Sivut kuvina

though not in peerage. Bolingbroke, on his part, thought it best to take what he could, if not what he would ; but as might be expected, he never forgot or forgave the resistance of the Minister. “ Here I am, then,” he writes to Swift, “ two thirds restored ; my person safe, and my “ estate, with all the other property I have acquired, or

may acquire, secured to me. But the attainder is kept “ carefully and prudently in force, lest so corrupt a “ member should come again into the House of Lords, 6 and his bad leaven should sour that sweet untainted

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Even this partial restoration, however, could not pass Parliament without some resistance from two opposite quarters the staunch Whigs and the decided Jacobites. When the Bill was brought in by Lord Finch, seconded by Walpole, Methuen, though filling an office in the Household, warmly opposed it, declaring, that the crimes of Bolingbroke were so heinous and flagrant as not to admit of any expiation or atonement. He was backed by Lord William Powlett, by Onslow (afterwards Speaker), and by several other usual friends of Government. In like manner was the Tory camp divided ; several, such as Lord Bathurst and Sir William Wyndham, were personal friends of Bolingbroke, and eager to promote his interests ; while others, recollecting how ill the Pretender had used him, and how great must be his resentment, thought it necessary (as is too commonly the case), because one injury had been inflicted to inflict another, and to thwart his restoration as much as possible. The Duke of Wharton, who, at this period frequently appears in the Stuart Papers as foremost amongst James's correspondents, relates a curious conversation which he had upon the subject with Lord Bathurst. Having pressed him to give no aid to Bolingbroke, and urged the wish of the Pretender, Bathurst demurred, and at last

* Coxe states this erroneously in his Memoirs of Walpole ; he speaks of Bolingbroke's obligations to Walpole, his want of gratitude, &c. But in his Life of Horace Lord Walpole (p. 70.), he admits his mistake, observing, that papers have since fallen under his notice, proving the vehement opposition of Walpole to the restoration, and accounting for the bitter and well-founded enmity of Bolingbroke.

[ocr errors]

said that he had not yet learnt JURARE IN VERBA MAGISTRI, to which Wharton only answered JURAVI, and left him.* Shippen, and some more, steered clear of the difficulty by staying away from the debate. But, as Wharton writes, “Sir Christopher Musgrave, Sir Tho

mas Sebright, and Sir Jermyn Davers, out of their “utter detestation for your Majesty's enemies, bravely 'opposed the very bringing in of any Bill whatsoever.” Yet notwithstanding this motley combination of ardent Whigs and ardent Tories, the minority could only muster 113 votes against 231. In the Lords, a strong protest against it was signed by Lechmere and four other Peers. Lechmere had been created a Peer by Walpole, but was now indignant at not succeeding Macclesfield as Chancellor :-“he votes and speaks with us,” says Wharton ; “ but I am afraid from resentment, and not principle.”

On the passing of the Act Bolingbroke returned to England. He appears to have made one more effort to gain the friendship of Walpole, and his support in completing his restoration ; but being repulsed, he plunged decisively into cabals against that Minister. Still retaining his influence with the Duchess of Kendal, he endeavoured to combine a strong opposition in Parliament, and in the country, under the convenient name of PATRIOTS, and he found an unexpected and most powerful ally in William Pulteney. This celebrated party leader was born in 1682: his family was old, his fortune immense. He early distinguished himself in Parliament; during the last years of Queen Anne, he was one of the most steady and able supporters of the Whigs, and on the accession of George, became Secretary at War. Walpole and he were especially intimate. When Walpole was sent to the Tower, for corruption, Pulteney had spoken in favour of his friend; when a schism broke out in the Government of 1717, Pulteney was one of the few who adhered to Walpole, and left office with him.f He had, therefore, the strongest claims, political and per

* Duke of Wharton to James, Feb. 3. 1725. Appendix.

† It appears, however, that Pulteney did not approve of the factious course which Walpole took in opposition. See in the Appendix to this volume Lord Stair's letter to Lord Stanhope, January 23. 1718.

sonal, upon Walpole, when Walpole returned to power. But he had two great faults in Walpole's eyes - ability and independence. In fact, there is nothing more remarkable throughout all Walpole's administration, than his extreme jealousy of any colleague who could possibly grow his rival near the throne. Considering the very favourable circumstances under which he became Prime Minister - the deaths, in such rapid succession, of all his chief competitors — the re-union of the great Whig party - the insignificance and division of the Tories in Parliament - the readiness of the chief remaining statesmen to act under him we can scarcely doubt, that a liberal encouragement of rising talents, and toleration of high-minded colleagues, would have secured his power through his life, without serious difficulty, and averted that fearful tempest which, during his last years, howled around his head, and at length overthrew, not only him, but, in its violence, almost the monarchy itself. But such liberality did not belong to Walpole he would be all or nothing. He could be kind to a dependent, or generous to an enemy; not fair to a colleague. He could forgive great faults, but never great talents. We have already seen his conduct to Stanhope, to Sunderland, and to Carteret; we shall hereafter see it to Townshend and to Chesterfield ; and it may truly be said that the opposition under which he fell at last, was one raised and fostered by his own inordinate ambition.

