Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XX. On several Subjects suggested by Lord Melcombe's Diary; particularly the Practice of bartering the Cure of Souls for the Corruption of Parliament. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
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SECTION XX. On several Subjects suggested by Lord Melcombe’s Diary; particularly the Practice of bartering the Cure of Souls for the Corruption of Parliament. - Vicesimus Knox, The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5 
The Works of Vicesimus Knox, D.D. with a Biographical Preface. In Seven Volumes (London: J. Mawman, 1824). Vol. 5.
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On several Subjects suggested by Lord Melcombe's Diary; particularly the Practice of bartering the Cure of Souls for the Corruption of Parliament.
It is very desirable that country gentlemen, who are often inclined to show a blind attachment to ministers, as if loyalty were due to the servants of a court as well as to the master, would peruse, with attention, the Diary of Lord Melcombe. There they are admitted behind the curtain, and even under the stage, to see the machinery. There they behold filthy workmen, dirty wheels within wheels, every thing offensive to the eye, and all busy for hire to produce a specious outside show on the stage, for the amusement of the spectators, while the showmen pocket the pence. It would have been worth the while of courtiers to have paid the price of a campaign in Flanders, and the subsidy of a German prince, to have suppressed the publication of Lord Melcombe's Diary. The secrets of the ministerial conclave are there laid open; and the effect is no less disgustful than that which strikes the senses on the opening of a common sewer. Nothing but the most selfish covetousness, the weakest vanity, the meanest, dirtiest, most villanous of the passions! No regard for the happiness of the nation, much less for the happiness of mankind; one general struggle, by artifice and intrigue, not by honourable and useful exertions, for power, profit, and titles! It might be supposed, that the parties concerned were banditti, contending in a cave about the division of plunder. How are the words Lord and Duke disgraced and prostituted, when prefixed to miscreants warmly engaged in such transactions! Such men are truly levellers, the enemies of the peerage, the involuntary promoters of equality! In a greedy rapaciousness for themselves, they forget not only the good of their country and mankind, but the interest of their own privileged order.
When little and base minds, like the heroes of Bubb Doddington's Diary, be a rule, every thing, even religion itself, becomes an instrument of corruption. It is well understood by every body, that church preferments, even with cure of souls, have long been used to secure the interest of courts in venal boroughs; but the following passage contains a curious proof of it, under the hand of Lord Melcombe, and under the authority of the then prime minister, the Duke of Newcastle.
“December the 11th, 1753,” (says Lord Melcombe,) “I saw the Duke of Newcastle. I told him, that in the election matters (of Bridgwater and Weymouth) those who would take money I would pay, and not bring him a bill; those that would not take, he must pay; and I recommended my two parsons of Bridgwater and Weymouth, Burroughs and Franklin:—he entered into it very cordially, and assured me they should have the first crown livings that should be vacant in those parts, if we would look out and send him the first intelligence.—I said, I must think, that so much offered, and so little asked, in such hands as theirs, and at a time when boroughs were particularly marketable, could not fail of removing, at least, resentments, and of obtaining pardon .... His Grace was very hearty and cordial.
“29th. Went to the Duke of Newcastle, and got the living of Broadworthy for Mr. Burroughs.
