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BOLINGBROKE AS A STATESMAN. 1 (1863.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 4 (Political, Literary, & Literary Essays) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 4.
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BOLINGBROKE AS A STATESMAN.1
Who now reads Bolingbroke? was asked sixty years ago. Who knows anything about him? we may ask now. Professed students of our history or of our literature may have special knowledge; but out of the general mass of educated men, how many could give an intelligible account of his career? How many could describe even vaguely his character as a statesman? Our grandfathers and their fathers quarrelled for two generations as to the Peace of Utrecht, but only an odd person here and there could now give an account of its provisions. The most cultivated lady would not mind asking “The Peace of Utrecht! yes—what was that?” Whether Mr. St. John was right to make that peace; whether Queen Anne was right to create him a peer for making it; whether the Whigs were right in impeaching him for making it—the mass of men must have forgotten. So is history unmade. Even now, the dust of forgetfulness is falling over the Congress of Vienna and the Peace of Paris; we are forgetting the last great pacification as we have wholly forgotten the pacification before that; in another fifty years “Vienna” will be as “Utrecht,” and Wellington no more than Marlborough.
In the meantime, however, Mr. Macknight has done well to collect for those who wish to know them the principal events of Bolingbroke’s career. There was no tolerable outline of them before, and in some respects this is a good one. Mr. Macknight’s style is clear, though often ponderous; his remarks are sensible, and he has the great merit of not being imposed on by great names and traditional reputations. The defect of the book is, that he takes too literary a view of politics and politicians; that he has not looked closely and for himself at real political life; that he therefore misses the guiding traits which show what in Queen Anne’s time was so like our present politics, and what so wholly unlike. We shall venture in the course of this article to supply some general outline of the controversies that were to be then decided, and of the political forces which decided them; for unless these are distinctly imagined, a reader of the present day cannot comprehend why such a man as Bolingbroke was at one moment the most conspicuous and influential of English statesmen, and then for years an exile and a wanderer.
We must own, however, that it is not the intrinsic interest even of events once so very important as the war of the Grand Alliance and the Peace of Utrecht which tempts us to write this article. It is the interest of Bolingbroke’s own character. He tried a great experiment. There lurks about the fancies of many men and women an imaginary conception of an ideal statesman, resembling the character of which Alcibiades has been the recognised type for centuries. There is a sort of intellectual luxury in the idea which fascinates the human mind. We like to fancy a young man, in the first vigour of body and in the first vigour of mind, who is full of bounding enjoyment, who is fond of irregular luxury, who is the favourite of society, who excels all rivals at masculine feats, who gains the love of women by a magic attraction; but who is also a powerful statesman, who regulates great events, who settles great measures, who guides a great nation. We seem to outstep the mænia mundi, the recognised limits of human nature, when we conceive a man in the pride of youth to have dominion over the pursuits of age, to rule both the light things of women and the grave things of men. Human imagination so much loves to surpass human power, that we shall never be able to extirpate the conception. But we may examine the approximations to it in life. We see in Bolingbroke’s case that a life of brilliant license is really compatible with a life of brilliant statesmanship; that license itself may even be thought to quicken the imagination for oratorical efforts; that an intellect similarly aroused may, at exciting conjectures, perceive possibilities which are hidden from duller men; that the favourite of society will be able to use his companionship with men and his power over women so as much to aid his strokes of policy; but, on the other hand, that these secondary aids and occasional advantages are purchased by the total sacrifice of a primary necessity; that a life of great excitement is incompatible with the calm circumspection and the sound estimate of probability essential to great affairs; that though the excited hero may perceive distant things which others overlook, he will overlook near things that others see; that though he may be stimulated to great speeches which others could not make, he will also be irritated to petty speeches which others would not; that he will attract enmities, but not confidence; that he will not observe how few and plain are the alternatives of common business, and how little even genius can enlarge them; that his prosperity will be a wild dream of unattainable possibilities, and his adversity a long regret that those possibilities have departed. At any rate, such was Bolingbroke’s career. We have better evidence about him than about any similar statesman, for the events in which he was concerned were large, and he has given us a narrative of them from his own hand. A summary retrospect of his career will not be worthless, if it show what sudden brilliancy and what incurable ruin such a life as his, with such a genius as his, was calculated to ensure.
Bolingbroke’s father was a type of his generation. He was a rake of the Restoration. Charles II. is the only king of England who had both the social qualities which fitted him to be the head of society, and the immoral qualities which fitted him to corrupt society. His easy talk, his good anecdotes, his happy manners, his conversancy with various life, made Whitehall the “best club” of that time. What sort of life he encouraged men to lead there we all know. Bolingbroke’s father learned of him all the evil which he could learn. It was not singular that he committed excesses of dissipation, but it was rather singular that he committed what was thought to be a murder. He stabbed a man in a drunken broil, and, if Burnet can be trusted, only escaped from the gallows by a great bribe. He dawdled on at the coffee-houses far into George II.’s time, a monument of extinct profligacy, and a spectacle and a wonder to a graver generation.
Bolingbroke’s mother was a daughter of the Earl of Warwick; but she died early, and his father married again, so that we hear very little about her. If the silence of his biographers may be trusted as evidence, she exercised but little influence upon his infancy or upon his life.
The most influential preceptors of Bolingbroke’s boyhood were his grandfather and grandmother, who also were not unusual characters in their generation. The former was a serious and moderate Royalist, the latter was a serious but moderate Puritan. Bolingbroke’s father apparently did not much like keeping house: it must have interfered with his pleasures, and marred the life of coffee-houses. The whole direction of Bolingbroke’s mind was given to his grave grandfather and grandmother. In after-times, when he was a prominent Tory and a professed High-Churchman, satirists used to say that he was brought up among “Dissenters”. And it is probable that his grandmother, who was the daughter of the celebrated Oliver St. John, the great parliamentary lawyer and chief justice, was far from being in opinion what a high Anglican divine would term a “Churchwoman”. Bolingbroke himself used to relate terrible stories of having been compelled to read the sermons of Puritan divines. But, as far as our slight information goes, he did not suffer more than in any moderately “serious” family of our own time. All serious families were then thought to have a little taint of Dissent, and Bolingbroke was probably very sensitive to the partial dulness of a semi-puritanical religion.
At any rate, we have no doubt it was said (and that his elder relatives much grieved at it) that “the boy was gone wrong, like his father”. When he came out into the world he astonished his associates by his license. He had been at Eton and Oxford; but he had not learned, what is often learned there, a decorum in profligacy. To what precise enormities his license extended is immaterial, and cannot now be known. Goldsmith had talked to an old gentleman who related that Bolingbroke and his companions, in a drunken frolic, ran “naked through the park”. But this is hardly credible; and probably Goldsmith’s informant was one of the many old people who believe that the more wonderful the stories they tell, the more wonderful they themselves become. But at any rate his outrages attracted censure. He did not, like his father, belong to his generation. The age of King William tolerated much that we tolerate no longer, but it was not like the first years of Charles II. There was no longer a headlong recoil from Puritan strictness, and the Crown was on the side of at least apparent morality. As is usual in England, grave decorum and obvious morals had a substantial influence, and against these Bolingbroke offended.
He wrote poetry too, and the sort of poetry can only be appreciated by reading Locke’s celebrated warning against that art, and the connections which it occasions. Bolingbroke’s verses are addressed to a Clara A., an orange-girl, who pretended to sell that fruit near the Court of Requests, but who really had other objects. She was a lady of what may be called mutable connections; and the object of Bolingbroke’s verses is to induce her to give them up and adhere to him only. He says:—
One would like to know what the orange-girl thought of all this; but it would seem he was lavish of money as well as of verses.
At twenty-two he married. We do not know much about his money matters; and, as his father and grandfather were both alive, his means could not have been at all large, especially as his expenses had been great. But his wife had certainly a considerable fortune. She was descended from a clothier called Jack of Newbury, who had made a fortune several generations before, and was one of the co-heiresses of Sir Henry Winchescomb, who had large property. What sort of person she was does not very clearly appear. But it does appear that the match was an unhappy one. He said she had a bad temper, with what truth we cannot ascertain now; and she said he was a bad husband, which was unquestionably true. He had been a rake before marriage, and did not cease afterwards. He could drink more wine than any one in London, and continued that habit too. A kind of connection was kept up between them for many years, but it was a dubious and unhappy connection. We may suppose, however, that when he was a great statesman she derived some glory, if little happiness, from him; and he certainly received a large income from her property during very many years.
At the age of twenty-eight Bolingbroke entered the House of Commons. Before that time he had done nothing to prove himself a man of great ability. At school and college he had done well, and had laid up perhaps a greater store of classical knowledge than those around him knew of. When abroad for a year or so, he had learned to speak French unusually well and unusually easily. But since he had been of age and in the world, his vices had been great, and he had not done much to compensate for them. Probably his boon companions considered him very clever; but then sober men rated very low the judgment of those companions. His skill in writing poetry had not been greater than most people’s, and his choice of subjects had been worse. Until now he had had no opportunity of showing great talents, and much opportunity of showing considerable vices.
In the House of Commons it was otherwise. His handsome person, long descent, and aristocratic mien set off a very remarkable eloquence, which seems to have been very ready even at the first. Years afterwards he was the model to whom Lord Chesterfield pointed in all the arts of manner and expression. “Lord Bolingbroke,” he tells us, “without the least trouble, talked all day long full as elegantly as he wrote. He adorned whatever subject he either spoke or wrote upon by the most splendid eloquence; not a studied and laboured eloquence, but by such a flowing happiness of diction which (from care perhaps at first) was become so habitual to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if taken down in writing, would have borne the press without the least correction either as to method or style.” “He had the most elegant politeness and good-breeding which ever any courtier or man of the world was blessed with.”
