Obrazy na stronie

the all-accomplished St. John is still an ob- was noble: he was educated at Eton and ject of vague wonder to the many, and of Christchurch; and a family seat in Parliaenlightened curiosity to the well-informed ment was vacated for him by his father so few. He was Mr. Disraeli the younger's soon as he was old enough to occupy it. beau idéal of a British statesman, when that His natural endowments were of the most gentleman first began to attract attention as enviable order, although, as is too commonly the leader and instructor of the select band the case, the choicest of them, by exposing of youthful admirers who exulted in the him to temptation, proved more å bane than name of "Young England;" and no stronger a blessing in the long run. To a handsome illustration can be given of the baneful in- face and figure, good voice, and elegant manfluence which he exercised, of the mischievous ners, he added unrivalled quickness of appredoctrines which he inculcated, of the false idols hension, a logical understanding, a lively which he set up, or of the want of accurate fancy, and a memory so tenacious that he knowledge on which he calculated. Dazzling was wont to complain of it as an inconvenias St. John's career and character undoubt- ence, and to allege it as an excuse for limitcdly was, it required no ordinary degree of ing his reading to the best authors. On his boldness to represent him as a model to be im- entrance into the world, his grand ambition itated rather than an example to be shunned. was to be pre-eminent in profligacy, to which

M. de Remusat's motives and object in the contrast with the asceticism, in which he such a selection of subjects may be collected had been nurtured under a puritan tutor, from the following passage, which will also lent an irresistible zest. Long after his am give a foretaste of his allusive and character-bition had taken a more exalted turn, it was istic mode of associating them with recent his pride “ To shine a Tully and a Wilmot or passing events.

"His youth," says Lord Chesterfield,

“was distinguished by all the tumult and “ And then, why not admit it? It is imagin- storm of pleasure, in which he licentiously ed that those who have lived, for thirty or forty triumphed, disdaining all decorum. His fine learnt the language spoken by the history of Eng. imagination was often heated and exhausted land. The sentiments and thoughts that animate with his body in celebrating and almost the actors or the witnesses of those scenes called deifying the prostitute of the night, and his Restoration or Revolution, the life of parties, the convival joys were pushed to all the extraparliamentary world, are things that they ought vagances of frantic Bacchanals. These pasto know, at least by experience. It may be at sions were never interrupted but by a this present time very useless to know all this; stronger ambition.” They were never coming in that flexibility of mind necessary to learn pletely conquered except, as St. Evremond anything else. Perhaps they will be excused for boasts of having conquered his, by indulgdaring to write upon what they think they under- ing them to exhaustion, and they were then stand, for making the best of an experience which replaced by a set of evil spirits, darker, if it is said, must finish with them, and for speaking not fiercer, than themselves. He entered of what they remember before it is altogether the Ilouse of Commons as member for forgotten. The men of to-day will be more for- Wotton Basset, about the same time (1700) tunate : dispensed from a laborious apprentice, with his old school-fellow, Robert Walpole; ship, they will reap without having sown; their and immediately, as if to be opposed withdestiny will cost them no effort; they will enjoy the happiness of their country without being or out delay to his life-long rival who joined any account in it, and will be astonished that, the Whigs, he attached himself to the Pories. before their time, so much anxiety was wasted Here M. de Remusat introduces a masupon matters so indifferent as public affairs. Let terly sketch of the state of parties with their us then endeavour to relate what was passing at respective objects, about the time in questhe beginning of the last age in a nation con- tion. We will assume that English readers demned by Providence to that sort of hard labour (travail forcé) which is termed political liberty." possess enough of this sort of information

to be able to follow the shifting fortunes of We are not about to follow M. de Re. his hero, including those of another distinmusat through the minute details of the guished worthy with which for many years birth, parentage, and early days of Boling. they remained inextricably mixed up. We broke, but we must enumerate the salient allude to Ilarley, afterwards Earl of Oxford, points and features, or his and our comments whose right to the proud position he so long will be obscure or unintelligible.

