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4th of October, 1661, a martyr to her lofty sense of moral rectitude, and the disgrace of shrinking, at the dictation of power, from the avowal of truth. The Mother Angélique had gone to her reward in the preceding August. On her death-bed she checked a nun who was taking down her words. She was answered that the dying remarks of a preceding abbess had been of considerable use. "Ah,' she said, that dear mother was very humble and very simple-minded, but I am neither.' Doubtless she had had her hours of pride, for she had accomplished mighty things, and could not look round upon her holy flock, and the celebrated men who had gathered round her house, or mark her influence over the minds of others, and the impulse which her example had given to piety throughout France, and not be tempted to feel some complacency at the contemplation of her work; but if a momentary vanity ever intruded, it was quickly expelled, and she was as truly humble as she was good. Not only as the reformer of her convent does she occupy the chief place among its celebrities, but she appears to have been really the most remarkable, as was testified by her associates and successors when they proudly called her the Great Mother Angélique.'
It would be doing these holy women a grievous injustice, and would entirely destroy the value of their example, to suppose that they were actuated by the hope of that fame which has eventually fallen to them. It was the hatred which Port-Royal excited, the opposition it provoked, the injustice it suffered, which raised it to the place which it occupies in the eye of the world, and, far from presenting a field for ambition, its insignificant endowments, its homely buildings, and its secluded position, seemed to doom it to perpetual obscurity. The decisive part of the life of Mother Angélique was passed in an arduous struggle with lukewarmness, laxity, or vice, and she could have no notion that her steady devotedness and gentle wisdom would ever be heard of beyond the walls of the convent which they adorned. The incidents of her career which most attract the reader were, after all, but brief episodes in her humble, unobtrusive existence, and were done in a corner and not in the market-place. The day of the wicket' was a domestic scene which subsequent events alone caused to be recorded ; and if anything could have added to the grief which the Abbess felt in that memorable conflict, it would have been the knowledge that the particulars would one day be published to the world. The noble remonstrance of Jacqueline Pascal against the covert surrender of the most cherished principles of the PortRoyal community was contained in a private letter which was never intended to see the light, and would doubtless have passed into oblivion except for the splendour of her brother's reputation, which, like a sun, illumined every object within its system. The conflicts of mind which killed her were on behalf of views which were discountenanced by the great names of her sect, and she undoubtedly must have supposed that her sorrows and remonstrances would be buried with her in the tomb. Even as it is, the names of Mother Angélique and Jacqueline Pascal have waited two centuries for the honour which, however little it was desired, was so eminently their due. It was in the party of the Jansenists that Roman Catholicism made its nearest approach to the Protestant creed, and rarely indeed have any adherents of the Papal church shone forth with such a pure and steady light as the Nuns of Port-Royal.
Art. VIII.—Hansard's Parliamentary Debates. London. 1856.
bourne Government and its political opponents was drawing rapidly to a close, Sir Robert Peel, as the head of the Conservative party in the House of Commons, conceived the circumstances of the juncture to be so ripe as to justify his taking into his own hands the critical office of moving a decisive vote against the existing Administration. The ground which he chose for the attack was their admitted failure in many legislative measures of prime Parliamentary and national importance. Those, he contended, who are unable to legislate, are disentitled to govern; and to this effect was the spirit not less of his motion than his speech. Mr. Macaulay was then a combatant of the first class in all the more historical debates of that assembly, which now laments his absence without hope of his return. He gave to the question, as was his wont, a retrospective turn. He joined issue with Sir Robert Peel, not upon his minor premiss, asserting that the Melbourne Government had failed in many of its great legislative undertakings, but upon his major, which declared success in legislation to be an essential condition of the right to hold office. He made his appeal to the last century, and contended that for decade after decade of years, from the Hanoverian succession onwards, legislation of the higher class was almost a dead letter. And bis facts were, we conceive, entirely beyond dispute. The long course of some fifty years produced nothing, that can be quoted in that class, except the Septennial Act; for the useful and sensible consolidation of the Stocks, which represented the then formless and chaotic national Debt, by Mr. Pelham, was a measure not entitled to take any very high rank in the history of statesmanship, either from boldness of design or from difficulty of excution. At the close of those fifty years came the Acts, which had for their aim the raising a revenue from our American Colonies by the authority of Parliament. The general, perhaps the universal, opinion of our own time is, that the Septennial Act was a beneficial measure, and that the laws for taxing America were highly ill-advised; but, setting aside the merits of these laws, we must admit in both cases that they were important. As having been important, they are apparent exceptions to the general stagnation of legislative enterprise during the first half century of the Hanoverian dynasty. Yet they are only apparent exceptions; for they were alike expedients of the moment to meet a pressing necessity. The taxing acts were intended to relieve the finances labouring under the effects of war, and were passed by men innocent, as it seems, of political intention. The Septennial Act was simply intended to bar the constituency from the exercise of the franchise at a moment when its temper was unfavourable to the actual settlement of the Crown in the line of Brunswick. Not even in these cases, and far less in any others, do we find any recognition of the principle, in the sense in which it is now understood, that it is the duty of Governments and Parliaments to watch not only over the maintenance but over the improvement of the laws, and to study their progressive adaptation to the ever shifting exigencies of society.
