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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 fovereign's prefence, and before the highest court of judicature, without any hazard to their persons.
Thursday, March 15, 1710.
Non eft ea medicina, cum fanae parti corporis fcalpellum adhibetur, atque integrae; carnificina eft ifta, et crudelitas. Hi medentur reipublicae, qui exfecant peftem aliquam, tanquam firumam civi
IAM diverted from the general. fubject
of my discourses to reflect upon an event of a very extraordinary and furprising nature. A great minifter, 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 papift*, then under examination for hightreafon; the affaffin redoubles his blow to make fure work; and concluding the chancellor + was dispatched, goes on with the fame rage to murder a principal fecretary of ftate and that whole noble affembly are forced to rife and draw their fwords in their own defence, as if a wild beast had been let loofe among them.
This fact hath fome circumstances of aggravation, not to be parallelled by any of the like kind we meet with in history. Cafar's murder being performed in the fenate comes nearest to the cafe; but that was an affair concerted by great numbers
* The abbot de Bourlie, who having quitted his native country, folicited to be employed against it in feveral courts of Europe, and affumed the title of marquis de Guifcard. He at length obtained a commiffion from queen Anne, and embarked in an expedition against France, which mifcarried, and his expectations being difappointed by the new miniftry, he endeavoured to
make his peace at home by acting here as a spy, and commenced a treasonable correfpondance: his letters were intercepted and produced to him by Mr. Harley at his exami
Mr. Harley, then chancellor of the exchequer, afterwards earl of Oxford.
Mr. Henry St. John, afterwards lord Bolingbroke.
of the chief fenators, who were likewife the actors in it; and not the work of a vile fingle ruffian. Harry the third of France was ftabbed by an enthusiastick frier, whom he fuffered to approach his person, while those who attended him ftood at fome distance. His fucceffor met the fame fate in a coach, where neither he nor his nobles in fuch a confinement were able to defend themselves. In our own country we have, I think, but one inftance of this fort, which has made any noise; I mean that of Felton about fourfcore years ago; but he took the opportunity to ftab the duke of Buckingham in paffing through a dark lobby from one room to another. The blow was neither feen nor heard, and the murderer might have escaped, if his own concern and horror, as it is ufual in fuch cases, had not betrayed him. Besides, that act of Felton will admit of fome extenuation from the motive he is faid to have had: but this attempt of Guifcard feems to have outdone them all in every heightening circumstance, except the difference of perfons between a king and a great minifter; for I give no allowance at all
all to the difference of success (which however, is yet uncertain and depending) nor think it the leaft alleviation to the crime, whatever it may be to the punishment.
I am fenfible, it is ill arguing from particulars to generals, and that we ought not to charge upon a nation the crimes of a few defperate villains it is fo unfortunate to produce; yet at the fame time it must be avowed, that the French have for thefe laft centuries been fomewhat too liberal of their daggers upon the perfons of their greateft men; fuch as the admiral de Coligny, the dukes of Guife father and fon, and the two kings I laft mentioned. I have fometimes wondered how a people, whose genius feems wholly turned to finging, and dancing, and prating, to vanity and impertinence; who lay fo much weight upon modes and geftures; whofe effentialities are generally fo very fuperficial; who are ufually fo ferious upon trifles, and so trifling upon what is ferious, have been capable of committing fuch folid villainies, more fuitable to the gravity of a Spaniard, or the filence and thoughtfulness of an Italian: unless it be, that in a nation na
turally fo full of themselves, and of so restless imaginations, when any of them happen to be of a morofe and gloomy conftitution, that huddle of confused thoughts for want of evaporating ufually terminates in rage or defpair. D'Avila obferves, that Jacques Clement was a fort of buffoon,
whom the reft of the friers used to make fport with; but at last giving his folly a ferious turn, it ended in enthusiasm, and qualified him for that defperate act of murdering his king.
But in the marquis de Guifcard there feems to have been a complication of ingredients for fuch an attempt. He had committed feveral enormities in France, was extremely prodigal and vicious, of a dark melancholy complexion and cloudy countenance, such as in vulgar phyfiognomy is called an ill look. For the reft, his talents were very mean, having a fort of inferior cunning, but very fmall abilities; fo 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 ftabbed Henry III. of France.