The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 4/An Inquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen's Last Ministry
INTO THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE
QUEEN'S LAST MINISTRY,
WITH RELATION TO THEIR QUARRELS AMONG THEMSELVES, AND THE DESIGN CHARGED UPON THEM OF ALTERING THE SUCCESSION OF THE CROWN.
WRITTEN IN JUNE, 1715.
SINCE the death of the queen, it was reasonable enough for me to conclude that I had done with all publick affairs and speculations: besides, the scene and station I am in, have reduced my thoughts into a narrow compass: and being wholly excluded from any view of favour under the present administration, upon that invincible reason of having been in some degree of trust and confidence with the former, I have not found the transition very difficult into a private life, for which I am better qualified, both by nature and education.
The reading of, and inquiring after news, not being one of my diversions, having always disliked a mixed and general conversation, which, however it fell to my lot, is now in my power to avoid; and being placed, by the duties of my function, at a great distance from the seat of business, I am altogether ignorant of many common events which happen in the world: only, from the little I know and hear, it is manifest that the hearts of most men are filled with doubts, fears, and jealousies, or else with hatred and rage, to a degree that there seems to be an end of all amicable commerce between people of different parties; and what the consequences of this may be, let those consider who have contributed to the causes; which, I thank God, is no concern of mine.
There are two points, with reference to the conduct of the late ministry, much insisted on, and little understood by those who write or talk upon that subject; wherein I am sufficiently qualified to give satisfaction; and would gladly do it, because I see very much weight laid upon each, and most men's opinions of persons and things, regulated accordingly.
About two months before the queen's death, having lost all hopes of any reconcilement between the treasurer and the rest of the ministry, I retired into the country, to await the issue of that conflict, which ended, as every one had reason to foresee, in the earl of Oxford's disgrace; to whom the lord Bolingbroke immediately succeeded as first minister: and I was told, that an earldom and the garter were intended for him in a fortnight, and the treasurer's staff against the next session of parliament; of which I can say nothing certain, being then in Berkshire, and receiving this account from some of his friends. But all these schemes became soon abortive, by the death of the queen, which happened in three days after the earl of Oxford's removal.
Upon this great event, I took the first opportunity of withdrawing to my place of residence; and rejoiced as much as any man for his majesty's quiet accession to the throne, to which I then thought, and it has since appeared indisputable, that the peace procured by the late ministry had, among other good effects, been highly instrumental. And I thank God, I have been ever since a loyal humble spectator, during all the changes that have happened, although it were no secret to any man of common sagacity, that his present majesty's choice of his servants, whenever he should happen to succeed, would be determined to those, who most opposed the proceedings during the four last years of his predecessor's reign: and I think, there has not since happened one particular of any moment, which the ministers did not often mention at their tables, as what they certainly expected, from the disposition of the court at Hanover, in conjunction with the party at home; which, upon all occasions, publickly disapproved their proceedings, excepting only the attainder of the duke of Ormond; which, indeed, neither they nor I, nor, I believe, any one person in the three kingdoms, did ever pretend to foresee; and now it is done, it looks like a dream, to those who consider the nobleness of his birth, the great merits of his ancestors, and his own; his long unspotted loyalty, his affability, generosity, and sweetness of nature. I knew him long and well; and excepting the frailties of his youth, which had been for some years over, and that easiness of temper, which did sometimes lead him to follow the judgment of those, who had, by many degrees, less understanding than himself, I have not conversed with a more faultless person; of great justice and charity; a true sense of religion, without ostentation; of undoubted valour, thoroughly skilled in his trade of a soldier; a quick and ready apprehension, with a good share of understanding, and a general knowledge in men and history; although under some disadvantage by an invincible modesty, which, however, could not but render him yet more amiable to those, who had the honour and happiness of being thoroughly acquainted with him. This is a short imperfect character of that great person the duke of Ormond, who is now attainted for high treason; and therefore, I shall not presume to offer one syllable in his vindication, upon that head, against the decision of a parliament. Yet this, I think, may be allowed me to believe, or at least to hope, that when, by the direct and repeated commands of the queen his mistress, he committed those faults, for which he has now forfeited his country, his titles, and his fortune, he no more conceived himself to be acting high treason, than he did when he was wounded and a prisoner at Landen, for his sovereign king William, or when he took and burned the enemy's fleet at Vigo.
Upon this occasion, although I am sensible it is an old precept of wisdom to admire at nothing in human life; yet I consider, at the same time, how easily some men arrive at the practice of this maxim, by the help of plain stupidity or ill nature, without any strain of philosophy: and although the uncertainty of human things, be one of the most obvious reflections in morality; yet such unexpected, sudden, and signal instances of it, as have lately happened among us, are so much out of the usual form, that a wise man may perhaps be allowed to start and look aside, as at a sudden and violent clap of thunder, which is much more frequent, and more natural.
And here I cannot but lament my own particular misfortune; who, having singled out three persons from among the rest of mankind, on whose friendship and protection I might depend, whose conversation I most valued, and chiefly confined myself to, should live to see them all, within the compass of a year, accused of high treason; two of them attainted and in exile, and the third under his trial, whereof God knows what may be the issue. As my own heart was free from all treasonable thoughts, so I did little imagine myself to be perpetually in the company of traitors. But the fashion of this world passeth away. Having already said something of the duke of Ormond, I shall add a little toward the characters of the other two. It happens to very few men, in any age or country, to come into the world with so many advantages of nature and fortune, as the late secretary Bolingbroke: descended from the best families in England, heir to a great patrimonial estate, of a sound constitution, and a most graceful, amiable person: but all these, had they been of equal value, were infinitely inferiour in degree to the accomplishments of his mind, which was adorned with the choicest gifts that God has yet thought fit to bestow upon the children of men; a strong memory, a clear judgment, a vast range of wit and fancy, a thorough comprehension, an invincible eloquence, with a most agreeable elocution. He had well cultivated all these talents by travel and study; the latter of which, he seldom omitted even in the midst of his pleasures, of which he had indeed been too great and criminal a pursuer: for, although he was persuaded to leave off intemperance in wine, which he did, for some time, to such a degree that he seemed rather abstemious; yet he was said to allow himself other liberties, which can by no means be reconciled to religion or morals; whereof, I have reason to believe, he began to be sensible. But he was fond of mixing pleasure and business, and of being esteemed excellent at both; upon which account, he had a great respect for the characters of Alcibiades and Petronius, especially the latter, whom he would be gladly thought to resemble. His detractors charged him with some degree of affectation, and, perhaps, not altogether without grounds; since it was hardly possible for a young man, with half the business of the nation upon him, and the applause of the whole, to escape some tincture of that infirmity. He had been early bred to business, was a most artful negotiator, and perfectly understood foreign affairs. But what I have often wondered at, in a man of his temper, was, his prodigious application whenever he thought it necessary; for he would plod whole days and nights, like the lowest clerk in an office. His talent of speaking in publick, for which he was so very much celebrated, I know nothing of, except from the informations of others; but understanding men of both parties have assured me, that, in this point, in their memory and judgment, he was never equalled.
The earl of Oxford, is a person of as much virtue, as can possibly consist with the love of power: and his love of power, is no greater, than what is common to men of his superiour capacities; neither did any man ever appear to value it less after he had obtained it, or exert it with more moderation. He is the only instance that ever fell within my memory or observation, of a person passing from a private life, through the several stages of greatness, without any perceivable impression upon his temper or behaviour. As his own birth was illustrious, being descended from the heirs general of the Veres and the Mortimers, so he seemed to value that accidental advantage in himself and others, more than it could pretend to deserve. He abounded in good nature and good humour; although subject to passion, as I have heard it affirmed by others, and owned by himself; which, however, he kept under the strictest government, till toward the end of his ministry, when he began to grow soured, and to suspect his friends; and, perhaps, thought it not worth his pains to manage any longer. He was a great favourer of men of wit and learning, particularly the former; whom he caressed without distinction of party, and could not endure to think that any of them should be his enemies; and it was his good fortune that none of them ever appeared to be so; at least if one may judge by the libels and pamphlets published against him, which he frequently read, by way of amusement, with a most unaffected indifference: neither do I remember ever to have endangered his good opinion so much, as by appearing uneasy, when the dealers in that kind of writing, first began to pour out their scurriliries against me; which, he thought, was a weakness altogether inexcusable in a man of virtue and liberal education. He had the greatest variety of knowledge that I have any where met with; was a perfect master of the learned languages, and well skilled in divinity. He had a prodigious memory, and a most exact judgment. In drawing up any state-paper, no man had more proper thoughts, or put them in so strong and clear a light. Although his style were not always correct, which, however, he knew how to mend; yet often, to save time, he would leave the smaller alterations to others. I have heard that he spoke but seldom in parliament, and then rather with art than eloquence: but no man equalled him in the knowledge of our constitution; the reputation whereof made him be chosen speaker to three successive parliaments; which office, I have often heard his enemies allow him to have executed with universal applause; his sagacity was such, that I could produce very amazing instances of it, if they were not unseasonable. In all difficulties, he immediately found the true point that was to be pursued, and adhered to it: and one or two others in the ministry, have confessed very often to me, that after having condemned his opinion, they found him in the right, and themselves in the wrong. He was utterly a stranger to fear; and consequently had a presence of mind upon all emergencies. His liberality and contempt of money were such, that he almost ruined his estate while he was in employment; yet his avarice for the publick was so great, that it neither consisted with the present corruptions of the age, nor the circumstances of the time. He was seldom mistaken in his judgment of men, and therefore not apt to change a good or ill opinion, by the representation of others; except toward the end of his ministry. He was affable and courteous, extremely easy and agreeable in conversation, and altogether disengaged; regular in his life, with great appearance of piety; nor ever guilty of any expressions that could possibly tend to what was indecent or profane. His imperfections were at least as obvious, although not so numerous, as his virtues. He had an air of secrecy in his manner and countenance, by no means proper for a great minister, because it warns all men to prepare against it. He often gave no answer at all, and very seldom a direct one: and I rather blame this reservedness of temper, because I have known a very different practice succeed much better: of which, among others, the late earl of Sunderland, and the present lord Somers, persons of great abilities, are remarkable instances; who used to talk in so frank a manner, that they seemed to discover the bottom of their hearts, and, by that appearance of confidence, would easily unlock the breasts of others. But the earl of Oxford pleads, in excuse of this charge, that he has seldom or never communicated any thing which was of importance to be concealed, wherein he has not been deceived by the vanity, treachery, or indiscretion of those he discovered it to. Another of his imperfections, universally known and complained of, was procrastination, or delay; which was, doubtless, natural to him, although he often bore the blame without the guilt, and when the remedy was not in his power; for never were prince and minister better matched, than his sovereign and he, upon that article: and therefore, in the disposal of employments, wherein the queen was very absolute, a year would often pass before they could come to a determination, I remember he was likewise heavily charged with the common court vice, of promising very liberally, and seldom performing; of which, although I cannot altogether acquit him, yet, I am confident, his intentions were generally better, than his disappointed solicitors would believe. It may be likewise said of him, that he certainly did not value, or did not understand, the art of acquiring friends; having made very few during the time of his power, and contracted a great number of enemies. Some of us used to observe, that those whom he talked well of, or suffered to be often near him, were not in a situation of much advantage; and that his mentioning others with contempt, or dislike, was no hindrance at all to their preferment. I have dwelt the longer upon this great man's character, because I have observed it so often mistaken by the wise reasoners of both parties: besides, having had the honour, for almost four years, of a nearer acquaintance with him than usually happens to men of my level, and this without the least mercenary obligation, I thought it lay in my power, as I am sure it is in my will, to represent him to the world with impartiality and truth.
