« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
years before the appearance of Sidney's belated refutation. It is nevertheless a more interesting work than Locke's, partly from the fineness of the style, a noble specimen of dignified though vehement English prose, partly from the reflection of the striking personality of the author, 'a Roman in un-Roman times. Though a patrician both on the father's and the mother's side, Sidney was theoretically a republican. Born in 1622, second son of the Earl of Leicester, he had served the Commonwealth in the Civil War, and distinguished himself afterwards by his resistance to what he deemed the usurpation of Cromwell. The Restoration found him envoy to the northern courts. Exchanging embassy for exile, he remained abroad until 1677, when he returned under an engagement to live quietly. Whether he had any actual concern in the Rye House plot is one of the problems of history; certain it is that no good evidence was produced, and that he was iniquitously condemned on the testimony of one witness of infamous character, and of papers in his handwriting written years before. These seem to have formed part of a brief reply to Filmer, never published; the stately work that has come down to us was written after the publication of Filmer's manuscript in 1680, and was evidently prompted by the debates on the Exclusion Bill. The style precisely corresponds to the author's character, haughty, fiery, and arrogant; but thrilling with conviction, and meriting the highest praise as a specimen of masculine, nervous, and at the same time polished English. Much additional zest is imparted to the author's argument by his continual strokes at the political abuses and the unworthy characters of his own day, from Charles II. downwards. He had the advantage of writing under the
. stimulus of fiery indignation kindled and maintained by the actual existence of a tyranny. He is thus never tame, and depicts himself as one of that remarkable class of men of whom Alfieri is perhaps the most characteristic type aristocrats by temperament, champions of democracy by intellectual conviction. Although the controversy in which he engaged now belongs entirely to the past, he is often modern in sentiment as well as in style ; sometimes we are reminded of Shelley, at other times, and more frequently, of Landor. It certainly indicates some want of good sense to have written so grandiose a reply to a tract so diminutive in every point of view, and most will be contented with his biographer's, Miss Blackburne's, excellent analysis. As a fine writer, however, Sidney has a right to a place in any collection of Restoration prose:
• No man can be my judge, unless he be my superior; and he cannot be my superior, who is not so by my consent, nor to any other purpose than I consent to. This cannot be the case of a nation, which can have no equal within itself. Controversies may arise with other nations, the decision of which may be left to judges chosen by mutual agreement; but this relates not to our question. A nation, and especially one that is powerful, cannot recede from its own right, as a private man, from the knowledge of his own weakness, and inability to defend himself, must come under the protection of a greater power than his
The strength of a nation is not in the magistrate, but the strength of the magistrate is in the nation. The wisdom, industry, and valour of a prince may add to the glory and greatness of a nation, but the foundation and substance will always be in itself. If the magistrate and people were upon equal terms, as Caius and Sejus, receiving equal and mutual advantages from each other, no man could be judge of their differences, but such
Sidney and his friends are frequently taxed with having accepted money from France. It is worth noting that their conduct in so doing is vindicated by so powerful and, in this instance, so unprejudiced a reasoner as Warburton, in an unpublished letter to Balguy now before us.
as they should set up for that end. This has been done by many nations. The ancient Germans referred the decision of the most difficult matters to their priests ; the Gauls and Britons to the Druids; the Mahometans for some ages to the caliphs of Babylon; the Saxons in England, when they had embraced the Christian religion, to their clergy. Whilst all Europe lay under the popish superstition, the decision of such matters was frequently assumed by the pope: men often submitted to his judgment, and the princes that resisted were for the most part excommunicated, deposed and destroyed. All this was done for the same reasons. These men were accounted holy and inspired, and the sentence pronounced by them was usually reverenced as the judgment of God, who was thought to direct them; and all those who refused to submit were esteemed execrable. But no man or number of men, as I think, at the institution of a magistrate, did ever say, if any difference happen between you or your successors and us, it shall be determined by yourself, or by them, whether they be men, women, children, mad, foolish, or vicious. Nay, if any such thing had been, the folly, turpitude, and madness of such a sanction or stipulation must necessarily have destroyed it. But if no such thing was ever known, or could have no effect, if it had been in any place, it is most absurd to impose it upon all. The people therefore cannot be deprived of their natural rights upon a frivolous pretence to that which never was, and never can be. They who create magistracies, and give to them such name, form, and power, as they think fit, do only know, whether the end for which they were created be performed or not. They who give a being to the power which had none can only judge, whether it be employed to their welfare, or turned to their ruin. They do not set up one or a few men, that they and their posterity may live in splendour and greatness, but that justice may be administered, virtue established, and provision made for the public safety. No wise man will think this can be done, if those who set themselves to overthrow the law are to be their own judges.'