Nor did he neglect matter in the pursuit of manner. In later life he wrote some characters of the two great orators of antiquity, which showed how acutely he had studied them. He turned aside from the commonplace topics, from their language and their manner, to comment on their acquaintance with all the topics of their time, and on the practical questions. No one can read those delineations without perceiving that the writer is speaking of an art which he has himself practised. Those who knew how little studious Bolingbroke’s habits were, appear to have been surprised at the information he displayed. But his excitable life rather promoted than forbade brief crises of keen study. His parts were quick, his language vague, though imposing, and he could always talk very happily on subjects of which he only knew a very little.
The time was favourable to a great orator. The Tory party was exactly in the state in which it has been in our own time. It had many votes and no tongue. Our county system tends to prevent our county magnates from ruling England. Stringent limitations are laid down which narrow the electoral choice, and tend to exclude available talent. It is wise and natural that the landed interest should choose to be represented by landed gentlemen; a community of nature between it and its representatives is desirable and inevitable. But our counties are more exacting than this: each county requires that the member shall have land within the county, and as in each the number of candidates thus limited is but small, unsuitable ones must be chosen. We have left off expecting eloquence from a county member. Grave files of speechless men have always represented the land of England. In Queen Anne’s time too, as in our own time, a lingering prejudice haunted rural minds, and inclined them to prefer stupid magnates who shared it to clever ones who were emancipated from it. Bolingbroke, like Mr. Disraeli, found the Tory party in a state of dumb power; like him, too, he became its spokesman and obtained its power.
Bolingbroke came into Parliament just at the end of King William’s reign, and was at once forced into contact with the two subjects which were to occupy almost exclusively his active life. The reign of King William, which was about to end, and that of Queen Anne, which was just about to begin, were filled by two of the greatest topics which can occupy a period. The first of these was a question of dynasty. Our revolution has been called the “minimum of a revolution,”1 and in the eyes of a political philosopher so it is. It altered but little in the substance of our institutions and in our positive law. But to common people, when it happened, the change was great. Even now the detail of our parliamentary system is not much understood by the poorer part of the public, and they care for it but little; the Queen and her family, and the Prince of Wales and the Princess Alexandra, mainly interest them. The person of the sovereign embodies to them constitution, law, power. But our revolution changed the sovereign. The only political name and idea known to rural hamlets were taken away, and another name and idea were substituted in their stead. Jacobites went about saying that there was one king whom God had made, and another king whom Parliament had made. At this moment, though the dogma of hereditary right has been confuted for ages, though it has been laughed at for ages, though Parliaments have condemned it, though divines have been impeached for preaching it, though it is a misdemeanour to maintain it, the tenet still lives in ordinary minds. In Somersetshire and half the quiet counties the inhabitants would say that Queen Victoria ruled by the right of birth and the grace of God, and not by virtue of an Act of Parliament. They still think that she has a divine right to the crown, and not a right by statute only. If the old creed of the Jacobites is still so powerful, what must have been its force in Queen Anne’s time? That generation had seen the change from “God’s king” to “man’s king,” and very many of them did not like it. Shrewd men said that England was prosperous under the revolutionary government; common sense said that an ill-born king who governed well was better than a well-born king who governed ill; Whigs said that England was free after the revolution, and would have been enslaved but for the revolution; yet on the simple superstition of many natural minds the force of these arguments was lost. They admitted the advantage of liberty and of prosperity, but they would not renounce “the Lord’s anointed for a mess of pottage”. Happily this political feeling was counteracted by a religious feeling. The hatred to Popery supported the successful and rebellious king, who was a Protestant, against the unsuccessful and legitimate king, who was a Papist. But the strength so obtained was precarious; it might cease at any time. The “Pretender” might change his religion, and reports were continually circulated that he had done so, or was to do so. The existing dynasty could not be strong when its best support in the most natural minds was the continued profession of one religion by a person who had very strong motives to profess another.
The question of dynasty was the prominent question in Bolingbroke’s age; such a question must always be the first where it exists. The question, who shall be king, can never be secondary. But it had a formidable rival. All through King William’s and all through Queen Anne’s time, the English mind was occupied with almost the only question which could compete with the question who should be King of England—the question whether there ought or ought not to be war with France. Frequent battles, daily hopes of battles, daily arguments whether there should be battles or not, kept even the greatest domestic question out of our thoughts.
On both these subjects Bolingbroke was compelled to critical action in his first Parliament. The question of dynasty was in a very odd and very English state of complexity. It might have been thought to be a question of bare alternatives, and to have been susceptible of no compromise. Either Parliament had no power to choose a sovereign upon grounds of expediency, or it might choose any sovereign who was expedient. If King James might be expelled at all, it could only be because he was a bad king, and in order to put in a better king. On principle, Parliament was either powerless or omnipotent. But this clear decisive logic has never suited Englishmen. As for King William, indeed, no one could say he was any sort of king except a parliamentary king, but his heir was the Princess Anne. “Surely, it was thought, she and her children had some divine right—a little, if not much? She had no right by birth certainly, for her father and her brother came before her; she was not the nearest heir, but she was the nearest Protestant heir; she was not the eldest son of the last king, but she was his eldest daughter that was living.” These facts do not seem to be very material to us now, but at the time they were critically material. Half the population probably believed that it would be right—not merely expedient, but right in some high mystic sense—to obey Anne and her children. They were not only ready, but were anxious, to take her for the root of a new dynasty. But the Fates seemed capriciously determined to defeat their wishes. Anne had thirteen children, and all the thirteen died. At the death of the Duke of Gloucester, who was the last of them, some further settlement was necessary, and what it should be was decided in Bolingbroke’s first Parliament.
On this subject he ought to have been a Whig of the Whigs. His writings are full of such expressions as the “chimera of prerogative”; “the slavish principles of passive obedience and non-resistance which had skulked” in old books till the reign of James I. And he has stated the Whig conception of the revolution as well as any one, if not better. “If,” he says, “a divine, indefeasible, hereditary right to govern a community be once acknowledged; a right independent of the community, and which vests in every successive prince immediately on the death of his predecessor, and previously to any engagement taken on his part towards the people; if the people once acknowledge themselves bound to such princes by the ties of passive obedience and non-resistance, by an allegiance unconditional, and not reciprocal to protection; if a kind of oral law, or mysterious cabbala, which pharisees of the black gown and the long robe are always at hand to report and interpret as a prince desires, be once added, like a supplemental code, to the known laws of the land: then, I say, such princes have the power, if not the right, given them of commencing tyrants; and princes who have the power, are prone to think that they have the right. Such was the state of king and people before the revolution.” He could have no horror of Popery, for he regarded all the historical forms of Christianity with an impartial scepticism; he probably thought it more gentlemanly than Presbyterianism, and not more absurd than Anglicanism. He ought to have been ready to obey whatever king was most eligible upon grounds of rational expediency.
The proposal of the Whigs, too, was as moderate as it was possible for it to be. As public opinion required, they selected the next Protestant heir. They passed over all the children of James II., who were Catholics, the descendants of Henrietta, daughter of Charles I., who were Catholics, the elder descendants of Elizabeth, the daughter of James I., who were Catholics, and found the Princess Sophia, a younger daughter of Elizabeth, who was a very clever and accomplished lady, and who, if she had any religion, was a Protestant. All the reasonable and prudent part of the nation was in favour of this scheme. The Whigs were of course in favour of it, for it was their scheme. Harley, at the head of the moderate Tories, strenuously supported it. But it was not popular with the unthinking masses, and perhaps could not be. Half or more than half the believers in divine right were ready, as we have explained, to pay obedience to Queen Anne as a sort of consecrated queen; she was at any rate a princess born of a real king and queen in real England; we had always been used to her. But a search in Germany for the sort of Protestants we were likely to find there was not pleasant to the mass of Englishmen; and of the strong-minded old lady who had been discovered nothing whatever was commonly known. After all, too, there was no certainty that in future we should be obeying the nearest Protestant heir. We were passing over several Catholic families; and if hereafter any one of them were to become a Protestant—according to principle, or what was called such, we must obey him as our king.
Though the choice of the Hanoverian family as heirs to the Crown was prudent, wise, and statesmanlike, there was no strong popular sentiment on which it was firmly based, and no neat popular phrase by which it could in argument be precisely supported. In a word, unthinking people of the common sort did not much like the House of Hanover, and a mass of ill-defined prejudice accumulated against it. Of this prejudice Bolingbroke made himself the organ. He did not share it or try to share it. But, finding a large and speechless party, he thought he could become at once politically important by saying for them that which they could not say for themselves. The scheme was successful. He became at once important in Parliament, because he was the eloquent spokesman of many inaudible persons.
