Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

I.

impaired; and impaired it must be, if not totally de- CHAPTER stroyed, when tyrants can hope to find in a man like Hume, no less eminent for the integrity and benevolence of his heart, than for the depth and soundness of his understanding, an apologist for even their foulest murders.

Thus fell Russel and Sidney, two names that will, it is hoped, be for ever dear to every English heart. When their memory shall cease to be an object of respect and veneration, it requires no spirit of prophecy to foretell that English liberty will be fast approaching to its final consummation. Their deportment was such as might be expected from men who knew themselves to be suffering, not for their crimes, but for their virtues. In courage they were equal, but the fortitude of Russel, who was connected with the world by private and domestic ties, which Sidney had not, was put to the severer trial; and the story of the last days of this excellent man's life, fills the mind with such a mixture of tenderness and admiration, that I know not any scene in history that more powerfully excites our sympathy, or goes more directly to the heart.

The very day on which Russel was executed, Oxford Dethe University of Oxford passed their famous Decree, condemning formally, as impious and heretical

cree.

I.

CHAPTER propositions, every principle upon which the consti

tution of this or any other free country can maintain itself. Nor was this learned body satisfied with stigmatizing such principles as contrary to the Holy Scriptures, to the decrees of Councils, to the writings of the Fathers, to the faith and profession of the primitive church, as destructive of the kingly government, the safety of his Majesty's person, the publick peace, the laws of nature, and bounds of human society; but after enumerating the several obnoxious propositions, among which was one declaring all civil authority derived from the people; another, asserting a mutual contract, tacit or express, between the King and his subjects; a third, maintaining the lawfulness of changing the succession to the crown; with many others of a like nature, they solemnly decreed all and every of those propositions to be not only false and seditious, but impious, and that the books which contained them were fitted to lead to rebellion, murder of princes, and atheism itself. Such are the absurdities which men are not ashamed to utter in order to cast odious imputations upon their adversaries; and such the manner in which churchmen will abuse, when it suits their policy, the holy name of that religion whose first precept is to love one another, for the purpose of

I.

teaching us to hate our neighbours with more than CHAPTER ordinary rancour. If Much ado about Nothing had been published in those days, the town-clerk's declaration, that receiving a thousand ducats for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully, was flat burglary, might be supposed to be a satire upon this decree; yet Shakespeare, well as he knew human nature, not only as to its general course, but in all its eccentrick deviations, could never dream, that, in the persons of Dogberry, Verges, and their followers, he was representing the vice-chancellors and doctors of our learned University.

Among the oppressions of this period, most of Mr. Locke's which were attended with consequences so much from Oxford. more important to the several objects of persecution, it may seem scarcely worth while to notice the expulsion of John Locke from Christ Church College, Oxford. But besides the interest which every incident in the life of a person so deservedly eminent, naturally excites, there appears to have been something in the transaction itself characteristick of the spirit of the times, as well as of the general nature of absolute power. Mr. Locke was known to have been intimately connected with Lord Shaftesbury, and had very prudently judged it advisable for him, to prolong for some time his residence upon the

expulsion

I

[ocr errors]

Chapter Continent, to which he had resorted originally on

account of his health. A suspicion, as it has been since proved, unfounded, that he was the author of a pamphlet which gave offence to the government, induced the King to insist upon his removal from his studentship at Christ Church. Sunderland writes, by the King's command, to Dr. Fell, Bishop of Oxford, and Dean of Christ Church. The reverend prelate answers, that he has long had an eye upon Mr. Locke's behaviour; but though frequent attempts had been made, (attempts of which the Bishop expresses no disapprobation,) to draw him into imprudent conversation, by attacking, in his company, the reputation, and insulting the memory, of his late patron and friend, and thus to make his gratitude, and all the best feelings of his heart, instrumental to his ruin, these attempts all proved unsuccessful. Hence the Bishop infers, not the innocence of Mr. Locke, but that he was a great master of concealment, both as to words and looks; for looks, it is to be supposed, would have furnished a pretext for his expulsion, more decent than any which had yet been discovered. An expedient is then suggested, to drive Mr. Locke to a dilemma, by summoning him to attend the College on the first of January ensuing. If he do not appear, he shall be expelled for contumacy;

I.

if he come, matter of charge may be found against CHAPTER him, for what he shall have said at London, or elsewhere, where he will have been less upon his guard than at Oxford. Some have ascribed Fell's hesitation, if it can be so called, in executing the King's order, to his unwillingness to injure Locke, who was his friend; others, with more reason, to the doubt of the legality of the order. However this may have been, neither his scruple nor his reluctance was regarded by a court who knew its own power. A peremptory order was accordingly sent, and immediate obedience ensued.* Thus, while, without the shadow of a crime, Mr. Locke lost a situation attended with some emolument, and great convenience, was the University deprived of, or rather thus, from the base principles of servility, did she cast away, the man the having produced whom is now her chiefest glory; and thus, to those who are not determined to be blind, did the true nature of absolute power discover itself, against which the middling station is not more secure than the most exalted. Tyranny, when glutted with the blood of the great, and the plunder of the rich, will conde. scend to hunt humbler game, and make a peaceable .

Vide Sunderland's correspondence with the Bishop of Oxford, in the Appendix.

« VorigeDoorgaan »