With this feeling Walpole, instead of proposing any office to Pulteney, tendered him a peerage, wishing to withdraw him from a House where his talents and influence were already feared. This offer Pulteney, as might have been expected, indignantly declined.

Не still continued, however, to expect a junction with Walpole, and two years afterwards consented to take (no doubt as a step to a higher) the very subordinate post of Cofferer of the Household. But finding himself disappointed, he silently brooded over his wrongs, and watched a favourable opportunity to attack the Minister in Parliament. Such an opening occurred in the Session of 1725, on a motion for discharging the debts of the Civil List, when Pulteney expressed his wonder how so great a debt could be contracted in three years' time, but added,

He was

that he was not surprised some persons were so eager to have the deficiencies of the Civil List made good, since they and their friends had so great a share in it. After one or two such sallies, he was dismissed from his place as Cofferer; he then openly joined the Opposition, and leagued himself with Bolingbroke. In conjunction between them was planned and penned that celebrated paper, the Craftsman, which first appeared in the ensuing year, and which proved one of the bitterest and most formidable assailants of the Minister.

The eloquence of Pulteney was of that kind most valued in English Parliaments — ready, clear, and pointed, and always adapted to the temper of the moment. often heard to say, that hardly any man ever became a great orator, who began by making a set speech. A most competent judge, and not his friend, Speaker Onslow, assures us, that he knew how, “ to animate every subject “ of popularity with the spirit and fire that the orators “ of the ancient commonwealths governed the people by;

was as classical and as elegant in the speeches he did “ not prepare, as they were in their most studied

compositions, mingling wit and pleasantry, and the application

even of little stories so properly, to affect his hearers, 6 that he would overset the best argumentation in the

world, and win people to his side, often against their

own convictions.” The same quickness of wit sparkled in his conversation*, and in his writings, nor only in prose, for he had a natural and happy vein for the lighter sort of poetry. But this very vivacity too often unsettled his judgment, and defeated his designs. parts," says Lord Chesterfield, “were rather above & business; and the warmth of his imagination, joined “ to the impetuosity and restlessness of his temper, made “him incapable of conducting it long together with “ prudence." From the same temper, he has been accused of indiscretion; and he sometimes (as is often seen) attempted to prove that he could keep new secrets,

* An accomplished acquaintance said of him, “Whenever Lord, “ Bath desists from Greek and punning, I take it to be just as bad a

symptom as if he lost his appetite.” This was only a few months before his death. See the Memoirs of Mrs. Carter, by the Rev. M. Pennington, vol. i. p. 394.

“ His

by revealing old ones, that is, by boasting of the instances in which he had been already trusted. If we compare him to Chatham, we shall not find the same lofty and commanding spirit; if to Walpole, we shall miss a steady and sagacious application. Unlike both of these, the base passion of avarice had sprung up in his bosom, and grew so high as sometimes to stifle that nobler plant, ambition. His private character, however, was respectable ; his public uncorrupt. No stain of treachery, of ingratitude, or of intrigues against the Protestant Succession, rests upon his memory. He could win popularity, but not employ it either for the benefit of those who gave it or for his own. The idol of the nation, as William Pulteney, became their scorn as Earl of Bath; he tried often, but in vain, to recover his lost ground; and he passed his old age in that greatest of all curses that can befall the human mind — to find its aspirations higher than its powers.

Another result of this Session which must not be omitted, was the passing of the “ City Act.” The object was to curb the Common Council of London, and restrain that opposition which they frequently manifested against every government; the means were to vest in the Mayor and Court of Aldermen, a negative on their proceedings. The Bill was not carried without a violent outcry in London, and a strong opposition in the House of Lords; and the negative. it granted was so unpopular, that it appears to have remained dormant and disused for nearly fourteen years.*

Immediately at the close of the Session, in June 1725, the King revived the Order of the Bath, which had been dropped since the coronation of Charles the Second. The number of Knights was now fixed at thirty-eight, amongst whom neither Walpole nor his son were forgotten. Next year, Sir Robert had the further distinction of being installed Knight of the Garter, being the only commoner in modern times, except Admiral Montagu, or the eldest sons of peers,

* Duke of Wharton to James, May 1, 1725. Appendix. Coxe's Pelham, vol. i. p. 221.

« EdellinenJatka »