« PreviousContinue »
these absent, would continually rise up to call forth the malevolent passions into action. Differences of opinion, when accompanied with mutual charity, which Christianity forbids them to violate, are for the most part innocent, and for some purposes useful. They promote inquiry, discussion, and knowledge. They help to keep up an attention to religious subjects, and a concern about them, which might be apt to die away in the calm and silence of universal agreement. I do not know that it is in any degree true, that the influence of religion is the greatest where there are the fewest dissenters.
HENRY HALL AM.
HENRY HALLAM, whose name stands very high on the roll of English historical writers, was born in 1778, at Windsor, in the chapel of which place his father, who was Dean of Bristol, held a canonry. He was educated at Eton and at Christchurch, Oxford, and attained some distinction as a classical scholar-a fact to which Lord Byron, in his satire on the Edinburgh Reviewers, makes sarcastic allusion:
“And classic Hallam, much renowned for Greek."
He entered the Inner Temple, of which he afterwards became a bencher, and applied himself to the study of law; but possessing an independent fortune, he never systematically followed the legal profession, but devoted his time chiefly to literary pursuits. He was for some years a contributor to the Edinburgh Review, and in 1818 published his View of Europe during the Middle Ages, which at once established his reputation as an eminent historian.
Other works followed, the character of which tended to confirm and increase the reputation which he had already acquired, and several honorary distinctions were conferred upon him. In 1830 he received one of the gold medals instituted by George IV. for eminence as an historian, and was named a Foreign Associate of the Institute of France. His life was passed in literary retirement, and was saddened by heavy domestic afflictions. Of a numerous family one daughter only survived him; and his keenest sorrow was the loss of his eldest son, Arthura young man of high powers and attainments, whose memory is enshrined in the plaintive and beautiful elegy of Tennyson.
Mr. Hallam died on the 21st of January 1859.
As already mentioned, the first of Mr. Hallam's publications was his State of Europe during the Middle Ages. This work exhibits a comprehensive survey of the chief incidents of the period to which it refers, more especially those which bear upon the growth of political constitutions and the development of national life. It is not so much an abridgment of medieval history as a selection and combination of those events of it which are linked together in a necessary dependency, which are of permanent interest, and account for and illustrate existing laws and institutions. The different countries of Europe are treated of in separate chapters, and, as the author himself says, “every chapter completes its particular subject, and may be considered in some degree as independent of the rest."
Hallam’s next work is his Constitutional History of England, from the Accession of Henry VII. to the Death of George II.
This is a most learned, accurate, and impartial production. It combines in a remarkable degree antiquarian research, philosophical dissertation, and literary excellence. Though the author writes from what may be called a Whig point of view, yet he is generous, candid, and just to all parties. A judicial calmness of tone pervades the whole work. The claims and the errors of both sides, the arguments in favour of both views, are, in the case of contending parties or of conflicting opinions, set forth with the most philosophic impartiality. There is no enthusiasm, no warmth of admiration, no expression of strong sympathy or emotion ; but everywhere we find the results of acute analysis, clear reasoning, a sober judgment, and a comprehensive understanding.
The Introduction to the Literary History of Europe is the remaining work of our author to which reference must be made. And it presents us with a most able and exhaustive survey of European literature during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.
The progress of learning, the discoveries of science, the rise of philosophical systems, are all expounded and discussed. The great works of all the great European writers are passed in review. Their subject matter is analyzed, and their merits and defects weighed in the balance of a sound and sober criticism. Few works display a greater range and sity of learning, or a clearer and more accurate judgment, or a truer and juster literary taste. All the writings of Hallam are distinguished by the correctness and purity of their style. The language is chaste and classical, preserving for the most part a sober and temperate strain, but putting on sometimes a richer and more picturesque colouring, and rising to a grave and dignified eloquence.
REFLECTIONS ON THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES I.
The execution of Charles I. has been mentioned in later ages by a few with unlimited praise-by some with faint and ambiguous
censure-by most with vehement reprobation. My own judgment will possibly be anticipated by the reader of the preceding pages. I shall certainly not rest it on the imaginary sacredness and divine origin of royalty, nor even on the irresponsibility with which the law of almost every country invests the person of its sovereign. Far be it from me to contend that no cases may be conceived, that no instances may be found in history, wherein the sympathy of mankind and the sound principles of political justice would approve a public judicial sentence as the due reward of tyranny and perfidiousness. But we may confidently deny that Charles I. was thus to be singled out as a warning to tyrants. His offences were not, in the worst interpretation, of that atrocious character which calls down the vengeance of insulted humanity, regardless of positive law. His government had been very arbitrary; but it may well be doubted whether any, even of his ministers, could have suffered death for their share in it, without introducing a principle of barbarous vindictiveness. Far from the sanguinary misanthropy of some monarchs, or the revengeful fury of others, he had in no instance displayed, nor does the minutest scrutiny since made into his character entitle us to suppose, any malevolent dispositions beyond some proneness to anger, and a considerable degree of harshness in his demeanour. As for the charge of having caused the bloodshed of the war, upon which, and not on any former misgovernment, his condemnation was grounded, it was as ill-established as it would have been insufficient. Well might the Earl of Northumberland say, when the ordinance for the King's trial was before the Lords, that the greatest part of the people of England were not yet satisfied whether the King levied war first against the Houses or the Houses against him. The fact, in my opinion, was entirely otherwise. It is quite another question whether the Parliament were justified in their resistance to the King's legal authority. But we may contend that when Hotham, by their command, shut the gates of Hull against his Sovereign, when the militia was called out in different counties by an ordinance of the two Houses, both of which preceded by several weeks any levying of forces for the King, the bonds of
our constitutional law were by them and their servants snapped asunder; and it would be the mere pedantry and chicane of political casuistry to inquire, even if the fact could be better ascertained, whether at Edgehill, or in the minor skirmishes that preceded, the first carbine was discharged by a Cavalier or a Roundhead. The aggressor in a war is not the first who uses force, but the first who renders force necessary.
But, whether we may think this war to have originated in the King's or the Parliament's aggression, it is still evident that the former had a fair cause with the nation, a cause which it was no plain violation of justice to defend. He was supported by the greater part of the peers, by full one-third of the commons, by the principal body of the gentry, and a large proportion of other classes. If his adherents did not form, as I think they did not, the majority of the people, they were at least more numerous, beyond comparison, than those who demanded or approved of his death. The steady, deliberate perseverance of so considerable a body in any cause takes away the right of punishment from the conquerors, beyond what their own safety or reasonable indemnification may require. The vanquished are to be judged by the rules of national, not of municipal law. Hence, if Charles, after having by a course of victories or the defection of the people prostrated all opposition, had abused his triumph by the execution of Essex or Hampden, Fairfax or Cromwell, I think that later ages would have disapproved of their deaths as positively, though not quite as vehemently, as they have of his
The line is not easily drawn, in abstract reasoning, between the treason which is justly punished, and the social schism which is beyond the proper boundaries of law; but the Civil War of England seems plainly to fall within the latter description. These objections strike me as unanswerable, even if the trial of Charles had been sanctioned by the voice of the nation through its legitimate representatives, or at least such a and full con ention as might, in great necessity, supply the place of lawful authority. But it was, as we all know, the act of a bold but very small minority, who, having forcibly expelled their colleagues from Parliament, had