« AnteriorContinuar »
The reader is carried along from point to point, in a stream that is always rapid, with an interest that never flags. There is, indeed, a want of repose in the style; it is perhaps too completely all light and colour. Some may be disposed to think that a narrative which has all the charm of a romance, must also have something of a romance's unfaithfulness to serve historic truth. But assuredly, from the writer's own point of view, the History is quite faithful. He may be charged with political partisanship, but he cannot be accused of being unhistorical. It must, indeed, be confessed that his work is too palpably an ardent vindication of Whig principles; but then it must also be remembered that those principles, so far as they were developed at the Revolution of 1688, are now generally accepted by the pation, and serve as a point of departure in the political systems of Whigs and Tories alike.
It remains to speak of Macaulay's style. Point, antithesis, and glitter are leading characteristics of it. He is fond of short sentences, and in this way isolates many clauses that other writers would group together and connect by conjunctions. He delights in epigrammatic turns of expression, and loves to set phrase over against phrase, and to repeat the same combination of words in a new connection. Artifices of composition like these give liveliness to the style, but they make it less simple and natural, and less suited as a model for imitation. It must be added, however, that Macaulay is a careful observer of the laws of grammar, that he is classical in his idioms, and precise and accurate in his use of words. There is nothing vulgar, awkward, or slovenly in any single line that he has written.
THE LANDING OF WILLIAM OF ORANGE. On the sixteenth of October, according to the English reckoning, was held a solemn sitting of the States of Holland. The Prince came to bid them farewell. He thanked them for the kindness with which they had watched over him when he was left an orphan child, for the confidence which they had reposed in him during his administration, and for the assistance which they had granted to him at this momentous crisis. He entreated them to believe that he had always meant and endeavoured to promote the interest of his country: He was now quitting them, perhaps never to return. If he should fall in defence of the Reformed religion and of the independence of Europe, he commended his beloved wife to their care. The Grand
Pensionary answered in a faltering voice; and in all that grave senate there was none who could refrain from shedding tears. But the iron stoicism of William never gave way; and he stood among his weeping friends calm and austere as if he had been about to leave them only for a short visit to his hunting grounds at Loo.
The deputies of the principal towns accompanied him to his yacht. Even the representatives of Amsterdam, so long the chief seat of opposition to his administration, joined in paying him this compliment. Public prayers were offered for him on that day in all the churches of the Hague.
In the evening he arrived at Helvoetsluys, and went on board of a frigate called the Brill. His flag was immediately hoisted. It displayed the arms of Nassau quartered with those of England. The motto, embroidered in letters three feet long, was happily chosen. The House of Orange had long used the elliptical device, “I will maintain.” The ellipsis was now filled up with words of high import, “The liberties of England and the Protestant religion.”
The Prince had not been many hours on board when the wind became fair. On the nineteenth the armament put out to sea, and traversed, before a strong breeze, about half the distance between the Dutch and English coasts. Then the wind changed, blew hard from the west, and swelled into a violent tempest. The ships, scattered and in great distress, regained the shore of Holland as they best might. The Brill reached Helvoetsluys on the twenty-first. The Prince's fellow-passengers had observed with admiration that neither peril nor mortification had for one moment disturbed his composure. He now, though suffering from sea-sickness, refused to go on shore: for he conceived that, by remaining on board, he should in the most effectual manner notify to Europe that the late misfortune had only delayed for a very short time the execution of his purpose. In two or three days the fleet reassembled. One vessel only had been cast away. Not a single soldier or sailor was missing. Some horses had perished: but this loss the Prince with great expedition repaired; and, before the London Gazette had spread the news of his mishap, he was again ready to sail.
His Declaration preceded him only by a few hours. On the first of November it began to be mentioned in mysterious whispers by the politicians of London, was passed secretly from man to man, and was slipped into the boxes of the post office. One of the agents was arrested, and the packets of which he was in charge were carried to Whitehall. The King read, and was greatly troubled. His first impulse was to hide the paper from all human eyes. He threw into the fire every copy which had been brought to him, except one; and that one he would scarcely trust out of his own hands.
