« ElőzőTovább »
ter James quietly saw the Dutch invade our commerce ; the French grew every day stronger and stronger ; and the protestant interest, of which he boasted himself the head, was oppressed on every side, while he writ and hunted, and despatched ambassadors, who, when their master's weakness was once known, were treated in foreign courts with very little ceremony. James, however, took care to be flattered at home, and was neither angry nor ashamed at the appearance that he made in other countries.
Thus England grew weaker, or, what is in political estimation the same thing, saw her neighbours grow stronger, without receiving proportionable additions to her own power. Not that the mischief was so great as it is generally conceived or represented ; for, I believe, it may be made to appear, that the wealth of the nation was, in this reign, very y much increased, though that of the crown was lessened. Our reputation for war was impaired ; but commerce seems to have been carried on with great industry and vigor, and nothing was wanting, but that we should have defended ourselves from the encroachments of our neighbours.
The inclination to plant colonies in America still con tinued, and this being the only project in which men of adventure and enterprise could exert their qualities in a pacific reign, multitudes, who were discontented with their condition in their native country, and such multitudes there will always be, sought relief, or at least a change, in the western regions, where they settled in the northern part of the continent, at a distance from the Spaniards, at that time almost the only nation that had any power or will to obstruct us.
Such was the condition of this country when the una happy Charles inherited the crown. He had seen the errors of his father, without being able to prevent them, and, when he began his reign, endeavoured to raise the nation to its former dignity. The French papists had begun a new war upon the protestants ; Charles sent a fleet to invade Rhée and relieve Rochelle, but his attempts were defeated, and the Protestants were subdued. The Dutch, grown wealthy and strong, claimed the right of fishing in the British seas ; this claim the king, who saw the increasing power of the states of Holland, resolv. ed to contest. But for this end it was necessary to build a fiect, and a fleet could not be built without expense ; he was advised to levy ship money, which gave occasion to the Civil War, of which the events and conclusion are too well known.
While the inhabitants of this island were embroiled among themselves, the power of France and Holland was every day increasing. The Dutch had overcome the difficulties of their infant commonwealth ; and as they still retained their vigor and industry, from rich grew continually richer, and from powerful more powerful. They extended their traffic, and had not yet admitted luxury ; so that they had the means and the will to accumulate wealth without any incitement to spend it. The Frencii, who wanted nothing to make them powerful, but a prudent regulation of their revenues, and a proper use of their natural adyantages, by the successive care of skil
ful ministers, became every day stronger, and more conscious of their strength.
About this time it was, that the French first began to turn their thoughts to traffic and navigation, and to desire like other nations an American territory. All the fruitful and valuable parts of the western world were already either occupied or claimed, and nothing remained for France but the leavings of other navigators, for she was not yet haughty enough to seize what the neighbouring powers had already appropriated.
The French therefore contented themselves with sending a colony to Canada, a cold, uncomfortable, uns inviting region, from which nothing but furs and fish were to be had, and where the new inhabitants could only pass a laborious and necessitous life, in perpetual regret of the deliciousness and plenty of their native country, e Notwithstanding the opinion which our countrymen have been taught to entertain of the comprehension and foresight of French politicians, I am
not able to persuade myself, that when this colony was first planted, it was thought of much value, even by those that encouraged it ; there was probably nothing more intended than to provide a drain into which the waste of an exu. berant nation might be thrown, a place where those who could do no good might live without the power of doing mischief. Some new advantage they undoubtedly saw, + or imagined themselves to see, and what more was necessary to the establishment of the colony was supplied by the natural inclination to experiments, and that impa. tience of doing nothing, to which mankind perhaps owe
much of what is imagined to be effected by more splendid motives.
In this region of desolate sterility they settled them. selves, upon whatever principle ; and as they have from that time had the happiness of a government by which no interest has been neglected, nor any part of their subjects overlooked, they have, by continual encouragement and assistance from France, been perpetually ena larging their bounds and increasing their numbers.
These were at first, like other nations who invaded America, inclined to consider the neighbourhood of the natives, as troublesome and dangerous, and are charged with having destroyed great numbers; but they are now grown wiser, if not honester, and instead of endeavouring to frighten the Indians away, they, invite them to intermarriage and cohabitation, and allure them by all practicable methods to become the subjects of the king of France.
! If the Spaniards, when they first took possession of the newly discovered world, instead of destroying the inhabitants by thousands, had either had the urbanity or the policy to have conciliated them by kind treatment and to have united them gradually to their own people, such an accession might have been made to the power of the king of Spain, as would have made him far the greatest monarch that ever yet ruled in the globe, but the opportunity was lost by foolishness and cruelty, and now can never be recovered.
When the parliament had finally prevailed over our: king, and the army over the parliament, the interest of the two commonwealths of England and Holland soon appeared to be opposite, and a new government declared war againt the Dutch. In this contest was exerted the utmost power of the two nations, and the Dutch were finally defeated, yet not with such evidence of superiority as left us much reason to boast our victory ; they were obliged however to solicit peace, which was granted them on easy conditions ; and Cromwell, who was now possessed of the supreme power, was left at leisure to pursue other designs.
The European powers had not yet ceased to look with envy on the Spanish acquisitions in America, and therefore Cromwell thought, that if he gained any part of these celebrated regions, he should exalt his own reputation and enrich the country. He therefore quarrelled with the Spaniards upon some such subject of contention as he that is resolved upon hostility may always find, and sent Penn and Venables into the western seas. They first landed in Hispaniola, whence they were driven off with no great reputation to themselves ; and that they might not return without having done something, they afterwards invaded Jamaica, where they found less resistance, and obtained that island, which was afterwards consigned to us, being probably of little yalue to the Spaniards, and continues to this day a place of great wealth, and dreadful wickedness, a den of tyrants, and a dungeon of slaves.
Cromwell, who perhaps had not leisure to study foreign politics, was very fatally mistaken with regard to Spain and France. Spain had been the last power in Europe