« PreviousContinue »
Shaftesbury has been unfortunate in his biographers. They were ail men of high party-spirit, and have in many instances dealt unfairly by his memory. It is also unfortunate both for the earl and for posterity, that the history of his own times which he had himself drawn up and submitted for publication to John Locke, should have perished as it did. Locke, on the execution of Algernon Sidney on a charge of treason, substantiated only by his private papers, became apprehensive for himself, and committed Lord Shaftesbury's manuscripts with other papers to the flames. Had this document seen the light, it is probable that Shaftesbury's character would have stood much higher than it does with posterity; much of his history would have been rescued from actual misrepresentation; and some dubious points might have been cleared up to the satisfaction of his friends. It is hardly possible to conceive that a man whom Locke honoured with his friendship and confidence, was all that Needham, Otway and the Oxford historian have represented him.
DIED A. D. 1688.
CHARLES FLEETWOOD, lord-deputy of Ireland during the protectorate, was the son of Sir William Fleetwood. He took an early and decided part with the parliamentary party on the breaking out of the civil war, and in October, 1645, was made governor of Bristol. After the establishment of the commonwealth, he was raised to the rank of lieutenant-general, and had a considerable share in the victory at Wor
On the death of Ireton, he married his widow, and thus became the son-in-law of the protector, who appointed him commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland. In this post he acquitted himself so vigorously that Ireland was soon reduced to perfect subjection. His services were rewarded with the lord-deputyship of the subjugated territory. Notwithstanding of his relationship to the protector, and the favours he had received at his hand, Fleetwood, in conjunction with Disbrowe and Lambert, vigorously opposed the proposition for conferring on Cromwell the title of king.
On the death of Oliver Cromwell, Fleetwood joined the party who deposed Richard; and in May, 1659, was chosen one of the council of state. On the 17th of the following October, he was nominated commander-in-chief of all the forces. While the negotiations were going forward for the recall of the king, Whitelock advised Fleetwood to communicate with Charles at Breda, and thus anticipate Monk; but the remonstrances of Sir Henry Vane and Colonel Barry prevented him following this sagacious advice. After the Restoration, he retired to Stoke-Newington, where he died in 1688.
Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.
BORN A. D. 1627.-died A. D. 1688.
THIS brilliant but abandoned nobleman was the son of George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham, by Lady Catherine Manners. He was an infant of only one year at the time of his father's assassination by Felton.
He studied at Cambridge; and, having performed the usual continental tour, was presented at court. On the decline of the king's cause he attended Prince Charles into Scotland. After the battle of Worcester, he retired to the continent, and attached himself to the exiled court. Desirous, however, of retrieving his affairs, he came privately to England, and, in 1657, married Mary, daughter and sole heiress of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, through whose influence he recovered a considerable portion of his forfeited property. He contrived, however, to preserve his interest with the king, while thus making his peace with the parliament, for, immediately after the Restoration, we find him appointed one of the lords of the bed-chamber, and master of the horse.
In 1666 he forfeited his high offices by engaging in some very treasonable practices, the object of which seems to have been nothing less than to have thrown the whole kingdom into a state of rebellion, and to have availed himself of whatever opportunity might have presented itself during the crisis for gratifying his boundless ambition and rapacity. The detection of the plot at first highly irritated the king, who threatened to proceed to extremities against the duke. But, within less than a year after, we find him restored to his seat in the privy-council, and his offices at court. Charles was too much dependent on the ministers of his pleasures to deprive his court of the presence of one so fitted by his varied accomplishments to amuse and gratify him. But the duke's malevolence and love of intrigue suffered no abatement from his experience of the past. He is supposed, on pretty good evidence, to have been the prime instigator of Blood's atrocious attempt to put the duke of Ormond to death.' Ormond had taken an active part in exposing Buckingham's treasonable practices, and that was sufficient to excite the latter to the deadliest purposes of revenge.
