Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 54.djvu/35
ster's resistance of the popular cry for war with Spain during 1738 stirred all Chesterfield's energies in opposition. During the session of 1739 few speakers enunciated more bellicose sentiments. 'Let us,' he said on 31 May,'for once speak the sense of the nation, and let us regain by our arms what we have lost by our councils.' Walpole declared war with Spain in obedience to the clamour. But the ill-success of the naval operations with which it opened gave Chesterfield and his friends new ground of attack. On 13 Feb. 1741 he signed the protest in favour of Carteret's unsuccessful motion for the removal of Sir Robert Walpole from the king's councils. But, despairing of making immediately any effective impression on Walpole's position, he afterwards set out on a seven months' visit to the continent.
There is little reason to doubt that the ostensible reason of his tour anxiety on account of his health was the true one. His parliamentary efforts had brought him into line with Lord Bolingbroke's following, but Horace Walpole's suggestion that he was despatched to Avignon by the enemies of the minister to obtain Jacobite support 'for Sir Robert's destruction' is unsupported. His first stopping place was Brussels, where he spent a few days with Voltaire, who read to him portions of his tragedy 'Mahomet.' After drinking the waters at Spa he passed to Paris. There Cardinal Fleury showed him 'uncommon distinctions.' He was eagerly welcomed in fashionable salons, and spent much time with men of letters, especially with Crebillon fils, with Fontenelle and Montesquieu, whom he thenceforth reckoned among his closest friends. Later, in September, he went south, and passed three days with Lord Bolingbroke, whose literary style had long excited his warmest admiration; but, according to Chesterfield's own account, they talked nothing but metaphysics. Chesterfield returned home in November 1741, and at once resumed the war on Walpole. Within a few months his triumph was assured. On 11 Feb. 1742 Walpole resigned office, and was called up to the House of Lords as the Earl of Orford.
Chesterfield's share of responsibility for Walpole's fall was very large. But his cynical temper discounted any enthusiasm for himself on the part of those with whom he had been acting, and with Pulteney and Carteret, two of his chief allies in the strife, he was wholly out of sympathy. The king was ill-disposed to him. The new ministry, of which Spencer Compton, earl of Wilmington, was the nominal head, was controlled by Carteret, whose Hanoverian leanings were repudiated by Chesterfield. Consequently he was not invited to join the government. He professed satisfaction, and urged the new government to press their advantage over Walpole to the uttermost. When Walpole took his seat in the House of Lords, Chesterfield somewhat sardonically wished him joy, but at the same time supported the bill indemnifying witnesses who should give evidence before the committee of secrecy that had been appointed to inquire into Sir Robert Walpole's conduct in office. The bill was thrown out by the upper house.
Thenceforth Chesterfield declared himself to be 'still in opposition.' In November 1742, when he attended the king's levée, he had 'a long laughing conversation' with Orford, who was not sorry that his successors in office should feel the sting of Chesterfield's tongue. At the opening of the next session (1743) Chesterfield opposed the address to the crown. On 1 Feb. he denounced with fiery sarcasm the government's proposal to take Hanoverian troops into British pay, and talked of 'the dirty mercenary schemes of pretended patriots and avowed profligates.' He expressed himself even more bitingly in the newspapers. On 5 Feb. 1743 there appeared a new periodical, called 'Old England, or the Constitutional Journal.' To the first and third numbers Chesterfield contributed letters signed ' Geffery Broadbottom,' and effectively complained that, though the men were changed, the measures remained the same. A popular anonymous pamphlet, 'The Case of the Hanover Forces in the Pay of Great Britain examined,' which passed through three editions in 1743, was attributed to the joint pens of Chesterfield and Edmund Waller. An answer by Sir Robert Walpole's eldest brother called forth from Chesterfield and his colleague two further tracts, 'A Vindication' and 'A Further Vindication' of their position. A sequel, 'The Interest of Hanover steadily pursued since the A[ccession] ... by Broad-bottom,' was assigned to Chesterfield alone. On 15 Feb. Chesterfield attacked Carteret's 'gin' bill, which altered the duties on spirituous liquors and imposed licenses on the retailers. He argued that the proposed changes would encourage drunkenness (the report in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for November was contributed by Johnson, who claimed to have invented it). Ten bishops joined Chesterfield in the same lobby, 'and made him fear,' he said, 'he was on the wrong side of the question. He was unaccustomed to divide with so many lawn sleeves.' But the opposition was in a minority, and the bills were carried.
On the death of Wilmington, in July