Having often considered the qualities and dispositions of these two ministers, I am at a loss to think how it should come to pass, that men of exalted abilities, when they are called to publick affairs, are generally drawn into inconveniencies and misfortunes, which others, of ordinary talents, avoid; whereof there appears so many examples both ancient and modern, and of our own, as well as other countries. I cannot think this to have been altogether the effect of envy, as it is usually imputed in the case of Themistocles, Aristides, Scipio and others; and of sir Walter Raleigh, the earls of Clarendon and Strafford, here in England. But I look upon it, that God, intending the government of a nation in the several branches and subordinations of power, has made the science of governing sufficiently obvious to common capacities: otherwise the world would be left in a desolate condition, if great affairs did always require a great genius, whereof the most fruitful age will hardly produce above three or four in a nation; among which, princes, who, of all other mortals are the worst educated, have twenty millions to one against them that they shall not be of the number; and proportionable odds, for the same reasons, are against every one of noble birth, or great estates.
Accordingly we find, that the dullest nations, ancient and modern, have not wanted good rules of policy, or persons qualified for administration. But I take the infelicity of such extraordinary men, to have been caused by their neglect of common forms, together with the contempt of little helps and little hindrances; which is made, by Hobbes, the definition of magnanimity: and this contempt, as it certainly displeases the people in general, so it gives offence to all with whom such ministers have to deal: for I never yet knew a minister, who was not earnestly desirous to have it thought, that the art of government was a most profound science; whereas, it requires no more, in reality, than diligence, honesty, and a moderate share of plain natural sense. And therefore men thus qualified, may very reasonably and justly think, that the business of the world is best brought about by regularity and forms, wherein themselves excel. For I have frequently observed more causes of discontent arise, from the practice of some refined mnisters, to act in common business out of the common road, than from all the usual topicks of displeasure against men in power. It is the same thing in other scenes of life, and among all societies or communities; where no men are better trusted, or have more success in business, than those, who, with some honesty, and a moderate portion of understanding, are strict observers of time, place, and method: and on the contrary, nothing is more apt to expose men to the censure and obloquy of their colleagues and the publick, than a contempt or neglect of these circumstances, however attended with a superiour genius and an equal desire of doing good: which has made me sometimes say, to a great person of this latter character, that a small infusion of the alderman, was necessary to those who are employed in publick affairs. Upon this occasion I cannot forget a very trifling instance: that one day, observing the same person to divide a sheet of paper with a penknife, the sharpness of the instrument occasioned its moving so irregularly and crooked, that he spoiled the whole sheet; whereupon I advised him to take example by his clerks, who performed that operation much better with a blunt piece of ivory, which directed by a little strength and a steady hand, never failed to go right.
But to return from this long digression; about a fortnight after the queen's death, I came to my place of residence, where I was immediately attacked with heat enough by several of my acquaintance of both parties; and soon learned, that what they objected was the general sense of the rest. Those of the church-side made me a thousand reproaches upon the slowness and inactivity of my friends, upon their foolish quarrels with each other for no visible cause, and thereby sacrificing the interests of the church and kingdom to their private piques; and that they had neglected to cultivate the favour and good opinion of the court at Hanover. But the weight of these gentlemen's displeasure fell upon the earl of Oxford: "That he had acted a trimming part; was never thoroughly in the interest of the church, but held separate commierce with the adverse party: that either from his negligence, procrastinating nature, or some sinister end, he had let slip many opportunities of strengthening the church's friends: that he undertook more business than he was equal to, affected a monopoly of power, and would concert nothing with the rest of the ministers." Many facts were likewise mentioned, which it may not now be very prudent to repeat: I shall only take notice of one, relating to Ireland, where he kept four bishopricks undisposed of, though often and most earnestly pressed to have them filled; by which omission, the church-interest of that kingdom in the house of lords, is in danger of being irrecoverably lost.
Those who discoursed with me after this manner, did, at the same time, utterly renounce all regard for the Pretender; and mentioned with pleasure the glorious opportunity then in his majesty's hands, of putting an end to party distinctions for the time to come: and the only apprehension that seemed to give them any uneasiness, was, lest the zeal of the party in power might not, perhaps, represent their loyalty with advantage.
On the other side, the gainers, and men in hopes by the queen's death, talked with great freedom in a very different style: they all directly asserted, "That the whole late ministry were fully determined to bring in the Pretender," although they would sometimes a little demur upon the earl of Oxford; and by a more modern amendment, they charged the same accusation, without any reserve, upon the late queen herself. "That, if her majesty had died but, a month later, our ruin would have been inevitable." But in that juncture it happened (to use their own term, which I could never prevail with them to explain) things were not ripe. "That this accusation would, in a short time, infallibly be proved as clear as the sun at noonday to all the world." And the consequences naturally following from these positions were, "That the leaders ought to lose their heads, and all their abettors be utterly stripped of power and favour."
These being the sentiments and discourses of both parties, tending to load the late ministry with faults of a very different nature; it may, perhaps, be either of some use or satisfaction to examine those two points; that is to say, first, how far these ministers are answerable to their friends, for their neglect, mismanagement, and mutual dissensions: and secondly, with what justice they are accused, by their enemies, for endeavouring to alter the succession of the crown in favour of the pretender.
It is true, indeed, I have occasionally done this already in two several treatises, of which the one is a History, and the other, Memoirs of particular facts, but neither of them fit to see the light, at present; because they abound with characters freely drawn, and many of them not very amiable; and therefore, intended only for the instructing of the next age, and establishing the reputation of those who have been useful to their country in the present. At the same time, I take this opportunity of assuring those who may happen some years hence to read the History I have written, that the blackest characters to be met with in it, were not drawn with the least mixture of malice or illwill, but merely to expose the odiousness of vice; for I have always held it as a maxim, that ill men are placed beyond the reach of an historian, who indeed has it in his power to reward virtue, but not to punish vice; because I never yet saw a profligate person, who seemed to have the least regard in what manner his name should be transmitted to posterity; and I knew a certain lord, not long since dead, who, I am very confident, would not have disposed of one single shilling to have had it in his choice, whether he should be represented to future ages, as an Atticus, or a Catiline.
However, being firmly resolved, for very material reasons, to avoid giving the least offence to any party or person in power; I shall barely set down some facts and circumstances, during the four last years of queen Anne's reign, which, at present are little known; and whereby those of the church party, who object against the unsteadiness, neglect, and want of concert, in the late ministry, may better account for their faults. Most of those facts I can bear witness of myself, and have received the rest from sufficient authority.
It is most certain, that when the queen first began to change her servants, it was not from a dislike of things, but of persons, and those persons were a very small number. To be more particular, would be, incedere per ignes. It was the issue of Dr. Sacheverell's trial that encouraged her to proceed so far; and several of the low church party, knowing that her displeasure went no farther than against one single family, did not appear to dislike what was done; of which I could give some extraordinary instances. But that famous trial had raised such a spirit in the nation against the parliament, that her majesty thought it necessary to dissolve them, which, I am confident, she did not at first intend. Upon this resolution, delivered by the queen in council, in a more determinate manner than was usual with her, as I was particularly informed by my lord Somers then president, some, who were willing to sacrifice one or two persons, would not sacrifice their cause; but immediately flew off; and the great officers of the court and kingdom began to resign their employments, which the queen suffered most of them to do with the utmost regret, and which those, who knew her best, thought to be real, especially lord Somers and lord Cowper, for whom she had as great a personal regard and esteem, as her nature was capable of admitting, particularly for the former. The new parliament was called during that ferment in the nation, and a great majority of the church party was returned, without the least assistance from the court; whether to gain a reputation of impartiality, where they were secure; or, as Mr. Harley's detractors would have it, (who was then minister) from a refinement of his politicks, not to suffer, upon the account of I know not what wise reasons, too great an inequality in the balance.
