Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

man

6 and would by God's grace, burn at the stake, rather “ than, in any material point, depart from the Protestant

Religion, as professed in the Church of England. .... “ Once more, can I be supposed to favour arbitrary

power? The whole tenour of my life speaks otherwise. “ I was always a friend to the liberty of the subject, and, “ to the best of my power, a constant maintainer of it.

may have been mistaken, perhaps, in the measures I “ took for its support at junctures when it was thought

expedient for the state to seem to neglect public liberty, “ in order, I suppose, to secure it. . . . . I am here, my “ Lords, and have been here, expecting, for eight months, “ an immediate trial. I have, my Lords, declined no

impeachment no due course of law that might have “ been taken. . ... The correspondence with the Earl of Clarendon was made treason, but with me it is only “ felony; yet he was allowed an intercourse with his “ children by the express words of the Act: mine are “ not so much as to write, so much as to send any message, to me, without a Sign Manual! .... The great

I mentioned carried a great fortune with him into a foreign country : he had the languages, and was well acquainted abroad; he had spent the best part of his years in exile, and was therefore every way qualified " to support it. The reverse of all this is my case.

Indeed, I am like him in nothing but his innocence and “ his punishment. It is in no man's power to make us “ differ in the one, but it is in your Lordships' power to “ distinguish us widely in the other, and I hope your

Lordships will do it. . . . . Shall I, my Lords, be de“ prived of all that is valuable to an Englishman (for, in “ the circumstances to which I am to be reduced, life “ itself is scarce valuable) by such an evidence as this ?“ such an evidence as would not be admitted in any “ other cause, or any other court, nor allowed, I verily “ believe, to condemn a Jew in the Inquisition of Spain “ or Portugal ?"

He thus concludes: “ If, after all, it shall still be “ thought by your Lordships that there is any seeming “ strength in the proofs produced against me; if by. “ private persuasions of my guilt, founded on unseen, “ unknown motives; if for any reasons or necessities of "state, of which I am no competent judge, your Lord“ ships shall be induced to proceed on this Bill, God's “ will be done! Naked came I out of my mother's womb, “and naked shall I return; and whether He gives or “ takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord !"

The Bishop having ended this most eloquent and affecting defence, and one of the counsel for the Bill having replied, the Lords took their debate on the question, That this Bill do pass. The ablest speeches on the Bishop's side were the Duke of Wharton's * and Lord Cowper's; the latter not merely maintaining Atterbury's innocence, but inveighing against any Parliamentary deprivation of a Bishop." The old champions of our

Church,” said he, “ used to argue very learnedly that “ to make or to degrade Bishops was not the business of “ the state ; that there is a spiritual relation between the

Bishop and his flock, derived from the church, with “ which the state has nothing to do. What the thoughts “ of our reverend prelates are upon these points does not

yet fully appear; something of their conduct intimates

as if our old divines were mistaken.” In fact, most of the Bishops were now taking a forward and eager part against their brother; and one of them, (Wynne, of St. Asaph,) very little to his honour, even went so far as to volunteer evidence, which, when close pressed, he was not able to maintain. Their hostility provoked a bitter sarcasm from Lord Bathurst. Turning to their bench, he exclaimed, that he could hardly account for the inveterate malice some persons bore the learned and ingenious Bishop of Rochester, unless they were possessed with the infatuation of the wild Indians, who fondly believe they will inherit not only the spoils, but even the abilities, of any great enemy they kill!

On a division, 43 Peers voted against the Bill, but 83 for it; and it received the Royal Assent on the 27th of the same month.

On the whole of this transaction we may, undoubtedly, condemn the vindictive severity which oppressed Atterbury in the Tower *, and which denounced any correspondence with him when abroad; but we can scarcely consider the main clauses of the Bill as otherwise than moderate. The crime Atterbury had committed was no less than high treason; and had the Ministers been men of blood, there might, I think, have been evidence sufficient (I am sure that there were voters ready) to bring him to the scaffold. His punishment was, therefore, a mitigation of that which our law imposes : nor should our admiration of genius erer betray us into an apology of guilt. But the great reproach to which his punishment is liable is that it set aside those ordinary forms, and those precious safeguards, which the law of treason enjoins - a violence of which the danger is not felt, only because the precedent has, happily, not been followed.

* “ This speech," says Dr. King, “ was heard with universal admi“ration, and was, indeed, not unworthy of the oldest senator, or “the most able and eloquent lawyer.” (Anecdotes of his own Times,

p. 35.

Atterbury received the news of his fate with fortitude and composure ; in fact, he had foreseen it as inevitable. He took an affecting leave of his friends, who were now permitted to see him, especially of Pope. At their last interview Atterbury presented him with a Bible as his keepsake. “Perhaps," says Pope, with much feeling, “ it is not only in this world that I may have cause to “ remember the Bishop of Rochester.” | Next day, the 18th of June, the Bishop was embarked on board a manof-war, without any of the tumults which the Ministers feared on that occasion ; and conveyed to Calais. As he

some error.

