Imatges de pÓgina


ART. V.-A History of England from the Accession of James II. By THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY. Vols. III. and IV. London: 1855.

A FTER the lapse of seven years, we welcome Mr. Macaulay's reappearance as an author. They have been seven years of eager expectation on the part of the public, and obviously of anxious research on that of the historian. The triumphs indeed of the former volumes of his history had been brilliant beyond example: prodigal of fame, as well of those more solid advantages by which she is not always accompanied. Though the splendour of the performance attracted so many searching and sometimes envious eyes, it passed through the crucible of criticism with success. Its rhetorical power filled the world with admiration, and chained the attention by a charm rarely possessed by history, and which even fiction seldom attains. Malignant critics sneered. Silly women, and sillier men chattered about Mr. Macaulay's historical novel, and the more superficial of the public took for granted that because the work was brilliant it could not be solid. To our minds, as we said seven years ago, herein truly consisted the accomplished author's highest praise. His rare combination of the powers of the imagination and the reasoning faculty, enables him to sway the judgment while he warms the fancy. With resources of fact, laid up and made available by a marvellous memory, he paints the most dry and uninviting details with a pencil dipped in the brightest colours. This union of qualities, so seldom found united in the service of history, produced a result of its kind entirely without parallel ; and the reader was so fascinated and beguiled upon his way, that he could hardly believe that the path he had been travelling was the dusty high-road of real events.

The two volumes now before us, possessing all the qualities of their predecessors, require more attentive study. The events with which they deal, more grave and important in result, are inferior in mere dramatic effect to those which the historian previously recorded. In the former volumes he told us of the progress and end of a mighty contest-how, with varied fortunes but unvarying constancy, the people of England maintained their liberties against Prerogative at home and ambition abroadhow, in a school the most instructive, the blinded Stuarts learned and forgot nothing-how a Restoration laid the foundation of a Revolution-how with eyes sealed in self-will and obstinacy, and steps reckless of inevitable calamity, the last of the infatuated race walked on to the edge of the precipice, and at length

disappeared over its brink. The times themselves were fevered with excitement. Every week brought its own romance, and the issue fluctuated in agitating uncertainty. No wonder that the record of such a period, in the hands of so great a master, had all the restless interest of fiction. When the curtain fell on the first act of this drama, James II. had relinquished his throne, and the Prince of Orange was on his way to assume the sceptre, amid the restored tranquillity of perturbed politicians and the acclamations of a liberated people.

But when the second act commences things are widely changed. The excitement and the danger that drew chiefs and parties together, have given place to security and disunion. The certain reaction which by an invariable law attends all political convulsions, had, in 1689, many sources peculiar to the crisis. The Prince who had been hailed as a deliverer when seen through the medium of present tyranny, with a prison or scaffold in the background, had come gradually to be regarded as a phlegmatic Dutchman, ignorant of the language and distasteful to the people of the country. Absence and length of time worked their usual effect as regarded the self-exiled monarch, and roused again the inveterate attachment which Englishmen always have to things that used to be. Thus a period of an intense public contention was succeeded by one of constant private intrigue.

Viewed more closely, however, this second stage of the Revolution of 1688 was by far the more momentous and important. A successful revolution is comparatively a commonplace event, and may be brought about by commonplace actors. But to found the new order of things with firmness and stability on the ruins of the old-to meet with constancy the reflux of the wave-to combine the preservation of old tastes and habits and institutions, wherein the greater part of Government truly consists, with the changes called for by the times-to oppose, to watch, to foil, to prevent the intrigues of disappointed friends and the cabals of concealed enemies, and to raise on the mingled and incoherent elements of a revolution a great social and political temple, dedicated to the liberty of man, and liberating all beneath its shadow- these are the tasks of genius and statesmanship, on which so many successful revolutions have been wrecked, and this was the undertaking which devolved on, and was fulfilled by, William of Orange.

