Page images
PDF
EPUB

capacity ; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit, is to lay aside all these considerations, and to consider her merely as a rational being, placed in authority, and entrusted with the govern. ment of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her, as a wife or a mistress; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the objects of undisputed applause and approbation.

V.-Charles V's Resignation of his Dominions. CHARLES resolved to resign his dominions to his son, with a solemnity suitable to the importance of the transaction; and to perform this last act of sovereignty with such formal pomp, as might leave an irdelible impression on the minds, not only of his subjects, but of his successor. With this view he called Philip out of England, where the peevish temper of his queen, which increased with the despair of having issue, rendered him extremely unhappy, and the jealousy of the English left him no hopes of obtaining the direction of their affairs. Having assembled the states of the Low Countries at Brussels, on the twenty-fifth of October, one thousand five hundred and fifty-five, Charles seated himself, for the last time, in the chair of state, on one side of which was placed his son, and on the other, his sister, the queen of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands ; with a splendid retinue, of the grandees of Spain, and princes of the empire, standing behind him. The president of the council of Flanders, by his command, explained, in a few words, his intention, in calling this extraordinary meeting of the states. He then read the instrument of resignation, by which Charles surrendered to his son Philip all his territories, jurisdiction, and authority, in the Low Countries, absolving his subjects there, from their oath of allegiance to him, which he required them to transfer to Philip, his lawful heir ; and to serve him with the same loyalty and zeal which they had manifested, during so long a course of years, in support of his government.

Charles then rose from his seat, and leaning on the shoulder of the Prince of Orange, because he was unable to stand without support, he addressed himself to the audience ; and from a paper which he held in his hand, in order to assist his memory, he recounted with dignity, but without osten

tation, all the great things which he had undertaken and performed, since the commencement of his administration. He observed, that from the seventeenth year of his age, he had dedicated all his thoughts and attention to public objects, reserving no portion of his time for the indulgence of his ease, and very little for the enjoyment of private pleasure ; that either in a pacific or hostile manner, he had visited Germany nine times, Spain six times, France four times, Italy seven times, the Low Countries ten times, England twice, Africa as often, and had made eleven voyages by sea; that, while his health pemitted him to discharge his duty, and the vigour of his constitution was equal, in any degree, to the arduous office of governing such extensive dominions, he had never shunned labour, nor repined under fatigue; that now, when his health was broken, and his vigour

exhausted, by the rage of an incurable distemper, his growing infirmities admonished him to retire ; nor was he so fond of reigning as to retain the sceptre in an impotent hand, which was no longer able to protect his subjects, or to render them happy; that, instead of a sovereign worn out with disease, and scarcely half alive, he gave them one in the prime of life, accustomed already to govern, and who added to the vigour of youth, all the attention and sagacity of maturer years; that if, during the course of a long administration, he had committed any material error in government, or if, under the pressure of so many, and great affairs, and amidst the attention which he had been obliged to give them, he had either neglected or injured any of his subjects, he now implored their forgiveness ; that, for his part, he should ever retain a grateful sense of their fidelity and at tachment, and would carry the remembrance of it along with him to the place of his retreat, as the sweetest consolation, as well as the best reward for all his services, and in bis last prayers to Almighty God, would pour forth his ardent wishes for all their welfare.

Then, turning towards Philip, who fell on bis knees, and kissed his father's hand, “ If,” says he, “ I had left you, by my death, this rich inheritance, to which I have made such large additions, some regard would have been justly due to my memory on that account; but now, when I voluntarily resign to you what I might have still retained, I may well expect the warmest expressions of thanks on your part. With these, however, I dispense; and shall consider your concern for the welfare of your subjects, and your love of them, as the best and most acceptable testimony of your gratitude to me. It is in your power, by a wise and virtuous administration, to justify the extraordinary proof, which I this day give, of my paternal affection, and to demonstrate that you are worthy of the confidence which I repose in you. Preserve an inviolable regard for religion; maintain the catholic faith in its purity ; let the laws of your country be sacred in your eyes; encroach not on the rights and privileges of your people ; and, if the time shall ever come, when you shall wish to enjoy the tranquillity of a private life, may you have a son endowed with such qualities, that you can resign your sceptre to him, with as much satisfaction as I give up mine to you."

As soon as Charles had finished this long address to his subjects, and to their new sovereign, he sunk into the chair, exhausted and ready to faint with the fatigue of such an extraordinary effort. During this discourse, the whole audience melted into tears ; some, from admiration of his magnanimity; others, softened by the expressions of tenderness towards his son, and of love to his people ; and all were affected with the deepest sorrow, at losing a sovereign, who had distinguished the Netherlands, his native country, with particular marks of his regard and attachment.

