Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

III.

as a principal ally by such of the English patriots as had CHAPTER at any time entertained thoughts, whether more or less ripened, of delivering their country.

1685.

mouth,

James Duke of Monmouth was the eldest of the late Duke of MonKing's natural children. In the early part of his life, he held the first place in his father's affections ; and even in the height of Charles's displeasure at his political conduct, attentive observers thought they could discern, that the traces of paternal tenderness were by no means effaced. Appearing at Court in the bloom His character, of youth, with a beautiful figure, and engaging manners, known to be the darling of the Monarch, it is no wonder that he was early assailed by the arts of flattery: and it is rather a proof that he had not the strongest of all minds, than of any extraordinary weakness of character, that he was not proof against them. He had appeared with some distinction in the Flemish campaigns; and his conduct had been noticed with the approbation of the commanders, as well Dutch as French, under whom he had respectively served. His courage was allowed by all, his person admired, his generosity loved, his sincerity confided in. If his talents were not of the first rate, they were, by no means contemptible; and he possessed, in an eminent degree, qualities which, in popular government, are far more effective than the most splendid talents ; qualities by which he inspired those who followed him, not only

[ocr errors]

1095,

CHAPTER with confidence and esteem, but with affection, enthu

siasm, and even fondness. Thus endowed, it is not and ambition. surprising that his youthful mind was fired with ambi

tion, or that he should consider the putting of himself at the head of a party, (a situation for which he seems to have been peculiarly qualified by so many advantages, as the means by which he was most likely to attain his object.

tives.

His private mo. y. Many circumstances contributed to outweigh the

scruples which must have harrassed a man of his excellent nature, when he considered the obligations of filial duty and gratitude, and when he reflected, that the particular relation in which he stood to the King rendered a conduct, which in any other subject would have been meritorious, doubtful, if not extremely cul pable in him. 1. Among these, not the least was the de: clared enmity which subsisted between him and his un cle, the Duke of York, The Earl of Mulgrave, after wards Duke of Buckinghamshire, boasted in his Mes moirs, that this enmity was originally owing to his con trivances; and while he is relativg a conduct, upon which the only doubt can be, whether the object or the means were the most infamous, seems to applaud hiinself, as if he had atchieved some potable exploit. While, on the one hand, a prospect of his uncle's succession to the crown was intolerable to him, as involving in it a certain destruction of even the most reasonable

CHAPTER

III.

1085

and limited views of ambition which he might entertain, he was easily led to believe on the other hand, that no harm, but the reverse, was intended towards his royal father, whose reign and life might become precarious, if he obstinately persevered in supporting his brother ; whereas, on the contrary, if he could be persuaded, or even forced, to yield to the wishes of his subjects, he might long reign a powerful, happy, and popular Prince.

It is also reasonable to believe, that with those per- Political mosonal and private motives, others might co-operate of conduct. a publick nature, and of a more noble character. The Protestant religion, to which he seems to have been sincerely attached, would be persecuted, or perhaps, exterminated, if the King should be successful in his support of the Duke of York, and his faction. At least, such was the opinion generally prevalent, while, with respect to the civil liberties of the country, no doubt could be entertained, that if the Court party prevailed in the struggle then depending, they would be completely extinguished. Something may be attributed to his admiration of the talents of some, to his personal friendship for others, among the leaders of the Whigs, more to the aptitude of a generous nature to adopt, and, if I may so say, to become enamoured of, those principles of justice, benevolence, and equality, which form the true creed of the party which he espoused.

III.

1685.

CHAPTER I am not inclined to believe that it was his connection

with Shaftesbury that inspired him with ambitious views, but rather to reverse cause and effect, and to suppose, that his ambitious views produced his connection with that nobleman; and whoever reads with attention Lord Grey's account of one of the party meetings at which he was present, will perceive that there was not between them that perfect cordiality which has been generally supposed, but that Russel, Grey, and Hampden, were upon a far more confidential footing with him. It is far easier to determine generally, that he had high schemes of ambition, than to discover what was his precise object; and those who boldly impute to him the intention of succeeding to the crown, seem to pass by several veighty arguments which make strongly against their hypothesis ; such as, his connection with the Dutchess of Portsmouth, who, if the succession were to go to the King's illegitimate children, must naturally have been for her own son ; his unqualified support of the Exclusion Bill, which, without indeed mentioning her, most unequivocally settled the Crown, in case of a demise, upon the Princess of Orange: and above all, the circumstance of his having, when driven from England, twice chosen Holland for his asylum. By his cousins he was received, not so much with the civility and decorum of Princes, as with the kind familiarity of near relations ; a reception to which he seemed to make every return of

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER

III.

1685.

reciprocal cordiality. *. It is not rashly to be believed, that he, who has never been accused of hardened wickedness, could have been upon such terms with, and so have behaved to, persons whom he purposed to disappoint in their dearest and best grounded hopes, and to defraud of their inheritance.

Whatever his views might be, it is evident that they His exile from

England. were of a nature wholly adverse, not only to those of the Duke of York, but to the schemes of power entertained by the King, with which the support of his brother, was intimately connected. Monmouth was therefore, at the suggestion of James, ordered by his father to leave the country, and deprived of all his offices, civil and military. The pretence for this exile was a sort of principle of impartiality, whidi obliged the King, at. the same time that he ordered his brother, to retire to. Flanders, to deal equal measure to his son. Upon the Duke of York's return, (which was soon after,) Monmouth thought he might without blame return also ; and persevering in his former measures, and old connections, became deeply involved in the cabals to which Essex, Russel, and Sidney fell martyrs. After the death of his friends he surrendered himself, and upon a promise, that nothing said by him should be used to the prejudice of any of his surviving friends, wrote a peni

[merged small][ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »