Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Savile, George (1633-1695)
SAVILE, Sir GEORGE, Marquis of Halifax (1633–1695), was great-grandson of Sir George Savile (d. 1622) of Lupset, Thornhill, and Wakefield (all in Yorkshire), who was created a baronet on 29 June 1611, was sheriff of Yorkshire in 1614, and sensibly improved the position of his branch of the family by his marriage with Mary, daughter of George Talbot, sixth earl of Shrewsbury [q. v.] Savile's grandfather, Sir George, knt. (d. 1616), married at Wentworth in 1607 a sister of the great Earl of Strafford.
Savile's father, Sir William of Thornhill, succeeded an elder brother George (d. 1626) as third baronet in January 1626, was nominated to the council of the north, and never swerved from his loyalty to the king. In 1639 he served in the expedition against the Scots, and in the following year was elected for Yorkshire in the Short parliament. On the outbreak of the civil war Sir William took up arms, and in December 1642 he occupied Leeds and Wakefield, but was repulsed in an attack upon Bradford. Prepared to hold out in Leeds, he was driven thence by a strong force under Fairfax on 23 Jan. 1643 (Markham, The Great Lord Fairfax, 1870, ch. ix.). On 9 May following he was, at the instance of Newcastle, appointed governor of Sheffield, and shortly afterwards of York, where he died on 24 Jan. 1644. He was buried at Thornhill on 15 Feb. 1644 (cf. Dugdale's ‘Visitation of Yorkshire with additions,’ in Genealogist, new ser. x. 160). Several of his letters to Strafford and others are printed (cf. Strafford Corresp. i. 168–70, ii. 94, 108, 127, 147, 193, 215–17; Hunter, Hallamshire, ed. Gatty, p. 136), and his holograph will, in which he leaves 50l. to his ‘faithful friend John Selden,’ is preserved at York. Like his father and grandfather, he made an advantageous marriage. On 29 Dec. 1629 he wedded Anne, daughter of Lord-keeper Coventry [see Coventry, Thomas, Lord Coventry], sister of Lady Shaftesbury and of the learned Lady Dorothy Pakington [q. v.]
George, their son and heir, was born at Thornhill on 11 Nov. 1633. On the death of his father in 1644, his mother remained with her children in Sheffield Castle, and in the articles concluded for its surrender on 11 Aug. 1644 it was stipulated that Lady Savile with her children, family, and goods, was to pass unmolested to Thornhill. According to Dr. Peter Barwick [q. v.], previous to the surrender the besiegers barbarously refused ingress to a midwife, of whose services she stood in need, and ‘she resolved to perish rather than surrender the castle.’ The walls were decrepit with age and the ammunition scanty; but it was only a mutiny on the part of the garrison that induced her to yield. Her child was born the day after the capitulation. She subsequently remarried Sir Thomas Chicheley [q. v.]
George Savile was indebted for his early education to his mother, and it is possible that he subsequently received some training either at Paris or at Geneva. He was, however, settled at Rufford and married before the end of 1656. In the Convention of 1660 he represented Pontefract, but he did not sit in the ensuing parliament, and in 1665 the Duke of York, at the instance of Savile's uncle Sir William Coventry [q. v.], in vain urged upon Charles II the propriety of elevating him to the peerage. In the following year he acted as second to the Duke of Buckingham in an affair with Lord Fauconbridge (Reresby), and in June 1667, having previously commanded a militia regiment, he was made a captain in Prince Rupert's regiment of horse. On 13 Jan. 1668, desirous to conciliate Savile, who had just been selected by the commons as a commissioner to inquire into the scandals of the financial administration, Charles created him Baron Savile of Eland and Viscount Halifax, and in the following year he was appointed a commissioner of trade. He now built Halifax House, in the north-western corner of St. James's Square, where he was already settled by 1673 (Add. MS. 22063, Rent-roll of the Earl of St. Albans). In 1672 he was made a privy councillor, and (despite his adherence to the principles of the Triple Alliance) selected for a mission to Louis XIV, partly complimentary, to congratulate Louis upon the birth of a prince, partly to ascertain the king's views with regard to a peace with the Dutch. Colbert, in a letter to Barillon, spoke of his great talents, but added, ‘II ne sait rien de la grande affaire’ (that Charles was a papist). Halifax set out at the end of June by way of Calais and Bruges for the French king's quarters at Utrecht. Great was his surprise on his arrival to find Arlington and Buckingham already on the spot, having left London after his departure with instructions of later date. He now deprecated the attempt of his fellow envoys to wring extortionate terms from the Dutch, and so escaped the popular censure of the negotiation in which they were subsequently involved. Upon his return he both spoke and voted against the Test Acts, and seconded the unsuccessful motion of the Earl of Carlisle to provide against the marriage of future heirs to the throne to Roman catholics; he is also said about this time to have used the argument against hereditary government that no one would choose a man to drive a carriage because his father was a good coachman. In 1676, when it came out that Danby had refused, hesitatingly, Widdrington's offer of a huge bribe for the farm of the taxes, Halifax remarked that the lord treasurer refused the offer in a manner strangely like that of a man who, being asked to give another the use of his wife, declined in terms of great civility. This sally incensed Danby, who procured his dismissal from the council-board (Burnet).
