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practice the most servile instrument of arbitrary power. Like many other accomplished flatterers and negotiators, he was far more skilful in the art of reading the characters and practising on the weak- ' nesses of individuals, than in the art of discerning the feelings of great masses, and of foreseeing the approach of great revolutions. He was admit in intrigue; and it was difiicult even for shrewd and experienced men who had been amply forewarned of his perfidy to withstand'the fascination of his manner, and to refuse credit to his professions of attachment. But he was so intent on observing and courting particular persons, that he often forgot to study the temper of the nation. He therefore miscalculated grossly with respect to some of the most momentous events of his time. More than one important movement and rebound of the public mind took him by surprise; and the world, unable to understand how so clever a man could be blind to what was clearly discerned by the politicians of the coffee houses, sometimes attributed to deep design what were in truth mere blunders.
It was only in private conference that his eminent abilities displayed themselves. In the royal closet, or in a very small circle, he exercised great influence. But at the Council board he was taciturn; and in the House of Lords he never opened his lips.
The four confidential advisers of the crown soon found that their position was embarrassing and invidious. The other members of the Council murmured at a. distinction inconsistent with the King’s promises; and some of them, with Shaftesbury at their head, again betook themselves to strenuous opposition in Parliament. The agitation, which had been suspended by the late changes, speedily became more violent than ever. It was in vain that Charles offered to grant to the Commons any security for the Protestant religion which they could devise, provided
VOL. I. s
only that they would not touch the order of succession. They would hear of no compromise. They would have the Exclusion Bill, and nothing but the Exclusion Bill. The King, therefore, a few weeks after he had publicly promised to take no step without the advice of his new Council, went down to the House of Lords without mentioning his intention in Council, and prorogued the Parliament.
The day of that prorogation, the twenty-sixth of Emmi,“ 0, May 1679, is a great era in our history. "" P"“'“‘°“" For on that day the Habeas Corpus Act received the royal assent. From the time of the Great Charter, the substantive law respecting the personal liberty of Englishmen had been nearly the same as at present: but it had been inefficacious for want of a stringent system of procedure. What was needed was not a new right, but a prompt and
searching remedy; and such a remedy the ‘Habeas Corpus Act supplied. The King would gladly have refused his consent to that measure: but he was about to appeal from his Parliament to his people on the question of the succession , and he could not venture, at so critical a moment, to reject a bill which was in the highest degree po
p On the same day, the press of England became for a short time free. In old times printers had been strictly controlled by the Court of Star Chamber The Long Parliament had abolished the Star Chamber, but had, in spite of the philosophical and eloquent expostulation of Milton, established and maintained a censorship. Soon after the Restoration, an Act had been passed which prohibited the printing of unlicensed books; and it had been provided that this Act should continue in force till the end of the first session of the next Parliament. That moment had now arrived; and the King, in the very act of dismissing the Houses, emancipated the Press.
Shortly after the prorogation came a dissolution and another general election. The zeal Second “ml and strength of the opposition were at the 5mm?! height. The cry for the Exclusion Bill ' was louder than ever; and with this cry was mingled another cry, which fired the blood of the multitude, but which was heard with regret and alarm by all judicious friends of freedom. Not only the rights of the Duke of York, an avowed Papist, but those of his two daughters, sincere and zealous Protestants, were assailed. It was confidently aflirmed that the eldest natural son of the King had been born in wedlock, and was lawful heir to the crown.
Charles, while a wanderer on the Continent, had fallen in at the Hague with Lucy Walters, Populm o, a Welsh girl of great beauty, but of weak Mum“ ' understanding and dissolute manners. She became his mistress, and presented him with a son. A suspicious lover might have had his doubts; for the lady had several admirers, and was not supposed to be cruel to any. Charles, however, readily took her word, and poured forth on little James Crofts, as the boy was then called, an overflowing fondness, such as seemed hardly to belong to that cool and careless nature. Soon after the Restoration, the young favourite, who had learned in France the exercises then considered necessary to a fine gentleman, made his appearance at Whitehall. He was lodged in the palace, attended by pages, and permitted to enjoy several distinctions which had till then been confined to princes of the blood royal. He was married, while still in tender youth, to Anne Scott, heiress of the noble house of Buccleuch. He took her name, and received with her hand possession of her ample domains. The estate which he had acquired by this match was popularly estimated at not less than ten thousand pounds a year. Titles, and favours more substantial than titles, were lavished on him. He
was made Duke of Monmouth in England, Duke of Buccleuch in Scotland, a Knight of the Garter, Master of the Horse, Commander of the first troop of Life Guards, Chief Justice of Eyre south of Trent, and Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Nor did he appear to the public unworthy of his high fortunes. His countenance was eminently handsome and engaging, his temper sweet, his manners polite and affable. Though a libertine, he won the hearts of the Puritans. Though he was known to have been privy to the shameful attack on Sir John Coventry, he easily obtained the forgiveness of the Country Party. Even austere moralists owned that, in such a court, strict conjugal fidelity was scarcely. to be expected from one who, while a child, had been married to another child. Even patriots were willing to excuse a headstrong boy for visiting with immoderate vengeance an insult offered to his father. And soon the stain left by loose amours and midnight brawls was efiaced by honourable exploits. When Charles and Lewis united their forces against Holland, Monmouth commanded the English auxiliaries who were sent to the Continent, and approved himself a gallant soldier and a not unintelligent officer. On his return he found himself the most popular man in the kingdom. Nothing was withheld from him but the crown ; nor did even the crown seem to be absolutely beyond his reach. The distinction which had most injudiciously been made between him and the highest nobles had produced evil consequences. When a boy he had been invited to put on his hat in the presence chamber, while Howards and Seymours stood uncovered round him. When foreign princes died, he had mourned for them in the long purple cloak, which no other subject, except . the Duke of York and Prince Rupert, was permitted to wear. It was natural that these things should lead him to regard himself as a legitimate prince of
the House of Stuart. Charles, even at a ripe age, was devoted to his pleasures and regardless of his dignity. It could hardly be thought incredible that he should at twenty have secretly gone through the form of espousing a lady whose beauty had fascinated him. While Monmouth was still a child, and while the Duke of York still passed for a Protestant, it was rumoured throughout the country, and even in circles which ought to have been well informed, that the King had made Lucy Walters his wife, and that, if every one had his right, her son would be Prince of Wales. Much was said of a certain black box which, according to the vulgar belief, contained the contract of marriage. When Monmouth had returned from the Low Countries with a high character for valour and conduct, and when the Duke of York was known to be a. member of a church detested by the great majority of the nation, this idle story became important. For it there was not the slightest evidence. Against it there Was the solemn asseveration of the King, made before his Council, and by his order communicated to his people. But the multitude, always fond of romantic adventures, drank in eagerly the tale of the secret espousals and the black box. Some chiefs of the opposition acted on this occasion as they acted with respect to the more odious fable of Oates, and countenanced a story which they must have despised. The interest which the populace took in him whom they regarded as the champion of the true religion, and the rightful heir of the British throne, was kept up by every artifice. When Monmouth arrived in London at midnight, the watchmen were ordered by the magistrates to proclaim the joyful event through the streets of the City: the people left their beds: bonfires were lighted: the windows were illuminated: the churches were opened; and a merry peal rose from all the steeples. When he. travelled, he was everywhere