Pulteney, William (DNB00)
PULTENEY, WILLIAM, Earl of Bath (1684–1764), statesman, was descended from an old family said to have been of Leicestershire origin. From his grandfather, Sir William Pulteney, knt. (who gave his name to Pulteney Street, Golden Square), he is said to have inherited his eloquence; from his father, another William, a love of money (Fitzmaurice, Lord Shelburne, i. 45); and whig politics from both. A younger brother of his father, John, sat at the board of trade in the earlier years of Queen Anne (Boyer, Annals, pp. 288, 514, 540, 638), and this John's son Daniel Pulteney [q. v.] was closely associated with his cousin William during part of his public career.
William Pulteney was born in London on 22 March 1684. He was educated at Westminster School and at Christ Church, Oxford, where, on account of his scholarly attainments, he was chosen to deliver the congratulatory speech to Queen Anne on her visit in 1702. He never lost his love of the classics; in his old age it was said to be a sign that he had lost his appetite when he desisted from Greek and punning (Stanhope, ii. 75 n.) On quitting Oxford, he made the grand tour, from which he is said to have returned with a mind enlarged and morals uncontaminated (Life of Bishop Pearce, p. 408). Pulteney's father having died before he was of age, he was placed under the guardianship of Sir John Guise, bart. (Memoirs of Life and Conduct, &c., p. 10). He inherited a considerable property, and his guardian afterwards left him a legacy of 40,000l. and an estate of 500l. a year. His entrance into parliament was therefore a matter of course. By his late guardian's interest he was in 1705 elected for Hedon (or Heydon) in Holderness; and this Yorkshire borough, from which he afterwards took one of his titles as a peer, he continued to represent till 1734.
Pulteney was at first a silent member of the whig majority. His earliest speech was in favour of the place bill of 1708 (Coxe, iii. 25–6). In the debates on the Sacheverell sermon towards the close of 1709, he loyally anathematised the heresies of passive obedience and non-resistance. When the tories came into power in 1710, his uncle John was removed from the board of trade, and his enthusiasm for the whigs accordingly increased. On the occasion of the charges brought against Walpole and others in the House of Commons in December 1711, Pulteney upheld him in debate, and, after his imprisonment, visited him in the Tower. He is also said to have composed the ironical ‘Dedication to the Right Hon. the Lord——’ (understood to be Oxford) to the ‘Short History of a Parliament’ published by Walpole in 1713. During the peace negotiations he was one of the subscribers to a secret fund which was raised to enable the emperor to maintain his refusal to accept the arrangement (Coxe, Walpole, iii. 28).
In 1714 Pulteney's wealth and social importance were increased by his marriage with Anna Maria, daughter of John Gumley of Isleworth, who brought him a large portion, and did her utmost through life to augment their combined resources. Lord Hervey (i. 10) denies her ‘any one good, agreeable, or amiable quality but beauty;’ Miss Carter (Memoirs, p. 240) states that she ‘checked the tendency of’ her husband's ‘own heart in the direction of lavish expenditure;’ Sir Charles Hanbury Williams made venomous attacks on Pulteney's ‘vixen,’ ‘Bath's ennobled doxy,’ ‘Mrs. Pony,’ &c. (Works, i. 134, 177–8, &c.). According to Lord Hervey (iii. 132–3), the vacillating part played by Pulteney in reference to the proposal made by Sir J. Barnard in 1737 for the reduction of the interest on the national debt was mainly due to the fact of his wife's separate fortune being invested in the stocks. Bishop Newton relates that after their marriage Pulteney assigned ten thousand pounds to her as a nest-egg, which her speculations increased to sixty thousand pounds. He adds that she refused to make any will, desiring all her wealth to go to her husband (Life, pp. 122–3).
