Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Hooker, the great defender of the church againsi the innovations of the Puritans, stood forth as a champion for the “Necessity and Majesty of Law." “ Of Law," he says, “there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God ; hier voice the harmony of the world." IIe considers the uniformity of the laws of nature, as established by the Creator, the cause of all order and beauty, and that man is thus taught the necessity of law by the works of God. IIobbes asserted “the divine right of the sovereign" to the extent of the most perfect absolutism ; but the British Constitution did not acknowledge this. Since the thirteenth century, the gerin of liberty, contained in the great Magna Charta, lad lain in a degree dormant; the light and warmth necessary to its full developement, sprang into rigorous action in the seventeenth century.

The mother of James I., the unfortunate Mary Stuart, was the grand-daughter of Margaret, daughter of Ilenry VII., of England, and consequently cousin to Queen Elizabeth. llenry VIII., after divorcing his wife, Anne Boleyn, declared his daughter, Elizabeth, illegitmate ; this gave rise to the pretensions of Mary to the throne of England, which occasioned that cruelty towards her which must ever remain a blot upon the character of the great queen. The marriage of Mary with Lord Darnley, son of the Earl of Lenos, cousin alike to Elizabeth and Mary, united the only hereditary claim to the throne of England in the person of the son of Mary and Darnley, who was afterwards James VI. of Scotland, and James I. of England. l'assing over the events connected with the history of Mary Stuart, we proceed to the accession of James to the throne of England. Elizabeth had, unwillingly, listened to any suggestions respecting her successor, but when death stared her in the face, she consented that the legitimate heir to the kingdom should be her successor. It was in the beginning of the seventeenth century, 1603, that the Scottish king was informed, by a hurried messenger from London, of the event he had been long expecting, that by the death of Elizabeth, he was now sovereign of England.

When the mother of James was a beautiful and accomplished woman, her son was obtuse in intellect and disagreeable in person. Portraits of him, taken in middle life, exhibit an expression of vacuity, while a certain owl-like staring of the eyes, with the contraction of the muscles about the mouth, indicate the desire to

seem wise and solemn, as we may suppose he looked when writing his famous Counterblast to Tobacco." His vanity was inordinate. "Were I not a king," he said, in visiting the Bodleian Library, “I wald wish to be an university man." He had said to Tully, the prime minister of Louis XIV., who well appreciated the folly of the assertion, that for a long time previous to his accession to the throne of England, he had secretly governed the councils of Elizabeth, and managed her ministers at his will. Yet, in one sense, there was truth in this, for after the

qucen

had become broken down in health and weak in intellect, and James of Scotland was looked upon as her successor, secret correspondence, from England, was carried on with him, and as we have remarked, his accession to the throne was announced to him at his palace in Holyrood-house, before the news of the queen's death was well known in England. Nothing in the character of James seems more abhorrent to humanity, than his supine acquiescence in the imprisonment and execution of his mother, and the hypocrisy with which he affected to mourn for a fate that he had done nothing to arrest. Such was the man who united, under one sovereign, the rival kingdoms of England and Scotland, terminating, for a scason, the bloody national wars, which for inany centuries had reddened the waters of the Tuced with the blood of the rival combatants. The wisest and the best of men would have found it a most difficult task to reconcile the prejudices which naturally existed between the Scottish and English subjects, and as Jaines was neither very wise, nor very good, his reign was, from the first, disturbed by brawls and dissensions between his old and new subjects. The Scotch accused the king of ingratitude towards his former friends, and thic English were jealous of partiality and favoritism towards his Scottish subjects.

Scott, in his "Fortunes of Nigel," brings before the reader in a graphic manner, the state of affairs in England at this time. Sir Walter was at hicart a true Scotchiman, and as such was naturally disposed to cast a veil over the worst traits in the character of James, so that under his pencil he amuses, as an eccentric pedant, wishing to do good, if he could accomplish it without per sonal sacrifices, ridiculous in l.is attempts at wit, and ludicrous in his solemnity. The interview between. IIeroot the goldsmith, and the king, is made the occasion of an introduction to his private cabinet, and his character. “It was a scene of confusion,

no bad represe'mation of the state and quality of his own mind, Costly ornaments and rare pictures covered with dust, were thrown about in a slovenly manner. Among the books with which his table was loaded, were huge folios upon Divinity, and light books of jest an ribal!ry-niscrable roundels and ballads, by the 'Royal Prentice,' as he styled liimself in the art of poetry; and schemes for the pacification of Europe, with a list of the king's hounds, and romerlies against canine madness." Then follows a description of his grotesene dress, and ungainly person. “Such inconsistencies in dress and appointments," says Scott, “were mere outward types of those which existed in tlie royal character ; rendering it a suljeet of doulit anong his contemporaries, and bequeathing it as a problem to future historians. He was deeply learned, without possessing useful knowledge ; a big and bold asserter of his rights in words, yet one who tamely saw them trampled on in deeds. He was laborious in trifles, and a trifler when serious labor was reqnired ; devout in his sentiments, and yet too often profane in his language. IIe was penurious respecting money which he had to give from his own hand, and unboundedly profuse of that which he did not see." But in his own opinion his powers of discrimination in matters of justice and judgment were such, that in respect to wisdom, he was a second Solomon, and his flatterers failed not to liken him to the prophet Daniel. The pencil of Walter Scott gives us true pictures of the men and manners of the times which he describes, albeit the groundwork is of fiction. Macaulay and Scott, the Shakespeares of the seventeenth century, each in his own menuer, has given to history a peculiar interest; the one, by imparting to it the charms of romance; the other, hy adding to romance the sterling worth of genuine history.