When the parliament met, they soon began to discover more zeal than the queen expected or desired. She had entertained the notion of forming a moderate or comprehensive scheme, which she maintained with great firmness, nor would ever depart from until half a year before her death: but this, neither the house of commons, nor the kingdom in general, were then at all inclined to admit, whatever they may have been, in any juncture since: several country-members, to almost a third part of the house, began immediately to form themselves into a body, under a fantastick name of the October Club. These, daily pressed the ministry for a thorough change in employments, and were not put off without jealousy and discontent. I remember it was then commonly understood and expected, that when the session ended, a general removal would be made: but it happened otherwise; for not only few or none were turned out, but much deliberation was used in supplying common vacancies by death. This manner of proceeding in a prime minister, I confess, appeared to me wholly unaccountable, and without example; and I was little satisfied with the solution I had heard, and partly knew, "That he acted thus to keep men at his devotion, by letting expectation lie in common;" for I found the effect did not answer, and that in the mean time, he led so uneasy a life, by solicitations and pursuits, as no man would endure who had a remedy at hand. About the beginning of his ministry, I did, at the request of several considerable persons, take the liberty of representing this matter to him. His answer was short and cold: "That he hoped his friends would trust him: that he heartily wished none but those who loved the church and queen were employed; but that all things could not be done on a sudden." I have reason to believe, that his nearest acquaintance were then wholly at a loss what to think of his conduct. He was forced to preserve the opinion of power, without which he could not act, while in reality he had little or none; and besides, he thought it became him to take the burden of reproach upon himself, rather than lay it upon the queen his mistress, who was grown very positive, slow, and suspicious; and from the opinion of having been formerly too much directed, fell into the other extreme, and became difficult to be advised. So that few ministers had ever, perhaps, a harder game to play, between the jealousy and discontents of his friends on one side, and the management of the queen's temper on the other.
There could hardly be a firmer friendship, in appearance, than what I observed between those three great men, who were then chiefly trusted; I mean the lords Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Harcourt. I remember, in the infancy of their power, being at the table of the first, where they were all met, I could not forbear taking notice of the great affection they bore to each other; and said, "I would venture to prophesy, that however inconstant our court had hitherto been, their ministry would certainly last; for they had the church, the crown, and the people, entirely on their side: then it happened, that the publick good, and their private interest, had the same bottom, which is a piece of good fortune that does not always fall to the share of men in power. But, principally, because I observed they heartily loved one another; and I did not see how their kindness could be disturbed by competition, since each of them seemed contented with his own district; so that, notwithstanding the old maxim, which pronounces court friendships to be of no long duration, I was confident theirs would last as long as their lives." But, it seems, the inventor of that maxim happened to be a little wiser than I, who lived to see this friendship first degenerate into indifference and suspicion, and thence corrupt into the greatest animosity and hatred; contrary to all appearances, and much to the discredit of me and my sagacity. By what degrees, and from what causes, their dissensions grew, I shall, as far as it may be safe and convenient, very impartially relate.
When Mr. Harley was stabbed by Guiscard, the writer of a weekly paper called the Examiner, taking occasion to reflect on that accident, happened to let fall an idle circumstance, I know not upon what grounds, "That the French assassin confessed, he at first intended to have murdered Mr. secretary St. John; who sitting at too great a distance, he was forced to vent his rage on the other." Whether the secretary had been thus informed, or was content that others should believe it, I never yet could learn: but nothing could be more unfortunate than the tendency of such a report, which, by a very unfair decision, derived the whole merit of that accident to Mr. St. John, and left Mr. Harley nothing but the danger and the pain: of both which although he had a sufficient share, (his physicians being often under apprehensions for his life) yet I am confident the time of his illness was a period of more quiet and ease, than he ever enjoyed during the rest of his administration. This report was not unresented by Mr. Harley's friends; and the rather, because the fact was directly otherwise, as it soon appeared by Guiscard's confession.
While that minister lay ill of his wound, and his life in question, the weight of business fell, in some measure, upon the secretary, who was not without ambition; which, I confess, I have seldom found among the wants of great men; and it was conceived that he had already entertained the thoughts of being at the head of affairs, in case Mr. Harley should die; although, at the same time, I must do justice to Mr. St. John, by repeating what he said to me, with great appearance of concern, (and he was but an ill dissembler) "That if Mr. Harley's accident should prove fatal, it would be an irreparable loss: That as things then stood, his life was absolutely necessary: That as to himself, he was not master of the scheme by which they were to proceed, nor had credit enough with the queen; neither did he see how it would be possible for them, in such a case, to wade through the difficulties they were then under." However, not to be over particular in so nice a point, thus much is certain, that some things happened during Mr. Harley's confinement, which bred a coldness and jealousy between those two great men; and these, increasing by many subsequent accidents, could never be removed.
Upon Mr. Harley's recovery, which was soon followed by his promotion to an earldom, and the treasurer's staff, he was earnestly pressed to go on with the change of employments, for which his friends and the kingdom were very impatient; wherein, I am confident, he was not unwilling to comply, if a new incident had not put farther difficulties in his way. The queen having thought fit to take the key from the duchess of Marlborough, it was after some time, given to another great lady, wholly in the interest of the opposite party; who, by a most obsequious behaviour, of which she is a perfect mistress, and the privileges of her place, which gave her continual access, quickly won so far upon the affections of her majesty, that she had more personal credit than all the queen's servants put together. Of this lady's character and story having spoken so much in other papers, which may one day see the light, I shall only observe, that as soon as she was fixed in her station, the queen, following the course of her own nature, grew daily much more difficult and uncomplying. Some weak endeavours were indeed used to divert her majesty from this choice: but she continued steady, and pleaded, "That, if she might not have liberty to choose her own servants, she could not see what advantage she had gotten by the change of her ministry:" And so little was her heart set upon what they call a high church or tory administration, that several employments in court and country, and a great majority in all commissions remained in the hands of those who most opposed the present proceedings; nor do I remember that any removal of consequence was made till the winter following, when the earl of Nottingham was pleased to prepare and offer a vote in the house of lords, against any peace while Spain continued in the hands of the Bourbon family. Of this vote the ministers had early notice; and by casting up the numbers, concluded they should have a majority of ten to overthrow it. The queen was desired, and promised, to speak to a certain lord, who was looked upon as dubious. That lord attended accordingly; but heard not a word of the matter from her majesty, although she afterward owned it was not for want of remembering, but from perfect indifference. The treasurer, who trusted to promises, and reckoned that others would trust to his, was, by a most unreasonable piece of parsimony, grossly deceived; and the vote carried against the court. The queen had the curiosity to be present at the debate; and appeared so little displeased at the event, or against those from whom she might have expected more compliance, that a person in high station among her domesticks, who, that day, in her presence, had shown his utmost eloquence (such as it was) against the ministers, received a particular mark of distinction and favour, which, by his post, he could not pretend to; and was not removed from her service but with exceeding difficulty many months after. And it is certain that this vote could not have been carried, if some persons very near her majesty, had not given assurances, where they were proper, that it would be acceptable to the queen; which her behaviour seemed to confirm.
But, when the consequences of this vote were calmly represented to her: "That the limitation specified therein had wholly tied up her hands, in case the recovery of Spain should be found impossible, as it was frequently allowed and owned by many principal leaders of the opposite party, and had hitherto been vainly endeavoured either by treaty or war: That the kingdom was not in a condition to bear any longer its burden and charge, especially with annual additions: That other expedients might possibly be found, for preventing France and Spain from being united under the same king, according to the intent and letter of the grand alliance: That the design of this vote was, to put her majesty under the necessity of dissolving the parliament, beginning all things anew, and placing the administration in the hands of those whom she had thought fit to lay aside; and this, by sacrificing her present servants, to the rage and vengeance of the former;" with many other obvious considerations, not very proper at this time to be repeated: Her majesty, who was earnestly bent upon giving peace to her people, consented to fall upon the sole expedient that her own coldness, or the treasurer's thrift, and want or contempt of artifice, had left her; which was, to create a number of peers, sufficient to turn the balance in the house of lords. I confess, that in my history of those times, where this matter, among others, is treated with a great deal more liberty, and consequently very unfit for present perusal, I have refined so far as to conjecture, that if this were the treasurer's counsel, he might possibly have given it upon some farther views, than that of avoiding the consequences of my lord Nottingham's vote. And what those were, I suppose, I may offer without offence. It is known enough, that from the time of the revolution, to the period I am now speaking of, the favour of the court was almost perpetually turned toward those, who, in the party term, are called whigs, or the low church; and this was a space of above twenty years, wherein great additions were made to the peerage; and the bishops bench almost wholly renewed. But, the majority of landed men, still retaining the old church principles in religion and government, notwithstanding ail endeavours to convert them, the late king was under many insuperable difficulties during the course of his reign; elections seldom succeeding so well as to leave the court side without strenuous opposition, sufficient to carry many points against him, which he had much at heart. Upon the late queen's succeeding to the crown, the church party, who seemed to have grown more numerous under all discouragements, began to conceive hopes that her majesty, who had always professed to favour their principles, would make use of their service. And indeed upon that foot things stood for some time: but, a new war being resolved on, three persons, who had most credit with her majesty, and who were then looked upon to be at least as high principled as could possibly consist with the protestant succession, having consulted their friends, began to conceive that the military spirit was much more vigorous in the other party, who appeared more keen against France, more sanguine upon the power and wealth of England, and better versed in the arts of finding out funds, to which they had been so long used. There were some other motives for this transition of the mmisters at that time, which are more proper for the history abovementioned, where they are faithfully recorded. But thus the queen was brought to govern by what they call a low church ministry, which continued for several years: till, at length, grown weary of the war, although carried on with great glory and success, and the nation rising into a flame (whether justly or not) upon the trial of Dr. Sacheverell, which, in effect, was a general muster of both parties; her majesty, following her own inclinations and those of her people, resolved to make some changes in the ministry, and take Mr. Harley into her councils. This was brought about, as the charge against that minister says, by the basest insinuations; upon which, being a determination of parliament, I shall not dispute: although I confess to have received a very different account of that matter from a most excellent lady, upon whose veracity I entirely depend; and who, being then in chief confidence with her mistress, must needs know a particular fact, wherein she was immediately concerned and trusted, better than any one man, or number of men, except the majority of a house of commons.
