Stanhope, James (DNB00)
|←Stanhope, Lady Hester Lucy||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
STANHOPE, JAMES, first Earl Stanhope (1673-1721), was eldest son of Alexander Stanhope (youngest son of Philip Stanhope, first earl of Chesterfield [q. v.]), by Catharine, daughter of Arnold Burghill of Thingehill Parva, Herefordshire. His father was envoy to the States-General, and died in 1707. James was born at Paris in 1673, and was naturalised as a British subject by an act in 1696. He was educated at Eton and matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, 'aged 14,' on 25 May 1688, but took no degree. When his father went to Madrid as British minister in 1690 he accompanied him, and spent a year there, gaining a knowledge of the Spanish language and character which proved useful to him afterwards. In 1691 he went to Italy, and served under the Duke of Savoy. In 1694-5 he served as a volunteer in Flanders. He distinguished himself and was severely wounded in one of the assaults at Namur, and on 1 Nov. 1695 he was given a commission as captain and lieutenant-colonel in the 1st foot-guards. On 12 Feb. 1702 he obtained the colonelcy of a regiment, afterwards the llth foot. He was elected M.P. for Newport (Isle of Wight) in 1701 and for Cockermouth in 1702. He continued to represent the latter place till 1713. He was a steady whig, and supported the act of settlement in 1701. He took part in Ormonde's expedition to Cadiz in August 1702, and acted as Spanish secretary to the duke (see his letters in Spain under Charles II). He was mentioned in Ormonde's despatch as having particularly distinguished himself in the storming of the south battery at Vigo on 23 Oct. He served with his regiment under Marlborough on the Meuse in 1703. He went to Portugal with it in 1704, and was sent to garrison Portalègre; but an attack of rheumatism and a Portuguese doctor, 'who, by bleeding and dieting me, had almost done my business,' obliged him to go back to Lisbon, and he escaped being made prisoner with his men in May, when Portalegre was taken by Berwick. He returned to England, and was made brigadier-general on 25 Aug. 1704.
In June 1705 he went back to the Peninsula with Peterborough's expedition [see Mordaunt, Charles, third Earl of Petersborough]. In the councils of war at Barcelona he was less averse to undertaking the siege than most of the land officers. In the attack on Fort Montjuich, on 13 Sept., he commanded the reserve, and helped to secure the possession of the captured outworks. When Barcelona itself capitulated he was sent into the town as a hostage, and his tact and knowledge of the language proved useful in appeasing the outbreak of the inhabitants, who rose against the garrison. In doing this he and Peterborough ran greater risk, as he told Burnet, than they had done during the siege. He was sent home with the despatches, charged by Peterborough to look well after his interests. The Archduke Charles, in his letter to Queen Anne, made particular mention of Stanhope's 'great zeal, attention, and most prudent conduct.'
