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and yourselves, and the whole kingdom. I need not tell you how much I love parliaments: never king was so much beholden to parliaments as I have been; nor do I think the crown can ever be happy without frequent parliaments : but assure yourselves, if I did think otherwise, I would never suffer a parliament to come together by the means prescribed by that bill.” Even after he had dismissed the last he ever intended to call, he persisted in the use of the same honied expressions. “ Let not,” says he, in his famous declaration of 1681, for which he was thanked in loyal addresses from all parts of the kingdom,—“ let not the restless malice of ill men, who are labouring to poison our people, persuade any of our good subjects that we intend to lay aside the use of parliaments: for we do still declare, that no irregularities in parliaments shall ever make us out of love with parliaments, which we look upon as the best method for healing the distempers of the kingdom, and the only means to preserve the monarchy in that due credit and respect, which it ought to have both at home and abroad. And for this cause we are resolved, by the blessing of God, to have frequent parliaments; and, both in and out of parliament, to use our utmost endeavours to extirpate popery, and to redress all the grievånces of our good subjects; and, in all things, to govern according to the laws of the kingdom.” Now, not to mention that he himself was secretly a member of the religion he here swears to extirpate *, and, as for governing according to the laws, had, in 1670, concluded a treaty with
** I dare confidently affirm,” says the Duke of Buckingham, * his religion to be only that, which is vulgarly (though unjustly) counted none at all: I mean Deism. And this uncommon opinion he owed more to the liveliness of his parts, and carelessness of his temper, than either to reading or much consideration : for his quickness of apprehension, at first view, could discover through the several cheats of pious pretences; and his natural laziness confirmed him in an equal mistrust of them all, for fear he should be troubled with examining which religion was best.” And, he adds, that it was by a kind of accident only he came to embrace Catholic opinions, " in his weakness.” But Lord Halifax, with more apparent truth and knowledge of man, concludes, “ that when he came into England, he was as certainly a Roman Catholic, as that he was a man of pleasure; both
very consistent by visible experience." “ There were broad peepings out, he continues, “ glimpses so often repeated, that, to discerning eyes it was glaring. In the very first year there were such suspicions, as produced melancholy shakings of the head, which were very significant.”
A law was passed making it penal to affirm, that the king was a papist; and yet, in his correspondence with France, he affected so deep Louis XIV. for the express purpose of establishing absolute monarchy in England; in that other particular of " frequent parliaments,” he attests God's blessing in the very utterance of a gross and palpable lie! For, at the dismissal of the Oxford parliament, he not only never intended, but was absolutely bound by treaty with Louis, as the condition on which he was to receive his pension, never to call another. And yet this solemn and egregious falsehood was ordered by his Majesty in council, on the motion of Archbishop Sancroft,* to be read in all churches and chapels throughout the kingdom! We have never called to mind that saying of Junius, respecting this king, -"Charles II. was a hypocrite of a deeper dye, (than his father) and should have perished on the same scaffold”-without wincing at it, as beyond measure rancorous and vindictive. But really, at present, we hardly know what to say.
In the present emergency, it is scarcely possible to say what should have been the conduct of the popular leaders, and all the friends of the constitution and religion of the land. From the beginning of the year 1681 O.S. to the month of June 1683, when the nation was alarmed by the report of the Rye-house plot, an interval crowded with acts of atrocious violence, perpetrated under the form of law, England had been without a parliament, and the king had ruled more despotically than any of his predecessors had ever done, even in ages the most remote and barbarous. That by these tyrannical aggressions on the liberty of the subject, he had broken his coronation oath, and forfeited all right to the allegiance of the people, no one, at this day, will for a moment dispute. But those who attempt opposition by force of arms to the violence of even an usurping government, must not only have strict justice on their side, but also a fair and rational probability of
If this be wanting, the justice of the cause will be but a weak apology for the rashness of the undertaking; resistance, however legal, if not justified by circumstances, is little else than sedition, and the patriot hardly better than a mere insurgent. If, therefore, the popular leaders embarked,
à conviction of the truth of that religion, as to represent himself as uneasy at not being able to make a public avowal of his faith. This was urged by him, frequently, as an argument to increase the pension and hasten the supplies he was to receive from France.
* It is much to be regretted that this exemplary prelate should have lent his name and authority to a piece of mummery, so false and profane. He received, however, retributive justice in the following reign, when James was for obliging him to cause his declaration for liberty of conscience-designed as the death-blow to the church of England--to be read in all the churches, in time of divine service.
