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those popular leaders of the House of|nistration ever known, and that he was Commons who were not among the afterwards a principal member of the Thirty; and, if our view of the mea- | most profligate Opposition ever known. sure be correct, they were precisely the It is certain that, in power he did not people who had good reason to grumble. scruple to violate the great fundamental They were precisely the people whose principle of the Constitution, in order activity and whose influence the new to exalt the Catholics, and that, out of Council was intended to destroy. power, he did not scruple to violate
But there was very soon an end of every principle of justice, in order to the bright hopes and loud applauses destroy them. There were in that age with which the publication of this some honest men, such as William Penn, scheme had been hailed. The perfidi- who valued toleration so highly that ous levity of the King and the ambi- they would willingly have seen it estion of the chiefs of parties produced tablished even by an illegal exertion of the instant, entire, and irremediable the prerogative. There were many failure of a plan which nothing but honest men who dreaded arbitrary firmness, public spirit, and self-denial, power so much that, on account of the on the part of all concerned in it could alliance between Popery and arbitrary conduct to a happy issue. Even before power, they were disposed to grant no the project was divulged, its author had toleration to Papists. On both those already found reason to apprehend that classes we look with indulgence, though it would fail. Considerable difficulty we think both in the wrong. But Shafteswas experienced in framing the list of bury belonged to neither class. He counsellors. There were two men in united all that was worst in both. From particular about whom the King and the misguided friends of toleration he Temple could not agree, two men deeply borrowed their contempt for the Containted with the vices common to the stitution, and from the misguided friends English statesmen of that age, but unri- of civil liberty their contempt for the valled in talents, address, and influence. rights of conscience. We never can These were the Earl of Shaftesbury, admit that his conduct as a member of and George Savile Viscount Halifax. the Cabal was redeemed by his conduct
It was a favourite exercise among as a leader of Opposition. On the the Greek sophists to write panegyrics contrary, his life was such that every on characters proverbial for depravity. part of it, as if by a skilful contrivance, One professor of rhetoric sent to Iso- reflects infamy on every other. We crates a panegyric on Busiris ; and should never have known how abanIsocrates himself wrote another which doned a prostitute he was in place, if has come down to us. It is, we pre- we had not known how desperate an sume, from an ambition of the same incendiary he was out of it. To judge kind that some writers have lately shown of him fairly, we must bear in mind that a disposition to eulogise Shaftesbury. the Shaftesbury who, in office, was the But the attempt is vain. The charges chief author of the Declaration of Inagainst him rest on evidence not to be dulgence, was the same Shaftesbury invalidated by any arguments which who, out of office, excited and kept up human wit can devise, or by any infor- the savage hatred of the rabble of Lon. mation which may be found in old don against the very class to whom that trunks and escrutoires.
Declaration of Indulgence was intended It is certain that, just before the Re- to give illegal relief. storation, he declared to the Regicides It is amusing to see the excuses that that he would be damned, body and are made for him. We will give two soul, rather than suffer a hair of their specimens. It is acknowledged that he heads to be hurt, and that, just after was one of the Ministry which made the Restoration, he was one of the the alliance with France against Holjudges who sentenced them to death. land, and that this alliance was most It is certain that he was a principal pernicious. What, then, is the defence ? member of the most profligate Admi- Even this, that he betrayed his master's counsels to the Electors of Saxony and
"politician, Brandenburg, and tried to rouse all the
With more heads than a beast in vision,” Protestant powers of Germany to de- and the Ahithophel of Dryden. Butler fend the States. Again, it is acknow.dwells on Shaftesbury's unprincipled ledged that he was deeply concerned versatility; on his wonderful and alin the Declaration of Indulgence, and most instinctive skill in discerning the that his conduct on this occasion was approach of a change of fortune; and not only unconstitutional, but quite in on the dexterity with which he extriconsistent with the course which he cated himself from the snares in which afterwards took respecting the profes- he left his associates to perish. sors of the Catholic faith. What, then, “Our state-artificer foresaw is the defence ? Even this, that he
Which way the world began to draw.
