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after he was restored, in October, 1660, when enough was promised for the reconcilement of the moderate of both parties; and nothing more could have been expected, if it bad been faithfully executed.
It will scarcely be thought, that Clarendon and the court were sufficiently observant of the pledges they had there given: all the real spirit and meaning of the king's promises were violated. Clarendon's excuse is not sufficient: it is, that these promises were expressly declared, subject to such limitations, exceptions, and modifications, as the parliament should afterwards make. But the acts of parliament must necessarily be considered, in this case, as those of the king and his ministers; and a splendid opportunity was lost, first, of making a benign and wise effort for avoiding penal statutes, and allaying religious differences, by a scheme of comprehension ; secondly, of exemplifying the high honour and integrity of men in exalted stations, and the solidity, under whatever circumstances, of public engagements.
The reign of Charles may be divided into two intervals, by the disgrace of Clarendon.
The first part we have now slightly touched upon; and my hearers must be referred to Clarendon's own life, and the details of the regular historians, Burnet, and Hume, and Rapin, for proper information.
We must now turn to consider the second interval of the reign ; that which begins after the disgrace of Clarendon.
Some time after the fall of this constitutional and upright, though not blameless minister, his merits were fully attested by the dreadful alterations that took place in the counsels of the sovereign.
The reader instantly perceives, from the first appearance of the celebrated ministry, called the Cabal, to the end of Charles's reign, that the most important struggle is still carrying on between the power of the crown and the rights of the people, and that the reign of Charles II. is but a sort of supplement to the great rebellion in the time of his father.
It is obvious, through the whole of this latter period of the reign, that the interests of Europe are as much abandoned by the court, as is all care of the liberties of England.
Abroad and at home, the reader's sympathies are excited ; the ambition of Louis XIV, is seen, determined on the destruction of the Dutch republic and of every power that can be opposed to its injustice; while Charles, far from assisting the Dutch, seems rather engaged in an equally unprincipled enterprise against the constitution of his own country, and against every thing that can be an impediment to his expensive profligacy.
The subject then of the second part of the reign, the era which succeeded the disgrace of Clarendon, is the corruption of Charles, his connexion with Louis XIV., his designs against the civil and religious liberties of this country, by means of Louis's assistance,—these are the points to which your attention must be directed; these designs were continued all through the reign, and I know not how better to attract your curiosity to this part of the reign, or better to allude to the connexion that existed between the two monarchs for the destruction of the liberties of Holland and of England, than by describing to you the books and documents which, when you come to examine the reign, will necessarily elaim your perusal.
This, therefore, I shall proceed to do. In the first place, it must be observed, that not much can be comprehended of the secret and real history of the period that succeeded the administration of Clarendon from the debates in the houses ; they must be read, but they serve rather to illustrate the representations of the historians, than to form themselves the materials of history.
The work of Burnet is to be perused; the reader will then perceive in what colours the scene appeared to a sensible, upright, and very active observer, living at the time. An account of this kind is always quoted by subsequent historians, and has an interest and importance which the reader will soon feel as he proceeds, and which cannot be well described.
After considering the pages of Burnet, I would ask the student, whether his general conclusion is not this, that the whole of this part of the reign of Charles was a conflict between the crown and people, originating in the profligacy of the king; which, requiring larger supplies of money than the commons could or ought to grant, urged him on to the most desperate attempts and practices against the constitution, rather than deny himself the gratification of his vices, and that it is even very probable, upon the face of Burnet's account, from the nature of a licentious character like this, that he descended to the meanness and criminality of receiving money from Louis, under some disguise or other; sometimes that he might consent to assist, and sometimes that he might not impede that monarch's unprincipled enterprises on the continent. This, it appears to me, wonld be the general conclusion, deducible from the acknowledged facts of the times, though not the slightest assistance could be obtained from any private memorials, or confidential documents whatever; and this remark I may have occasion to recall to your remembrance hereafter.
After Burnet we may turn to Hume, and read him in conjunction with the debates in the houses. Nothing can be more attractive, nothing can more strongly exemplify the charms and the merits of his seductive pages, than his Life of Charles II. Ready, however, as every reader will naturally be to give his confidence to so masterly a writer, he cannot but perceive that the character of Charles II., as given by the historian, reflects - not to his mind the true image of the original; but resembles rather one of those portraits which we so often see presented to us by the skill of a superior artist, where every grace and beauty, that can consist with the likeness, is transferred to the canvass, while every the most inherent deformity or defect is . withdrawn or disguised.
