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CHA P. mined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The
unusual length of her administration, and the strong 1603, features of her character, were able to overcome all
prejudices; and obliging her detractors to abate much of their invectives, and her admirers somewhat of their panegyrics, have at last, in spite of political factions, and, what is more, of religious animosities, produced a uniform judgment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, address, are allowed to merit the highest praises, and appear not to have been surpassed by any person that ever filled a throne: A conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess : Her heroism was exempt from temerity, her frugality from avarice, her friendship from partiality, her active temper from turbulency and a vain ambition: She guarded not herself with equal care or equal success from lesser infirmities; the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admiration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.
Her singular talents for government were founded equally on her temper and on her capacity. Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendant over her people; and while she merited all their esteem by her real virtues, she also engaged their affections by her pretended ones.
Few sovereigns of England succeeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances; and none ever conducted the government with such uniform success and felicity. Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all
the neighbouring nations: And though her enemies CHAP. were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous, 1603. she was able by her vigour to make deep impressions on their states : Her own greatness meanwhile re_ mained untouched and unimpaired.
The wise ministers and brave warriors who flourished under her reign share the praise of her success ; but, instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They owed all of them their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy; and with all their abilities they were never able to acquire any undue ascendant over her. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress : The force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior i and the combat which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments,
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable because more natural, and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing the lustre of her character. This judice is founded on the consideration of her sex. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her great qualities and extensive capacily; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit, is to lay aside all these considerations, and consider her merely as a rational being placed in authority, and entrusted with the government of mankind. We Vol. V.
CHA P. may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her
wife or a mistress; but her qualities as a 1603. sovereign, though with some considerable excep
tions, are the object of undisputed applause and approbation.
APPENDI X III.
Government of England - Revenues-Commerce
Appendix themselves by their adhering to liberty and a popular government, have long indulged their Governprejudices against the succeeding race of princes, by
England. bestowing unbounded panegyrics on the virtue and wisdom of Elizabeth. They have even been so extremely ignorant of the transactions of this reign, as to extol her for a quality, which, of all others, she was the least possessed of; a tender regard for the constitution, and a concern for the liberties and privileges of her people. But as it is scarcely possible for the prepossessions of party to throw a veil much longer over facts so palpable and undeniable, there is danger lest the public should run into the opposite extreme, and should entertain an aversion to the memory of a princess who exercised the royal authority in a manner so contrary to all the ideas which we at present entertain of a legal constitution. But Elizabeth only 'supported the prerogatives transmitted to her by her predecessors: She believed that her subjects were entitled to no more liberty than their ancestors had enjoyed : She found that they entirely acquiesced in her arbitrary administration: And it was not natural for her to find fault with a form of government by which she herself was invested with such unlimited authority. In the particular exertions of power the question ought Gg 2
Appendix never to be forgotten, What is best? But in the
general distribution of power among the several members of a constitution, there can seldom be admitted any other question than What is established ! Few examples occur of princes who have willingly resigned their power : None of those who have, without struggle and reluctance, allowed it to be extorted from them. If any other rule than established practice be followed, factions and dissensions must multiply without end: And though many constitutions, and none more than the British, have been improved even by violent innovations, the praise bestowed on those patriots to whom the nation has been indebted for its privileges, ought to be given with some reserve, and surely without the least rancour against those who adhered to the ancient constitution.'
In order to understand the ancient constitution of England, there is not a period which deserves more to be studied than the reign of Elizabeth. The prerogatives of this princess were scarcely ever disputed, and she therefore employed them without scruple: Her imperious temper, a circumstance in which she went far beyond her successors, rendered her exertions of power violent and frequent, and discovered the full extent of her authority : The great popularity which she enjoyed proves that she did not infringe any established liberties of the people: There remains evidence sufficient to ascertain the most noted acts of her administration : And
though By the ancient constitution is here meant that which prevailed before the settlement of our present plan of liberty. There was a more ancient constitution, where, though the people had perhaps less liberty than under the Tudors, yet the king had also less authority: The power of the Barons was a great check upon him, and exercised with great tyranny over them. But there was still a more ancient constituțion, viz. that before the signing of the charters, when neither the people nor the barons had any regular privileges; and the power of the governinent, during the reign of an able prince, was almost wholly in the king. The English constitation, like all others, has been in a state of continual fluctuation.