He voted with Harley against the proposal for the ‘tacking’ the Occasional Conformity Bill to the Land-tax Bill in November 1704.
In the new parliament of 1705 St. John again sat for Wootton Bassett. During the following period he appears to have conducted his business in parliament with general applause, and to have remained on intimate terms with Marlborough, whose special favourite he was generally supposed to be. Marlborough (see Macpherson, ii. 532), after the death of his son in 1703, is said to have transferred his paternal affection to St. John. Meanwhile Harley was beginning to intrigue against the whigs. Godolphin was becoming suspicious of St. John as well as Harley. St. John does not appear to have taken any important part in the private manœuvres. He belonged, however, to Harley's party in the government. Marlborough and Godolphin were relying more and more upon the support of the whigs; and when Harley was forced to leave office (11 Feb. 1707–8), St. John retired with him, and was succeeded by Robert Walpole.
Parliament was dissolved in April 1708, and St. John did not sit in the next session. He retired to Bucklebury, which was now his wife's property, her father having died the year before. He wrote a warm complimentary letter to Marlborough upon the victory of Oudenarde from Battersea, where his grandfather had just died. He professed to retire to philosophy and reflection, though some verses given to him by a friend at the time imply that he was still as much of a rake as ever (Journal to Stella, 13 Jan. 1710–11). St. John, however, seems to have read a good deal, especially in history, though he could not resign himself to be a mere student. He had kept up his relations with Harley, and when the revolution in the cabinet took place in the autumn of 1710, he became secretary of state, while Harley became chancellor of the exchequer. Harley, however, had desired at first to place St. John in a subordinate office, a fact which St. John did not forget (Bolingbroke Corresp. i. 132). Lord Dartmouth was St. John's colleague; but St. John took the lead, and was entrusted with the foreign negotiations. He sat in the parliament that followed as member for Berkshire.
Although petty backstairs intrigues had led to the fall of the whigs, the new government was supported by the great change of public opinion. Peace was clearly desirable, if not absolutely necessary. The country was becoming sick of the war, jealous of its allies, suspicious of the motives of the government for refusing terms of peace, and irritated by the attack upon Sacheverell. Harley and St. John appeared to be bound by the closest friendship (see Swift, Behaviour of the Ministers), and their chief difficulty at first was in the excessive zeal of their supporters, who formed the ‘October Club.’ St. John gave assurances to the Dutch of continued fidelity to the alliance. The ‘Examiner’ had been started in August in the interest of the tory party, and the tenth number, attacking the conduct of the war, was at once attributed to St. John, and served as a manifesto of the new policy. When Marlborough reached England at the end of 1710, St. John gave him a lecture upon the necessity of returning to his old friends (Corresp. i. 78). Although the duchess was dismissed from her office, the duke was persuaded to continue in command of the military operations. During the following session the commons, under St. John's management, voted various party addresses: they passed the act requiring that members should possess a certain income from landed property; voted a sum for building fifty new churches in London; and published a report stating that thirty-five millions of money had been spent without being sufficiently accounted for. The murderous attack upon Harley by Guiscard [see under Harley, Robert, (1661–1724)], on 8 March 1711, made the victim popular as a martyr. Guiscard had been the companion of some of St. John's disreputable excesses, and had at first intended to stab St. John in revenge for his arrest. Harley got the wound and the credit by accident, and this appears to have stimulated their latent jealousy. Harley's elevation to the peerage, on 23 May, left to St. John the management of the House of Commons; though Harley became lord treasurer, and was still supposed to have the supreme power. St. John, in the summer, was responsible for the expedition to Canada, of which he boasts that he was the sole designer (Corresp. i. 264). The tory policy at the time was in favour of diverting English enterprise from the continental war, which, as they held, was chiefly profitable to the Dutch and our other allies. The failure of the expedition was no doubt insured by the military command being entrusted to John Hill (d. 1732?) [q. v.], whose merit was that he was brother of Lady Masham.
Meanwhile negotiations had been started with the French government through the Abbé Gaultier, who had long been in England as chaplain to foreign ministers. He was sent to France about the end of 1710 by the ministry. According to Swift (Last Four Years), Gaultier had been previously instructed by the French court. The papers collected by