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CHAPTER Duke of Monmouth, a man against whom all that has
been said by the most inveterate enemies both to him and his party, amounts to little more than this, that he had not a mind equal to the situation in which his ambition, at different times, engaged him to place himself. But to judge him with candour, we must make great allowances, not only for the temptations into which he was led by the splendid prosperity of the earlier parts of his life, but also for the adverse prejudices with which he was regarded by almost all the cotemporary writers from whom his actions and character are described. The Tories of course are unfavourable to him ; and even among
the Whigs, there seems, in many, a strong inclination to disparage him ; some to accuse themselves for not having joined him ; others to make a display of their exclusive attachment to their more successful leader, King William. Burnet says of Monmouth, that he was gentle, brave, and sincere : to these praises, from the united testimony of all who knew him, we may add that of generosity, and surely those qualities go a great way in making up the catalogue of all that is amiable and estimable in human nature. One of the most conspicuous features in his character, seems to have been a remarkable, and as some think, a culpable degree of flexibility. That such a disposition is preferable to its opposite extreme, will be admitted by all who think that modesty, even in excess, is more nearly allied to wisdom than conceit and self-sufficiency. He who has
attentively considered the political, or indeed the general, concerns of life, may possibly go still further, and rank a willingness to be convinced, or in some cases even without conviction, to concede our own opinion to that of other men, among the principal ingredients in the composition of practical wisdom. Monmouth had suffered this flexibility, so laudable in many cases, to degenerate into a habit, which made him often follow the advice, or yield to the entreaties, of persons whose characters by no means entitled them to such deference. The sagacity of Shaftesbury, the honour of Russel, the genius of Sidney, might in the opinion of a modest man, be safe and eligible guides. The partiality of friendship, and the conviction of his firm attachment, might be some excuse for his listening so much to Grey ; but he never could, at any period of his life, hare mistaken Ferguson for an honest man. There is reason to believe, that the advice of the two last mentioned persons had great weight in persuading him to the unjustifiable step of declaring himself King. But far the most guilty act of this unfortunate man's life, was his lending his name to the Declaration which was published at Lyme, and in this instance, Ferguson, who penned the paper, was both the adviser and the jpstrument. To accuse the King of having burnt London, murdered Essex in the Tower, and finally, poisoned his brother, unsup ported by evidence to substantiate such dreadful
charges, was calumny of the most atrocious kind ; but the guilt is still heightened,. when we observe, that from no conversation of Monmouth, nor indeed from any other circumstance whatever, do we collect that he himself believed the horrid accusations to be true. With regard to Essex's death in particular, the only one of the three charges which was believed by any man of common sense, the late King was as much implicated in the suspicion as James. That the latter should have dared to be concerned in such an act without the privacy of his brother, was too absurd an imputation to be attempted, even in the days of the Popish plot. On the other hand, , it was certainly not the intention of the son to brand his father as an assassin. It is too plain, that in the instance of this Declaration, Monmouth, with a facility highly criminal, consented to set his name to whatever Ferguson recommended as advantageous to the cause. Among the many dreadful circumstances attending civil wars, perhaps there are few more revolting to a good mind, than the wicked calumnies with which, in the heat of contention, men, otherwise men of honour, have in all ages and countries permitted themselves to load their adversaries. It is remarkable that there is no trace of the Divines who attended this unfortunate man, having exhorted him to a particular repentance of his Manifesto, or
having called for a retraction or disavowal of the CHAPTER accusations contained in it. They were so intent upon points more immediately connected with orthodoxy of faith, that they omitted pressing their penitent to the only declaration, by which he could make any satisfactory atonement to those whoin he had injured.