In foreign policy, Bolingbroke’s tactics were the same. The aggression of France was the natural terror of lovers of liberty at that time. Louis XIV. was as ready to use his power without scruple against free nations as Napoleon; and his power, though not equal to that of Napoleon at his zenith, was greater than that of Napoleon at most times, and than that of any other French sovereign at any time. The King of Spain, too, was about to die; it was to be feared that he would name as his heir Philip, the grandson of Louis; and few doubted but that Louis, notwithstanding an express renunciation of all such claims by treaty, would permit his grandson to accept the throne. Nor was the Spain of 1700 merely the Spain of our time. She was much more powerful. She possessed the “California of that age, a vast empire in South America, producing gold and silver, which were then thought to be magically potent substances, for the whole civilised world. She possessed, too, Sicily, and Naples, and Milan, and Belgium; and the popular imagination, which ever clings to decaying grandeur, still believed that Spain itself was a nation of great power—was still able, as in former generations, to obtain ascendency in Europe. The terror, for such it was, of liberal politicians then was, that that vast inheritance would practically fall into the dominion of Louis XIV.—that it would belong to a Bourbon prince brought up under his eye, and slavishly in subjection to him. The Whigs contended that this calamity should be prevented, if possible, by an amicable partition of Spain, by giving France as little as possible, and that little in places as little important as possible. If no such amicable arrangement were possible, they said, it must be prevented by a war. The Tories did not like war, did not like partition treaties. They did not love France, but they were not anxious to oppose France. In that age we were uneducated in foreign policy; the mass of men had no distinct conception of continental transactions, nor was reason reinforced very distinctly by antipathy. We hated France, it is true, but we hated Holland also; she was our rival in commerce and our enemy—sometimes our successful enemy—in naval warfare; and to vanquish the French by the aid of the Dutch did not greatly gratify our animosity. The anti-revolutionary part of the nation did not care for liberty, for that was the code of the Whigs and the basis of the revolution. In a word, though there was little distinct or rational opinion opposed to a war with France, there was much indistinct and crude prejudice. Of this too Bolingbroke became the organ.
In the later part of his life he did not attempt to defend his first notion of foreign policy. He says: “I have sometimes considered, in reflecting on these passages, what I should have done if I had sat in Parliament at that time; and have been forced to own myself that I should have voted for disbanding the army then, as I voted in the following Parliament for censuring the partition treaties. I am forced to own this, because I remember how imperfect my notions were of the situation of Europe in that extraordinary crisis, and how much I saw the true interest of my own country in a half light. But, my lords, I own it with some shame, because in truth nothing could be more absurd than the conduct we held. What! because we had not reduced the power of France by the war, nor excluded the house of Bourbon from the Spanish succession, nor compounded with her upon it by the peace; and because the House of Austria had not helped herself, nor put it into our power to help her with more advantage and better prospect of success—were we to leave that whole succession open to the invasions of France, and to suffer even the contingency to subsist of seeing those monarchies united? What! because it was become extravagant, after the trials so lately made, to think ourselves any longer engaged by treaty, or obliged by good policy, to put the House of Austria in possession of the whole Spanish monarchy, and to defend her in this possession by force of arms, were we to leave the whole at the mercy of France? If we were not to do so, if we were not to do one of the three things that I said above remained to be done, and if the Emperor put it out of our power to do another of them with advantage; were we to put it still more out of our power, and to wait unarmed for the death of the King of Spain? In fine, if we had not the prospect of disputing with France, so successfully as we might have had it, the Spanish succession whenever it should be open; were we not only to show, by disarming, that we would not dispute it at all, but to censure likewise the second of the three things mentioned above, and which King William put in practice, the compounding with France, to prevent if possible a war, in which we were averse to engage?” The truth doubtless is, that Bolingbroke never believed, or much believed these absurdities. As he was the spokesman of the Tories, he advocated, and was compelled to advocate, the vague notions which they not unnaturally held, and these were prejudices imbibed by habit, not opinions elaborated by effort.
That his mode of advocacy was very skilful, we may easily believe. His speeches have perished, but their merit may be conjectured. He is in his writings a great master of specious statement. Accessory arguments and subordinate facts seem of themselves to fall precisely where they should fall. He has the knack of never making a case; the case always seems made for him; he seems to be giving it its most suitable expression, but to be doing no more. In the greater part of his writings which were written late in life, except when he defends the Peace of Utrecht, he had no tenet to defend in which he took a keen interest. He had not the habits suitable to abstract thought, nor the genius for it. He is apt, therefore, to embody meagre thoughts in excellent words, to develop long arguments from sparse facts. He had a pleasure in writing, and he had little to say. But when his passions were eager, when his interest was vivid, when the very dissipation of his life quickened his excitability, when the topic of discussion was critically important to himself—we may well believe his advocacy to have been effective. He could ever say what he pleased, and in early life he had much to say which he well knew and for which he much cared.
A blunder of Louis’ for several years simplified English politics. At the death of James II. he acknowledged his son, the “Pretender,” as King of England; and he could have done him no greater harm. The English people were not very sure of abstract rights, but they were very sure of practical applications. Whether they had a right to choose a king for themselves might be doubtful, but it was clear that the King of France had no such right. Whoever might be our king, it certainly should not be his protégé. War with France became popular. The King of Spain was dead; as was feared, he had left the vast inheritance of Spain to Louis’ grandson, and war with France became expedient. It was declared accordingly.
The death of William simplified politics still further. Bolingbroke himself may explain this. “The alliances,” he tell us, “were concluded, the quotas were settled, and the season for taking the field approached, when King William died. The event could not fail to occasion some consternation on one side, and to give some hopes on the other; for, notwithstanding the ill success with which he made war generally, he was looked upon as the sole centre of union that could keep together the great confederacy then forming; and how much the French feared from his life had appeared a few years before, in the extravagant and indecent joy they expressed on a false report of his death. A short time showed how vain the fears of some, and the hopes of others, were. By his death, the Duke of Marlborough was raised to the head of the army, and indeed of the confederacy; where he, a new, a private man, a subject, acquired by merit and by management a more deciding influence than high birth, confirmed authority, and even the crown of Great Britain, had given to King William. Not only all the parts of that vast machine, the grand alliance, were kept more compact and entire, but a more rapid and vigorous motion was given to the whole; and, instead of languishing or disastrous campaigns, we saw every scene of the war full of action. All those wherein he appeared, and many of those wherein he was not then an actor—but abettor, however, of their action—were crowned with the most triumphant success. I take with pleasure this opportunity of doing justice to that great man, whose faults I knew, whose virtues I admired, and whose memory, as the greatest general and as the greatest minister that our country or perhaps any other has produced, I honour.” The war absorbed England for several years. For the first time in our history we were the centre of a great confederacy, and our general was the victorious leader, in great battles, of miscellaneous armies. It was then that we first acquired that great name as a military people, which, notwithstanding our small numbers and small armies, we have since supported, and that a great foresight, a minute diligence, and a splendid courage in modern war, were first combined in an Englishman. Marlborough was in one respect more fortunate than Wellington. Napoleon must always be the first military figure of his generation; but throughout the last century the whole Continent talked of the wars of Marlborough, for he was the most fascinating as well as the most successful general in them.
During the first eight years of Marlborough’s wars, the English nation was nearly united. A war always unites a people; the objector to it becomes a kind of traitor to his country; he seems to be a favourer of the enemy, even though he is not. Not only Harley, a moderate Tory, but Bolingbroke, an extreme Tory, took office in the war ministry. It is true there was no dereliction of party principle in their doing so, either as such principle was then understood, or as it is understood now. Marlborough himself had never been a Whig; and Godolphin, the head of the Treasury and first minister for the home administration, had ever been a Tory. But though plain party ties might not be violated by a Tory support of Marlborough’s wars, a sort of sentiment was violated. The war was a Whig war, and could only be carried on by Whig support. Ere long Godolphin and Marlborough were compelled to give the Whigs a large share in the actual administration. The ministry became a composite one. Though many Tories remained in it, yet its essence and its spirit were Whig. It was carrying on the sort of war which one party in the State had extolled for years, and which the antagonist party had deprecated for years. It has been called after its cause. It has been called the Whig Ministry of Godolphin and Marlborough, the two leading Tories of the age.
The place which Bolingbroke accepted was that of Secretary at War, which brought him into contact with the best business of the time, with that sort of business upon which most depended. As far as appears, he did it well, and the official experience he then acquired must have been inestimable to him afterwards. There is much which no statesman can in truth know, and much more which he will not be thought to know, unless he has gone through a certain necessary official education, and learned to use certain conventional official expressions. This sort of knowledge Bolingbroke now acquired. But it was not by success or failure in office desk-work that the movements of his life were to be regulated.
The Whigs naturally did not quite like the subordinate position which they occupied in a ministry which was carrying out a Whig policy. They thought it hard that Tories should be paid for Whig measures; that the glory of delivering Europe should be given, not to Whigs, who had striven to deliver her, but to Tories, who would have liked not to deliver her. Their support was necessary to Godolphin and to Marlborough, and they gradually raised the price of that support. Early in 1708 most of the remaining Tories were turned out, and Bolingbroke among them. Except the two chiefs, Godolphin and Marlborough, the ministry became a Whig ministry almost exclusively.
That Bolingbroke did not like to be turned out is probable; but he professed to like it. He sought refuge in retirement; he professed to study philosophy, and passed much of his time in the country, and in reading. Such professions from a man of great ambition and lax life were ridiculed. A friend suggested that he should write this motto over his favourite rural retreat:—
And Swift says he could hardly bear the jest, for he was a man rather sensitive to ridicule. And though satirists might laugh at his meditations and his studies, and though he permitted them to derange very little his pleasure or his vices, there is no doubt but that they were real, and that they were valuable. Doubtless, too, though he was only twenty-eight, he was a little tired of subordinate office. His disposition was very impatient, and his sense of personal dignity very considerable. Even so patient a pattern of routine diligence as Sir Robert Peel rejoiced as a young man to be for a year or so out of office. His mind, he acknowledged, widened, and his capacity to think for himself improved. If Peel, who was made to toil in the furrow, felt this, Bolingbroke, who was made to exult in the desert, might well feel it. During three years he really read much and thought much.
