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Some curiosity having been manifested by professors and literary men of my acquaintance in regard to the standard of English Composition among the young men at Cambridge, and also respecting the University Latin Essays, I here reprint six of the exercises for Trinity Declamations, &c., one of which was unsuccessful ; and three for the Members' Prize, one of which took the second prize, and one was unsuccessful. It will be seen, therefore, that they are not by any means picked out as the very best. Nor will they, treating too as some of them do of subjects since adorned by the pens of Carlyle and Macaulay, be deemed subject to criticism like the work of maturer years.



Declamation to which was adjudged the first prize cup.

Trinity College, Cambridge, 1843. THERE are pages which we could wish blotted from the book of history. Nations as well as individuals suddenly go mad. Such national madness is indeed generally a monomania, leaving the minds of its subjects sane on all points save “the one fixed idea,” but it is not on that account the less fearful in its ravages, or deplorable in its effects. On such occasions men reject with disdain the counsels of experience,


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disown the promptings of reason, and hurrying forward in pursuit of some delusive phantom plunge blindfold into those very dangers, to avoid which all their efforts have been directed.

Many are accustomed to consider the period of English history to which our question refers, as one of these melancholy eras. The spectacle of a people taking up arms against the constituted authorities, wasting the resources of the country in civil war, and consummating the bloody work by the sacrifice of the king himself; and then half-choosing, halfsubmitting to the yoke of a military despot, is one which they cannot contemplate without a shudder, even at this long interval of time. It is for them a season not to be named

gap in their country's annals. But this is indeed a narrow and short-sighted view of the question. So much property destroyed, so many lives lost,

. the legitimate institutions of the land so many years in abeyance-Is it in this pitiful balance that we are to weigh the worth of revolutions ? Every reform must bring with it temporary mischiefs, and very often the immediate evil is in proportion to the ultimate good. Every reformer has been tauntingly asked “ Art thou he that troubleth Israel ?” What if the people did rebel against the government ? It was because that government had been perverted from its lawful ends and made the engine of oppression. What if they did take the life of their monarch? It was a fearful outrage, but were its consequences irreparable? When once society had been dissolved into its original elements (for which the king was to blame quite as much at least as his subjects) his life was no more than the life of any other man. “Il n'y a qu'un Français de plus,” said the Bourbon when he returned from exile. There was but one Englishman less after Charles Stuart had been beheaded.

If on the other hand we look at England only from without, we shall find few periods at which she maintained her place among the nations of Europe with more credit to herself. That naval supremacy which has since been one of her proudest boasts, was now for the first time triumphantly established. Her fleets swept the seas. Holland, Spain, Tunis, and the West Indies, were alike witnesses of her prowess. If after viewing the exploits of Blake we cast our eyes backward to the fruitless attempts of Cecil, and the Quixotic expedition of Buckingham, or forward to the sale of Dunkirk, and the disgraceful surprise at Chatham, we can scarcely help confessing that the Protector supported his country's dignity abroad much better than either of the monarchs between whom he thrust himself.

But this again would be taking a very narrow and partial view of the subject. Small knowledge of history is needed to convince us that the most brilliant external and the most gloomy internal prospects may co-exist. It was while Roman valor was feared to the uttermost parts of the known world, that Roman liberty was crushed for ever. It was while French armies were beating back the combined forces of a continent, that France writhed under the most cruel of despotisms--the tyranny of a mob.

The only method by which we can decide this question properly is, to ascertain what permanent principles can be evolved from the various changes which accompanied and followed the usurpation of Cromwell. To do this it will be necessary to pass in brief review the leading incidents of the period. It will not be necessary to come to any decision on the merits or demerits of the principal actor. have been a fanatic, or a hypocrite, or both (paradoxical as it may seem, the union of the two characters in the same individual is by no means impossible), still the effects of his administration may have been ultimately beneficial. For God over-rules the counsels of men to serve his own wise purposes :

“ Blindly the wicked work

His promises of good.”* And we must not refuse to acknowledge that good because it may have been accomplished through an unworthy or unwilling agent.

