« PreviousContinue »
of high-admiral and high-treasurer; the redress of grievances now occupied its attention. Lord Russell, in his speech, complained of the shutting of the exchequer, and of the attack on the Smyrna fleet. He accused the ministers of receiving pensions from France, and called upon all good and true men to look to the interests of their country. The opposition proved effectual. Charles found himself necessitated to consult his commons upon the expediency of making peace; the alliance with France was broken; the ministers of the crown were struck with a salutary dread of consequences to themselves, and the king had no longer a council to whom he could confide his pernicious machinations. After a prorogation of fourteen months, parliament again met in April, 1675, when Lord Russell moved an address to remove Earl Danby from the king's presence, on the ground of mismanagement at the treasury. Danby escaped for this time; and Charles renewed his shameful secret treaties with the French king, who had already pensioned his profligate ministers. During the session of parliament which met in January, 1678, an interview took place between Lords Russell and Hollis, and the marquess de Rouvigny, long the head of the protestant interest in France, who had been sent over by Louis to confer with the popular party, which has been made the ground of a malignant charge by Dalrymple, who attempts to represent Russell as holding corrupt intercourse with the French court at this time. From such a charge it is hardly necessary to vindicate the memory of Russell. Barillon himself admits that in the first interview with Rouvigny-who, it should be remembered, was Lady Russell's cousin-Lord Russell indignantly refused the offers of money which the agent of Louis was authorised to make.3 In the list of persons to whom he had distributed bribes, which Barillon transmitted to his court, the name of Lord Russell does not occur; and even if it had been mentioned, we should have felt strongly disposed to suspect the agent's dishonesty rather than Russell's disloyalty. The English lords openly expressed to Rouvigny their want of confidence in his master; but on being assured by him that Louis did not feel it to be for his interest to make the king of England absolute, they did enter into an agreement to hinder, if possible, the war with France, on the condition that Louis would compel Charles to dissolve the existing parliament. There was nothing criminal in this; it was only attempting to give to foreign interference already admitted, a salutary direction, and making Charles's intrigues the means of his own defeat. Besides, a dissolution of parliament was anxiously desired by every patriotic member of the house; the agreement with Rouvigny, therefore, was in perfect consistency with the patriotic professions of Russell.
At length the parliament was dissolved, in January, 1679, but not through foreign interference. The invention of the Popish plot had alarmed the members. The duke himself had been threatened with a motion for his removal from the king's presence and counsels, and Danby had been impeached of high treason. The former supported the dissolution from the dread that parliament might adopt ulterior measures affecting his succession to the throne; the latter readily came
Milord Russell repondit qu'il servit bien faché avoir commerce avec des gens capables d'être gagnés par de l'argent.
to an understanding with the country-party that in the event of a dissolution his withdrawal from public affairs would suffice to shelter him from any more serious consequences. The elections turned out more adverse to the duke than he had anticipated. In April, 1679, Lord Russell, admitted to a new privy-council, formed at the suggestion of Sir W. Temple, gave his opinion and vote in favour of the plan of limitation in the event of a Popish successor; but he afterwards saw reason to alter his views on this point, and, after his retirement from the council, he seconded Colonel Titus in his motion for the appointment of a committee to draw up a bill " to disable James, duke of York, from inheriting the imperial crown of this realm." The lords rejected this bill after it had passed the commons; but the country party continued to press it, and Russell called upon the commons to refuse supplies. A prorogation took place in January, 1681, which was followed by a dissolution. The next parliament met at Oxford on the 21st of the same month. On the 26th, the exclusion bill was again introduced on the motion of Sir R. Clayton, seconded by Lord Russell. Charles now resolved to govern without a parliament, and the reign of terror commenced.
