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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The Remonstrance had strengthened him in it 'On my soul


Buckingham

felt the hatred which men entertained towards him, but thought that he should still turn it into admiration. He wished to atone for the faults of his youth, and, as he said, to enter on new paths traced on the lines of the ancient maxims and ancient policy of England, in order to bring back better days.[486] He had to a certain extent made himself the centre of Protestant interests. Every one expected that he would proceed without delay to the relief of Rochelle, for which all preparations had been made. The destinies of the world seemed to hang upon his resolutions. And he had just received better tidings from that town: no one had ever seen him fuller of strength and energy. At this culminating point of his life he was smitten by a sudden and horrible death. As he stepped out of the dressing-room in his lodging at Portsmouth, and was crossing the hall, in order to mount his carriage and drive to the King, he was murdered by a stroke from a dagger.

The murderer might easily have escaped, for the house was full of men, among them many Frenchmen, on whom the first suspicion fell. While all were crying out for the villain who had murdered the Duke, the murderer said, 'No villain did it, but an honourable man. I am the man.' Men saw before them a lean man with red hair, and dark melancholy features. His name was Felton: he had served in the last maritime expeditions, and had formerly been passed over when there was a vacancy for promotion. He could

not endure to be placed below men who had never borne arms, merely because they were in the Duke's favour. The strongest impression had been produced on him by the Remonstrance,[487] which censured similar transactions, and at the same time represented the Duke as the enemy of religion and his country. Felton was one of these men, who from the way in which they combine religious and political opinions are capable of anything. In this respect he may be compared with the assassins of William of Orange, Henry III, and Henry IV; except that he came forward in behalf of the opposite side, and in his case there is no mention of any participation of a minister of religion. A paper was found on him in which he pronounced that man cowardly and base who was not ready to sacrifice his life for the cause of his God, his king, and his country. In his lodging there was another, on which he had put down some principles, which he seemed to have drawn from one or two books, and which make his intentions somewhat clearer. It is there said that a man has no relations which place him under greater obligations than those which he has with his country; that the welfare of the people is the highest law, and that 'God himself has enacted this law, that whatsoever is for the profit or benefit of the commonwealth should be accounted to be lawful.'[488] He was believed, and rightly, when he affirmed that he had no accomplices: the slight put upon him, he said, had inspired him with the thought, the Remonstrance had strengthened him in it: 'On my soul,' he repeated, 'nothing but the Remonstrance. He thought that he might remove the man out of the way who obstructed the public welfare. And he looked with some feeling of sarcasm at those who testified their horror of him when he was led by: 'In your hearts,' he cried out, 'you rejoice in my deed.' There were some in fact who really displayed such a feeling: the crews, who had once already wished to mutiny, disguised their sentiments least; over their beer and pipes they gave the assassin a cheer. Others lamented most that an Englishman should have been capable of assassination. Felton himself was afterwards convinced that his principles were false. He was told that a man had other still nearer and deeper obligations to God, and to his own soul, than to his country; that no one should do the smallest evil for the sake of the greatest good,[489] much less then a monstrous crime like his in behalf of a cause which to his blinded eyes appeared good. He at last thanked his instructors for their lesson, and only asked in mercy to be allowed before his execution to do penance in sackcloth with ashes on his head, and a cord round his neck, in presence of all the world.


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