Let us then look at the facts of the case. In 1653 Cromwell seized the reins of government. His first act was to collect a parliament—a single House instead of the former two. The radical measures of this new body, most of whom were utterly unfit for their station, so alarmed him, that in less than six months he half-coaxed, half-compelled them to * Southey's “ Thalaba the Destroyer.”


He may


dissolve. Twice was the experiment repeated, and twice it failed ; each parliament proving more unmanageable than its predecessor. Then an attempt was made to procure for the Protector the title of King, and to re-establish the upperhouse, that is, to restore the old constitution under a new dynasty. This failed also, and then Cromwell's death put a stop to his experiments. His son Richard was allowed to succeed him in the supreme authority (a quasi acknowledgment of the hereditary principle) but had neither inclination nor ability to retain it

. All was now confusion, when a bold general entered the capital at the head of a triumphant army.

His first movements which favored the parliament were received with general grief and indignation : he changed his course and met with the most cordial support on all sides. Finally the young king ascended the throne of his fathers amid the joyous acclamations of a vast majority of his subjects.

Now in looking over these events the first idea that strikes us is, that the dominion of Oliver Cromwell from first to last seemed to be contrary to the natural order of things. The main body of the English people never took naturally to it, if we may be allowed the expression. The very men who had been foremost in raising the usurper to power were the first to resist his newly acquired authority. He found enemies on every side of him, and bis old friends were the worst enemies of all. For five years he maintained a precarious sway; how much longer he could have kept his post is uncertain.

The real feelings of the nation were most clearly shown by the circumstances which attended the Restoration. Charles II. might have been as truly as Louis XVIII. was falsely called Le Désiré. No foreign bayonets forced him upon a reluctant country; an expectant multitude received him with open

It was not the people who were awed by Monk, but Monk who followed the universal direction of public sentiment. To suppose that any considerations of loyalty or patriotism prevented “Honest George” from playing the part of Cromwell over again, would be a most undue extension of charity. Possessed of uncommon shrewdness and judgment he foresaw the inevitable course of events, and wisely preferred to temporary rule and ultimate ruin the credit of having accomplished that which sooner or later must have been done without him. The usurper lived not in the hearts of the people. No Beranger arose to tell of his glory. His name was indeed the burden of the popular ballad, but it was introduced only to be derided and execrated. It was to welcome the restored monarch that the full tide of song gushed forth. The king had come to enjoy his own again, and the nation rejoiced accordingly.


Cromwell's usurpation was therefore, as a usurpation, essentially a failure.*

Now why did it fail ? Certainly not from any want of ability in Cromwell himself. Whatever may be our judgment respecting his moral character, there can be but one opinion as to his intellectual. He united in an eminent degree the two qualities particularly requisite in a revolutionary leader-forethought to design and courage to execute. “He was successively Danton and Buonaparte.

Nor was it through any freak of fortune. A military despot loses his popularity with his success in the field. Even the best and wisest of statesmen and generals have been overwhelmed by popular odium in consequence of misfortunes which they could neither foresee nor prevent. Such was never the case with Cromwell.

Victory ever attended his arms whether directed against foreign or domestic foes, whether under his own auspices or those of his generals. If martial glory could have ensured stability to the usurper's government, his descendants might now be sitting on the English throne.

In short the more we look at the circumstances of the case, the more deeply must we be impressed with the conviction that the commonwealth was an experiment of which the English people were very soon tired.

They found that liberty, law, and order, all the great ends of government,

* To appreciate this fully we must contrast it with those of the two men to whom he is most frequently compared—Cæsar and Napoleon. The former utterly subverted the ancient order of things and tri. umphantly established a new dynasty. The latter was only prevented from doing so by the united power of a continent.

Though his dominion was overthrown, his name is still cherished, and he will continue to be the idol of the French people as long as they retain their national character.

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