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When she was driven out, did Stephen correct his former bad conduct ? Did he dismiss his odious foreign favourite? Did he discharge his lawless foreign hirelings, who had so long been the scourge and the reproach of England ? Have not they lived ever since upon free quarter, by plundering our houses and our cities ? And now, to complete our miseries, a new army of foreigners, Angevins, Gascons, Poitevins, I know not who, are come over with Henry Plantagenet, the son of Matilda ; and many more no doubt will be called to assist him, as soon as ever his affairs abroad will permit; by whose help if he be victorious, England must pay the price of the services; our lands, our honours, must be the hire of these rapacious invaders. But suppose we should have the fortune to conquer for Stephen, what will be the consequence? Will victory teach him moderation ? Will he learn from security that regard to our liberties which he could not learn from danger ? Alas! the only fruit of our good success will be this :—the estates of the Earl of Leicester, and others of our countrymen, who have now quitted the party of the King, will be forfeited, and new confiscations will accrue. But let us not hope that, be our victory ever so complete, it will give any lasting peace to this kingdom. Should Henry fall in this battle, there are two other brothers to succeed to his claim, and support his faction; perhaps with less merit, but certainly with as much ambition as he. What shall we do then
to free ourselves from all these misfortunes? Let us prefer the interest of our country to that of our party, and to all those passions which are apt in civil dissensions to inflame zeal into madness, and to render men the blind instruments of those very evils which they fight to avoid. Let us prevent all the crimes and all the horrors that attend a war of this kind, in which conquest itself is full of calamity, and our most happy victories deserve to be celebrated by tears. Nature herself is dismayed, and shrinks back from a combat, where every blow that we strike may murder a friend, a relation, a parent.
It is in our power to end the controversy both safely and honourably, by an amicable agreement, not by the sword. Stephen may enjoy the royal dignity for his life, and the succession may be secured to the young Duke of Normandy, with such a present rank in the state as befits the heir of the crown. The bitterest enemies of the King must acknowledge that he is valiant, generous, and good-natured; his warmest friends cannot deny that he has a great deal of rashness and indiscretion. Both may therefore conclude that he should not be deprived of the royal authority, but that he ought to be restrained from a farther abuse of it; which can be done by no means so certain and effectual as what I propose ; for thus his power will be tempered by the presence, the counsels, and influence of Prince Henry, who from
his own interest in the weal of the kingdom which he is to inherit, will always have a right to interpose his advice, and even his authority, if it be necessary, against any future violation of our liberties, and to procure an effectual redress of our grievances, which we have hitherto sought in vain. If all the English in both armies unite, as I hope that they may, in this plan of pacification, they will be able to give the law to foreigners, and oblige both the King and the Duke to consent to it. This will secure the public tranquillity, and leave no secret stings of resentment to rankle in the hearts of a suffering party, and produce future disturbances. As there will be no triumph, no insolence, no exclusive right to favour on either side, there can be no shame, no anger, no uneasy desire of change. It will be the work of the whole nation, and all must wish to support what all have established. The sons of Stephen, indeed, may endeavour to oppose it; but their efforts will be fruitless, and must end very soon in their submission or their ruin. Nor have they any reasonable cause to complain. Their father himself did not come to the crown by hereditary right. He was elected in preference to a woman, and an infant, who were deemed not capable of ruling a kingdom. By that election our allegiance is bound to him during his life ; but neither that bond, nor the reason for which we chose him, will hold as to the choice of a successor. Henry Plantagenet is now grown up to an age of maturity, and every way qualified to succeed to the crown. He is the grandson of a king whose memory is dear to us, and the nearest heir male to him in the course of descent. He appears to resemble him in all his good qualities, and to be worthy to reign over the Normans and English, whose noblest blood united, enriches his veins. Normandy has already submitted to him with pleasure. Why should we now divide that Duchy from England, when it is so greatly the interest of our nobility to keep them always connected ? If we had no other inducement to make us desire a reconciliation between him and Stephen, this would be sufficient. Our estates in both countries will by that means be secured, which otherwise we must forfeit in the one or the other, while Henry remains possessed of Normandy; and it will not be an easy matter to drive him from thence, even though we should compel him to retire from England. But, by amicably compounding his quarrel with Stephen, we shall maintain all our interests, private and public. His greatness abroad will increase the power of this kingdom ; it will make us respectable and formidable to France. England will be the head of all those ample dominions, which extend from the British Ocean to the Pyrennean mountains. By governing in his youth so many different states, he will learn to govern us, and come to the crown after the decease of King Stephen, accomplished in all the arts of good policy. His mother has willingly
resigned to him her pretensions; or rather, she acknowledges that his are superior. We therefore can have nothing to apprehend on that side. In every view, our peace, our safety, the repose of our consciences, the quiet and happiness of our posterity, will be firmly established by the means I propose. Let Stephen continue to wear the crown that we gave him as long as he lives; but after his death, let it descend to that prince who alone can put an end to our unhappy divisions. If you approve my advice, and will empower me to treat in your names, I will immediately convey your desires to the King and the Duke.”
Whether such was the substance of the Earl's speech or not, the effect of what he did say was to win over to his opinion all the Barons present, apparently without exception. The arguments he had used were repeated to the soldiery, and the truth of his statements, the influence of the leaders, and probably the instigation of secret agents employed by the Earl and his friends, had as great an effect in their ranks as amongst the nobles; so that ere the King had concluded his consultation with William of Ipres, there was a general outcry in the army for peace on the terms proposed by the Earl of Arundel. The Earl himself communicated what may be termed the decision of the nobles to the King, Eustace, and William of Ipres assembled in council, and the effect upon each was such as might be expected from their various characters. Stephen