When the new parliament met, whose elections were left entirely to the people, without the least influence from the court, it plainly appeared how far the church party in the nation out numbered the other, and especially in the several counties. But, in the house of lords, even after some management, there was but a weak and crazy majority: nor even could this have been expected, if several great lords, who were always reputed of the other party, had not only complied, but been highly instrumental in the change; as the dukes of Shrewsbury and Argyll, the earls of Peterborough, Rivers, and some others, who certainly came into the queen's measures upon other motives than that of party. Now, since the government of England cannot go on while the two houses of parliament are in opposition to each other; and that the people whenever they acted freely, would infallibly return a majority of church men; one of these two things was of necessity to be done: either, first, to dissolve that parliament, and call another of the whig stamp, by force of a prodigious expense, which would be neither decent nor safe, and, perhaps, at that time, hardly feasible: or else, to turn the balance in the house of lords; which, after the success of lord Nottingham's vote, was not otherwise to be done, than by creating a sufficient number of peers, in order at once to make the queen and her people easy upon that article, for the rest of her reign. And this I should be willing to think was the treasurer's meaning, when he advised those advancements; which, however, I confess, I did very much dislike.
But if, after all I have said, my conjecture should happen to be wrong, yet I do not see how the treasurer can justly be blamed, for preserving his cause, his friends, and himself, from unavoidable ruin, by an expedient allowed on all hands to be lawful. Perhaps, he was brought under that necessity by the want of proper management: but, when that necessity appeared, he could not act otherwise, without unravelling whatever had been done; which, in the language of those times, would have been called delivering the queen and kingdom back into the hands of a faction, they had so lately got rid of. And I believe, no minister of any party would, in his circumstances, have scrupled to take the same step, when the summa verum was at stake.
Although the queen was brought into this measure by no other motive than her earnest desire of a peace, yet the treasurer's friends began to press him anew for farther changes in employments; concluding, from what was past, that his credit was great enough to compass whatever he pleased. But this proved to be ill reasoning; for the queen had no dislike at all to to the other party (whatever personal piques she might bear to some among them) farther than as she conceived they were bent upon continuing the war; to which her majesty resolved to put as speedy an and, as she could with honour and safety to her kingdoms, and therefore fell, with readiness enough, into the methods proposed to her for advancing that great work. But, in dispensing her favours, she was extremely cautious and slow; and, after the usual mistake of those who think they have been often imposed on, became so very suspicious, that she overshot the mark, and erred in the other extreme. When a person happened to be recommended as useful for her service, or proper to be obliged, perhaps, after a long delay, she would consent; but, if the treasurer offered, at the same time, a warrant or other instrument to her, already prepared in order to be signed, because he presumed to reckon upon her consent beforehand, she would not; and thus the affair would sometimes lie for several months together, although the thing were ever so reasonable, or even although the publick suffered by the delay. So that this minister had no other remedy but to let her majesty take her own time, which never failed to be the very longest that the nature of the thing could suffer her to defer it.
When this promotion was made, Mr. secretary St. John, whose merits and pretensions, as things then stood, were far superiour to any, was purposely left out, because the court had need of his great abilities, the following session, in the house of commons; and the peace being then upon the anvil, he was best able to explain and justify the several steps toward it; which he accordingly did, with invincible reason and universal applause. When the session was over, the queen thought fit to give him a title; and that he might not lose his rank, created him viscount. There had been an earldom in his name and family lately extinct, though a barony fell to a collateral branch in the person of an infant; and the secretary, being of the same house, expected and desired the same degree. For he reasoned, "that, making him a viscount, would be but rigorous justice; and he hoped he might pretend to some mark of favour." But the queen could not be prevailed with; because, to say the truth, he was not much at that time in her good graces; some women about the court having infused an opinion into her, that he was not so regular in his life as he ought to be. The secretary laid the whole blame of this disappointment upon the earl of Oxford; and freely told me, that he would never depend upon the earl's friendship as long as he lived, nor have any farther commerce with him, than what was necessary for carrying on the publick service. And although I have good reason to be assured that the treasurer was wholly innocent in this point, as both himself and lady Masham then protested to me; yet my lord Bolingbroke thought the appearances were so strong, that I was never able to bring him over to my opinion.
The divisions between these two great men, began to split the court into parties. Harcourt lord chancellor, the dukes of Shrewsbury and Argyll, sir William Wyndham, and one or two more, adhered to the secretary; the rest were either neuters, or inclined to the treasurer, whether from policy or gratitude; although they all agreed to blame and lament his mysterious and procrastinating manner in acting, which the state of affairs at that time could very ill admit, and must have rendered the earl of Oxford inexcusable, if the queen's obstinate temper had not put him under the necessity of exerting those talents, wherewith, it must be confessed, his nature was already too well provided.
This minister had stronger passions than the secretary, but kept them under stricter government. My lord Bolingbroke was of a nature frank and open; and as men of great genius are superiour to common rules, he seldom gave himself the trouble of disguising or subduing his resentments, although he was ready enough to forget them. In matters of state, as the earl was too reserved, so, perhaps, the other was too free; not from any incontinency of talk, but from the mere contempt, of multiplying secrets; although the graver counsellors imputed this liberty of speech to vanity or lightness. And upon the whole, no two men could differ more, in their diversions, their studies, their ways of transacting business, their choice of company, or manner of conversation.
The queen, who was well informed of these animosities among her servants, of which her own dubious management had been the original cause, began to find, and lament, the ill consequences of them in her affairs, both at home and abroad; and to lay the blame upon her treasurer, whose greatest fault, in his whole ministry, was too much compliance with his mistress, by which his measures were often disconcerted, and himself brought under suspicion by his friends.
I am very confident that this alteration in the queen's temper toward the earl of Oxford could never have appeared, if he had not thought it to make one step in politicks which I have not been able to apprehend. When the queen first thought of making a change among; her servants, after Dr. Sacheverell's trial, my lady Masham was very much heard and trusted upon that point; and it was by her intervention, Mr. Harley was admitted into her majesty's presence. That lady was then in high favour with her mistress; which, I believe, the earl was not so very sedulous to cultivate or preserve as if he had it much at heart, nor was altogether sorry when he saw it under some degree of declination. The reasons for this must be drawn from the common nature of mankind, and the incompatibility of power: but the juncture was not favourable for such a refinement; because it was early known to all who had but looked into the court, that this lady must have a successor, who, upon pique and principle, would do all in her power to obstruct his proceedings. My lady Masham was a person of a plain sound understanding, of great truth and sincerity, without the least mixture of falsehood or disguise; of an honest boldness and courage, superiour to her sex; firm and disinterested in her friendship; and full of love, duty, and veneration for the queen her mistress; talents as seldom found or sought for in a court, as unlikely to thrive while they are there: so that nothing could then be more unfortunate to the publick, than a coldness between this lady and the first minister; nor a greater mistake in the latter, than to suffer, or connive at, the lessening of her credit, which he quickly saw removed very disadvantageously to another object; and wanted the effects of, when his own was sunk, in the only domestick affair for which I ever knew him under any concern.
While the queen's favour to the earl was thus gradually lessening, the breaches between him and his friends grew every day wider; which he looked upon with great indifference, and seemed to have his thoughts only turned upon finding out some proper opportunity for delivering up his staff: but this her majesty would not then admit; because, indeed, it was not easy to determine who should succeed him.
In the midst of these dispositions at court, the queen fell dangerously sick at Windsor, about Christmas 1713. It was confidently reported in town, that she was dead; and the heads of the expecting party were said to have various meetings thereupon, and a great hurrying of chairs and coaches to and from the earl of Wharton's house. Whether this were true or not, yet thus much is certain, that the expressions of joy appeared very frequent and loud among many of that party; which proceeding, men of form did not allow to be altogether decent. A messenger was immediately dispatched, with an account of the queen's illness, to the treasurer; who was then in town, and in order to stop the report of her death, appeared next day abroad in his chariot with a pair of horses, and did not go down to Windsor till his usual time. Upon his arrival there, the danger was over, but not the fright, which still sat on every body's face; and the account given of the confusion and distraction the whole court had been under, is hardly to be conceived: upon which, the treasurer said to me, "Whenever any thing ails the queen these people are out of their wits; and yet they are so thoughtless, that as soon as she is well, they act as if she were immortal." I had sufficient reason, both before and since, to allow his observation to be true, and that some share of it might with justice be applied to himself.
The queen had early notice of this behaviour among the discontented leaders, during her illness. It was indeed, an affair of such a nature, as required no aggravation: which, however, would not have been wanting; the women of both parties who then attended her majesty, being well disposed to represent it in the strongest light. The result was, that the queen immediately laid aside all her schemes and visions of reconciling the two opposite interests; and entered upon a firm resolution of adhering to the old English principles, from an opinion that the adverse party waited impatiently for her death, upon views little consisdng (as the language and opinion went then) with the safety of the constitution, either in church or state. She therefore determined to fall into all just and proper methods that her ministers should advise her to, for the preservation and continuance of both. This I was quickly assured of, not only by the lord chancellor, and lord Bolingbroke, but by the treasurer himself.
