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LIFE AND CHARACTER, &c.
The stock of historical knowledge has been of late
years considerably augmented, by learned and ingenious men, from sources of private information. They have carefully selected many interesting particulars from the letters and authentic documents of several distinguished individuals, whose characters and eminent services are deeply interwoven with the political history of this country. Of the importance of such materials, to enable us to form a just and accurate estimate of great events and of their causes, no doubt can be entertained.
When we consider how extremely difficult it is to trace the occurrences of the day to their real origin, and how few are properly qualified to transmit to posterity any other narrative of them than what regards the chronological order in which they passed; we shall not be inclined to depreciate the labours of those who have recorded the transactions of their own times, especially if we are convinced of the correctness,
fidelity, and truth with which they are related. Such authorities will tend to remove much of that scepticism, which not unfrequently prevails on many historical facts, and for which there is too often abundant reason.
Sir John Lowther, Baronet, afterward created Viscount Lonsdale, was born in 1655, at HackthorpHall in the parish of Lowther, in the county of Westmoreland, and was the thirty-first knight of his family in an almost direct line. From many letters and papers now extant, he appears to have been intimately connected with all those illustrious persons, through whose virtuous exertions the Revolution was happily accomplished.
His mother died, when he was not above six years old; and the premature death of his father soon afterward placed him entirely under the care of his grandfather, Sir John Lowther of Lowther, who sent him to a publie school at Kendal, where he remained only one year. subsequently removed to the school at Sedbergh, in the West-Riding of Yorkshire; and before he had attained the age of fifteen years was admitted of Queen's College, Oxford, whence, after a short stay of a year and a half, he was sent to travel. But his continental tour extended no farther than to the city of Angers on the Loire, the whole time of his being abroad not exceeding eighteen months, twelve of which were spent at Sens. He has candidly acknow
ledged that, although his education was such as to enable him to imbibe a taste of every thing that youth should know, he lost, for want of due care, almost all the advantages which he might have derived from it. He had acquired a more than ordinary knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages; and his grandfather was so much beyond measure exalted with the idea of his superior talents and abilities, that he introduced him into the world at too early a period. “ The rudiments of school-learning were,” he says, “ planted, but not rooted;” while the indulgence of his academical tutor caused him to forget what he had laboured to attain in the preceding part of his life. His own good sense suggested to him that, if a parent send his son tó the university to be educated as a gentleman, he should by all means engage a governor to attend him, who should be so much of a scholar as to improve his school-learning, yet so complacent and polished in his manners, that his pupil might respect and love him and delight in his company. For instructions are no longer profitable, than when they are accompanied with an esteem for him that instils them. The want of such a governor was considered, by Mr. Lowther, as the error of his education : for having been sent alone to Oxford, and also to France, his time was utterly lost. Such is the account, which he gives of himself. His own ingenuous
modesty might probably induce him to form a less favourable opinion of his proficiency in learning, than it deserved.
He had frequent occasions of regretting how very defective this nation was in the education of gentlemen. He remarked, that there was sufficient provision for those who devoted themselves to the study of divinity, physic, and the civil law at the universities; but, that the education of gentlemen was a thing so foreign to the notions, birth, and pursuits of those men, and the discipline with regard to them so loose, that for a very long time it has very manifestly been the ruin of all those young persons, who are easily susceptible of bad impressions; while the naturally good and virtuous are instructed in nothing but a little useless sophistry, an awkward garb and habit which requires a long time to unlearn, and which nothing less than two or three years' travel is able to remove. He adds: “ To that negligence are we grown, that it is not so much as thought of to educate any in qualifications for foreign ministry or embassy, so that in reality we are the scorn and contempt of all the courts of Europe ; having scarcely any body that understands any thing relating to our own, or the common interest of princes : insomuch, that at this time the King is obliged to employ the Chaplain of the late Envoy in Sweden, and one taken for charity from a tavern-bar in Germay In.
Denmark, I think he hath none, nor in Italy, nor Switzerland, unless a French refugee *"
On the demise of his grandfather, in 1675, Mr. Lowther was elected one of the knights for the county of Westmoreland, and continued it's representative in parliament as long as he remained a commoner. The distinguished loyalty of his ancestors, and their constant affection to, ward the Protestant religion, operated on his virtuous mind as powerful incentives to emulate their examples. He uniformly declared himself an advocate for the test and corporation-acts. He was convinced, that an abrogation of those laws would effectually produce all the horrors of anarchy and confusion. Hence we find him opposing, from the best motives, the designs of James Duke of York. When the heir apparent of the crown of England openly avowed himself a Papist, and had given the most unequivocal marks of his detestation of the established religion of his country, nothing could be more gloomy than the prospect of his ensuing reign. Hence the plan for excluding him from the throne commenced so early as in the year 1668. It was revived in 1673; but the bill for his total exclusion was not brought into the House of Commons until the fifteenth day of May, 1679. When it was read the second time, it passed the
In 1696. (MS. in possession of the present Earl of Lonsdale.)