at a time so unpropitious to the undertaking, in any actual combination against the government, their conduct was not only indiscreet, but highly blameable. But as far as any thing was ever proved against the persons of higher rank implicated in that medley of all sorts of plots, called the Rye-house plot, their conduct appears to have been not only justifiable, but praiseworthy. What were they to do?- The only regular mode of obtaining redress of grievances by parliamentary remonstrance was not within their reach for the disuse of
parliament was one of the grievances to be redressed. To petition, in the customary way, the power that committed these violations of law to forbear violence, would have been absurd-and even if not absurd, would have been punished as “ mutiny and rebellion.” The people, in general, regarded with supine indifference the wanton outrages committed by the government upon the constitution of the country. From a change of monarchs little good was to be expected ;-and besides, Charles might live long to oppress the land. The dictations of the courts of law, pronounced in perfect coincidence with his tyrannical views, and which now superseded the laws, would, in the lapse of time, become laws themselves. In these arduous circumstances, some of the popular leaders, particularly Shaftesbury, appear to have thought, that no remedy but absolute force could be applied to evils so intolerable. But the conduct of that statesman, at this eventful crisis, was little consistent with that character for deep sagacity, which he had earned in a long course of subtle and artful policy. However, in his counsels, or those of the other“ hot men,” as Monmouth termed them, neither Sidney nor Lord Russel, it is clear, had any participation, though common connexions and former intimacy might occasionally bring them together. In what they appear to have actually done -meeting together to consult about the means they either possessed or could devise, to avert the impending destruction of all that was glorious or free in the institutions of the land, they deserve the thanks of every one who duly appreciates the inestimable benefit he derives from our free constitution. And for this, and this only, were those two illustrious patriots called to seal with their blood the principles they had ever been wont to assert. Even if we believe, in its full extent, the evidence of the witnesses against Lord Russel, his crime went no farther than bare misprision of treason: and yet,” said he, in the paper he delivered to the sheriffs on the scaffold, “ I am condemned as guilty of a design of killing the king. I pray God, lay not this to the charge either of the judges, or sheriffs, or jury.-, I shall not reckon up the particulars wherein they did me wrong, I had rather their own consciences should do that.” —
“I have always loved my country,” he adds,“ much more than my life; and never had any design of changing the government, which I value, and look upon as one of the best ments in the world; and would always have been ready to venture my life for the preserving it.” The still more flagrant violation of law in the trial of Sidney, committed by producing, as a substitute for the second witness necessary in a case of treason, some papers, written long before--never intended to be published-and containing mere speculative opinions, surpasses all the annals the bar can furnish, of what is most illegal and atrocious. Besides this, in his petition to the king, he shews, “ that he was brought to trial; and the indictment being perplexed and confined, so as neither he, nor any of his friends that heard it, could fully comprehend the scope of it, he was wholly unprovided of the helps that the law allows to every man in his defence”-neither was he allowed a copy of it before his trial, according to the provisions of the statute of treasons. Moreover, when several important points of law were started, and Sidney desired counsel might be heard, his motion was over-ruled by the violence of the Lord Chief Justice (Jefferies), and himself “ so frequently interrupted, that the whole method of his defence was broken, and he not suffered to say the tenth part of wbat he could have alleged in his defence : so the jury was hurried into a verdict they did not understand.” This plain statement his majesty, in Sir John Reresby's hearing, qualified with the epithets“ treasonable and evasive :” however, adds our author, " it was not thought proper to be printed.”
It was in the following style and language that the brutal Jefferies, on the trial of Barnardiston for having in a private letter expressed sentiments deemed improper, could insult the memory of these illustrious victims to court
, violence and judicial iniquity-" Here,” said he,--speaking of that gentleman's letters, which were given in evidence, here is the sainting of two horrid conspirators. Here is the Lord Russell sainted, that blessed martyr; my Lord Russell, that good man, that excellent protestant, he is lamented. And what an extraordinary man he was ; who was fairly tried, and justly convicted and attainted for having a hand in this horrid conspiracy against the life of the king, and his dearest brother, his royal highness, and for the subversion of the government.
Ånd here is Mr. Sidney sainted-what an extraordinary man he was ! Yes, surely, he was a very good man: because you may some of you remember, who have read the history of those times, and know what share Mr. Sidney had in that black and horrid villany, &c. .. And it is a shame to think, that such bloody miscreants should be sainted and lamented, who, to their dying
minutes, when they were upon the brink of eternity, and just stepping into another world, could confidently bless God for their being engaged in the good cause,” &c.
But the greatest delinquent, in the present instance, without excepting even Jeffries, was Charles himself, to whose policy or vengeance they were sacrificed. We find him personally implicated in all the proceedings-himself taking their examination-displacing one judge to procure another better adapted for the service-active in the prosecution, and closeted with the judges,- for not by the very pandars of the court was the king's back stair-case more frequently trod than by the law officers of the crown. The last scene of this legal farce was a deeper tragedy than had ever before, or bas ever since, been acted in our country. A series of impossible fictions—false charges constructed without ingenuity, and tyrannical oppressions under the form of law, ended in a scaffold, to which Sidney went as to a victory, and where Russel displayed the mild fortitude and equanimity of an English patriot. His mind was not like that of the other, filled with images of liberty drawn from the classical ages of Greece and Rome, but stamped with all the constitutional virtue and attachment, which are more peculiarly the growth of our own country.
Mr. Fox has said, that when the memory of Sidney and Russel “shall cease to be an object of respect and veneration, it requires no spirit of prophecy to foretell that English liberty will be fast approaching to its final consummation.” We devoutly hope that there is more generous feeling than truth in this observation; for it seems to us as if indifference had nearly already superseded that veneration which Mr. Fox has supposed would be coeval with our liberty. If, indeed, there really be in the present age a disposition to regard these two illustrious names as transmitted down to us with applause, rather, like those of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, in consequence of the triumph of a party, than from the intrinsic merits of the persons to whom they belonged, we do wrong to their memory, and an injury to ourselves. We wrong them, by depriving them of the prerogative which they are entitled to enjoy in common with all who have deserved well of their country--that of living, for ever, in the memory and affections of their countrymen. We injure ourselves, inasmuch as the more we cultivate such affections and cherish the remembrance of the illustrious dead, the more likely are we to tread in their steps, and preserve inviolate the principles they have bequeathed us. The celebration of departed worth and patriotism has distinguished every age of generous freedom, or liberal sentiments. In the enjoyment of their rude liberty our remote ancestors sang the deeds of their heroes, and the triumphs of their race. In the purest ages of