Page images
PDF
EPUB

Vane, lord Falkland, lord Digby, and sir Edward Chap. Nicholas.

It may be expected, that we should here mention"'', Imp. the Icon Basilike, a work published in the king's name a few days alter his execution. It seems almost impossible, in the controverted parts of history, to say any thing which will satisfy the zealots of both parties: But with regard to the genuineness of that production, it is not easy for an historian to fix any opinion which will be entirely to his own satisfaction. The proofs brought to evince that this work is or is not the king's, are so convincing, that if any impartial reader peruse any one side apartd, he will think it impossible, that arguments could be produced, sufficient to counterbalance so strong an evidence: And when he compares both sides, he will be some time at a loss to fix any determination. Should an absolute suspense of judgment be found difficult or disagreeable in so interesting a question, I must confess, that I much incline to give the preference to the arguments of the royalists. The testimonies, which prove that performance to be the king's, are more numerous, certain, and direct, than those on the other side. This is the case, even if we consider the external evidence: But when we weigh the internal, derived from the style and composition, there is no manner of comparison. These meditations resemble, in elegance, purity, neatness, and simplicity, the genius of those performances which we know with certainty to have flowed from the

royal

d See, on the one hand, Toland's Amyntor, and, on the other, WagstafTs Vindication of the royal Martyr, with Young's addition. We may remark, that lord Clarendon's total silence with regard to this subject, in so full a history, composed in vindication of the king's measures and character, forms a presumption on Toland's side, and a presumption of which that author was ignorant; the works of the noble historian not being then published. Bishop Burnet's testimony too must be allowed of some weight against the Icon.

Chap- royal pen: But are so unlike the bombast, perv^s^/ plexed, rhetorical, and corrupt style of Dr. Gauden, 16*9. to whom they are ascribed, that no human testimony seems sufficient to convince us that he was the author. Yet all the evidences, which would rob the king of that honour, tend to prove that Dr. Gauden had the merit of writing so fine a performance, and the infamy of imposing it on the world for the king's.

It is not easy to conceive the general compassion excited towards the king, by the publishing, at so critical a juncture, a work so full of piety, meekness, and humanity. Many have not scrupled to ascribe to that book the subsequent restoration of the royal family. Milton compares its effects to those which were wrought on the tumultuous Romans by Anthony's reading to them the will of . Caesar. The Icon passed through fifty editions in a twelvemonth; and independent of the great interest taken in it by the nation, as the supposed production of their murdered sovereign, it must be acknowledged the best prose composition, which at the time of its publication, was to be found in the English language.

THE COMMONWEALTH.

CHAP. LX.

State of Englandof Scotlandof IrelandLevellers suppressedSiege of Dublin raisedTredah stormed-CovenantersMontrose taken prisoner executedCovenantersBattle of Dunbarof WorcesterKing's escapeThe commonwealthDutch warDissolution of the parliament.

THE confusions which overspread England Chap. after the murder of Charles I. proceeded as well from the spirit of refinement and innovation, 1649. which agitated the ruling party, as from the dissolution of all that authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, by which the nation had ever been accustomed to be governed. Every man had framed the model of a republic, and however new it was, or fantastical, he was eager in recommending it to his fellow-citizens, or even imposing it by force upon them. Every man had adjusted a system of religion which, being derived from no traditional authority, was peculiar to himself; and being founded on supposed inspiration, not on any principles of human reason, had no means, besides cant and low rhetoric, by which it could recommend itself to others. The levellers insisted on an equal distribution of power and property, and disclaimed all dependence and subordination. The millenarians or fifth-monarchy-men required, that government

itself

CHAP. itself should be abolished, and all human powers be v^^y laid in the dust, in order to pave the way for the iM9. 'dominion of Christ, whose second coming they suddenly expected. The Antinomians even insisted, that the obligations of morality and natural law were suspended, and that the elect, guided by an internal principle more perfect and divine, were superior to the beggarly elements of justice and humanity. A considerable party declaimed against tithes and hireling priesthood, and were resolved that the magistrate should not support by power or revenue any ecclesiastical establishment. Another party inveighed against the law and its professors; and on pretence of rendering more simple the distribution of justice, were desirous of abolishing the whole system of English jurisprudence, which seemed interwoven with monarchical government. Even those among the republicans who adopted not such extravangancies, were so intoxicated with their saintly character, that they supposed themselves possessed of peculiar privileges; and all professions, oaths, laws, and engagements had, in a great measure, lost their influence over them. The bands of society were every where loosened; and the irregular passions of men were encouraged by speculative principles, still more unsocial and irregular.

The royalists, consisting of the nobles and more? considerable gentry, being degraded from their authority, and plundered of their property, were inflamed with the highest resentment and indignation against those ignoble adversaries, who had reduced them to subjection. The presbyterians, whose credit had first supported the arms of the parliament, were enraged to find that, by the treachery or superior cunning of their associates, the fruits of all their successful labours were ravished from them. The former party, from inclination and principle, zealously attached themselves to the son of their unfortunate monarch, whose memory they respected, and whose tragical death they deplored. The latter c Hap. cast their eye towards the same object; but they had V_jt^/ still many prejudices to overcome, many fears and i6#9. jealousies to be allayed, ere they could cordially entertain thoughts of restoring the family, which they had so grievously offended, and whose principles they regarded with such violent abhorrence.

ThE only solid support of the republican independent faction, which, though it formed so small a part of the nation, had violently usurped the government of the whole, was a numerous army of near fifty thousand men. But this army, formidable from its discipline and courage, as well as its numbers, was actuated by a spirit that rendered it dangerous to the assembly which had assumed the command over it. Accustomed to indulge every chimera in politics, every phrenzy in religion, the soldiers knew little of the subordination of citizens, and had only Jearned from apparent necessity, some maxims of military obedience. And while they still maintained that all those enormous violations of law and equity, of which they had been guilty, were justified by the success with which Providence had blessed them; they were ready to break out into any new disorder, wherever they had the prospect of a like sanction and authority.

What alone gave some stability to all these unsettled humours was, the great influence both civil and military acquired by Oliver Cromwel. This man, suited to the age in which he lived, and to that alone, was equally qualified to gain the affection and confidence of men, by what was mean, vulgar, and ridiculous in his character; as to command their obedience by what was great, daring, and enterprising. Familiar even to buffoonery with the meanest centinel, lie never lost his authority: Transported to a degree of madness with religious ecstasies, be never forgot the political purposes to which

« PreviousContinue »