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among the first whom that general recommended to the king after his restoration: that he was zealous in forwarding that event is proved by the readiness with which Monk's recommendation was in this instance agreed to, the favour with which Sir Anthony was received, and particularly by the patent of his peerage, in which his services in bringing about the Restoration are expressly recognised, and stated as the chief reason of the grant.
Up to this period, his conduct, although not that of a statesman of undeviating rectitude, presents no glaring inconsistencies. He was uniform in his opposition to tyranny, whoever might be the tyrant; and even during the irresistible reaction which accompanied the Restoration, he was one of those who would have exacted securities, and who were desirous of restoring the Stuarts upon terms. Hitherto, the most prominent part of his character is that wonderful foresight, and that singular penetration, which enabled him, by withdrawing from all the violent measures of those with whom he acted, to escape the odium that attached to them, and to calculate the ebb and flow of popular feeling so correctly, that he was always borne by it into power when its current was not too rapid to be trusted with safety.
He was now a courtier and a minister, and no Whig could hold either of these offices during the reign of Charles without a sacrifice of character. One of his first acts betrayed a degree of indelicacy that shows Shaftesbury's ideas of consistency and propriety to have been by no means of the highest order. He was certainly guiltless of the king's death, nor did he ever sanction the violent measures of the party by which that event was brought about: but he had himself fought against the king; he had been conspicuous throughout the existence of the commonwealth, and he had enjoyed a full share of the power which these men had procured. It was natural that the Royalists who had lived so long in proscription and indigence should return thirsting for revenge, and that they should seize any pretence for wreaking it upon the leaders of the late rebellion : such a task would have been a worthy and a grateful office for the Tory followers of Charles. But that Shaftesbury and Holles, who had advanced within one step of this act, and whose opinions differed but a shade from those of the parties who committed it; that these men should sit in judg
ment upon and condemn the king's judges, is a lamentable proof of the eagerness with which even the chiefs of the late government courted the favour of the restored king, and how well prepared they were to forfeit their character, and abandon their opinions, to attain that object. .
I have before observed that Shaftesbury was active in apprehending and examining these men, whose conduct, although unnecessarily violent, and therefore highly culpable, was not deserving death; and that Holles rendered himself conspicuous at their trials. Such conduct can admit of no excuse; it was a meanness unworthy men of character and talent, and could only have been prompted by the most pitiful motives.
This was but a prelude to other and more important acts, which are even yet less capable of defence. Shaftesbury's conduct while a minister of the crown merits general condemnation. He now abandoned every principle which he had formerly held, repudiated those opinions by which he had formerly been guided, and boldly stood forward the hired advocate of new usurpations, the champion of prerogative.
In the preceding work much has been said in extenuation of Shaftesbury's conduct while he
held office under the crown, and he is now proved to have been opposed to many of those iniquitous measures which have been often ascribed to him. But it is unnecessary to criticise every act of the government of which he was a member. We may acquit him of all participation in the ruinous project of shutting up the exchequer; we may absolve him from all knowledge of the secret treaty; we may believe him to be guiltless of a bribe; and yet sufficient remains to characterise him as a corrupt and pernicious minister. ·
Men become corrupt from other motives than that of avarice: vulgar minds are seduced by money; the most illustrious yearn after power. This was the bait that led Shaftesbury astray from the path of political consistency, and made him a member of the Cabal. According to our ideas of ministerial responsibility, he is guilty of every act which has rendered that name so infamous, except the secret treaty, of which he had no knowledge. But this principle of our constitution was at that time more vaguely understood, and Shaftesbury only considered himself responsible for those measures which he himself recommended in council or supported in parliament.
It is in vain to attempt to draw any distinction which may form a ground for a full defence of Shaftesbury's ministerial conduct. His name cannot be erased from the list of the commissioners of the traité simulé ; and there is scarcely a shade of difference between the guilt of those who advised this treaty, and of the king who effected the other. To seriously undertake a violent change in the religion of a free and powerful nation, and to hope to support his despotism by the aid of foreign mercenaries, was a project worthy of the heart and head of a Stuart; but even Charles, afterwards, when he saw the turbulent disposition of the people, and reflected upon the fate of his father, discovered how hopeless was the adventure, and abandoned it in despair. It required, therefore, no great virtue in Shaftesbury to resist all overtures to engage in so absurd a task ;-his enemies never accuse him of more than a want of principle ;-to have joined in this he must have been destitute of understanding. He went, however, as far as he could with safety. He accepted for his master a bribe with which he scorned to pollute himself; and in return he sold his country to France, with a full knowledge of the iniquity of the measure he was advancing; for