Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY IV.: ON THE LIFE OF COLONEL HUTCHINSON, MEMBER OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT, WRITTEN BY HIS WIDOW LUCY APSLEY. - The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era
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ESSAY IV.: ON THE LIFE OF COLONEL HUTCHINSON, MEMBER OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT, WRITTEN BY HIS WIDOW LUCY APSLEY. - Augustin Thierry, The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era 
The Historical Essays, published under the Title of “Dix Ans d’Études historiques,” and Narratives of the Merovingian Era; or, Scenes of the Sixth Century, with an Autobiographical Preface (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1845).
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ON THE LIFE OF COLONEL HUTCHINSON, MEMBER OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT, WRITTEN BY HIS WIDOW LUCY APSLEY.
Towards the middle of the fourteenth century, twenty English knights, returning together from the wars in Flanders, passed through France on their way into Aquitania. Arrived near Meaux, they met on their road one of those bands of peasants who were at that time in rebellion against their masters, in order to constrain them to be just. The English nobles, instead of quietly proceeding, thought themselves obliged to spare the lords of the place the trouble of massacreing their rebellious serfs; they rushed, mounted on their war horses, and in complete armour, into the midst of these almost unarmed men; they killed a great number, and pursued their road, says the simple chronicler, congratulating themselves on the bravery they had displayed for the ladies.
Thus, in spite of their quarrels, the nobles of all countries considered themselves brothers, and the gentleman belonged above all things to the nation of gentlemen. We ourselves, as freemen, belong above all things to the nation of freemen, and those who, at a distance from us, struggle for independence, and those who fall in its cause, are our brothers and our heroes.
By this standard, the life of Colonel Hutchinson, an English patriot of 1640, belongs to us as much as to England; for it was our cause struggling in the war which Charles I., declared against the Parliament; it was to testify to our cause that Hampden, Sydney, Henry Vane, and Colonel Hutchinson himself perished. His memoirs, long unknown, ought to have the same value in our eyes, that the discovery of some legend relating the merits and courage of a martyr in foreign lands had for the early Christians. The work which is now ocupying us has another interest in addition to this: it is, that the life of the patriot is described by his wife; it is, that the mind of the historian is nobly developed therein by the side of the mind of the hero, and that in the simple narrative of the actions of one mind, we find two great models.
In the struggling and perilous times of infant Christianity, the wife of the Christian was the most touching of characters. Now that resistance, danger, and moral strength exist for patriotism, the most touching of characters is that of the woman who has shared the austere life of the patriot. Mrs. Hutchinson seems to have felt this in writing his memoirs, and this sentiment contributes to give her narrative an air of grandeur which extends without effort to the smallest circumstances. Natural attachments, increased by the power of a great mutual conviction, one thought uniting two existences, domestic afflictions effaced before the prospect of a great future, liberty appearing in the horizon as an infallible providence, such are the great ideas and images of happiness presented by this book; and there is no enthusiastic exaggeration in it; there is nothing in it but what is simple and intelligible to minds capable of feeling and delighting in the truth.
Colonel Hutchinson’s distinguishing traits were like those of all great characters, calmness and strength. Deprived of his fortune by the sacrifices he had made in the cause of liberty, driven from his post by Cromwell, calumniated by the pamphleteers whom the Protector employed, denounced to the people sometimes as a traitor, sometimes as a fanatic, his constancy was unmovable. The despot, who had no conception of any great thoughts apart from ambition, thought one day that he had done sufficient to conquer him, and sent to ask him in his retreat, if he persisted in keeping himself aloof from affairs, and living useless to the public. “When the moment for being useful shall arrive,” answered the colonel, “I will not keep myself aloof. I await that moment. I will not share the infamy of those who, for gold, are concerned in the servitude of their country.”
This energetic answer was a sentence of proscription for him who had pronounced it; Colonel Hutchinson was destined by the Protector to share the fetters of Henry Vane. But before Cromwell had sent his satellites to seize the patriot, death overtook himself, and soon after, the restoration threw into other hands the inheritance of his power and his revenge. Those whom Cromwell had hated were summoned to appear before Cromwell’s courtiers, disguised as royal judges; several were condemned to death either as judges of the late king, or as incorrigible patriots; a great many were banished and deprived of their estates: Colonel Hutchinson was exempted from all these sentences: “But,” says the author of the Memoirs, “he complained bitterly of being spared on that fatal day, when the cause to which he had devoted his life was betrayed and condemned. He looked upon himself as judged and executed in the persons of his friends. Although grateful to God for his deliverance, he was doubtful whether he ought to accept it: ‘Never,’ said he, to his wife, whose care and anxious services had contributed to save him from this peril, ‘have you done any thing which has displeased me more.’ Had it not been for the tears of his family, he would willingly have given himself up to death: one thought alone determined him to endure life, which was that he believed his days to be reserved for greater sacrifices.”
When Charles II., not to violate his word too shamelessly, had proposed a law of amnesty which restricted the course of retaliation, which the restoration naturally would pursue, he said confidentially in the House of Lords, that other means would be employed to get rid of the intractable patriots. These words had their effect: after a year’s repose, Colonel Hutchinson was carried away from his country house, and conducted to the Tower of London. He requested to be informed of the order by virtue of which he was imprisoned; this was refused, and all that he could learn was, that a ministerial despatch had enjoined the governor of the province in which he resided to comprehend him in any conspiracy whatsoever. The colonel, condemned without motive to an indefinite period of imprisonment, forbade his wife and friends taking any steps for his liberation. “I am now happy,” said he; “I no longer owe these men any thing; they had bound my hands by sparing me; their injustice restores me my liberty. I have no longer any thing but my courage and prudence to take counsel of.” It seemed as if his misfortune had lightened him of a painful burden, and his natural gaiety was increased by it. When he saw his wife grieve over him and weep, “Do you then forget,” said he, “for what cause I suffer? do you forget that this cause is God’s cause, and will not perish.” “The cause will live, I know,” answered she, “but you will die in this dungeon, deprived of air and light.” “I shall die; but what does that matter to me, provided the cause triumphs, provided my blood hastens its victory, by falling upon our enemies.” Colonel Hutchinson sank under it after eleven months’ imprisonment.
There are singular resemblances between this character and that of one of our countrymen, whose name must live amongst us as long as the name of liberty. M. de Lafayette has preserved the same calmness and imperturbable serenity in all the vicissitudes of his long political career. In America, in his triumphs; in Germany, in the depths of his prison; when a whole nation adored him, when that same nation called him a traitor, M. de Lafayette was the same; no success has been able to elate him, no reverse to damp him. It was with smiles that he learnt in his fields of Lagrange the plots which a suspicious despot was contriving to implicate him in. This even mind, thoroughly devoted without apparent exaltation, seems attached to liberty as we all are to life, by a kind of involuntary inclination. Whoever saw M. de Lafayette without knowing him, would at once say of him that he was an amiable man, and be surprised to learn afterwards that this man, of so mild a nature, bears within him forty years of resistance to all the seductions and all the threats of power.
Colonel Hutchinson has found the most worthy historian of his life in the woman who was his companion in it. She understood all the secrets of that life of patriotism and devotion. She is proud of having shared it; she believes in the infallible advent of human liberty; and it is with scorn that from the loftiness of this great thought, she looks upon the pitiable malice of despots, and their vain and odious crimes. “They were able to kill the body of him whom I loved,” she exclaims; “but they have killed neither his glory nor his example.”