Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/147

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

him the queen's orders to pay the money, which apparently went to Lady Masham or her brother (Oxford's ‘Brief Account;’ first additional articles of impeachment of Oxford and his reply; and see Macpherson, ii. 532). St. John now began to hold the predominant influence at court. By the end of 1713 he had profited by Oxford's weakness; was constantly advising the queen, and making his influence felt in every department of the government. At Christmas 1713 he went to Windsor to attend the queen, and found Anne suffering from a dangerous illness. General alarm was excited. On 1 Feb. the queen wrote a letter to the lord mayor announcing her recovery, and the intended opening of parliament on the 16th (printed in Boyer's Queen Anne, p. 660). Meanwhile public excitement was rising. Steele's ‘Crisis’ and Swift's ‘Public Spirit of the Whigs’ were the opening blows in a fierce controversy. Animated debates took place in both houses, and votes were passed in both that the protestant succession was not in danger. A demand from the Hanoverian envoy Schutz that the elector's son (afterwards George II) should receive his writ as duke of Cambridge perplexed the government. Schutz, at Bolingbroke's desire, was forbidden the court, and his recall was demanded from the elector. The queen was made to write indignant letters to the Duke of Cambridge and his grandmother, the electress Sophia, on 19 May (Boyer, p. 699), and the death of the electress immediately afterwards was attributed to the insult. To lull the fears which had been aroused, a proclamation was issued on 23 June offering a reward of 5,000l. for the arrest of the Pretender, if he should land in England. Bolingbroke privately assured the French minister that this would make no difference. At the same time a bitter warfare was taking place over the Schism Act, which was introduced in the House of Commons on 12 May by Sir William Wyndham, who had become chancellor of the exchequer through Bolingbroke's influence. It was carried by great majorities, and, after a sharp struggle in the lords, was passed with some amendment, and received the queen's assent on 25 June. The intention of the measure was to make a license from a bishop necessary for schoolmasters, and therefore to take all education out of the hands of the dissenters. Bolingbroke, whose indifference to orthodox belief was notorious, was bitterly taunted by the great whig lords, but carried his point. Oxford lost his last influence with his party by shuffling, and finally declining to vote either way. He still tried to hold on, and his last attempt appears to have been an accusation against Arthur Moore, who had been concerned in negotiating the commercial treaty with Spain, and was supposed to have taken bribes for himself, Bolingbroke, and Lady Masham. A censure was refused by a narrow majority in the House of Lords, and the session ended immediately afterwards (9 July).

A final rupture followed, and on 27 July Oxford was dismissed from his offices. ‘If my grooms did not live a happier life than I have done this great while,’ Bolingbroke had written to Swift (13 July), ‘I am sure they would quit my service.’ He was still in perplexity. On the day of Oxford's dismissal he gave a dinner to the leading whigs, and the next day told an agent to prepare for making overtures to the elector of Hanover. Meanwhile, it was generally noticed (see Boyer, Queen Anne, p. 679) that the army was being ‘remodelled’ and the most important posts put in the hands of Jacobites. The Duke of Ormonde was made warden of the Cinque ports, and the whig earl of Dorset advised to give up the governorship of Dover Castle (Walpole to Mann, 17 May 1749). Bolingbroke declared, as the French envoy Herville stated, on 2 Aug. that in six weeks he could have made matters safe (Mackintosh Collection). Queen Anne had died the day before. What Bolingbroke's plans may have been must be uncertain. He said afterwards, in his letter to Windham, that ‘none of us had any very settled resolution’ as to the steps to be taken. Probably he wished to attain such a position as to be able to dictate terms to whigs or Jacobites according to circumstances. He would not decide which card to play till he knew which was the trump suit. The intervention of Argyle and Somerset, and the appointment of Shrewsbury as treasurer just before the queen's death, destroyed Bolingbroke's power (in regard to this incident see Lecky, i. 164 n.) ‘Oxford was removed on Tuesday, the queen died on Sunday,’ wrote Bolingbroke to Swift (3 Aug.). ‘What a world this is! and how does fortune banter us!’

The dismissal of Bolingbroke from his office was among the first acts of the new king. He had held office for nearly four years of extraordinary activity. Swift (Behaviour of the Queen's Last Ministry) says that he ‘would plod whole days and nights like the lowest clerk in an office,’ and his correspondence gives abundant indications of his energy. He was as much given to pleasure as to business, and, as Swift observes in the same place, had a great respect for ‘Alcibiades and Petronius, especially the latter, whom he would be gladly thought to re-