On 29 Jan. 1706 he was appointed minister to Spain in place of (Sir) Paul Methuen [q. v.] He left England at the end of February with reinforcements, which reached Barcelona on 8 May. The French had been besieging it for more than a month, and the breaches were ready for assault, but Tesseé raised the siege, and retreated into France. This gave the allies the opportunity to get possession of Madrid, on which Galway was already advancing from Portugal [see Massue de Ruvigny, Henry de]. Peterborough wished to march on it from Valencia, taking the archduke Charles with him; and Stanhope, whom the archduke had welcomed as minister, did his utmost to persuade the latter to this course. But Charles, guided by his German advisers, to whom Peterborough was odious, decided to go by way of Aragon, and Stanhope went with him. On 6 Aug., a month too late, they joined Galway's army at Guadalaxara. Peterborough, who arrived at the same time from Valencia, to every one's relief soon betook himself to Italy. But by this time the Bourbon army was stronger than that of the allies, and the latter, straitened for supplies, found it necessary to fall back on Valencia. In January 1707, when the plans for the coming campaign were discussed, the majority of the officers were in favour of an advance of the whole army on Madrid before the Bourbon army should receive the reinforcements expected from France. But Noyelles, who was at the head of the Spanish contingent, the archduke Charles, and Peterborough, who had come back from Italy, recommended purely defensive action. On the other hand, Stanhope warmly declared that 'her majesty did not spend such vast sums, and send such number of forces to garrison towns in Catalonia and Valencia, but to make King Charles master of the Spanish monarchy,' and that he should protest in the queen's name against a mere defensive line of action. His course was cordially approved by the British government, but it displeased the archduke. Noyelles carried his point, and marched the Spanish troops into Catalonia, Charles and Stanhope accompanying them. Galway had only 15,500 men when, on 25 April, he encountered Berwick at Almanza, and was defeated. Peterborough, who had been peremptorily recalled, and was now on his way home, laid the blame on Stanhope. He wrote to Marlborough: 'I cannot but think Mr. Stanhope's politics have proved very fatal, having produced our misfortunes and prevented the greatest successes' (Coxe, Marlborough, ii. 81). But this was mere spite. A year before he had written to Stanhope (18 Aug.): 'I see no one but yourself that can support this business;' but he had learnt that Stanhope's secretary had said things against him in England, and after his return to Spain from Italy he and Stanhope ceased to be friends. When the House of Lords held its inquiry into the conduct of the war in Spain in January 1711, it pronounced that Peterborough had been right, and Galway and Stanhope wrong, in the discussions at Valencia; but this was a party resolution, and was really aimed at Marlborough and his colleagues.
Disgusted with the lethargy and obstruc- tiveness he met with at Charles's court, Stanhope wished to resign, and strongly urged that Prince Eugene should be sent to Spain, or some other arrangement made which would secure unity of command. In September, at Galway's request, he joined the army, and was put in charge of what remained of the English foot. But the army was too weak to interfere with the enemy.
At the end of the year he went to England to attend parliament. It was then decided that he should succeed Galway, who wished to be relieved, in command of the English troops, retaining his post as minister with Charles. He was made major-general on 1 Jan. 1708 with the local rank of lieutenant-general, and on 26 March was appointed commander-in-chief of the British forces in Spain. He brought a bill into parliament at this time to release the highland clans from obedience to their chiefs if the latter took up arms against the queen. This was prompted by the Jacobite attempt at invasion, but was allowed to drop after the failure of that attempt.
In April 1708 Stanhope went with Marlborough to The Hague to consult Prince Eugene, and in May he rejoined the army in Catalonia. The emperor, unwilling to spare Eugene, had sent Marshal Stahrenberg to take the chief command, and the death of Noyelles removed the main cause of friction. But the allies were weak, and the Bourbons continued to gain ground throughout the campaign. The want of a port in which the British fleet could winter had been much felt, and on 15 July Marlborough wrote to Stanhope: 'I conjure you, if possible, to take Port Mahon.' In September Stanhope acted I on this suggestion with skill and vigour. He landed in Minorca on the 14th with 2,600 men, and Fort St. Philip, which had a garrison of one thousand men, surrendered on the 29th. He left a garrison there consisting wholly of English troops, for, as he wrote to Sunderland, 'England ought never to part with this island, which will give the law to the Mediterranean both in time of war and peace.' Sunderland replied that his action was approved 'for the reasons you mention, though some of them must be kept very secret.' On 2 Dec. he accompanied Stahrenberg in an attempt to surprise Tortosa, which the Bourbons had taken in July. As he wrote, 'It proved a Cremona business. We got into the old town, killed the governor and about two hundred men, brought off nine officers and fifty soldiers prisoners, but by an unlucky accident missed our aim.' In August the Duke of Orleans, with whom Stanhope had been intimate at one time in Paris, had made secret overtures to him, starting with the suggestion that he (Orleans) should be made king of Spain, instead of either Philip or Charles. Negotiations went on for some time, with the knowledge of the British government and the archduke, and probably of Louis XIV also. In Stanhope's opinion they 'very much abated the edge of the Duke of Orleans' in the campaign of 1708. But they were brought to light by the Princess Orsini in the winter, and Orleans did not return to Spain.