In the course of the debates on the civil list of George I (before the king's arrival in this country), Pulteney supported the proposal of the elder Walpole that a reward of 100,000l. should be paid to anybody apprehending the Pretender in case of his attempting to land (Coxe, Walpole, iii. 28; cf. Memoirs of (the elder) Horatio Walpole, 2nd ed. 1808, i. 16). In the new ministry appointed by the king, Pulteney was included as secretary at war; and in April 1715 he was chosen by the House of Commons one of the committee of secrecy to which the papers concerning the late peace negotiations were referred. On 16 July 1716 he was named of the privy council (Doyle). He remained an uncompromising adherent of the whig party so long as it continued under the joint guidance of Stanhope and Walpole; indeed, the three politicians were spoken of as ‘the Three Grand Allies.’ On 9 Jan. 1716 he moved the impeachment of Lord Widdrington, one of the rebels of 1715, and soon afterwards he opposed the motion for an address to the king to pardon those of the Scottish rebels who would lay down their arms (Coxe, iii. 29). When, in April 1717, the split in the government led to Townshend's dismissal from the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland and Walpole's resignation, Pulteney and Methuen resigned on the following day (11 April) (Stanhope, i. 262–3). His alliance with Walpole continued apparently unbroken until 1721, when Walpole became first lord of the treasury. Then, to his profound mortification, Pulteney was not offered office. Walpole told him that ‘a peerage had been obtained for him,’ but this he brusquely declined. On the discovery of the so-called Atterbury plot in 1722, he was chosen to move an address of congratulation to the king, and acted as chairman of the select committee which drew up the report on the inquiry (ib. ii. 42–3). On 28 May 1723 he was appointed cofferer of the household, the (second) Earl of Godolphin being induced to make way for him, and for a time he supported the administration of which he had thus become a subordinate member. But the sop proved insufficient. In April 1725 he resisted Walpole's proposal for discharging the debts of the civil list, and then, for the first time, he and Walpole indulged in bitter personalities at each other's expense. Pulteney finally voted for the ministerial proposal. He explained afterwards that the king had personally appealed to him, and he felt that he had prevented the transaction from becoming a precedent (An Answer, &c., p. 52). But before the month was out, he was dismissed from his post as cofferer of the household; open war was thereupon declared between Walpole and himself (Coxe, iii. 32–5; Stanhope, iii. 74–5). It was a personal quarrel, and did not spring from differences as to public policy.
On 9 Feb. 1726 Pulteney, seconded by his cousin Daniel, moved for a committee to report on the public debts, but he was decisively defeated (Coxe, iii. 36–8). The floodgates of partisan violence were now opened, and Pulteney concluded an unholy alliance with Bolingbroke, which found its most significant expression in the establishment of the journal called ‘The Craftsman.’ The first number, published 5 Dec. 1726, announced the purpose of the periodical to be the revelation of the tricks of Robin, the imaginary servant of the imaginary Caleb d'Anvers, bencher of Gray's Inn; and the design of exposing the wiles of that ‘craftsman’ continued to give unity to this journalistic effort, till it came to an end, 17 April 1736. It appeared (after the first) as a rule on Saturdays, and was republished, with a dedication to the people of England, in 1731–7, in 14 vols. 12mo. Its conductor was Nicolas Amherst [q. v.]; but Bolingbroke and Pulteney were its mainstays, together with Daniel Pulteney and a pseudonymous ‘Walter Raleigh,’ whom Pulteney himself was never able to identify. Bishop Newton (Life, pp. 127–9) is responsible for the information that Pulteney's papers were those signed ‘C.,’ or when written conjointly with Amherst, ‘C. A.’; he may also be suspected to have been concerned in some of those signed ‘C. D.’ (cf. Horace Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, ii. 329; Lecky, History of England in the Eighteenth Century, 2nd ed. i. 375 n.) Pulteney's contributions exhibited a journalistic versatility of no ordinary kind, coupled with scholarship and general literary ability. Ridicule was his favourite weapon, but no form of journalistic composition, from the elaborate essay to the brief letter with its string of unanswerable queries, came amiss to his hand. The bulk of his contributions fell between 1727 and 1729, but they extended over the whole life of the paper, and never lost sight of the paper's special aim of hunting down the prime minister.