occupied amongst statesmen, men of letters, Henry St. John, born October 10, 1678, and wits, has been recently contested in a at Battersea, entered life with every social manner which cannot fail to render him a advantage that could be possessed in an aris- puzzle to posterity. Mr. Macaulay says:tocratic country by one of the most favour- " His influence in Parliament was indeed out ed scions of the aristocracy. His descent of all proportion to his ability. His intellect was

both slender and slow. He was unable to take made of power the end and not the means--men a large view of any subject. He never acquired who have not a cause to serve but an ambition to the act of expressing himself in public with fluency satisfy, and who, when occasion requires, govern and perspicuity. To the end of his life he remain- as others conspire. Harley was named Secretary ed a tedious, hesitating, and confused speaker. of State in the place of Lord Nottingham. He He had none of the external graces of an orator. was attached to the High Church party without His countenance was heavy-his figure mean and sharing in its frenzy; he was powerful in the Lower somewhat deformed, and his gestures unconth. House, he was little compromised in it, since he Yet he was heard with respect. For such as his presided over and did not speak in it. His undermind was, it had been assiduously cultivated. He standing was prompt and flexible, his address conhad that sort of industry, and that sort of exact- ciliating, his experience consummate, his egoism ness, which wonld have made him a respectable kindly; but although courageous at need and perantiquary of King-at-Arms. ... He constantly severing, his cast of mind was timid and uncertain ; had, even with his best friends, an air of mystery he adjourned everything, he neglected everything, and reserve, which seemed to indicate that he spending much activity to avoid action, using all knew some momentous secret, and that his mind his ingenuity in intrigue, and condemned by his was labouring with some vast design. In this defects to an incomparable falseness. way he got and long kept a high reputation for “St. John was devoted to him, as much, at wisdom. It was not till that reputation had made least, as St. John could be devoted. He was, by him an Earl, a Knight of the Garter, Lord High position, like the extreme right of Ilarley, but he Treasurer of England, and master of the fate of was equally devoid of prejudices, and his mind Europe, that his admirers began to find out that was as sapple, though his character was less 80. he was really a dull puzzle-headed man."* The House had po greater orator. Harley made

St. John Secretary of War. (April 1704.)" No amount of ingenuity will satisfactorily reconcile this appreciation with the admitted

Whatever doubts are, or may have been, facts. It is preposterous to suppose that a entertained respecting Harley's talents, St. dull puzzle-headed man could have imposed John's were beyond dispute. That the himself on St. John for a subtle politician House had no greater orator so long as he and a valuable coadjutor till the illusion was sat in it, has passed into an axiom; and we dissipated by their quarrel for supremacy, or are by no means sure that the vague sort of on Swift for an agreeable and highly culti- fame which is handed down by tradition for vated companion. From the commence- want of written or printed records, is not the ment of their long intimacy till its close, safest and most enduring. Indeed, it is extheir companionship, moreover, was of the actly in proportion to the deficiency of aymost trying sort, by reason of its uncere- thentic proof that the authority of applaudmonious, playful, and almost boyish charac- ing cotemporaries rises step by step till it ter; for nothing is more difficult than to con. become unimpeachable. Basing our cavils ceal poverty of intellect from those with on imperfect reports, we may venture to whom we habitually lay aside form and ensure the theatrical tone of Lord Chatham, carry on a commerce of repartee and banter. or the floridity of Sheridan's famous Begum Vive la bagatelle, the favourite exclamation effusion. But in the case of an orator like of Harley, was never the watchword or St. John, of whose speeches not a solitary motto of a man who felt that it would be sentence has been preserved, we can no more fatal to his reputation to be seen without his impugn the justice of the applause lavished mask. The universal distrust of his good on them in his lifetime, than we can contest faith affords the strongest indirect confirma- Garrick's fame as an actor. M. de Remusat tion of the confidence placed in his capacity begins the first of his biographical chapters by those who were so long content to act by the anecdote of Pitt, who, when the comunder his leadership. We, therefore, sub- pany were speculating what lost production mit that the French author's estimate of his of the human mind was most to be regretted, character, which is also far from flattering, said, that if the choice were left to him, he comes nearer to the truth than that of the should prefer a speech of Bolingbroke's. great English historical painter.

Without in the least disputing the excel

lence of his speeches, it is perhaps better “The situation (1704,)”, says M. de Remusat, for his fame that Pitt should have been " demanded a complicated system of political heard wishing for their restoration instead tactics. The frank toryism which walked abroad of comparing them with his father's or his without disguise, already an object of suspicion to

own. the Upper House, became so to public opinion. Something less decided was required-adroit and

St. John and Harley continued in the clear-sighted men, to whom all consistency was ministæy till 1708, but neither the astuteness indifferent, to whom passion was unknown, who of the one nor the eloquence of the other, took for rule the interest of the moment, and nor both combined, were able, in this, their

joint undertaking, to unseat their Whig * Vol. iv. p. 466.

colleagues. The star of Marlborough was

still in the ascendant, and although the that it gives to the public ; and it thus sometimes Queen had already gone the length of open- becomes the first of state affairs. St. John knew ing a back-stairs treaty with Harley through this as well as Harley. The movement of opinion Mrs. Masham, she was obliged to dissemble which had facilitated their return

to power was and procrastinate. The scale was turned of the tribune. Although justly confident in his

the work of the pulpit and the press rather than by the Duke of Somerset; and at the oratorical power, St. John therefore did not negbreaking up of the council, (February 1708,) lect other aid. He armed his policy with pamwhich was expected to end in the triumph phlets and journals, and perhaps no ministry had of Harley, he was dismissed. His fall in- hitherto been more discussed and better defended. volved that of his friends, — amongst others, In merely analyzing the innumerable publications of St. John; who also lost his seat at the which appeared from the end of 1710 to the ensuing general election, and vanished from light again the whole series of events, the whole

accession of George the First, we might bring to the stage of public life for two years, during succession of affairs; and this piece of literary which he devoted most of his time to history would be a ready-made fragment of the literature. The intervening period, limited history of the government; it would be the written as it was, sufficed for the dominant party, drama, the doublure of the acted drama.” although it was headed by Marlborough and Somers and in uncontrolled possession of This is not exactly our notion of how the the ministry, to wear out both what re. press works or worked at any time in mained to them of royal favour and popu- England, whatever may have been the case larity. With full knowledge of the Queen's in France so long as France had what can character, and ample warning of Mrs. fairly be called a political press. At present, Masham's intrigues, they fell into the fatal journalism may be described as the indiserror of despising them. “What could be pensable instrument of self (or popular) effected by an obscure camarilla, a conspi- government, the medium through (or the racy of femmes de chambre against the policy stage on which the nation discusses its of peers of the realm, defended in the senate affairs and transacts its business. It is a by great orators, in the field by a great mistake to suppose that when popular captain? This confidence bore its ordinary opinion dictates to the legislature, it is fruits. The ministers abandoned themselves formed and directed by a class of writers respectively to their several defects.” bred up to the vocation, or set apart for

The nation was beginning to tire of the the purpose. The whole of the cultivated war, and to suspect that it was needlessly classes, and many who are not cultivated, prolonged for the profit of the great captain. participate in the movement. Everybody His imperious duchess had come to a who knows or pretends to know anything of downright quarrel with her royal mistress the subject, everybody who can write, or in 1708. The impeachment of Sacheverel thinks he can, becomes a contributor to the inflamed the public mind to the highest discussion in some shape, if only by an pitch against his prosecutors. “They," (the epistle to the Times, and the chief influence ministers,) wrote Boling broke, “had a par- of speeches, whether in Parliament or at son to roast, and they roasted him at so public meetings, results from their being fierce a fire that they burned themselves.” reproduced in the newspapers. To be jea“ The game is won," exclaimed Harley, on lous of these as they exist and are conducted hearing in the country, where he was dining in this country, therefore, is to be jealous of with some friends of the Sacheverel affair; one another and of ourselves. They are what and, ordering horses immediately, he re- we make them, and whenever they try to turned to London. In August 1810, the set up on their own account as independent White Staff of Lord High-Treasurer was regulators of the national will, they fail; delivered to him, and within the ensuing as the leading journal failed notoriously in month St. John was Secretary of State. its attempt to prevent the passing of the These two were the soul of the new Cabinet, New Poor Law, in its more recent attempt and their first care was to make sure of the to procure an important modification of the effective support of the press.

Income Tax, and in its desperate struggle to

prevent the repeal of the so-called taxes on “In free countries,” remarks M. de Remusat, knowledge. “ public affairs simultaneously with their being We need hardly add that this perfection carried on their genuine arena — in councils, as- of publicity, in which the antidote accompasemblies, camps, congresses — are, as it were, re- nies the bane, was unknown till long after peated on another theatre, on that which the press sets up for the public. The piece is played Queen Anne's time; when, although the twice over, or rather there is first the reality and formal censorship had ceased, the law of then the representation, but

the latter in its turn libel was oppressively enforced, and the acts on the former by the ideas and the passions action of the Houses of Parliament on the

people was nullified, or nearly so, by the the one against Wharton and the other non-publication of the debates. Yet cir- against Godolphin. cumstances enabled political writers to The first blows were struck. On the exercise a more direct influence, and to 31st October, and the 1st November, occupy a higher social position than at any Swift dined with Addison, and on the 2d other period of our domestic annals. The November appeared the 14th number, with majority of the nation were still floating the future Dean's first article. It was on between two opinions, and unable to make Thursday, he was invited to dine the day up their minds whether it was best to take following with Harley; who engaged him back the Stuarts or to accept the Guelfs, -again for Sunday. In the interval, the just as for half a century after the Reforma. Saturday, he dined again with Steele and tion, they were constantly fluctuating between Addison at Kensington ; but he was invited Protestantism and Popery. The controver- for the 11th to St. John's. These flattering sial tracts which appeared during the latter attentions made him all their own; and part of the sixteenth century, would fill a thenceforth his Journal to Steele teems with library. As civil, like religious, revolutions, expressions of exultation and delight at the depend upon the masses, it was equally im- footing of familiarity on which he was placed portant at the beginning of the eighteenth by the two master spirits of the period. century for the competitors. for power to in allusion to his first dinner with St. John, enlist as many popular writers as they he dots down :could ; and this necessity was the more urgent on Harley and Bolingbroke, because "I dined to-day by invitation with the Secrethey had to return and neutralize the fire of tary of State, Mr. St. Jobn. He told me, the Whig organs, to which Steele and Addi- amongst other things, that Mr. Harley com

plained he could keep nothing from me, I had the son were contributors.

way so much of getting into him; I knew this

was a refinement, and so I told him, and it was " It was resolved, therefore, to found a new so ; indeed, it is hard to see these great men use journal, and on the 3d of August, 1710, the me like one who was their betters, and the pupExaminer appeared. It was St. John who con- pies with you in Ireland hardly regarding me; ceived it. This is asserted to be the first time but there are some reasons for all this, which I that a journal for political discussion was pub- will tell you when we meet." lished under the auspices of the Government, and the liberties which it took from the beginning From subsequent entries it appears that, contributed to the liberty of all. Discussion became more frank, more direct ; many of the though their flattery made him theirs, it byways and evasive contrivances in use were had not completely blinded him to more abandoned. St. John, who contributed to the material considerations : first number, placed the Examiner at once upon a footing of animated polemics. A letter to the “Feb. 17, 1711.- I took some good walks in editor, in which he rudely attacks the Duchess of the Park to-day, and then went to Mr. Harley: Marlborough for having laboured against the Lord Rivers was got there before me, and I chid formation of the Government, provoked replies him for presuming to come on a day when only from Addison and Lord Cowper. The letter, ad- Lord Keeper (IIarcourt) and I were to be there, dressed to Isaac Bickerstaff, the editor of the but he regarded me not, so we all dined together, Tatler, a letter that may still be read; and it is and sat down at four ; and the Secretary has incurious to see how, under the mask of the vited me to dine with him to-morrow:I told him I anonymous, an ex-Chancellor and an actual had no hopes they could keep in, but that I saw Secretary of State aim at each other the weapon they loved one another so much, as indeed they of the press. St. John soon abandoned the pen seem to do. They call me nothing but Jonathan, to the ordinary contributors, - to Matthew and I said I believed they would leave me Prior, the poet, secretary of embassy Ryswick, Jonathan as they found me, and that I never knew a and Doctor Atterbury, a theologian of the ministry do anything for those whom they make absolute school, a remarkable writer, a skilful companions of their pleasures, and I believe you preacher, destined for the mitre. Both were will find it so, but I care not.” intimate with St. John, but it is doubtful whether the Examiner would have made a durable sensa

