Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/90

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But the King, who had been so forward to assume the cares and responsibilities of the government, was little aware of the troubles that were in store for him. The conflicting interests of Paganism, Protestantism and Romanism, which now centered upon the capital, and, it may be said, upon the head of the State himself, were enough to disconcert a wiser and more experienced man than he. If amidst the perplexities thus occasioned he should become disconcerted, inconsistent and confused, and should even take to drink, as a counter excitement to the annoyances which he met with in the administration of the government, it is no more than we have frequently seen in the United States on the part of men who have been ranked among our ablest and best of statesmen. The character of the King, in the course of a few months, seemed to undergo a change. But though distinguished for amiable qualities and an instinctive hatred of cruelty, he had never become a Christian. An impulsive and excitable temperament exposed him to certain evil influences thrown around him; and while naturally inclined to superstition, and when under the influence of strong drink, he behaved, at times, it is said, like a madman. Without the ability or experience to meet the requirements of the new condition of things, he became a time-server, siding at one time with the Pagans, at another with the Romanists, and at another with the Protestants, and thus endeavored by exciting the jealousies and self-interests of the various parties, to keep the power in his own hands. He was a fit subject to be acted on by crafty and designing men; and unfortunately the temptation to act upon him was only too great. The consequences to the King proved disastrous. He was assassinated on the 12th of May, 1863, in his palace, by a party of nobles led by his Prime Minister.

In the course of the contest between the King and his nobles, he had claimed that he alone was sovereign, and that his word alone was law; and that his person was sacred, and that he would punish severely the oppressers of his will, an idea of kingly authority natural to all those who exercise it, but which the people of the Western world have succeeded in reducing to some limitations. It was natural, too, that the King should strive to maintain the authority and prerogatives which he had inherited from his ancestors, and claim to be the judge how far the innovations being inevitably wrought upon it by the labors of the missionaries should extend. It is needless to go