Sir William Temple, in an essay on government written in 1672, arrives at substantially the same conclusion as Sidney by a different path. Fletcher of Saltoun, the illustrious Scottish patriot, wrote An Account of a Conversation for a right Regulation of Governments (1704).
The development of the English periodical press during the Restoration epoch is a matter of such moment that the two men principally connected with it cannot be left unnoticed, although, at least in one instance, their claim to rank as men of letters is very slender. Marchamont Needham (1620-1678) had scarcely any other character than that of a pamphleteer who only escaped the designation of hired scribbler by his political infidelities and a certain rough effectiveness in his ephemeral writings. This most seditious, mutable, and railing author's' position in the history of the press is nevertheless important; for if not the first strictly professional journalist, he is the first whose name has descended to posterity. Having from 1641 to 1647 made war against the king in his Mercurius Britannicus, he changed sides and wrote as a royalist in Mercurius Pragmaticus, recanted again and supported Cromwell as the conductor of Mercurius Politicus; and, after a short exile, ultimately made his peace with the Restoration. He had already excited the animosity of the stricter Puritans, one of whom thus anticipated and refuted the best plea that could be made for him: “He is a man of parts, and hath a notable vein of writing. Doubtless so hath the Devil; must therefore the Devil be made use of ?' He subsequently made war upon schoolmasters and physicians, and died suddenly as he was about returning to his old trade of political pamphleteer. Roger L'Estrange (1616-1704) was a man of much higher character, being a consistent royalist. His connection with the periodical press in Charles II.'s day was brief, lasting only from 1663 to 1666, when his Intelligencer and News were extinguished by the appearance of an official journal, the Oxford, afterwards the London Gazette. But he has a permanent.
place in history as the first !able editor,' who not only made his journal the vehicle for political discussions, and availed himself of regular news-letters, but employed a regular staff of assistants to collect news.
He was no friend to his own trade, for he says in a prospectus : ‘Supposing the press in order, the people in their right wits, and news or no news to be the question, a public Mercury should never have my vote, because I think it makes the multitude too familiar with the actions and counsels of their superiors, too pragmatical and censorious, and gives them not only a wish but a kind of colourable right and licence to the meddling with the government.' A man who thought thus must have seemed admirably qualified for the office of licenser of the press, which be held from 1663 to the Revolution, and in the discharge of which he inevitably accumulated the odium which even now somewhat undeservedly rests upon his memory. In 1681 he returned to newspaper editing, and successfully carried on Heraclitus Ridens and The Observator until March, 1687, when James II., who was enacting liberty of conscience to serve his own ends, silenced the old Cavalier just as the latter was demonstrating this liberty to be a paradox against law, reason, nature, and religion.' L'Estrange's prose style is bad, but he was the author of several useful translations, of which those from Æsop, Josephus, Quevedo, and Erasmus are the best known. He was a courtly and well-bred man, of considerable culture, and would be mentioned with more respect if he had not exercised a function detestable to the entire republic of letters. Dr. Johnson regarded him as the first writer upon
record who regularly enlisted himself under the banners of a party for pay, and fought for it through right and wrong. This is probably correct as a mere statement of fact, but unjust if it was intended to imply any doubt of the purity of