Stanhope was promoted lieutenant-general on 1 Jan. 1709. The campaign of that year was languid, owing to the overtures for peace made by Louis XIV and the expected withdrawal of the French troops from Spain. In April Stanhope went to the relief of Alicant, which had been besieged for more than five months. The town had been taken, but five hundred men still held out in the castle, in spite of the mine which had swallowed up the governor and all the chief officers. But it was found impracticable to land troops, and on the 18th Stanhope came to terms with the besiegers, and brought the garrison away. At the end of August he went to Gibraltar to command an expedition against Cadiz, which the British government had decided on, and for which they had sent out five thousand men. But it was found that the attempt was hopeless, and he brought the troops to Catalonia.
He spent the winter in England, and was a member of the committee which drew up articles of impeachment against Sacheverell, and one of the managers at his trial in February 1710. His speech on the 28th against the doctrine of nonresistance is said to have discomposed Sacheverell more than any of the other speeches.
At the end of May he rejoined the army in Spain. Reinforcements in July raised it to a strength of 24,500 men, of whom 4,200 were British. The Bourbon army was less in number, and consisted wholly of Spanish troops. Stahrenberg, a cautious veteran, still inclined to the defensive, and Charles also; but Stanhope pressed for a bolder course, and was supported by the other officers. On 26 July the allied army advanced towards Aragon, and Stanhope was sent forward to secure the passage of the Noguera. The enemy tried to anticipate him, and on the 27th the cavalry action of Almenara was fought, in which Stanhope, with 2,600 men, routed 4,200 supported by some battalions of foot. He killed one of the Spanish leaders in a personal encounter. The Bourbon army retired in some confusion to Lerida, and about a fortnight afterwards fell back on Saragossa.
There it offered battle on 20 Aug., and was thoroughly beaten, losing twelve thousand men out of twenty thousand. The hardest fighting was on the left of the allies, where Stanhope was in command, and opposite to which the bulk of the Bourbon cavalry was massed. General (afterwards lord) Carpenter wrote that evening to Walpole that the successes of the allies were entirely due to Stanhope, 'both for pressing in council and for the execution.' He had 'hectored the court and marshal into these marches and actions.'
He now strongly urged that the allies should march on Madrid, and be joined there by the army of Portugal. In this opinion he was supported by the majority of the officers, and it was in accordance with Marlborough's views. Stahrenberg and the archduke thought it would be better to remain in the north, to intercept communication between France and Spain, than to enter Castile, which had already shown itself so hostile. However, they gave way, and on 28 Sept. Charles entered Madrid, preceded a week before by Stanhope. The latter was sent forward to Talavera to meet the troops from Portugal.
But meanwhile the Spaniards had rallied round Philip at Valladolid with unexpected enthusiasm. Vendôme arrived from France to command his army, which by the middle of October numbered nearly twenty-four thousand men. Vendôme moved southward to Almaraz, and interposed between Madrid and the slowly advancing army of Portugal, which thereupon fell back. Noailles invaded Catalonia from Roussillon, and Charles, who had left his wife at Barcelona, quitted Madrid on 18 Nov. in order to rejoin her.