I confess myself to have been then thoroughly persuaded that this incident would perfectly reconcile the ministers, by uniting them in pursuing one general interest; and considering no farther than what was fittest to be done, I could not easily foresee any objections or difficulties that the earl of Oxford would make. I had, for some time, endeavoured to cultivate the strictest friendship between him and the general, by telling both of them (which happened to be the truth) how kindly they spoke of each other; and by convincing the latter, of what advantage such a union must be to her majesty's service. There was an affair upon which all our friends laid a more than ordinary weight. Among the horse and foot guards appointed to attend on the queen's person, several officers took every occasion, with great freedom and bitterness of speech, to revile the ministry, upon the subject of the peace and the pretender, not without many gross expressions against the queen herself; such as, I suppose, will hardly be thought on or attempted, but certainly not suffered, under the present powers: which proceeding, beside the indignity, begot an opinion, that her majesty's person might be better guarded than by such keepers, who, after attending at court, or at the levee of the general or first minister, adjourned, to publish their disaffection in coffeehouses and gaming ordinaries, without any regard to decency or truth. It was proposed, that ten or a dozen of the least discreet among these gentlemen should be obliged to sell their posts in the guards; and that two or three, who had gone the greatest lengths, should have a price fixed for their commissions, somewhat below the exorbitant rate usually demanded for a few years past. The duke of Ormond desired but ten thousand pounds to make the matter easy to those officers who were to succeed; which sum, his grace told me, the treasurer had given him encouragement to expect, although he pleaded present want of money: and I cannot but say, that having often, at the duke's desire, pressed this minister to advance the money, he gave me such answers as made me think he really intended it. But I was quickly undeceived; for, expostulating some days after with him upon the same subject, after great expressions of esteem and friendship for the duke of Ormond, and mentioning some ill-treatment he had received from his friends, he said, "He knew not why he should do other people's work." The truth is, that except the duke, my lord Trevor, and Mr. secretary Bromley, I could not find he had one friend left, of any consequence, in her majesty's service. The lord chancellor, lord Bolingbroke, and lady Masham, openly declared against him; to whom were joined the bishop of Rochester and some others. Dartmouth, then privy-seal, and Poulett, lord steward, stood neuters. The duke of Shrewsbury hated the treasurer; but sacrificed all resentments to ease, profit, and power; and was then in Ireland, acting a part directly opposite to the court, which he had sagacity enough to foresee might quickly turn to account; so that the earl of Oxford stood almost single, and every day found a visible declension of the queen's favour toward him; which he took but little care to redress, desiring nothing so much as leave to deliver up his staff: which, however, as conjunctures then stood, he was not able to obtain; his adversaries not having determined where to place it: neither was it, upon several accounts, a work so proper to be done while the parliament sat, where the ministry had already lost too much reputation, and especially in the house of lords. By what I could gather from several discourses with the treasurer, it was not very difficult to find out how he reasoned with himself. The church party continued violently bent to have some necessary removals made in the guards, as well as a farther change in the civil employments through the kingdom. All the great officers about the court, or in her majesty's service, except the duke of Shrewsbury, and one or two more, were in the same opinion. The queen herself, since her last illness at Windsor, had the like dispositions; and I think it may appear, from several passages already mentioned, that the blame of those delays, so often complained of, did not originally lie at the earl of Oxford's door. But the state of things was very much changed by several incidents. The chancellor, lord Bolingbroke, and lady Masham, had entirely forsaken him, upon suspicions I have mentioned before; which, although they were founded on mistake, yet he would never be at the pains to clear. And, as he first lessened his confidence with the queen, by pressing her upon those very points, for which his friends accused him that they were not performed; so, upon her change of sentiments after her recovery, he lost all favour and credit with her, for not seconding those new resolutions, from which she had formerly been so averse. Besides, he knew, as well as all others who were near the court, that it was hardly possible the queen could survive many months; in which case, he must of necessity bring upon him the odium and vengeance of the successor, and of that party which must then be predominant, who would quickly unravel all he had done: or, if her majesty should hold out longer than it was reasonable to expect; yet, after having done a work that must procure him many new enemies, he could expect nothing but to be discharged in displeasure. Upon these reasons, he continued his excuses to the duke of Ormond, for not advancing the money; and during the six last months of his ministry, would enter into no affairs but what immediately concerned the business of his office. That whole period was nothing else but a scene of murmuring and discontent, quarrel and misunderstanding, animosity and hatred, between him and his former friends. In the mean time, the queen's countenance was wholly changed toward him; she complained of his silence and sullenness; and in return, gave him every day fresh instances of neglect or displeasure.
The original of this quarrel among the ministers, which had been attended with so many ill consequences, began first between the treasurer and lord Bolingbroke, from the causes and incidents I have already mentioned; and might very probably have been prevented, if the treasurer had dealt with less reserve, or the lord Bolingbroke had put that confidence in him, which so sincere a friend might reasonably have expected. Neither, perhaps, would a reconcilement have been an affair of much difficulty, if their friends, on both sides, had not too much observed the common prudential forms of not caring to intermeddle; which, together with the addition of a shrug, was the constant answer I received from most of them, whenever I pressed them upon the subject. I cannot tell whether my lord Trevor may be excepted, because I had little acquaintance with him, although I am inclined to the negative. Mr. Prior, who was much loved and esteemed by them both, as he well deserved upon account of every virtue that can qualify a man for private conversation, might have been the properest person for such a work, if he could have thought it to consist with the prudence of a courtier; but, however, he was absent in France at those junctures when it was chiefly necessary. And to say the truth, most persons had so avowedly declared themselves on one side or the other, that these two great men had hardly a common friend left, except myself. I had ever been treated with great kindness by them both; and I conceived, that what I wanted in weight and credit, might be made up with sincerity and freedom. The former they never doubted, and the latter they had constant experience of: I had managed between them for almost two years; and their candour was so great, that they had not the least jealousy or suspicion of me. And I thought I had done wonders, when, upon the queen's being last at Windsor, I put them in a coach to go thither, by appointment, without other company; where they would have four hours time to come to a good understanding; but, in two days after, I learned from them both, that nothing was done.
There had been three bishopricks for some time vacant in Ireland; and I had prevailed on the earl of Oxford, that one of them should be divided. Accordingly, four divines of that kingdom were named to the queen, and approved by her; but, upon some difficulties, not worth mentioning, the queen's mandatory letters to Ireland had been delayed. I pressed the treasurer every week while her majesty was at Windsor, and every day after her return, to finish this affair, as a point of great consequence to the church in that kingdom; and growing at length impatient of so many excuses, I fell into some passion; when his lordship freely told me, "That he had been earnest with the queen upon that matter, about ten times the last fortnight, but without effect; and that he found his credit wholly at an end." This happened about eleven weeks before the queen died: and two nights after, sitting with him and lord Bolingbroke, in lady Masham's lodgings at St. James's for some hours, I told the treasurer, "That, having despaired of any reconciliation between them, I had only staid some time longer to forward the disposal of those bishopricks in Ireland; which, since his lordship told me was out of his power, I now resolved to retire immediately, as from an evil I could neither help to redress, nor endure the sight of: That before I left them, I desired they would answer me two questions: first, whether these mischiefs might not be remedied in two minutes? and secondly, whether, upon the present foot, the ministry would not be infallibly ruined in two months?" Lord Bolingbroke answered to each question in the affirmative, and approved of my resolution to retire; but the treasurer, after his manner, evaded both, and only desired me to dine with him next day. However, I immediately went down to a friend in Berkshire, to await the issue, which ended in the removal of my lord treasurer, and, three days after, in her majesty's death.
Thus I have, with some pains, recollected several passages, which I thought were most material, for the satisfaction of those, who appear so much at a loss upon the unaccountable quarrels of the late ministry. For, indeed, it looked like a riddle, to see persons of great and undisputed abilities, called by the queen to her service in the place of others, with whose proceedings she was disgusted, and with great satisfaction to the clergy, the landed interest, and body of the people, running on a sudden into such a common beaten court track of ruin, by divisions among themselves; not only without a visible cause, but with the strongest appearances to the contrary, and without any refuge to the usual excuse, of evil instruments, or cunning adversaries, to blow the coals of dissension; for the work was entirely their own.
I impute the cause of these misfortunes to the queen; who, from the variety of hands she had employed, and reasonings she had heard, since her coming to the crown, was grown very fond of moderating schemes; which, as things then stood, were by no means reducible to practice. She had likewise a good share of that adherence to her own opinions, which is usually charged upon her sex. And lastly (as I have before observed) having received some hints that she had formerly been too much governed, she grew very difficult to be advised.
The next in fault, was the treasurer; who, not being able to influence the queen in many points, with relation to party, which his friends and the kingdom seemed to have much at heart, would needs take all the blame on himself, from a known principle of state prudence, "That a first minister must always preserve the reputation of power." But I have ever thought, that there are few maxims in politicks, which, at some conjunctures, may not be very liable to an exception. The queen was by no means inclined to make many changes in employments; she was positive in her nature, and extremely given to delay. And surely these were no proper qualities for a chief minister to personate toward his nearest friends, who were brought into employment upon very different views and promises. Nor could any repuration of power be worth preserving, at the expense of bringing sincerity into question. I remember, upon a Saturday, when the ministers, and one or two friends of the treasurer, constantly met to dine at his house, one of the company attacked him very warmly, on account that a certain lord, who perpetually opposed the queen's measures, was not dismissed from a great employment, which, beside other advantages, gave that lord the power of choosing several members of parliament. The treasurer evaded the matter with his usual answer, "That this was whipping day." Upon which, the secretary Bolingbroke, turning to me, said, "It was a strange thing that my lord Oxford would not be so kind to his friends, and so just to his own innocence, as to vindicate himself where he had no blame; for, to his knowledge and the chancellor's, (who was then also present) the treasurer had frequently and earnestly moved the queen upon that very point, without effect." Whereupon, this minister, finding himself pressed so far, told the company, "That he had at last prevailed with her majesty; and the thing would be done in two days:" which followed accordingly. I mention this fact as an instance of the earl of Oxford's disposition to preserve some reputation of power in himself, and remove all blame from the queen; and this, to my particular knowledge, was a frequent case; but how far justifiable in point of prudence, I have already given my opinion. However, the treasurer's friends were yet much more to blame than himself: he had abundance of merit with them all; not only upon account of the publick, the whole change of the ministry having been effected, without any intervention of theirs, by him and lady Masham; but likewise from the consequence of that change, whereby the greatest employments of the kingdom were divided among them; and therefore, in common justice, as well as prudence, they ought to have been more indulgent to his real failings, rather than suspect him of imaginary ones, as they often did, through ignorance, refinement, or mistake: and I mention it to the honour of the secretary Bolingbroke, as well as of the treasurer, that having myself, upon many occasions, joined with the former in quarrelling with the earl's conduct upon certain points, the secretary would, in a little time after, frankly own that he was altogether mistaken.
Lastly, I cannot excuse the remissness of those whose business it should have been, as it certainly was their interest, to have interposed their good offices for healing this unhappy breach among the ministers: but of this I have already spoken.
WRITTEN ABOUT A YEAR AFTER.
HAVING proceeded thus far, I thought it would be unnecessary to say any thing upon the other head, relating to the design of bringing in the pretender: for, upon the earl of Oxford's impeachment, the gentlemen of the prevailing side assured me, "That the whole mystery would be soon laid open to the world;" and were ready to place the merit of their cause upon that issue. This discovery we all expected from the report of the secret committee: but, when that treatise appeared, (whoever were the compilers) we found it to be rather the work of a luxuriant fancy, an absolute state pamphlet arguing for a cause, than a dry recital of facts, or a transcript of letters; and for what related to the pretender, the authors contented themselves with informing the publick, that the whole intrigue was privately carried on, in personal treaties between the earl of Oxford and the abbé Gualtier; which must needs be a doctrine hard of digestion to those who have the least knowledge either of the earl or the abbé, or upon what foot the latter stood at that time with the English ministry: I conceive, that whoever is at distance enough, to be out of fear either of a vote or a messenger, will be as easily brought to believe all the popish legends together. And to make such an assertion, in a publick report delivered to the house of commons, without the least attempt to prove it, will, some time or other, be reckoned such a strain upon truth and probability, as is hard to be equalled in a Spanish romance. I think it will be allowed, that the articles of high treason drawn up against the earl, were not altogether founded upon the report; or at least, that those important hints about bringing in the pretender, were more proper materials to furnish out a pamphlet, than an impeachment; since this accusation has no part even among the high crimes and misdemeanors.
But, notwithstanding all this, and that the earl of Oxford, after two years residence in the Tower, was at length dismissed without any trial; yet the reproach still went on, that the queen's last ministry, in concert with their mistress, were deeply engaged in a design to set the pretender upon the throne. The cultivating of which accusation, I impute to the great goodness of those in power, who are so gracious to assign a reason, or at least give a countenance, for that sudden and universal sweep they thought fit to make, on their first appearance: whereas they might as well have spared that ceremony, by a short recourse to the royal prerogative, which gives every prince a liberty of choosing what servants he will.
There are two points which I believe myself able to make out. First, that neither the late queen, nor her ministers, did ever entertain a design of bringing in the pretender during her majesty's life, or that he should succeed after her decease.
Secondly, that if they conceived such a design, it was absolutely necessary to prosecute it from the first year of their ministry; because, for at least a year before the queen's death, it was impossible to have put such a design in execution.
I must premise with three circumstances, which have a great effect on me, and must have the like upon those among my friends, who have any tolerable opinion of my veracity, and it is only to those that I offer them.
I remember, during the late treaty of peace, discoursing at several times with some very eminent persons of the opposite side, with whom I had long acquaintance, I asked them seriously, "whether they, or any of their friends, did in earnest believe, or suspect, the queen, or the ministry, to have any favourable regards toward the pretender?" They all confessed, for themselves, "That they believed nothing of the matter:" And particularly, a person at present in great employment said to me, with much frankness, "You set up the church and Sacheverell against us; and we set up trade and the pretender against you."
The second point I would observe, is this, that during the course of the late ministry, upon occasion of the libels every day thrown about, I had the curiosity to ask almost every person in great employment, "Whether they knew, or had heard, of any one particular man, (except those who professed to be nonjurors) that discovered the least inclination toward the pretender." And the whole number they could muster up, did not amount to above five or six; among which, one was a certain old lord lately dead, and one a private gentleman, of little consequence, and of a broken fortune: yet I do not believe myself to have omitted any one great man that came in my way, except the duke of Buckingham, in whose company I never was above once or twice at most. I am, therefore, as confident as a man can be of any truth which will not admit a demonstration, that, upon the queen's death, if we except papists and nonjurors, there could not be five hundred persons in England, of all ranks, who had any thoughts of the pretender; and among these, not six of any quality or consequence: but how it has come to pass that several millions are said to have since changed their sentiments, it shall not be my part to inquire.
The last point is of the same strain; and I offer it, like the two former, to convince only those who are willing to believe me on my own word; that having been, for the space of almost four years, very nearly and perpetually conversant with those who had the greatest share of power, and this in their times of leisure as well as business, I could never hear one single word let fall in favour of the pretender, although I was curious enough to observe in a particular manner what passed upon that subject. And I cannot but think, that if such an affair had been in agitation, I must have had either very bad luck, or a very small share of common understanding, not to have discovered some grounds, at least, for suspicion: because I never yet knew a minister of state, or indeed any other man, so great a master of secrecy, as to be able, among those he nearly conversed with, wholly to conceal his opinions, however he may cover his designs. This I say, upon a supposition that they would have held on the mask always before me, which, however, I have no reason to believe. And I confess, it is with the expense of some patience, that I hear this matter summarily determined, by those who had no advantages of knowing any thing that passed, otherwise than what they found in a libel or a coffeehouse: or at best, from general reasonings built upon mistaken facts. Now, although what I have hitherto said upon this point, can have no influence farther than my own personal credit reaches; yet, I confess, I shall never be brought to change my opinion, till some one who had more opportunities than I, will be able to produce any single particular, from the letters, the discourses, or the actions of those ministers, as a proof of what they allege; which has not yet been attempted or pretended.
But, I believe, there may be several arguments of another nature produced, which can make it very evident, to those who will hear reason, that the queen's ministers never had it in their thoughts to alter the succession of the crown.
For, first, when her majesty had determined to change her servants, it is very well known, that those whom she appointed to succeed them, were generally accounted favourers of what is called the low church part; not only my lords Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Harcourt, but a great majority of the rest: among which, I can immediately name the dukes of Shrewsbury, Newcastle, and Argyll; the earls of Peterborough, Rivers, Strafford, Hay, and Orrery; the lords Mansel and Masham, with several others, whom I cannot at present recollect. Whereas, of the other party, the dukes of Ormond and Buckingham, and the earl of Dartmouth, were the only persons introduced at first, and very few afterward: which, I suppose, will clearly evince, that the bringing in of the pretender, was not the original scheme of such ministers, and that they were by no means proper instruments for such a work.
And whoever knew any thing of the queen's disposition, must believe she had no inclinations at all in favour of the pretender. She was highly and publickly displeased with my lord Bolingbroke, because he was seen under the same roof with that person at an opera, when his lordship was sent to France, upon some difficulties about the peace. Her majesty said, "that he ought immediately to have withdrawn, upon the appearance of the other:" wherein, to speak with freedom, I think her judgment was a little mistaken. And at her toilet, among her women, when mention happened to be made of the chevalier, she would frequently let fall expressions of such a nature, as made it manifest how little she deserved those reproaches, which have been cast on her since her death, upon that account.
Besides, I have already said, that her majesty began those changes at court, for no other cause than her personal displeasure against a certain family, and their allies; and from the hope she had to obtain a peace, by the removal of some, whose interest it was to obstruct it: That when the former chancellor, president, and others came to her, determined to deliver up their employments, she pressed them, somewhat more than it became her dignity, to continue in their stations; of which, I suppose, my lord Cowper is yet a living witness.
I am forced to repeat, what I have before observed, that it was with the utmost difficulty she could be ever persuaded, to dismiss any person upon the score of party; and that she drove her ministers into the greatest distress, upon my lord Nottingham's vote against any peace without Spain, for want of speaking to one or two depending lords, although with the last danger, of breaking the measures she was most fond of, toward settling the repose of Europe. She had besides, upon the removal of the duchess of Marlborough, chosen another great lady to succeed, who quickly grew into higher credit than all her ministers together: a lady openly professing the utmost aversion from the persons, the principles, and measures of those, who were then in power, and excelling all, even of her own sex, in every art of insinuation: and this her majesty thought fit to do, in opposition to the strongest representations that could possibly be made to her, of the inconveniencies which would ensue. Her only objection, against several clergymen recommended to her for promotions in the church, was, their being too violent in party. And a lady in high favour with her, has frequently assured me, "That, whenever she moved the queen to discard some persons, who, upon all occasions, with great virulence opposed the court, her majesty would constantly refuse, and at the same time condemn her for too much party zeal."
But, beside all this, there never was a more stale or antiquated cause than that of the pretender, at the time when her majesty chose her last ministers, who were most of them children or youths when king James II abdicated. They found a prince upon the throne, before they were of years to trouble themselves with speculations upon government; and consequently, could have no scruples of conscience in submitting to the present powers, since they hardly remembered any other. And truly, this was in general the case of the whole kingdom: for the adherents of king James II were all either dead, or in exile, or sunk in obscurity, laden with years and want; so that, if any guilt were contracted by the revolution, it was generally understood that our ancestors were only to answer for it. And I am confident, (with an exception to professed nonjurors) there was not one man in ten thousand, through England, who had other sentiments. Nor can the contrary opinion be defended, by arguing the prodigious disaffection at present; because the same thing has happened before, from the same cause, in our own country, and within the memory of man, although not with the same event.
But such a disaffection could hardly have been raised against an absent prince, who was only in expectation of the throne; and indeed, I cannot but reckon it as a very strong argument, for the good disposition, both in the ministry and kingdom, toward the house of Hanover, that during my lord Oxford's administration, there was never thrown out the least reflection against that illustrious house, in any libel or pamphlet; which would hardly have happened, if the small party writers could have thought, that by such a performance, they would have made their court to those in power; and which would certainly have been a very useful preliminary, if any attempt had been intended toward altering the succession to the crown. But, however, to say the truth, invectives against the absent, and with whom we have nothing to do, although they may render persons little and contemptible, can hardly make them odious: for, hatred is produced by motives of a very different nature, as experience has shown. And although politicians affirm it more eligible for a prince to be hated, than despised, yet that maxim is better calculated for an absolute monarchy, than for the climate of England. But I am sensible this is a digression; therefore I return.