It had not escaped the most ordinary politicians in the times of Charles, that there must have been some secret alliance between the king and Louis. It was indeed known as a fact to some of the popular leaders ; proofs of the corruption of Charles were at last produced, even in the House of Commons, and became the apparent cause of Danby's impeachment. All the political writers of this period evidently suppose, that not only the House of Commons was bribed by the king, but the court itself by France. In the fourth page of the eighth volume of Hume, there is a remarkable passage, in which he says, that, on the whole, we are obliged to acknowledge (though there remains no direct evidence of it), that a
formal plan was laid for changing the religion and subverting the constitution of England, and that the king and the ministry (the cabal) were in reality conspirators against the people.
But after his sagacity and good sense had dragged him into this conclusion, he made inquiries in France during his residence there, and saw with his own eyes that direct evidence which he had not supposed in existence. This evidence was found in some MS. volumes kept in the Scotch college at Paris, and which Mr. Hume was permitted to perusé. These MS. volumes were neither more than a journal written by James II. in his own hand, of his own life, during the most critical period of our history.
From such a treasure as this, it is a matter to be lamented, and indeed deserving of extreme surprise, that such an historian as Hume did no more than produce a single extract. This extract was important, but it might surely have been conceived, that such MSS. would have opened a boundless field of observation to one who was so capable of remarking on human character and political events. But on some account or other, not explained (and which I think cannot be explained favourably to Hume), he contented himself with adding to his history a single note, and nothing more.
There is yet again in Mr. Hume's History a second note on this reign of Charles (page 206), which deserves our attention; this second note is drawn from another source, not from the papers or Life of James II. but the papers of Barillon, who was the French ambassador at the time.
Charles, towards the close of his reign, dismissed his parliament (says Mr. Hume in his text), and determined to govern by prerogative alone; whether any money (he continues) was now remitted to England, we do not certainly know, but we may fairly presume that the king's necessities were in some degree relieved by France. And then follows a note, the note I now allude to, in which he gives an extract from one of the letters of Barillon, containing an account of a regular agreement verbally entered into, between Charles and Louis, where good services are promised by the one and money by the other, for the purpose, it is said, of putting his Britannic majesty out of the reach of all constraint, from his
parliament, which could interfere with his new engagements with Louis.
This curious treaty was communicated to Mr. Hume while in France, and by him to the public; but Mr. Hume gives no account of any farther attempt to become acquainted with these dispatches of the French ambassador, which it was however evident would unveil, wherever they could be inspected, the most curious scenes of intrigue and corruption. Hume himself thought them important, as appears by one of his letters to Robertson.
After the perusal of Mr. Hume, we may turn to the Life of Charles II. by Harris. The notes are full of information and of particulars which the reader may not have an opportunity of selecting from their original sources, nor indeed of readily finding in any other manner.
The connexion of Charles with France, and the dishonourable nature of it, was sufficiently clear to this diligent investigator from the common authorities ; but in his note (page 228, vol. ii.), he extracts a passage “from a letter written to him by a friend, who had that morning heard read a letter from a gentleman, who, while in France, had been permitted to see the memoirs of King James ;” his account is the same as Hume's. And now it is observable enough, that there is a passage in Voltaire's History of Louis XIV., which Harris quotes, and which tells the reader in a few simple words every thing which he can desire to know on this subject, and the sum and substance of every thing that there is to be known. “ Louis,” says Voltaire, writing this long before the publication of Dalrymple’s History, which I shall hereafter mention, “ designed the conquest of the Low Countries, which he intended to commence with that of Holland ; but England was to be detached
Louis did not find it difficult to engage Charles II. in his designs; his passion was to enjoy his pleasures. Louis, who to have money needed only to speak, promised a great sum to Charles, who could never get any without the sense of his parliament. The secret treaty concluded between the two kings was”
“ Charles signed every thing Louis desired,” &c. &c.; and then the treaty is given, with the addition of some material circumstances. Such is the important information given by Voltaire.