In parliament Pulteney joined the Jacobite Sir William Wyndham [q. v.] in forming a new party out of malcontent whigs and Jacobites. They called themselves the ‘Patriots;’ and Wyndham and Pulteney were designated the ‘consuls of the Patriots’ (cf. Hervey, i. 29). In the first instance the Patriots attacked the foreign policy of the government, which centred in the much-misrepresented treaty of Hanover (1725). In the commons (16 Feb. 1726) Pulteney's proposal to condemn it as solely intended to serve Hanoverian interests was outvoted by a sweeping majority (Coxe, ii. 237). The emperor, Charles VI, indulged the hope of overthrowing Walpole's ministry, and thus bringing about a change in foreign policy by means of the intrigues of his resident Palm with both the Hanoverian clique and Pulteney and the opposition. But Pulteney supported Walpole in the address of 13 March 1727, provoked by Palm's indiscretions. On the outbreak of war with Spain the emperor was detached from his ally by the pacific efforts of Walpole and Fleury. When at this crisis George I died (10 June 1727), the efforts of all parties were immediately directed to the supersession of his chief minister. Pulteney had been on the best of terms with George II when Prince of Wales (An Answer, &c., p. 57). He now actively intrigued against Walpole. Lord Hervey asserts that he tried to secure the king's favour by first proposing a civil list of 800,000l.—the amount which George actually obtained from Walpole—with certain additional profits (Last Ten Years, i. 42; but see Croker's note, ib.) But, perhaps owing to his failure to secure Queen Caroline's support, Pulteney's advances fell flat with George II, and he is said to have been refused permission to stand for Westminster in the court interest (ib. i. 49). In 1727 Pulteney issued a pamphlet ‘On the State of the National Debt, as it stood December 24th, 1716,’ &c. (cf. Craftsman, No. 90, vol. iii.). He argued that between 1716 and 1725 the debt had increased by at least nine millions, and was likely to rise by five millions more, the operation of the sinking fund having been rendered nugatory by the South Sea scheme and its consequences. In the new parliament which assembled 23 Jan. 1728 Walpole, whose reputation as the saviour of the national credit was thus called into question, brought (22 Feb.) the whole subject of the working of the sinking fund before parliament, and Pulteney (29 Feb.) undertook to prove, and more than prove, the contentions of his pamphlet. But in the debate, granted on his demand, the minister's counter-assertions were approved by a large majority (8 March) (Coxe, Walpole, ii. 307–11; Stanhope, ii. 214).
In 1729 the criticisms of Pulteney and his friends on Walpole's foreign relations, with Spain in particular, were deprived of point by the conclusion of the treaty of Seville (9 Nov.), which was highly favourable to British interests. In 1730 Walpole openly broke with Townshend, who resigned office (16 May). It is said that at this crisis Pulteney was offered, through Walpole's most consistent supporter, Queen Caroline, a peerage and one of the secretaryships of state. He abruptly declined both. (Coxe, Walpole, iii. 35). A bitter quarrel followed between Pulteney and Lord Hervey, his former friend. The efforts of Pulteney, assisted by his steady ally, Hervey's wife, to detach Hervey from Walpole had been only temporarily successful (Memoirs of Lord Hervey, i. 128–31). In 1731 there was issued a pamphlet entitled ‘Sedition and Defamation displayed,’ with a caustic ‘Dedication to the Patrons of the “Craftsman.”’ Hervey was responsible for the dedication only, but, in the belief that he had written the pamphlet as well, Pulteney retorted, under the signature of ‘The Craftsman,’ in ‘A Proper Reply to a late Scurrilous Libel.’ The ‘Reply’ was most offensive in tone, and gave Pope hints for his character of Hervey as ‘Sporus’ (Epistle to Arbuthnot, pp. 305–333; cf. Pope, Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iii. 266, and note). Demands for avowal or disavowal of authorship were made on both sides, without much effect. A bloodless duel was consequently fought between the disputants, 25 Jan. 1731, on the site of the present Green Park (see Croker's Introduction to Hervey's Memoirs of George II, i. 34–7; Sir C. H. Williams, Works, i. 204; Caricature History of the Georges, p. 100). This is said to have been Pulteney's solitary duel; but he escaped another, with his constant adversary, Henry Pelham, only by intervention of the speaker (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, i. 9).
Of more importance was a controversy between Pulteney and Walpole, provoked by a letter contributed by Bolingbroke to the ‘Craftsman,’ 22 May 1731 (No. 255, vol. vii.), in support of his own and Pulteney's conduct as politicians. A reply, entitled ‘Remarks on the Craftsman's Vindication of his two Honourable Patrons,’ loaded Pulteney with personal abuse, and he suspected that Walpole had inspired the writer. Pulteney's reply, entitled ‘An Answer to one Part of an Infamous Libel entitled Remarks,’ &c. (1731), which may be called an ‘Apologia’ for the whole of Pulteney's earlier relations with Walpole, so enraged Walpole as to cause him to order the arrest of the printer of the ‘Answer,’ and to strike Pulteney's name (1 July 1731) off the list of privy councillors and the commissions of the peace on which it had been placed (Doyle).