By the end of that month it had become clear that the allied army could not winter in Castile, and on 3 Dec. it began its retreat on Aragon. As Stahrenberg explained in his report, 'the late season of the year and the necessity of getting provisions and forage for the troops obliged us to march in columns and by different ways; the English troops, believing they might find some provisions in Brihuega and subsist better there, took that road' (London Gazette, 9-11 Jan.) It does not appear that he made any objection. They arrived there on the 6th, and Stanhope sent to Stahrenberg, who was at Cifuentes, seventeen miles off, for further orders. He also asked him to send some ammunition. Meanwhile the Bourbon army had marched with astonishing rapidity from Talavera (forty-five leagues in seven days), and on the morning of the 8th it appeared on the hills above Brihuega. Stanhope, who had only about 750 horse, was not able to ascertain the enemy's force, and by evening he was surrounded. He had barely time to send off an aide-de-camp to Stahrenberg; and he made such arrangements as he could to defend the town, which was enclosed by an old and unflanked wall. He had eight squadrons and eight battalions, but they were very weak. The British troops numbered little more than 2,800 officers and men, and, in addition to them, there was one Portuguese battalion of about seven hundred (Return furnished on 13 Dec. 1710, in Foreign Office Papers).
Having made two breaches, Vendôme assaulted them with twenty battalions at 4 P.M. on the 9th. They were vigorously defended, and the fighting was obstinate for three hours. But the streets were searched by artillery and musketry fire from the hills above; a fresh breach was made by a mine; and when six hundred of the defenders had been killed and wounded, Stanhope capitulated, seeing 'that the enemy had a considerable body of men in the town, and that in our whole garrison we had not five hundred men who had any ammunition left.' One of his officers, Pepper, wrote afterwards to Marlborough that he might have retired into the castle (Coxe, Marlborough, iii. 160); but the tone of the letter does not entitle it to much weight, and there seems no reason to question the stoutness of his defence, though Stanhope ought not to have let himself be surprised in so bad a post and with insufficient ammunition.
Stahrenberg was rather slow in coming to his assistance, and halted for the night about halfway between Cifuentes and Brihuega (London Gazette, 3-6 March). Next morning he advanced, found the enemy under Vendôme drawn up to receive' him, and was defeated in the battle of Villa- Viciosa.
Stanhope's military career ended at Brihuega. He was kept a prisoner at Saragossa for more than a year and a half. He had been at once authorised to propose his exchange for the Duke of Escalona, but the exchange was not accepted so long as there was any reason to fear his influence against the conclusion of peace. He came home through France, and met Bolingbroke at Fontainebleau, but declined to be presented by him to Louis XIV.
Stanhope arrived in England on 16 Aug. 1712 (O. S.) He was welcomed by the whigs, who were now out of favour with both court and country, and he became one of the leaders of the opposition in the House of Commons. In the election of 1710 he had been defeated for Westminster, but was again returned for Cockermouth; and when he lost that seat in 1713, he was elected for Wendover. The government bore him no good will, and sent a commission into Spain to sift the accounts of his expenditure. But instead of establishing anything against him, it turned out that a balance was due to him. His answer to the report of the commissioners was published in 1714 (40 pp.) He had been given the colonelcy of a regiment of horse in July 1710, but the regiment was disbanded at the peace.
He took an active part in the opposition to the treaty of commerce with France in May 1713, and spoke forcibly against the Schism Act in the following year. Bolingbroke has described him as 'not apt to despair, especially in the execution of his own projects' (Letters on History, i. 225); and he speaks of himself as 'ever inclined to bold strokes.' His sanguine and resolute character made him play a leading part in baffling the Jacobite intrigues and securing the Hanoverian succession. He made arrangements with Cadogan (acting on behalf of Marlborough, who was then at Antwerp) to bring over troops from Hanover upon the queen's death, but they proved to be needless.
On 14 Sept. 1714 four days before George I landed in England Stanhope was appointed secretary of state for the southern department, and on the 24th he was made privy councillor. Charles Townshend, second viscount Townshend [q. v.], the principal secretary of state, being in the lords, Stanhope led the House of Commons in concert with Walpole, who was not at first in the cabinet. In the new parliament which met in March 1715 he represented Newport (I. W.) In June, after the impeachment of Bolingbroke and Oxford had been carried, he moved and carried the impeachment of Ormonde. When the Jacobite rising took place in August, he had the chief direction of the measures for its suppression; and he employed in this work the officers who had served under him in Spain — Carpenter, WiUs, and Pepper. He is said to have afterwards saved the life of John Nairne, lord Nairne[q.v.],one of the six peers condemned.
