Craggs, James (1686-1721) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


CRAGGS, JAMES, the younger (1686–1721), secretary of state, second son of James Craggs the elder [q. v.], was born in the city of Westminster on 9 April 1686. He was sent to school at Chelsea, but before he had completed his education went to travel on the continent. He visited the courts of Hanover and Turin, spending a considerable time at the former court, where, through the influence of the Countess of Platen, he gained the favour of the elector. He was afterwards appointed resident to the king of Spain at Barcelona, and was in Flanders at the commencement of the campaign of 1709. In September 1713 he was returned to the House of Commons for the borough of Tregony, and on the day before the queen's death was despatched by the council to Herrenhausen to inform George of the measures which had been taken by them to secure his succession to the throne.

Some months after the journey he was rewarded with the post of cofferer to the Prince of Wales. At the general election in January 1715 Craggs was again returned for Tregony, and on 13 April 1717 was appointed secretary at war in the place of William Pulteney, afterwards earl of Bath. Upon Addison's retirement Craggs succeeded him as one of the principal secretaries of state, with the charge of the southern department, and on the same day (16 March 1718) was sworn a member of the privy council. Though his political career had been remarkably rapid, Craggs's wonderful mastery of detail and readiness in debate enabled him quite to hold his own against Walpole in the House of Commons. Oldmixon relates that Addison ‘was pleased to say of his successor to me, that he was as fit a man for it as any in the kingdom; and that he never knew any man who had a greater genius for business, whether in parliament or out of parliament, than young Mr. Craggs, as (continu'd he) will appear by his conduct’ (History of England, 1735, p. 659). Unfortunately for his reputation he became implicated in the affairs of the South Sea Company. There is, however, but little evidence against him in the seven reports of the secret committee, and the most that can be laid to his charge is that at his suggestion the Duchess of Kendal and other ladies were bribed with presents of stock in order to facilitate the passing of the company's bill through parliament.

On 4 Jan. 1721 Shippen, who had on a previous occasion denounced ‘the contrivers and executors of the villainous South Sea scheme as the parricides of their country,’ declared in the house that ‘in his opinion there were some men in great station, whom in time he would not be afraid to name, who were no less guilty than the directors.’ Upon this Craggs immediately rose and replied that ‘he was ready to give satisfaction to any man who should question him either in that house or out of it.’ After considerable uproar, which was occasioned by this reply, he explained that ‘by giving satisfaction he meant clearing his conduct.’

A few weeks after this incident he was taken ill with small-pox, which was then very prevalent, and died on 16 Feb. 1721, in the thirty-fifth year of his age. He was buried at Westminster Abbey on 1 March, Spencer Compton the speaker being one of the pall-bearers. Though buried in the north aisle of Henry VII's Chapel, where his coffin rests upon that of his friend Addison, his monument stands in the baptistery. The unflagging interest which Pope took in the erection of this monument, and his opinion that Guelfi's work would make the finest figure in the place, will be found in his letters to Craggs's sisters. The epitaph, written by Pope, partly in Latin and partly in English, is given in Johnson's ‘Life of Pope’ (Johnson, Works, 1810, xi. 205–6), accompanied by a severe criticism on ‘the absurdity of joining in the same inscription Latin and English, or verse and prose.’ The verses were not, however, originally written by Pope for this occasion, but were taken, with one or two necessary alterations, from the conclusion of his ‘Epistle to Mr. Addison occasioned by his Dialogues on Medals.’ Handsome in appearance, with charming manners and a ready tongue, Craggs was everywhere a popular favourite. While on his deathbed, Addison in a delightful letter, which was probably the last he ever wrote, dedicated his works to him and implored his patronage for Tickell, his literary executor. Pope, with whom he was very intimate, was never tired of singing his praises, and nearly twenty years after his death makes a graceful allusion to him in the epilogue to the ‘Satires’ (Dialogue, ii. lines 66–9). Gay also speaks of him as ‘Bold, generous Craggs, whose heart was ne'er disguised’ (Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece, st. xiii.) Horace Walpole, it is true, sneers at him as ‘a showy vapouring man,’ but the young politician whom Sunderland had selected to oppose his father in the House of Commons was naturally a fit object for Walpole's depreciation. Craggs never married. His natural daughter, Harriot, married Richard Eliot on 4 March 1726. Their eldest son, who was created Baron Eliot in 1784, took the additional name of Craggs by royal license dated 15 April 1789. Her second husband, the Hon. John Hamilton, brother of James, first viscount Hamilton, was drowned off Portsmouth on 18 Dec. 1755. Her only child by her second marriage succeeded his uncle as the second viscount, and was afterwards created marquis of Abercorn. She died in 1769, and was buried at St. Germans. Three portraits of Craggs, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, are in the collection of the Earl of St. Germans at Port Eliot, one of which was exhibited in the second loan collection of national portraits in 1867 (Catalogue, No. 225). Among the Ashburnham manuscripts, reported on in the eighth report of the Historical MSS. Commission (app. ii.), are a number of letters addressed to Craggs by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and many of the leading politicians of the day.

[In addition to the books referred to in the articles on the two Craggs, the following works, among others, have been consulted: Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, ii. 34–9, 43, 46; Hasted's Kent (1778), i. 42, 73–4; Lord Mahon's History of England (1839), i. 393, 448, ii. 29–30; Macaulay's History of England, iv. (1885), 547; Coxe's Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole (1798); Horace Walpole's Letters (1857); Roscoe's Works of Alexander Pope (1824); Addison's Works (Bohn's edit.); The Letters and Works of Lady M. W. Montagu (1837), i. 38–40, 116–19, ii. 155; Private Correspondence of the Duchess of Marlborough (1838); The Marlborough Despatches, ed. Sir G. Murray (1845); Granger's Biographical History (Noble, 1806), iii. 176–80; Georgian Era (1832), i. 536; Parl. History, vols. v. and vii.; Historical Register for 1714 and 1721; Stanley's Westminster Abbey (1882), pp. 219–21; Haydn's Book of Dignities (1851); Eighth Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission; Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1708–14, 1714–19; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. i. p. 600, pt. ii. pp. 1, 9, 19, 30, 38.]

G. F. R. B.