Page images
PDF
EPUB

ARTICLE IV.-THE STATESMANSHIP OF SIR HENRY

VANE, JR.

In the small parish of Hadlow, in the County of Kent, England, and on some unnoted day of the year 1612, HARRY VANE was born. It was two hundred and fifty years ago; yet so eventful was the age he lived in, and so did he identify himself with those principles which never die, that even now his birth has almost its first freshness. He was born to be the statesman of a Cause. In his own language, often repeated, in the language of Milton and of Algernon Sidney likewise, in the familiar converse of that whole company who struck for the English Commonwealth, it was called The Cause,The good Cause,- The glorious Cause.

Born to be the statesman of that Cause, he must be trained for it. It is well for him to begin his training early. But well'or ill, it will begin. He is born in no mummy age. If there are any seeds of great actions within those swaddling bands they will not lie there long. The boy will soon be out in a sun, and air, and soil, where, if he is a statesman, he must grow into one fast. Politics is the air and sun and soil of the age, and of his father's life. Sir Henry Vane, the elder, had been knighted the year before, and was elected to Parliament two years after his son's birth. The family, in both branches, inherited rank, wealth, and public life. We may be sure that in such a household, the great events, which were passing, would not pass in silence.

Even in this time of our civil war, we can afford to print the successive volumes of the most beautiful edition of the life and works of Bacon. But when Harry Vane was a boy of six years, Bacon was rising into his greatest fame: three years after he had fallen into his disgrace. The guilty love and ruin of Somerset, and the rapid rise of Buckingham at court, were filling all men's ears. Sir Walter Raleigh also, after a career which even now reads like a romance, had been, by James's command, beheaded. James himself was doing his worstand this execution of Raleigh was a part of his worst-to get the Spanish Infanta as the wife of the Prince Charles. For this, to the grief and shame of his subjects, he was neglecting the Protestant interests on the continent. That Anglican saint, William Laut, was fast climbing into influence; busy just now at Oxford, ferreting out the Puritans and reporting their delinquencies at high quarters. The Puritans, in the increasing vigor of church conformity, and in the increasing light, doubtless, of the Bible of King James, were organizing in conventicles, as Separatists, and Baptists, and Independents; were emigrating to Holland. When Vane was in his eighth year, that little company of them were sailing in the Mayflower to their December home on Plymouth Bay. By the time that he was ready to be sent to a public school, the lincs had begun to be distinctly drawn between the Court and Country parties of England. If we can reason from the experiences of American boys of to-day to those of English boys of two centuries ago, it is not unlikely that young Vane had chosen, ere he entered his teens, his party. Was it the party of the King and of liis father, or the party of the English people? It is too early to ask. We shall need to advance to the second stage of his training before we can find an answer.

He was under court influences at home, we have seen; he could hardly have been under them at school. IIis memoirs tell us little, definitely, of his school or college lifc. He was placed in one of those schools, of which we have all read in

Tom Brown, as boiling with gay life, we should hope, then as now. It was at Westminster. The master's name could not have been improved if Dickens had christened it-it was Lambert Osbaldeston. IIe was a famous teacher. Whether he was a Puritan at the time we do not know. But for a letter which he wrote to Lord Keeper Williams about eight years afterwards, he got himself and the Lord Keeper too into trouble. The letter shows that the old master would not have been likely to make his scholars horor Laud too much. For he refers to him as “the little vermin,” “the urchin," the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"hocus pocus.” The punishment inflicted in this case, because

, of this private letter found in Williams's house, will show the “iron rule.” Williams, being already in the tower, was fined £8,000 for receiving the letter, and Osbaldeston, for writing it, was fined £5,000, deprived of his office and sentenced to have his ears tacked to the pillory in the presence of his scholars. Vane's preparation for statesmanship in the cause did not lose anything, we may safely warrant, under his first master. We know also that among Vane's own mates at this school were Thomas Scott and Arthur Hazlerig, both of them ardent Republicans, and one of them a regicide judge.