A still more infamous transaction was his murder of the earl of Shrewsbury in a duel, after having debauched his countess. Malone has copied the following account of this affair from a MS. letter, dated Whitehall, 10th January, 1673-4:-" Upon Wednesday the 7th, the two houses met. In the lords' house, immediately upon his majesty's recess, the earl of Westmoreland brought in a petition against the duke of Bucks, in the name of the young earl of Shrewsbury, desiring justice against him for murdering his father, making his mother a whore, and keeping her now as an infamous strumpet. To this the duke replied-'Tis true he had had the hard fortune to kill the earl of Shrewsbury, but it was upon the greatest provocation in the world :
See Carte's Life of the duke of Ormond.
that he had fought him twice before, and had as often given him his life that he had threatened to pistol him wherever he should meet him, if he could not fight him: that for these reasons the king had given him his pardon. To the other part of the petition concerning the Lady Shrewsbury, he said he knew not how far his conversation with that lady was cognizable by that house; but if that had given offence, she was now gone to a retirement." The whole transaction may afford some idea of the profligacy of the reign in which such a tragedy could be acted with impunity; for although a day was appointed to consider the petition, it does not appear that any thing farther was done in the business, and Buckingham continued at court, the favoured and envied of all his competitors.
In 1671, this notoriously profligate and abandoned nobleman was installed chancellor of the university of Cambridge. Soon after, he was sent on an embassy to the French court, where his manners and person fascinated the king so much that on his departure he presented him with a sword and belt, set with jewels, and valued at 40,000 pistoles.
In 1674, a change seems to have come over the whole policy of the duke. He now courted the favour of the puritan party, and set himself in sturdy opposition to the court. But about the period of Charles's death, his own health became so much affected that he was reluctantly compelled to retire into the country to recruit himself. The spot which he made choice of with this view was his own manor of Helmesley, in Yorkshire. Here he generally passed his time betwixt the sports of the chace and the pleasures of the table. An ague and fever which he caught by sitting on the ground after a long hunt, terminated his life. The attack was so sudden and violent that he could not be removed to his own house, but was conducted to a wretched village inn, where, after languishing three days, he expired, unregretted, and almost unattended. He had lived the life of a profligate, and he died the death of an outcast.
It is impossible to say any thing favourable of such a man as Villiers, whose sole aim throughout life seems to have been self-gratification, and who scrupled not to commit any crime in the pursuit of this single object. He was a wit, and his writings possess considerable merit, particularly his comedy of the Rehearsal.'
BORN A. D. 1648.-DIED A.D. 1689.
THIS thrice infamous man was born at Acton near Wrexham, in the county of Denbigh, about the year 1648. He was the sixth son of John Jefferies, Esq. of that place. He received his education successively at the free school of Shrewsbury, at Saint Paul's, and at Westminster. At an early age he became a member of the Inner Temple, where, under the united impulses of necessity and ambition, he applied himself with extreme diligence to the study of law. It has been alleged that he was never regularly called to the bar; but that, taking advantage of the extreme confusion produced by the breaking out of the
plague in London, he threw a barrister's gown over his shoulders, and presenting himself at the Kingston assizes, was allowed, nemine contradicente, to commence the practice of his profession. Whether the fact was so or not, it is hardly worth while to inquire. Had no other stain attached to the memory of Jefferies but such an allegation as this, his name might have stood well with posterity; men would rather have admired the boldness and force of character which the incident displays, than esteemed it any solid ground of reproach. The arts which he seems to have early practised to obtain business, form a more serious ground of reproach. From the moment of his becoming a candidate for the public patronage, he seems to have lost sight of no artifice by which it seemed possible for him to engross favour; he fawned, truckled, stooped to a thousand meannesses, until he had so far won upon the good will of the citizens of London that, upon the 17th of March, 1670, on the resignation of Sir Richard Browne, he was appointed common sergeant. Some years after, the office of recorder becoming vacant, he solicited and obtained that appointment, through his intimacy with Chiffinch, the king's favourite page. From this point in his history, we find him devoting soul and body to the one great object of gaining fa
vour at court.
