Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

says, “ foams at the mouth” (there was much of the mad dog in that Wood) when he even mentions him. “In sum, he was the Proteus of his times, a mere hotch-potch of religion, a chief ringleader of all the frantic sectarians, of a turbulent spirit and a working brain, of a strong composition of choler and melancholy, an inventor not only of whimseys in religion, but also of crotchets in the State (as his several models testify), and composed only of treason, ingratitude, and baseness." Glad should we have been had Mr. John Forster do for the memory of Sir Harry Vane what he has done for that of Sir John Eliot. From a load of calumny and misrepresentation heaped over his murdered remains, it is the duty of all who reverence the rights of conscience to relieve his name. Few of those who have ascended the scaffold for freedom deserve more fervent and affectionate regards at the hands of those they have blessed by their heroism than he. Perhaps few of the innumerable travellers who turn aside to walk through Raby Woods, or to survey the magnificent masses of Raby Castle, the great northern seat of the Duke of Cleveland, call to mind the fact that he is the lineal descendant of that Vane who, for maintaining precisely that which gave to the peer a dukedom, with all its heraldries, expiated that which was in his age an offensive crime by losing his head on Tower Hill.

We have been unable, with any satisfaction, to discover whether the patriot was born in Raby Castle ; but the only worthy likeness we have seen of him hangs in the recess in the beautiful drawing-room there. There, no doubt, many of his days were passed; it was his patrimony and inheritance; thence he issued several of those tracts which startled, even if they did not enlighten, his contemporaries; thence especially issued his famous Healing Question, which so aroused the ire of Cromwell.

His father, the elder Sir Harry Vane, was the first of his family who possessed Raby Castle; he does not commend himself much to any higher feelings of our nature. The mother of Vane was a Darcey, and his name mingles with some of the noblest families of England. His father was high in favour at Court; but very early it became manifest that the son, neither in the affairs of Church or State, was likely to follow the prescriptions of mere tradition and authority. At the age of fourteen or fifteen, he says on his trial, “God was pleased to lay the foundation or groundwork of repentance in me, for the bringing me home to Himself by His wonderful rich and free grace, revealing His Son in me, that, by the knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent, I might, even whilst here in the body,

I be made partaker of eternal life, in the firstfruits of it.” He studied at Westminster School, then at Magdalen College, Oxford ; then he travelled in France, and spent some time in Geneva. What was wanting to confirm the impressions he had received was given to him there; he came home to perplex and astonish his father, who was simply a vain vacillating courtier, only desirous to stand well with, whatever might be likely to pay best. Laud took the young recusant in hand, we may believe with astonishing results; exactly what we might conceive from an interview of calm, clear reason, with that ridiculous old archprelatical absurdity. Vane sought the home and the counsels of Pym. If the lawyer was not likely to help or to deepen his purely religious convictions, at any rate he would not interfere with them; while the touch of his political wisdom would be like a spark of purifying fire upon his mind, consuming all the false and confusing notions which must inevitably have sought to nestle there beneath such an influence as that his father would seek to exercise over him. He went to America. Bold in conception, with a rich, only too dreamy imagination, perhaps little prognosticating the strange career through which England was to pass, impatient of conventionalities, sick to the soul of the divisions and heartburnings of the Church, forecasting and dreading the ambition of Strafford, and the cruel, narrow resolution of the king; the wretched superstition of Laud, rocking to and fro in his old Gothic chair of abuses, like an Archimage with his dim blear eyes ;-it seemed natural to the young man that America should furnish him with all he needed.

America was the hope of the world then. It was the sanctuary and the shrine of freedom, especially of free faith and opinion. The young dreamer

reached Boston early in 1635, and was admitted to the freedom of Massachusetts on the 3rd of March in the same year, and he became Governor of Massachusetts the following year. He was but a youth in years, but the creed of his future life was remarkably brought out and illustrated in the story of his government. It was a brief period too, for he took his passage home in August 1637. He did not, as Richard Baxter so wrongly says, steal away by night, but he stepped on board openly, with marks of honour from his friends ; large concourses of people followed him to the ship with every demonstration and mark of esteem, and parting salutes were fired from the town and castle. He, no doubt, found the dreams he had entertained when he set foot on those shores dissolve; who has not known such dreams and such dissolutions ? There was little space for freedom of opinion to thrive in there ; his great thought of and faith in universal toleration was intolerable, even to many of the noblest people of that age, and especially to the ruling minds of Massachusetts. Vane, even in those earliest years, when he was getting his harness on, was clear in his perceptions of the rights of the human soul. We do not enter here into the incidents of his government of the young colony; we do not even touch upon his conduct with reference to his vindication of Mrs. Hutchinson, a proceeding which brought him so severe a measure of reprehension then and after. We believe he was nobly right, and only in advance of his age. He, no

:

doubt, learnt much in the period of his residence in New England, which fitted him for service on a larger and far more important field. A nobler career awaited him very shortly after his return.

After a short period of retirement, during which he married Frances Wray, daughter of Sir Christopher Wray, of Ashby, in Lincolnshire, we find him elected, in 1640, member for the borough of Kingston-uponHull, illustrious predecessor of Andrew Marvell in the representation of that place. This step, which gave him the opportunity for a prominent use of his eminent abilities, filled the Court, the king, and his father too, with alarm, and instant steps were taken "to propitiate the possible hostility of the young and resolute statesman." He received the honour of knighthood, he was elevated to the office of Treasurer of the Navy, with Sir William Russell. Again, in the same year, he was elected member for Hull, to serve in the Long Parliament; but his own course was clear and unswerving. When the appeal to arms was made by Charles, he resigned the patent of office, but was instantly reappointed Treasurer of the Navy by the Parliament, and he gave a singular instance of his patriotism. The fees of his office were great in times of peace, but in times of war they became enormous, amounting to about £30,000 per

These vast emoluments he resigned, only stipulating that a thousand a year should be paid to a deputy. Before this he had acquired a notoriety which many have thought not enviable, as being the

annum.

« AnteriorContinuar »