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4. There is, however, one disadvantage to set against the advantages of history written immediately at the end of a reign; and that is, that, in dealing with character, the historian, in this country and under our present laws, must take great care as to what he says. The writer, at Brighton, who was burnt in effigy, the other day, for hinting that the present king was not a strong-minded man, and the two brothers, who were shut up in different gaols, and heavily fined, for comparing the late king to SARDANAPALUS, afford instances that it is not very safe to deal with living characters; and the prosecution of the latter for a libel on George the Third, years after he was dead, shows clearly, that the nearness of the historian to the period, the transactions of which he records, must be, as far as relates to delineation of character, a great disadvantage. He must (and, upon the whole, this is, perhaps, a good) confine himself to facts, leaving the reader to draw inferences :
the less he dabbles in the dirt of debaucheries
the better. His business is to show his readers what has been done, and what are, or were, the effects of it: what were the measures of the reign of which he is the historian, and in what way, and to what extent, they produced happiness or misery, renown or dishonour.
5. So much for the motive of publishing this history at this time : and now, as to the manner. It is published in small Numbers, because that mode gives more time to the reader ; engages his attention better; and presses on his purse by degrees. The paragraphs are numbered; because by that means the matter is more easily referred to. And it is written in the FIRST PERSON, because I have been an actor in public matters, during the whole of the period to which the history will relate.
6. For the better understanding of the transactions of the regency and reign of George the Fourth, it will be necessary to prefix a sketch of
that: of the country for the whole period from the “ REFORMATION" to the commencement of
: the regency of George the Fourth. It will be a mere sketch; but, it will be found to notice those prominent measures, the fruits of which the English nation has been destined to taste in
these latter times,
Kensington, 30th August, 1830.
HISTORY OF ENGLAND,
Protestant Reformation to the Regency of Geo. IV.
7. That change in the religion of England, which took place in the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth, and which is generally called the REFORMATION, has produced, in process of time, a still greater, and a most fatal, change in the nature of the English government. Before that event, full one-third part, and, indeed more, of the real property of the country belonged to the church; that is to say, it was held in trust by the clergy of different denomi. nations, as bishops, priests, monks, nuns, &c., for the maintenance of religion, and for the relief of the poor and the stranger. These trustees were, therefore, in fact, the lords, or owners of something approaching to one-half of the whole of the houses and lands of England.
8. From the very nature of the Catholic institutions this state of things gave the common
people great advantages, and in various ways, especially as it prevented them from being borne down by the aristocracy. Where there is an aristocracy who are hereditary lawgivers, and are sustained by a law of primogeniture, the commons, if left without some power to protect them against such an aristocracy, must, in the nature of things, be, whatever they may call themselves, the slaves of that aristocracy. This protection, the commons, or people, of England found in the Catholic church, which not only had an interest always opposed to the encroachments of the aristocracy, but which was, from the very nature of its institutions, the cause of a distribution of property favourable to the commons. In the first place it took a tenth part of the whole of the produce of the earth, and out of it relieved the wants of the poor, the aged, the widow, and the orphan : next, the celibacy of the clergy, that is of the great mass of land-owners, necessarily took from them all motive for accumulating wealth, and caused them to distribute it, in some way or other, amongst the commons : next, the monastics, whose estates were immense, could possess no private property, and were, of course, easy landlords, let their lands at low rents, and on leases for lives, so that the renters were, in fact, pretty nearly the proprietors; one and the same family of farmers held the same farm for ages; and hence arose the term YEOMAN, which is re