« ZurückWeiter »
that the situation of princes renders them frequently strangers to their own kindred, and that the cares of the public, in which they are necessarily involved, not only exclude them from those friendships, and from that mutual intercourse of good offices which take place among the rest of mankind, but suggest the consideration of peculiar duties which their station has rendered of superior obligation. How seldom are kings prevented from going to war with each other because they happen to be relations? How absurd would it be to suppose that the public interest should yield to so insignificant a motive?
But if ever an individual, in fulfilling his duty to the public, was called upon to overlook family connexions, the prince of Orange was undoubtedly the man. Without dethroning his kinsman it was impossible to preserve the English constitution, or even, perhaps, to attain another object which had long engrossed his mind, the independence and security of his native country. Nor had he ever received such treatment from James as laid claim to any peculiar gratitude or affection. In the behaviour of that
monarch he experienced nothing but enmity, dissimulation, and falsehood.
Had William lived in the age of Roman virtue, the sacrifice of a domestic relation, in the cause of public liberty, would have been accounted highly meritorious; or if any part of his conduct had been thought blameable, it would have been the sparing of the tyrant's life, by which the country was exposed to future danger. But the manners of the age had introduced milder sentiments of patriotism ; and in surveying this great revolution, we cannot overlook one pleasing circumstance, that it was hardly stained with a drop of blood. Though the arbitrary and despotical measures of James had rendered him unworthy of the crown, and drawn upon him the indignation of the people, he was treated with uncommon lenity, and in the very critical period when the popular ferment was raised to the highest pitch, instead of suffering an exemplary punishment, he was merely deprived of that sovereignty which he had shewn a fixed resolution to abuse. It appears, at the same time, that William was not destitute of regard to the family of this unfortunate
kinsman. There is now sufficient evidence that he was willing to pay the dowry which had been stipulated to James's queen; and that he even offered to promote the succession of the son, the late prince of Wales, to the throne of England, if proper precautions were taken to secure his education in the protestant religion; a condition which the infatuated bigotry of the father prompted him to reject*.
It has been said, that in accomplishing the revolution, William was actuated by his ambition, not by motives of public spirit. But such an aspersion, it is evident, may be thrown indiscriminately, upon every person who
pursues a line of conduct in which his interest happens to coincide with his duty. It would be happy for the world if the ambition of great men was always directed to such actions as tend to the good of society ; if the love of power was uniformly exerted in rescuing the human race from slavery and oppression. There can be little doubt, that the prince of Orange, in marrying the eldest daughter of James, who at that time had no sons,
considered the eventual succession to the crown as an advantage which might result from
Dalrymple’s Memoirs, Vol. II.
the connexion. But that he was guilty of any improper step to hasten or secure the acquisition of this object, cannot with justice be asserted. In the violent political disputes which clouded the reign of his two uncles, he appears to have given some countenance to the party in opposition to the court; but this party was composed of the friends of liberty and the protestant religion, which those two princes, in conjunction with France, had formed a league to destroy. Upon the same account, he favoured the enterprise of the duke of Monmouth; though he new that this nobleman aspired to the throne, and must therefore have regarded him in the light of a rival.
A late author seems to believe that William artfully suggested to his father-in-law, those very measures which he afterwards took hold of to ruin that unfortunate monarch. This is a curious hypothesis, requiring no ordinary portion of credulity. One sovereign counsels the other to act the part of a tyrant, that this false friend and adviser may have the benefit of deposing him ; and the simple king, falling into the snare, is persuaded to forfeit his dominions by a person in whom, on no other occasion, he had ever placed any confidence.
To depreciate the military talents of this prince, it has been observed, that in most of his battles he was defeated. But we must remember that he had numberless difficulties to surmount; that originally, with a handful of troops, he was obliged to cope with the powerful and well-disciplined armies of France, and with the able commanders, who had been
in the most active and Aourishing period of that monarchy ; that, after he became king of England, he was continually disturbed by the treachery and the factious disputes of the leaders in parliament, and was neither supplied with money nor with men in proportion to the magnitude of his undertakings. When proper allowance is made for the circumstances in which he was placed, instead of reflecting upon his bad success, we cannot help wordering that he was able to maintain his ground; and we must admire the fertility of his resources by which, like the great admiral Coligni, he rose more formidable upon every defeat, and appeared to derive from it all the advantages of a victory.
His teniper and disposition have been represented as cold, haughty, and morose ; rendering hirn disagrecable in all the relations of pri