But a great change was at hand. The war with France was still successful and still popular, but it might be doubted if it was still necessary. We had weakened France so much, that it might be questionable if she wanted weakening more. Our victories had destroyed her prestige, and the results of these victories had weakened her vigour. Sensible men began to inquire what was to be the time, what the occasion, and what the terms of peace.
The ministry, indeed, appeared to be firm, but it was firm in appearance only. The conditions of ministerial continuance differed in that age in a most material respect from the present conditions. Now, the House of Commons, in almost all cases, prescribes imperatively not only what measures shall be taken, but what men shall take them: it chooses both policy and ministers. In Queen Anne’s time Parliament had acquired an almost complete ascendency in policy; it could fix precisely whether there should be war or no war, peace or no peace; it had acquired a perfect control upon legislation, and a nearly perfect control upon internal administration. But it had no choice, or but little in the selection of persons. What was to be done Parliament settled, but who was to do it the queen settled.
Queen Anne had done so at her accession. Though she was engaged in a Whig war, she removed the Whig ministers whom she found in office. She appointed as supreme generalissimo over the war abroad, and real prime minister over matters of state at home, the Duke of Marlborough, not because of his discretion or his acquaintance with business, or his military genius, but because his wife was her early friend and her special favourite. As the Duke of Wellington justly observed, the Duke of Marlborough was the English Government; he was not liable to be thwarted, or misconstrued, or neglected; his operations in Flanders were never cramped by the home Government, as the operations of the Duke of Wellington in Spain were cramped. He appointed the lord high treasurer Godolphin; he placed the Treasury, then even more than now the supreme internal office, in Godolphin’s hands, because he was connected with him by domestic ties, because they had long acted together, because he had great confidence in his financial ability. The Duke of Marlborough was not only great because of his wife, but absolutely because of his wife.
By a kind of compensation the source of his power was the cause also of his downfall. The Queen and the duchess quarrelled, as was natural. The duchess was virulent and obtrusive, and the Queen was sensitive and sullen. The Queen had a strong sense of personal dignity, which the duchess used to outrage. The duchess, who was clever, thought the Queen a fool, and scarcely forbore to look and say so. From early habit the friendship lasted much longer than could have been thought likely, but it could not last for ever. As it was breaking up, a small force produced a large effect. The Queen, Swift says, had not a “stock of amity” for more than one person at a time: she commonly cared but little for anybody save one; but she required one. The duchess had placed at court a poor relative of her own, a Miss Hill, whom both she and the Queen regarded as a petty dependent, a real maid, who would be useful and lie on the floor when peeresses and young ladies of quality were useless and went to bed. As she was humble and artful, she acquired influence; she was never in the way and never out of the way. She was always pleasant to the Queen, and the duchess was commonly unpleasant. The consequence was certain. The abject new favourite soon supplanted the querulous old favourite.
A very curious man took advantage of this. Wits and satirists have been fond of describing Robert Harley, but perhaps they have not described him very well. They have made a heap of incongruities of him. They have told us that, being bred a Puritan, and retaining till his death much of the Puritan phraseology, he yet became the favourite leader of High Churchmen and Tories; that being a muddle-headed dawdler, he gained a great reputation for the transaction of business; that having an incapacity for intelligible speech, he became an influential orator in Parliament; that being a puzzle-headed man, of less than average ability, and less than average activity, he long ruled a great party, for years ruled the court, and was at last Prime Minister of England.
It is very natural that brilliant and vehement men should depreciate Harley, for he had nothing which they possess, but had everything which they commonly do not possess. He was by nature a moderate man. In that age they called such a man a trimmer, but they called him ill. Such a man does not consciously shift or purposely trim his course. He firmly believes that he is substantially consistent. “I do not wish in this House,” he would say in our age, “to be a party to any extreme course. Mr. Gladstone brings forward a great many things which I cannot understand; I assure you he does. There is more in that bill of his about tobacco than he thinks; I am confident there is. Money is a serious thing, a very serious thing. And I am sorry to say Mr. Disraeli commits the party very much. He avows sentiments which are injudicious. I cannot go along with him nor can Sir John. He was not taught the Catechism; I know he was not. There is a want in him of sound and sober religion—and Sir John agrees with me—which would keep him from distressing the clergy, who are very important. Great orators are very well; but, as I said, how is the revenue? And the point is, not to be led away and to be moderate, and not to go to an extreme. As soon as it seems very clear, then I begin to doubt. I have been many years in Parliament, and that is my experience.” We may laugh at such speeches, but there have been plenty of them in every English Parliament. A great English divine has been described as always leaving out the principle upon which his arguments rested; even if it was stated to him, he regarded it as far-fetched and extravagant. Any politician who has this temper of mind will always have many followers; and he may be nearly sure that all great measures will be passed more nearly as he wishes them to be passed than as great orators wish. Harley had this temper, and he enjoyed its results. He always had a certain influence over moderate Whigs when he was a Tory, and over moderate Tories when he was a Whig. Nine-tenths of mankind are more afraid of violence than of anything else; and inconsistent moderation is always popular, because of all qualities it is most opposite to violence—most likely to preserve the present safe existence.
Harley’s moderation, which was influential because it was unaffected, was assisted by two powers which brilliant people despise, because in general they do not share them. Harley excelled in the forms of business. There is distinct evidence that official persons preferred his management of the Treasury to that of Lord Godolphin, who preceded him, or Sir R. Walpole, who succeeded him. In real judgment and substantial knowledge of affairs, there was doubtless no comparison. Godolphin was the best financier of his generation; and Walpole was the best not only of his own but of many which came after him. But the ultimate issue of business is not the part of it which most impresses the officials of a department. They understand how business is conducted better than what comes of it. The statesman who gives them no trouble—who coincides with that which they recommend—who thinks of the things which they think of, is more satisfactory to his mere subordinates than a real ruler, who has plans which others do not share, and whose mind is occupied by large considerations, which only a few can appreciate, and only experience can test. In his own time, both with the Tory party and with moderate Whigs, Harley’s reputation as a man of business was a means of influence which, on the same scene and in our own day, could hardly be surpassed.
But it was surpassed in his own day. In personal questions, as we have explained, the Parliament in Queen Anne’s time was only a subordinate power; the court was the principal and the determining power. Now the faculty of business is but secondary in all courts; the faculty of intrigue is the main source of real influence. To be able to manage men, to know with whom to be silent, to know with whom to say how much, to be able to drop casual observations, to have a sense of that which others mean, though they do not say—to be aware what Lady A. is in secret planning, though she says the very opposite—to know that Lord B. has no influence, though he seems most potent—to know that little C. is a wire-puller, and can get you anything, though he looks mean and though no one knows; in a word, to understand, to feel, to be unable to help feeling, the by-play of life, is the principal necessity for success in courts. It is the instinct of management which is not to be shown even in conversation, far less in writing or speculation, but yet which rules all small societies. Harley possessed it, and the obscure but potent talents of business also; and we need seek no farther explanation why he was one of the most successful men in his own time.
Harley was some sort of relative to Miss Hill (or Mrs. Masham, for she married), the rising favourite of Queen Anne’s time. He was the favourite leader of all moderate Tories; and, on the whole, though not without grumblings from extreme men, the most important leader of the Tory party. He had been turned out when Bolingbroke was turned out, and he wished to return. The fly was brought to the spider. Mrs. Masham, the new favourite, asked Harley what counsel she should give the Queen. He said, “Turn out the Whigs”; and meant “Bring me in”.
The Queen was inert, for that was her nature; and the evident popularity and the glorious success of the Whig war naturally staggered her. But the Whigs made an error. The High-Church and semi-High-Church party had enormous power in the nation; they had always advocated non-resistance before the revolution, and though they had taken the oaths to King William’s Government, they did not like to think that they were supporting a Government which was conspicuously rebellious, which began in resistance to legitimate authority. Of course, the fact was so. King William invaded England with Dutch troops, and was joined by English rebels; but the divine right of princes, and the duty of unconditional obedience, retained much influence over most of the clergy and over many of the laity. If the Whigs had been wise, they would have offended this powerful sentiment as little as possible. High Churchmen were certainly powerful, but were necessarily inert; they had no distinct course to recommend; they would have done much, but they could do nothing. They had assented to the existing Government, and though their assent might be unwilling and ungracious, the existing Government should have let them alone. The Whigs adopted the reverse course. A foolish parson expressed with unusual folly the sentiments of the great majority of his order. The Commons, at the instigation of the Whigs, actually impeached him at the bar of the Lords. In their folly they used against a pious and innocuous fool the extreme remedy which the constitution provides for the final punishment of impious and dangerous traitors. The country was in a ferment; the Tory party were active; the moderate classes were alarmed; the clergy were incensed; the Whigs became unpopular.
Harley seized the opportunity. He persuaded Mrs. Masham to persuade the Queen that now was the moment to gratify her new antipathy to her old favourite; that now she should punish the Duchess of Marlborough; that now she should dismiss the Whig ministry. She did so. He came in himself, and made Bolingbroke a secretary of state, and the first member in the House of Commons.