This abrogation or abeyance of the legislative office in regard to political and social improvement was in the main to be considered as the price which we paid for the rescue of the constitution of the country from what used to be called in the homely old English phrase, Popery and arbitrary power. To escape from greater evils, the country accepted evils which were less. To advance would have been better than to stand still : but it was better to remain where we were without advancing, than to lose the ground which former generations had made good. The extravagant laudations of the two first Georges and their period, which were once so common, are only to be excused as due to the excited feelings of men under the pressure of constant alarm excited by the ever impending return of the Stuarts. In truth that pair of very indifferent Sovereigns and most unattractive human beings, were the sufficient and only bar between our laws and insti. tutions on one side, and almost certain ruin on the other. There were other drawbacks, too, connected with the Hanoverian succession, and other evils, of which it is not easy to distribute the responsibility, though we still groan under their effects. But into the higher sphere of morals and religion we do not at present enter, farther than to express the surprise with which we find
Mr. Macaulay laying on the altar of Whiggism a sacrifice so costly, as the assertion that the reign of Charles the Second supplies us with the most immoral period in the history, not of the court only, but of the nation.
The political insecurity, however, which retarded legislation during the barren period we have just described, also diminished the urgency of the need for it. For it is rapid growth in the body politic that renders stereotyped law intolerable. When progress
is slow and doubtful in the country at large, a better shift can be made, than when the elastic force which swells in every limb threatens to burst its swathing bands, unless they be enlarged from time to time. The first half century of our Hanoverian history was not, in our belief, a period of rapid growth, and would scarcely have been a period of growth at all, but for the reflex effect produced upon England by the wonderful advancement of the American Colonies, and by their constantly expanding commerce.
In the early part, however, of the reign of George the Third, causes came into operation, which were destined to lead to an immense development of our national resources. Great manufacturing inventions, extensive improvement in our internal communications, and moderated legislation with respect to corn, began to act on the condition of the country; and the union with Scotland, heretofore one of force and of statute, began to take root, on both sides the Border, in the affections of the people. A course of rapid industrial progress began, which entailed a multitude of economical and moral changes in society, and created numerous wants before unknown. But a torpid organ does not resume its activity at call; and the political system of the eighteenth century, with its cast of parties, had been formed with reference to the state of the succession, and had become wedded to those subjects which bore upon it, namely at home a certain balance between religious parties, and abroad the prevention of French preponderance; a policy which flattered the national tendency to expansion, by the opportunities it afforded for colonial conquest. And unhappily the great American quarrel, springing out of the debt and financial difficulties which were the legacy of former wars, now again absorbed the energies of England ; and involving her towards its later stages in a desperate struggle with Europe, as well as with her own kindred, forcibly as it were adjourned the solution of the rapidly multiplying problems of our internal government. When Mr. Pitt became minister, he applied himself with gigantic energy to that portion of the public exigencies, which was the most pressing, and thoroughly re-established our finances. It is hard to say what might not have been anticipated from his vigour and wisdom, combined with a continuance of peace. But the hurricane of the French Revolution swept over the face of Europe, and drew him into a war which again postponed for a quarter of a century almost all attempts at legislative progress, with the splendid but isolated exceptions of the union with Ireland and the abolition of the Slave-Trade. At the close of that war we found ourselves with heavy financial embarrassments, with a depreciated currency, with all the establishments of the country swollen to unnatural proportions, with a poor-law threatening almost to absorb landed property, while it also demoralized the middle class by parish jobbery, and by subserviency the lower, with a vast increase of population, and a general shifting in the relations of the various classes of the community. Not only had the work left undone by four or five generations accumulated upon one, but the whole period which had been negative as to clearing off incumbrances, had been active in creating them : on the one hand the processes of decay had taken their usual course, and antiquity required reparation : on the other the youth and prolific vigour of the country had brought new ideas, new relations, new spheres of life into existence, and no provision, religious, moral, political or municipal, social or physical, had been made for them. The Church, the State, the titled, landed, commercial, and labouring classes, had all departed from their former reciprocal attitudes, and no one knew either how far, or in what direction they had swerved.
The argument of Mr. Macaulay, then, was in this view worse than worthless. It was, if strictly taken, to show that we might be idle now without reason, because others had from necessity been idle before us; and this, although we were suffering so deeply from the consequences of the unbappy necessity, which we were invited of our own free will to reproduce.
But in truth this representation, though it may be dialectically a fair answer to an adverse rhetorician, would not be a just representation of the whole case as it stood. The Government of Lord Melbourne with all its faults was not in fact chargeable with legislative inaction. On the contrary, though it was defeated in many measures of importance by a powerful and determined opposition, yet it also carried many; standing second indeed in this respect to the ministry of Lord Grey, but likewise capable of bearing advantageous comparison with some other Governments, composed of the same or of kindred materials. There are indeed (so, as opponents, we may take leave to think even in the calm of after-time) great stains upon its memory; it expelled Sir R. Peel, and itself came into office, avowedly and expressly to carry measures with respect to the Irish Church, which, when they were found to be from the state of public feeling inconvenient,