“March 21st. Went to the Duke of Newcastle— told him I was come to assure him of my most dutiful affection and sincere attachment to him, having no engagements to make me look to the right or the left ... I engaged to choose two members for Weymouth, which he desired might be a son of the Duke of Devonshire, and Mr. Ellis of the Admiralty. I supposed he would confirm that nomination—but that was nothing to me.∗ He might name whom he pleased.—Mr. Pelham told me the King asked him if I seriously designed to endeavour to keep Lord Egmont out of Bridgwater. Mr. Pelham told his Majesty that he thought I would; that I desired him to lay me at the King's feet, and tell him, that as I found it would be agreeable to his Majesty, I would spare neither pains no expense to exclude him. The Duke of Newcastle said he had seen how handsome my proceedings had been; that this was the most noble that could be imagined!... I said, What if I came into the place Sir Thomas Robinson left? He considered a little, and said, Very well, pray go on. I said I would particularly support him in the House, where he would chiefly want it. He said he knew I would. I said, There is my old place—Treasurer of the Navy; I should like that better than any thing. But I added, Why should I enter into these things; I leave it wholly to your Grace. He said the direction of the House of Commons was fallen upon him—therefore he could not choose by affection, but must comply with those who could support him there. I said I understood so; and that I thought I might pretend to some abilities that way; that in the opposition, I was thought of some use there; that in court, indeed, I never undertook much, because he knew I never was supported: but now, when I should be supported, I hoped I might pretend to be as useful there as my neighbours. He said it was incontestably so. I said, that considering that I chose six members for them at my own great expense, I thought the world in general, and even the gentlemen themselves, could not expect that their pretensions should give me the exclusion. He said, that what I did was very great! that he often thought with surprise at the ease and cheapness of the election at Weymouth! that they had nothing like it! I said, I believed there were few who could give his Majesty six members for nothing. He said he reckoned five, and had put down five to my account. ... I said I must be excused from talking any more about myself; that I left it entirely to him and to the King; that I was fully determined to make this sacrifice to his Majesty; that I knew I had given no just cause of offence, but that I would not justify it with his Majesty; that it was enough that he was displeased, to make me think that I was in the wrong, and to beg him to forget it: I would not even be in the right against him; and I was very sure I would never again be in the wrong against him, for which I hoped his Grace would be my caution. He said he would, with all his heart. He took me up in his arms, and kissed me twice, with strong assurances of affection and service.”
A few days after, this honest man went to Bridgwater to manage the election, and thus proceeds his Diary.
“April 14, 15, 16. Spent in the infamous and disagreeable compliance with the low habits of venal wretches,” the electors of Bridgwater.
If the men of Bridgwater, urged perhaps by want, were venal wretches, what must we think of the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Melcombe? I hope my reader will pause, and ponder the words of the preceding passage. They furnish a great deal of matter for very serious reflection to those who regard the true interests either of church or state.
Lord Melcombe's Diary was much read when it first came out; but it has since fallen into neglect. Events, however, have happened in the political world, which render it extremely interesting at the present period. In consequence of the French revolution, much pains have been taken to decry the people, and extol the aristocratical part of society. The tide has run wonderfully, in consequence of false alarms and ministerial artifices, in favour of courts and courtiers. The people have been called, not only venal wretches, but the swinish multitude. Long and tiresome books have been written to run down the people, as destitute of virtue, principle, of every thing honest and honourable, and that can give them any right to interfere with the grand mysteries of a cabinet. But he who reads and considers duly the very striking anecdotes and conversations in Lord Melcombe's Diary, will find, that, in order to see venality in its full growth, and survey sordidness in its complete state of abomination, it will be necessary to turn from low to high life.
The people are often turbulent and indiscreet in their transactions, but they are always honest and always generous. They feel strongly for the cause of humanity and justice. They have a noble spirit, which leads them to view meanness and sinister conduct with detestation. But is there any of this manly independence, this honest openness, this regard for the rights and happiness of man, among those whom Lord Melcombe, so unfortunately for the great vulgar, has introduced to public notice? There is all the deceit in his own character, which would denominate a man a swindler in the commercial walks of life. All the transactions of the junto are conducted with the timidity, secresy, duplicity of a nest of thieves, mutually fearing and fawning, while they hate and despise each other from their heart's core.
On the practice of purchasing votes in boroughs, by bartering the cure of souls, the most sacred charge, if there be any thing sacred in human affairs, I shall expatiate more at large in a future section.
This Bubb Doddington, after selling himself, betraying the prince, and offering his six members to the best bidder, was made a lord. He was created Baron of Melcombe Regis, as a reward for such prostitution of principles as ought to have caused him to be branded on the forehead with a mark of indelible infamy.
But can we suppose that there has been but one Bubb Doddington in this country? one Newcastle? I wish the supposition were founded in probability. It would be the simplicity of idiotism to suppose, that Bubb Doddington has not exhibited in his Diary a picture of parasitical courtiers, in all times and countries, where corruption is the main principle of administration.
If such men should, in any country of Europe, influence the councils of princes, and manage the popular assemblies, would there not be reason to be alarmed for the best constitution ever devised by human wisdom? Such men hate the people. They love nothing but themselves, the emoluments of places, the distinction of titles, and the pomp and vanity of the courts in which they flatter and are flattered. They will ever wish for a military government, to awe the saucy crowd, and keep them from intruding on their own sacred privileges and persons. The Herculean hand of a virtuous people can alone cleanse the Augean stable of a corrupted court formed of miscreant toad-eaters like Lord Melcombe.