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when long lifeless and extinguished, this chimera,' far un the succeeding reigns, continued, like the dragon slain by the Redcross knight, to be the object of popular fear, and the theme of credulous-terrorists r" ' - r *' ''.S - ':* ">-:l' * *■**-
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"Some feared, and fled; some feared, and well.it fained.
Warned him not touch; for yet, perhaps, remained
Or, in his womb, might lurk some hidden nest
Another said, that in his eyes did rest, . n. ,
Another said he saw him »ove his eyes indeed.?; r. '7: .;: >in -,;;.,,
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Whilst the terrors of the plot were thua agitating the kingdom from one extremity to the other, the houses of parliament were the theatres, in which opinions were conflicting with extraordinary violence, on a question of greater moment than has, perhaps, ever therein been discussed. We allude to the ever memorable debates on the bill of exclusion, the. argument for and against which, though our author has drawn them up in something like battle array,.he has neither fully nor faithfully stated.* We shall not, however, travel over .ground that has been.-soren peatedly trod before; but content ourselves with observing*that the palpable and gross absurdity of the disposition, on* which every plan of limitations necessarily proceeded, suffi-; ciently evinces the duplicity of the sovereign, with whom these plans originated. To imagine, for a moment, that James,-r-a man by no means easy to be governed,—but one, whom his brother himself had repeatedly pronounced '* as ohstinate as a? mule"—and who was indubitably the most wrong-headed gentleman that ever wore a crown, should voluntarily, or without the most violent struggles.be compelled to submit either to, legal restrictions, or to the authority of a regent, whether administered in the person of his nephew or his daughter, was that species of wilful blindness that argued the deepest insincerity in the person, who could profess such a monstrous belief. Had the, country leaders suddenly thrown up the exclusion bihV-r turned short round upon his majesty, and accepted his limita-^ tions, it is hardly possible to conceive the embarrassment, iato( which he would have been thrown. To havje extricated himself* from this dilemma, he must have taken a quicker " turn upon; the toe," than any, to which* during a reign of crooked politics,. his own or the dangerous machinations of his ministers;hadi ever yet reduced him. The uniform adherence of the exclusionists to their original plan, founded upon the presumption
that Charles would finally accede to it, though it proved fatal in the end, was authorized by every thing that, till that time, had been observed of his political conduct. It appears from the present Memoirs, how very distrustful the courtiers were of their master's firmness and constancy—how dreadfully alarmed, lest the offers of parliament so very fair, and the temptation of money so miserably wanting, should prevail upon his majesty to give up his brother, and part with "a snip of the prerogative" into the bargain. But there was a peculiarity in the present case, which distinguished it from all those, in which the king had been known to retract or change his resolution. The interest, or welfare, of any mortal on earth, when his own did not happen in some way or other to be involved in it, was never, for a moment, put by him in competition with his own ease and pleasure. Danby might rot in the Tower for signing letters, which himself had dictated—the innocent catholic archbishop Plunket, at a time when no personal fears could be alleged in excuse of his not exerting his prerogative, might perish on the scaffold, without his thinking it so much as worth his white to release the one, or save the other. No— his spirit of resistance'was husbanded with the utmost frugality, and systematically confined to the defence of his own prerogative and power. This Lord Halifax appears to have well understood, when he calmed the fears of Sir John Reresby, by an assurance that there was not the least danger of his majesty's complying with the liberal offers of parliament; observing—" it was like offering a man money to cut off his nose." This peculiarity in Charles's character is repeatedly avowed and even extolled by his staunch defender, North:—The king's way was to let things have their full swing, without his interposing to protect any persons, who might happen to be endangered by the violence: but all the while that he yielded thus to the current, "he kept the reins of his authority tight in his hand, and would not quit an iota of his prerogative."
This saving regard to himself and utter indifference as to every body else made his ministers, at length, afraid to serve him, when the aspect of the times happened to be cloudy and troubled. Early in the year 1680, when parties were at the highest/ the Duke of Newcastle being offered employment, declined accepting it: his majesty, he said, had not given him-any in better times; he, therefore, begged to be excused now that they were so dangerous. Lord Halifax, the ablest of'Charles's ministers, who served him most effectually and at the1 most critical period of his reign, often complained feeliiiglyto Sir John Reresby" of the slipperiness and precarious condition of the path he was obliged to tread; so that occasionally he would even talk of retiring from court. Particularly the vote of the House of Commons, "that he was a promoter of popery, and a betrayer of the people"—too heavy, as he said, for the shoulders of an individual, however innocent, to bear unsupported, seems almost to have alarmed him into retirement. The example of so many ministers driven by similar votes from the helm of affairs into prison, or banishment, must have been to him a fearful warning, however signal were the services on which he rested his claim and protection. Nor, after the experience of so many ministerial downfalls,— and happy was the man, who, on going out of office, was allowed to hide his head in the country—after the signal ruin of so many who had served the monarch in high official situations, by each of whom, in succession, he had resolutely sworn to stick, was any reliance to be placed on his assurances of support, however deeply and solemnly pledged. "For," says North, "when by saying aye to the projects of the ministry they thought they had him fast by his personal assent, as soon as he found himself among the thorns and briars, he made no scruple to set himself right, whatever became of them." Sir William Temple acknowledges "he was very easy to change hands, when those he employed seemed to have engaged him in difficulties;" at the same time that his softness of temper made him "apt to fall into the persuasions