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ever the balance of Europe. Of this great fcheme he lived not to fee the vanity, or to feel the difappointment; for he was murdered in the midft of his mighty preparations.
The French, however, were in this reign taught to know their own power; and the great defigns of a king, whose wisdom they had fo long experienced, even though they were not brought to actual experiment, difpofed them to confider themselves as mafters of the destiny of their neighbours; and, from that time, he that fhall nicely examine their schemes and conduct, will, I believe, find that they began to take an air of fuperiority to which they had never pretended before; and that they have been always employed more or lefs openly upon fchemes of dominion, though with frequent interruptions from domeftick troubles, and with those intermiffions which human counfels must always fuffer, as men intrusted with great affairs are diffipated in youth, and languid in age, are embarrassed by competitors, or, without any external reason, change their minds.
France was now no longer in dread of infults and invafions from England. She was not only able to maintain her own territories, but prepared, on all occafions, to invade others; and we had now a neighbour whofe interest it was to be an enemy, and who has difturbed us, from that time to this, with open hoftility or fecret machinations.
Such was the state of England and its neighbours, when Elizabeth left the crown to James of Scotland. It has not, I think, been frequently obferved by hiftorians at how critical a time the union of the VOL. X. M
two kingdoms happened. Had England and Scotland continued feparate kingdoms, when France was established in the full poffeffion of her natural power, the Scots, in continuance of the league, which it would now have been more than ever their intereft to obferve, would, upon every inftigation of the French court, have raised an army with French money, and haraffed us with an invasion, in which they would have thought themfelves fuccefsful, whatever numbers they might have left behind them. To a people warlike and indigent, an incurfion into a rich country is never hurtful. The pay of France and the plunder of the northern counties, would always have tempted them to hazard their lives, and we fhould have been under a neceffity of keeping a line of garrifons along our border.
This trouble, however, we efcaped by the acceffion of king James; but it is uncertain, whether his natural difpofition did not injure us more than this accidental condition happened to benefit us. He was a man of great theoretical knowledge, but of no practical wifdom; he was very well able to difcern the true intereft of himfelf, his kingdom, and his pofterity, but facrificed it, upon all occafions, to his present pleasure or his prefent eafe; fo confcious of his own knowledge and ablities, that he would not fuffer a minifter to govern, and so lax of attention, and timorous of oppofition, that he was not able to govern for himself. With this character James quietly faw the Dutch invade our commerce; the French grew every day ftronger and Aronger; and the Proteftant intereft, of which he boafted
boafted himself the head, was oppreffed on every fide, while he writ, and hunted, and difpatched ambaffadors, who, when their mafter's weakness was once known, were treated in foreign courts with very little ceremony. James, however, took care to be flattered at home, and was neither angry nor ashamed at the appearance that he made in ' other countries.
Thus England grew weaker, or, what is in political estimation the fame thing, faw her neighbours grow ftronger, without receiving proportionable additions to her own power. Not that the mifchief was fo great as it is generally conceived or represented; for, I believe, it may be made to appear, that the wealth of the nation was, in this reign, very much increased, though that of the crown was leffened. Our reputation for war was impaired; but commerce feems to have been carried on with great industry and vigour, and nothing was wanting, but that we should have defended ourfelves from the incroachments of our neighbours.
The inclination to plant colonies in America still continued, and this being the only project in which men of adventure and enterprise could exert their qualities in a pacifick reign, multitudes, who were difcontented with their condition in their native country, and fuch multitudes there will always be, fought relief, or at least a change in the western regions, where they fettled in the northern part of the continent, at a distance from the Spaniards, at that time almoft the only nation that had any power or will to obftruct us.
Such was the condition of this country when the unhappy Charles inherited the crown. He had feen the errors of his father, without being able to prevent them, and, when he began his reign, endeavoured to raise the nation to its former dignity. The French Papifts had begun a new war upon the Proteftants: Charles fent a fleet to invade Rhée and relieve Rochelle, but his attempts were defeated, and the Proteftants were fubdued. The Dutch, grown wealthy and strong, claimed the right of fishing in the British feas: this claim the king, who faw the increasing power of the States of Holland, refolved to contest. But for this end it was neceffary to build a fleet, and a fleet could not be built without expence he was advised to levy fhip-money, which gave occafion to the Civil War, of which the events and conclufion are too well known.
While the inhabitants of this ifland were embroiled among themselves, the power of France and Holland was every day increasing. The Dutch had overcome the difficulties of their infant commonwealth; and as they still retained their vigour and industry, from rich grew continually richer, and from powerful more powerful. They extended their traffick, and had not yet admitted luxury; fo that they had the means and the will to accumulate wealth without any incitement to spend it. The French, who wanted nothing to make them powerful, but a prudent regulation of their revenues, and a proper use of their natural advantages, by the fucceffive care of skilful minifters, became every day ftronger, and more confcious of their strength.
About this time it was, that the French first began to turn their thoughts to traffick and navigation, and to defire like other națions an American territory. All the fruitful and valuable parts of the western world were already either occupied or claimed, and nothing remained for France but the leavings of other navigators, for fhe was not yet haughty enough to feize what the neighbouring powers had already appropriated.
The French therefore contented themfelves with fending a colony to Canada, a cold uncomfortable uninviting region, from which nothing but furs and fish were to be had, and where the new inhabitants could only pass a laborious and neceffitous life, in perpetual regret of the delicioufnefs and plenty of their native country.
Notwithstanding the opinion which our countrymen have been taught to entertain of the comprehenfion and forefight of French politicians, I am not able to persuade myself, that when this colony was first planted, it was thought of much value, even by thofe that encouraged it; there was probably nothing more intended than to provide a drain into which the wafte of an exuberant nation might be thrown, a place where thofe who could do no good might live without the power of doing mischief. Some new advantage they undoubtedly faw, or imagined themselves to fee, and what more was neceffary to the establishment of the colony was fupplied by natural inclination to experiments, and that impatience of doing nothing, to which mankind perhaps owe much of what is imagined to be effected by more fplendid motives.