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THE LAST WEEK OF LOJRD Bussell's LIFE. HIS EXECUTION.
Vye have now to detail the last, but not the least glorious circumstances of Lord Russell's life. During the week which elapsed between his condemnation and his execution, he had full opportunity to exercise the most remarkable virtues of his character, — patience, fortitude, affection to his family, love of his country, piety to his God. Perhaps there never was a period in the life of any man, in which so much resignation at the prospect of approaching death was combined with such a zealous consideration of every circumstance which might affect the happiness of mankind. From his first coming to the Tower, he had considered that the sheriff'would take care to return such a jury as would condemn him, if the King's counsel should bid them. He had also reflected, that it was probable there might be such a noise at his execution, that he would not be able to say much. So he employed his leisure in framing a paper, to leave behind him, which should contain a large avowal
of his sentiments, principles, and conduct. This occupation took up all the hours he was alone, and even induced him to forego, several times, the society of his wife. He discussed the heads of this paper with Dr. Burnet, ani afterwards wrote them out fully, with a critical exactness in the choice of every word. Dr. Burnet, who was much with him, has also drawn up a very copious journal of his conversation.
Of his own death, he spoke with calmness and deliberate resignation. He often said that he had passed over the best part of his life, for he had lived two parts in three; and he could not think that the remaining third would have been as comfortable as the two former had been. He told his wife, that he was so willing to leave the world, he was even willing to leave her. Yet, upon receiving a letter from her, when he first went to the Tower, concealed in a cold chicken, he had said that he was at that moment above all earthly things; above Lieutenant, Constable, King, or Duke.*
When alone with Dr. Burnet, he spoke with the-greatest seriousness. He said, that, as for death, he thanked God that, as a man, he never was afraid of it; and did not consider it with so much apprehension as the drawing of a tooth.
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But he said he found the courage of a man that could venture, in the heat of blood, was very different from the courage of a dying Christian, and dying in cold blood. That must come from an inward peace of conscience, and assurance of the mercy of God; and he had that to such a degree, that though, from the first day of his imprisonment, he reckoned he was a dead man, it had never given him any sort of trouble. He added, that God knew the trouble he had been in some weeks before, when his son was ill, had gone nearer his heart, and taken more of his rest from him, than his present condition had done; and that he had had a cholic a little while before, which had so oppressed his spirits, that he saw how little a man could do, if he came to die in such a manner: whereas he had now all his thoughts perfectly about him, and had no other apprehensions of death than being a little gazed at by his friends and enemies, and a moment's pain. Though he had been guilty of many defects and failings (amongst which he reckoned the seldom receiving the sacrament), yet, he thanked God he had a clear conscience, not only in relation to the public, (in which he had gone so sincerely that he was sure he had nothing to answer for but sins of ignorance, and some indecent discourses, in which he had been generally more guilty by hearing them, and being pleased with them, than by much speaking,) but in relation to all his other concerns. He had spent much, but it was in no ill way. He could never limit his bounty to his condition; and all the thoughts he had of the great estate that was to descend upon him, was to do more good with it; for he had resolved not to live much above the pitch he was then at. He thanked God, that now, for these many years, he had made great conscience of all he did, so that the sins of omission were the chief things he had to answer for. God knew the sincerity of his heart, that he could not go into a thing he thought ill, nor could he tell a lie.
He asked Dr. Burnet if the scorn he had of some ill men, particularly the Lord Howard, was inconsistent with a perfect forgiveness. He said, he heartily prayed God to touch his heart; and was sure, that, if it was in his power, he would do him no hurt but good; but he could not forbear thinking very ill of him, and despising him. Dr. Burnet satisfied him on this head, by showing him, from the fifteenth Psalm, that a part of the character of one that shall dwell in God's holy hill, is he in whose eyes a vile person is despised.
Rumsey and Lord Howard were two men of whom he always had a secret horror. Sheppard he thought better of, till he was told he had be trayed Walcot. Then, he said, he wondered not he had sworn falsely of him; but till then he thought he had forgot himself. He spoke of all who had appeared against him with great pity, but with no resentment. He spoke particularly of Lord Howard, and said, he had been well enough known before, but was now so much better, that he could betray nobody any more. Lord Essex had forced him to admit Lord Howard to a meeting at his house: for when he saw Lord Howard, Sydney, and Hampden coming in, he said to Lord Essex, "What have we to do with this rogue?" but Lord Essex forced him to stay: having that mistrust, however, he said very little. At another time, Lord Russell, after mentioning his suspicions of Lord Howard, said to Lord Essex, "If you should betray me, every body would blame you, and not me; but if Lord Howard should betray us, every body would blame us as much as him." Lord Russell told Dr. Burnet many particulars, in which Lord Howard had sworn falsely against him, but which Burnet, unfortunately, omits to mention. He said he could not complain of Pemberton for any thing but this, — that, in summing up the evidence, he had taken no notice of the witnesses he had brought, to show that no credit was due to Lord Howard.
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