Walpole's proposal in 1733 to borrow for purposes of current expenditure half a million from the sinking fund was carried in spite of the vigorous resistance of Pulteney and other members of the opposition. Undismayed, Pulteney next energetically attacked the ministerial excise scheme. In his speech against the alienation of the sinking fund he had incidentally denounced the ‘plan of arbitrary power’ contemplated in connection with ‘that monster, the Excise.’ The phrase struck fire (cf. Caricature History, p. 103); and the ‘Craftsman’ added fuel to the popular agitation by a series of articles said to have been supplied by Pulteney's own hand (Craftsman, Nos. 342, 367, 389, in vol. xi.). The real conflict took place in 1733–4. In the debate on 15 March 1733 on Walpole's test proposal of excise duties on tobacco, Sir William Wyndham appears to have carried off the chief honours on the opposition side; but Pulteney made a signal hit by his reference to a passage in Ben Jonson's ‘Alchemist’ as illustrating the gap between ministerial promise and performance (Coxe, Walpole, iii. 208–9), and he had his full share in the subsequent overthrow of the whole ministerial scheme. The attempt made in 1734 to renew the clamour against the pretended designs of the government broke down, and other manœuvres of the opposition met with no better success. Among these was a proposal for the repeal of the Septennial Act, which was supported by Pulteney, although he confessed himself to have favoured the act at the time of its introduction (ib. p. 131). Personal differences among the leaders doubtless accounted for the opposition's failure. ‘Pulteney and Lord Bolingbroke,’ wrote Lord Hervey, ‘hated one another; Lord Carteret and Pulteney were jealous of one another; Wyndham and Pulteney the same; whilst Lord Chesterfield had a little correspondence with all, but was confided in by none of them’ (Memoirs, i. 305).
At the general election of 1734 Pulteney was returned for Middlesex, which he continued to represent so long as he held a seat in the House of Commons. But the ‘Country Interest’ (as the ‘Patriots’ now called themselves) were again in a minority; and Bolingbroke—largely, according to one account, by Pulteney's advice—retired to France (Morley, Walpole, p. 83). The opposition was in 1735 further weakened by the fall from royal favour of Lady Suffolk, who had been intimate with Pulteney, and who now married his friend, George Berkeley. The parliamentary warfare between Walpole and Pulteney went on, but after the intrigues of the imperial agent, the bishop of Namur (Abbé Strickland), with Pulteney and other opposition leaders had come to nothing (Hervey, Memoirs, ii. 58; cf. Stanhope, ii. 182), the signing of the Vienna preliminaries (October 1735) was patriotically approved by Pulteney himself (Hervey, ii. 243). Earlier in the year he had interchanged parting civilities in the house with Sir Robert, and had, ‘when rather dead-hearted and sick in body,’ paid a friendly visit to the elder Horace Walpole at The Hague (Stanhope, ii. 180 n.). In November he wrote to George Berkeley from Bath that he must recruit for the winter, but that he had for some time been making up his mind to give himself less trouble in parliament, in view of the inutility of ‘struggling against universal corruption’ (Suffolk Letters, i. 146).
During the session of 1736 Frederick, prince of Wales, became the figure-head of the opposition (Morley, Walpole, p. 193), and the relations between Walpole and Pulteney grew more strained. Pulteney was at the time on amicable terms with the court, and on 29 April he moved the congratulatory address on the prince's marriage (cf. Hervey, ii. 193–7, iii. 48–9). He seems to have at first offered the prince and his political allies counsels of moderation, but when the prince was egged on to decline a conciliatory offer from the king as to his income, Pulteney remarked that the matter was out of his hands. On 22 Feb. 1737 he moved, however, an address requesting the king to settle 100,000l. a year on the heir-apparent. His speech was deemed languid, and the motion was lost (ib. pp. 70–3; Coxe, Walpole, iii. 343; Stanhope, ii. 203). He had no concern in the subsequent rash proceedings of the prince, in which he believed the latter altogether in the wrong, but he thought that his apologies ought to have atoned for his misconduct. He was shooting in Norfolk when the king's message expelled the prince from St. James's, and had to be summoned by an express to Kew (Hervey, iii. 195, 208, 245–6).
During 1737 Pulteney played a subordinate part, but in 1738 he found more effective means of attack. The grievances brought forward by British merchants against Spain's claim to search for and seize contraband goods gave him an opportunity, of which he made the most (Stanhope, ii. 277). He eagerly fanned the agitation occasioned by the story of Jenkins's ear. He was implacable in his condemnation of the Spanish convention of January 1739, and a partner in the futile secession of which, on the reassembling of the house, he delivered an elaborate defence (Smollett, Hist. of England, ed. 1822, iii. 89–90; Coxe, u. s. iv. 139–41; Stanhope, iii. 3–4). In October of the same year the agitation excited by the opposition drove the government into war with Spain. Pulteney's popularity was at its height, but at the moment, while staying at Ingestre in Staffordshire with his old schoolfellow, Lord Chetwynd, he fell dangerously ill. The general alarm was changed into joy by his unexpected recovery; his illness had cost him seven hundred and fifty guineas in physicians' fees, and was cured by a draught of small-beer (Life of Bishop Newton, pp. 45–6).
