Imatges de pÓgina

not content with all that opulence, but by authorizing the sheriffs, who collected his revenues in the several counties, to practise the most grievous vexations and abuses, for the raising of them higher, by a perpetual auction of the crown lands, so that none of his tenants could be secure of possession, if any other would come and offer more; by various iniquities in the court of exchequer, which was entirely Norman; by forfeitures wrongfully taken; and lastly, by arbitrary and illegal taxations, he drew into his treasury much too great a proportion of the wealth of his kingdom.

It must however be owned, that if his avarice was insatiably and unjustly rapacious, it was not meanly parsimonious, nor of that sordid kind which brings on a prince dishonour and contempt. He supported the dignity of his crown with a decent magnificence, and though he,never was lavish, he sometimes was liberal, more especially to his soldiers and to the church. But looking on money as a necessary means of maintaining and increasing power, he desired to accumulate as much as he could, rather, perhaps, from an ambitious than a covetous nature; at least his avarice was subservient to his ambition, and he laid up wealth in his coffers, as he did arms in his magazines, to be drawn out when any proper occasion required it, for the defence and enlargement of his dominions.

Upon the whole he had many great qualities, but few virtues; and if those actions that most particularly distinguish the man or the king are impartially considered, we shall find that in his character there is much to admire, but still more to abhor.


The Character of Queen Elizabeth.

There are few personages in history who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than queen Elizabeth, and yet there scarce is any whose reputation has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong 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 judg ment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, are allowed to merit the highest praises, and appear not to have been surpassed by any person who 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 all temerity, her frugality from avarice, her friendship from partiality, her enterprize 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 her

it has surmounted the prejudices
both of faction and of bigotry, yet
lies still exposed to another preju-
dice, which is more durable be-

self, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendant over the people; and while she merited all their esteem by her real virtues, she also engaged their affections by her pre-cause more natural, and which, tended ones. Few sovereigns of according to the different views in England succeeded to the throne which we survey her, is capable in more difficult circumstances; either of exalting beyond measure, and none ever conducted the go- or diminishing the lustre of her character. This prejudice is vernment with such uniform success and felicity. Though unac- founded on the consideration of When we contemplate quainted with the practice of tole-her sex. ration, the true secret for managing her as a woman, we are apt to be religious factions, she preserved her struck with the highest admiration people, by her superior prudence, of her qualities and extensive cafrom those confusions in which pacity; but we are also apt to retheological controversy had involv-quire some more softness of dised all the neighbouring nations; and, though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprizing, the least scrupulous, she was able by her vigour to make deep impressions on their state; her own greatness meanwhile remained untouched and unimpaired. The wise ministers and brave warriors, who flourished during 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 ability, they were never able to acquire any undue In her famiascendant over her. iy, 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; 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

· ΤΟΣ. Ι.

position, 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 to consider her merely as a rational being, placed in authority, and entrusted with the government of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her as a wife or a mistress; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the object of undisputed applause and approbation.


Speech of Demosthenes to the Athenians, exciting them to prosecute the War against Philip with Vigour.


Had this assembly been called together on an unusual occasion, I should have waited to hear the opinions of others before I had offered my own; and if what they proposed had seemed to me judi

4 A

cious, I should have been silent; if otherwise, I should have given my reasons for differing from those who had spoken before me. But as the subject of our present deliberations has been often treated by others, I hope I shall be excused, though I rise up first to offer my opinion. Had the schemes formerly proposed been successful, there had been no occasion for the present consultation.

First, then, my countrymen, let me intreat you not to look upon the state of our affairs as desperate, though it be unpromising: for, as on one hand, to compare the present with times past, matters have indeed a very gloomy aspect; so, on the other, if we extend our views to future times, I have good hopes that the distresses we are now under will prove of greater advantage to us than if we had never fallen into them. If it be asked, what probability there is of this, I answer, I hope it will appear that it is our egregious misbehaviour alone that has brought us into these disadvantageous circumstances; from which follows the necessity of altering our conduct, and the prospect of bettering our circumstances by doing so.

If we had nothing to accuse ourselves of, and yet found our affairs in their present disorderly condition, we should not have room left even for the hope of recovering ourselves. But, my countrymen, it is known to you, partly by your own remembrance, and partly by information from others, how gloriously the Lacedæmonian war was sustained, in which we engaged in defence of our own rights, against an enemy powerful and formidable; in the whole conduct of which war nothing happened unworthy

the dignity of the Athenian state; and this within these few years past. My intention in recalling to your memory this part of our history is, to show you that you have no reason to fear any enemy, if your operations be wisely planned, and vigorously executed.

The enemy has indeed gained considerable advantages by treaty as well as by conquest; for it is to be expected, that princes and states will court the alliance of those who seem powerful enough to protect both themselves and their confederates. But, my countrymen, though you have of late been too supinely negligent of what concerned you so nearly, if you will even now resolve to exert yourselves unanimously, cach according to his respective abilities and circumstances, the rich by contributing liberally towards the expence of the war, and the rest by presenting themselves to be enrolled to make up the deficiencies of the army and navy; if, in short, you will at last resume your own character and act like yourselves, it is not yet too late, with the help of Heaven, to recover what you have lost, and to inflict the just vengeance on your insolent enemy.

