and conduct of their naval force might be sent him; and he said he seemed to study them with concern and zeal. He showed what errors they committed, and how they ought to be corrected, as if he had been a viceroy to France, rather than a king that ought to have watched over and prevented the progress they made, as the greatest of all the mischiefs that could happen to him or to his people. They that judged the most favorably of this thought it was done out of revenge to the Dutch ; that, with the assistance of so great a fleet as France could join to his own, he might be able to destroy them. But others put a worse construction on it, and thought that, seeing he could not quite master or deceive his subjects by his own strength and management, he was willing to help forward the greatness of the French at sea ; that by their assistance he might more certainly subdue his own people; according to what was generally believed to have fallen from Lord Clifford, that if the King must be in a dependence, it was better to pay it to a great and gener

ous king than to five hundred of his own insolent subjects. 11 No part of his character looked wickeder, as well as

meaner, than that he, all the while that he was professing to be of the Church of England, expressing both zeal and affection to it, was yet secretly reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church, thus mocking God, and deceiving the world with so gross a prevarication. And his not having the honesty or courage to own it at the last; his not showing any sign of the least remorse for his ill-led life, or any tenderness either for his subjects in general, or for the Queen and his servants; and his recommending only his favorites and their children to his brother's care--would have been a strange conclusion to any other's life, but was well enough suited to all the other parts of

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Bishop Burnet, who enjoyed the confidence of William III, has given us a clear likeness of the great hero. If the student will read Macaulay's delineation of William, in his “ History of England," he can not fail to see how largely it is indebted to Burnet's sketch. William III was the great champion of Protestantism in Europe during the latter part of the seventeenth century, as his illustrious ancestor, William the Silent, was during the latter part of the sixteenth. William III married Mary, the daughter of James II, of England, and upon the abdication of James in 1688, he was invited to the English throne. His reign is celebrated for the firm settlement of constitutional monarchy in England. The student should consult Macaulay's “ History of England,” Von Ranke's “ History of England,” principally in the seventeenth century, Freeman on the “English Constitution,” Greene's “Short History of the English People."

Thus lived and died William III, King of Great 1 Britain, and Prince of Orange. He had a thin and weak body, was brown-haired, and of a clear and delicate constitution. He had a Roman eagle nose, bright and sparkling eyes, a large front, and a countenance composed to gravity and authority. All his senses were critical and exquisite. He was always asthmatical; and the dregs of the small-pox falling on his lungs, he had a constant deep cough. His behavior was solemn and serious, seldom cheerful, and but with a few. He spoke little and very slowly, and most commonly with a disgusting dryness, which was his character at all times, except in a day of battle; for then he was all fire, though without passion; he was then everywhere, and looked to everything. He had no great advantage from his educa-2 tion. DeWitt's discourses were of great use to him; and he, being apprehensive of the observation of those who

were looking narrowly into everything he said or did, had brought himself under an habitual caution that he could never shake off; though in another scene it proved as hurtful as it was then necessary to his affairs. He spoke Dutch, French, English, and German equally well; and he understood the Latin, Spanish, and Italian, so that he was well fitted to command armies composed of several nations. He had a memory that amazed all about him, for it never failed him. He was an exact observer of men and things. His strength lay rather in a true discerning and a sound judgment than in imagination or invention. His designs were always great and good. 3 But it was thought he trusted too much to that, and that he did not descend enough to the humors of his people to make himself and his notions more acceptable to them. This, in a government that has so much of freedom in it as ours, was more necessary than he was inclined to believe. His reservedness grew on him, so that it disgusted most of those who served him; but he had observed the errors of too much talking, more than those of too cold a silence. He did not like contradiction, nor to have his actions censured; but he loved to employ and favor those who had the arts of complacence, yet he did not love flat4 terers. His genius lay chiefly to war, in which his courage was more admired than his conduct. Great errors were often committed by him ; but his heroical conrage set things right, as it inflamed those who were about him. He was too lavish of money on some occasions, both in bis buildings and to his favorites, but too sparing in rewarding services, or in encouraging those who brought intelligence. He was apt to take ill impressions of people, and these stuck long with him ; but he never carried them to indecent revenges. He gave too much way to his own humor, almost in everything, not excepting that

which related to his own health. He knew all foreign affairs well, and understood the state of every court in Europe very particularly. He instructed his own ministers himself, but he did not apply enough to affairs at home. He tried how he could govern us, by balancing the two parties one against another; but he came at last to be persuaded that the Tories were irreconcilable to him, and he was resolved to try and trust them no more. He believed the truth of the Christian religion very 5 firmly, and he expressed a horror at atheism and blasphemy; and though there was much of both in his court, yet it was always denied to him, and kept out of sight. He was most exemplarily decent and devout in the public exercises of the worship of God; only on week-days he came too seldom to them. He was an attentive hearer of sermons, and was constant in his private prayers, and in reading the Scriptures; and when he spoke of religious matters, which he did not often, it was with a becoming gravity. He was much possessed with the belief of absolute decrees. He said to me he adhered to these because he did not see how the belief of Providence could be maintained upon any other supposition. His indifference 6 as to the forms of church government, and his being zealous for toleration, together with his cold behavior toward the clergy, gave them generally very ill impressions of him. In his deportment toward all about him, he seemed to make little distinction between the good and the bad, and those who served well or those who served him ill. He loved the Dutch, and was much beloved among them; but the ill returns he met from the English nation, their jealousies of him, and their perverseness toward him, had too much soured his mind, and had in a great measure alienated him from them; which he did not take care enough to conceal, though he saw the ill

[ocr errors]

effects this had upon his business. He grew, in his last years, too remiss and careless as to all affairs, till the treacheries of France awakened him, and the dreadful conjunction of the monarchies gave so loud an alarm to all Europe; for a watching over that court, and a bestirring himself against their practices, was the prevailing passion of his whole life. Few men had the art of concealing and governing passion more than he had; yet few men had stronger passions, which were seldom felt by inferior servants, to whom he usually made such recompenses for any sudden or indecent vents he might give his anger, that they were glad at every time that it broke

upon them. He was too easy to the faults of those about him, when they did not lie in his own way, or cross any of his designs; and he was so apt to think that his ministers might grow insolent if they should find that they had much credit with him, that he seemed to have made it a maxim to let them often feel how little power they had even in small matters. His favorites had a more entire power, but he accustomed them only to inform him of things, but to be sparing in offering advice, except when it was asked. It was not easy to account for the reasons of the favor that he showed, in the highest instances, to two persons beyond all others, the Earls of Portland and Albemarle, they being in all respects men not only of different, but of opposite characters. Secrecy and fidelity were the only qualities in 8 which it could be said that they did in any sort agree. I have now run through the chief branches of his character. I had occasion to know him well, having observed him very carefully in a course of sixteen years. I had a large measure of his favor, and a free access to him all the while, though not at all times to the same degree. The freedom that I used with him was not always ac

« ElőzőTovább »