It was this state of affairs which led to the conspiracy of the dukes of Monmouth and Argyle. Lord Russell associated with the conspirators for the sole purpose of procuring the exclusion of the duke, and redress of grievances. But the plot was discovered about the same time with the Rye-house affair, and Lord Russell, being apprehended, was brought to trial at the Old Bailey, on the 13th of July, 1683. No proof was adduced on the trial either of his designing the death of the king, or even assenting to it; and, upon the showing of his enemies themselves, both the spirit and letter of our laws were violated in his condemnation. In the outset of the trial, one of those moving circumstances which abound in the catastrophe of this gallant nobleman's story, occurred. When told by the chief-justice that he might employ any of his servants to act as his secretary during the progress of his trial, he replied, "My wife is here, my lord, to do it." Lady Russell had announced to him her intention of being present the night before; and she nobly fulfilled the arduous task which she took upon her. Lord Russell, after his condemnation, was prevailed upon to petition for his life; he did so with reluctance, and without the least hope of success. As he folded up the packet, he remarked, "This will be printed, and will be selling about the streets when I am dead." The last week of his existence was spent in serious preparation. Bishops Burnet and Tillotson were much with him. On the evening before his execution, he took a last leave of his children; his wife supped with him, at his request; he talked very cheerfully with her, and kissed her four or five times before she left him. When she was gone, he said, "Now the bitterness of death is past," and dwelt for some time in a strain of deep but subdued tenderness, on her many excellencies, and her unshaken attachment to him in his extremity. His servant requested he might sit up in his chamber while he slept. This he refused, and was locked up between eleven and twelve, leaving orders to be called at four. When his servant came at that hour, he found him sound asleep, and shortly after being awakened, he fell asleep again. Dr Burnet coming in woke him, saying, "What, my lord, asleep!" "Yes, doctor," he
said, "I have slept heartily since one o'clock." He then desired him to go to his wife, to say that he was well, and had slept well, and hoped she had done so. After his speech on the scaffold, and some time spent in devotion, he knelt down, and prayed three or four minutes by himself. He then undressed himself, and took off his cravat, without the least change of countenance. "When he had lain down," says Dr Burnet, "I once looked at him, and saw no change in his looks; and, though he was still lifting up his hands, there was no trembling, though in the moment in which I looked the executioner happened to be laying his axe to his neck to direct him to take aim. I thought it touched him, but am sure he seemed not to mind it." The executioner, at two strokes, cut off his head. Thus fell, to gratify the revenge of a miscreant, one of England's best and greatest citizens. It is said that Charles wished to save him, but "was forced to consent to his death, otherwise he must have broke with his brother."
We do not regard Lord William Russell as a man of brilliant talents. It was the moral weight of his character which gave him his influence with the nation. Burnet, who knew him well, has left the following portrait of him :-"Lord Russell was a man of great candour, and of general reputation; universally beloved and trusted; of a generous and obliging temper. He had given such proofs of an undaunted courage, and of an unshaken firmness, that I never knew any man have so entire a credit in the nation as he had. He quickly got out of some of the disorders into which the court had drawn him, and, ever after that, his life was unblemished in all respects. He had from his first education an inclination to favour the nonconformists, and wished the laws could have been made easier to them, or they more pliant to the law. He was a slow man, and of little discourse, but he had a true judgment, when he considered things at his own leisure: his understanding was not defective; but his virtues were so eminent, that they would have more than balanced real defects, if any had been found in the other."
The life of the good, the noble-minded, the unfortunate Lady Russell, is so identified with that of her illustrious lord, and the circumstances of his trial and death, that it is unnecessary to devote a separate memoir to the record of her life and virtues, though she deserves to live for ever in the remembrance of her countrywomen, as an ornament and model of the sex. "The peculiarity which is most striking in Lady Russell," remarks the biographer of her husband, "is, that she was esteemed and consulted by her contemporaries, and has been admired and esteemed by posterity, without any ambitious efforts of her own. She neither sought to shine in the world by the extent of her capacity, nor to display, by affected retirement, the elevation of her soul; and when circumstances obliged her to come forward on the stage of history, she showed herself in the appropriate character of a wife and a mother." She was the second daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, by his first wife, Rachael de Rouvigny. She was born about the year 1636; and in her seventeenth or eighteenth year was given in marriage to Francis, Lord Vaughan, eldest son of the earl of Carberry. She early became a widow; for in 1667 she appears to have received the addresses of Mr Russell, then only a younger brother. She survived her lord forty years. eldest son, the duke of Bedford, was snatched away by the small-pox,
in the vigour of life. Her second daughter, afterwards duchess of Rutland, died in child-bed within a year of her brother's decease; her eldest daughter, the duchess of Devonshire, was left singly to close her mother's eyes, on the 29th of September, 1723, at the great age of 86. On the accession of the prince and princess of Orange, one of the first acts of the government was the reversal of Lord Russell's attainder, while his widow became the object of universal respect and consideration. Tillotson applied for her sanction of his acceptance of the dignity offered him by King William. Lady Sunderland, the wife of one who had been a principal adviser of Charles II., at the time of Russell's execution, lived to solicit Lady Russell's intercession; and even the duchess of Marlborough thought it necessary to assure herself of Lady Russell's approbation in the critical juncture of advising the princess Anne to acquiesce in the settlement of the crown on the prince of Orange. There appears to be no other foundation, however, than this circumstance, for Madame De Stael's assertion, that Lady Russell was often consulted by King William's ministers, and by Queen Anne herself, on political measures.
