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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Character of William III

By Benjamin Wadsworth (1670–1737)

[Born in Milton, Mass. Died at Cambridge, Mass., 1737. King William Lamented in America. 1702.]

OUR late King William was a great blessing to his people with respect to his example in general. He was by his example an encourager of virtue and discourager of vice. I am not able to give his character and therefore dare not undertake it, unless in repeating the words of one who has attempted it.

“A Prince the best qualified for a throne, being great without pride, true to his word, wise in his deliberations, secret in his councils, generous in his attempts, undaunted in dangers, valiant without cruelty. Who loves justice with moderation, government without tyranny, religion without persecution, and devotion without hypocrisy or superstition. A Prince unchanged under all events, never puffed up with success or disheartened with hardships and misfortunes; always the same though under various circumstances, which is the true symptom of a great soul.”…

Some persons when advanced to highest power and authority, have given up themselves to the most sluggish ease, the most shameful licentiousness, and the most brutish pleasures: they have lived as though their chief business was to employ all their power in satisfying their cursed lusts; they have been guilty of greater cruelty, oppression and tyranny than can easily be expressed. Such were several of the Roman Emperors; one of which was so vile as to wish, “That all the Roman people had but one neck, that so he might destroy them all at once.” Such are ordinarily, some of the sorest plagues, the greatest curses that a people meet withal. But our deceased, bewailed Sovereign was quite contrary. He was ever ready to deny himself even of lawful, allowable recreations and pleasures for the good of his people, and that from his very youth. He was born at the Hague in Holland, November 4, 1650. And before he was seventeen years old, he did wonderful things indeed in delivering Holland, his native country, from the unjust assaults, ravages, and insults of the French power. He frequently and eminently exposed his person in dangerous battles to recover liberty for his country. Like another Nehemiah he sought the welfare of his people. Neither did he seek the welfare of any one Nation only, but the welfare of all Protestant people. When England, Scotland, and Ireland were in languishing circumstances, almost quite deprived of liberty and property; having their religion, laws, and lives in utmost hazard; sinking under arbitrary power and tyranny; almost overwhelmed with Popery and slavery (or at least in eminent danger of being so),—I say, when they were in this woful case, this illustrious and noble Prince, with great generosity, valor, and courage, did venture his person for their relief, and came over the sea to help them. He landed in England November 5, 1688, and never ceased his prudent applications till the kingdom was quietly possessed of those precious things, which were before so much endangered. The greatness of his spirit and action in this affair is not easily to be described. ’Twas a pious and noble undertaking that has but few (if any) parallels in history. Neither did he seek himself in this affair, but the good of our nation and the Protestants in general, declaring himself in these words: “We have nothing before our eyes in this our undertaking, but the preservation of the Protestant religion, the covering of all men from persecution for their consciences, and the securing the whole nation the free enjoyment of all their laws, rights, and liberties under a just and legal government.”

Indeed, this declaration was noble and generous, and his following practice was truly answerable to it. Thus he was, under God, the deliverer of England from Popery and slavery, which they were so eminently in danger of. In this thing, God did that which was wonderful in the eyes and rejoicing to the hearts of his faithful children. Hereupon he was within a little while, viz., Feb. 13, 1688, proclaimed and soon after, viz., April 11, 1688, crowned King of England. And when he had done all this for our nation, he was yet willing to do more. He carried it towards them as their protector, defender, and nursing father; he led their armies, fought their battles, and frequently exposed and jeoparded his royal person in the high places of the field, for their good and welfare. He exposed himself to dangers by sea and land for their sakes. The Protestant interest lay near to his royal heart; his desire and ambition was to suppress Popery and slavery as much as possible and to advance the contrary; and never spared to venture his royal life in the most hazardous enterprises for that end. While he thus fought the battles of the Lord, Divine Protection was a shield unto him; though he was several times wounded in battle, yet not dangerously. Once when a bullet slanted upon his right shoulder, took out a piece of his coat, and tore the skin and flesh, he said upon it: “There was no necessity the bullet should have come nearer.” He put himself under Divine Protection, and though there were many Popish, hellish plots and conspiracies against his sacred life, yet merciful Divine Providence rendered them abortive and fruitless. In his great undertakings for God’s People, he put not his confidence in men, but trusted in the Lord. When he was coming to save England he said in his Declaration, “We hope that all people will judge rightly of us, and approve of these, our proceedings, but we chiefly rely on the blessing of God for the success of this, our undertaking, in which we place our whole and only confidence.”

And in the morning before he designed a terrible battle with his enemies, he has retired to his coach with his chaplain, to have his person and affairs seriously and suitably recommended to the protection and blessing of Heaven.

Neither did our courageous and religious King count it enough to expose his person in time of war for the good of his people, but when he had obtained peace for them he did his utmost to make them happy.