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and choice. I confess we are naturally inclined to delight in our own country, and I have a particular love to mine. I hope I have given some testimony of it. I think that being exiled from it is a great evil, and would redeem myself from it with the loss of a great deal of my blood. But when that country of mine, which used to be esteemed a paradise, is now like to be made a stage of injury; the liberty which we hoped to establish oppressed; luxury and lewdness set up in its height, instead of the piety, virtue, sobriety, and modesty, which we hoped God, by our hands, would have introduced; the best of our nation made a prey to the worst; the parliament, court, and army, corrupted; the people enslaved; all things vendible; no man safe, but by such evil and infamous means, as flattery and bribery; what joy can I have in my own country in this condition? Is it a pleasure to see, that all I love in the world is sold and destroyed? Shall I renounce all my old principles, learn the vile court-arts, and make my peace by bribing some of them? Shall their corruption and vice be my safety? Ah! no; better is a life among strangers, than in my own country upon such conditions. Whilst I live, I will endeavour to preserve my liberty; or at least not consent to the destroying of it. I hope I shall die in the same principles in which I have lived, and will live no longer than they can preserve me. I have in my life been guilty of many follies; but, as I think, of no meanness. I will not blot and defile that which is past, by endeavouring to provide for the future. I have ever had in my mind, that when God should cast me into such a condition, as that I cannot save my life but by doing an indecent thing, he shows me the time is come wherein I should resign it: and when I cannot live in my own country but by such means as are worse than dying in it, I think he shows me, I ought to keep myself out of it. Let them please themselves with making the king glorious, who think a whole people may justly be sacrificed for the interest and pleasure of one man, and a few of his followers; let them rejoice in their subtilty, who, by betraying the former powers, have gained the favour of this, not only preserved, but advanced themselves in these dangerous changes. Nevertheless, perhaps, they may find, the king's glory is their shame ; his plenty the people's misery; and that the gaining of an office, or a little money, is a poor reward for destroying a nation, which, if it were preserved in liberty and virtue, would truly be the most glorious in the world; and that others may find, they have with much pains purchased their own shame and misery, a dear price paid for that which is not worth keeping, nor the life that is accompanied with it. The honour of English parliaments have ever been in making the nation glorious and happy, not in selling and destroying the interest of it, to satisfy the lusts of one man.-When the innocence of my actions will not protect me, I will stay away till the storm be over-passed. In short, where Vane, Lambert, Haselrig, cannot live in safety, I cannot live at all. If I had been in England, I should have expected a lodging with them; or though they may be the first, as being more eminent than I, I must expect to follow their example in suffering as I have been their companion in acting.-I have not learnt to make my own peace, by persecuting and betraying my brethren, more innocent and worthy than myself. I must live by just means, and serve to just ends, or not at all.
After such a manifestation of the ways by which it is intended the king shall govern, I should have renounced any place of favour, into which the kindness and industry of my friends might have advanced me, when I found those that were better than I, were only fit to be destroyed.— My thoughts as to king and state depending upon their actions, no man shall be a more faithful servant to him than I, if he make the good and prosperity of his people his glory; none more his enemy, if he doth the contrary
The fugitive patriot, with a heart secretly bleeding for the degradation of his own country, made himself a curious and acute spectator of the intrigues and contentions of foreign courts. His patrimony had been greatly reduced by an advance which he had made to his brotherin-law, Lord Strangford, and an unfortunate difference having taken place with his father, his pecuniary means were altogether of a very limited and uncertain kind. Yet he bore his hard fortune with a degree of equanimity and patience which his persecutors might have envied. The following passage, which occurs in one of his letters, shows what a noble and vigorous mind Sydney possessed, and how independent he truly was of aid from without:-"He that is naked, alone, and without help in the open sea, is less unhappy in the night when he may hope the land is near, than in the day when he sees it is not, and that there is no possibility of safety. Whilst I was at Rome, I wrote letters without much pain, since I had not so divided my time as to be very sensible of losing an hour or two; now, I am alone, time grows much more precious unto me, and I am very unwilling to lose any part of it." In 1663, he left Italy, and travelled through Switzerland, where he spent some weeks with his early friend Ludlow, and his companions in exile. He then proceeded to Brussels, where he occupied himself for a time with a plan for engaging in the service of Austria with a body of troops which he proposed to raise from among his old republican companions at home. The scheme was
rejected by the English cabinet, and Sydney next urged the French government to invade England, for the purpose of restoring the commonwealth. This project also came to nothing, but Sydney was allowed to live quietly two years under the avowed protection of Louis XIV. An anecdote is related of him strikingly characteristic of his haughty and stubborn independence, at the time when he was enjoying an asylum, and perhaps experiencing the bounty of this self-willed monarch:-"The king of France having taken a fancy to a fine English horse, on which he had seen Sydney mounted at a chace, requested that he would part with it at his own price. On his declining the proposal, the king, determined to take no denial, gave orders to tender him money, or to seize the horse. Sydney, on hearing this, instantly took a pistol and shot it, saying, 'that his horse was born a free creature, had served a free man, and should not be mastered by a king of slaves. "2
In 1677, by the interest of the earl, his father, he obtained permission to visit England. His father died soon after his arrival, and a long and vexatious suit in chancery, with his elder brother, compelled him to convert what he had intended as a temporary into a permanent
Meadley, p. 151.
