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accountability, and destiny of man. It sheds a light upon this world which relieves the darkness of its dispensations ; places it in fearful relation to another and endless state ; and, as a probation for the future, invests it with an awful and unmeasured interest. Living, as we do, under the clear light and commanding voice of revealed truth, we cannot doubt as to the final issue. As Christians, we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” We know it by the authority, not of Plato, but of Jesus Christ.
Art. V.-Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches: with Elucida
tions, by THOMAS CARLYLE.
Thanks, many thanks, to thee, Thomas Carlyle! Truly thou hast set thee a task Herculean, and like a Hercules thou hast done it! A mighty diver, struggling with holden breath and strong agony of limb to bring up orient pearls from their deep sea bed, were but feeble type of thee! Thou hast brought up truth from the very bottom of Lethe, lustrous, dazzling, from its coffin of weed, as before the tide of time piled upon it its drift of things immemorable! Thou hast stormed the very refuge of lies! Thou hast rolled away a great stone from the grave of the virtues; and evoked from the forgotten world a new heroism to confound the skeptical in human earnestness! From the confused places of the unintelligible thou hast produced a living, consistent truth, to confirm the faith of the just! And for this, thy brave deed, we love thee, Thomas! Albeit thy speech be strange and wild, and thy brain fanciful, yet in thee there is heart of fire! It may be thou hast zeal surpassing knowledge, and ordinary eyes may see that thou lackest the peculiar virtue which truth to say is commonest and least virtuous of them all. Thou art not prudent, Thomas! And in thine enthusiastic zeal for truth thou art not always truthful. We speak not of thy story, for thy record is past question of fidelity; but thou dost not weigh thy hero fairly, evenly, in the balances. Thou layest thy heavy hand not gently on the beam, and givest light weight of virtue. Thou hast forgotten the human nature of great Oliver, and showed him forth immaculate. Yet, verily, there were spots upon him. Spots, as upon the glorious sun, seen only by excess of splendor. Points, not dark, but less effulgent, which yet the common eye must veil to look upon.
How valuable the reproduction of these Letters and Speeches is to the present world will be judged very differently by different men. To the multitude it is entirely true that
“ The age of the Puritans is not extinct only and gone away, but it is as if fallen beyond the capabilities of memory herself. It is grown unintelligible : what we may call incredible. Its earnest purport awakens now no resonance in their frivolous hearts. They understand not, even in imagination, one of a thousand of them, what it ever could have meant. It seems delirious, delusive. The sound of it has become tedious as a tale of past stupidities. Not the body of heroic Puritanism only, which was bound to die ; but the soul of it also, which was, and should have been, and yet shall be, immortal, has for the present passed away.”
Indeed, practical Christianity (and Puritanism was but practical Christianity in unusual, but in natural and healthy, action) has always been a thing unintelligible to the great herd of mankind. In whatever way its wonderful nature has been developed, to them it has been utterly incomprehensible. Its principles are so diametrically opposed to the established rules of human policy, and its practices so inconsistent with the natural estimate of worldly good, that conduct governed strictly by its precepts must always confound the philosophy of this world. “Paul, thou art beside thyself," conveys the most charitable decision of ordinary men upon cases of extraordinary virtue. More commonly dark designs are suspected to hide under the mask of unusual goodness, and greater purity is reputed only more cunning and more malignant evil. Even professed Christians for the most part are profoundly ignorant of the power of spiritual life. Many adopt the forms of religion who never comprehend its mysterious essence. They conform to its code of lesser morals, they acknowledge its laws, fear its penalties, and have some vague hope of its ultimate rewards; but its renewing power never calls into life the heroic energies of another nature, and inspires them with the holy and powerful passions of Christianity. Their religion is but a baptized and decent carnalism ; better certainly than brazen wickedness, but resembling genuine piety only as the embalmed corpse resembles the living body. To them (and of such the churches mostly consist) the truly righteous appear to be enthusiasts in piety, and Pharisces in devotion. Earnestness in the great matter of salvation is to them unintelligible. They are men of order, they are men of peace; they would have the great question between
right and wrong adjusted upon the convenient principle of “uti possedetis.” No matter if deadly error be disseminated; no matter though God's truth be outrageously assailed: it is uncharitable to encounter sin ; it is not courteous to resist the devil; it only does harm to defend truth; it strengthens evil to enforce righteousness. From their very soul they abhor movements. To all such people the recollection of Oliver Cromwell is the memory of an incarnate fiend; or, if they allow him general honesty of purpose, he appears to them a fiery zealot, fierce, ruthless, and bloody ; sanctifying violence by prayer, and celebrating slaughter with psalms. He was in no sense a man of the world, of this world, of their world ; and they can by no possibility form any opinion of his conduct or character but what is entirely erroneous. Passive goodness completes their estimate of angelic perfection: untroubled rest is their maximum of heaven; and what know they, what can they know, of the powerful emotions of the living soul? How may they conceive of the stern will to die daily ; to sacrifice present ease, life's ease, upon the altar of abstract hopes; to contend manfully, with every energy of soul, body, and spirit, against the dominion of sin, within the man and without? What know they of the courage that fears nothing in earth or hell which may thrust between the determined spirit and its destiny? What know courtiers and politicians, and bookmen and the common herd of men; what know they of the mind and soul, the resolves and purposes, of Oliver Cromwell? He was not one of them. A mad thunderbolt blazing across the confused darkness of a stormy time, striking down man and horse, king and commoners, parliament and presbytery, Scotch and Irish: having no law but its own impetus, no check but its own extinction; no object, no design; a mere instrument of evil, a grand firework of the mischievous devil: such is the vision of Oliver to many who think not at all. And there are others who think too much, after their fashion of thinking; the sagacious people; they who know how to divine men's thoughts, which they all unconsciously have thought; to uncover the secret springs of conduct, mysterious only to themselves. They can tell to the nicety of a homæpathic dilution the precise weight of ambition that turned the scale of Oliver's deliberations; and the very moment when his religion changed from gloomy to fanatical, and his fanaticism from crazy sincerity to crafty hypocrisy.
