Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

3.-Character of Queen Elizabeth. There are few personages in history, who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than Queen Elizabeth; and yet there is scarce any whose reputation has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all prejudices; and obliging her detractors to abate much of their invectives, and her admirers somewhat of their panegyrics, have at last, in spite of political factions, and, what is more, of religious animosities, produced an uniform judgment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, are allowed to merit the highest praises, and appear not to have been surpassed by any person who ever filled a throne. A conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess.

Her heroism was exempted from all temerity, her frugality from avarice, her friendship from partiality, her enterprise from turbulency, and a vain ambition. She guarded not herself with equal care, or equal success, from less infirmities; ; the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admiration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.

Her singular talents for government were founded equally on her temper, and on her capacity. Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendant over the people ; and while she merited all their esteem, by her real virtues, she also engaged their affections, by her pretended ones.

Few sovereigns of England succeeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances; and none ever conducted the government with such uniform success and felicity. Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret of managing religious factions, she pre

served her people by her superior prudence, from those confusions, in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations. And, though her enemies were the most powerful princes in Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous, she was able, by her vigour, to make deep impressions on their state. Her own greatness, in the mean time, remained untouched and unimpaired.

The wise ministers and brave warriors, who flourished during her reign, share the praise of her success; but instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They all owed their advancement to her choice. They were supported by her constancy; and with all their ability, they were never able to acquire any

undue ascendant over her. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress. The force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior; and the combat, which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolutions, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.

The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and of bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable, because more natural, and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded in the consideration of her sex. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her qualities and extensive capacity; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses, by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit is, to lay aside all these considerations, and to consider her merely as a rational being, placed in authority, and intrusted with the government of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her, as a mistress ; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the object of undisputed applause and admiration.

Q 2

Hume.

4.-Character of Mr Pitt. The secretary' stood alone'. Modern degeneracy' had not reached' him. Original and unaccommodating', the features of his character' had the hardihood of antiquity'. His august mind' overawed majesty itself". No state chicanery', no narrow system of vicious politics', no idle contest for ministerial victories', sunk him to the vulgar level of the great'; but overbearing', persuasive, and impracticable', his object' was England', his ambition' was fame'.

Without dividing', he destroyed' party; without corrupting', he made a venal age unanimous'. France' sunk' beneath him. With one hand he smote the house of Bourbon', and wielded in the other the democracy of England'. The sight of his mind' was infinite'; and his schemes were to affect, not England', not the present age only, but Europe and posterity'. Wonderful were the means' by which these schemes were accomplished'; always seasonable', always adequate, the suggestions of an understanding animated by ardour', and enlightened by prophecy

The ordinary feelings which make life amiable and indolent' wera. unknown to him. No domestic difficulties', no domestic weakness' reached him: but aloof from the sordid occurrences of life, and unsullied by its intercourse', he came occasionally' into our system, to counsel' and to-decide'.

A character so exalted', so strenuous', so various', so authoritative', astonished' a corrupt age, and the treasury · trembled at the name of Pitt' through all her classes of venality: Corruption imagined', indeed, that she had found defects' in this statesman, and talked much of the inconsistency of his glory', and much of the ruin of his victories'; but the history of his country, and the calamities of the enemy', answered' and refuted' her. Nor were his political abilities his only' talents.

His eloquence' was an æra' in the senate, peculiar' and spontaneous', familiarly expressing gigantic sentiments and instinctive wisdom"; not like the torrent of Demosthenes', or the splendid conflagration of Tully'; it resembled

sometimes the thunder', and sometimes the music' of the spheres. He did not conduct the understanding through the painful subtilty of argumentation’; nor was he for ever on the rack of exertion'; but rather lightened upon the subject, and reached the point by the flashings of the mind, which', like those of his eye', were felt', but could not be followed'.

Upon the whole', there was in this man something that could create', subvert', or reform'; and understanding', a spirit', and an eloquence', to summon mankind to society', or to break the bonds of slavery' asunder, and to rule the wildness of free' minds with unbounded authority'; something that could establish' or overwhelm' empire, and strike a blow' in the world that should resound through the universe'.

Robertson.

5.-The Siege of Quebec, and the Death of General

Wolfe. THERE now remained but one grand and decisive blow to put all North America into the possession of the English; and this was the taking of Quebec, the capital of Canada, a city handsomely built, populous, and flourishing. Admiral Saunders was appointed to command the naval part of the expedition; the siege by land was committed to the conduct of General Wolfe, of whom the nation had great expectations. This young soldier, who was not yet thirty-five, had distinguished himself on many former occasions, particularly at the siege of Louisburg; a part of the success of which was justly ascribed to him, who, without being indebted to family or connections, had raised himself by merit to his present command.

Indeed, when we consider the situation of Quebec, on the side of a great river, the fortifications with which it was secured, the natural strength of the country, the great number of vessels and floating batteries the enemy had provided for the defence of the river, the numerous bodies of savages continually hoverinig round the British army, there appears such a combination of difficulties as might discourage and perplex the most resolute commander. The general himself seemed perfectly sensible of the difficulty of the undertaking. After stating, in a letter to the ministry, the dangers they presented—“I know, said he, that the affairs of Great Britain require the most vigorous measures. But then the courage of a' handful of brave men should be exerted only where there is some hope of a favourable event.

At present the difficulties are so various, that I am at a loss how to determine.” The only prospect of attempting the town with success, was by landing a body of troops in the night below the town, who were to clamber up the banks of the river, and take possession of the ground on the back of the city. This attempt, however, appeared particularly discouraging. The stream was rapid, the shore shelving, the banks above lined with sentinels, the landing place so narrow as to be easily missed in the dark, and the steepness of the ground such as hardly to be surmounted in the day-time. All these difficulties, however, were surmounted by the conduct of the general, and the bravery of the men, Colonel Howe, with the light infantry and the Highlanders, ascended the woody precipices with admirable

courage and activity, and dislodged a small body of troops that defended a narrow path-way up the bank: thus a few mounting, the general drew the rest up in order as they arrived.-Monsieur de Montcalm, the French commander, was no sooner apa prised that the British had gained these heights which he had confidently deemed inaccessible, than he resolved to hazard a batile; and a furious encounter quickly began. This was one of the most desperate engage ments during the war, The French general was slain ; the second in command shared the same fate. General Wolfe was stationed on the right where the attack was warmest: as he stood conspicuous in the first line, he had been aimed at by the enemy's marksmen, and received a shot in his wrist, which, however, did not oblige him to quit the field. Having wrapped a handkerchief round his hand, he contiqued giving orders without the least emotion, and advanced at the head of the grenadiers with their_bayonets fixed; but a second ball more fatal, pierced his breast; so that unable to proceed, he leaned

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »