Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/370

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the popular and safe way, but neither threats nor promises should hinder him from speaking his mind (Sidney, Diary, p. 125). At the same time he endeavoured to safeguard the future by assuring the Prince of Orange of his fidelity, and by reassuring him upon the subject of the restrictions with which he proposed to trammel a Roman catholic king. His scheme of restrictions not appearing feasible, he further endeavoured to conciliate the exclusionists by the device of a regency. The commons nevertheless requested the king to remove Halifax from his counsels and presence as a promoter of popery and betrayer of the liberties of the people, alleging his late advice to the king to dissolve parliament; they even summoned Burnet to satisfy the house as to his religion, but these proceedings were summarily terminated by the dissolution of 18 Jan. 1681. A new parliament was to meet at Oxford on 21 March. Before the old parliament had dispersed, Halifax had temporarily withdrawn from political life. ‘Notwithstanding my passion for the town,’ he wrote to his brother, ‘I dream of the country as men do of small-beer when they are in a fever.’ About Christmas 1680 he went down to Rufford Abbey, the old family seat in Sherwood Forest, and vainly sought peace of mind, after Temple's example, in philosophic gardening.

The general election (of March 1681) dispelled Halifax's jealous fears that Danby might regain power. The events that followed the dissolution of the Oxford parliament confirmed his view that the strength of the opposition was quite disproportionate to its clamour. Before the end of May 1681 he emerged from his retirement, and now for a short period held a position of commanding influence. He was in high favour with the king, who had bluntly refused to dismiss him from his council; and although the Duchess of Portsmouth's dislike of him, owing to his hostility to the French interest, threatened the permanence of his cordial relations with Charles, he was so far reconciled to the duchess in December 1681 as to visit her in her lodgings and to attend the king there. He had the firm support of the bishops and the moderates against the revolutionary party and the ultra-protestant supporters of Monmouth. The proximate influence of James seemed the chief obstacle in his path. By 1682 he was consequently anxious for the summoning of a new parliament; but Charles proving obdurate, he made a new move, and sought to draw back the Duke of York to protestantism. Unless he complied, he protested that ‘his friends would be obliged to leave him like a garrison one could no longer defend.’ His next overtures were towards Monmouth, but these were not at first successful. In May he was even insulted and challenged by Monmouth, who received in consequence a severe reprimand from the king (cf. Reresby, p. 250; Luttrell, i. 189; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. p. 352). Early in this year (February 1682) Halifax was the victim of a singular hoax, ‘funerall ticketts’ being dispersed ‘in severall letters to the Nobility desiringe them to send theare coaches and six horrseses [sic] to St. James's Square to accompany the body of Gorge Earl of Halifax out of towne’ (Lady Campden to the Countess of Rutland, ap. Rutland Papers, ii. 65 sq.).

During this summer his position at court seemed strengthened by a rapprochement with Sunderland, and by his elevation to the rank of marquis (22 Aug.); but in June 1682, when the Duke of York returned from Edinburgh, his supremacy reached its term.

Thenceforth his advice carried little weight at court. In vain he urged lenity in respect to Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney and the other whig leaders. Although in October Charles, to the annoyance of James and Barillon, created him lord privy seal (Groen van Prinsterer, Archives de la Maison, 2nd ser. vol. v.; cf. Dalrymple, i. 370), all his energies were now absorbed in combating James's growing influence. His only hope lay in Monmouth. He must detach Monmouth from violent counsels and revive in the king his old affection for him. In October 1683 he discovered Monmouth's hiding-place after the Rye House plot, brought him a message from the king, and persuaded him to write in return. He prevailed upon the king to see his son at Major Long's house in the city, and drafted further letters from Monmouth both to Charles and to the Duke of York. But the latter proved too strong; and when Monmouth withdrew the confession, which James had insisted that the king should exact, all present hopes of his restoration to favour had to be abandoned.

In the matter of foreign policy Halifax, when Louis seized Luxemburg and Strassburg, boldly deprecated the project of private mediation by Charles, and advocated the scheme of a congress of ambassadors in London, which had been suggested by the Prince of Orange. His proposals were highly distasteful to Barillon, who tried in vain to administer a bribe. ‘They know well your lordship's qualifications,’ wrote the English envoy in Paris, Lord Preston, ‘which makes them fear and consequently hate you, and be assured, my lord, if all their strength can send you to Rufford, it shall be employed to that end. Two things they particularly ob-