In 1740 the unpopularity of the ministry was increased by the widespread impression that the war was slackly conducted (see Caricature History, &c., p. 123). On 13 Feb. 1741 Sandys brought forward his celebrated motion asking the king to remove Sir Robert Walpole from his councils for ever. Pulteney took a prominent part in the debate which ensued. He denounced Walpole's foreign policy as consistently aimed at depressing the house of Austria and exalting the house of Bourbon. But the ‘motion,’ and its counterpart in the lords, ended in collapse (see Caricature History of the Georges, p. 129, the famous caricature in which
Billy, of all Bob's foes
The wittiest in verse and prose,
appears wheeling a barrow filled with bundles of the ‘Craftsman’ and the ‘Champion,’ a periodical, it is said, of coarser grain, which had superseded the former).
Pulteney threw himself ardently into the contest of the general election in the summer of 1741, subscribing largely towards the expenses of his party (ib. p. 233). Walpole's majority was greatly reduced. In the debate on the address (December) Pulteney attacked his policy along the whole line (ib. pp. 244–5), and obtained a day for considering the state of the nation. Before, however, that day arrived the government suffered defeat (Suffolk Letters, ii. 190–2). On 13 Jan. 1742 Pulteney moved to refer to a select committee the papers connected with the war, and the motion was lost in a very full house by a majority of three (Walpole, Letters to Sir Horace Mann, i. 120–2). A week later the ministry was placed in a minority of one on the Chippenham election petition. Walpole made up his mind to bow to the storm, and George II directed Newcastle and the lord chancellor, Hardwicke, to invite Pulteney to form a government (cf. Stanhope, iii. 108), on condition that he screened Walpole from any inquiry. Pulteney received the king's messengers in his own house, and in the presence of Carteret declined their proposal, remarking incidentally that ‘the heads of parties were somewhat like the heads of snakes, who were urged on by their tails’—alluding, apparently, to Pitt and the younger whigs. At the same time he offered to go publicly to court to receive any communications with which he might be honoured by the king (Life of Bishop Newton, pp. 48–9; cf. Life of Bishop Pearce, p. 393; Morley, Walpole, p. 240). A second (or third) message thereupon reached Pulteney, through Newcastle. The previous offer was renewed, without conditions; the king trusted to Pulteney's generosity and good nature not to ‘inflame’ any proceedings against Walpole. Pulteney replied that he was ‘no man of blood,’ but refused to accept the headship of the government or any post in it. He merely stipulated that he should be named of the cabinet council (Life of Bishop Newton, pp. 49–54; cf. Life of Bishop Pearce, u. s.). His refusal of office was apparently inspired ‘by a sense of shame that made him hesitate at turning courtier after having acted patriot so long and with so much applause’ (Morley, Walpole, p. 243). He could afford to resist personal temptations, but a certain lack of public spirit may have contributed to the result.
For the position of first lord of the treasury he recommended Carteret, for the chancellorship of the exchequer Sandys, and for other posts other members of the party. Soon, however, a section which had not been consulted in these arrangements, headed by Cobham, grew jealous. At a large opposition meeting at the Fountain tavern complaints were openly made that too many of Walpole's followers were to be kept in office, and bitter words passed between Argyll and Pulteney (Coxe, Walpole, iv. 271–6). At a subsequent meeting the presence of the Prince of Wales alone prevented an open rupture. Pulteney was, however, persuaded to acquiesce in the substitution of Sir Spencer Compton, earl of Wilmington [q. v.], as first lord in place of Carteret (Walpole, Last Ten Years, i. 155 n.), and changes were made in some minor nominations that Pulteney had proposed. The new ministers accepted their seals on 16 Feb. 1742; Pulteney entered the cabinet without office, and was readmitted to the privy council (20 Feb.)
Early in March Pulteney lost his only daughter, ‘a sensible and handsome girl’ (Walpole, Letters, i. 144). During his temporary absence from the House of Commons a motion for an inquiry into the administration of the last twenty years was defeated by a narrow majority. On his return a similar motion, extending over ten years only, was brought in, at his instance, by Lord Limerick, and carried; but Pulteney excused himself from serving on the committee. A few months later he made his last speech in the commons in opposition to a resolution reflecting on the lords for throwing out the bill indemnifying witnesses in the Oxford inquiry.