residence in England. Finding himself likely to remain a citizen of England, he made several attempts to get into parliament, in which he was strenuously supported by the celebrated quaker, William Penn; but court influence and intrigue prevailed against him, and frustrated the efforts of the liberal party to place such a valuable man in parliament. Sydney now knew himself to be both feared and hated by the government; he felt also its snares to be around him, but he quailed not at the imminent peril of his situation. With the scaffold and the axe almost before him, he pursued his undaunted career as the public opponent of whatever measures appeared to him pernicious to the national interests. When, in 1681, Charles dissolved the parliament at Oxford, and put forth a declaration, or appeal to the public, in vindication of his conduct, the opposition instantly met it with a counterdeclaration, the rough draught of which is said to have come from the pen of Sydney. He also made himself conspicuous by his opposition to Sir William Temple's scheme of an alliance between England, Holland, and Spain, against France. In the progress of this affair, he is accused of having accepted two sums of five hundred guineas from Barillon, a French minister at the court of London. On this point there is no express evidence; and the following just and candid observations of his biographer, Mr Meadley, deserve consideration :-" It is no wonder that Barillon should avail himself of the opportunity of conciliating his favourable dispositions, as Rouvigny had attempted with Lord Russell in a preceding year: and it was no easy matter for Sydney to decline altogether the advances of a minister, whose country had afforded him an asylum in the time of need. The discovery, however, of their intercourse, as it appears in Barillon's correspondence with his sovereign, has been thought to cast a shade over his character, and belie the integrity of his mind. And yet, no evidence has been adduced to show, that he countenanced any one of that ambassador's projects, which was hostile to the interest of his own country, or avowed a single sentiment inconsistent with his former life, Barillon, indeed, explicitly declares, that, though exposed to suspicion from his connection with Lord Sunderland, Sydney's principles were still unchanged.
"It must, however, be conceded, that the receipt of two sums of money, with which Barillon has separately charged him, admits not of an easy defence; though much, no doubt, depends on the manner in which such sums were accepted, and the purposes to which they were applied. There is, in fact, an essential difference between the mercenary hireling who betrays his country, and the man who receives money, from a quarter otherwise objectionable, at a great national crisis, and solely on a public account. But, whilst the demerit of the action arises chiefly from the motives of the receiver, no explanatory documents have hitherto appeared: Barillon simply charging Sydney with the sums in question, as a part of his secret disbursements. The ambassador, indeed, insinuates, that, having hitherto given Sydney no more money than had been expressly ordered, he had by no means satisfied his demands; but should find it easy to engage him altogether in his master's interest, by advancing a still larger sum.
"As, in estimating the credibility of any single witness, every thing turns on the character and situation of the party; without disputing the
general authenticity of Barillon's statements, his fidelity may be fairly questioned, in a case where he was doubly interested to deceive. He might at once be induced to enhance the importance of his own services, by including such a man as Algernon Sydney amongst his adherents; and to charge, as the price of his engagement, sums which had been otherwise appropriated: a suspicion which derives additional weight from two passages in the Letters of Madame de Sevigné, where he is said to have grown rich in his employ.
