Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/98

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
Sacheverell
Sackville
86

the court interest; and though, in the first heat of the revolution, they had returned a whig majority, it was certain that they would revert to their old allegiance. Three or four days after his resignation Sacheverell proposed to add a new clause to the bill, which was intended to shut out from the franchise a great number of those who had been concerned in the surrender of charters, and thus to secure the lasting ascendency of his party. The great debate which ensued, and ended in the discomfiture of the whigs, has been admirably described by Lord Macaulay. Sacheverell and his friends, though defeated and discouraged, did not abandon the design of excluding their opponents from power. It was resolved to graft a bill of pains and penalties upon the bill of indemnity, and soon afterwards a number of exceptions from the latter were carried, among which Sacheverell's famous clause appeared in another form. At last the king's mind was made up. He desired to unite the nation, and was weary of these continual attempts to divide it. Four days later he prorogued parliament, and the dissolution which followed resulted in a large tory majority. Sacheverell was returned for Nottinghamshire; but his health had begun to fail, and in October 1691, just as parliament was about to meet for the opening of the new session, he died at Barton. His body was carried to Morley, and buried there on the 12th, and an altar-tomb was afterwards erected to his memory, which records with truth that he had ‘served his king and country with great honour and fidelity in several parliaments.’

He was twice married: first, to Mary, daughter of William Staunton of Staunton; and secondly (before 1677), to Jane, daughter of Sir John Newton of Barr's Court, and had issue by both wives. Dr. Henry Sacheverell [q. v.] was not related to the family of the politician.

Sacheverell appears in Barillon's list of those who accepted presents of money from Louis XIV towards the end of 1680; but the evidence against him has been rejected by Hallam as untrustworthy, and the charge seems to be hardly consonant either with his character or with his circumstances. It is more difficult to defend his share in the events of the ‘popish plot,’ except at the expense of his judgment; but the excuse may be urged that he was a zealous protestant, and therefore more prone than Shaftesbury to be imposed upon by the perjured testimony of Oates. In the parliamentary struggles over the Test Act, the impeachment of Danby, the ‘popish plot,’ and the attempt to exclude James from the throne, he effectively influenced the policy of his party and the course of events; but the whole of his life, with the exception of a single year, was passed in opposition, and (unless it were in the constitutional settlement of the revolution) he had never the opportunity of showing that he possessed the higher qualities of statesmanship. It was as an orator and a party tactician that he shone, and he was perhaps the earliest, certainly one of the earliest, of our great parliamentary orators. Many years after his death his speeches were still, writes Macaulay, ‘a favourite theme of old men who lived to see the conflicts of Walpole and Pulteney.’

A fine portrait of William Sacheverell, ‘æt. 18’ (the property of the present writer), is at Renishaw; an engraving from it forms the frontispiece to ‘The First Whig.’

[Sacheverell is not mentioned in any biographical dictionary, but many of his speeches are preserved in Grey's Debates. See the present writer's ‘The First Whig: with 49 illustrations from cuts, engravings, and caricatures, being an Account of the Political Career of William Sacheverell, the Origin of the two great political Parties, and the Events which led up to the Revolution of 1688,’ 1894. Of this book fifty-two copies were privately printed.]

G. R. S.

SACKVILLE, CHARLES, sixth Earl of Dorset and Earl of Middlesex (1638–1706), poet and courtier, born on 24 Jan. 1637–8, was the son of Richard Sackville, fifth earl (1622–1677), and Frances, daughter of Lionel Cranfield, first earl of Middlesex [see under Sackville, Sir Edward, fourth earl]. Owing, perhaps, to the confusion of the times in his youth, he received his education from a private tutor, and, as Lord Buckhurst, travelled in Italy at an early age. Returning at the Restoration, he was in 1660 elected to parliament for East Grinstead, but ‘turned his parts,’ says the courtly Prior, ‘rather to books and conversation than to politics.’ In other words he became a courtier, a wit, and a man about town, and for some years seems to have led a very dissipated life. In February 1662, he, his brother Edward, and three other gentlemen were apprehended and indicted for killing and robbing a tanner named Hoppy. The defence was that they took him for a highwayman, and his money for stolen property; and either the prosecution was dropped or the parties were acquitted. In 1663 he was mixed up in the disgraceful frolic of Sir Charles Sedley [q. v.] at ‘Oxford Kate's,’ and, according to Wood and Johnson, was indicted along with him, but this seems to be negatived by the contemporary report of Pepys (1 July 1663). He found better