The Visions of England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 127 pages of information about The Visions of England.
bigotry of Knox:—­The gradual forgery of the letters by which the Queen’s death was finally obtained from the too-willing hands of Elizabeth’s Cabinet:—­The all but legally proved innocence of Mary in regard to Darnley’s death, and the Bothwell marriage.  Taking her life as a whole, it may be fairly doubted whether any woman has ever been exposed to trials and temptations more severe, or has suffered more shamefully from false witness and fanatical hatred.  But the prejudices which have been hence aroused are so strong, such great interests, religious and political, are involved in their maintenance, that they will doubtless prevail in the popular mind until our literature receives,—­what an age of research and of the scientific spirit should at last be prepared to give us,—­a tolerably truthful history of the Elizabethan period. (1889)

B:  p. 102

Heroes both;—­Each his side;—­In regard to the main issue at stake in the Civil War, and the view taken of it throughout this book, let me here once for all remark that no competent and impartial student of our history can deny a fair cause to each side, whatever errors may have been committed by Charles and by the Parliament, or however fatal for some fifteen years to liberty and national happiness were the excesses and the tyranny into which the victorious party gradually, and as it were inevitably, drifted.  ‘No one,’ says Ranke (whom I must often quote, because to this distinguished foreigner we owe the single, though too brief, narrative of this period in which history has been hitherto, treated historically, that is, without judging of the events by the light either of their remote results, or of modern political party), ’will make any very heavy political charge against Strafford on the score of his government of Ireland, or of the partisan attitude which he had taken up in the intestine struggle in England in general; for the ideas for which he contended were as much to be found in the past history of England as were those which he attacked:’  —­and Hampden’s conduct may claim analogous justification.  If the Parliament could appeal to those mediaeval precedents which admitted the right of the people through their representatives, to control taxation and (more or less) direct national policy, Charles, (and Strafford with him), might as lawfully affirm that they too were standing ‘on the ancient ways’; on the royal supremacy undeniably exercised by Henry II or Edward I. by Henry VIII and by Elizabeth.  Both parties could equally put forward the prosperity of England under these opposed modes of government:  Patriotism, honour, conscience, were watchwords which either might use with truth or abuse with profit.  If the great struggle be patiently studied, the moral praise and censure so freely given, according to a reader’s personal bias, will be found very rarely justified.  There was far, very far, less of tyranny or of liberty involved in the contest, up to 1642, than partisans aver.  To the actual actors (nor, as retrospectively criticized by us) it is a fair battle on both sides, not a contest ’between light and darkness.’

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The Visions of England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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