but imperfectly developed itself. He had, indeed, been a traitor to every party in the state; but his treasons had hitherto prospered. Whether it were accident or sagacity, he had timed his desertions in such a manner that fortune seemed to go to and fro with him from side to side. The extent of his perfidy was known; but it was not till the Popish Plot furnished him with a machinery which seemed sufficiently powerful for all his purposes, that the audacity of his spirit and the fierceness of his malevolent passions became fully manifest. His subsequent conduct showed undoubtedly great abili ty, but not ability of the sort for which he had formerly been so eminent. He was now headstrong, sanguine, full of impetuous confidence in his own wisdom and his own good luck. He whose fame as a political tactician had hitherto rested chiefly on his skilful retreats, now set himself to break down all the bridges behind him. His plans were castles in the air:-his talk was rodomontade. He took no
"Our state-artificer foresaw
Which way the world began to draw.
thought for the morrow; he treated the court as if the king were already a prisoner in his hands;-he built on the favour of the multitude, as if that favour were not proverbially inconstant. The signs of the coming reaction were discerned by men of far less sagacity than his; and scared from his side men more consistent than he had ever pretended to be. But on him they were lost. The counsel of Ahithophel,-that counsel which was as if a man had inquired of the oracle of God,-was turned into foolishness. He who had become a by word for the certainty with which he foresaw. and the suppleness with which he evaded dan. ger, now, when beset on every side with snares and death, seemed to be smitten with a blind ness as strange as his former clearsightedness and turning neither to the right nor to the left strode straight on with desperate hardihood to his doom. Therefore, after having early ac
and the Ahithophel of Dryden. Butler dwells on Shaftesbury's unprincipled versatility; on his wonderful and almost instinctive skill in discerning the approach of a change of fortune; and in the dexterity with which he extricated himself from the snares in which he left his associates to perish.
In Dryden's great portrait, on the contrary, violent passion, implacable revenge, boldness amounting to temerity, are the most striking features. Ahithophel is one of the "great wits to madress near allied.” And again—
It has never, we believe, been remarked, that two of the most striking lines in the description of Ahithophel are borrowed, and from a most obscure quarter. In Knolles' History of the Turks, printed more than sixty years before the appearance of Absalom and Ahithophel, are the following verses, under a portrait of the Sultan Mustapha I.:~
"Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not stand, And leaves for Fortune's ice Vertue's firme land."
Dryden's words are
"But wild Ambition loves to slide, not stand,
The circumstance is the more remarkable, because Dryden has really no couplet more intensely Drydenian, both in thought and expression, than this, of which the whole thought, and almost the whole expression, are stolen.
As we are on this subject, we cannot refrain from obby inadvertently attributing to him some feeble_lines serving that Mr. Courtenay has done Dryden injustice, which are in Tate's part of Absalom and Abithophel.