But when will you, my countrymen, when will you rouze from your indolence, and bethink yourselves of what is to be done?When you are forced to it by some fatal disaster? when irresistible necessity drives you? What think you of the disgraces which are already come upon you? is not the past sufficient to stimulate your activity? or do ye wait for something yet to come, more forcible and urgent? How long will you amuse yourselves with enquiring

of one another after news as you ramble idly about the streets? what news so strange ever came to Athens, as that a Macedonian should subdue this state, and lord it over Greece? Again, you ask one another, "What! is Philip dead?" "No," it is answered; but he is very ill." How foolish this curiosity! What is it to you whether Philip is sick or well? suppose he were dead, your inactivity would soon raise up against yourselves another Philip in his stead; for it is not his strength that has made him what he is, but your indolence, which has of late been such that you seem neither in a condition to take any advantage of the enemy, nor to keep it if it were gained by others for you.

O shame to the Athenian name! We undertook this war against Philip in order to obtain redress of grievances, and to force him to indemnify us for the injuries he had done us; and we have conducted it so successfully, that we shall by and by think ourselves happy if we escape being defeated and ruined. For, who can think that a prince of his restless and ambitious temper will not improve the opportunities and advantages which our indolence and timidity present him? will he give over his designs against us, without being obliged to it? and who will oblige him? who will restrain his fury? shall we wait for assistance from some unknown country? In the name of all that is sacred and all that is dear to us, let us make Wisdom directs, that the con- an attempt with what forces we ductors of a war always anticipate can raise, if we should not be able the operations of the enemy, in- to raise as many as we would wish: stead of waiting to see what steps let us do somewhat to curb this he shall take: whereas you, Athe-insolent tyrant of his pursuits. Let nians, though you be masters of all us not trifle away the time in hearthat is necessary for war, as ship-ing the ineffectual wranglings of oping, cavalry, infantry, and funds, rators, while the enemy is strengthhave not the spirit to make the ening himself and we are declinproper use of your advantages, but ing, and our allies growing more suffer the enemy to dictate to you and more cold to our interest, and every motion you are to make. If more apprehensive of the conseyou hear that Philip is in the Cher-quences of continuing on our side. sonesus, you order troops to be Demost, Crat, sent thither; if at Pyle, forces are to be detached to secure that post. Wherever he makes an attack, there you stand upon your defence; you attend him in all his motions, as soldiers do their general; but you never think of striking out of yourselves any bold and effectual scheme for bringing him to reason, by being beforehand with him. A pitiful manner of carrying on war at any time; but, in the critical circumstances you are now in, utterly ruinous.

The Character of Francis I, with some Reflections on me Rival. ship with Charles V.

Francis died at Rambouillet, on the last day of March, in the fiftythird year of his age, and the thir ty-third year of his reign. During twenty-eight years of that time, an avowed rivalship subsisted between him and the emperor, which invol

couragement could turn him aside from the execution of it. The success of their enterprises was as different as their characters, and was uniformly influenced by them. Francis, by his impetuous activity, often disconcerted the emperor's best laid schemes. Charles, by a more calm but steady prosecution of his designs, checked the rapidity of his rival's career, and baffled or repulsed his most vigorous efforts. The former, at the opening of a war or of a campaign, broke in upon his enemy with the violence of a torrent, and carried all before him; the latter, waiting antil he saw the force of his rival begin to abate, recovered in the end, not only all that he had lost, but made new acquisitions. Few of the French monarch's attempts towards conquest, whatever pro

ved not only their own dominions, but the greater part of Europe in wars, prosecuted with more violent animosity, and drawn out to a greater length, than had been known in any former period. Many circumstances contributed to both. Their animosity was founded in opposition of interest, heightened by personal emulation, and exasperated not only by mutual injuries, but by reciprocal insults. At the same time, whatever advantage one seemed to possess towards gaining the ascendant, was wonderfully balanced by some favourable circumstance, peculiar to the other. The emperor's dominions were of great extent; the French king's lay more compact: Francis governed his kingdom with absolute power; that of Charles was limited, but he supplied the want of authority by address:mising aspect they might wear at the troops of the former were more impetuous and enterprising; those of the latter, better disciplined, and more patient of fatigue. The talents and abilities of the two monarchs were as different as the advantages which they possessed, and contributed no less to prolong the contest between them. Francis took his resolutions suddenly, prosecuted them at first with warmth, and pushed them into execution with a most adventurous courage; but, being destitute of the perseverance necessary to surmount difficulties he often abandoned his designs, or relaxed the vigour of pursuit from impatience, and sometimes from levity.

Charles deliberated long, and determined with coolness; but, having once fixed his plan, he adhered to it with inflexible obstinacy, and neither danger nor dis

first, were conducted to a happy issue; many of the emperor's enterprises, even after they appeared desperate and impracticable, terminated in the most prosperous manner. Francis was dazzled with the splendour of an undertaking; Charles was allured by the prospect of its turning to his advantage. The degree, however, of their comparative merit and reputation has not been fixed either by a strict scrutiny into their abilities for goverument, or by an impartial consideration of the greatness and success of their undertakings; and Francis is one of those monarchs who occupies a higher rank in the temple of fame than either his talents or performances entitle him to hold.

This pre-eminence he owed to many different circumstances. The superiority which Charles acquired by the victory of Pavia, and which from that period

« AnteriorContinua »