of whoever had his kindness and confidence for the time," how different soever from the opinions he had previously held. Nor was it merely the effects of terror upon his mind, or his abhorrence of all trouble and disquietude, which his ministers had to apprehend, though in that case they were sure to be "let down the wind to prey at fortune;" almost as much was to be dreaded from the indolence and facility,—the fickleness and incertitude of his temper. While he seemed perfectly, said Lord Halifax, to approve of the council you gave him, he would hearken to others from a back door—you were never sure of him. Being once asked, how he stood with the king, he answered he had not the making of the king—God had made him of a particular composition—he knew what the king said to himself—he did not know what he said to others. Sir William Temple says of him, that he had great quickness of conception, with a great variety of knowledge,—more observation and truer judgement of men and things, than one would have imagined from so careless and easy a manner as was natural to him in all he said and did:—and even Burnet allows him to have had a very good understanding, and a great compass of information. Yet he was as incapable of thinking justly as he was of acting honestly; and there was no man, according to Sheffield, who was easier to be imposed upon than he. So that though his service was hazardous it was extremely easy to his ministers. When affairs went wrong, their artifice was to attribute the miscarriage to some unforeseen accident, which, for the future, they would take care to provide for; and excuses of this sort he would accept without examination— or hearing any thing to the contrary. He held that all apologies were lies, and, as one told him to his face, he always chose to believe the first lie. Lord Danby, who got higher in his confidence than almost any other minister that ever served him, reached this elevation rather by the dexterity with which he excused his failures than any signal success he had in his undertakings. Besides, as North says, not being of a disposition "to break his head with study," he was resigned to the will of his ministers, yielding to everything they proposed: and sometimes they would purposely apply to him, when they knew his head was full of something else; upon which he would bid them do what they wanted, and not trouble him longer. And yet such were the incongruities of his temper, that though he hated business, and could, not be easily brought to mind any, still, when he was once got down to it, he would stay as long as his ministers had work for him. "Of a wonderful mixture," says Sheffield, "losing all his time, and, till of late, setting his whole heart on the fair sex," yet "in the midst of all his remissness, so industrious and indefatigable, on some particular occasions, that no man could either toil longer, or be able to manage it better." "They are clever fellows," says some one in Peveril, "who keep old Rowley from business"—perhaps so—but cleverer still were those who kept him to it. But besides Charles's indolence and caprice, there was another peculiarity of temper yet more irreconcileable with the character and office of a ruler: he could no more withstand a jest, a lively saying, or a piece of mimicry, than in ordinary cases he was proof against a thundering vote of the House of Commons. The fall even of Lord Clarendon is said to have been accelerated full as much by the wit and humour with which Buckingham strove to make his counsels appear ridiculous, as by the grave representations and perpetual railing of the whole bed-chamber put together. And Charles had such delight in seeing Buckingham, or some other gay courtier, by the help of a black patch across the nose, and a white staff, enact Harry Bennet, that, from this ludicrous association, Arlington, though a good man of business, could never find credit for the abilities he really possessed.
Such was the man, who had, in the latter part of his reign, to bear up against a more stern and resolute majority of the House of Commons, than ever sovereign, perhaps— if we except his father, had to contend with. Deep, indeed, must have been his sense of the peril likely to result to himself, from complying with the house, and abandoning his brother; and this we find, from Sir John Reresby, Was what every body about court was strenuously inculcating. He was told, that if " he quitted his brother, it would be but an immediate step to ruin all his friends, and to become himself exposed to the will and wishes of those, whom he had no reason to think Were over and above affected to him." "The king," adds Sir John, "dreaded the conse
Juences and resolved accordingly." An observation of Lord •anby's,'when Sir John was one day conversing with him in the Tower, during his imprisonment, strikingly shews how completely that nobleman believed self to predominate with Charles over all other considerations. He said, with emphasis, '* that though the Duke of York had but little influence with him, as to what purely regarded himself, the minister would find him an overmatch with his majesty, as to any other person or concern:" that is to say, the strongest external influence was nothing compared with the mastery which his own close and selfish temper exercised over his actions, and this is confirmed by the whole tenour of his life—his conduct in all affairs of greater or less importance—and by the' very1 colloquial expressions he was in the habit of using. His custdmary phrase, when giving individuals an assurance of protection, denotes much more strongly his sense of What was due to his own interest, than to their's, who solicited his favour. "1)6 not trouble yourself," said he to Sir John, when the latter Was expressing his fears lest the house should fall upon him, for having penned the Yorkshire petition of abhorrence, "I Will stick by ydu, and my old friends; for if I do not, I shall have nobody to stick by me." And on another occasion, when Sir John was in reasonable alarm, lest the lords, who were scrutinizing the list of military offices, should vote his place useless, " there' being' neither company nor gunner at Burlington, where I WaS governor, to make it appear a garrison,"—"let them do What they will;" said1 the king, "I will never part with any officer at the request of either house; my father lost his head for such compliance; but as for me, I intend to die another" way."* Yet so notorious had he become
* This dutiful and respectful mode of mentioning his father was not uncommon with him. When parliament was inquiring into the conduct of the judges, Charles observing, in the House of Lords, one of them srt pensive upon the wool-sack, went and sat down close to him, and " be of good comfort," said he, "I will never forsake my friends as my father did."