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CHARACTER OF LORD RUSSELL.— SPEECH DELIVERED TO THE SHERIFFS. LADY RUSSELL. VISIT OF DYCK- VELT. PATENT OF THE DUKE OF BEDFORD. — CHARACTER OF LADY RUSSELL.
Thus died William Lord Russell, on the 21st of July, 1683, in the 44th year of his age. Few men have deserved better of their country. Though not remarkable for very brilliant talents, he was a man of solid judgment; and was never led astray, by any curious sophistry, to confound the perceptions of right and wrong; to mistake slavery for duty; or to yield to power the homage which is due to virtue. He was a warm friend, not to liberty merely, but to English liberty; a decided enemy, not only to regal encroachment, but to turbulent innovation. He was a good son, a good husband, a good father, and, like some others whom our own days have seen, united mildness of domestic affection with severity of public principle. His integrity was so conspicuous, as to gain him that ascendant over the minds of men, which is generally reserved for genius. And, although Englishmen have not much reason to be proud of the reign of Charles the Second, they cannot fail to recognize the sound morality of their countrymen, in the respect and confidence which accompanied an honest man contending against the general corruption, even when surrounded and opposed by statesmen of conspicuous ability. It is gratifying to find that, even in the scale of popularity, eloquence and wit are outweighed by sense and integrity.
It must be owned, that few politicians have been so little swayed by interest as Lord Russell. Even Sprat, who wrote under the eye of James, for the purpose of defaming those who died for the Rye-House Plot, only attributes to him a too great love of popularity, and an idle fear of losing his abbey lands. And, after the Revolution, he eagerly retracted what he had said of the last speech of Lord Russell; declaring himself convinced of " that noble gentleman's great probity and constant abhorrence of falsehood." Evelyn, who was as likely as any man to speak the opinion of his time, says, "Every one deplored Essex and Russell, especially the last, as being thought to have been drawn in on pretence only of endeavouring to rescue the King from his present counsellors, and secure religion from Popery, and the nation from arbitrary government, now so much apprehended."
The political opinions of Lord Russell were those of a Whig. His religious creed was that of a mild and tolerant Christian. If, as it must be admitted, he showed a violent animosity to the Roman Catholics, to an extent which cannot be justified, it must be recollected, that his hostility was almost entirely political. The attack which was made upon our constitution appeared in the colours and with the ensigns of Popery; and it was only by resisting the Romish Church, that civil liberty could be secured. He wished our own institutions to be more favourable to dissenters; or, in other words, for a larger comprehension of sects. Had this wish been gratified, the Protestant Church of England would have been strengthened, both against the See of Rome, and against future schism, with the loss only of some slavish doctrines, and a few unimportant ceremonies, which our early reformers never adopted.
It must be owned that the violence of Lord Russell against the Roman Catholics betrayed him into credulity. It was the fault of honest men in that age; and it is singular that, absurd as the story of the Popish plot avowedly is, we have more respect for those who fell into the delusion, than for those who escaped it. But whatever blame may attach-to Lord Russell for an excess of political and religious zeal, it cannot be denied that his firmness and perseverance were eminently useful to his country, in a most critical period of her fortunes, and that his example contributed to the establishment of those liberties which he died to vindicate.
The following paper was delivered by Lord Russell to the Sheriffs:
"I thank God I find myself so composed and prepared for death, and my thoughts so fixed on another world, that I hope in God I am quiet from setting my heart on this; yet I cannot forbear now the setting down in writing a further account of my condition, to be left behind me, than I will venture to say at the place of execution, in the noise and clutter that is like to be there. I bless God heartily for those many blessings which He in his infinite mercy hath bestowed upon me through the whole course of my life; that I was born of worthy and good parents, and had the advantage of a religious education, which are invaluable blessings; for even when I minded it least, it still hung about me and gave me checks; and has now for many years so influenced and possessed me, that I feel the happy effects of it in this my extremity, in which I have been so wonderfully (I thank God) supported, that neither my imprisonment, nor fear of death, have been able to discompose me in any degree; but, on the contrary, I have found the assurances of the love and mercy of God, in and through my blessed Redeemer, in whom only I trust; and I do not question but I am going to partake of that fulness of joy which is in his presence. These hopes, therefore, do so wonderfully delight me, that I think this is the happiest time of my life, though others may look upon it as the saddest.
"I have lived, and now am of the reformed religion, a true and sincere Protestant, and in the communion of the Church of England; though I could never yet comply with, or rise up to all the heights of many people. I wish with all my soul all our differences were removed; and that all sincere Protestants would so far consider the danger of Popery, as to lay aside their heats, and agree against the common enemy; and that the Churchmen would be less severe, and the Dissenters less scrupulous; for I think bitterness and persecution are at all times bad, but much more now.
"For Popery, I look on it as an idolatrous and bloody religion; and therefore thought myself bound, in my station, to do all I could against it; and, by that, I foresaw I should procure such great enemies to myself, and so powerful ones, that I have been now for some time expecting the worst; and, blessed be God 1 I fall by the axe, and not by the fiery