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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Camden reproaches him with this


It

might perhaps be said that it was in Scotland that the two systems arose which since that time, although in various shapes, have divided Britain and Europe. In the historians just mentioned we might see the types of two schools, whose opposite conceptions of universal and especially of English history, set forth by writers of brilliant ability, have exercised the greatest influence upon prevailing ideas.

In England these ideas certainly gained admission, but they did not make way at that time. When Richard Hooker expresses the popular ideas as to the primitive free development of society, this is done principally in order to point out the extensive authority of the legislative power even over the clergy, and to defend the ecclesiastical supremacy of the English crown, which had been established by the enactments of that very power. The question was mooted how far the sovereign was above the laws. Many wished to derive these prerogatives from the laws; others rejected them. Among those who maintained them unconditionally Walter Ralegh appears, in whose works we find a peculiar deduction of them in the statement that the sovereign, according to Justinian's phrase, was the living law: he derives the royal authority from the Divine Will, which the will of man could only acknowledge. He says in one place that the sovereign stands in the same relation to the law, as a living man to a dead body.

What a remarkable

work would it have been, had Walter Ralegh himself recorded the history of his time. But the opposition between parties was not so outspoken in England as in Scotland; it had not to justify itself by general principles, to which men could give their adhesion; it contained too much personal ill-feeling and hatred for any one who was involved in the strife to have been able to find satisfaction in expressing himself on this head. The history of the world which Walter Ralegh had leisure to write in his prison, is an endeavour to put together the materials of Universal History as they lay before him from ancient times, and so make them more intelligible. He touches on the events of his age only in allusions, which excited attention at the time, but remain obscure to posterity.

In direct opposition to the Scots, especially to Buchanan, Camden, who wrote in Latin like the former, composed his Annals of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. His contemporary, De Thou, borrowed much from Buchanan. Camden reproaches him with this, partly because in Scotland men preached atrocious principles with regard to the authority of the people and their right of keeping their kings in order. The elder Cecil had invited him to write the history of the Queen, and had communicated to him numerous documents for this purpose, which were either in his own possession or belonged to the national archives. Camden set cautiously to work, and went slowly on. He has himself depicted the trouble it cost him to decipher the historical contents of these scattered and dusty papers. He has certainly not surmounted all the difficulties which stand in the way of composing a contemporary history. Here and there we find even in his pages a regard paid to the living, especially to King James himself, which we would rather see away. But such passages are rare. Camden's Annals take a high rank among histories of contemporary transactions. They are of such authenticity in regard to facts, and show so intimate an acquaintance with causes gathered from trustworthy information, that we can follow the author, even where we do not possess the documents to which he refers. His judgments are moderate and at the same time in all important questions they are decided.


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