It has been said, and is very likely, that Harley would have preferred to retain in office the quiet and moderate Whigs, and not to bring in Bolingbroke, an extreme and unquiet Tory. The Whig party, however, was compact, and held together; it must be expelled as a whole, or retained as a whole. If it had been wholly retained, Harley could not have come in, and he was therefore obliged to ally himself with the aggravated Tories and with Bolingbroke, who had made himself their mouthpiece. It only completes the mingled character of Bolingbroke to repeat the legend of the time, that his acceptance of office was heard with gladness, not only in grave manor-houses, and by severe High Churchmen, but in more unmentionable places and by more questionable persons. Some ladies of much beauty and little virtue, so runs the legend, were heard to say, “Bolingbroke is minister. He has six thousand guineas a year. Six thousand guineas, and all for us.” The auspices of such a ministry were not good.
The public aspect of affairs was, however, in the most critical particular very favourable. While the French War lasted, indeed, the new ministry must be perplexed. They must either retain the Duke of Marlborough as general-in-chief, which was not pleasant, as he was the chief of the party opposed to them, and since probably Mrs. Masham did not wish it; or they must dismiss the duke in the midst of victory, and find a new general, who might be defeated. But this painful alternative was temporary only. The English nation had been sated with sieges and victories, and more than sated with taxes and with debt; it was disposed to peace. The new ministry came therefore into the enjoyment of a great inheritance, the greatest that has ever fallen to a new ministry. France had been so reduced by Marlborough’s victories that she was ready to consent to a peace which a few years before she would have thought most shameful, which a few years before we should have thought most honourable. The new ministry were to make that peace.
The preliminary difficulty soon assumed its worst shape. It became necessary to dismiss the Duke of Marlborough; and, as might be expected, the Duke of Ormond, who succeeded him, was much less successful. There was happily no great defeat, but there were minor disasters, which were magnified by the contrast with past glories. We had been used to a great exploit every year, and we were now asked to be thankful for not being defeated very much. The contrast was painful, and the necessity of making peace became greater than ever.
Up to this time Bolingbroke had been the most successful politician of his age, and almost of any age, in England. He had, it is true, no influence at court. Queen Anne distrusted him; she liked decorous men of regulated life. But, though little over thirty, he was the leader of the House of Commons; the first orator there; the second minister in the Cabinet; the favourite minister of the most ardent section of his party—a section just strengthened by an election. The fame of his oratory filled London, and the fame of his genius filled the country. Mr. Pitt excepted, no Englishman had risen so high and so rapidly under our Parliamentary system. It was at this crisis that his eager nature and his life of excitement began to prepare his downfall, as they had prepared his rise.
The official management of the foreign negotiations was in the hands of Bolingbroke. Lord Dartmouth, the other secretary of state, could speak no French, and Harley, the Prime Minister, could speak but little; but Bolingbroke spoke it well. Harley, too, had no directing ability. He had the defects of the late Lord Aberdeen: he was moderate and useful and judicious. But he could not upon the spur of the moment strike out a distinct policy. Other statesmen must create before he could decide on their creations. Bolingbroke was to devise how a peace should be made.
A plain and strong-headed statesman—such a statesman as Walpole or as Palmerston—would have had little difficulty. France was most anxious to make peace, and it mattered but little for England or for Europe what were the precise conditions of it. There are occasions when a war itself does its own work, and does it better than any pacification. The Crimean War was an instance of this. That war thoroughly destroyed the the prestige of Russia and the pernicious predominance of Russia. At the end of it, what were to be the conditions of peace was almost immaterial. The wars of Marlborough had done their work also. We had gone to war to prevent the acquisition of overbearing power by Louis XIV. If a grandson who was devoted to him had succeeded to Spain and the Spanish empire while France was unexhausted, he would have been a despot in Europe; he would have been terrible to us as Napoleon was terrible. But nine years of continuous defeat had exhausted France, and Louis XIV was now a vanquished and decayed old man. At his death the crown of France would pass to Louis XV., who was an infant, it was not much to be feared that the policy of France and the policy of Spain would be dangerously connected because their kings were second cousins. Possibly, indeed, Louis XV. might die, and the King of Spain might come to the throne of France. But this was a remote and contingent danger; it would have been unwise in our ancestors to lavish blood and spend treasure because a prince might have died young who really lived to be extremely old. The true object of the war had been accomplished by the war itself, and the substantial task of making a peace was therefore very easy.
The accessories of the task, too, it would seem, were easy also. As we had been victorious in a first-rate war, it was right that we should be dignified in the final pacification. It was right that we should be ready, that we should even be anxious to make peace; but, at any rate, France, who was vanquished, ought to seem equally anxious. Since, in part, the war was a war to reduce her influence over the European imagination, the manner of making peace was at least as material as the terms of it. We were principal members of a great league, and we had stirred up a part of Spain to resist the French King of Spain. We were bound to keep clear faith with our allies, and bound not to desert brave provinces who had relied principally on our protection.
Bolingbroke was too eager to perceive these plain considerations. He sent a man to Paris to ask for peace; and the French minister was so astounded that he would hardly believe the man. He owned afterwards that, when he was asked the preliminary question, “Do you want a peace?” it seemed to him like asking a lingering invalid whether he wanted to recover. He could hardly bring himself to believe that Bolingbroke’s messenger was duly authorised.
The previous life of that messenger certainly was not such as to gain him credit. He was a French abbé named Gaultier, who had been a French spy, and perhaps still was so, in England. He was an acute, plausible person, very fat, and not very respectable, and altogether as unlikely a person to be sent from a victorious nation to a defeated nation as could be imagined.
Nevertheless, the Abbé Gaultier was so sent. He said to Torcy, the French minister, “Do you want a peace? I bring you the means of treating independently of the Dutch, who are unworthy of his Majesty’s kindness and the honour he has done them in addressing himself to them so many times to restore peace to Europe.” In an ordinary alliance, such a clandestine reconciliation with the enemy, and such a secret desertion of allies, would have been plainly dishonest. There would have been little to say for it, and very few would have been willing to say that little. But the Grand Alliance was not an ordinary one. Its acute framers had perceived the difficulty of their task. They had foreseen the difficulty of retaining in firm cohesion a miscellaneous league of scattered States. They had adopted the best expedient at their disposal: they had prohibited the very commencement of exclusive negotiation by individual States. Their words are as clear as words can be. They are these: “Neutri partium fas sit, Bello semel suscepto, de Pace cum Hoste tractare nisi conjunctim et communicatis conciliis cum altera Parte”. These words expressly forbid such secret missions as those of Gaultier, and were inserted expressly to forbid them.
The separate treaty with Holland was even more express: it said that “no negotiation shall be set on foot by one of the allies without the concurrence of the other; and that each ally shall continually, and from time to time, impart to the other everything which passes in the said negotiation”. And yet it was especially from Holland that Bolingbroke was anxious, by every secret disguise, and every diplomatic artifice, to conceal his negotiation. He hoped, by a separate and secret peace, to obtain commercial advantages for the English, in which the Dutch should have no share.
Even after the first mission of Gaultier had terminated, there was an intricate series of secret negotiations, in which he and Prior were employed for us, and Mesnager for the French. Prior expressly required on our behalf “that the secret should be inviolably kept till allowed by both parties to be divulged”; and the French minister wrote to Bolingbroke: “It wholly depends upon the secrecy and good use you will make of the entire confidence he testifies to the Queen of Great Britain; and the King of France extols the firmness of the Queen, and sees with great pleasure the new marks of resolution she shows”. It was impossible to desert our allies more absolutely or more dishonourably. It was impossible to violate an express treaty more audaciously or more corruptly.
Nor was the secret negotiation a mere crime; it was also a miserable blunder. Diplomacy could hardly commit a greater. There was a splendid, a nearly unexampled power of compelling France to make a good peace. There was a great coalition against her, which had always been victorious under Eugene and Marlborough; which had obtained such successes as no Englishman had imagined; which had reduced France to a pitch of shame, degradation, and weakness, that surprised her most sanguine enemies, and depressed her most sanguine friends. So long as the coalition was compact, the coalition was all-powerful. But by the mere act of commencing a separate negotiation, Bolingbroke dissolved the coalition. There could be no mutual trust after that. The principal member of the league deserted the league, and its bond was immediately disunited. We all know what would have been the consequences if England had acted thus in the great war. Suppose Lords Grey and Grenville had come in before the campaign of 1814; suppose that they had sent a secret emissary to Napoleon; suppose that they had offered a separate peace without Spain, or Austria, or Russia. We know that Napoleon would again have been a principal potentate in Europe, for the coalition which alone could extirpate him would have been dissolved.
The truth of these remarks is written on the very face of the Treaty of Utrecht, and is obvious in every part of the negotiation of it. A few months before Louis had been willing to abandon Spain and to abandon his grandson. He had said: “If you can take Spain from him, take it; I will not help him”. But the allies were not content. They required that Louis should compel his grandson to resign, and this he considered dishonourable. But at Utrecht it was not even proposed that Philip should abandon Spain; that the House of Bourbon should possess Spain was a conceded and admitted principle. We had dissolved the European confederacy, and we could not hope to attain its objects.
Nor was the desertion of the other powers combined with us in the Grand Alliance our only desertion, or our worst. All these powers were States of some magnitude, and some were States of great magnitude. They would be able to go on as they had always gone on—to shift for themselves, as they had always shifted. But we also deserted others who were not so independent. We had incited the Catalans in the north-east of Spain to resist the French King of Spain; we had promised them in express terms our support and aid; for a long time we had given them that aid. But at the Peace of Utrecht we deserted them. The Catalans made a brave resistance, but a small province could do nothing against a great nation. The Catalans were soon overcome, and deprived of all their liberties. Throughout Europe, and doubtless throughout England also, there were many murmurs against our policy. We had encouraged a brave people to rebel; we had even threatened them if they did not rebel; and when they did rebel, we deserted them. If, at present, France and England were to incite the Poles to rebel against Russia, they hardly could desert them: the public opinion of the world is now so powerful; in Queen Anne’s time public opinion could only murmur, but it did murmur. The Peace of Utrecht, men said, was a base crime as well as a gross blunder.