Pulteney had, on the formation of the new ministry, resolved to accept the king's offer of a peerage, but he delayed his withdrawal to the House of Lords in the twofold hope of being able to leaven the ministry with a larger proportion of opposition members, and of pushing through the commons certain measures—a place bill and some bribery bills with which his name had been associated (Newton, Life, pp. 53–69). After bringing into the government a few only of those for whom he wished to find places, he, on 13 July 1742, became Earl of Bath. His political prestige was at once ruined. Walpole unjustifiably boasted that he had ‘turned the key’ upon Pulteney, who, after ‘gobbling the honour,’ perceived his error too late, and on the day when he took his seat in the lords dashed the patent on the floor in a rage (Walpole, Letters, ix. 379; cf. Edinburgh Review, u.s. p. 197). Bath afterwards told Shelburne that during the political crisis of 1742 he ‘lost his head, and was obliged to go out of town for three or four days to keep his senses’ (Fitzmaurice, i. 46–7; Caricature History, p. 145). Yet, if he behaved unwisely, he acted, according to Chesterfield, deliberately and disinterestedly (Stanhope, iii. 118). He had not conciliated the king, who ‘hated him almost as much for what he might have done as for what he had done.’ Nor had he treated his enemies vindictively. And Lady Hervey wrote with great truth on the eve of his downfall: ‘Sure the people who adhered to him in particular have no reason to find fault with him; he has taken sufficient care to provide for them’ (Letters of Lady Hervey, p. 5). But the public failed to understand his position, and assailed him with virulent abuse. To gain a title for himself and for the ‘wife of Bath,’ as she was called in a ballad which caused him great annoyance, he had sold himself to his former adversaries (see also Hanbury Williams, ‘A Dialogue between the Earl and the Countess of Bath,’ Works, i. 174–5; Walpole, Letters, i. 121; Hanbury Williams, Works, iii. 86–9; Coxe, Walpole, iv. 295–6, and note). The wittiest verse-writer of the day (unless Pulteney himself deserve that name) and the least scrupulous, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, persecuted him in a series of odes which did more execution in six months than the ‘Craftsman’ had done in twice the number of years (cf. The Country Girl, i. 132–6; the Ode to the Earl of Bath, i. 146–9; and The Statesman, i. 150–2). In another ballad he was compared to Clodius, and, with more point, to Curio by Akenside in his famous ‘Epistle’ (cf. Gent. Mag. November 1744; Poetical Works of Akenside, Aldine edit. vol. xxvi.) In 1743 Lord Perceval (afterwards Earl of Egmont) ventured, in a pamphlet called ‘Faction Detected,’ attributed to Bath himself by Williams (Works, i. 194–7), to defend his conduct; but, according to Horace Walpole (Last Ten Years, i. 31), with no other result than that of losing his own popularity. It was answered with acrimonious minuteness in ‘A Review of the whole Political conduct of a late Eminent Patriot and his Friends’ (1743), at the close of which (pp. 156–9) the charge of personal corruption was brought forward against him with renewed vehemence.
On 2 July 1743 Wilmington died, and it then appeared, if the information of Coxe (Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, i. 82–5) is to be trusted, that during the interval Bath had nursed the ambition of recovering the position which he had let escape his grasp in 1742. He despatched a private messenger to Carteret, who was at Hanau with George II, asking for the vacant headship of the treasury. But, though Carteret supported the application, the king decided in favour of the Pelhams (Coxe, u. s. 103, 110–13; cf. Hanbury Williams, Works, iii. 108–200; and the ballad on the ‘Triumvirate—Carteret, Sandys, and Bath,’ in Caricature History, p. 150).
Until 1746 Bath made no outward effort to shake Pelham's position. He and Granville, however, maintained a personal connection with George II, through Lady Yarmouth, and tacitly encouraged the king's dislike of the ministry (Walpole, Last Ten Years, i. 149). Early in 1746 the king grew desperate when he was requested by Pelham to assent to Pitt's admission to the government. At the moment the Dutch were remonstrating against the ineffectiveness of British support, and George addressed complaints to Bath and Granville as to the impotence to which he found himself reduced. After some hesitation, Bath agreed to form an administration of which he should be the head and Granville the right arm, and from which Pitt should be excluded. But Harrington refused to co-operate, and on 10 Feb. the Pelhams and their following resigned in a body. The king now invited Bath to take the treasury and select a second secretary of state with Granville; but it speedily became manifest that a majority in either house was out of the question, and that the government, if formed at all, would have to be formed of nonentities. Two days afterwards the king sent for Pelham, and the status quo ante was restored, except that Bath's remaining adherents were dismissed from the ministry. The attempt to turn him once more out of the privy council was, however, frustrated (Coxe, u. s. i. 192–6). The air was again thick with pasquinades and caricatures (cf. Caricature History, pp. 160–161).
