Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

those of another. The upper and middle classes of society not being deprived of their property, the rights of individuals seem in general to have been respected, except of those who rendered themselves obnoxious to the ruling power. In France, during the memorable revolution, the case was different; there was scarcely any middle class in that country.

Numerous addresses, from various parts of England, were presented to Richard, the son and successor of Cromwell; and, yet, within a very short period, the people received Charles II. with universal acclamation. Whence could such a sudden change arise, or by what causes could it be effected?

The nation had felt the evils of civil discord, of military rule, and of an unsettled state of affairs. When a dislike for, or an inability to conduct, public affairs, joined to the factious conduct of the army, had induced Richard to retire from the office of protector, there was reasonable ground to apprehend that the army would engross the entire power, and place again some favourite at the head of the This was equally offensive to the royalists, the presbyterians, and the republicans: all therefore might reasonably unite, the first from choice, the two others from necessity, in wishing for the restoration of the royal family. Notwithstanding the desire of the nation, and the influence of public opinion at that time in promoting the return of

state.

Charles, it could scarcely have been effected without the concurrence of the powerful and well organised army then existing. As soon, therefore, as the army accorded with public opinion, the restoration was at once completed, and Charles had only to wonder, on his return, by what power he had been so long kept from the throne.

182

CHAPTER VII.

RESTORATION OF CHARLES II. AND ABDICATION

OF JAMES II.

Reaction in favour of Charles II.

[ocr errors]

Oversight of the two Branches of the Legislature in not making Conditions on the Monarch's Return. Moral Character of Charles not in his favour.- Ballads of the Day. - Increase of Public Opinion. James II. His Conduct not in accordance with Public Sentiment. James's Unpopularity much increased by his conduct towards the Church of England. — James's private Character not unamiable.

THE death of Oliver Cromwell, and the total inefficiency of his son and successor, Richard, wrought a signal change in the English people. From having hated and persecuted the Stuarts, the nation became ready to prostrate itself at their feet. Charles the Second, in his continental retirement, must have been intoxicated no less with amazement than joy, at the unexpected ebullition in his favour. Deputations of lords and commoners crossed the sea to pay him homage, and to lavish their offers of service. Democracy became a byeword of contempt; Cromwell's memory was reviled ; the Royalists and Episcopalians were, as if by magic, advanced at once, and even beyond hope,

to the very pinnacle of their ambition. To excel in vituperating Cromwell, became a passport to public favour; and although among many writers of invectives against Oliver, some (such as Cowley and Evelyn) were sincere and consistent, it is impossible not to feel pity at such men as Dryden and Waller, the latter of whom, during the Protector's ascendancy, wrote a slavish panegyric on him; while the former, on Cromwell's death, endeavoured to curry favour with his son and successor by writing "Heroic Stanzas on the late Lord Protector." These great poets, however, when the Restoration had transferred to royalty the springs of patronage and emolument, enhanced their adulation of Charles the Second by virulent abuse of the object of their former adoration.

On the King objecting to Waller that his verses on Cromwell were better than those he had written about his lawful sovereign, the eulogist dexterously extricated himself from his dilemma by saying, "Your Majesty knows that poets succeed better in fiction than in truth."

But Cowley was honest in his vehemence against Oliver, which, however violent, was echoed by the populace. Public opinion had not yet acquired consistency. The requisites were deficient. As a specimen of the re-action which had taken place, we may cite the following passage:—

"What can be more extraordinarily wicked than for a person to endeavour not only to exalt himself

above, but to trample upon, all his equals and betters; to pretend freedom for all men, and under the help of that pretence to make all men his servants; to take arms against taxes of scarce two hundred thousand pounds a year, and to raise them himself to above two millions; to pretend the defence of Parliament, and violently to dissolve all even of his own calling, and almost choosing; to undertake the reformation of religion, to rob it even to the very skin, and then to expose it naked to the rage of all sects and heresics; to set up councils of rapine and courts of murder; to fight against the King under a commission for him; to draw him into his net with protestations and vows of fidelity, and when he had caught him in it, to butcher him with as little shame as conscience or humanity, in the open face of the whole world; to receive a commission for King and Parliament, to murder, as I said, the one, and destroy no less impudently the other; to fight against monarchy when he declared for it, and declare against it when he contrived for it in his own person; to abase perfidiously, and supplant ingratefully his own general first, and afterwards most of those officers who, with the loss of their honour and hazard of their souls, had lifted him up to the top of his unreasonable ambitions; to break his faith with all enemies, and with all friends equally; and to make no less frequent use of the most solemn perjuries than the looser sort of people do of customary oaths; to usurp three

« ForrigeFortsæt »