For as old sinners have all points meant only to allure concealed Papists
O'th' compass in their bones and joints, to avow themselves, and thus to become Can by their pangs and aches find open marks for the vengeance of the All turns and changes of the wind,
And better than by Napier's bones public. As often as he is charged with
Feel in their own the age of moons: one treason, his advocates vindicate him
So guilty sinners in a state by confessing two. They had better Can by their crimes prognosticate, leave him where they find him. For
And in their consciences feel pain
Some days before a shower of rain. him there is no escape upwards. Every He, therefore, wisely cast about outlet by which he can creep out of his ! All ways he could to ensure his throat.” present position, is one which lets him In Dryden's great portrait, on the down into a still lower and fouler depth contrary, violent passion, implacable of infamy. To whitewash an Ethio- revenge, boldness amounting to temepian is a proverbially hopeless attempt; rity, are the most striking features. but to whitewash an Ethiopian by giving Ahithophel is one of the “great wits him a new coat of blacking is an enter- to madness near allied.” And again prise more extraordinary still. That in
“A daring pilot in extremity, ihe course of Shaftesbury's dishonest Pleased with the danger when the waves and revengeful opposition to the Court went high, he rendered one or two most useful ser
He sought the storms; but, for a calm
unfit, vices to his country we admit. And he
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast is, we think, fairly entitled, if that be his wit."* any glory, to have his name eternally associated with the Habeas Corpus Act
* It has never, we believe, been remarked,
that two of the most striking lines in the in the same way in which the name of
description of Ahithophel are borrowed from Henry the Eighth is associated with a most obscure quarter. In Knolles's Histhe reformation of the Church, and that
tory of the Turks, printed more than sixty
years before the appearance of Absalom and of Jack Wilkes with the most sacred Ahithophel, are the following verses, under rights of electors.
a portrait of the Sultan Mustapha the While Shaftesbury was still living,
First:his character was elaborately drawn
“Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not
stand, by two of the greatest writers of the And leaves for Fortune's ice Vertue's firme age, by Butler, with characteristic
land.” brilliancy of wit, by Dryden, with Dryden's words areeven more than characteristic energy But wild Ambition loves to slide, not and loftiness, by both with all the in
stand, spiration of hatred. The sparkling illus
And Fortune's ice prefers to Virtue's land.” trations of Butler have been thrown because Dryden has really no couplet which
The circumstance is the more remarkable, into the shade by the brighter glory of would seem to a good critic more intensely
Drydenian, both in thought and expression,
than this, of which the whole thought, and sweeping by in sceptred pall, borrowed
almost the whole expression, are stolen.
ut the As we are on this subject, we cannot redescriptions well deserve to be compared. frain from observing that Mr. Courtenay The reader will at once perceive a con
has done Dryden injustice, by inadvertently siderable difference between Butler's
| attributing to him some feeble lines which are in Tate's part of Absalomand Ahithophel.
The dates of the two poems will, we served the reputation of infallible wisthink, explain this discrepancy. The dom and invariable success, he lived to third part of Hudibras appeared in see a mighty ruin wrought by his own 1678, when the character of Shaftes- ungovernable passions, to see the great bury had as yet but imperfectly deve-party which he had led vanquished, and loped itself. He had, indeed, been a scattered, and trampled down, to see traitor to every party in the State; but all his own devilish enginery of lying his treasons had hitherto prospered. witnesses, partial sheriffs, packed juries, Whether it were accident or sagacity, unjust judges, bloodthirsty mobs, ready he had timed his desertions in such a to be employed against himself and his manner that fortune seemed to go to most devoted followers, to fly from that and fro with him from side to side. proud city whose favour had almost The extent of his perfidy was known ; raised him to be Mayor of the Palace, but it was not till the Popish Plot fur- to hide himself in squalid retreats, to nished him with a machinery which cover his grey head with ignominious seemed sufficiently powerful for all disguises; and he died in hopeless his purposes, that the audacity of his exile, sheltered by the generosity of a spirit, and the fierceness of his male- State which he had cruelly injured and volent passions, became fully manifest. insulted, from the vengeance of a masHis subsequent conduct showed un- ter whose favour he had purchased by doubtedly great ability, but not ability one series of crimes, and forfeited by of the sort for which he had formerly another. been so eminent. He was now head- Halifax had, in common with Shaftesstrong, sanguine, full of impetuous bury, and with almost all the politicians confidence in his own wisdom and his of that age, a very loose morality where own good luck. He, whose