A few weeks thereafter, Charles, in an assembly no less splendid, and with a ceremonial equally pompous, resigned to his son the crown of Spain, with all the territories depending on them, both in the old, and in the new world. Of all these vast possessions, he reserved nothing for himself but an annual pension of a hundred thousand crowns, to defray the charges of his family, and to afford him a small sum for acts of beneficence and charity.

The place he had chosen for his retreat, was the monastery of St. Justus, in the province of Estremadura. It was seated in a vale of no great extent, watered by a small brook, and surrounded by rising grounds, covered with lofty trees. From the nature of the soil, as well as the temperature of the climate, it was esteemed the most healthful and delicious situation in Spain. Some months before his resignation, he had sent an architect thither, to add a new apartment to the monastery, for his accommodation ; but he gave strict orders, that the style of the building should be such as suited his present situation, rather than his former dignity. It consisted only of six rooms ; four of them in the form of friars' cells, with naked walls; the other two, each

twenty feet square, were hung with brown cloth, and furnished in the most simple manner. They were all on a level with the ground ; with a door on one side into a garden, of which Charles himself had given the plan, and which he had filled with various plants, intending to cultivate them with his own hands. On the other side, they communicated with the chapel of the monastery, in which he was to perform his devotions. Into this humble retreat, hardly sufficient for the comfortable accommodation of a private gentleman, did Charles enter, with twelve domestics only. He buried there, in solitude and silence, his grandeur and his ambition, together with all those vast projects, which, during half a century, had alarmed and agitated Europe, filling every kingdom in it by turns, with the terror of his arms, and the dread of being subjected to his power.

VI.-Importance of Virtue. VIRTUE is of intrinsic value, and good desert, and of indispensable obligation; not the creature of will, but necessary and immutable; not local or temporary, but of equal extent and antiquity with the Divine mind; not a mode of sensation, but everlasting truth ; not dependent on power, but the guide of all power. Virtue is the foundation of honour and esteem, and the source of all beauty, order and happiness in nature. It is what confers value on all the other endowments and qualities of a reasonable being, to which they ought to be absolutely subservient; and without which, the more eminent they are, the more hideous deformities, and the greater curses, they become.

The use of it is not confined to any one stage of our existence, or to any particular situation we can be in, but reaches through all the periods and circumstances of our beings. Many of the endowments and talents we now possess, and of which we are too apt to be proud, will cease entirely with the present state ; but this will be our ornament and dignity, in every future state, to which we may be removed. Beauty and wit will die, learning will vanish away, and all the arts of life be soon forgot; but virtue will remain for

This unites us to the whole rational creation ; and fits us for conversing with any order of superior natures, and for a place in any part of God's works. It procuires us the approbation and love of all wise and good beings, and renders' them our allies and friends. But what is of unspeakably greater consequence, is, that it makes God our friend,

ever.

assimilates and unités our minds to his, and engages his Almighty power in our defence. Superior beings of all ranks are bound by it, no less than ourselves. It has the same authority in all worlds that it has in this. The further any being is advanced in excellence and perfection, the greater is his attachment to it, and the more is he under its influence.—To say no more, it is the law of the whole universe ; it stands first in the estimation of the Deity; its original is his nature ; and it is the very object that makes him lovely.

Such is the importance of virtue.-Of what consequence, therefore, is it, that we practise it? There is no argument or motive, in any respect fitted to influence a reasonable mind, which does not call us to this. One virtuous disposition of soul, is preferable to the greatest natural accomplishments and abilities, and of more value than all the treasures of the world. If you are wise, then study virtue, and contemn every thing that can come in competition with it. Remember that nothing else deserves one anxious thought or wish. Remember that this alone is honour, glory, wealth, and happiness. Secure this, and you secure every thing. Lose this, and all is lost.

VII.-Address to Art. O ART! thou distinguishing attribute and honour of human kind! Who art not only able to imitate nature in her graces, but even to adorn her with graces of thine own! Possessed of thee, the meanest genius grows deserving, and has a just demand for a portion of our esteem ; devoid of thee, the brightest of our kind lie lost and useless, and are but poorly distinguished from the most despicable and base. When we inhabited forests, in common with brutes, not otherwise known from them, than by the figure of our species, thou taughtest us to assert the sovereignty of our nature, and to assume that empire for which Providence intended us. Thousands of utilities owe their birth to thee; thousands of elegancies, pleasures, and joys, without which, life itself would be but an insipid possession.

Wide and extensive is the reach of thy dominion. No element is there, either so violent or so subtle, so yielding or so sluggish, as by the powers of its nature to be superior to thy direction. Thou dreadest not the fierce impetuosity of fire, but compelles: its violence to be both obedient and useful. By it, thou softenest the stubborn tribe of mine

« PreviousContinue »