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patriot, next under God and Dr. Oates, the supreme defender of the nation,” the Earl of Shaftesbury, having received, or pretended to receive a letter in an unknown hand, bustled away to court, “as fast as his legs, man, and stick would carry him.” The Duke of Monmouth, who was supposed to be privy to the search, being asked by the Lord Chamberlain, what this great affair was, answered, with a modest air of self-denial, that it was something concerning himself, in which Lord S., as usual, took a deeper interest than he desired. Meantime Shaftesbury, applying for admittance to the king's presence, was told by the lord in waiting, (Feversham) that as he heard he had business of importance, he would conduct him to his majesty. “The busy earl told him, he was willing to be conducted by so honest a man as his lordship, drolling, and thinking himself guilty of a shrewd irony." Being introduced, he produced his letter; and the plan, for securing the peace and religion of the nation, turned out to be a proposal for settling the crown upon the Duke of Monmouth." The king said, he wondered that, after so many declarations on the contrary, he should still be pressed on that subject; adding, that he was none of those that grew more timorous with age, but that, rather, he grew more resolute, the nearer he approached the grave. Upon the earl's expressing himself mightily concerned to hear such a word, the king said, he might assure himself, that he was as careful of his own preservation, as any of those persons could be, who affected so much concern for his personal safety, but that he would much sooner lose his life, than alter the true succession to the crown, which was repugnant both to law and conscience. “For that matter," replied the earl, “let us alone, we will make a law for it.” To which the king replied, “ if this is your conscience, my lord, it is not mine, and much as I regard my life, I don't think it of sufficient value, after fifty, to be preserved with the forfeiture of my honour, conscience, and the laws of the land."* This is all very well : we never thought so meanly of Charles's conversational powers, as to doubt his ability to talk in terms of virtue and honour. To be sure, he was not much in the habit of expressing himself thus; and the quick unceremonious answer he once gave Burnet, when the latter told him, there was a report abroad, that he intended to legitimate the Duke
love him, I had rather see him hanged !"-But such were, doubtless, the motives, by which he represented himself to be influenced ; and though he was too clear-sighted to impose upon himself, it was easy enough for him to impose upon
* Examen, p. 124.
others. His friends have attempted somewhat more, and on this slender foundation have built him up a' goodly reputation for justice and equity ; although if they had not resolved against seeing any thing, but what favoured their own view of the matter, they might have detected motives, which were likely to have full as much weight with his majesty, as affection for a brother, whom he never loved at heart,* or regard for justice, which every other action of his life shews him to have utterly disregarded. The question with him, was not so much whether his brother should, or should not be excluded from the succession, as whether, in the great struggle that was pending, himself, or the party in parliament, that opposed his measures, should gain the victory. It was not difficult to foresee, that if he yielded in the present instance, the exclusionists would acquire such an influence in the government, as would render impracticable all his favourite measures of policy, whether they regarded mercenary treaties with the French king, or unjust and unprovoked wars upon the states of Holland, or arbitrary designs on the privileges of his own subjects. His fears might even have gone beyond this point. He might, as Burnet supposes, have reflected, that if acts of exclusion were once began, it would not be easy to stop them; and though the party, for decency's sake, masked their attack, by substituting his brother, that he himself was the person chiefly aimed at.
“ Without my leave a future king to choose,
Which to secure they take my power away." . Without absolutely believing, as Spencer has said, that Charles obliged Dryden to put his speech to the Oxford parliament into verse, it may be supposed, the poet would naturally make King David express himself in a strain of argument and insinuation similar to that which King Charles had himself used before. At all events, such was the belief, sincere or pretended, of his partizans,--they hoped, says North, through his brother, to smite him, and that if they could carry a law against the former, the king himself would lie exposed to their aggressions. Rather than thus endanger his own authority, by allowing what he probably looked upon as a sort of prop and
* Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, p. 47.
buttress to his throne to be removed, he was willing that the commons should enact what they pleased, in the way of limitations, “ to pare the nails of a popish successor."*
' • In whatever light Charles's conduct on this occasion is regarded, if it be viewed as a sacrifice of his ease and pleasure to principle, and of his affection to justice, it is still but a solitary example, against which may be set in array, a dire battalion of acts of gross and palpable injustice. In the proceedings against Sir H. Vane, which we formerly mentioned, and the eagerness he manifested to avail himself of a verdict, unsanctioned even by the letter of the law, he gave an early proof how little he was likely to be influenced in his conduct, by considerations of justice, when opposed to fancied political interests. But the trial and execution of the Marquis of Argyle furnished a yet more flagrant instance, in which we hardly know, whether the servile complaisance of the parliament that condemned him; the perfidy of Monk, who produced against him letters, written in the security of private correspondence; or the injustice of the king, who permitted the execution of an illegal and iniquitous sentence; deserves the most pointed reprobation. Two successive acts of indemnity, which precluded all inquiry into the former part of Argyle's conduct, left them nothing, on which to found a criminal charge, but his compliance with the usurpation,-a crime common to him with nine-tenths of the whole kingdom. But it seems that a victim, whether one could be legally had or not, was thought requisite; and this being once determined, the predominant faction had only to consult their envy, jealousy, and hatred, to decide on the person, who was to bear away the sins of the Scottish nation. But there were some previous circumstances, which gave to the conduct of Charles, on that occasion, a shade of deeper atrocity. It is sufficiently clear, from the statement of Clarendon,+ partial and uncandid as it is, that the king either was, or thought himself greatly indebted to Argyle, for services rendered him, when he was in Scotland; and upon them, the Marquis himself appears to have depended not a little, and to have placed considerable confidence in the king's regard. Nor can we think, that the prudence and judgement of that veteran statesman deserves to be called in question, however mistaken the event shewed him to have been, when we know that Charles had given him, under his hand and seal, the strongest possible assurances of his confidence and esteem. They are contained
* Durley's expression, when conversing with Sir John Reresby, Memoirs, p. 70.
+ Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon.
in a letter, or declaration, dated St. Johnstown, September 24, 1650. It states, that having taken into consideration the faithful endeavours of the Marquis of Argyle, for restoring him to his just rights, he is desirous to let the world see, by some particular marks of his favour, the trust and confidence, which he reposes in him; and particularly he promises, that he will
hearken to his counsels; and that, whenever it shall please God to restore him to his just rights in England, he will see him paid the forty thousand pounds sterling due to him ;---all which he promises to make good upon the word of a king. * It was, doubtless, a presumption, founded upon these expressions, that led Argyle to labour so hard after a personal interview. He wrote repeatedly by his wife and son, entreating permission to come up and wait upon his majesty ; and Charles, at length, gave an answer, which appeared to encourage him to do so, but did not bind the writer to any thing. “ I have forgot the exact words," says Burnet,“ but there was an equivocating in them,
they appear to have given the cautious old nobleman a sufficient assurance; for he came up immediately, and so secretly, that he was within Whitehall, before his enemies knew aught of his journey. He despatched his son to the king, to request admittance to his presence, but instead of that, he was sent to the Tower, and thence back, by sea, to Scotland, and what afterwards became of the marquis is known to all menit :
It is a remarkable fact, that whilst England was subject to an usurped authority, the laws had been administered by men of strict integrity; and amidst the utmost virulence of faction, the decrees of the judges had been upright and impartial. I The politic usurper appears to have understood, that an equitable adjustment of differences between man and man, is the interest of even the most arbitrary government; and to have made the law the great rule of conduct and behaviour for every one but himself. But the reign of Charles II., the age, as it has been called, of good laws, was signalized by an administration of them more corrupt and infamous than ever disgraced the courts of English judicature. The first few years ought, doubtless, to be excepted, when, under the auspices of Clarendon, the courts in Westminster Hall were filled with grave and learned judges; but in drawing a contrast between the times of order and constituted authorities, and those of an illegal government, he has indulged his fancy, and thrown unmerited reflections upon the preceding administration of justice :-"no one com
* Harris's Life of Charles II.
plained without remedy, and every man dwelt again under the shadow of his own vine, without injustice and oppression.* If this be true, it must be allowed, that England was indulged. with but a very short repose from violence and illegality. The following picture, though drawn by a parliamentary orator, is corroborated by too many recorded verdicts, to be looked upon as highly coloured or overcharged. “Our judges,” said Mr. Booth, afterwards Lord Delamere, when speaking on a motion for their impeachment, “have been very corrupt and lordly : taking bribes, and threatening juries and evidence; perverting the law to the highest degree, turning it upside down, that arbitrary power may come in upon their shoulders. The cry of their unjust dealings is great, for every man has felt their hand.”+-". Sad creatures,” to use the homely phrase of Burnet, were put into the most important posts; and they were, doubtless, selected by the court as proper instruments to execute the worst purposes of the administration. Holding their places too, durante bene placito, no wonder they did what they thought would please, and that the law became, as it always will in bad and corrupt times, the chosen engine of a tyrannical and vindictive court. Even those who defended them, had nothing to say on the score of their personal merits; for Mr. Finch, when speaking against the impeachment of Scroggs, was compelled to allow, that he was not fit for his place, nor ever had been, and that he had committed crimes deserving of great punishment. And North, the pugnacious defender of every thing and every body that concerned or supported the court, is here obliged to give ground.
“ He was a man that lay too open; his course of life was scandalous, and his discourses violent and intemperate. His talent was wit, and he was master of sagacity and boldness enough; for the setting off of which his person was large, and his visage broad. He had a fluent expression, and many good turns of thought and language. But he could not avoid extremities; if he did ill, it was extremely so, and if well, in extreme also. In the plot, (the Popish plot,) he was violent to insanity, and then receiving intelligence of a truer interest at Court, he was converted, and became all at once no less violent the other way; which made the plot-drivers and witnesses hate him. And Oates and Bedloe did him the honour to prefer articles to the king in council against him, charging various immoralities; and there was an hearing, but, they failing of proof, he was justified. The occasion of
* Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon.
Speech of Colonel Titus. Harris's Life of Charles II.
§. Ibid. VOL. VII. PART 1.