"Or, if Sydney received money from this minister, it was doubtless for some public purpose, as he is understood to have made occasional disbursements among his own inferior partizans. Even on this less probable view of the subject, his character may be free from stain; unless it be received as an indisputable maxim, that, in resisting the oppression of an arbitrary government, it is immoral to accept of foreign aid. In the general conduct of nations, it has rarely happened, that the best purposes have been effected by the exertions of the pure and well-principled alone; and a man like Sydney should not be too harshly censured, if, in endeavouring to maintain his country's freedom, he occasionally sought for, or derived assistance from, less disinterested and ingenuous minds.
"Of the arrogant pretensions of Barillon, Sydney had been long aware; and, in alluding to his mistaken views of his own influence, had spoken of him to Savile in the language of unfeigned contempt. 'You know,' said he, July 10, 1679, Monsieur de Barillon governs us, if he be not mistaken; but he seems not to be so much pleased with that, as to find his embonpoint increased, by the moistness of our air, by frequently clapping his hands upon his thighs, showing the delight he hath in the sharpness of the sound, that testifies the plumpness and hardness of his flesh; and certainly, if this climate did not nourish him better than any other, the hairs of his nose, and nails of his fingers, could not grow so fast, as to furnish enough of the one to pull out, and of the other to cut off, in all companies, which being done, he picks his ears with as good a grace as my Lord La.' It is probable, therefore, that Sydney merely tolerated the intercourse of this minister, without entering into any of his views of policy, as they regarded the interest of France alone."
We must now hasten over some lesser incidents in Sydney's life, to notice, in a few words, his arrest, trial, and execution, in 1683, on the pretence of his being concerned in the Rye-house plot, a scheme for the assassination of the king and the duke of York, on their return from Newmarket. He was brought to trial soon after sentence had been pronounced on Lord William Russell, and though no evidence appeared against him, the bloody Jefferies did not hesitate to convict him of a specific charge on the testimony of his unuttered and unpublished thoughts and opinions, as gathered from his manuscripts which were seized. Sydney defended himself with undaunted fortitude, and in the short interval between his trial and execution, drew up an appeal to posterity on the injustice of his fate. How well that appeal has been responded to let the oft-repeated popular sentiment bear witness-"The cause for which Hampden bled in the field, and Russell and Sydney on the scaffold!"
On the morning of the 7th of December, he was led forth to the
place of execution on Tower-hill. He ascended the scaffold with a firm step and undaunted mien. Having made the necessary preparations, he kneeled down, and after a solemn pause of a few moments, calmly laid his head upon the block. Being asked by the executioner if he should rise again, he instantly replied, "Not till the general resurrection.-Strike on!" The executioner obeyed the mandate, and severed his head from his body at a blow.
Finch, Earl of Nottingham.
BORN A. D. 1621.-DIED A. d. 1682.
HENEAGE FINCH, one of the best lawyers on the side of the court during the contest with the parliament, was born on the 23d of December, 1621. His father was speaker of the house of commons in the first parliament of Charles I. Heneage was educated at Westminster and Christ church. He studied law in the Inner Temple, and soon acquired a very extensive practice as chamber-counsel; to which line he prudently confined himself during the domination of the commonwealth-men.
Immediately after the Restoration, he was named solicitor-general. In April, 1661, he was elected to serve in parliament for the university of Oxford. His career in the house was as unpopular as high church and royal prerogative principles could make it; but it served to secure for him the confidence of the king. On the 9th of November, 1673, he was made keeper of the great seal, upon the dismissal of Shaftesbury. On the 10th of the succeeding January, the title of Baron Finch of Daventry, in the county of Northampton, was conferred on him; and in December, 1675, he received the title of lord-highchancellor. On the 12th of May, 1681, he was raised to the dignity of earl of Nottingham. He died in the following year.
To the above bare chronological outline little can be added. Finch was a good lawyer, and a discreet man, but he neither possessed nor advanced pretensions to the character of a leader in the troublous times in which his lot was cast. Lord Orford says of him, and with justice, that he was 'a great temporiser.' Yet Burnet allows that he was a man of probity, and well versed in the laws.' The truth seems to be that where interest did not intervene, Finch, like most other men moving in the eyes of the public, acted circumspectly and with a due. regard to the laws which he was appointed to administer; but we can discover no traces in his history and character of that intrepid virtue which distinguished so many of his political and professional contemporaries. His speech, on passing judgment on Lord Stafford, would alone suffice, if no other evidence of the fact was on record, to show that his mind was under some of the worst influences which a servant of the crown is exposed to. His speeches and discourses on the trials of the regicides might also be referred to in proof of the same remark.