The following the Project Gutenberg text that is the basis of the following transcription nor my 1852 American edition states where the essay (or speech?) appeared. — George P. Landow

Decorated initial T

he nation began to find out to what a man it had intrusted without conditions, all its dearest interests, on what a man it had lavished all its fondest affection. On the ignoble nature of the restored exile, adversity had exhausted all her discipline in vain. He had one immense advantage over most other princes. Though born in the purple, he was far better acquainted with the vicissitudes of life and the diversities of character than most of his subjects, He had known restraint, danger, penury, and dependence. He had often suffered from ingratitude, insolence, and treachery. He had received many signal proofs of faithful and heroic attachment He had seen, if ever man saw, both sides of human nature. But only one side remained in his memory. He had learned only to despise and to distrust his species, to consider integrity in men, and modesty in women, as mere acting; nor did he think it worth while to keep his opinion to himself. He was incapable of friendship; yet he was perpetually led by favourites without being in the smallest degree duped by them. He knew that their regard to his interests was all simulated; but from a certain easiness which had no connection with humanity, he submitted, half-laughing at himself, to be made the tool of any woman whose person attracted him, or of any man whose tattle diverted him. He thought little and cared less about religion. He seems to have passed his life in dawdling suspense between Hobbism and Popery. He was crowned in his youth with the Covenant in his hand; he died at last with the Host sticking in his throat, and, during most of the intermediate years, was occupied in persecuting both Covenanters and Catholics. He was not a tyrant from the ordinary motives. He valued power for its own sake little, and fame still less. He does not appear to have been vindictive, or to have found any pleasing excitement in cruelty. What he wanted was to be amused, to get through the twenty-four hours pleasantly without sitting down to dry business. Sauntering was, as Sheffield expresses it, the true Sultana Queen of his Majesty’s affections. A sitting in council would have been insupportable to him if the Duke of Buckingham had not been there to make mouths at the Chancellor. It has been said, and is highly probable, that in his exile he was quite disposed to sell his rights to Cromwell for a good round sum. To the last, his only quarrel with his Parliaments was that they often gave him trouble, and would not always give him money. If there was a person for whom he felt a real regard, that person was his brother. If there was a point about which he really entertained a scruple of conscience or of honour, that point was the descent of the crown. Yet he was willing to consent to the Exclusion Bill for six hundred thousand pounds; and the negotiation was broken off only because he insisted on being paid beforehand. To do him justice, his temper was good; his manners agreeable; his natural talents above mediocrity. But he was sensual, frivolous, false, and cold-hearted, beyond almost any prince of whom history makes mention.

Under the government of such a man, the English people could not be long in recovering from the intoxication of loyalty. They were then, as they are still, a brave, proud, and high-spirited race, unaccustomed to defeat, to shame, or to servitude. The splendid administration of Oliver had taught them to consider their country as a match for the greatest empires of the earth, as the first of maritime powers, as the head of the Protestant interest. Though, in the day of their affectionate enthusiasm, they might sometimes extol the royal prerogative in tenus which would have better become the courtiers of Aurungzebe, they were not men whom it was quite safe to take at their word. They were much more perfect in the theory than in the practice of passive obedience. Though they might deride the austere manners and scriptural phrases of the Puritans they were still at heart a religious people. The majority saw no great sin in field-sports, stage-plays, promiscuous dancing, cards, fairs, starch, or false hair. But gross profaneness and licentiousness were regarded with general horror; and the Catholic religion was held in utter detestation by nine tenths of the middle class.

Such was the nation which, awaking from its rapturous trance, found itself sold to a foreign, a despotic, a Popish court, defeated on its own seas and rivers by a state of far inferior resources, and placed under the rule of pandars and buffoons. Our ancestors saw the best and ablest divines of the age turned out of their benefices by hundreds. They saw the prisons filled with men guilty of no other crime than that of worshipping God according to the fashion generally prevailing throughout Protestant Europe. They saw a Popish Queen on the throne, and a Popish heir on the steps of the throne. They saw unjust aggression followed by feeble war, and feeble war ending in disgraceful peace. They saw a Dutch fleet riding triumphant in the Thames. They saw the Triple Alliance broken, the Exchequer shut up, the public credit shaken, the arms of England employed, in shameful subordination to France, against a country which seemed to be the last asylum of civil and religious liberty. They saw Ireland discontented, and Scotland in rebellion. They saw, meantime, Whitehall swarming with sharpers and courtesans. They saw harlot after harlot, and bastard after bastard, not only raised to the highest honours of the peerage, but supplied out of the spoils of the honest, industrious, and ruined public creditor, with ample means of supporting the new dignity. The government became more odious every day. Even in the bosom of that very House of Commons which had been elected by the nation in the ecstasy of its penitence, of its joy, and of its hope, an opposition sprang up and became powerful. Loyalty which had been proof against all the disasters of the civil war, which had survived the routs of Naseby and Worcester, which had never flinched from sequestration and exile, which the Protector could never intimidate or seduce, began to fail in this last and hardest trial. The storm had long been gathering. At length it burst with a fury which threatened the whole frame of society with dissolution.

When the general election of January, 1679, took place, the nation had retraced the path which it had been describing from 1640 to 1660. It was again in the same mood in which it had been when, after twelve years of misgovernment, the Long Parliament assembled. In every part of the country, the name of courtier had become a by-word of reproach. The old warriors of the Covenant again ventured out of those retreats in which they had, at the time of the Restoration, hidden themselves from the insults of the triumphant Malignants, and in which, during twenty rears, they had preserved in full vigour

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Macaulay, Thomas Babington. Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous essays. 6 vols. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1860. Project Gutenberg text produced by David Widger from page images generously provided by the Internet Archive. Web. 21 November 2020.

Last modified 21 November 2020