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The Present Age.
*The search of Truth, which is the wooing of it, — the perception of Truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of Truth, which is the enjoying of it, constitute the sovereign good of Human Nature.'-LORD BACOM.
"The Search for Truth is open to all: and mankind have no greater benefactors than those who,—with sufficient wisdom on the one hand and sufficient courage on the other,mendeavor to rectify deeply rooted and prevalent mistakes.'
JOHN HOWARD HINTON, M.A.
'In the discovery of truth, in the development of man's mental powers and (social) privileges, each generation has its assigned part; and it is for us to endeavor to perform our portion of this perpetual task of our species."
Professor WHEWELL, D. D.
William Penn and Thomas Babington Macaulay: being brief observations on the charges
made in Mr. Macaulay's History of England, against the character of W. Penn. By W. E. FORSTER. London: C. Gilpin. 1849. Pp. 54.
"displays in developing the
SHE Present Age is chiefly notable for the intellectual activity which it
of the Past. The varied and valuable truths, social and spiritual, which the Prophets of by-gone Eras impulsively or consciously proclaimed, have lain, seedlike, in the general mind, waiting the warmer-spring time of Progress, for their full and distinct development. In some great principles affecting our common humanity-and hence our common Christianity—this season has at last arrived. Truths long-barren, because dimly discerned even while truly exprest, now bud, blossom, and bear fruit amongst men. What the Past theoretically announced, the Present practically inaugurates,
To illustrate by example, let us select the prime and fruitful principle of the Protestant Revolutions of Europe—that which arose out of the necessary, and therefore eternal and sacred, rebellion of Reason against the crushing and fraudful despotism of Authority. Reason asserted its rights-and as the distinguishing faculty of Man, his divinest rights also—in opposition alike to mobs of Priests and of People-to Church as to State. It refused to recognize as the Voice of God, either the vox clerici or the vox populi. It said, 'I want evidence not numbers: the liglit of truth, not the light of balefires in which you burn the body I dwell in. I must be true to my nature, if true to the maker of it: I demand sound reason for the faith you are so anxious to impose upon me.'
The Knaves and Fools who ruled the world having no sufficient reason to offer, substituted the rack. The inquisition of philosophy was answered by the Inquisition of fire-the enquiry after proof by the infliction of pain. In this struggle the Martyrs perished, but their blood enriched the soil of truth, and hastened the day of retribution. The advent of the Reformers arrived, who went forth to triumphant battle against the Spiritual Despotism of Europe, TO ESTABLISH THE
RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT.
It was long, however, before even the greatest and purest of them understood the work they were doing--the principle and precedent they were setting up in the world. This formed no part of their conscious mission, which was purely polemical—an advance by inches, as they had some new fragment of doctrine to develop or defend. It was long before even the plain corollary was deduced from the assertion of the right of Private Judgment—namely, THE DUTY OF FREE THOUGHT. Nay, for very long the phrase free-thinking, was esteemed the equivalent of bad-thinking, if not of bad-heartedness,-as if freedom in the highest of our relations were a vice, or thinking-in-fetters a virtue! Even to this hour, such is the practical judgment of our bastard Protestantism: but the Age has won a higher stand-point. It feels that Truth is a sacred thing—the expression of Omnipotent Law,—that it must be sought, in order to be secured, by each individual intellect; that evidence alone determines the conviction of the honest man, and neither fear nor hope, frown nor smile, human approval nor disapproval ;--nay, it resents all ese, as an encroachment upon the rights of the Soul, as a vile bribe offered to the Man, as an insult to that Divine Power whose pure light is thus intercepted in its path-way to the Sanctuary of the Mind.
There have been prophets of this Truth, however—tho ‘few and far-between.' Such were Nanuk, Fox, Milton, Penn, and some others—clear-seeing, and therefore fore-seeing men, shadowing forth the temper and truths of a better age. Most of all do we honor such men-great in soul rather than in the noisy passages of history_too great within to become the active instruments of a temporary revolution, which requires those who have some equality of nature with the age, some sympathy with its limitations. Yet in permanent, universal influence, how superior is the Hero of the Soul, built up of noble thoughts, of great aspirations, and living in the serene light of Self-Conquest-allowing TRUTH to rule and govern in all things, undisturbed by the parties and passions of his time.
In such fashion, we think, lived William Penn. Not that he was, by any means, perfect--or even the highest specimen of his class. Paul had his weaknesses or deformities, and so had Penn. Nanuk, Fox, Milton, were greater men of their kind, as regards their original mould,--had more dignity and simplicity of character,—were less susceptible of the emotions of vanity, perhaps,—but this weakness of the vessel displays all the more distinetly, the grandeur of that inner TRUTH—of that Divine principle—which Penn lived and acted out.