He took an active part in the passing of the Septennial Act; but the sphere most congenial to him was foreign affairs. He had been sent to The Hague and to Vienna in October 1714, to bring the Dutch and the imperial government into agreement as to the terms of the barrier treaty. He was well received by the emperor, Charles VI, with whom he had been so closely associated in Spain; but he was not successful, and the treaty was not signed till November 1715.
In July 1716 he accompanied George I to Hanover, and remained there with him for six months. During this time he was engaged in a more important negotiation the treaty of alliance with France, by which the regent was to withdraw all countenance from the Pretender in return for a guarantee of his own succession if Louis XV died without issue. Dubois was sent by the regent to Hanover. He and Stanhope were old acquaintances, and they arranged matters together, the many difficulties in the way being overcome with much dexterity. The treaty was to be signed at The Hague, and the Dutch were to be invited to be a party to it. Both Stanhope and the king were eager for its completion, because troubles were brewing both with Sweden and with the czar which might cause it to fall through. They were both much annoyed at the delays which occurred, and which they attributed to the ministers in England.
The king had other grievances against Townshend, who was unwilling to let Great Britain be dragged by Hanover into a quarrel with the northern courts. George suspected him of being in league with the Prince of Wales against him. His anger was inflamed by Sunderland, who was dissatisfied with his own position in the ministry, and had gone to Hanover to intrigue. The result was that the king decided to dismiss Townshend; and Stanhope, though he tried in vain to change his purpose, did not feel bound to resign. On 15 Dec. he wrote to Townshend, by the king's command, to inform him of the decision, and to offer him the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland. This caused a breach not only with Townshend, but with Walpole, and Stanhope was unjustly charged with treachery (vide correspondence in Coxe's Walpole, vol. ii.)
Townshend eventually accepted the lord-lieutenancy, but he and his adherents gave so doubtful a support to the government that on 9 April 1717 the king deprived him of his office. Walpole and others resigned, and the ministry was reconstructed, Stanhope becoming (on the 15th) first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer. He frankly owned his incapacity for these duties, which were ' remote from his studies and inclination,' and in the following year he exchanged places with Sunderland, becoming again secretary of state for the southern department on 21 March 1718. He had been raised to the peerage on 12 July 1717, as Baron Stanhope of Elvaston and Viscount Stanhope of Mahon in commemoration of his capture of Port Mahon; and on 14 April 1718 he was created Earl Stanhope.
Alberoni's preparations to recover for Spain some of her lost possessions in Italy were then threatening the peace of Europe. A fleet under Byng was sent to the Mediterranean in June, and on the 14th Stanhope set out on a special mission to Paris and Madrid. In Paris he negotiated the quadruple alliance of England, France, Austria, and Holland, but in spite of this powerful combination he could not persuade Alberoni, who had already landed thirty-five thousand men in Sicily, to abandon his plans. The offer to give up Gibraltar was made in vain, and Stanhope left Madrid on 26 Aug. But already on the llth the Spanish fleet had been destroyed by Byng off Cape Passaro. The death of Charles XII a few months later was even a heavier blow to Alberoni. His expedition to raise the Jacobites in Great Britain, in March 1719, miscarried; and at the end of that year Spain purchased peace by his dismissal and acceded to the quadruple alliance.
Stanhope's policy was equally vigorous and successful in behalf of Sweden, which had made peace with England after the death of Charles XII. Prussia and Poland were detached from the coalition against her; but the czar was bent on taking full advantage of her weakness, and Denmark acted with him. So a fleet was sent to the Baltic in 1719 under Norris, who was told by Stanhope to treat the Russian fleet as Byng had done the Spanish. The Russian ships sought shelter in their own ports, and Denmark came to terms.