But whatever the influence of his master may have been; however, up to this time, his natural or acquired sympathies may have swayed him, one event in his life settled the matter decisively. He became a Puritan Christian. “God,” he says, “was pleased to lay the foundation of repentance, for the bringing me home to himself, revealing His Son in me." minds which suppose that politics means place-hunting, and that a religious man is somebody who is suspended, like Mohammed's coffin, between heaven and earth, not touching either, it may seen singular to say that Harry Vane's conversion de termined him to his political career. But there are minds which, despite all that is seen in California or at Washington, can still define politics to be the noble science and art of Government. And ainong the first things a Puritan learns to pray for are Liberty and Country. Vane received that religion which regenerates and spiritualizes life, if ever a man received it. But the loadstone that drew his soul to God, did not spirit his body away from the earth. Nay, he believed that the God who was drawing all his affections, was Himself, just now at least, especially in England. If he would find Him, whom his soul loved, he must find IIim there. For politics in England then had to do with the question whether there should be Liberty or Laudism in Church and State. On which side of such a contest a true statesman ought to be, on which side the Moral Governor Himself was, could not be a matter of doubt to Vane. Up to this time he had been fond of good fellowship, and lived the life of a gentleman's jolly son. Henceforth life became a serious and responsible work. The events that were passing, the problems which the roused heart of England was bent on solving, were to be more than a gentleman's pastime.

Sir Henry Vane, utterly out of sympathy with this change in his son, and thinking perhaps that it was only a boy's conversion, which could be turned about again at Oxford--a famous place for perversions—had him entered as a gentleman commoner at Magdalen College. Laud's power was very great at Oxford then. During Vane's residence there three members of the University, one of them froin his own college, were tried before the King and expelled for attacking the Landian arminianism, then becoming prevalent in the English church, and two masters of colleges were severely reprimanded. Vane never liked persecution for opinion's sake, and we may be certain that these transactions had no tendency to dispose the young Puritan toward the court. Besides, the sympathies of collegians are always against authority in favor of freedom. The German Universities of 1848 were the hot-beds of revolution. The colleges of New England and of New England's foster-states of the West have furnished some of the hottest blood yet registered in this warm civil season which is on us. So Harry Vane came forth from Oxford unpurged of his pestilent Puritanism. He had even declined to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy. Milton, though four years older, had already twice taken the same oath at Cambridge without scruples. But this son of a Privy Counselor could not say "ex animo," that the King was the supreme Governor of the realm, that the book of Common Prayer contained nothing contrary to the word of God, and that the book of Articles was agreeable to that word. He had not learned oath-taking in the school of the seven “ Essays and Reviews.”

Departing from his scholastic retreat without his degrees, he risits the continent, passes through France, and spends some time at Genoa. Travel on the continent was then, as it is today, the fashionable method of completing education. The fast young gentleman especially loved the dissolute morals and art of Papal Italy. But Genoa drew Vane's heart. The home of Calvin determined the steps of his pilgrimage. The republican government at Leyden challenged his admiration. The young traveler returned, says his enemy Clarendon, fill of prejudice and bitterness against the church, both against the form of government and the liturgy. His father, comptroller of the King's household, and full of ambitions views for himself and his family, was as bitterly disappointed. The youth was left alone with Charles; he was closeted with his old master's “ little verinin,” Laud; but it was useless. The boy's conversion had not worn off.

What was before him now? He had had the usual training. He is to have an unusual one before he enters upon his great | career for the cause. IIe is allowed to go to America. At the

early age of 23 he arrived in Boston. He had not a little to learn yet, and the Massachusetts colony was a wonderful school. It was indeed a small affair in 1635.

After seven years could more than three thousand people have been living in its log cabins? One of our modern gold-colonies in a single year would surpass it many times in population and in wealth. But not in virtue, not in that constructive power which creates institutions, not in its ultimate influence upon Human Progress. It is easy at our advance of general information to criticise sharply certain narrow notions of our fathers. But that colony can teach the America of to-day as much as the America of to day can teach it. The germ of the only thorough Republicanism that can live long in the world, a Republicanism founded on a pure religion and an enforced universal education, was there. Vane found, what the earth nowhere else could show, a community, in which the votes of the majority of the whole people decided, under the Lord Christ, all questions, both in Church and State. In the coming increase of the Independent churches and the Independent party in England, during the civil war, the churches of this colony were to furnish the models, and their ministers were to furnish the weapons of argument. We are familiar with the reactionary influence of America upon Europe on politics in later days. · But it has been fitly remarked, in a foot-note of Palfrey's

« PreviousContinue »