In short, Oliver Cromwell's character could not but be misunderstood in his own day, and in all days since; and the world must become vastly wiser and better before his fame can be appreciated upon just principles, and his rank among the heroes ultimately settled. Under any circumstances it must have been so; but when we remember that Cromwell was the chief actor in a civil war, in which all that is worth fighting for and living for was at stake; a war against established wrong and habitual evil; against chartered rights, and old superstitions, and poetical recollections; a war against kings and priests, against dignities and vices; a war in which everything desirable by the one party was arrayed against all considered valuable by the other: when we remember the extraordinary and fearful details of the strife, and especially the great culminating act, in the then state of the world—the unspeakably daring, astounding act of executing a crowned king !-we may well believe that a truthful history of the man is not to be obtained from his enemies. Yet they have hitherto been his historians ; and a sad history they have given us. Certainly, the genius of the present day had begun to raise doubts as to the degree of Cromwell's monsterhood; nay, some had even begun to conjecture that he might have been no monster at all; but few, perhaps none, were prepared for the truth. Yet he must be a prejudiced man indeed who can read these Letters and Speeches without conviction that the great man who wrote and uttered them was a pious, Godfearing man, sincere and humble to the last; altogether the best man and the best monarch that ever ruled the destinies of England. Yet how different the common notion of him! “Born of a good family, but early given to dissipation : afterward pretending to religion, and acting the hypocrite with such consummate skill as to deceive the most truly pious : suffering his affairs to fall into ruin by the length of his prayers and the general abstraction of his manner: urged by want to rebellion, fanaticism, and ambition : indebted to accident and intrigue for his success, he contrived to build up his fortunes on his country's ruin : waded through blood to the supreme power, being deterred by no crime from the prosecution of his own willful designs: suffered at the end of his career the agonies of remorse: and though in his domestic relations after his marriage altogether exemplary, yet leaving to posterity no better reputation than that of a character which was a compound of all the vices and all the virtues (small number, we opine) which spring from inordinate ambition and wild fanaticism." Thus is Oliver described in the school books, and this is the image men see of him !
Now Mr. Carlyle, and Mr. Carlyle's researches, flatly contradict all this. Our author stands solitary and alone against an army of detractors, and against universal prejudice. He declares that all previous history of Cromwell is false, and unworthy of the least credit; a sheer gathering of lies and utterance of libels; and this startling assertion is fully sustained by the unimpeachable evidence which this wonderful man has exhumed from piles of musty papers, long unread and hardly readable. There is, alas! but little trust in what men call testimony. Even when observed most closely, and sifted most patiently, it often deceives us. The events of our own times, the deeds done in our own neighborhood and just beyond the scope of our own vision, are doubtful to us; subjects of keen dispute and antagonist opinion. Human infirmity observes wrongly, remembers wrongly, narrates wrongly, infers wrongly: an infinity of questions are already postponed to eternity, as not possible to be settled in time. If such be contemporary history, what reliance can be placed upon that of ages past? Were men less infirm then? Did they observe better? remember better? Had they passions, prejudices? When we were boys we firmly believed the beautiful stories of Greece and Rome. Hector, and Achilles, and Eneas, and Romulus, and Numa, were all realities to us then. Perhaps there were such men; but how unlike the heroes of our sophomore year!
In fact, our knowledge and our opinions of past events, and of the characters of those who figured in them, are often utterly erroneous, even when gathered from the most authentic sources. To some extent this is unavoidable, since we can know nothing of the past but through history and tradition, which can never be entirely accurate and just; but we often abandon ourselves to error when a little reflection and inquiry would save us from mistake. We are too apt to regard history as authority for belief; and we rarely inquire by whom, and under what circumstances, and for what purposes, it was written. Still less are we disposed
behind the author's statements, to inquire into the sources of his knowledge, to cross-examine his witnesses and estimate the force of their testimony. Few men think at all, and of the few who do, very few think logically. The time may come when the minds of men will be used in some sort as they were intended to be, but the time is not yet.
One thing is rapidly becoming certain as knowledge increases ; and that is, that the whole thing of human authorities is for the most part a delusion. We write things to-day which are denied and controverted by many, by the most: a hundred years to come, the book becomes respectable: should accident preserve it a thousand, it becomes sacred. Time will sanctify it, errors and all, as it has the records of the early churches. We have scarcely a book, whether it treats of things political or religious, which was