fame as a the public was concerned; but in Halipolitical tactician had hitherto rested fax the prevailing infection was modichiefly on his skilful retreats, now set fied by a very peculiar constitution himself to break down all the bridges both of heart and head, by a temper behind him. His plans were castles in singularly free from gall, and by a the air: his talk was rodomontade. refining and sceptical understanding. Ile took no thought for the morrow: He changed his course as often as he treated the Court as if the King Shaftesbury; but he did not change it were already a prisoner in his hands: to the same extent, or in the same he built on the favour of the multitude, direction. Shaftesbury was the very as if that favour were not proverbially reverse of a trimmer. His disposition inconstant. The signs of the coming led him generally to do his utmost reaction were discerned by men of far to exalt the side which was up, and less sagacity than his, and scared from to depress the side which was down. his side men more consistent than he His transitions were from extreme to had ever pretended to be. But on him extreme. While he stayed with a they were lost. The counsel of Ahitho- party he went all lengths for it: when phel, that counsel which was as if a he quitted it he went all lengths against man had inquired of the oracle of God, it. Halifax was emphatically a trimwas turned into foolishness. He who mer; a trimmer both by intellect and had become a by-word, for the cer- by constitution. The name was fixed tainty with which he foresaw and the on him by his contemporaries; and he suppleness with which he evaded dan- was so far from being ashamed of it ger, now, when beset on every side that he assumed it as a badge of with snares and death, seemed to be honour. He passed from faction to smitten with a blindness as strange as faction. But instead of adopting and his former clear-sightedness, and, turn-inflaming the passions of those whom ing neither to the right nor to the left, he joined, he tried to diffuse among strode straight on with desperate hardi- them something of the spirit of those hood to his doom. Therefore, after whom he had just left. While he having carly acquired and long pre- acted with the Opposition he was
suspected of being a spy of the Court; | Shaftesbury will bear a comparison and when he had joined the Court all with the political tracts of Halifax. the Tories were dismayed by his Re- Indeed, very little of the prose of that publican doctrines.
age is so well worth reading as the He wanted neither arguments nor Character of a Trimmer and the Anaeloquence to exhibit what was com- tomy of an Equivalent. What partimonly regarded as his wavering policy cularly strikes us in those works is the in the fairest light. He trimmed, he writer's passion for generalisation. He said, as the temperate zone trims be- was treating of the most exciting subtween intolerable heat and intolerable jects in the most agitated times: he cold, as a good government trims be- was himself placed in the very thick tween despotism and anarchy, as a of the civil conflict; yet there is no pure church trims between the errors acrimony, nothing inflammatory, noof the Papist and those of the Ana- thing personal. He preserves an air baptist. Nor was this defence by of cold superiority, a certain philosoany means without weight; for though phical serenity, which is perfectly marthere is abundant proof that his in- vellous. He treats every question as tegrity was not of strength to with- an abstract question, begins with the stand the temptations by which his widest propositions, argues those procupidity and vanity were sometimes positions on general grounds, and often, assailed, yet his dislike of extremes, when he has brought out his theorem, and a forgiving and compassionate leaves the reader to make the applicateinper which seems to have been tion, without adding an allusion to natural to him, preserved him from particular men or to passing events. all participation in the worst crimes This speculative turn of mind rendered of his time. If both parties accused him a bad adviser in cases which rehim of deserting them, both were com- quired celerity. He brought forward, pelled to admit that they had great with wonderful readiness and copiousobligations to his humanity, and that, ness, arguments, replies to those arguthough an uncertain friend, he was a ments, rejoinders to those replies, geneplacable enemy. He voted in favour ral maxims of policy, and analogous of Lord Stafford, the victim of the cases from history. But Shaftesbury Whigs; he did his utmost to save was the man for a prompt decision. Lord Russell, the victim of the Tories; Of the parliamentary eloquence of and, on the whole, we are inclined to these celebrated rivals, we can judge think that his public life, though far only by report; and, so judging, we indeed from faultless, has as few great should be inclined to think that, though stains as that of any politician who Shaftesbury was a distinguished speaker, took an active part in affairs during the superiority belonged to Halifax. the troubled and disastrous period of Indeed the readiness of Halifax in deten years which elapsed between the bate, the extent of his knowledge, the fall of Lord Danby and the Revolu- ingenuity of his reasoning, the liveliness tion.