Among the personages who played an important part in the reign of James I., was Ccorge Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. The king first saw him acting in a play with other students of Cambridge--struck with his beauty and grace, ho made inquiries after him, and established him at court, where he soon obtained unbounded insluence. The king attempted to improve the education of his favorite by superintending his studies, but the pupil soon became master in all but the name. The fascinating qualities of Buckingham, endeared him to some good and wise men, and we read of distinguished prelates erincing for him the most

[ocr errors]

affectionate interest, fond of being called by him, “niy father," and proud of his love for thcin. The familiar name of Sicenie, conferred upon his favorite liy the king, is said to have originated in a blasphemous allusion to tlic passage in Acts, where it is said of St. Stephen, " All that sai in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” The beauty of George Villiers was as little like that of St. Stephen as mere physical perfection, connected with moral depravity, is allicd to the beauty of holiness, such as beamed forth from the angelic countenance of the first Christian martyr. The extravagance and luxury of tlic favorite, with the oppressions and cxactions which, under his influence, the king authorized -the fully and infatuation of Jarnes (his "old dad," as he was pleased to be called lig Buckingham,) respecting this unworthy minium, we shall pass over-are they not fully written in the chronicles of those times ?

The death of James I., took place about the close of the first quarter of the seventeenth century. His last days are said, by historiaus, to have been spent in religious meditation, and preparation for death, under the influence of pious Protestant clergymen. His son Charles stood by him at the last moment. Dark surmises were rife that the Duke of Buckingham and his mother had poisoned the king—that they presumed, upon the experiment of using medicines not authorized by his physicians, was proved; but this is not considered liy historiaus as proof thai iley designed to hasten liis end. That Charles I. should have been suspected of being in the plot, in order to accelerate his accession to the throne, may be accounted for, from the fact that such imputations, whether with or without evidence, are too gratifying to the morbid love of the horrible which influences mankind in all ages. England, during the reign of James I., hail sunk in the eyes of the world to at least a second-rate power. Senilaul, though virtually maintainilig lier dignity in her association with England, had endured much humiliation. She was regarded rather in the light of a conquered prorince than an independent kingdom. Though she had given a king to England, it was in reality to be swallowed up in the superior importance of her former rival and enemy. Ireland had not even the show of independence or scparate identity. The authority of England, in Ireland, was the supreine law in small as well as in large matters. But the Irish

had remained true to the Catholic faith ;--" The new feud of Protestant and Papist,'' says Macaulay. “inflamed the old feud of Saxon and (olt." If a man has ail estate which has been for several wonerations in his family, it would be idle for him to disturb liimself with searching into ancient records, estending back to a period when all is misty and uncertain, in order in prove his title to lis inh:critaner, or to satisfy himself through whose hands ii l passed before it descended to his more imone:liatı ancesions. Ile likes his livin', it suits his wants; let him be satisfied with ii. so with our religion, if we find it what we neeil, gooil to live by and to die by, let us thank God for it, and cherish the vitality which it imparts to the soul, without burying this precious rem beneath the rubbish of the dark agos, in profitles;s attempts to establish the claims of our own particular branch of the church.

The Reformation, beginning with Wicklinli', au carried forward by Luther, Erasmus, Zuinglius, and Calvin, hai made great progress in Germany, Switzerland, and in the north of Europe. But England did not aí first embrace its principles until the licentious and uprinsiplel llenry VIII., quarrelling with the Pope, Clement VII., threw off the l'apal jurisilietion, and obliged his clergy to declar: him " Defender of the Faitl.." Still he professed himself a Roman Catholie, only wishing to be Pope in his own kingdom. linder the short reign of his son, Elwarii 11., the principles of the Reformation, as taught by (alvin, were introduced, and the most violent exipasos permitted, in destroying monastic libraries, and ancient manuscripts, -mutilating statuss, and defacing pictures, clesccrating churches and abbeys, and persecuting with merciless fury priests and monks. Then followed the cruel reign of his sister, " Bloodly Vary," who rostori'd the authority of Rome, prolibitel all the innovations of the Calvinists, and married a Catholic sovereign, Philip II., of Spain.

l'mler Elizabeth, the Inglican Churei, with the Episcopal form of worship and government, was fully established. lorten's “Church Polity," and other learned treatises on religious doctrine and church rituals then published, are still regarded as sound guides and bulwarks of the Christian Faith. It was about this period that the terms lligh-l'hurehman and Tory were introduced into the English language--the doctrines of Apostolic succession and the divine right of king's blenıled together into one and the

« VorigeDoorgaan »