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Elizabeth. It is probable that her character varied considerably in the different periods of her life; yet, upon the whole, it is not difficult to pronounce an uniform judgment with regard to the conduct of this illustrious princess. The vigour of her mind, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, certainly merited the highest praises. She was frugal without avarice, enterprising without temerity, and of an active temper; yet free from turbulency and vain ambition. On the other hand, as a queen, she was rigid to her people, imperious to her courtiers, insincere in her professions, and often a hypocrite in her public measures; as a woman, she was suspicious, jealous, and cruel. She was intemperate in her anger, insatiable in her desire of admiration, and with all her excellent sense, continually the dupe of flattery.
Few sovereigns succeeded to the throne of England in more difficult circumstances, and none ever conducted the government with more uniform success and felicity; but, in fact, there never was a sovereign who carried the notions of her prerogative higher than Queen Elizabeth, or had so thorough a disregard for her people's liberties. Those engines of arbitrary power which, in the hands of her successors, excited that indignant spirit of the people which ended at length in the destruction of the constitution, were employed by this politic queen without the smallest murmur on the part of her subjects. The tyranny of the courts of Star Chamber, and of High Commission, which we shall see the cause of those violent ferments in the times of Charles I., was most
patiently submitted to under Elizabeth. tone of the queen to her parliaments was, "I discharge you from presuming to meddle with affairs of state, which are matters above your comprehension." So distant was the condition of the subject in those so much vaunted days of Queen Elizabeth from that degree of liberty which we at present enjoy a consideration, this, which ought to produce at least a respect for that improved constitution which has secured to us that valuable blessing, a patriotic desire to preserve this constitution inviolate, and to maintain its equal balance, distant alike from the tyrannical encroachments of arbitrary power, and the insatiable claims of democratic faction.
GREAT BRITAIN in the Reigns of JAMES I. and CHARLES I. -Accession of James VI. of Scotland to the Throne of England-Change of popular Feeling on the Rights of the Subject-Gunpowder Plot-His unworthy Favourites-Pacific Reign-Death-Charles I.-Differences with his first Parliament-Petition of Rights-Religious Innovations attempted in England and Scotland augment the discontents -The National Covenant-Proceedings of Charles's last Parliament-Impeachment and Execution of StraffordBill passed declaring Parliament perpetual-Catholic Rebellion in Ireland made a Pretext for the Parliament levying an Army-Bench of Bishops impeached and imprisoned King impeaches five Members of the House of CommonsCivil War-Solemn League and Covenant-Scots co-operate with Parliament-Cromwell-Battle of Naseby-Cromwell turns the Army against the Parliament-Trial and Execution of Charles-Reflections.
On the death of Elizabeth, the crown of England passed with great tranquillity to her successor, James the Sixth, king of Scotland, whose right united whatever descent, bequest, or parliamentary sanction could confer. If James mounted the throne with the entire approbation and even affection of his English subjects, it is certain that he did not long preserve them. He was unpopular from his manners, which were pedantic and austere,
from his preference to his Scottish courtiers, and still more so from his high nations of an uncontrollable prerogative, which he was continually sounding in the ears of his subjects, both in his parliamentary speeches and in the works which he published; a bad policy, which, giving occasion to men to examine into the ground of those pretensions, served only to expose their weakness. The vigour of Elizabeth's government scarce left room to scrutinise its foundation, but her successor was fond of such disputes, and was never so happy as when engaged in a learned argument upon the divine right of kings. About this period, the minds of men throughout all Europe seem to have undergone a very perceptible revolution. The study of letters began to be generally cultivated, Philosophy led to speculative reasonings on laws, on government, on religion, and on politics. In England, especially, which, in point of science, possessed a higher reputation at this period than any of the European kingdoms, these studies had a sensible influence on the current of public opinion. The love of liberty, which is inherent in all ingenuous nations, acquired new force, and began to furnish more extensive views of the rights of the subject than had prevailed in any former period of the constitution.
James, though of no mean capacity, was yet so blinded by self-conceit, and by the prejudices of education, that he failed to perceive this revolution, so dangerous to absolute or despotic power*. His
"It appears (says Hume) from the speeches and proclamations of James I., and the whole train of that prince's actions, as well as his son's, that he regarded the English
reign was, therefore, a silent but a continued struggle between the prerogative of the crown and the rights of the people. The seeds were sown of that spirit of resistance, which, though it did not break out in his time into acts of violence, proved afterwards fatal to his successor.
Domestic events were such as chiefly signalised the reign of James I. He was scarcely seated on the throne, when he became the object of at least an alleged conspiracy, in which Lord Cobham, Lord Grey, and Sir Walter Raleigh were associated. Cobham and Grey were pardoned. Raleigh underwent a trial, which, though the issue declared him guilty, leaves the mind in a state of absolute scepticism with regard to the reality of this conspiracy, or of his concern in it. Raleigh's sentence was suspended for the course of fifteen years, during most of which time he was confined in the Tower, where he employed himself in the composition of his History of the World, a work excellent in point of style, and in many branches valuable in point of matter. In the last year of his life he received the king's commission of admiral to undertake an expedition for the discovery of some
government as a simple monarchy, and never imagined that any considerable part of his subjects entertained a contrary idea. This opinion made those monarchs discover their pretensions, without preparing any force to support them; and even without reserve or disguise, which are always employed by those who enter upon any new project, or endeavour to innovate in any government. The flattery of courtiers further confirmed their prejudices; and above all, that of the clergy, who, from several passages of Scripture, and these wrested too, had erected a regular and avowed system of arbitrary power." -Essay on the Protestant Succession.