In domestic affairs the chief measures with which Stanhope had to do were the repeal of the Schism Act and the Peerage Bill. He had strongly opposed the Schism Act when it was passed in 1714, and he brought in a bill to repeal it on 13 Dec. 1718. He would have liked to repeal the Test Act also, and he introduced clauses into his bill cancelling some of its provisions; but the opposition was so strong that he had to sacrifice those clauses. The 'mischievous' Peerage Bill was brought in on 5 March 1719, to fix the number of peers and withdraw from the crown its unlimited right of creation. It was aimed at the Prince of Wales, who was very hostile to the ministry, and it was approved by the king. Sunderland has been generally regarded as mainly responsible for it, but Stanhope must at all events share the responsibility. It was dropped on 14 April, but was reintroduced in November, and passed the lords with hardly any opposition. In the commons it was rejected by a large majority on 8 Dec. This was mainly due to Walpole, who saw how good an opportunity of harassing the government was afforded by a bill which extinguished the hopes of many of its usual supporters. Stanhope's correspondence with the Abbe Vertot about the method of admission to the Roman senate (published in 1721) was no doubt prompted by this question.
In spite of the failure of the Peerage Bill, the government was strong, and it had been rejoined by Townshend and Walpole when Stanhope accompanied the king to Hanover in the summer of 1720. But the South Sea Bill had been passed in April, and the collapse of the South Sea company in the autumn brought a storm upon the ministers who had helped to inflate it. Stanhope's personal character for disinterestedness stood very high, and he had held none of the stock. But as chief minister he had to meet his share of the attacks which were made as soon as parliament met in December. On 4 Feb. 1721, in the discussion in the lords on the examination of one of the directors, Wharton compared the ministers to Sejanus. Stanhope replied, and 'with so great a vehemence that, finding himself taken suddenly with a violent headache, he went home and was cupped, which eased him a little' (Parl. History}. He died at 6 P.M. next day at his house in Whitehall, and was buried with military honours at Chevening on the 17th.
Stanhope was 'a handsome, dark-complexioned man,' as may be seen in Kneller's picture in the National Portrait Gallery. High-minded, liberal, and well skilled in the higher functions of statecraft, he lacked parliamentary ability, and he was 'wholly unfit to manage the finances of the country.' In debate he was impetuous and apt to lose his temper; but as a diplomatist St. Simon contrasts him with Craggs, and says that he 'ne perdait point de sang-froid, rarement la politesse, avait beaucoup d'esprit, de genie et de ressources' (xviii. 129). He was naturally frank and open, and he used to say that he always imposed on the foreign ministers by telling them the naked truth (cf. Lady Wortley-Montagu, Letters, iii. 54; and Lecky, i. 320, quoting a similar saying of Lord Palmerston).
Stanhope married, on 24 Feb. 1713, Lucy, younger daughter of Thomas Pitt [q. v.], governor of Madras, and grandfather of Chatham. His widow died on 24 Feb. 1723, having made provision for the stately monument to her husband which is on the south side of the west entrance to the choir in Westminster Abbey. It was designed by Kent, and executed by Rysbrack. In the inscription the year of his death is given as 1720, according to the old style. Of his three sons and two daughters, the eldest son Philip, second earl Stanhope (1717-1786), was father of Charles Stanhope, third earl Stanhope [q. v.][Lord Mahon's (afterwards Earl Stanhope) War of the Succession in Spain, with an appendix of 120 pp. of extracts from Stanhope's letters in 1706-11, Histories of England, Spain under Charles II, from the correspondence of A. Stanhope, Letters from Peterborough to Stanhope in Spain (privately printed); Memoirs of the Life and Actions of James, Earl of Stanhope, published in 1721; Parnell's War of the Succession in Spain; Foreign Office Papers, Spain, 1707-10, in Public Record Office; Marlborough Despatches; Coxe's Life of Marlborough, House of Bourbon in Spain, Memoirs of Walpole (with several of Stanhope's letters in the appendix); Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne's Reign; Noble's Continuation of Granger, iii. 212; Doyle's Official Baronage.]