In 1680, he was made a Welsh judge. In 1681, he was created a baronet, having previously succeeded Sir Job Charlton as chief-justice of Chester, or rather compelled Sir Job to vacate his seat for him, and to accept of the seat of a puisne judge in the common pleas. In his office of recorder, it was Sir George's duty, as crown counsel, to conduct a number of the prosecutions arising out of the pretended Popish plot. At first, he exhibited considerable leniency towards the accused, but latterly he conducted himself with a harshness and brutality, set at defiance every principle of justice, and shocked and disgusted the spectators. Perhaps he had really wrought himself up into a conviction of the guilt of the prisoners, but, granting it were even so, his conduct was utterly unjustifiable, for it set at nought every maxim of executive jurisprudence. Nor was he content with urging the conviction of the parties at the bar; he seized the opportunity, which his frequent addresses to the court afforded him, of inculcating many highly unconstitutional doctrines, and that with the view of ingratiating himself still further with the court. At last, the resentment of the commons was roused against this creature of the government, and an address was moved and ordered, praying for the removal of Sir George Jefferies from all public offices. Jefferies trembled for the result, and submitted to receive a reprimand on his knees at the bar of the house. He also immediately resigned his office of recorder. Yet he continued the same abject and heartless creature of the court that he had formerly proved himself to be. In the trials of Fitzharris, and of Plunket, Colledge, and others, he displayed the greatest acrimony and violence. But it was in the prosecutions which followed the discovery of the Rye house plot that his true character revealed itself in the most palpable and decided manner. He did such good service to the government on this occasion, and especially on the trial of Lord John Russell, that it was impossible to overlook his unrivalled fitness for the highest judicial station. On the death of Sir Edmund Saunders, chief-justice of the king's bench, Jefferies was named to the vacant
office. Soon afterwards he was sworn in as a member of the privycouncil. Finally, on the 15th of May, 1685, he was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Jefferies of Wem.
The trial of Algernon Sydney afforded Jefferies another signal opportunity of gratifying his patron at the small expense of truth, honour, justice, and the blood of a fellow-creature. And yet it is astonishing with what coolness of mind he seems to have looked back upon these deeds of his. Thus, in his summing up on the trial of Sir S. Barnardiston, we find him indulging in the following language:"Then here is, as I said, the sainting of two horrid conspirators! Here is the Lord Russell sainted, that blessed martyr; my Lord Russell, that good man, that excellent protestant! he is lamented, and what an extraordinary man he was, who was fairly tried and justly convicted, and attainted for having a hand in this horrid conspiracy against the life of the king, and his dearest brother, his royal highness, and for the subversion of the government. And here is Mr Sydney sainted! What an extraordinary man he was! Yes, surely, he was a very good man, because you may some of you remember, or have read the history of those times, and know what share Mr Sydney had in that black and horrid villany, that cursed treason and murder-the murder, I mean, of King Charles I., of blessed memory; a shame to religion itself, a perpetual reproach to the island we live in, to think that a prince should be brought, by pretended methods of law and justice, to such an end at his own palace. And it is a shame to think that such bloody miscreants should be sainted and lamented, who had any hand in that horrid murder and treason, and who, to their dying moments, when they were upon the brink of eternity, and just stepping into another world, could confidently bless God for their being engaged in that good cause, as they call it, which was the rebellion which brought that blessed martyr to his death. It is high time for all mankind that have any Christianity, or sense of heaven or hell, to bestir themselves, to rid the nation of such caterpillars, such monsters of villany as these are." Jefferies was of course bound to hate the presbyterians with as thorough a hatred as his royal master. The trial of Baxter for what was called a seditious libel, afforded him a good opportunity for displaying his anti-presbyterian principles. How well he improved it, and with what success, may be seen in our sketch of his illustrious victim. Monmouth's rebellion occasioned the despatch of Jefferies to the west, not only with a commission of oyer and terminer, but with a military commission as general of the west. Thus invested with full civil and military powers, Jefferies marked his progress with blood. No considerations of humanity or justice seem ever to have been present to his mind. He sought only to extirpate all to whom even the suspicion of political disaffection attached. At last, to use the words of Mr Roscoe, "stained with the blood of the aged, the weak, and the defenceless, Jefferies returned to the capital, to claim from the hands of the master he had so faithfully and acceptably served, the reward due to his singular merits. That reward was immediately conferred upon him; on the 28th of September he received the great seal, and was appointed lord-high-chancellor."
1 State Trials, vol. ix. p. 1353,