Imágenes de páginas

names of the preachers. Major-generals fleecing their districts ; soldiers revelling on the spoils of a ruined peasantry;

a upstarts, enriched by the public plunder, taking possession of the hospitable firesides, and hereditary trees of the old gentry ; boys smashing the beautiful windows of Cathedrals ; Quakers riding naked through the market-place; Fifth-monarchy-men shouting for King Jesus ; agitators lecturing from the tops of tubson the fate of Agag; — all these, they tell us, were the offspring of the Great Rebellion. Be it so.

We are not careful to answer in this matter. These charges, were they infinitely more important, would not alter our opinion of an event, which alone has made us to differ from the slaves who crouch beneath the sceptres of Brandenburgh and Braganza. Many evils, no doubt, were produced by the civil war. They were the price of our liberty. Has the acquisition been worth the sacrifice ? It is the nature of the Devil of tyranny to tear and rend the body which he leaves. Are the miseries of continued possession less horrible than the struggles of the tremendous exorcism?

If it were possible that a people, brought up under an in tolerant and arbitrary system, could subvert that system without acts of cruelty and folly, half the objections to despotic power would be removed. We should, in that case, be compelled to acknowledge, that it at least produces no pernicious effects on the intellectual and moral character of a people. We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions. But the more violent the outrages, the more assured we feel that a revolution was necessary. The violence of those outrages will always be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the people : and the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the oppression and degradation under which they have been accustomed to live. Thus it was in our civil war. The rulers

in the church and state reaped only that which they had sown. They had prohibited free discussion, — they had done their best to keep the people unacquainted with their duties and their rights. The retribution was just and natu- . ral. If they suffered from popular ignorance, it was because they had themselves taken away the key of knowledge. If they were assailed with blind fury, it was because they had exacted an equally blind submission.

It is the character of such revolutions, that we always see the worst of them at first. Till men have been for some time free, they know not how to use their freedom. The natives of wine 'countries are always sober. In climates where wine is a rarity, intemperance abounds. A newly liberated people may be compared to a northern army encamped on the Rhine or the Xeres. It is said, that, when soldiers in such a situation first find themselves able to in. dulge without restraint, in such a rare and expensive luxury, nothing is to be seen but intoxication. Soon, however, plenty teaches discretion ; and after wine has been for a few months their daily fare, they become more temperate than they had ever been in their own country. In the same manner, the final and permanent fruits of liberty are wisdom, moderation, and mercy.

Its immediate effects are often atrocious crimes, conflicting errors, skepticism on points the most clear, dog. matism on points the most mysterious. It is just at this crisis that its enemies love to exhibit it. They pull down the scaffolding from the half-finished edifice : they point to the flying dust, the falling bricks, the comfortless rooms, the frightful irregularity of the whole appearance; and then ask in scorn, where the promised splendor and comfort is to be found ? If such miserable sophisms were to prevail, there would never be a good house, or a good government in the world,

Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mys.


[ocr errors]

terious law of her nature, was condemned to appear, at certain seasons, in the form of a foul and poisonous snake. Those who injured her during the period of her disguise, were forever excluded from participation in the blessings which she bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their steps, granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made them happy in love, and victorious in war.* Such a spirit is Liberty. At times she takes the form of a hateful reptile? She grovels, she hisses, she stings. But woe to those who in disgustika shall venture to crush her! And happy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of her beauty and her glory!

There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces — and that cure is freedom! When a prisoner leaves his cell, he cannot bear the light of day: he is unable to discriminate colors, or recognise faces. But the remedy is not to remand him into his dungeon, but to accustom him to the rays of the sun. The blaze of truth and liberty may at first dazzle and bewilder nations which have become half blind in the house of bondage. But let them gaze on, and they will soon be able to bear it. In a few years men learn to reason. The extreme violence of opinions subsides. Hostile theories correct each other. The scattered elements of truth cease to conflict, and begin to coalesce. And at length a system of justice and order is educed out of the chaos.

Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be

[ocr errors]

* Orlando Furioso, Canto 43.

free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to swim ! If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.

Therefore it is that we decidedly approve of the conduct of Milton and the other wise and good men who, in spite of much that was ridiculous and hateful in the conduct of their associates, stood firmly by the cause of public liberty. We are not aware that the poet has been charged with personal participation in any of the blamable excesses of that time. The favorite topic of his enemies is the line of conduct which he pursued with regard to the execution of the King. Of that celebrated proceeding we by no means approve. Still we must say, in justice to the many eminent persons who concurred in it, and in justice more particularly to the eminent person who defended it, that nothing can be more absurd than the imputations which, for the last hundred and sixty years, it has been the fashion to cast upon the Regicides. We have throughout abstained from appealing to first principles — we will not appeal to them now.

We recur again to the parallel case of the Revolution. What essential distinction can be drawn between the Execution of the father and the Deposition of the

What constitutional maxim is there, which applies to the former and not to the latter ? The King can do no wrong. If so, James was as innocent as Charles could have been. The minister only ought to be responsible for the acts of the Sovereign. If so, why not impeach Jeffries and

, retain James ? The person of a King is sacred. Was the person of James considered sacred at the Boyne ? Το discharge cannon against an army in which a King is known to be posted, is to approach pretty near to regicide. Charles too, it should always be remembered, was put to death by men



who had been exasperated by the hostilities of several years, and who had never been bound to him by any other tie than that which was common to them with all their fellow citi.

Those who drove James from his throne, who seduced his army, who alienated his friends, who first imprisoned him in his palace, and then turned him out of it, who broke in upon his very slumbers by imperious messages, who pursued him with fire and sword from one part of the empire to another, who hanged, drew, and quartered his adherents, and attainted his innocent heir, were his nephew and his two daughters! When we reflect on all these things, we are at a loss to conceive how the same persons who, on the fifth of November, thank God for wonderfully conducting his servant King William, and for making all opposition fall before him until he became our King and Governor, can, on the thirtieth of January, contrive to be afraid that the blood of the Royal Martyr may be visited on themselves and their children.

We do not, we repeat, approve of the execution of Charles ; not because the constitution exempts the King from responsibility, for we know that all such maxims, however excellent, have their exceptions ; nor because we feel any peculiar interest in his character, for we think that his sentence describes him with perfect justice as 'a tyrant, a traitor, a murderer, and a public eneny ;' but because we are convinced that the measure was most injurious to the cause of freedom. He whom it removed was a captive and a hostage. His heir, to whom the allegiance of every Royalist was instantly transferred, was at large. The Presbyterians could never have been perfectly reconciled to the father. They had no such rooted enmity to the son. body of the people, also, contemplated that proceeding with feelings which, however unreasonable, no government could safely venture to outrage.

The great

« AnteriorContinuar »