« VorigeDoorgaan »
CHAPTER Contributes greatly to the happiness of those around
us, is, in itself, not only an engaging, but an estimable quality. His support of the Queen during the heats raised by the Popish plot, ought to be taken rather as a proof that he was not a monster, than to be ascribed to him as a merit; but his steadiness to his brother, though it may and ought, in a great measure, to be accounted for upon selfish principles, had at least a strong resemblance to virtue.
The best part of this Prince's character seems to have been his kindness towards his mistresses, and his affection for his children, and others nearly connected to him by the ties of blood. His recommendation of the Dutchess of Portsmouth and Mrs. Gwyn, upon his death-bed, to his successor, is much to his honour; and they who censure it, seem, in their zeal to show themselves strict moralists, to have suffered their notions of vice and virtue to have fallen into strange confusion. Charles's connection with those ladies might be vicious, but at a moment when that connection was upon the point of being finally, and irrevocably dissolved, to concern himself about their future welfare, and to recommend them to his brother with earnest tenderness, was virtue. It is not for the interest of morality that the good and evil actions, even of bad men, should be confounded.
His affection for the Duke of Gloucester, and for the CHAPTER Dutchess of Orleans, seems to have been sincere and cordial. To attribute, as some have done, his grief for the loss of the first to political considerations, founded upon an intended balance of power between his two brothers, would be an absurd refinement, whatever were his general disposition; but when we reflect upon that carelessness which, especially in his youth, was a conspicuous feature of his character, the absurdity becomes still more striking. And though Burnet more covertly, and Ludlow more openly, insinuate that his fondness for his sister was of a criminal nature, I never could find that there was any ground whatever for such a suspicion; nor does the little that remains of their epistolary correspondence give it the smallest countenance. Upon the whole, Charles the Second was a bad man, and a bad king: let us not palliate his crimes; but neither let us adopt false or doubtful imputations, for the purpose of making him a Monster.
upon the pro
quences of his
Whoever reviews the interesting period which Reflexions we have been discussing, upon the principle recom- bable consemended in the outset of this chapter, will find, that, reign and from the consideration of the past, to prognosticate the future, would, at the moment of Charles's demise, be no easy task. Between two persons, one of
CHAPTER whom should expect that the country would reI. main sunk in slavery, the other, that the cause of
freedom would revive and triumph, it would be difficult to decide, whose reasons were better supported, whose speculations the more probable. I should guess that he who desponded, had looked more at the state of the publick, while he who was sanguine, had fixed his eyes more attentively upon the person who was about to mount the throne. Upon reviewing the two great parties of the nation, one observation occurs very forcibly, and that is, that the great strength of the Whigs consisted in their being able to brand their adversaries as favourers of Popery; that of the Tories, (as far as their strength depended upon opinion, and not merely upon the power of the crown,) in their finding colour to represent the Whigs as republicans. From this observation we may draw a further inference, that, in proportion to the rashness of the Crown, in avowing and pressing forward the cause of Popery, and to the moderation and steadiness of the Whigs, in adhering to the form of monarchy, would be the chance of the people of England, for changing an ignominious despotism, for glory, liberty, and happiness.