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visited him in the afternoon of the day on which this offer had been made, and to them he repeated, in great indignation, what had passed in the morning. At this, the king and his brother broke into a laugh: they said, “ the French did all their business that way;" and the king added, “ he was a fool,” implying that the Chancellor should have taken the money. Whereupon Clarendon besought him, “ not to appear to his servants so unconcerned in matters of that nature ;” and desired him to reflect, what must be the consequence of his receiving the money, and what must be the appearance it would have in the eyes of the French king? At which Charles smiled, but made no other reply, than " that few men were so scrupulous ;” at the same time commanding him, “ to return a civil answer to M. Fouquet's letter, and to cherish that correspondence, which might be useful, and could produce no inconveniency. of the Stuarts appear to have had any delicacy on the subject of taking money from foreign princes, or to have set any store upon the virtue of incorruptibility in their servants. James I. was once told by a gentleman, that several noblemen of his court and council received pensions from Spain; and that he could make it out. The king answered him," that he knew it very well," and made a jest of it; adding, “ he wished the King of Spain would give them ten times as much ; because this unprofitable expense would render him less able to make war against himself.”+ How different from the supine and dishonourable temper of the Stuarts, were the spirit and conduct of Elizabeth! When Nicholas Clifford, and Anthony Shirley, to whom Henry IV. had given the order of St. Michael, for services done him in the war, had returned home, the queen sent them to prison, and commanded them to send back the order. She said, that, as a virtuous woman ought to look on none but her husband, so a subject ought not to cast his eyes on any other sovereign than him God hath set over him. will not,” said she, “ have my sheep marked with a strange brand; nor suffer them to follow the pipe of a strange shepherd.”+ What would this princess have said, could she have foreseen that her sceptre would one day pass into the hands of a monarch mean enough to bargain for a pension with a King of France, and to authorize bis minister to negociate it for him to the most advantage! After this, we need not be surprised to find him utterly insensible to national glory, or even promoting the interests of France, at the expense of his own subjects. “ He has now,” says Louis XIV. in a letter to his ambassador at London, (D'Estrades,) August 5, 1661, “ a fleet of 160 sail, for which he is obliged to his misfortunes; by the care of the Protector, whilst in authority, to increase the naval force beyond what any King of England ever could do."* And yet, with a fleet thus powerful, had it not been for what he termed, “ the stiffness and obstinacy of his people and parliament,” he would have given up the honour of the Hag to that monarch-a point yielded to Elizabeth by Henry IV. and asserted with an high hand even under James. He had also, as has been observed, a strong mechanical genius, and particularly understood shipbuilding, as well as all that related to the management of a fleet. And what use did he make of his knowledge and abilities? Rouvigny told Burnet, that Charles desired the French ministers to send him all the methods they took to improve their naval force; and these he studied with great zeal and diligence. He shewed them what errors they committed, and how they ought to be corrected, as if he had been a viceroy to France, rather than a king of England. They that judged the most favourably of this, thought it was done out of revenge to the Dutch ; but others put a worse construction on it.
* Burnet. Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon. + Wiquefort. Harris's Life of Charles II.
But it was not only in pecuniary transactions that Charles discovered a total want of honour and principle--he was, in truth, what the Protector called him, in one of his state declarations, “ a nullifidian in all the points of civil honesty;" and he seems not merely to have thought that there was no such thing in the world, but that it was not worth while to affect even the appearance
of it. He certainly was not fond of playing the hypocrite, but walked bare-faced through life, and only on great and rare occasions condescended to wear a masque. He had a very ill opinion both of men and women, and did not think there was either sincerity in the one, or chastity in the other, out of principle; but that they originated merely in the humour or vanity of the persons who pretended to them ;-a belief, it may be observed, which either springs from a depraved heart, or will inevitably render so that in which it is implanted. When money bills were passing through the two houses, Lauderdale advised the king, in order to prevent all trouble from the lords, to go and be present at their debates. Charles himself, who was often weary of time, and hardly knew how to get through the day, liked going to the house, as a pleasant diversion. At first, he sat decently on the throne, but soon left it, and stood by the fire, which drew a crowd about the place, and put an end to the order and regularity which the lords had been accustomed to observe in
* D'Estrades's Letters, &c. Ibid.
taking their seats. His presence, at first, was a great restraint on the freedom of debate ; but afterwards many of the lords spoke with more than their usual boldness; because one heard it, they said, to whom they had no other access but in that place. But his going thither had a much worse effect than either breaking up the decorum of the house, or restraining the freedom of debate; for he became a common solicitor, not only in public affairs, but even in private and judicial matters. He would, in a very little time, have gone round the house, and spoke to every man that he thought worth speaking to. And he was apt to do that upon the solicitation of any of the ladies in favour. He knew well on whom he could prevail : so being once in a matter of justice desired to speak to the Earl of Essex and the Lord Hollis, he said, they were “ stiff and sullen men.” But when he was next desired to solicit two others, he undertook to do it, and said, “ they are men of no conscience, so I will take the government of their conscience into my own hands.” * The minister who maintained his influence with the king longest, and, during the greatest part of his reign, contrived to keep an entire ascendant over him, was Lauderdale, though a bigotted presbyterian, and of a character and deportment diametrically opposite to that of Charles. But he made himself so useful, extended the royal prerogative in Scotland so far, and shewed such a disposition to render it absolutely uncontroulable, that he kept his place, in defiance of repeated addresses of the house of commons against him, and reiterated complaints from Hamilton and other Scottish peers.