As one of the bitterest and most penetrating critics of the cabal, Halifax had won the king's dislike more thoroughly even than his friend Shaftesbury, for whose release he had presented a petition in February 1678. But in 1679 Temple mentioned his name to Charles for a seat at the new council of thirty, and urged his claims with such persistence that, although Charles ‘kicked’ at the name (Temple, Memoirs, 1709, iii. 19), Halifax was duly admitted, greatly to his surprise and elation. Once within the charmed circle, his suavity fascinated Charles; he became a prime favourite at Whitehall, and was ‘never from the king's elbow.’ Halifax was put upon the council's committee for foreign affairs, together with Temple, Sunderland (his brother-in-law), Essex, and Shaftesbury. He agreed with the latter in procuring Lauderdale's dismissal, but he was unprepared to go the lengths urged by Shaftesbury with a view to creating a reign of terror for the Roman catholics; and he opposed Shaftesbury's device of bribing the Duchess of Portsmouth to prevail upon Charles to declare Monmouth his heir. When, therefore, in July 1679, in defiance of Shaftesbury's denunciations, he advised a dissolution, their relations became hostile. In the same month he was created Earl of Halifax.
Hating Monmouth as the puppet of Shaftesbury and the extreme left, Halifax was little less hostile to James as the representative of both French and priestly influence, to which he was an uncompromising foe. Already his thoughts turned to William of Orange, and he urged the prince, at the time unsuccessfully, to come over to England. The need for a definite policy was emphasised by the illness of the king in August 1679. As the readiest means of turning the tables on his rivals, Halifax, acting in alliance with Sunderland and Essex, secretly summoned the Duke of York to the king's bedside. To Temple, who was mortified at being excluded from any part in this manœuvre, Halifax vaguely and uneasily disclaimed responsibility for it. He pretended to be ill. But the duke's visit, which he undoubtedly brought about, caused a revolution at court, which was not altogether to his liking. Monmouth, indeed, was deprived of his command and ordered to go into Holland, and Shaftesbury was dismissed (15 Oct.); but he found himself pledged to support James's hereditary claim, while the meeting of the new parliament, which he was specially anxious to conciliate, was postponed until the new year. Worse than all, Charles again plunged into a labyrinth of dangerous intrigues with France—intrigues which hopelessly compromised his advisers. The mixing up of Halifax's name in the sham Meal-Tub plot was a further source of vexation. Until the reassembly of parliament in October 1680 the direction of affairs under the king was left in the hands of the ‘Chits’—Sunderland, Godolphin, and Laurence Hyde.
The long-deferred parliament met on 21 Oct., and proceeded to discuss the exclusion of James from the succession. A bill passed the commons on 11 Nov. In the upper house, which resolved itself into a committee to deal with the matter on the 15th, the debate resolved itself into a combat between Shaftesbury and Essex on the one hand and Halifax on the other. He exposed the hypocritical attitude of Monmouth and the intrigues of the exclusionists with a rare power of sarcasm. It was admitted that he proved ‘too hard’ for Shaftesbury, answering him each time he spoke, sixteen times in all (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. p. 352). At 9 P.M., after a debate of ten hours, the house divided, and the bill was rejected by 63 to 60. The result was fairly attributed to Halifax, who gained the praise of Dryden in ‘Absalom and Achitophel:’
Jotham of piercing wit and pregnant thought,
Endued by nature and by learning taught
To move assemblies, who but only tried
The worse a while, then chose the better side;
Nor chose alone, but turned the balance too,
So much the weight of one brave man can do.
