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CHAPTER and innocent fellow of a college the object of its
persecution. In this instance, one would almost imagine there was some instinctive sagacity in the government of that time, which pointed out to them, even before he had made himself known to the world, the man who was destined to be the most successful adversary of superstition and tyranny.
The King, during the remainder of his reign, seems, with the exception of Armstrong's execution, which must be added to the catalogue of his murders, to have directed his attacks more against the civil rights; properties, and liberties, than against the lives of his subjects. Convictions against evidence, sentences against law, enormous fines, cruel imprisonments, were the principal engines* employed for the purpose of breaking the spirit of individuals, and fitting their necks for the yoke. But it was not thought fit to trust wholly to the effect which such examples would produce upon the publick. That the subjugation of the people might be complete, and despotism be established
the most solid foundation, measures of a more general nature and effect were adopted; and first, the
* The expedient of transporting men among common selons for political offences was not then invented, which is the more extraordinary, as it had begun in this reign to be in some degree made use of in religious persecutions.
charter of London, and then those of almost all the CHAPTER other corporations in England, were either forfeited, or forced to a surrender. By this act of violence two important points were thought to be gained ; one, that in every regular assemblage of the people, in any part of the kingdom, the crown would have a commanding influence ; the other, that in case the King should find himself compelled to break his engagement to France, and to call a parliament, a great majority of members would be returned by electors of his nomination, and subject to his controul. In the affair of the charter of London, it was seen, as in the case of ship-money, how idle it is to look to the integrity of judges for a barrier against royal encroachments, when the courts of justice are not under the constant and vigilant controul of Parliament. And it is not to be wondered at that, after such a warning, and with no hope of seeing a Parliament assemble, even they who still retained their attachment to the true constitution of their country, should rather give way to the torrent, than make a fruitless and dangerous resistance.
Charles being thus completely master, was deter- Despotism mined that the relative situation of him and his subjects should be clearly understood, for which purpose he ordered a declaration to be framed, wherein,
CHAPTER after having stated that he considered the degree
of confidence they had reposed in him as an honour particular to his reign, which not one of his predecessors had ever dared even to hope for, he assured them he would use it with all possible moderation, and convince even the most violent republicans, that as the crown was the origin of the rights and liberties of the people, so was it their most certain and secure support. This gracious declaration was ready for the press at the time of the King's death, and if he had lived to issue it, there can be little doubt how it would have been received, at a time when
nunquam Libertas gratior extat
Quam sub Rege pio, was the theme of every song, and, by the help of some perversion of Scripture, the text of every sermon. But whatever might be the language of flatterers, and
how loud soever the cry of a triumphant, but deluded Despondency party, there were not wanting men of nobler senti
ments, and of more rational views. Minds once thoroughly imbued with the love of what Sidney, in his last moments, so emphatically called the good old cause, will not easily relinquish their principles; nor was the manner in which absolute power was exercised, such as to reconcile to it, in practice, those who had always been averse to it in speculation.
of good men.
The hatred of tyranny must, in such persons, have CHAPTER been exasperated by the experience of its effects, and their attachment to liberty proportionably confirmed. To them the state of their country must have been intolerable: to reflect upon the efforts of their fathers, once their pride and glory, and whom they themselves had followed with no unequal steps, and to see the result of all in the scenes that now presented themselves, must have filled their minds with sensations of the deepest regret, and feelings bordering at least on despondency. To us, who have the opportunity of combining, in our view of this period, not only the preceding but subsequent transactions, the consideration of it may suggest reflections far different, and speculations more consolatory. Indeed I know not that history can furnish a more forcible lesson against despondency, than by recording, that within a short time from those dismal days in which men of the greatest constancy despaired, and had reason to do SÓ, within five years from the death of Sidney, arose the brightest æra of freedom known to the annals of our country.
It is said that the King, when at the summit of Intended his power, was far from happy ; and a notion has measures. been generally entertained, that not long before his death he had resolved upon the recall of Monmouth,
CHAPTER and a correspondent change of system. That some
such change was apprehended seems extremely probable, from the earnest desire which the court of France, as well as the Duke of York's party in England, entertained, in the last years of Charles's life, to remove the Marquis of Halifax, who was supposed to have friendly dispositions to Monmouth. Among the various objections to that nobleman's political principles, we find the charge most relied upon, for the purpose of injuring him in the mind of the King, was founded on the opinion he had delivered in council, in favour of modelling the charters of the British Colonies in North America upon the principles of the rights and privileges of Englishmen. There was no room to doubt, (he was accused of saying,) that the same laws under which we live in England, should be established in a country composed of Englishmen. He even dilated upon this, and omitted none of the reasons by which it can be proved, that an absolute government is neither so happy nor so safe as that which is tempered by laws, and which limits the authority of the prince. He exaggerated, it was said, the mischiefs of a sovereign power, and declared plainly, that he could not make up his mind to live under a king who should have it in his power to take, when he