« ForrigeFortsett »
A prince so gracious in his expressions, and so liberal of his courtesy, was easily conceived to be generous too; and every one began to assure himself of the full accomplishment of his wildest wishes. Nay, some, that they might not lose the present opportunity, forced him to give them audience on the spot, and reckoning up the insupportable losses which they themselves, or their fathers, had undergone in his service, demanded the present grant or promise of such and such offices of the highest trust and importance. They pressed these extravagant requests with such importunity, and, what was worse, with such tedious discourses, "that the king was extremely nauseated with their suits, though his modesty knew not how to break from them ;" and he had no sooner regained the freedom of his own closet, which for some hours he was not able to do, than he began to bemoan himself, and to lament to the Chancellor the hard lot which his happy restoration had imposed upon him. And, in truth, he did from that minute contract such a prejudice against the persons of some of those, though of the greatest quality, for the indecency and incongruity of their pretences, that he never afterwards received their addresses with his usual grace or patience, and rarely granted any thing they desired, though the matter was more reasonable, and the manner of asking much more modest."* A man of large mind would have been prepared to expect, and therefore have borne with equanimity, the unreasonable and griping avidity of his partizans; and with one of a liberal disposition, the disgust it could hardly fail to inspire, would have soon blown over, and left him free to use his penetration in detecting and rewarding real merit. But Charles was neither high-minded, nor generous; he neither forgot, nor forgave-made allowance, nor distinction; but having had the misfortune to be disgusted and fatigued by the tiresome importunity of a few, he revenged himself by a total neglect of all. Circumstanced, however, as he was, and happily as much restricted by the conditions on which his restoration was effected, from allowing scope to his gratitude, or room to his revenge, we see no just cause for being severe in our censure, or joining in the outcry that was raised against him during his life, and has since continued to pursue his memory. Forfeitures he had none, with which to glut the craving of his followersfor the presbyterian party, though they had neglected the interests of liberty, had been careful of their own-and the persons who had accompanied him from abroad-who, in their own language, had "borne the burthen and heat of the day,"
* Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon,
and, therefore, had the better right to push on their fortunes, had appetites' sufficiently keen to swallow up whatever else he had to bestow. To gratify all was clearly impossible; and as it was particularly incumbent on him to conciliate all parties and to offend none as he stood in the unusual predicament of owing more to his enemies than to his friends, little regard could, perhaps, be had to the merits of the more ancient and respectable cavaliers. These, who had been incomparably the greatest sufferers, and in all respects merited most, never made any inconvenient suits to him, but modestly left to his own reflections the consideration of all they had done and undergone. But this was far from being the character of the great majority of the cavaliers, who were seldom, to use the words of Baxter," sick of the disease called tenderness of conscience or scrupulosity;" and whose importunity in pressing for place and preferment was only to be equalled by their incapacity to discharge the offices they sought. The vice of drunkenness, brought on by the uneasiness of their condition during the Protectorate, and the necessity of frequenting meetings together, for which taverns offered the most security, had woefully impaired their judgement, and ruined their intellects; whilst the very poverty to which the more zealous royalists had reduced themselves, by rendering them insignificant, made them unequal to the support of government. On the other hand, the king's reconciled adversaries, to whom, more than to his ancient friends, he was indebted for his restoration, had equal pretensions to a share of his favour; and being, from practice, more acquainted with public business, were better qualified to execute any trust committed to them. The general unfitness, then, of the cavaliers for places of consequence in the statethe necessity Charles was under of scrupulously respecting the property, and conciliating the good will, of those who had been most active against him, and his utter want of means in any degree proportioned to the numerous claims made upon his bounty, are the grounds on which Clarendon defends or excuses his neglect of those, whose zeal and sufferings in the royal cause had known no bounds. Without stopping to consider with what grace such an apology comes from one who had received £20,000 from the king, and the forfeited estate of one of the late king's judges, though he had never suffered imprisonment, nor even hazard in the field, it must be acknowledged, that the indifference shown to the wretched cavaliers ought, in candour, to be charged rather upon the necessity of the case, than the neglect or ingratitude of the monarch.
* Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon.
It was, of course, not to be expected, that angry and disappointed men should admit the reasonableness of an excuse, that went to deprive them of the poor consolation of venting their murmurs-rehearsing their wrongs, and abusing their superiors. They jested indignantly on the title of the "act of oblivion and indemnity ;" and said, "his majesty had passed an act of oblivion to his friends, and indemnity to his enemies ;" and against the Chancellor, who used to beat down the value of their services, and was reported, though falsely, to have advised the king" to gain his enemies, since he was sure of his friends by their principles," they conceived an implacable resentment. The neglect of the cavaliers is a favourite topic of the libels and satires of which that age was so prolific:-Andrew Marvel insults their disappointed hopes as well as his halting verse will permit; and Rochester, the universal libeller, has not failed to hitch his sovereign's ingratitude into a kind of miserable epigram.
"His father's foes he does reward,
With so much grace and gratitude."