The progress of this great enterprise-the principles which guided, and the causes which retarded it-the scattered elements in our Saxon Constitution which were combined and harmoniously united by bold and skilful hands-the manner in which a new world sprang out of the old, and substantial

freedom assumed its permanent dominion among us, it is Mr. Macaulay's distinction to have described for the first time. Nothing can be more masterly and comprehensive than his treatment of this, by far the most important and instructive part of his subject; and it is as original as it is powerful. Not, indeed, that there is much in his materials which is absolutely new, or that gives to the student of the history of those times information on important details which were not formerly accessible. But he seems to us to have been the first who has had sagacity enough to follow through its course the tangled clue of politics during the eight years over which these volumes extend; and, to have grasped with the eye of a statesman the bearing of details on the great consequences of the time.

That the centre of his great picture should be occupied by one prominent figure, to which all others are accessory, might not only be anticipated from the historian's enthusiastic temperament, but was essential to the truth of history. We consider his portrait of William no less correct than able; doing him the justice which had been too much denied him, and depicting his failings or his virtues with a true and discriminating hand. Never had man a more difficult position to fill. That he held it at all, and handed down his crown in a succession never broken to this day, would of itself have been sufficient to have earned the grateful remembrance of his adopted country, and to have concealed from view failings or defects far greater than any which can be laid to his charge. But he did much more than this. He was, in the truest sense, a hero, although not perhaps of the class which are favourites of romance-writers. His temperament was frigid, and was congealed into still harder ice by his ignorance of the language of the country he undertook to govern. There was nothing in his person, or his demeanour, or his course of action, to excite enthusiasm. And above all, he came, lived among us, and died, a stranger; a willing exile from a land for which he hourly pined, toiling for a nation which was hard to satisfy; his busy earnest spirit fretting his hardworn body to decay. But he was a hero, notwithstanding,-a man with a commission the most difficult and hazardous, which he performed nearly single-handed, with few to help but disguised enemies and half-hearted friends. To his success this country owes her safety in a time of the greatest peril, and Europe a large proportion of its advance in social and political improvement.

It is with the strictest truth that Mr. Macaulay has represented all the events which succeeded the Revolution as depending on this common centre. The progress of things, no doubt, in

some measure assisted his efforts; and from nothing did wer cause of constitutional government derive more collateral aidil than from the never-failing absurdity and bigotry of the abdicated monarch. To be a Jacobite now-a-days is a pleasant pastime. The sorrows of discrowned kings, and the disloyalty of an ungrateful people, weave themselves gracefully into song or story. But all the while the modern Cavalier sits comfortably in a home protected by a free Constitution, and utters his sneers at the Revolution through a press which prints at his pleasure. It never occurs to him that had he lived now under the dynasty he laments, the most probable reward of his political courage would have been a place in the pillory. For not in the deepest misfortune, or the most untoward reverses, did the man who forgot everything else-friends, courage, manliness, honesty, ever for one moment allow his deserted kingdom to believe that if restored to power he would abate one tittle of his moody, revengeful bigotry. In this, if in nothing else, he was open, candid, and sincere. His proposals to his country for his return were filled with hearty and honest promises that not one offence should be pardoned, not one rebel forgiven, that bloody assizes, untiring vengeance, and unrelenting persecution should inaugurate the triumph of the right divine of kings to govern ill.'

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Had the exiled Stuart possessed the quality foreign to his house, of knowing to whom to apply for counsel, and following it when given, there is no doubt that William's task would have been still more difficult than it was. But this does not diminish the almost exclusive credit he deserves in its fulfilment. That calm, cold, searching eye was every where. That strong, quiet grasp held the reluctant elements together. Had it been relaxed for a moment, the component arts would have been riven asunder by mutual repulsion, and private hopes and fears, jealousies and rivalries, the treachery of statesmen and the ambition of soldiers, would have supplied the defects of the suicidal diplomacy of St. Germain's.


The continuation of the history starts from the landing at Torbay with the words The Revolution was accomplished.' It was So. The hearty reception of the Prince of Orange proved how great had been the oppression, and how long the endurance of the people. The landing effected, the triumphal progress finished,

The family archives of many English houses, scattered over the country, abound in original documents of the highest importance to the history of this eventful period; and though some of these authorities are quoted by Mr. Macaulay, many others remain to be explored. Thus a remarkable collection of such papers exists at



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