The treaties made by her majesty with France and Spain, were calculated, in several points, directly against the pretender, as he has now found to his cost, and as it is manifest to all the world. Neither could any thing be more superficial, than the politicks of those, who could be brought to think that the regent of France, would ever engage in measures against the present king of England; and how the grimace of an ambassador's taking, or not taking his publick character, as in the case of the earl of Stairs, should serve so long for an amusement, cannot be sufficiently wondered at. What can be plainer, than that the chief interest of the duke of Orleans, is woven and twisted with that of king George; and this, whether it shall be thought convenient to suffer the young king of France to live longer, or not? For, in the second case, the regent perfectly agrees with our present king in this particular circumstance, that the whole order of succession has been broken for his sake; by which means, he likewise will be encumbered with a pretender, and thereby engaged, upon the strongest motives, to prevent the union of France and Spain under one monarch. And even in the other case, the chance of a boy's life, and his leaving heirs male of his body, is so dubious, that the hopes of a crown to the regent, or his children, will certainly keep that prince, as long as his power continues, very firm in his alliance with England.
And as this design was originally intended and avowed by the queen's ministers, in their treaties with France and Spain, so the events have fully answered in every particular. The present king succeeded to these crowns, with as hearty and universal a disposition of the people, as could possibly consist with the grief, for the loss of so gracious and excellent a princess, as her late majesty. The parliament was most unanimous, in doing every thing that could endear them to a new monarch. The general peace did entirely put an end to any design, which France or Spain might probably have laid, to make a diversion, by an invasion upon Scotland, with the pretender at the head, in case her majesty had happened to die during the course of the war: and upon the death of the late French king, the duke of Orleans fell immediately into the strictest measures with England; as the queen and her ministers easily foresaw it would be necessary for him to do, from every reason that could regard his own interest. If the queen had died but a short time before the peace, and either of the two great powers engaged against us, had thought fit to have thrown some troops into Scotland, although it could not have been a very agreeable circumstance to a successor and a stranger, yet the universal inclinations at that time in England, toward the house of Hanover, would, in all probability, have prevented the consequences of such an enterprise. But, on the other side, if the war had continued a year longer than her majesty's life, and the same causes had been applied to produce the same effects upon the affections of the people, the issue must inevitably have been, either a long and bloody civil war, or a sudden revolution. So that no incident could have arrived more effectual, to fortify the present king's title, and secure his possession, than that very peace, so much exploded by one party, and so justly celebrated by the other; in continuing to declare which opinions, under the present situation of things, it is not very improbable that they may both be in jest.
But, if any articles of that peace were likely to endanger the protestant succession, how could it come to pass that the Dutch, who were guarantees of that succession, and valued for zealous defenders of it, should be so ready with their offers to comply with every article; and this for no greater a reward than a share in the assiento trade, which the opposers of peace represented to be only a trifle? That the fact is true, I appeal to M. de Buys, who, upon some difficulties the ministry were under by the earl of Nottingham's vote against any peace, while Spain continued in the Bourbon family, undertook to make that matter easy, by getting a full approbation from the States, his masters, of all her majesty's proceedings, provided they might be sharers in that trade. I can add this farther, that some months after the conclusion of the peace, and amid all the appearing discontents of the Dutch, a gentleman who had long resided in Holland, and was occasionally employed by the ministers here, assured me, "That he had power from the pensionary, to treat with the earl of Oxford, about sending hither an extraordinary embassy from Holland, to declare that the States were fully satisfied with the whole plan of the peace, upon certain conditions, which were easy and honourable, and such as had no relation at all to the pretender." How this happened to fail, I never inquired, nor had any discourse about it with those in power: for, then their affairs were growing desperate, by the earl of Oxford's declination in the queen's favour; both which became so publick, as well as her majesty's bad state of health, that I suppose, those circumstances might easily cool the Dutch politicians in that pursuit.
I remember to have heard it objected against the last ministry, as an instance of their inclination toward the pretender, "That they were careless in cultivating a good correspondence with the house of Hanover." And on the other side, I know very well what continual pains were employed, to satisfy and inform the elector and his ministers, in every step taken by her majesty, and what offers were made to his highness, for any farther securities of the succession in him and his family, that could consist with the honour and safety of the queen. To this purpose were all the instructions given to earl Rivers, Mr. Thomas Harley, lord Clarendon, and some others. But all endeavours were rendered abortive by a foolish circumstance which has often made me remember the common observation, of the greatest events depending frequently upon the lowest, vilest, and obscurest causes: and this is never more verified than in courts, and the issues of publick affairs, whereof I could produce, from my own knowledge and observation, tnree or four very surprising instances. I have seen an old bedmaker, by officiously going to one door, when gratitude as well as common sense should have sent her to another, become the instrument of putting the nation to the expense of some thousand lives, and several millions of money. I have known as great an event from the stupidity, or wilfulness, of a beggarly Dutchman, who lingered on purpose half an hour at a visit, when he had promised to be somewhere else. Of no greater dignity was that circumstance, which rendered ineffectual, all endeavours of the late ministry, to establish themselves in the good graces of the court of Hanover, as I shall particularly relate in another work. It may suffice to hint at present, that a delay in conveying a very inconsiderable sum, to a very inconsiderable French vagrant, gave the opportunity to a more industrious party, of corrupting that channel, through which all the ideas of the dispositions and designs of the queen, the ministers, and the whole British nation, were conveyed.
The second point which I conceived myself able to make out, is this: that if the queen's ministers had, with or without the knowledge of their mistress, entertained any thoughts of altering the succession in favour of the pretender, it was absolutely necessary for them, to have begun and prosecuted that design, as soon as they came into her majesty's service.
There were two circumstances, which would have made it necessary for them to have lost no time. First, because it was a work that could not possibly be done on a sudden; for the whole nation, almost to a man, excepting professed nonjurors, had conceived the utmost abhorrence of a popish successor; and as I have already observed, the scruple of conscience, upon the point of loyalty, was wholly confined to a few antiquated nonjurors, who lay starving in obscurity: so that, in order to have brought such an affair about in a parliamentary way, some years must have been employed to turn the bent of the nation, to have rendered one person odious, and another amiable; neither of which is to be soon compassed toward absent princes, unless by comparing them with those of whom we have had experience, which was not then the case.
The other circumstance was, the bad condition of the queen's health; her majesty growing every day more unwieldy, and the gout, with other disorders, increasing on her; so that whoever was near the court, for about the two last years of her reign, might boldly have fixed the period of her life to a very few months, without pretending to prophesy. And how little a time the ministers had, for so great a work as that of changing the succession of the crown, and how difficult the very attempt would have been, may be judged, from the umbrage taken by several lords of the church party, in the last year of her reign, who appeared under an apprehension that the very quarrels among the ministers, might possibly be of some disadvantage to the house of Hanover. And the universal declaration both among lords and commons at that time, as well in favour of the elector, as against the pretender, are an argument, beyond all conviction, that some years must have been spent in altering the dispositions of the people. Upon this occasion, I shall not soon forget what a great minister then said to me, and which I have been since assured was likewise the duke of Shrewsbury's opinion: "That there could be no doubt of the elector's undisturbed succession; but the chief difficulty lay in the future disaffection of the church and people, and landed interest, from that universal change of men and measures, which he foresaw would arrive." And it must be, to all impartial men, above a thousand witnesses, how innocent her majesty's servants were upon this article; that knowing so well through what channels all favour was to pass upon the queen's demise, they, by their coming into power, had utterly and for ever broken all measures with the opposite party; and that in the beginning of their administration, there wanted not, perhaps, certain favourable junctures, which some future circumstances would not have failed to cultivate. Yet their actions showed them so far from any view toward the pretender, that they neglected pursuing those measures, which they had constantly in their power, not only of securing themselves, but the interest of the church, without any violence to the protestant succession in the person of the elector. And this unhappy neglect I take to have been the only disgrace of their ministry. To prevent this evil, was, I confess, the chief point wherein all my little politicks terminated; and the methods were easy and obvious. But whoever goes about to gain favour with a prince, by a readiness to enlarge his prerogative, although out of principle and opinion, ought to provide that he be not outbid by another party, however professing a contrary principle. For I never yet read or heard of any party, acting in opposition to the true interest of their country, whatever republican denominations they affected to be distinguished by, who would not be contented to chaffer publick liberty, for personal power, or for an opportunity of gratifying their revenge; of which truth, Greece and Rome, as well as many other states, will furnish plenty of examples. This reflection I could not well forbear, although it may be of little use, farther than to discover my own resentment. And yet, perhaps, that misfortune ought rather to be imputed to the want of concert and confidence, than of prudence or of courage.
I must here take notice of an accusation charged upon the late ministry by the house of commons, that they put a lie, or falsehood, into the queen's mouth, to be delivered to her parliament. Mr. Thomas Harley was sent to the elector of Hanover, with instructions to offer his highness any farther securities, for settling the succession in him and his family, that could consist with her majesty's honour and safety. This gentleman writ a letter to the secretary of state, a little before his return from Hanover, signifying, in direct terms, "That the elector expressed himself satisfied in the queen's proceedings, and desired to live in confidence with her." He writ to the same purpose to one of the undersecretaries; and mentioned the fact as a thing that much pleased him, and what he desired might be as publick as possible. Both these letters I have read; and the queen as she had reason to suppose, being sufficiently authorized by this notice from her minister, made mention of that information in a speech from the throne. If the fact were a lie, it is what I have not heard Mr. Harley to have been charged with. From what has since passed in the world, I should indeed be inclined to grant it might have been a compliment in his highness, and perhaps understood to be so by the queen; but, without question, her majesty had a fair excuse to take the elector according to the literal meaning of his words. And if this be so, the imputation of falsehood must remain, where these accusers of that excellent princess's veracity, will, I suppose, not profess at least, an inclination to place it.
I am very willing to mention the point, wherein, as I said, all my little politicks terminated, and wherein I may pretend to know that the ministers were of the same opinion; and would have put it in practice, if it pleased God to let them continue to act with any kind of unanimity.