BORN A. D. 1622.-died a. d. 1683.
THE name of ALGERNON SYDNEY ranks among the most illustrious of which the annals of England can boast, and yet his life was distinguished by no extraordinary actions, he was neither a leader in the camp nor the senate,-his family influence was but small-and his fortune barely competent to his maintenance. It was the virtues of his personal character alone that invested him with that moral dignity and that celebrity which, in spite of the affected disregard of some, have made his name immortal on earth.
Algernon Sydney was the second son of Robert, earl of Leicester, who was nephew of the renowned Sir Philip Sydney. He was born in 1622. In 1636, Lord Leicester was appointed ambassador-extraordinary to the court of France; his family went with him to Paris, where, and subsequently in Italy, Algernon had an opportunity of receiving a very liberal education. His stern love of country, which in him was rather a platonic sentiment than a cherished passion, is the more remarkable, it has been justly observed, as it can scarcely be said to have grown in its native soil. Being destined for the military profession, application was first made to the prince of Orange for a troop of horse for him in the Dutch service; but this not being obtained, his father, on being appointed to the government of Ireland, sent him into that kingdom, with his elder brother, Lord Lisle, as a captain in his own regiment of horse, in which service he highly distinguished himself against the rebels. After two years of service in Ireland, he was recalled to England, where he immediately espoused the popular cause, though his father adhered to the king, and was appointed to the command of a troop in Manchester's army. In the course of a few
weeks he obtained the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and fought with much gallantry at the head of his commander's regiment in the battle of Marston Moor. On his recovery from the wounds which he had received in this action, he was promoted to the command of a regiment of horse in Sir Thomas Fairfax's army. "Sanctus amor patriæ dat animum," was the motto which he chose for his banner, and which became the watchword of his life.
In 1646, he was appointed commander of the cavalry forces in Ireland, but the service was much impeded by a misunderstanding with Lord Inchiquin, and Sydney returned to England in 1647. In 1648, he was named governor of Dover castle, and, when it was determined to bring the king to trial, he was appointed one of the commissioners; he attended several of the preliminary consultations in the painted chamber, but he retired into the country before the unhappy monarch was arraigned. It is proper, however, to add, that Sydney, considering the king as having been guilty of violating the constitution, and putting his subjects unlawfully to death, approved the sentence of the court. When at Copenhagen, after the revolution, it was observed to him one day in company, that he had not been guilty of the late king's death, he indignantly replied: "Guilty! do you call that guilt? Why, it was the justest and the bravest action that ever was done in England or any where else!" But when, during his exile, a plan to assassinate the prince of Wales was submitted to him, he expressed his unqualified abhorrence of the proposal, and prevented the execution of it.
In 1651, Sydney was elected a member of the council of state. In this situation he continued to act until Cromwell, under the title of protector, dismissed his republican co-operators, and virtually seized the sovereignty, In Lord Leicester's journal, we find the following curious memorandum :-" Wednesday, April 20th, 1653. It happened that Algernon Sydney sat next to the speaker on the right hand. The general said to Harrison, Put him out; Harrison spake to Sydney to go out, but he said he would not go out, and sat still. The general said again, Put him out;' then Harrison and Worsley put their hands upon Sydney's shoulders, as if they would force him to go out; then he rose and went towards the door." Sydney now retired to Penshurst, and is supposed to have employed some part of his leisure in composing, or at least sketching, his matchless Discourses on Government.' In 1654, he visited the Hague, where he gained the acquaintance of the illustrious De Witt. At the restoration of the long parliament, he returned to England, and accepted an appointment to go with Sir Robert Honeywood and Bulstrode Whitelock, to mediate a peace between Denmark and Sweden. By the time this negotiation was concluded, Charles II. had been restored to the throne of his father, and Sydney, though strongly urged by Monk to return, retired to Italy, after explaining the motives of his conduct in a long letter to a friend, of which we shall quote some parts: "I am sorry," he says, "I cannot in all things conform myself to the advices of my friends. If theirs had any joint concernment with mine, I should willingly submit my interest to theirs; but when I alone am interested, and they only advise me to come over as soon as the act of indemnity is passed, because they think it is best for me, I cannot wholly lay aside my own judgment