| of his expression, and the silver clearHis mind was much less turned to ness and sweetness of his voice, seem particular observations, and much more to have made the strongest impression to general speculations, than that of on his contemporaries. By Dryden he Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury knew the is described as King, the Council, the Parliament, the “of piercing wit and pregnant thought, city, better than Halifax; but Halifax Endued by nature and by learning taught would have written a far better trea To move assemblies.” tise on political science than Shaftes- His oratory is utterly and irretrievably bury. Shaftesbury shone more in con- lost to us, like that of Somers, of Bosultation, and Halifax in controversy: lingbroke, of Charles Townshend, of Shaftesbury was more fertile in expe- many others who were accustomed to dients, and Halifax in arguments. rise amidst the breathless expectation Nothing that remains from the pen of of senates, and to sit down amidst rciterated bursts of applause. But old | least as formidable as that of Halifax ; men who lived to admire the eloquence and this was true; but Temple might of Pulteney in its meridian, and that have replied that by giving power to of Pitt in its splendid dawn, still mur- Halifax they gained a friend, and that mured that they had heard nothing by giving power to Shaftesbury, they like the great speeches of Lord Halifax only strengthened an enemy. It was on the Exclusion Bill. The power of vain to argue and protest. The King Shaftesbury over large masses was un- only laughed and jested at Temple's rivalled. Halifax was disqualified by anger; and Shaftesbury was not only his whole character, moral and intel- sworn of the Council, but appointed lectual, for the part of a demagogue. Lord President. It was in small circles, and above all, Temple was so bitterly mortified by in the House of Lords, that his ascend- this step that he had at one time ency was felt.
resolved to have nothing to do with Shaftesbury seems to have troubled the new Administration, and seriously himself very little about theories of thought of disqualifying himself from government. Halifax was, in specula- sitting in council by omitting to take tion, a strong republican, and did not the Sacrament. But the urgency of conceal it. He often made hereditary Lady Temple and Lady Giffard induced monarchy and aristocracy the subjects him to abandon that intention. of his keen pleasantry, while he was The Council was organised on the fighting the battles of the Court, and twenty-first of April, 1679; and, within obtaining for himself step after step in a few hours, one of the fundamental the peerage. In this way, he tried to principles on which it had been congratify at once his intellectual vanity structed was violated. A secret comand his more vulgar ambition. He mittee, or, in the modern phrase, a shaped his life according to the opinion cabinet of nine members, was formed. of the multitude, and indemnified him But as this committee included Shaftesself by talking according to his own. bury and Monmouth, it contained His colloquial powers were great; his within itself the elements of as much perception of the ridiculous exquisitely faction as would have sufficed to imfine ; and he seems to have had the pede all business. Accordingly there rare art of preserving the reputation of soon arose a small interior cabinet, good breeding and good nature, while consisting of Essex, Sunderland, Halihabitually indulging a strong propensity fax, and Temple. For a time perfect to mockery.
harmony and confidence subsisted beTemple wished to put Halifax into tween the four. But the meetings of the new council, and to leave out the thirty were stormy. Sharp retorts Shaftesbury. The King objected strongly passed between Shaftesbury and Halito Halifax, to whom he had taken a fax, who led the opposite parties. In great dislike, which is not accounted the Council Halifax generally had the for, and which did not last long. Temple advantage. But it soon became apreplied that Halifax was a man eminent parent that Shaftesbury still had at his both by his station and by his abilities, back the majority of the House of and would, if excluded, do every thing Commons. The discontents which the against the new arrangement that could change of Ministry had for a moment be done by eloquence, sarcasm, and quieted broke forth again with reintrigue. All who were consulted were doubled violence; and the only effect of the same mind; and the King yielded, which the late measures appeared to but not till Temple had almost gone on have produced was that the Lord his knees. This point was no sooner President, with all the dignity and ausettled than his Majesty declared that thority belonging to his high place, he would have Shaftesbury too. Temple stood at the head of the Opposition. again had recourse to entreaties and The impeachment of Lord Danby was expostulations. Charles told him that eagerly prosecuted. The Commons the enmity of Shaftesbury would be at I were determined to exclude the Duke