Charles loaded the latter with caresses, and continued Lauderdale in his authority. However, about the year 1669, when he found that his favourite minister's memory began to fail him, he resolved to let him fall gently, and to put the affairs of Scotland into the hands of the Duke of Monmouth. Duke Hamilton and others were encouraged to come up and prefer charges against him, which were so clearly made out, that Charles had nothing to say in defence of his administration. Yet when May, the master of the privy purse, asked him, in his familiar way, what he thought now of his Lauderdale ? he replied, as May himself told Burnet, “ that they had objected many damned things that he had done against them, but there was nothing objected that was against his service.” A sentiment, as Mr. Hume justly observes, most unworthy of a sovereign!
But so far was Charles from holding correct opinions on the subject of government, that he does not appear to have possessed any fixed political principles at all ; but to have been guided all his life, either by what he selfishly considered his own interest, or by certain floating prejudices accidentally contracted, or resulting from an imperfect education. With none of his father's obstinacy, or the self-conceited pedantry of his grandfather, he was imbued with all their arbitrary notions and love of absolute power; but fortunately he loved his ease yet better, and could never be brought to persevere in any scheme for rendering his prerogative uncontroulable. It was not, however, for want of evil counsellors—" those vermin wriggling in a (sovereign’s) ear”--to remind him of the far happier condition of the continental despots. They used to inculcate, that it was an easy thing to shake off the restraints of law, if he would but set about it—and they would instance Denmark, where the crown had formerly been elective and subject to a senate, and yet was changed in one day, without any
visible force, into an hereditary and absolute government.* He liked the project well enough; and, probably, it often formed the vision of his waking dreams, when some refusal of the commons to grant supplies, or some infernal Brook-house committee, prying into his accounts, had sent him in an ill-humour to his daily lounge in the park. But though his apprehension was quick, and his judgement sound, his views never extended to remote consequences, or embraced any grand scheme of political operations. “ As he scarce ever thought twice on any one subject, every appearance of advantage was apt to seduce him; and when he found his way obstructed by un-, looked for difficulties, he readily turned aside into the first path, where he expected more to gratify the natural indolence of his disposition.”+ This is what North has called “ taking a short turn on his toe”-and it was a turn that often baffled and put his ministers to fault, when, in full career, in pursuit of arbitrary power. It was thus that the dangerous schemes of the cabal were broken up, and that Shaftesbury—their grand architect, who valued himself on performing this evolution at the properest occasion, and in the cleverest manner, was obliged, in order to anticipate his majesty, to face about, without even attempting to save appearances. When the precipice, on the brink of which their violent counsels had placed him, was full before his eyes, he started back; and Shaftesbury well knew, that from the same facility of temper which had led him to retract the “ declaration of indulgence,” to which he had emphatically assured parliament, he was resolved to stick," he would not scruple to abandon his ministers to their
vengeance also. It suited better with his versatile and pliant genius, to which he himself was inclined to trust, to go on balancing party against party, and getting money from the commons, by pledging himself to support alliances which he had firmly resolved to break. And for some time he had such success in this royal method of swindling, that money bills passed easily in the lower house, and, by a strange reverse, were opposed in the lords, who complained, that the bills came so thick, there was no end of their giving. But occasionally his resentments-or the specious reasoning of his advisers stimulated him to play a deeper game, and to try an experiment for enlarging his authority. Such was the desperate one made by the cabal, when having broken the triple league-the only glorious or honest measure of foreign policy he was ever led to entertain, he fortified himself by an alliance with France, and began to act in all things like a monarch who was never more to be subject to the control of a national assembly.* But the ministers-who commenced with two such unusual stains to the honour of the crown, as the attack upon the Smyrna fleet in time of peace, and stopping the bank; though they succeeded admirably in the honours they proposed to themselves, failed in elevating their master to the rank of a despotic prince. And thus instead of making so great a king as they pretended, by the declaration of war against Holland -than which no clap of thunder on a fair frosty day could have more astonished the world, and the French alliance, they had the honour of making only four great subjects. When Sir W. Temple, in his usual frank and honest manner, took occasion to reflect upon their counsels and conduct-observing “how ill his majesty had been advised, to break measures and treaties so solemnly taken and agreed upon-how ill he had been served, and how ill succeeded :-the king said, 'twas true he had succeeded ill, but if he had been well served, he might have made a good business enough of it; and so went on a good deal to justify what was passed." In the course of the conversation, Sir William told him, “ that he never knew but one foreigner that understood England well, and that was Gourville, (whom he knew the king esteemed the soundest head of any Frenchman he had ever seen)--that when he was at Brussels in the first Dutch war, and heard the parliament grew weary of it, he said, the king had nothing to do but to make peace—that he had been long enough in England—seen enough of our court, and people, and parliament, to conclude, "Qu'un Roy d'Angleterre qui veut être l'homme de son peuple,
+ Sir W. Temple. Memoirs 1672-1679.