Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

by a regard for the interests of Protestantism, would have been certainly, in the words of Hume, “a signal sacrifice to public virtue of every duty in private life”; and it “required ever after the most upright, disinterested, and public-spirited behavior to render it justifiable.” How little the later career of Marlborough fulfilled this condition is well known. When we find that, having been loaded under the new government with titles, honors, and wealth, having been placed in the inner council, and intrusted with the most important state secrets, he was one of the first Englishmen to enter into negotiations with St. Germain's; that he purchased his pardon from James by betraying important military secrets to the enemies of his country, and that during a great part of his subsequent career, while holding office under the government, he was secretly negotiating with the Pretender, it is difficult not to place the worst construction upon his public life. It is probable, indeed, that 13 his negotiations with the Jacobites were never sincere, that he had no real desire for a restoration, and that his guiding motive was much less ambition than a desire to secure what he possessed; but these considerations only slightly palliate his conduct. At the period of his downfall, his later acts of treason were for the most part unknown, but his conduct toward James weighed heavily upon his reputation, and his intercourse with the Pretender, though not proved, was at least suspected by many. Neither Hanoverians nor Jacobites trusted him, neither Whigs nor Tories could regard him without reserve as their own.

And with this feeling of distrust there was mingled a 14 strong element of fear. In the latter years of Queen Anne the shadow of Cromwell fell darkly across the path of Marlborough. To those who prefer the violent meth

ods of a reforming despotism to the slow process

of

parliamentary amelioration, to those who despise the wisdom of following public opinion and respecting the prejudices and the associations of a nation, there can be no better lesson than is furnished by the history of Cromwell. Of his high and commanding abilities it is not here necessary to speak, nor yet of the traits of magnanimity that may, no doubt, be found in his character. Everything that great genius and the most passionate sympathy could do to magnify these has in this century been done, and a

long period of unqualified depreciation has been followed 15 by a reaction of extravagant eulogy. But the more the

qualities of the man are exalted the more significant are the lessons of his life. Despising the national sentiment of loyalty, he and his party dethroned and beheaded the king. Despising the ecclesiastical sentiment, they destroyed the Church. Despising the deep reverence for the constitution, they subverted the Parliament. Despising the oldest and most cherished customs of the people, they sought to mold the whole social life of England in the die of an austere Puritanism. They seemed for a time to have succeeded, but the result soon appeared.

Republican equality was followed by the period of most 16 obsequious, servile loyalty England has ever known. The

age when every amusement was denounced as a crime was followed by the age when all virtue was treated as hypocrisy, and when the sense of shame seemed to have almost vanished from the land. The prostration of the Church was followed, with the full approbation of the bulk of the nation, by the bitter, prolonged persecution of Dissenters. The hated memory of the Commonwealth was for more than a century appealed to by every statesman who desired to prevent reform or discredit liberty, and the name of Cromwell gathered around it an intensity of hatred

approached by no other in the history of England. This was the single sentiment common in all its vehemence to the Episcopalians of England, the Presbyterians of Scotland, and the Catholics of Ireland, and it had more than once considerable political effects. The profound horror 17 of military despotism, which is one of the strongest and most salutary of English sentiments, has been, perhaps, the most valuable legacy of the Commonwealth. In Marlborough, for the first time since the Restoration, men saw a possible Cromwell, and they looked forward with alarm to the death of the queen as a period peculiarly propitious to military usurpation. Bolingbroke never represented more happily the feelings of the people than in the well-known scene at the first representation of the “Cato” of Addison. Written by a great Whig writer, the play was intended to advocate Whig sentiments; but when the Whig audience had made the theatre ring with applause at every speech on the evil of despotism and arbitrary principles, the Tory leader availed himself of the pause

between the acts to summon the chief actor, to present him with a purse of money, and to thank him publicly for having defended the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual military dictator.

REFLECTIONS UPON THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION

OF 1688.

LECKY'S

66

ENGLAND IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY."

The English Revolution of 1688 was purely a constitutional revolution. It established religious toleration in England and in Scotland, it settled constitutional monarchy on a firm basis, and regulated the powers of the House of Commons, the popular or rep

resentative branch of the government. The political tendencies of the times coincided with the critical tendencies then developing in English literature, which soon appeared so conspicuously in the age of Anne.

See “ Freeman on the English Constitution," Von Ranke's “History of England, principally in the Seventeenth Century," Macaulay's "History of England," Macaulay's "Essays."

1 The English Revolution belongs to a class of successful measures of which there are very few examples in history. In most cases where a permanent change has been effected in the government and in the modes of political thinking of a country, this has been mainly because the nation has become ripe for it through the action of general causes. A doctrine which had long been fervently held, and which was interwoven with the social fabric, is sapped by intellectual skepticism, loses its hold on the affections of the people, and becomes unrealized, obsolete, and incredible. An institution which was once useful and honored has become unsuited to the altered conditions of society. The functions it once discharged are no longer needed, or are discharged more efficiently in other ways, and, as modes of thought and life grow up that are not in harmony with it, the reverence that con2 secrates it slowly ebbs away. Social and economical

causes change the relative importance of classes and professions till the old political arrangements no longer reflect with any fidelity the real disposition of power. Causes of this kind undermine institutions and prepare great changes, and it is only when they have fully done their work that the men arise who strike the final blow, and whose names are associated with the catastrophe. Whoever will study the history of the downfall of the Roman Republic; of the triumph of Christianity in the Roman Empire; of the dissolution of that empire; of the medi

aval transition from slavery to serfdom; of the Reformation, or of the French Revolution, may easily convince himself that each of these great changes was the result of a long series of religious, social, political, economical, and intellectual causes, extending over many generations. So eminently is this the case, that some distinguished writers have maintained that the action of special circumstances and of individual genius, efforts, and peculiarities, counts for nothing in the great march of human affairs, and that every successful revolution must be attributed solely to the long train of intellectual influences that prepared and necessitated its triumph.

It is not difficult, however, to show that this, like 3 most very absolute historical generalizations, is an exaggeration, and several instances might be cited in which a slight change in the disposition of circumstances, or in the action of individuals, would have altered the whole course of history. There are, indeed, few streams of tendency, however powerful, that might not, at some early period of their career, have been arrested or deflected. Thus the whole religious and moral sentiment of the most advanced nations of the world has been mainly determined by the influence of that small nation which inhabited Palestine; but there have been periods when it was more than probable that the Jewish race would have been as completely absorbed or extirpated as were the ten tribes, and every trace of the Jewish writings blotted from the world. Not less distinctive, not 4 less unique in its kind, has been the place which the Greek, and especially the Athenian, intellect has occupied in history. It has been the great dynamic agency in European civilization. Directly or indirectly it has contributed, more than any other single influence, to stimulate its energies, to shape its intellectual type, to determine

« ElőzőTovább »