Sincerer praise is due to his opposition to the execution of Stafford in the following month. To threats of impeachment he answered that he would have been glad to go 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 object against—your secrecy and your being incapable of being corrupted.’ Thwarted in several directions by the extreme tory faction, Halifax carried the war into the enemy's camp by accusing Rochester of malversation at the treasury. Rochester retreated before the committee appointed to investigate the matter, on which Halifax had a nominee; but the influence of James availed to procure Rochester the more dignified post of lord president. Halifax's well-known comment was that Rochester had been ‘kicked upstairs.’ In December 1684, when it was proposed in the council to emasculate the charter of Massachusetts, like those of the English municipalities, he stoutly defended the cause of the colonists. Although Charles gave his adversaries, who enlarged to him upon the impropriety of Halifax's view of constitutional questions, some hopes of his dismissal, Halifax managed to hold his own and something more. The tide, in fact, turned in his favour. In this same month (December) he arranged the secret visit of Monmouth to England, and early in January 1685 a letter was despatched, under the king's signature, promising him permission to return to the court. Sanguine of baffling the rival factions at the court, Halifax opportunely seized the moment to circulate his memorable ‘Character of a Trimmer.’ The object of this tract (the title of which appears to have been provoked by L'Estrange's ‘Humour of a Trimmer’ in the ‘Observator’ for 3 Dec. 1684) was to convey in ‘a seeming trifle the best counsel that could be given to the king’—namely, to throw off the yoke of his brother. The writer ingeniously appropriated the good sense of the word ‘trimmer’ in which it is used to signify the steadying of a boat by ballast. After a fine encomium upon liberty, the author proceeded to demonstrate the necessary equilibrium of liberty and dominion in our constitution in words that (as in the case of his defence of colonial liberties) often anticipate the ideas and even the phrasing of Burke.
The ‘Character’ was certainly circulated in manuscript at the time of its composition, but was not printed until April 1688, when the title was inscribed ‘By the Honourable Sir W[illiam] C[oventry].’ A second and third edition appeared in the same year with Coventry's name in full. In 1697 ‘another edition’ alluded to a revision by ‘the late M. of Halifax;’ in 1699 the work itself was issued as by ‘the late noble Marquis of Halifax.’ In spite of the contradiction in the original title, the fact of Halifax's authorship is beyond question (English Hist. Rev. October 1896). The tract was primarily assigned to Coventry for no better reason than that the printer worked from a copy found among Sir William's papers. It was avowed by Halifax after its appearance in 1688, when it attracted general attention (Lord Mulgrave's feeble reply, entitled ‘The Character of a Tory,’ is printed in his ‘Works,’ 1723, ii. 29. See Sheffield, John, Duke of Buckinghamshire).
By the middle of January 1685 Halifax was so far successful in his aims as to be able to write to Monmouth that, in order to avert a counter-plot, Charles was prepared to relegate James to Scotland. A few days later the plot itself was undermined by the king's illness and death. It must have been soon after this event, by which his immediate hopes were ruined, that Halifax sat down with admirable philosophy to compose his sympathetic sketch of the ‘Character of King Charles II’ (not printed until 1750).
No share of the confidence of the new king was destined for Halifax. ‘All the past is forgotten,’ James said to him at an early audience, ‘except the service which you did me in the debate on the Exclusion Bill.’ But he was obliged to give up the privy seal and accept the less responsible post of president of the council. The direction of affairs devolved mainly upon Rochester and Sunderland. James deferred to his advice early in October, when discussing the proposed defensive treaty with Holland; but the effect was more than obliterated when Halifax refused to countenance the repeal of the Test and Habeas Corpus Acts. The king thereupon had his name struck out of the council (21 Oct.) Louis was greatly pleased at the news, while the imperial and Dutch ministers extolled the discarded minister in a manner which gave great offence at Whitehall.
Halifax retired to Rufford, whence he sent an optimistic report to the Prince of Orange on the turn that things were taking. The king's illegalities would stultify their author by their extravagance; the Princess Mary being the next heir, her husband had only to remain quiescent. Out of office, Halifax felt that politics were ‘coarse’ work in comparison with ‘the fineness of speculative thought,’ and the tracts that he wrote now in the leisure of retirement entitle him to rank as ‘one of the best pamphleteers that have ever lived’ (Ranke, iv. 115). In the ‘Letter to a Dissenter,’ published without license in 1686 as by ‘T[he] W[riter],’ the nonconformist was entreated to beware ‘of something extraordinary when the church of Rome offereth plaisters for tender consciences.’ The specious character of the bargain offered by the court was exhibited with a terseness which enabled the tract to be printed on a single sheet and so circulated in thousands through the post. Many of the dissenters were convinced, despite the twenty-four answers that appeared; such as ignored the writer's warning against a treacherous ally soon began to clamour in vain for an ‘equivalent’ for their complaisance. Their chagrin amused Halifax, who followed up the letter by his closely reasoned ‘Anatomy of an Equivalent’ (1688). How could they have dreamt, he asks, that infallibility would bear the indignity of an equivalent?
During this period, though Halifax met Shrewsbury, Nottingham, Danby, and many others of the nobles who signed the invitation to William, he repelled the overtures of Dykvelt and Sidney, and steadily refused to commit himself to the idea of revolution. The troubles, he said, would pass ‘like a shower of hail;’ the project of invasion he deemed impracticable. His inertness at this crisis is hard to reconcile with a statesmanlike appreciation of the situation. As a mid-course between absolutism and a republic, the intervention of William strongly recommended itself to an intellect whose axiom was always ‘in medio tutissimus ibis;’ but he preferred to await developments, in the hope that some strictly constitutional solution to the problem would present itself. His irresolution was unqualified by timidity. He had asserted in 1681 that Argyll was condemned on evidence upon which ‘not even a dog would be hung’ in a free country, and in June 1688 he visited the bishops in the Tower, and drafted for them a petition to the king. He was now reconciled to Sancroft, whom he had offended by the nickname of ‘Sede-Vacante,’ in reference to the primate's prolixity during the accession formalities of 1685.
In the middle of October 1688 James seems to have made some tardy efforts to conciliate Halifax, and he was present at the council on the 20th when James announced the threatened invasion. On 4 Nov. he solemnly declared, under much pressure from the king, that he had no responsibility for the invitation to William, and ten days later he framed a petition to the king demanding the summoning of a free parliament and the dismissal of Roman catholics from office. Halifax's views are given in a letter from Nottingham, who was completely under his influence (Hatton Corresp. ii. 103); but he abandoned the scheme when Rochester manifested a desire to take a part in it. He appeared, however, at the council held on the 26th, and addressed the king on the need for prompt concession and redress of grievances. At a private conference held after this meeting he expressed his views to the king with greater freedom, and James decided to send him, together with Godolphin and Nottingham, to interview William, and see if a compromise could not be arranged. Even if the negotiation had not been a feint on James's part, it is doubtful if it could have had any success; and how far Halifax was genuinely desirous of success must remain matter for conjecture.
On 8 Dec. Halifax and his colleagues arrived at Hungerford. William would only consent to see them in public, and forbade all about him to hold any private intercourse with them. Nevertheless, Halifax and Burnet found an opportunity for the exchange of a few highly significant words. ‘Were the invaders desirous of getting the king into their hands?’ Burnet denied it. ‘But,’ said Halifax, ‘what if he had a mind to go away?’ ‘Nothing was so much to be wished,’ replied Burnet.
William was still prepared to propose terms even less onerous than those which Halifax had indicated to James, and Halifax may have still been desirous to mediate, an operation for which he was specially fitted. When, however, he heard that James had sent him on a sham embassy and then fled the capital, Halifax may well have had a revulsion of feeling which destroyed all his remaining sense of obligation to James, and led him to place himself at the head of those who were bent on raising William to the throne. He ‘had not been privy,’ he told Reresby, ‘to the prince's coming, but now he was here, and on so good an occasion,’ it was necessary to uphold him. The suggestion that James was driven to flight by threatening letters from Halifax is unworthy of serious attention.
During James's absence Halifax presided over the council of the lords which provided for the safety of London. On the king's unexpected return he at once proceeded to William's headquarters at Windsor, and this time he accepted, together with Shrewsbury and Delamere, the commission of frightening James from Whitehall. Arriving at midnight on 17 Dec., he proceeded to the unfortunate king's bedside, and, with a harshness which contrasted with his habitual urbanity, found a ready answer for every expostulation. On 21 Dec. the peers were summoned by William, and next day they chose Halifax as their chairman. On the 24th, at his instance, addresses were presented requesting William to undertake the provisional government and to summon a convention. The Clarendon party complained of the partisan spirit in which he hurried these resolutions to the vote (Clarendon Diary, passim). On 22 Jan. 1689, on the meeting of the convention, he was regularly chosen speaker of the peers. He and Danby led the opposition to the regency scheme of Rochester and Nottingham, and subsequently he led the whig peers, who held that the crown should be offered to William, against Danby and his following of tories, who held that the crown had already devolved upon Mary. In the presence of Halifax's masterly strategy Danby withdrew his opposition, and it was carried without a division that the Prince and Princess of Orange should be declared king and queen. Upon the famous instrument by which they were called to the throne, Halifax, next to Somers, had the chief determining voice. A week later, in the banqueting house at Whitehall, in the name of the estates of the realm, Halifax solemnly requested the prince and princess to accept the crown (13 Feb.). ‘The revolution, as far as it can be said to bear the character of any single mind, assuredly bears the character of the large yet cautious mind of Halifax’ (Macaulay).
‘The great expectation now was, who would have the preference, Halifax or Danby,’ as the new king's chief adviser. On 14 Feb. Halifax was appointed lord privy seal, while Danby had to be content with the presidency of the council. It seemed as if for some time to come Halifax might direct the policy of the new era; but, in reality, his political position was precarious. The tories regarded his abandonment of the regency position as perfidious, while to the extreme whigs his confidential position with William was a grievous offence. As early as July 1689 Mordaunt moved to have him deposed from the woolsack. All the disasters in Ireland were laid at his door, and his enemies, with vague imputations, demanded his dismissal from the service of the crown. The attacks had no influence whatever upon William. But, rendered sensitive by the loss of two of his sons within the year, Halifax himself determined to anticipate further persecution by resigning the woolsack, though he retained his seat on the council; he was still, too, in the inner cabinet and on the committee for the affairs of Ireland. In December he was summoned before the committee appointed to inquire who was answerable for the deaths of Russell, Sidney, and others. Tillotson testified that Lord Russell, in his last speeches, commended Halifax's humanity and kindness, and Halifax himself skilfully baffled the malevolent efforts made to implicate him, especially by John Hampden. Nevertheless, in the following February he resigned the privy seal, despite the remonstrances of William, who argued that he, too, was a trimmer. Shortly after his retirement appeared Dryden's dramatic opera ‘King Arthur,’ with a dedicatory epistle addressed in felicitous terms to Halifax. The frequent ‘shifting of the winds’ seemed to Dryden to portend a storm; a French invasion in behalf of James seemed not improbable, and it was during this autumn that Halifax entertained some advances by a Jacobite agent (Peter Cook). But, beyond providing for his security in the event of a counter-revolution, it is improbable that these negotiations had much significance, though to Macaulay they constitute the one serious blemish in Halifax's career (see Macpherson, Orig. Papers, i. 236). In June 1692, during William's absence, he was struck off the council as a persistent absentee. A less ostensible reason was his having entered bail for Lord Marlborough, then in extremely bad odour at court (Wolseley, Life of Marlborough, ii. 284, 298). Twice during this summer, however, the queen dined with him at Acton—a fact which seems to refute the statement that she had been offended by a slighting allusion to her father.
At Acton, where (as so much nearer the court than Rufford) he had settled after the revolution, Halifax was once more devoting himself to the production of pamphlets no less incisive than of old. In 1693 appeared his ‘Essay upon Taxes’ (reprinted in Somers Tracts, vol. iv. and in Cobbett, Parl. Hist. vol. v.) and his ‘Maxims of State.’ The latter first appeared under the title of ‘Maxims found among the Papers of the great Almanzor’ (Guildhall Libr. Cat.), but they were included in the ‘Miscellanies’ of 1700. Next year was first published his ‘Rough Draught of a New Model at Sea,’ containing, among many notable passages, the admonition that the first article of an Englishman's political creed must be that he believeth in the sea; for, says the writer, ‘it may be said to England, Martha, Martha, thou art busy about many things, but one thing is necessary. To the question what shall we do to be saved in this world, there is no answer but this, Look to your moat.’
‘The Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflexions,’ published first in 1750, were probably written towards the close of Halifax's career, as mention is made of the Bank of England, which was not incorporated until 1694. Halifax frequently attended the upper house during the sessions of 1693–4; in March 1693 he voted against the renewal of the censorship of the press, and signed a protest to that effect (Rogers, Protests of the Lords, i. 110), and in March 1694 he strongly opposed an opposition bill for the regulation of trials in cases of treason. He appeared in the house as late as March 1695, but for some time previous to this his health had begun to fail, and some obvious precautions against the dangers of his malady were neglected. With great serenity, after receiving the sacrament from Dr. Birch, he died at Halifax House at six P.M. on 5 April 1695 (see Hatton Corresp. ii. 215–216). He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where in the north ambulatory of Henry VII's chapel a monument supports his bust (it is engraved in Chester, Westminster Abbey Regist. p. 234).
Savile married, first, on 29 Dec. 1656 at St. Giles's-in-the-Fields, Dorothy, daughter of Henry Spencer, first earl of Sunderland by his wife, the famous ‘Sacharissa.’ She died on the 16th, and was buried at Thornhill on 31 Dec. 1670. By her he had four children: (1), Henry, lord Eland, born February 1660, married in 1684 Esther, daughter of Charles de la Tour, marquis de Gouvernet, a rich Huguenot noble, and died in 1688; to him in 1684 Otway dedicated his ‘Atheist;’ (2) Anne, born in 1663, who married in 1682 John, lord Vaughan, son of the Earl of Carbery; (3) William [see below]; (4) George, born in 1667, and educated at Geneva, volunteered against the Turks, was dangerously wounded during an assault upon Buda on 13 July 1686 (see London Gazette, 2158), and died in 1688–9. After the loss of his two sons in this year Halifax received a touching letter of condolence from Rachel, lady Russell (Life, ed. 1819, p. 102). Halifax married, secondly, in November 1672, Gertrude (d. 1727), youngest daughter of the Hon. William Pierrepoint of Thoresby, by whom he had one child, Elizabeth, married in March 1692 to Philip Stanhope, third earl of Chesterfield. By a mistress named Carey, who is said to have been a schoolmistress, Savile had a son, Henry Carey [q. v.], the poet, the father of George Saville Carey [q. v.], and great-grandfather of the actor, Edmund Kean.
William Savile, second Marquis of Halifax (1665–1700), born in 1665, was educated at Geneva and Oxford, where he matriculated M.A. from Christ Church on 5 Dec. 1681; he sat for Newark from 1689 to 1695, and defended his father with spirit from the attacks in the House of Commons. From 1688 until his father's death he was known as Lord Eland:
Eland whose pen as nimbly glides
As his good father changes sides.
He married, first, in 1687, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Samuel Grimston, by whom he left Anne, wife of Charles, third earl of Ailesbury; secondly, on 2 April 1695, Lady Mary Finch (daughter of the second earl of Nottingham), by whom he left Dorothy (d 20 Dec. 1717), married to Richard Boyle, earl of Burlington [q. v.] The second marquis died without male issue at Acton on 31 Aug. 1700 (cf. Lysons, Environs, ii. 5), and was buried at St. Albans. His widow remarried John Kerr, sixth duke of Roxburghe, and died on 19 Sept. 1718. The marquisate of Halifax thus became extinct, but on the second marquis's death Charles Montagu [q. v.] was almost immediately created Baron Halifax (4 Dec. 1700). As in the case of the earldom of Rochester, the very short interval between the extinction of one peerage and the creation of another of similar title in favour of a member of a different family is apt to cause confusion. The Savile baronetcy reverted to the descendants of Sir George, first baronet, and died out with Sir George Savile (1726–1784) [q. v.]
Macaulay saw in Halifax an almost ideal adviser for a constitutional monarch. At any rate, he was a statesman who combined independence of judgment and a respectable patriotism with eloquence, culture, and an intellect of exceptional versatility and power. His temper, always on the side of moderation, disgusted him with the inchoate party system, the factions of which he compared to freebooters who hang out false colours, whose pretence is the public good, but whose real business is plunder. Against Halifax no charge of pecuniary corruption was ever breathed. For renegades, whether political or religious, he felt unmeasured scorn. Holding aloof from party prejudice and emancipated from vulgar ambition, he generally guided his political course with a regard to the best interests of his country; but his temperament disqualified him at the great crisis of the revolution for the practical work of politics. Neutrality was then out of place, and fitted a speculative philosopher rather than an active politician.
His finely balanced intellect appears to best advantage in his writings. Perspicuity, vivacity, and humour are there alike conspicuous; and the union of a philosophic temper with practical sagacity impart to them a ‘Baconian flavour.’ ‘Who among his contemporaries—how few among his successors—have grasped his central principle that forms of government are properly a natural product, the expression of national character, national circumstances; and that their excellence consists less in their approximation to an ideal standard than their suitability to the actual state of development of the people in question?’ (cf. H. C. Foxcroft in Engl. Hist. Review, October 1896; R. D. Christie in Saturday Review, 22 Feb. 1873). As a censor of the heated partisan conflicts of the day, and as an inspirer of the declaration of rights, no less than of the philosophy of the ‘Patriot King’ (he had a good deal in common with Bolingbroke), Halifax exercised a far-reaching influence, and his political opinions rather than his acts give his career its chief historical importance.
Halifax's urbanity was learnt in the school of Charles II, and his habitual cynicism (more of manner than of temperament) did not exclude an engaging address, a winning smile, and a fund of easy pleasantry. His defect at the council-board was an exaggerated tendency to facetiousness. ‘In his youth,’ says Evelyn, ‘he was somewhat too positive,’ but latterly in all important matters he was secretive and inscrutable. A man, he once said, who sits down a philosopher rises an atheist; and he himself was frequently charged with atheism, which he disclaimed to Burnet, declaring that he hardly thought that such a thing as an atheist existed. His ‘Advice to a Daughter’ indicates some attachment to a religious creed. He said that he believed as much as he could, and imagined that God would forgive him if, unlike an ostrich, he could not digest iron. Savile was by no means insensible to pomp and rank, but, though a handsome man, he dressed extremely soberly. His indifference to sport and to fine horses and equipages was notorious. His chaplain records his complaint that ‘velvet cushions’ too often served for ‘woollen sermons.’ His favourite book was Montaigne's ‘Essays,’ and, when Charles Cotton dedicated to him his translation in 1685, Halifax acknowledged the compliment in a letter full of wit and cordial appreciation.
A portrait of the first Marquis of Halifax, a half-length, in black with lace cravat and ruffles, by Sir Peter Lely, is in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. An engraving by J. Houbraken (for Birch's ‘Lives,’ 1743, fol.) is dated ‘Amst. 1740,’ and depicts him in later life when he grew stout. Below the portrait is a representation of his offering the crown to William and Mary. In the print-room at the British Museum is another engraving by Chambers. Four engraved portraits, without signature, are in Addit. MS. 28569. The well-known caricature of ‘The Trimmer’ was aimed not at him, but at Burnet.
Besides the works described, Halifax wrote: ‘A Lady's New Year's Gift, or Advice to a Daughter,’ drawn up for the benefit of his daughter Elizabeth, mother of the famous Earl of Chesterfield, to whom Halifax's mantle of didactic fame seems to have descended. This, which is perhaps the most entertaining of all his works, was printed from a circulating manuscript, and without authorisation, in 1688, London, 8vo; a second edition was promptly called for, and a fifth appeared shortly after the writer's death (15th edit. 1765; new edit. Berwick, 1791); it was also translated into Italian, and several times into French. The husband of the lady to whom it was addressed is said to have written on the fly-leaf ‘Labour in Vain’ (Walpoliana, ii. 9). ‘The Cautions offered to the consideration of those who are to choose Members to serve in the ensuing Parliament’ was written during the last months of its author's life, when the passage of the Triennial Act (December 1694) had brought a general election within measurable distance. It appeared posthumously during the general election of October 1695, and shows his capacity, even when seriously ill, for ‘famous flashes of wit.’