Bath played no other part of consequence in public affairs, though he still occasionally appeared on the scene in the character described by Sir C. H. Williams (Works, i. 213) as that of ‘an aged raven.’ He was in Paris in 1750, and on his return he made a ‘miscellaneous’ speech, alternately pathetic and facetious, on the Regency Bill (1751); and there are notes of further speeches by him on Scottish and other business in the two following years and in 1756. In 1758 he supported the Navy Bill in another miscellaneous speech which ‘resembled his old orations, except that in it he commended Sir Robert Walpole’ (Walpole, Last Ten Years, i. 100–2, 128, 237, 240, 293, ii. 46, 290).
The accession, in 1760, of George III, to whom he had long been a familiar figure, gratified him (Life of Bishop Pearce, pp. 402, 403). He inspired in that year the ‘Letter to Two Great Men [Pitt and Newcastle] on the Prospect of Peace and on the Terms,’ by his chaplain, Dr. Douglas. It exerted no influence, though it was much applauded (Walpole, ii. 412). Among the old watchwords of the ‘Craftsman’ which reappear in it are the necessity of distrusting ‘French faith’ and the dangers of a standing army. It was Bath's last political effort. His remaining years were chiefly given up to social and literary dalliance with the amiable coterie of which Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu [q. v.] was the most interesting figure. Another member of it, Miss Catherine Talbot (see Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Birkbeck Hill, i. 232 n.), introduced him to Elizabeth Carter [q. v.], who has left an account of his life and ways at Tunbridge Wells (Memoirs of Mrs. E. Carter, i. 223 seqq.) He shared in a ‘plot’ to make her publish her poems, and affably composed the (laconic) dedication to himself prefixed to them. After the peace of Paris he and Dr. Douglas joined the Montagus and Miss Carter in a trip to Spa, the Rhine, and the Low Countries, from June to September 1763 (ib. pp. 249–50, 362). In 1764 a chill, said to have been caught by ‘supping in a garden,’ brought on a fever, and on 7 July he died, ‘not suddenly but unexpectedly’ (Memoirs of Mrs. E. Carter i. 386–7; Life of Bishop Pearce, pp. 407–9; Suffolk Letters, i. 201 n.) He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
His great wealth, including that of his late wife, who left everything to him, descended by his will to his only surviving brother, General Pulteney. His left no issue, his only son, Viscount Pulteney, had died at Madrid on his way home from Spain, at the age of seventeen, on 12 Feb. 1763. He was a youth of promise, and had obtained a commission in the army after his father had paid his debts (Life of Bishop Newton, pp. 122–4; Suffolk Letters, i. 146–7, 167).
Bath's character is very differently estimated by his friends and foes. They agree only in censuring his ‘too great love of money.’ He certainly was no stranger to the instinct of accumulation which is a besetting temptation to very rich men. On the other hand, he frequently responded with munificence both to public and private claims, and as a landlord was good to the church (Life of Bishop Pearce, pp. 376–9; Life of Bishop Newton, pp. 138–9). His intellectual gifts were unquestionably of a high order, and he seems to have preserved to the last that freshness of mind which in his younger days he combined with great activity of body (Suffolk Letters, i. 112). His skill in diversifying his recreations is celebrated by Ambrose Philips in an ode dated 1 May 1723. He excelled in conversation without ever seeking to ‘soliloquise or monopolise.’ Of the effectiveness of his wit abundant illustrations remain (cf. Suffolk Letters), and he was specially happy in quotation from Shakespeare and the classics (Walpole, Last Ten Years, i. 40 n.) He was author, among other ‘ballads’ and cognate productions, of a political song, ‘The Honest Jury, or Caleb Triumphant’ (written on the acquittal of the publisher of the ‘Craftsman’ from a charge of libel), which has been described as ‘once among the most popular in our language’ (Lecky, Hist. of England, i. 375 n.; Wilkins, Political Ballads, 1870, ii. 232–6). The ‘Craftsman’ is an enduring monument of his wit and literary ability. According to Horace Walpole (note to Hanbury Williams's Works, i. 132), Pulteney had a hand in ‘Mist's’ and ‘Fog's’ journals.
