Address Delivered Before the Historical Society of the University of North Carolina, June 6, 1855 (Classic Reprint)

Address Delivered Before the Historical Society of the University of North Carolina, June 6, 1855 (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Address Delivered Before the Historical Society of the University of North Carolina, June 6, 1855

Nearly two centuries have elapsed since the mighty spirit of Oliver Cromwell went forth to its last account, to receive its reward according to the deeds done in the body; and yet mankind are almost as far as ever from being agreed as to the true character of that extraordinary person, and as to the nature and value of the influence he exerted on the destinies of our race.

Yet, certainly, the events of his life were neither obscure nor ambiguous. His deeds were not done in a corner, but in the face of alarmed and admiring Europe. His speeches were uttered to listening senates, and at the head of armies. His letters have been preserved among the most important state papers of great kingdoms. Yet, with all this glare of light falling upon him, his moral and intellectual proportions seem still vague and indeterminate.

By some persons he is regarded not only as a hero of the noblest type, but the purest of patriots, and scarcely less than the most devout of saints. By others, again, he is considered as a coarse, vulgar upstart - possessed, indeed, of uncommon abilities, but who owed his guilty elevation rather to the favor of circumstances, and a remarkable and detestable combination of low cunning with unscrupulous violence, than to any marked superiority in courage or intellect over his contemporaries. The last view has been, until of late, the most generally received.

It was the misfortune of Cromwell to belong to a party which must be, on the whole, pronounced illiterate, although John Milton was a member of it. It was his fault or his misfortune that he was at the same time disliked by the Republicans and abhorred by the Royalists; that by the former he was regarded as the supplanter of the liberties of his country - by the latter, as scarcely anything else than an incarnate fiend.

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