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whenever they are in their wits. But God be thanked, our populace is more merciful in their nature, and at present under better direction; and the orators among us have attempted to confound both prerogative and law in their sovereign's presence, and before the highest court of judicature, without any hazard to their persons.
Thursday, March 15, 1710.
Non est ea medicina, cum fanae parti cor
poris scalpellum adhibetur, atque integrae; carnificina eft ifta, et crudelitas. Hi medentur reipublicae, qui ex fecant pestem aliquam, tanquam sirumam civitatis.
I AM diverted from the general-fubject
of my discourses to reflect upon an event of a very extraordinary and surprising nature. A great minister, in high confidence with the Queen, under whose management the weight of affairs at present is in a great measure supposed to lie; fitting in council, in a royal palace, with a
dozen of the chief officers of the state, is stabbed at the very board, in the execution of his office, by the hand of a french papit*, then under examination for hightreason; the affassin redoubles his blow to make sure work; and concluding the chancellor + was dispatched, goes on with the same rage to murder a principal secretary of state I: and that whole noble alsembly are forced to rise and draw their swords in their own defence, as if a wild beast had been let loose among them.
This fact hath fome circumstances of aggravation, not to be parallelled by any of the like kind we meet with in history. Cæsar's murder being performed in the fenate comes nearest to the case; but that was an affair concerted by great numbers
* The abbot de Bourlie, make his peace at home by who having quitted his native acting here as a spy, and comcountry, solicited to be em- menced a treasonable correployed against it in several spondance: his letters were incourts of Europe, and assumed tercepted and produced to him the title of marquis de Guif- by Mr. Harley at his examicard. He at length obtained a nation. commission from queen Anne, + Mr. Harley, then chanand embarked in an expedition cellor of the exchequer, afteragainst France, which miscar- wards earl of Oxford. ried, and his expectations be- 1 Mr. Henry St. John, afing disappointed by the new terwards lord Bolingbroke. ministry, he endeavoured to
of the chief senators, who were likewise the actors in it; and not the work of a vile single ruffian. Harry the third of France was stabbed by an enthusiastick frier, whom he suffered to approach his person, while those who attended him stood at some distance. His successor met the fame fate in a coach, where neither he nor his nobles in such a confinement were able to defend themselves. In our own country we have, I think, but one instance of this fort, which has made any noise; I mean that of Felton about fourscore years ago; but he took the opportunity to ftab the duke of Buckingham in passing through a dark lobby from one room to another. The blow was neither seen nor heard, and the murderer might have escaped, if his own concern and horror, as it is usual in such cases, had not betrayed him. Besides, that act of Felton will admit of some extenuation from the motive he is said to have had: but this attempt of Guiscard seems to have outdone them all in every heightening circumstance, except the difference of persons between a king and a great minister; for I give no allowance at
all to the difference of success (which however, is yet uncertain and depending) nor think it the least alleviation to the crime, whatever it may be to the punishment.
I am sensible, it is ill arguing from particulars to generals, and that we ought not to charge upon a nation the crimes of a few desperate villains it is so unfortunate to produce; yet at the same time it must be avowed, that the French have for these last centuries been somewhat too liberal of their daggers upon the persons of their greatest men; such as the admiral de Coligny, the dukes of Guise father and son, and the two kings I last mentioned. I have sometimes wondered how a people, whose genius seems wholly turned to singing, and dancing, and prating, to vanity and impertinence; who lay so much weight upon modes and gestures; whose essentialities are generally so very superficial ; who are usually so serious upon trifles, and so triAling upon what is serious, have been capable of committing such folid villainies, more suitable to the gravity of a Spaniard, or the silence and thoughtfulness of an Italian: unless it be, that in a nation na
turally so full of themselves, and of forestless imaginations, when any of them happen to be of a morose and gloomy constitution, that huddle of confused thoughts for want of evaporating usually terminates in rage or despair. D'Avila observes, that Jacques Clement * was a sort of buffoon, whom the rest of the friers used to make sport with; but at last giving his folly a ferious turn, it ended in enthusiasm, and qualified him for that desperate act of murdering his king.
But in the marquis de Guiscard there seems to have been a complication of ingredients for such an attempt. He had committed several enormities in France, was extremely prodigal and vicious, of a dark melancholy complexion and cloudy countenance, such as in vulgar physiognomy is called an ill look. For the rest, his talents were very mean, having a sort of inferior cunning, but very
small abilities; so that a great man of the late ministry, by whom he was invited over, and with much discretion raised at first step, from a
* The monk who stabbed Henry III. of France.