The paragraph in the manifesto which disturbed him most was that in which it was said that some of the Peers, Spiritual and Temporal, had invited the Prince of Orange to invade England. Halifax, Clarendon, and Nottingham were then in London. They were immediately summoned to the palace and interrogated. Halifax, though conscious of innocence, refused at first to make any answer. “Your Majesty asks me,” said he,“ whether I have committed high treason. If I am suspected, let me be brought before my peers. And how can your Majesty place any dependence on the answer of a culprit whose life is at stake? Even if I had invited His Highness over, I should without scruple plead Not Guilty.” The King declared that he did not at all consider Halifax as a culprit, and that he had asked the question as one gentleman asks another who has been calumniated whether there be the least foundation for the calumny. “In that case,” said Halifax, “I have no objection to aver, as a gentleman speaking to a gentleman, on my honour, which is as sacred as my oath, that I have not invited the Prince of Orange over.” Clarendon and Nottingham said the same. The King was still more anxious to ascertain the temper of the Prelates. If they were hostile to him, his throne was indeed in danger. But it could not be. There was something monstrous in the supposition that any Bishop of the Church of England could rebel against his Sovereign. Compton was called into the royal closet, and was asked whether he believed that there was the slightest ground for the Prince's assertion. The Bishop was in a strait, for he was himself one of the seven who had signed the invitation; and his conscience, not a very enlightened conscience, would not suffer him, it seems, to utter a direct falsehood. “Sir,” he said, “I am quite confident that there is not one of my brethren who is not as guiltless as myself in this matter.” The equivocation was ingenious; but whether the difference between the sin of such an equivocation and the sin of a lie be worth any expense of ingenuity, may perhaps be doubted. The King was satisfied. “I fully acquit you all,” he said. “But I think it necessary that you should publicly contradict the slanderous charge brought against you in the Prince's Declaration.” The Bishop very naturally begged that he might be allowed to read the paper which he was required to contradict: but the King would not suffer him to look at it.
On the following day appeared a proclamation threatening with the severest punishment all who should circulate, or who should even dare to read, William's manifesto. The Primate and the few Spiritual Peers who happened to be then in London had orders to wait upon the King. Preston was in attendance with the Prince's Declaration in his hand. "My Lords," said James, “ listen to this passage. It concerns you.” Preston then read the sentence in which the Spiritual Peers were mentioned. The King proceeded: "I do not believe one word of this: I am satisfied of your innocence: but I think it fit to let you know of what you are accused.”
The Primate, with many dutiful expressions, protested that the King did him no more than justice. “I was born in your Majesty's allegiance. I have repeatedly confirmed that allegiance by my oath. I can have but one King at one time. I have not invited the Prince over; and I do not believe that a single one of my brethren has done 80." "I am sure I have not,” said Crewe of Durham. “Nor I,” said Cartwright of Chester. Crewe and Cartwright might well be believed, for both had sate in the Ecclesiastical Commission. When Compton's turn came, he parried the question with an adroitness which a Jesuit might have envied. “I gave your Majesty my answer yesterday.”
James repeated again and again that he fully acquitted them all. Nevertheless it would, in his judgment, be for his service and for
their own honour that they should publicly vindicate themselves. He therefore required them to draw up a paper setting forth their abhorrence of the Prince's design. They remained silent: their silence was supposed to imply consent; and they were suffered to withdraw.
Meanwhile the fleet of William was on the German Ocean. It was on the evening of Thursday the first of November that he put to sea the second time. The wind blew fresh from the east. The armament, during twelve hours, held a course towards the north-west. The light vessels sent out by the English Admiral for the purpose of obtaining intelligence, brought back news which confirmed the prevailing opinion that the enemy would try to land in Yorkshire. All at once, on a signal from the Prince's ship, the whole fleet tacked, and made sail for the British Channel. The same breeze which favoured the voyage of the invaders prevented Dartmouth from coming out of the Thames. His ships were forced to strike yards and topmasts; and two of his frigates, which had gained the open sea, were shattered by the violence of the weather and driven back into the river.
The Dutch fleet ran fast before the gale, and reached the Straits at about ten in the morning of Saturday the third of November. William himself, in the Brill, led the way. More than six hundred vessels, with canvas spread to a favourable wind, followed in his train. The transports were in the centre. The men of war, more than fifty in number, formed an outer rampart. Herbert, with the title of Lieutenant Admiral General, commanded the whole fleet. His post was in the rear, and many English sailors, inflamed against Popery, and attracted by high pay, served under him. It was not without great difficulty that the Prince had prevailed on some Dutch officers of high reputation to submit to the authority of a stranger. But the arrangement was eminently judicious. There was, in the King's fleet, much discontent and an ardent zeal for the Protestant faith. But within the memory of old mariners the Dutch and English navies had thrice, with heroic spirit and various fortune, contended for the empire of the sea. Our sailors had not forgotten the