But why, it will be asked, did Bolingbroke commit so gross a blunder? What reasons could have rendered it plausible to him? The principal answer is the principal key to his character. With many splendid gifts, he was exceedingly defective in cool and plain judgment. He failed where in all ages such men as Alcibiades have failed. Whether by nature he was much gifted with judgment we cannot tell; the probability is that he was about as well gifted as other men. But his life was such as to render a cool judgment impossible. “His fine imagination,” says Lord Chesterfield, “was often heated and exhausted with his body in celebrating and almost deifying the prostitute of the night; and his convivial joys were pushed to all the extravagancy of frantic bacchanals.” Swift tells graphic stories of his drinking till his associates could drink no longer and his being left at three in the morning calling for “t’other flask”. Many men lead gross lives and keep cool heads, but such are not men of Bolingbroke’s temperament. A man like Walpole, or a man like Louis Napoleon, is protected by an unsensitive nature from intellectual destruction. But such a man as Bolingbroke, whose nature is warm and whose imagination is excitable, imbibes the eager poison into the very heart of his mind. Such is our protection against the possibilities of an Alcibiades. No one who has not a vivid imagination can succeed in such a career; and any man of vivid imagination that career would burn away and destroy. Cold men may be wild in life and not wild in mind. But warm and eager men, fit to be the favourites of society, and fit to be great orators, will be erratic not only in conduct but in judgment. They will see men “like trees walking”.
Bolingbroke’s excitement did not prevent his working. He laboured many hours and wrote many letters. He often complains of the number of hours he has been at his desk, and of the labours which were thrown upon him. But his work probably only excited him the more; for a time vires acquirit eundo is the law of such wild strength. In the course of the negotiations he went to Paris, became the idol of society there, and used his social advantages efficiently for political purposes. To dazzle people more, he learned, or pretended to learn, the Spanish language, to read such diplomatic documents as were written in it. But such minor excellences could not mend the incurable badness of a peace commenced by a surrender of the best we had to surrender, by a dissolution of our alliance. A plain strong-headed man would have left alone the accessory advantages, and succeeded in the main point. Without Spanish and without French, Walpole would have made a good peace; Bolingbroke could not do so with both.
Bolingbroke, too, had a scheme, as imaginative and excited men will have. He knew that in relinquishing Spain to the House of Bourbon, he was giving the opponents of peace a great argumentative advantage. The mass of mankind, who judge by visible symbols, considered that a peace by which the king whom we had opposed should reign in Spain, and by which the king whom we had proposed did not reign there, was a gross failure. In sound argument, it was probably right for us to concede. As we have explained, the war had accomplished its own work; France was excessively weakened, and there was little fear of present danger from her. If, by a possible death, the crown of France should fall to the King of Spain, it would be time enough then to prevent the same person from reigning in the two kingdoms. The Treaty of Utrecht provides that the same prince shall not reign in both; and, if necessary, we could go to war to enforce the treaty. The Bourbon king was popular in Spain, and was preferred by the Spaniards to any one else. It would have been hard to dislodge him. But Bolingbroke did not like to rely on these plain arguments. He hoped to make the peace popular by an appeal to our commercial jealousy, by gaining mercantile advantages for ourselves which our rivals the Dutch did not share. He obtained for us the celebrated Assiento contract, giving us the right of carrying negro slaves to the West Indies, and also certain privileges which would have given our manufacturers great advantage in the French markets. He hoped this commercial bribe would silence the national conscience—that it would induce us to forget our treachery to our allies, our desertion of the Catalans, and the establishment of the House of Bourbon in Spain. He hoped it would make the peace popular.
He was disappointed. The reception of that peace by the nation, and especially by the Tory party, was very like the reception of Mr. Disraeli’s great Budget of 1852. A great secret had been long paraded of something which was to please everybody: it was divulged, and it pleased nobody. Bolingbroke may himself describe the effect that his work produced on the more moderate portion of his party:—
“The whimsical or the Hanover Tories continued zealous in appearance with us till the peace was signed. I saw no people so eager for the conclusion of it. Some of them were in such haste, that they thought any peace preferable to the least delay, and omitted no instances to quicken their friends who were actors in it. As soon as the treaties were perfected and laid before Parliament, the scheme of these gentlemen began to disclose itself entirely. Their love of the peace, like other passions, cooled by enjoyment. They grew nice about the construction of the articles, could come up to no direct approbation, and, being let into the secret of what was to happen, would not preclude themselves from the glorious advantage of rising on the ruins of their friends and of their party.”
Nothing could be more natural than their conduct. The moderate Tory party, and most sensible men, wished for a satisfactory peace made in a satisfactory manner: they wished for dignity in diplomacy, and desirable results. They were disappointed. After a war which every one was proud of, we concluded a peace which nobody was proud of, in a manner that every one was ashamed of.
The commercial treaties on which Bolingbroke relied, so far from helping him, were a hindrance to him. The right of taking slaves to the West Indies was indeed popular: the day for anti-slavery scruples had not commenced. But, in return for the privileges which the French gave to our manufacturers, we had given many privileges to them. We had established an approximation to free-trade, and every one was aghast. The English producer clamoured for protection, and he has seldom clamoured in vain. The commercial treaties required the consent of Parliament, and were rejected. If Bolingbroke had been a free-trader upon principle, his convictions might have consoled him. But he professed to know nothing of commerce, and did know nothing. His books are full of nonsense on such topics: he hated the City because they were Whigs, and he hated the Dutch because he had deserted them; and these were his cardinal sentiments on mercantile affairs. He speaks of “matters, such as that of commerce, which the negotiators of the Peace of Utrecht could not be supposed to understand”. Certainly he did not understand them. He only directed his subordinates to get out of the French as much for ourselves, and as little for the Dutch, as possible.
“Instead of gathering strength” (says Bolingbroke), “either as a ministry or as a party, we grew weaker every day. The peace had been judged with reason to be the only solid foundation whereupon we could erect a Tory system; and yet when it was made, we found ourselves at a full stand. Nay, the very work, which ought to have been the basis of our strength, was in part demolished before our eyes and we were stoned with the ruins of it.”
In our time he would have been really stoned. The fierce warlike disposition of the English people would not have endured such dishonour. We may doubt if it would have endured any peace. It certainly would not have endured the best peace, unless it were made with dignity and with honesty. We should have been wildly elated by Marlborough’s victories, and little in a mood to bear shame and to be guilty of desertion. The English people has been much the same for centuries. In country manor-houses, where a son had been killed for the cause which was sacrificed—in alehouses, where men were used to hear of glorious victories—in large towns, where the wrongs of injured races like the Catalans were understood—through a whole nation, which has ever been proud, brave, and honourable, a mean peace, effected by desertion, must have been abhorred. It was merely endured because it was made, and because in those days, when communication was slow, public opinion, as in America now, did not distinctly form itself till the crisis for action was over. But though for the moment endured, it was long abhorred. For very many years half our political talk was coloured by it. It was to the Tories what the coalition between Lord North and Fox was to the Whigs, a principal operating cause in excluding them from office during fifty years.
And, what for the time was worse, the Tory ministry of the moment was disunited. “Whilst this was doing,” says Bolingbroke, “Harley looked on, as if he had not been a party to all which had passed; broke now and then a jest, which savoured of the Inns of Court, and the bad company in which he had been bred; and on those occasions where his station obliged him to speak of business, was absolutely unintelligible”. In reality Harley disliked his position. He had always been a moderate man, respected by moderate men; he had the reputation of a man of care and judgment, and he had thriven by that reputation. On a sudden he became a party to disreputable peace, at which even moderate Whigs were frantic, for which even moderate Tories could not vote. That the negotiations had commenced by artifice and deceit did not horrify him much, for he was a man much given to stratagem. But he knew also that the negotiation had ended in conspicuous meanness and unpopular concessions; he felt that his reputation for judgment was weakened. All shrewd observers knew that there would soon be disunion between Harley, the old head of the moderate Tories, and Bolingbroke, the present head of the extreme Tories. Swift, who was a very shrewd observer, and who was close at hand, knew that there was already disunion.
Before the treaties had been discussed by, and the commercial part of them rejected in, the House of Commons, Bolingbroke made another error. He left the House of Commons. Harley had been created Earl of Oxford, and he could not endure to be inferior to him. There was much delay in conferring the peerage, and he was very angry at it. He was, Oxford says, “in the utmost rage against the Treasurer, Lady Masham, and without sparing the greatest,” and made “outrageous speeches”. A wise friend would have observed to him that no greater kindness could have been done him than to refuse him a peerage altogether. The great but gradual revolution which was consummated in the time of Walpole was then beginning to be apparent. Before Queen Anne’s time our most conspicuous statesmen had been, during the most important part of their lives, members of the House of Lords; since Queen Anne’s time they have at similar periods been usually members of the House of Commons. There are several causes for this, but the principal is one on which Bolingbroke has often commented. From time immemorial the Commons have been the guardians of the public purse; and whenever the public purse was to be touched, they have always been the first body in the State. But before the revolution they were seldom wanted. They granted the king, at the commencement of his reign, an estimated revenue, which was supposed to be adequate to the estimated expenditure in time of peace. As our wealth was rapidly increasing, it was often more than sufficient. In time of war the House of Commons must be applied to; new money was needful for new expenses; but the ordinary expenditure went on every year without their being consulted or required. The expense of William’s wars and Queen Anne’s wars made a great change: taxation became larger than it had ever been, though very small as it seems to us now. Since that time the estimated revenue which the Crown yearly enjoyed, without additional Parliamentary aid, has scarcely ever been adequate to the estimated expenditure. There has yearly been a Budget, and yearly a recourse to the House of Commons. The position of a minister in the House of Commons has therefore greatly risen. Nine years out of ten the nation could at present dispense with a House of Lords—though a useful, it is an auxiliary power; but every year we want a House of Commons, for it has to grant funds of primary necessity. The minister who can manage the Commons, and extract from them the necessary moneys, has then become our most necessary minister.
