Page:The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, Volume 16.djvu/97

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89
STEPHEN.

toward the happiness of his subjects or himself; courtesy and valour, liberality and clemency, in an eminent degree; especially the last, which he carried to an extreme, though very pardonable, yet hardly consisting with prudence, or his own safety. If we except his usurpation of the crown, he must be allowed a prince of great justice; which most writers affirm to have been always unblemished, except in that single instance: for, as to his treatment of the bishops and the earl of Chester, it seems very excusable by the necessity of the time; and it was the general opinion, if he had not used that proceeding with the latter, it would have cost him his crown. Perhaps his injustice to the empress might likewise admit a little extenuation. Four kings successively had sat on the throne without any regard to lineal descent; a period beyond the memory of most men then alive; whereby the people had lost much of that devotion they were used to bear toward an established succession: besides, the government of a woman was then a thing unknown, and for that reason disliked by all who professed to hate innovations.

But the wisdom of this prince was by no means equal to the rest of his virtues. He came to the crown upon as fair a title as his predecessor, being elected by the general consent of the nobles, through the credit of his brother, and his own personal merit. He had no disturbance for some time, which he might easily have employed in settling the kingdom, and acquiring the love of his people. He had treasure enough to raise and pay armies, without burdening the subject. His competitor was a woman, whose sex was the least of her infirmities, and with

whom