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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Not only to avert the strife of hostile elements


It has been my wish hitherto in my narrative to suppress myself as it were, and only to let the events speak and the mighty forces be seen which, arising out of and strengthened by each other's action in the course of centuries, now stood up against one another, and became involved in a stormy contest, which discharged itself in bloody and terrible outbursts, and at the same time was fraught with the decision of questions most important for the European world.

The British islands, which in ancient times had been the extreme border-land, or even beyond the extreme border-land of civilisation, had now become one of its most important centres, and, owing to the union just effected, had taken a grand position among the powers of the world. But it is nevertheless clear at first sight that the constituent elements of the population were far from being completely fused. In many places in the two great islands the old Celtic stock still existed with its original character unaltered. The Germanic race, which certainly had an indubitable preponderance and was sovereign over the other, was split into two different kingdoms, which, despite the union of the two crowns, still remained distinct. The hostility of the two races was increased by a difference of religion, which was closely connected with this hostility though it was not merged in it. As a general rule the men of Celtic extraction remained true to the Roman Catholic faith, while the Germanic race

was penetrated by Protestant convictions. Yet there were Protestants among the former, and we know how numerous and how powerful the Catholics were among the latter. Besides this, moreover, opposite tendencies with regard to ecclesiastical forms struck root in the two kingdoms. It was now the principal aim of the family by whose hereditary claim the two kingdoms and the islands had been united, not only to avert the strife of hostile elements, but also to reconcile them with one another, and to unite them in a single commonwealth under its authority, which all acknowledged and which it was desired to extend by such an union. This was a scheme which opened a great prospect, but at the same time involved no inconsiderable danger. Each of the two kingdoms watched jealously over its separate independence. They would not allow the dynasty to bring about a common government, which would thus have set itself up above them, and would have established a new kind of sovereignty over them. While the crown sought to enforce prerogatives which were contested, it had to encounter in both kingdoms the claims advanced by the holders of power in the nation, whom in turn it endeavoured to repress. The quarrel was complicated by a conception of the relations of the crown to foreign powers answering to its new position, and running counter to the national view. At the same time very perceptible analogies to this state of things were offered by the religious wars, which began to convulse the continent more violently than ever, and aroused corresponding feelings in the British isles. The dynasty which tried to appease the prevailing opposition of principles might find that, on the contrary, it rather fomented the strife, and was itself drawn into it. This in fact took place. Springs of action of the most opposite nature and antagonisms growing out of nationality, religion, and politics, which could not be understood apart from one another, co-operated in giving rise to events which do not form a single continuous course of action, but rather present a varied and changing result, due to elements which were grand and full of life, but still waited for their final settlement. It is clear how much this depended on the character and discernment of the king.


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