* Coxe endeavours to palliate this severity, and alleges a case where, by the connivance of the Government, Atterbury received some money from a lease of the Chapter of Westminster. But here seems

He quotes a document of the Chapter, dated May 31. 1723, and speaking of Atterbury as the “present Dean.” But would he be so styled at that time, the Bill for his deprivation having received the Royal Assent four days before ? Memoirs of Walpole, vol. i. p. 171.

† See Johnson's Life of Pope. This gift of a Bible has given rise to a most calumnious story of something which Dr. Maty said, that Lord Chesterfield said, that Pope said, that the Bishop said ! Excel. lent evidence to accuse of Deism one of our greatest theological writers! See this story and some decisive evidence against it quoted in the Encyclop. Brit. art. ATTERBURY. It seems quite out of place in “ Pope's Character by Lord Chesterfield.” -I must own, however, that it does form part of that “ Character” in the original MS, which I had an opportunity of collating since the earlier editions of these volumes. (1852.)

VOL, II.

E

went on shore he was told that Lord Bolingbroke, having received the King's pardon, was just arrived at the same place, on his return to England.

“ Then I am exchanged !” said Atterbury with a smile. “Surely," exclaims their friend at Twickenham, “this nation is “afraid of being over-run with too much politeness, and “ cannot regain one great genius but at the expense of another!”

The pardon which Bolingbroke now obtained had been for a long time pending. When he was dismissed by the Pretender, in 1716, and renounced that party for ever, he found, as he says, Lord Stair instructed, from England, to treat with him. A negotiation was accordingly opened, Bolingbroke declaring that he would never reveal any secret, nor betray any friend ; but that he was ready, in future, to serve his King and country with zeal and affection ; and that he never did any thing by halves. It was then that Bolingbroke took the measure of writing a private letter to Sir William Wyndham, pointing out the weakness of the Pretender's character, and the small hopes of his cause, and urging his friend to turn his thoughts elsewhere; which letter Bolingbroke sent, unsealed, to the Postmaster-General, to be laid before the Government, and to be forwarded or not, as they thought proper. In thus acting Bolingbroke did no injury to his friend, who was already more than suspected of Jacobite principles, and who was not at all legally endangered by receiving such advice, while the adviser served himself by this decided and acceptable token of his newborn zeal for the House of Hanover.

It was certain, as Lord Stair truly observed, that there was no man who could do so much injury to the Jacobite

The Ministers, therefore, were anxious to secure him f, and he had a zealous advocate in the Duchess of Kendal, to whom his purse was full of irresistible arguments. The animosity of the Whig party in general was,

* Pope to Swift, 1723.

† This letter is dated Sept. 13. 1716; and printed in Coxe's Walpole, vol. ii. p. 308. ; together with one from Townshend to Stanhope on the subject. The original was duly forwarded to Wyndham.

I See in the Appendix his letter to Lord Stanhope, November 9, 1717; and the Hardwicke State Papers, vol. ii. p. 558.

cause.

however, at that time, so strong as to form an almost insuperable bar to his return; and a rumour of it, in 1719, was artfully turned by Walpole into a political weapon. In his pamphlet on the Peerage Bill, speaking of Lord Oxford, he remarks, with indignation, that “his rival in

guilt and power even now presumes to expect an Act " of the Legislature to indemnify him, and qualify his

villany!” With such formidable opposition it seemed useless to propose so unpopular a measure; but when Walpole succeeded Stanhope and Sunderland in office, he quietly slid into this as into most of their other measures; and in May, 1723, the pardon of Bolingbroke passed the Great Seal.

This pardon, however, was only so far as the King could grant it; it secured the person of Bolingbroke, and enabled him to visit England; but it required an Act of Parliament to restore his forfeited estates, and his seat in the House of Peers. To obtain such an Act immediately became Bolingbroke's first and most anxious object; and a large sum which he had gained in the Mississippi speculations, afforded him fresh means to convince the Duchess of Kendal of the justice of his claims. His second object, during all this time, was to persuade his friends that he was nearly indifferent to his restoration, and quite happy in exile and in literary leisure. While his life was full of nothing but intrigue, his private letters are full of nothing but philosophy. “Some superfluous twigs are every day cut, and, as they lessen in number, the bough which bears the golden fruit of friendship shoots, swell, and spreads."

66 Those insects, of “ various hues, which used to hum and buzz about me

while I stood in the sunshine, have disappeared since I “ lived in the shade.” * Great but ill-regulated genius! Cicero could not write better, - Clodius could not act worse !

When the fallen Minister arrived in England, he found that the King had already sailed for Germany, attended by Lords Townshend and Carteret, and the Duchess of Kendal, and was not expected to return for some time; in fact, His Majesty extended his absence to six months, and his journey to Berlin, on a visit to his son-in-law,

* Letters to Swift, 1721, 1723.

« EdellinenJatka »