Mr. Macaulay, in his recent ‘History,' very naturally shows that he doubts the existence of such characters. Nor are we surprized at this. “The spirit of a man knoweth the spirit of a man'-if of like kind only. His psychological experience must be the limit of his belief in human nature. Mr. Macaulay thoroly appreciates every kind of worldly-mind—from Alexander and Cæsar to Bacon, Clive, or Warren Hastings—but he evidently cannot understand, nor therefore believe, in George Fox or William Penn. To the latter he seems to have conceived a violent antipathy-traceable, as it seems to us, to the fact, that Penn had as much tolerance for the Catholic as for the Protestant, had no enthusiasm for the objects of Mr. Macaulay's historic admiration, and a sincere affection for his faithful and tried friend, James II., the object of Mr. Macaulay's dislike, a fact, as we think, equally creditable to the judgment and the leart of Penn.
Mr. Macaulay's 'History' is certainly a splendid and memorable work. His genius as historic-artist, word-painter, and advocate, is placed beyond doubt. Yet, after all, the work is but an ‘Historic-brief'-—and, where the author's party or prejudices are concerned, is as little to be trusted. This is so very clear in the case of his estimate of Penn, that it cannot but damage the general reputation of the production--it must do more harm to the fame of the living author than to the honor of the dead patriot.
In the pamphlet before us, which has suggested these reflections, Mr. Forster has entered into a calm and searching examination of Mr. Macaulay's charges, and of the authorities by which he professes to sustain them. It has seldom been our lot to see a writer of eminence in modern times, so completely convicted of omissions and perversions of fact,-of crude and unauthorized inferences,-and of utterly unfounded and gratuitous assumptions. The inevitable impression is, that Mr. Macaulay not only wields 'the pen of a ready writer,' but of a reckless one too. Never, surely, was the character of a great and good man assailed upon more paltry grounds--never before was the strong language of apparent indignation backed by such weak and pitiful proofs. We have room only for a brief analysis.
1. The charge that W. Penn accepted a commission from the maids of honour, to act for them in an attempt to extort money from the relatives of the young girls at Taunton, who had presented the Duke of Monmouth with a standard.
It is founded on a letter of Lord Sunderland's directed to Mr. Penne,' intimating that the ladies had a 'designe to employ him and Mr. Walden in making a composition.' Whether it was the 'G. Penne’ mentioned in Pepy's Diary and Roberts’ Life of Monmouth, or he usually styled William Penne, Esq.,' Mr. Macaulay does not even attempt to prove. Having assumed that W. Penn was the person addressed, he further assumes and asserts that W. Penn accepted and executed the office for which the Mr. Penne was 'designed '! We could not honestly hang a dog upon such evidence. Oldmixon, a cotemporary historian, distinctly states that Brent and Crane were the parties who really accepted the agency. Mr. Macaulay often quotes Oldmixon on other points--but he quietly hides his testimony when Penn is to be accused of hypocrisy! Moreover, an extant petition shows that Brent was engaged in this transaction, while a warrant, dated a month after Sunderland's letter to 'Mr. Penne,' speaks of the agent employed by her Majesty's maids of honour '—a word as applicable to Brent as it would be inapplicable to W. Penn. Finally, even if Penn were solicited to interfere (after the seizure of the girls and the naming of their ransom), for what purpose could it be save that of mercy—to reduce the shameful demands of the court 'one third,'— not to “exact ransom,' as Mr. Macaulay puts it.
2. The charge that W. Penn attended the legal murders of Gaunt and Cornish.
So did Dickens that of the Mannings. The purpose of such attendance is everything. Burnet—no friend of Penn's-shows that it was most probably with the view of making a true report, and effective remonstrance, to the king.
3. The charge that Penn attempted to seduce Kiffin, the London Baptist, to the side of the King, by the offer of an alderman's gown.
Now Kiffin himself— whose memoirs are cited by Mr. Macaulay-distinctly says that ‘he used all the means he could to be excused, both by some lords near the king, and also by Sir Nicholas Butler and Mr. Penn.' Penn, says Kiffin, was employed by himself to ercuse his refusal of the gown--Penn, says Macaulay, was employed by the king in the work of seducing'Kiffin to accept ! 'but to no purpose. The fact is, Kiffin did accept it, after six weeks consideration'-not after Penn's imaginary temptation.
4. The charge that W. Penn did his best to seduce the heads of Magdalen College from the path of right, by intimidation, etc., ' using a bishopric as a bait to tempt a divine to perjury.'