I have already observed, how well it was known at court, what measures the elector intended to follow, whenever his succession should take place; and what hands he would employ in the administration of his affairs. I have likewise mentioned some facts and reasons, which influenced and fixed his highness in that determination, notwithstanding all possible endeavours to divert him from it. Now if we consider the dispositions of England at that time, when almost the whole body of the clergy, a vast majority of the landed interest, and of the people in general, were of the church party; it must be granted that one or two acts, which might have passed in ten days, would have put it utterly out of the power of the successor, to have procured a house of commons of a different stamp, and this with very little diminution to the prerogative; which acts might have been only temporary. For the usual arts to gain parliaments, can hardly be applied with success after the election, against a majority at least of three in four; because the trouble and expense would be too great, beside the loss of reputation. For, neither could such a number of members find their account in point of profit, nor would the crown be at so much charge and hazard, merely for the sake of governing by a small party, against the bent and genius of the nation. And as to all attempts of influencing electors, they would have been sufficiently provided for, by the scheme intended. I suppose it need not be added, that the government of England cannot move a step, while the house of commons continues to dislike proceedings, or persons employed; at least in an age where parliaments are grown so frequent, and are made so necessary: whereas a minister is but the creature of a day; and a house of lords has been modelled in many reigns, by enlarging the number, as well as by other obvious expedients.
The judicious reader will soon comprehend how easily the legislature at that time could have provided against the power and influence of a courts or ministry, in future elections, without the least injury to the succession, and even without the modern invention of perpetuating themselves; which, however, I must needs grant to be one of the most effectual, vigorous, and resolute proceedings that I have yet met with in reading or information. For the long parliament under king Charles I, although it should be allowed of good authority, will hardly amount to an example.
I must again urge and repeat, that those who charge the earl of Oxford, and the rest of that ministry, with a design of altering the succession of the crown in favour of the pretender, will perhaps be at some difficulty to fix the time, when that design was in agitation: for, if such an attempt had begun with their power, it is not easy to assign a reason why it did not succeed; because there were certain periods, when her majesty and her servants were extremely popular, and the house of Hanover not altogether so much, upon account of some behaviour here, and some other circumstances that may better be passed over in silence: all which, however, had no other consequence, than that of repeated messages of kindness and assurance to the elector. During the last two years of the queen's life, her health was in such a condition, that it was wondered how she could hold out so long: and then, as I have already observed, it was too late and hazardous to engage in an enterprise which required so much time, and which the ministers themselves had rendered impracticable, by the whole course of their former proceedings, as well as by the continuance and heightening of those dissensions, which had early risen among them.
The party now in power will easily agree, that this design of overthrowing the succession, could not be owing to any principle of conscience in those whom they accuse; for they knew very well, by their own experience and observation, that such kind of scruples, have given but small disturbance of late years, in these kingdoms. Since interest is therefore the only test, by which we are to judge the intentions of those who manage publick affairs, it would have been but reasonable to have shown how the interest of the queen's ministers, could be advanced by introducing the pretender, before they were charged with such an intention. Her majesty was several years younger than her intended successor; and at the beginning of that ministry, had no disorders, except the gout, which, is not usually reckoned a shortener of life; and those in chief trust were, generally speaking, older than their mistress: so that no persons had ever a fairer prospect of running on the natural life of an English ministry; considering, likewise, the general vogue of the kingdom, at that time, in their favour. And it will be hard to find an instance in history, of a set of men, in full possession of power, so sanguine as to form an enterprise of overthrowing the government, without the visible prospect of a general defection, which (then at least) was not to be hoped for. Neither do I believe it was ever heard of, that a ministry, in such circumstances, durst engage in so dangerous an attempt, without the direct commands of their sovereign. And as to the persons then in service, if they may be allowed to have common sense, they would much sooner have surrendered their employments, than hazard the loss of their heads, at so great odds, before they had tried or changed the disposition of the parliament; which is an accusation, that I think, none of their libellers have charged upon them, at least till toward the end of their ministry; and then, very absurdly, because the want of time, and other circumstances, rendered such a work impossible, for several reasons which I have already related.
And whoever considers the late queen, so little enterprising in her nature, so much given to delay, and at the same time so obstinate in her opinions, (as restiness is commonly attended with slowness) so great a pursuer of peace and quiet, and so exempt from the two powerful passions of love and hatred; will hardly think she had a spirit turned for such an undertaking: if we add to this, the contempt she often expressed for the person and concerns of the chevalier her brother, of which I have already said enough to be understood.
It has been objected against the late queen and her servants, as a mark of no favourable disposition toward the house of Hanover, that the electoral prince was not invited to reside in England: and at the same time, it ought to be observed, that this objection was raised and spread, by the leaders of that party, who first opposed the counsel of inviting him; offering, among other arguments against it, the example of queen Elizabeth, who would not so much as suffer her successor to be declared, expressing herself, that she would not live with her gravestone always in her sight; although the case be by no means parallel between the two queens. For, in her late majesty's reign, the crown was as firmly settled on the Hanover family, as the legislature could do it: and the question was only, whether the presumptive heir, of distant kindred, should keep his court in the same kingdom and metropolis with the sovereign, while the nation was torn between different parties, to be at the head of that faction which her majesty and the body of her people utterly disapproved; and therefore, the leaders on both sides, when they were in power, did positively determine this question in the negative. And if we may be allowed to judge by events, the reasons were cogent enough; since differences may happen to arise between two princes the most nearly allied in blood; although it be true indeed, that where the duty to a parent, is added to the allegiance of a subject, the consequence of family dissensions may not always be considerable.
For my own part, I freely told my opinion to the ministers; and did afterward offer many reasons for it, in a discourse intended for the publick, but stopped by the queen's death, that the young grandson (whose name I cannot remember) should be invited over to be educated in England; by which, I conceived, the queen might be secure from the influence of cabals and factions; the zealots, who affected to believe the succession in danger, could have no pretences to complain; and the nation might one day hope to be governed by a prince of English manners and language, as well as acquainted with the true constitution of church and state. And this was the judgment of those at the helm, before I offered it: neither were they nor their mistress to be blamed, that such a resolution was not pursued. Perhaps, from what has since happened, the reader will be able to satisfy himself.
I have now said all I could think convenient (considering the time wherein I am writing) upon those two points, which I proposed to discourse on, wherein I have dealt with the utmost impartiality, and I think, upon the fairest supposition, which is that of allowing men to act upon the motives of their interests and their passions: for I am not so weak as to think one ministry more virtuous than another, unless by chance, or by extraordinary prudence and virtue of the prince; which last, taking mankind in the lump, and adding the great counterbalance of royal education, is a very rare accident; and, where it happens, is even then of little use, when factions are violent. But it so falls out, that among contending parties in England, the general interest of church and state, is more the private interest of one side than the other; so that, whoever professes to act upon a principle of observing the laws of his country, may have a safe rule to follow, by discovering whose particular advantage it chiefly is, that the constitution should be preserved entire in all its parts. For there cannot, properly speaking, be above two parties in such a government as ours; and one side, will find themselves obliged to take in all the subaltern denominations, of those who dislike the present establishment, in order to make themselves a balance against the other; and such a party, composed of mixed bodies; although they differ widely in the several fundamentals of religion and government, and all of them from the true publick interest, yet, whenever their leaders are taken into power, under an ignorant, unactive, or illdesigning prince, will probably, by the assistance of time or force, become the majority, unless they be prevented by a steadiness, which there is little reason to hope; or by some revolution, which there is much more reason to fear. For, abuses in administration may last much longer than politicians seem to be aware of; especially where some bold steps are made to corrupt the very fountain of power and legislature: in which case, as it may happen in some states, the whole body of the people are drawn in, by their own supposed consent, to be their own enslavers; and where will they find a thread to wind themselves out of this labyrinth? or will they not rather wish to be governed by arbitrary power, after the manner of other nations? For, whoever considers the course of the Roman empire after Cæsar's usurpation, the long continuance of the Turkish government, or the destruction of the gothick balance in most kingdoms of Europe, will easily see how controllable that maxim is, that res nolunt diu malè administrari: because, as corruptions are more natural to mankind, than perfections, so they are more likely to have a longer continuance. For, the vices of men, considered as individuals, are exactly the same when they are moulded into bodies; nor otherwise to be withheld in their effects, than by good fundamental laws; in which, when any great breaches are made, the consequence will be the same as in the life of a particular man; whose vices, are seldom known to end, out with himself.
- 'From the practice of some refined ministers, to act,' &c. From the practice to act — is not English; it should be — 'from the practice of acting,' &c.
- Of the Four Last Years of Queen Anne.
- Relating to the Change in the Queen's Ministry in 1710.
- Earl of Wharton.
- The duchess of Marlborough was groom of the stole, had the robes and the privy purse. The duchess of Somerset succeeded to the two first of these employments, and Mrs. Masham to the last.
- The duke of Somerset had the honour to lead out the queen.
- Mrs. Masham.
- The duchess of Somerset.
- The duke of Ormond.
- Lord Harcourt.
- Dr. Atterbury.
- It should be — 'as he well deserved to be.'
- 'I must premise with three circumstances,' &c. premise with — is not English; it should be — 'I must premise that there are three circumstances,' &c.
- This position of the word, only, often occasions ambiguity; it should be — 'that our ancestors only were to answer for it.
- It should be — 'by arguing from the,' &c.
- It should be — 'for being zealous defenders of it.'
- Mrs. Foisson, necessary-woman to the queen, preferred to that employment by lady Masham.
- Carew lord Hunsdon, born and bred in Holland.
- Robethon, then at Hanover, but in the service of some other German prince, it is not known how, got into some credit with the elector.
- 'Some years,' &c. This sentence is very uncouth in its arrangement, and far from being clear as to meaning. It might be thus amended — 'Some years must have been employed to turn the bent of the nation, in order to have rendered one person odious, and the other amiable.'
- It should be — 'wondered at.'