Sivut kuvina
PDF

His'object was not to destroy our constitution, but to keep the various elements of which it was composed in a perpetual state of conflict, and to set irreconcilable enmity between those who had the power of the purse and those who had the power of the sword. With this view he bribed and stimulated both parties in turn, pensioned at once the ministers of the crown and the chiefs of the opposition, encouraged the court to withstand the seditious encroachments of the Parliament, and conveyed to the Parliament intimations of the arbitrary designs of the court.

One of the devices to which he resorted for the purpose of obtaining an ascendency in the“ English counsels deserves especial notice. Charles, though incapable of love in the highest sense of the word, was the slave of any woman whose person excited his desires, and whose airs and prattle amused his leisure. Indeed a husband would be justly derided who should bear from a wife of exalted rank and spotless virtue half the insolence which the King of England bore from concubines who, while they owed everything to his bounty, caressed his courtiers almost before his face. He had patiently endured the termagant passions of Barbara Palmer and the pert vivacity of Eleanor Gwynn. Lewis thought that the most useful envoy who could be sent to London, would be a handsome, licentious, and crafty Frenchwoman. Such a woman was Louisa, a lady of the House of Querouaille, whom our rude ancestors called MadamCarwell. She was soon triumphant over all her rivals, was created Duchess of Portsmouth, was loaded with wealth, and obtained a dominion which ended only with the life of Charles.

The most important conditions of the alliance between the crowns were digested into a Tm", secret treaty which was signed at Dover in pm" May 1670, just ten years after the day on which Charles had landed at that very port amidst the acclamations and joyful tears of a too confiding people.

By this treaty Charles bound himself to make public profession of the Roman Catholic religion, to join his arms to those of Lewis for the purpose of destroying the power of the United Provinces, and to employ the whole strength of England, by land and sea, in support of the rights of the House of Bourbon to the vast monarchy of Spain. Lewis, on the other hand, engaged to pay a large subsidy, and promised that, if any insurrection should break out in England, he would send an army at his own charge to support his ally.

This compact was made with gloomy auspices. Six weeks after it had been signed and sealed, the charming princess, whose influence over her brother and brother in law had been so pernicious to her country, was no more. Her death gave rise to horrible suspicions which, for a moment, seemed likely to interrupt the newly formed friendship between the Houses of Stuart and Bourbon: but in a short time fresh assurances of undiminished good will were exchanged between the confederates.

The Duke of York, too dull to apprehend danger, or too fanatical to care about it, was impatient to see the article touching the Roman Catholic religion carried into immediate execution: but Lewis had the wisdom to perceive that, if this course were taken, there would be such an explosion in England as would probably frustrate those parts of the plan which he had most at heart. It was therefore determined that Charles should still call himself a Protestant, and should still, at high festivals, receive the sacrament according to the ritual of the Church of England. His more scrupulous brother ceased to appear in the royal chapel.

About this time died the Duchess of York, daughter of the banished Earl of Clarendon. She had been, during some .years, a concealed Roman Ca— tholic. She left two daughters, Mary and Anne, afterwards successively Queens of Great Britain. They were bred Protestants by the positive command of the King, who knew that it would be vain for him to profess himself a member of the Church of England, if children who seemed likely to inherit his throne were, by his permission, brought up as members of the Church of Rome.

The principal servants of the crown at this time were men whose names have justly acquired an unenviable notoriety. We must take heed, however, that we do not load their memory with infamy which of right belongs to their master. For the treaty of Dover the King himself is chiefly answerable. He held conferences on it with the French agents: he wrote many letters concerning it with his own hand: he was the person who first suggested the most disgraceful articles which it contained; and he carefully concealed some of those articles from the majority of his Cabinet.

Few things in our history are more curious than the origin and growth of the power now H mm}. possessed by the Cabinet. From an early 51.152111 Cs-e period the Kings of England had been M assisted by a Privy Council to which the law assigned many important functions and duties. During several centuries this body deliberated on the gravest and most delicate affairs. But by degrees its character changed. It became too large for despatch and secrecy. The rank of Privy lCouncillor was often bestowed as an honorary distinction on persons to whom nothing was confided, and whose opinion was never asked. The sovereign, on the most important occasions, resorted for advice to a small knot of leading ministers. The advantages and disadvantages of this course were early pointed out by Bacon, with his usual judgment and sagacity: but it was not till after the Restoration that the interior council began to attract general notice. During many years old fashioned politicians continued to regard the Cabinet as an unconstitutional and dangerous board. Nevertheless, it constantly became more and more important. It at length drew to itself the chief executive power, and has now been regarded, during several generations, as an essential part of our polity. Yet, strange to say, it still continues to be altogether unknown to the law: the names of the noblemen and gentlemen who compose it are never officially announced to the public: no record is kept of its meetings and resolutions; nor has its existence ever been recognised by any Act of Parliament.

During some years the word Cabal was popularly used as synonymous with Cabinet. But it happened by a whimsical coincidence that, in 1671, the Cabinet consisted of five persons the initial letters of whose names made up the word Cabal; Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and“ Lauderdale. These ministers were therefore emphas tically called the Cabal; and they soon made that appellation so infamous that it has never since their time been used except as a term of reproach.

Sir Thomas Clifford was a Commissioner of the Treasury, and had greatly distinguished himself in the House of Commons. Of the members of the Cabal he was the most respectable. For, with a fiery and imperious temper, he had a strong though a lamentably perverted sense of duty and honour.

Henry Bennet, Lord Arlington, then Secretary of State, had, since he came to manhood, resided principally on the Continent, and had learned that cosmopolitan indifference to constitutions and religions which is often observable in persons whose life has been passed in vagrant diplomacy. If there Was any form of government which he liked, it was that

The Cabal.

of France. If there was any Church for which he felt a preference, it was that of Rome. He had some talent for conversation, and some talent also for transacting the ordinary business of office. He had learned, during a life passed in travelling and negotiating, the art of accommodating his language and deportment to the society in which he found himself. His vivacity in the closet amused the King: his gravity in debates and conferences imposed on the public; and he had succeeded in attaching to himself, partly by services and partly by hopes, a considerable number of personal retainers.

Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale were men in whom the immorality which was epidemic among the politicians of that age appeared in its most malignant type, but variously modified by great diversities of temper and understanding. Buckingham was a sated man of pleasure, who had turned to ambition as to a pastime. As he had tried to amuse himself with architecture and music, with writing farces and with seeking for the philosopher’s stone, so he now tried to amuse himself with a secret negotiation and a Dutch war. He had already, rather from fickleness and love of novelty than from any deep design, been faithless to every party. At one time he had ranked among the Cavaliers. At another time warrants had been out against him for maintaining a treasonable correspondence with the remains of the Republican party in the city. He was now again a courtier, and was eager to win the favour of the King by services from which the most illustrious of those who had fought and suffered for the royal house would have rec-oiled with horror.

Ashley, with a far stronger head, and with a far fiercer and more earnest ambition, had been equally versatile. But Ashley’s versatility was the effect, not of levity, but of deliberate selfishness. He had served and betrayed a succession of governments.

« EdellinenJatka »