The change was just beginning; for Walpole, Bolingbroke’s schoolfellow and Parliamentary rival, ruled his generation by his Parliamentary and financial abilities. But Bolingbroke was too eager and impetuous to foresee the action of this powerful but obscure cause. The tradition had been, that the peers were superior to the Commons, and he adhered to this tradition. He was angry till he obtained his peerage.
Nor was he satisfied when he did obtain it. He was made a viscount only, and Harley had been made an earl. He could not bear to be inferior to him in anything, especially as there was an extinct earldom in his own family. He was vexed, angry, and dissatisfied. Once he went out of town, and would attend to no business for days. He was angry too with the press. The Peace of Utrecht was attacked and assailed, and it was his peace. It is true that Bolingbroke should have been able to bear literary comments, even when rather bitter. He was himself through life an unscrupulous writer, using the press without reluctance and without cessation. He was then employing Swift, the most bitter writer of libels, both political and personal, that can be conceived. He lived with Swift in intimacy, and printed his libels. He gave him political information and ideas, and praised him when he used them so as most to hurt his adversaries. He ought to have been able to bear anything, yet he could bear nothing. He prosecuted many more persons than it was usual to prosecute then, and far more than have been prosecuted since. He thought, with a continental wit, that “a press is free when Government newspapers are licentious”. He thought that everything should be said for him, and that nothing should be said against him. The copyists of Alcibiades are commonly irritable, for neither their nature nor their habits teach them forbearance.
But neither Bolingbroke’s disunion with his principal colleague, nor the attacks of the press, were his greatest danger. He was in the worst political position which can be imagined. As we have explained, the principal question of the age was a question of dynasty: after the peace with France it was the sole great question; it is in the nature of a topic so absorbing to swallow up every subject of minor interest. There were only two solutions of the problem possible. The law prescribed one, and a sort of superstition prescribed another. The Act of Settlement said that the House of Hanover was to succeed Queen Anne; the doctrine of non-resistance said that the Pretender was to succeed her. The Jacobites adhered to the doctrine of non-resistance. The Whigs adhered to the Act of Parliament. Both these parties had a definite solution of the principal topic of the hour. But between these fluctuated the great mass of the Tory party, who did not like the House of Hanover because it had no hereditary right, who did not like the Pretender because he was a Roman Catholic. This party objected to both possible solutions; they lived in the vague hope that the Pretender might turn Protestant—that some unforeseen circumstance would intervene—that Queen Anne would last their time. For persons in a private station such a state of mind was very possible and very natural. But it was of this very party that Bolingbroke was the spokesman and the leader, and he was a minister. He could not well remain without a distinct policy. Queen Anne, though not old, was often ill. She was suspected to be, and we now know she was, very near her death. He must make a choice.
Yet which king was Bolingbroke to choose? If he chose the House of Hanover, he himself ought not to be minister. This was the Whig candidate, this was the candidate whom his party disliked—at whom they murmured—whom they declined to support. A Tory ministry which should bring in the House of Hanover was like a Derbyite ministry that should propose free trade or reform of Parliament. It was a ministry which tried to maintain its existence by denying its party tenets. Probably in those times a Tory ministry could not have done what we have seen them do in our own time. Party spirit ran much stronger in Queen Anne’s time than in ours. The political contentions of London were like the contests at a borough election now. At three o’clock on the polling day it is very difficult to change your politics and keep your character. So it was in London then. A fierce strife raged. Whig society and Tory society were separated like two hostile camps, and a deserter from one to the other was sure of contemptuous hatred from those he left, and of contemptuous patronage from those to whom he came. Bolingbroke could not do even once that which Mr. Disraeli has done twice.
Bolingbroke’s enemies have been very anxious to fix on him a formed design to bring in the Pretender. He would doubtless have been very glad to do so, if he could have formed a coherent scheme. But he could not. Oxford was far too moderate and timid a man to break the law, or to plan to break it. He had himself supported the Act of Settlement. He knew that the Hanoverian succession, though not popular to the imagination of any class, was acceptable to the reason of the most thinking class. He knew that the aristocracy, the large towns, and all the cultivated part of the community, were in favour of it. He knew that, as the aristocratic classes had the command of the House of Lords, of the small boroughs, and of very many counties, as the great towns were of themselves favourable, the House of Hanover was sure of a majority in Parliament. He knew that the general vulgar, and especially the rural vulgar, who were favourable to the House of Stuart, though numerically strong, were but weak in Parliamentary representation. He was probably a party to some covert intrigues, for intrigue was intrinsically agreeable to him; but, in reality, he was too timid to abandon the plain and legal course for a tortuous and illegal one. Bolingbroke had, on the other hand, a constitutional predilection for violent courses, and no particular objection to an illegal course. If he could have turned out Oxford—if he could have carried his party with him, he would certainly have contrived some scheme for proclaiming the Pretender at Queen Anne’s death. But even he was not mad enough to commit himself to a definite plan before he knew that he should have the power to execute it. In the meantime “Tom Harley,” the prime minister’s brother, exactly expressed the position of the ministry. “We ought,” he said, “to be better or worse with Hanover than we are.” The case, as men saw it then, was simple. The Queen was daily approaching the grave. The ministry in power were uncertain what to do in the event of her death. They had “no settled intention” of breaking the law, Bolingbroke tells us; but he does not venture to contend that they had a settled intention of obeying it. They were drifting to a crisis without a plan.
Nor was Bolingbroke comfortable while the Queen lived. She herself did not like him. A smaller person has never been placed by the caprices of fate amid great affairs than the “good Queen Anne”. She had not, Swift says, “a sufficient stock of amity” for more than one person at a time; she was always choosing a favourite upon whom to concentrate her affections exclusively. Her comprehension was as limited as her affections. She seriously objected, it is said, to one minister for appearing before her in a tie-wig instead of a full-bottom; and even if this anecdote has been exaggerated by continual narration, it expressses the sort of objections which ruled her mind and determined her conduct. She had a strong objection to all license; decorum was a sort of morality to her, as to most great ladies; she would have been much puzzled to fix where manners ended and where morals began. Bolingbroke was license personified; and therefore she distrusted and disliked him. She did not altogether approve, either, of the Peace of Utrecht. She probably did not understand the details, but she evidently understood that it was a “perplexing matter,” and “not the sort of thing to which she had been accustomed under Lord Marlborough”. The original strength of the Tory ministry had been in the Queen’s predilection for Miss Hill, afterwards Lady Masham; Harley ruled Miss Hill, and Miss Hill ruled the Queen. But the Queen was not quite sure about Miss Hill. One of her tastes was a taste for aristocracy; and she was half ashamed of having taken a great liking to a waiting-maid who had been placed about her. She had an old predilection also for the Duchess of Somerset, by birth the last of the Percies, whose husband was a Whig. Swift was never easy as to the effect of this friendship. He said, “the Duchess of Somerset is a proud woman, but I will pull her down”; so he libelled her, which did not make her more propitious to him or his masters. There was always a danger that the ex-waiting-maid, on whom all depended, should be discarded, as the Duchess of Marlborough had been discarded; that the Duchess of Somerset might become prime favourite in her stead; that the policy of the Government, and all the persons of our rulers, should be again changed by the inexplicable caprice of a quiet old lady.
And Bolingbroke had another difficulty. The distrust of him was not confined to Queen Anne. It extended through his party, and was an inevitable result of his peculiar position. He was an eloquent man without prejudices, speaking the prejudices of men who could not speak. But the speechless client and the eloquent advocate differ in nature so much that they can never much like or well understand each other. The Tory party knew that when Bolingbroke expressed their favourite conviction, he did not himself believe a word of what he was saying. And they could not tell what he did believe. And, being for the most part regular men of middle life from the agricultural counties, they did not much like to trust as their leader a young man of loose life about town. After the Peace of Utrecht especially, he could not tell what they would think, and they could not tell what he would do. They could never have anticipated his doing anything so mean as that, and he could never understand what disgrace there was in so obvious a diplomatic stratagem as breach of faith. In our own time, it is easy to vex Tories. You have only to ask, “What is Dizzy’s next move?” Such short words would not have suited our formal ancestors. But many a courteous Whig, doubtless, asked many a Tory, “What is to be my Lord Bolingbroke’s next fine stroke of policy?” and the Tory could not have known what to say. So long as Oxford was at the head of affairs common men felt that there was still something ordinary about the Government. But if Bolingbroke were to become sole minister, or chief minister, we should be subjected to the bold schemes of undiluted genius.