Halifax's pamphlets appeared in a collective form in 1700 as ‘Miscellanies by the Most Noble George Lord Saville, late Marquis and Earl of Halifax,’ London, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1704, 3rd edit. 1717. This included (1) ‘Advice to a Daughter,’ (2) ‘The Character of a Trimmer,’ (3) ‘The Anatomy of an Equivalent,’ (4) ‘A Letter to a Dissenter,’ (5) ‘Cautions for Choice of Parliament Men,’ (6) ‘New Model at Sea,’ (7) ‘Maxims of State.’ Some selections from his papers, entitled ‘Miscellanies, Historical and Philological,’ appeared in 1703, London, 8vo; these are generally ascribed in catalogues to Halifax, but were not in reality from his pen. His ‘Character of King Charles II,’ together with the ‘Moral and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflexions’ (see above), first appeared in 1750, London, 8vo. Halifax diligently kept a diary, from which he compiled a journal. The journal was copied soon after his death, but both original and copy were unhappily destroyed—it is said by his granddaughter, Lady Burlington—and the diary itself is lost. Some of his letters are included in the correspondence of his brother Henry, edited by W. D. Cooper from transcripts made about 1740 (Camden Soc. 1858); others are preserved in Stowe MS. 200 and Addit. MSS. 28569 and 32680.[The Life and Letters of Halifax, with new edition of his works, by Miss H. C. Foxcroft, appeared in 1898 (2 vols.). Biographic materials are somewhat meagre and scattered until 1688, from which date Macaulay collects practically all that is known in regard to his public career; Hume to some extent anticipated his view that Halifax's variations were consistent with integrity. Among the most valuable of the contemporary sources are Reresby's Diary, Temple's Memoirs, Hatton Correspondence (Camden Soc.), Luttrell's Diary, Clarendon Correspondence (ed. Singer), Sidney's Diary (ed. Blencowe), Roxburghe Ballads and Bagford Ballads (Ballad Soc.), Bramston's Autobiography, and Dryden's Works (ed. Scott and Saintsbury). ‘Sacellum Apollinare’ is a funeral poem by Elkanah Settle. There is a rich mine of unexplored material in the Halifax Papers at Spencer House, St. James's (briefly described in Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. App. pp. 12 sq.). These and other new sources have been utilised in the Life by Miss H. C. Foxcroft (the manuscript of which was generously placed at the present writer's disposal). See also Burnet's History of his own Time; Eachard's Hist. of England, vol. ii.; Ralph's Hist. of England; Boyer's William III, pp. 21, 148, 156–9, 160, 177, 183, 188, 199, 237, 249, 261; Sir Patrick Hume's Narrative, ed. 1809; Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain, 1790; Macpherson's Original Papers; Mackintosh's Hist. of the Revolution, pp. 174, 216, 513; Groen von Prinsterer's Archives de la Maison Orange-Nassau, vol. v. pp. lv, 399, 500, 521 sq.; Memoirs of Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury, pp. 42, 193, 217, 247, 348, 444; Lauderdale Papers; Bulstrode Papers (belonging to Alfred Morrison, esq., and privately printed by him), 23 Dec. 1667, seq.; Journal du Marquis de Dangeau, 1859, i. 24, 246, 262, ii. 232, 326, 345; Ranke's Hist. of England, vols. iv. and v. passim; Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors, 1806, iii. 329; Roberts's Life of Monmouth, i. 57, 110, 130, 152, ii. 127; Courtenay's Memoirs of Sir William Temple; Cooke's Hist. of Party, vol. i. passim; Cartwright's Sacharissa, pp. 168, 212, 214 sq.; Garnett's Age of Dryden; Hunter's Antiquarian Notices of Lupset, pp. 30–3; Greenwood's Hist. of Dewsbury, 1859, p. 214; Whitaker's Loidis et Elmete; Hunter's Hallamshire and Deanery of Doncaster; Thoroton's Nottinghamshire, ed. Throsby, iii. 339; Brown's Nottinghamshire Worthies, pp. 232–6; Dasent's Hist. of St. James's Square, passim; G. E. C.'s Peerage; Banks's and Wootton's Extinct Baronetage; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Pseudon. Lit.; Seward's Anecdotes, ii. 196; Craik's English Prose Selections (‘Halifax,’ by Principal A. W. Ward), iii. 209; Temple Bar, 1878, liii. 211 (art. by Mr. A. C. Ewald); Living Age, xx. 347; Macmillan's Magazine, October 1877 (describing the contents of a manuscript memorandum-book doubtfully ascribed to Halifax); English Historical Review, October 1896 (an article of great value and interest by Miss Foxcroft).]