It is, however, as an orator that he is chiefly to be remembered. Ample evidence supports Mr. Lecky's conclusion that Pulteney was ‘probably the most graceful and brilliant speaker in the House of Commons in the interval between the withdrawal of St. John and the appearance of Pitt’ (History, &c., i. 374). Lord Shelburne wrote that he was ‘by all accounts the greatest House-of-Commons orator that had ever appeared.’ Speaker Onslow described him as ‘having the most popular parts for public speaking of any great man he ever knew.’ When at his best he went to the point with unsurpassed directness. Walpole said that he feared Pulteney's tongue more than another man's sword. The irresistible power of passion possessed Pulteney so notably in his younger days that in the ‘Characteristic List of Pictures’ mentioned by Lady Hervey in 1729 (Suffolk Letters, i. 341) he is credited with ‘A Town on Fire.’ Yet his most distinctive gift as a parliamentary orator must have been his versatility—his power of ‘changing like the wind,’ as Chesterfield put it, from grave to gay, and alternating pathos and wit, which, naturally enough, degenerated into that ‘miscellaneousness’ of style so amusingly illustrated by Horace Walpole (Coxe, Walpole, iv. 24–6).
As a politician, Pulteney showed to a remarkable extent the ‘defects of his qualities,’ which came to overshadow and overwhelm these qualities themselves. According to Lord Hervey, he was ‘naturally lazy,’ and ‘resentment and eagerness to annoy first taught him application, and application gave him knowledge’ (Memoirs', i. 9). There may be truth in this, and in the remarks of the same biassed critic as to his jealousy when in opposition of his associates. But the gist of the matter is that his career exhibits a spirit of faction uncontrolled by patriotic sentiment. Pulteney, in the most important part of his political career, staked his whole reputation on overthrowing Walpole, whose steady policy was maturing the nation's strength; in later life he tried hard, though with reduced energy, to get rid of Pitt, who was to establish her imperial greatness. In the protracted course of the former contest, on which his reputation depends, he deliberately narrowed political life to the petty conditions of a duel, and at last, for reasons which no onlooker could understand, fired into the air. Thus he called down upon himself his proper nemesis; he ‘left not faction, but of it was left.’
Pulteney was twice painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller; the earlier portrait, taken in 1717, was engraved by Faber in 1732, the later was engraved by I. Simon. There are also two portraits of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the National Portrait Gallery. One of these, painted in 1757, has been engraved by M'Ardell and by S. W. Reynolds. He was likewise painted by Allan Ramsay and engraved by D. Martin in 1763. A miniature is the property of Mr. Jeffery Whitehead.[The Memoirs of the Life and Conduct of William Pulteney, Esq., M.P. (1731), are worthless and dateless; the other contemporary tracts, by or against Pulteney, cited in the text are all factious pamphlets. Dr. Douglas (afterwards Bishop of Salisbury) is supposed to have been prevented from writing a life of his patron by the destruction of all Lord Bath's papers after his death by his brother. There are, however, many facts, received at first hand, in the Life of Dr. Zachary Pearce, late lord bishop of Rochester (by himself), and the Life of Dr. Thomas Newton, bishop of Bristol (by himself), here cited from vols. i. and ii. respectively, of the collected Lives of Dr. E. Pocock, &c., 2 vols., London, 1816. See also Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the Reign of George II, &c., ed. J. W. Croker, 3 vols., 1884; Horace Walpole's (Lord Orford) Letters, ed. P. Cunningham, 9 vols., ed. 1886, and Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of the Reign of George II, 2 vols., 1822; Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, 2 vols., 1874; Letters of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey, 1821; Mr. Pennington's Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, with her poems, &c., 2 vols., 3rd ed., 1816; the Works of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, K.B., with notes by Horace Walpole, 3 vols., 1822; the Craftsman, 14 vols. 1831; Coxe's Memoirs of the Life and Administration of Sir Robert Walpole, 4 vols., ed. 1816 (still the vade mecum for all students of this period, but needing constant revision), and Memoirs of the Administration of the Right Hon. Henry Pelham, &c., 2 vols., 1829; Lord E. Fitzmaurice's Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, afterwards Marquis of Lansdowne (chap. i. ‘A Chapter of Autobiography’), 3 vols., 1875–6; Lord Stanhope's (Lord Mahon) Hist. of England, &c., 5th ed., 1858; John Morley's Walpole (Twelve English Statesmen), 1889; Macknight's Bolingbroke; Hassall's Bolingbroke (Statesmen Ser.); Doyle's Official Baronage of England, 3 vols., 1886; Wright's Caricature History of the Georges, 1867; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. x. 210; Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi. 1840, art. ‘Walpole and his Contemporaries.’]