Bishop Burnet, the severe censurer, and sometimes malicious interpreter, of his conduct, has likewise his observations on the subject; to the truth of which we should have been more willing to subscribe, had he been candid enough to make allowance for the insuperable difficulties of Charles's situation. "He had been," says that historian, " obliged to so many who had been faithful to him, and careful of him, that he seemed afterwards to resolve to make an equal return to them all: and finding it not easy to reward them all as they deserved, he forgot them all alike. Most princes seem to have this pretty deep in them; and to think, that they ought never to remember past services, but that their acceptance of them is a full reward. He, of all in our age, exerted this piece of prerogative in the amplest manner: for he never seemed to charge his memory, or trouble his thoughts, with the sense of any of the services that had been done him."
That the poverty and distress of the cavaliers would have been proportionably mitigated by royal bounty, in case Charles's difficulties had been fewer, and his means of evincing
his gratitude more ample, is too bold a position to be maintained by those who are at all acquainted with his character. That, where so many false and ridiculous claims were set up, he should be averse to enter into any strict discussion or inquiry, might have been imputed less to his indifference than to his indolence; but the fact was, he seldom, or never, shewed himself liberal of his bounty, where the demand upon his gratitude was incontestably just and peremptory. Those from whom he had received personal kindnesses, as Mr. Lane and the Penderells, were, indeed, not absolutely forgotten; but he gave one or two signal proofs, how little he was in the habit of considering political services, as constituting any sort of claim to his favour or protection. The last Earl of Derby, of the family of Stanley, has taken a singular revenge on his memory, and perpetuated by an inscription on a building, erected near his seat in Lancashire, the shameful neglect which his family reaped, as the sole reward of all their sufferings in the cause of royalty. It runs as follows: "James, Earl of Derby, Lord of Man and the Isles, grandson of James, Earl of Derby, and of Charlotte, daughter of Claude, Duke de la Tremouille, whose husband, James, was beheaded at Bolton, 15 Octob. 1652, for the strenuously adhering to Charles II., who refused a bill, past unanimously by both houses of parliament, for restoring to the family the estate lost by his loyalty to him. 1732.*
How far the English cavaliers would have been benefited by any exactions made upon the opposite party, supposing the latter not to have been protected from sequestrations by the salutary fears, under which his majesty laid, may be conjectured from the government proceedings in Scotland, over whose political offences no blessed bill of oblivion and indemnity had been drawn. A considerable sum of money had been raised in that country by fines, which, according to the act of parliament, was to be distributed among those, who had served and suffered for the king. The cavaliers came up in crowds with their pretensions, but were disappointed of their last hopes of recompense-the money having been applied to raising a military force. Charles threw the blame of this transaction upon Sharpe, (the archbishop,) who, he knew, durst not contradict him, as if by so doing he could have shifted his dishonour from himself, without whose authority neither Sharpe, nor any body else, durst have taken such a step. On the whole, it must be confessed, that making every allowance for that indolence of temper, which would never permit him to be at the trouble
Rapin's History by Tindal.
of inquiring into the justice of the claims made upon his bounty, and for the narrowness of his revenue, as well as the voracity of his needy courtiers, which left him without the means to satisfy such as were clearly established, it may reasonably be doubted whether a more active disposition, and less embarrassed finances, would have served any other end, than to display his ingratitude in a yet more conspicuous light. Two more flagrant instances remain to be noticed, after which we shall leave this part of his character to the reader's mercy, to be judged as it deserves. To the states of Holland, and the family of the Prince of Orange, he was considerably indebted. The one had entertained him with great magnificence, at a vast charge, during his stay among them, and loaded him with valuable gifts, at his departure;* and the other had been impoverished by their imprudent but generous exertions in favour of his father and himself. This kindness Charles acknowledged by making two successive wars upon the first, each more infamous and unprovoked than the other; and treating the latter (more fortunate certainly in the absence of any such demonstration of his regard) with total indifference. To the Dutch, who were absolutely the only people on the continent, who had expressed any friendship or even civility towards him, he entertained an avowed and personal hatred; and when obliged to sign a peace with them, for want of means to carry on the war longer, he declared, that he had done " a thing, which went more against his heart than the loss of his right hand." And the Prince of Orange, who, in the winter of 1669, came over to see after the great debt due to him from the king, and to try to engage his uncle to assist him in recovering the stadtholdership, he repaid with good words, and a vast shew of civility, "but neither then, nor afterwards, did he bestir himself in that matter, though if either gratitude or interest had been of force, he must have been inclined to make some returns for the services the late prince did him."+ And yet Charles would occasionally shew himself mindful of an ancient favour, and grateful to an ancient friend: pity that this was not oftener the case, for no one could confer a favour like him, no one ever possessed in such perfection, that graceful and benevolent air, which enhances an obligation, and delights the person obliged, even more than the favour itself." April 20, 1665. To Whitehall, (we quote from Evelyn's Journal,) to the king, who called me into his bed-chamber as he was dressing, to whom I shewed the letter written to me, from the Duke of York, from the fleets,
* Notes on Astræa Redux, Scott's Dryden, vol. ix. p. 48.