In this difficult position Bolingbroke showed great ability. He could not, indeed, remove its irremovable defects. He could not declare for the House of Hanover; and he could not declare for the House of Stuart. He could not remove the dislike which a dull Queen, and a dull party, felt for a brilliant man. But what could be done he did. He showed great Parliamentary ability, and was ever ready with wonderful eloquence. He pleased his party by a Schism Bill, agreeable to High Churchmen, and disagreeable to Dissenters. He obtained the favour of the waiting-maid, if he could not obtain that of the Queen, her mistress. Miss Hill (or Lady Masham, as she now was) was a sort of relation of Oxford’s; and this had first brought them together. For a long time the union was firm; he gave her much counsel and some money, and she gave him much power. But Oxford had a conscience, or vestiges of a conscience, in the use of public money. He was not ready to give Miss Hill, or Miss Hill’s brother, all that they wanted. Swift puts it that he was too careful of the public interest for the corruption of the time; or, as we should put it, he would not bribe without limit against the public interest out of the public treasury. But Bolingbroke had no scruples; he bid higher; he gave Miss Hill and “Jack Hill” all he could, and promised that they should have more if they would make him first minister and maintain him as such. He himself may tell the result: “The Earl of Oxford was removed on Tuesday; the Queen died on Sunday. What a world is this, and how our fortune banters us!” Such was the close of three years of intrigue. He had bribed the waiting-maid just when the mistress was no more.
Nor at the moment was this the worst. The Queen’s distrust of Bolingbroke had lasted till her death. The white staff—the “magic wand,” as Bolingbroke calls it, long disused in English politics, but then the symbol of the lord high treasurer and of the prime minister—had been taken from Oxford, but it had not been given to any one. Bolingbroke could not gain it for himself. It was arranged that the Treasury should be put into commission, as it had been in King William’s time, and as it always now is. Bolingbroke was to continue secretary of state, and be in fact principal minister; yet he was not to have the indefinite power of the lord treasurer—the mystic power of the white staff. But on her death-bed Queen Anne felt that Bolingbroke could not be trusted even so far. She was dying, and knew that she was dying. She doubtless felt that it was her duty to place the administration in the hands of some one who would obey the law on her death. She did not like the family of Hanover; she had the most keen repugnance to the presence of any of them in England during her life. She could not endure to see her successor close at hand, and it probably never struck her as a matter of duty to save the country from a possible convulsion of civil war. She was a very little-minded woman, but at the same time she was a decorous woman, and a well-meaning woman. She would not have planned or dared or wished to break the law which she had passed. As death was coming upon her, she knew that the practical premiership of Bolingbroke would endanger the security of the Act of Settlement. Of all statesmen he was least likely to obey it, and therefore most unfit to be prime minister when it was of critical importance to obey it. Obscurely, perhaps, but effectually, Queen Anne felt this. She gave the white staff to Shrewsbury; and Bolingbroke’s three days of premiership were at an end.
Probably Bolingbroke felt the disaster the more that he was obliged to seem to assent to it. Shrewsbury had been acting as confidential adviser to the Queen for some time, to Bolingbroke’s dismay. He knew, he said, how he stood with Oxford—that was open war; but how he stood with Shrewsbury, he did not know. As soon as the Queen was despaired of, the privy council was summoned, and by ordinary rule only those summoned should attend; a ministry thus secures a privy council of chosen friends. But at this meeting two Whig dukes, the Duke of Somerset and the Duke of Argyle, attended, though not summoned, and by their influence the council was induced to ask the Queen to make Shrewsbury high treasurer; and Bolingbroke was obliged to assent. Neither in the nation, nor at the court, had he substantial influence or effectual power.
He had in truth no alternative. A frantic bishop, Atterbury, bishop of Rochester, wanted him to proclaim the Pretender. But Bolingbroke, though a hot-headed statesman, had a notion of law and a perception of obvious consequences. He was not a hot-headed divine: he knew that by law George I. must be proclaimed at once; he knew that Shrewsbury, who wielded the white staff, which every one would obey, would at once proclaim George I. He knew that he could not himself command the obedience of a watchman. All the force of government had at once passed from him, and he acquiesced in the new order of things. He assisted at the proclamation of George I.
The law had indicated the steps which should be taken in case of the Queen’s death, and before her successor could be brought over from Germany. A document was produced by the Hanoverian minister, naming Lords Justices, who were to administer the government until the arrival of George I. Of these Lords Justices, Bolingbroke, of course, was not one. They were all sound Whigs, and steady friends to the House of Hanover. As Bolingbroke had for four years been wielding the force of government so as to give pain to them, they immediately began to exercise it so as to give pain to him. They appointed Addison as their secretary; desired all documents to be addressed to him; and, though Bolingbroke was still in high office, and had at the last moment been real prime minister, they kept him waiting at their door with studied circumstances of indignity, which were much remarked on then, and which much tried his philosophy.
It would, however, have well been for Bolingbroke if mere indignities like these had been all which was in store for him, or all which he deserved. When Parliament met, zealous Whigs naturally began to murmur a good deal as to the past. Bolingbroke had ruled them hardly during his reign. His ministry had removed Marlborough from his appointments; his ministry had expelled Walpole from the House of Commons. Walpole would most likely have said that the Whig “innings” had arrived, and that the actions of their predecessors must be scrutinised. Bolingbroke for a time affected to fear nothing. Oxford went to and fro in London, and Bolingbroke followed his example. All at once he changed his policy. He appeared at the theatre in state, and took pains while there to attract attention; went home, changed his dress, and fled to France.
In truth, he was thoroughly frightened. He declared that “his blood was,” he understood, “to have been the cement of a new alliance,” between the moderate Tories and the Whigs. Some have traced this notion to the hints of Marlborough, but it was most likely due as much to Bolingbroke’s own conscience. He knew well that the secret negotiations prior to the Peace of Utrecht would not bear even fair scrutiny. He knew that they were now to be subjected to hostile scrutiny. Even from impartial judges he could only expect condemnation, and his case would now be tried by his enemies. His life, indeed, was in no danger. Neither the nation, nor the party opposed to him, were inclined to bloodshed; but he felt he was in danger of something. His guilty conscience magnified the possibilities of punishment; to escape them, he did exactly what was worst for his reputation. Though it was as much as pleading guilty, he fled.
He was attainted as a traitor in his absence, and there may be legal doubt as to whether the attainder was deserved. That a minister who advises his sovereign to violate a treaty, and who violates it accordingly, is worthy of severe punishment, will be admitted by every one; and that Bolingbroke had done this is beyond question or dispute. But this offence does not amount to high treason, and the details of an incidental transaction as to the town of Tournay had to be pressed into the service; and it required much stretching to make these amount even to a constructive treason. But whatever might be the legal correctness or the incorrectness of the precise punishment inflicted on Bolingbroke is scarcely material now. He well deserved a bill of “Pains and Penalties”; and whether he was or was not visited with the very penalty that was most suitable, does not matter much.
On Bolingbroke’s arrival in France, he looked about him for awhile. He was at once solicited by the emissaries of the Pretender, but he deliberated for some time, and it would have been wiser for him to have deliberated longer. He well knew that, though there was much latent Jacobite sentiment in England, there was no good material for a Jacobite rebellion. Many squires and rectors and peasants would have been glad to see the legitimate king restored; but their zeal was not very active; it belonged to the region of traditional sentiment and vague prejudice, rather than to that of practical and vigorous life. The House of Hanover had the force of the Government and the sense of the country in its favour. It was in possession, and Bolingbroke was aware that the Jacobites could not expel it from possession. He knew all this well, but his passions were too strong for his judgment; from excitability, restlessness, and rage, he joined the Pretender. He could not help being busy, and hoped, or half-hoped, to be revenged on his enemies.
He could not, however, long agree with his new associates. The descent from actual office to imaginary office was too sudden; to many men it was pleasing to be secretary of state to a mock king, but it was very painful to one who had just been secretary to a real queen. His contempt, too, for the Irish associates of the Pretender was unbounded. He saw that they were hot-headed and ignorant men—who knew nothing of the country which they hoped to rule—whom that country would not endure for a day. He knew that the Roman Catholics in England were a small and unpopular body, and their aid more dangerous than their enmity. The genuine Jacobites distrusted him also. He said that they were untrustworthy because they were fools, and they said that he was untrustworthy because he was a traitor. This could not last; after a brief interval, he left the Pretender and his Court: they began to slander him, and he began to speak much evil of them.
With his secession from the Jacobites Bolingbroke’s active career ends. He was afterwards only an aspirant for a career. He was, after several years, permitted to return to England, and to enjoy his estate, though he was an attainted traitor; but the attainder was not reversed, and while it was in force he could not take his seat in the House of Lords, or hold any office whatever. He wrote much against Walpole, but he did not turn out Walpole. On one occasion he was much mortified because Pulteney and the practical opponents of Walpole said that the support of his name rather weakened than strengthened them. He gave in a long memorial of suggestions to George I.; but the king said they were “bagatelles”. He then fancied that he should become minister because of the support of Lady Suffolk, George II.’s mistress; but Lady Suffolk had no influence, and Queen Caroline, who had predominant influence, supported Walpole. He then hoped to be minister under the Prince of Wales, George II.’s son, and wrote a treatise on a “Patriot King” for that Prince’s use. But George II. outlived his son; and he was saved the mortification of seeing how little that small prince would have carried out his great ideas. Though he survived Queen Anne more than thirty years, he never after her death attained to a day’s power in England. Three years of eager unwise power, and thirty-five of sickly longing and impotent regret—such, or something like it, will ever be in this cold modern world the fate of an Alcibiades.
[1 ]The Life of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, Secretary of State in the reign of Queen Anne. By Thomas Macknight, author of the History of the Life and Times of Edmund Burke.
[1 ] Sir G. C. Lewis.
[1 ] Swift’s Journal to Stella.