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But where he had no advantage nor pride in forgiving, bis nature discovered itself to be utterly void of all sense of compassion; and some barbarities which he committed, exceeded the bounds that even tyrants and conquerors prescribe to themselves.
Most of our ancient historians give him the character of a very religious prince; but his religion was after the fashion of those times, belief without examination, and devotion without piety. It was a religion that prompted him to endow monasteries, and at the same time allowed him to pillage kingdoms; that threw him on his knees before a relic or cross, but suffered him unrestrained to trample upon the liberties and rights of mankind.
As to his wisdom in government, of which some modern writers have spoken very highly, he was, indeed, so far.wise that, through a long unquiet reign, he knew how to support oppression by ter
and employ the properest means for the carrying on a very iniquitous and violent administration. But that which alone deserves the name of wisdom in the character of a king, the maintaining of authority by the exercise of those virtues which make the happiness of his people, was what, with all bis abilities, he does not appear to have possessed. Nor did he excel in those soothing and popular arts, which sometimes change the complexion of a tyranny, and give it a fallacious appearance of freedom. His government was harsh and despotic, violating even the principles of that constitution which he himselt had established. Yet so far he performed the duty of a sovereign,
that he took care to maintain a good police in his realm; curbing licentiousness with a strong hand, which, in the tumultuous state of his government, was a great and difficult work. How well he per. formed it, we may learn even from the testimony of a contemporary Saxon historian, who says, that during his reign a man might have travelled in perfect security all over the kingdom with his bosom full of gold, nor durst any kill another in revenge of the greatest offences, nor offer violence to the chastity of a woman. But it was a poor compensation, that the highways were safe, when the courts of justice were dens of thieves, and when almost every man in authority, or in office, used his power to oppress and pillage the people. The king himself did not only tolerate, but encourage, support, and even share these extortions. Though the greatness of the ancient landed estate of the crown, and the feudal profits to which he legally was entitled, rendered him one of the richest
moparchs in Europe, he was not content with all that opulence, bat by authorising 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 covetuous 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.
CHARACTER OF WILLIAM RUFUS. The memory of this monarch is transmitted to us with little advantage by the churchmen whom he had offended ; and though we may suspect in general that their account of his vices is somewhat exaggerated, his conduct affords little reason for contradicting the character which they have assigned him, or for attributing to him any very estimable qualities; he seems to have been a violent and tyrannical prince ; a perfidious, encroaching,
and dangerous neighbour; an unkind and ungenerous relation. He was equally prodigal and rapacions in the management of the treasury: and, if he possessed abilities, he lay so much under the government of impetuous passions, that he made little use of them in his administration; and he indulged intirely the domineering policy which suited his temper, and which, if supported, as it was in him, with courage and vigour, proves often more successful in disorderly times, than the deepest foresight and most refined artifice. The monuments which remain of this prince in England are, the Tower, Westminster Hall, and London Bridge, which he built.
CHARACTER OF HENRY I.
Henry was of a middle stature, and robust make, with dark brown hair, and blue serene eyes. He was facetious, fluent, and affable to his favourites. His capacity, naturally good, was improved and cultivated in such a manner, that he acquired the name of Beau Clerc by his learning. He was cool, cautious, politic, and penetrating; bis courage was unquestioned, and his fortitude invincible. He was vindictive, cruel, and implacable, inexorable to offenders, rigid and severe in the execution of justice; and, though temperate in his diet, a voluptuary in his amours, which produced a mumerous family of illegitimate issue. His Norman descent and connexions with the continent inspired him with a contempt for the English, whom he oppressed in the most tyrannical manner.
CHARACTER OF STEPHEN.
STEPHEN was a prince of great courage, fortitude, and activity, and might have reigned with the ap. probation of bis people, had he not been harassed by the efforts of a powerful competitor, which obliged him to take such measures for his safety as were inconsistent with the dictates of honour, which indeed his ambition prompted him to forego in his first endeavours to ascend the throne. His necessities afterwards compeiled him to infringe the charter of privileges he granted at his accession; and he was instigated by his jealousy and resentment to commit the most flagrant outrages against gratitude and sound policy. His vices, as a king, seem to have been the effect of troubles in which he was involved; for, as a man, he was brave, open and liberal; and, during the short calm that succeeded the tempest of his reign, he made a progress through his kingdom, published an edict to restrain all rapine and violence, and disbanded the foreign mercenaries who had preyed so long on his people. Smollett.
CHARACTER OF HENRY II. Taus died, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, and thirty-fifth of his reign, the greatest prince of his time for wisdom, virtue, and ability, and the most powerful in extent of dominion, of all those that had ever filled the throne of England. His character, both in public and private life, is almost without a blemish; and he seems to have pos