Notwithstanding this seeming affection of tion, if a far more formidable combatant had not Harley and St. John for one another, there adopted it as his instrument of war.”

was no great love lost between them at any

time; and even the imminent peril, the alThis was the famous Dean of St. Patrick's, most certain ruin, of a breach could not keep who, having been coldly and (as he thought) them together long. The first marked ungratefully treated by the Whig leaders, symptoms of ill-will were elicited by Guiswas easily coaxed and flattered into under- card's attempt to assassinate Harley, who taking the editorship of the new Tory was thereby elevated into a most unmerited organ. Ile had already broken ground degree of popularity for a period, and who against his former friends by two satires, profited by this event, and by the death of

Rochester, to become Earl of Oxford and Bolingbroke, with remainder to his father Prime Minister. St. John could not conceal and the heirs-male of his father, who, himhis jealousy, and forthwith began taking self a roué and a wit, is reported to have steps to supplant his colleague. He had one exclaimed on the occasion, -- " Ah, Harry, indispensable advantage : he was the only I always said you would be hanged, but member of the Cabinet who could speak now I believe you will be beheaded." The French, and consequently the only one who prophecy was in a fair way to be fulfilled could compass or facilitate the grand object not long afterwards, and the peerage, by of their distinctive policy, the peace. An in- widening the breach between the new Peer dispensable preliminary was to displace and the Premier, increased their common Marlborough from his commands. This danger. Bolingbroke never forgave Harley was effected through the confirmed dislike for depriving him of the earldom on which of the Queen to her quondam favourites, he had reckoned ; and as soon as the peace and the blow was followed by the expulsion was fairly completed, their smouldering of Walpole from the House of Commons, on dissensions broke out into open hostility, a charge of malversation in 1708 and 1709. which all Swift's exertions were unable to A people and parliament which sanctioned calm down. such steps might be relied on for still more decided and comprehensive measures; and "In this state of things came on the general negociations were commenced in right election (August 1713) after the year of the earnest

. The prime mover and manager triumph of the ministerial policy. This is throughout the whole of the extremely often a critical moment for a cabinet. A delicate and compromising proceedings that great affair to conduct, a great end to attain, may ensued was St. John. Much of what he sustained, from the time when it is not over

give strength to the government. It is then did was done without communication with whelmed by its task. It is more active, more our allies, and amounted to a clear breach united, better served ; its party preserves disof international faith. But he was honestly cipline and is subordinate to its views. All this convinced that the peace would prove a is changed when the game is won. It is then European blessing; in his lax morality, the that the discontents, accumulated during the end justified the means; and we agree with work, break forth; vanity and ambition throw off M. de Remusat, that there is no reason for If, above all, one of the ministers attributes to

restraint ; parties become exacting and ungrateful suspecting him of ulterior designs of a deep-himself all the merit of the success which goes to er and more treacherous dye.

advance the prime minister, the disruption is not far off

, and that of the party precedes that of the "If the party of the exiled dynasty crossed his chiefs. Such was the situation on which the path, — if, as might be expected, Jacobite government verged.” interests and principles served his proposed system of policy at the same time that their All Bolingbroke's communications with views were promoted by it, he was not called his friends are henceforth filled with bitter upon to repel this sort of auxiliaries, h3 was not complaints of Oxford, whose habitual deto be alarmed nor to blush like a boy at their fects of vacillation and procrastination, augco-operation. . . . At the moment of action, he mented and developed by power, were might well call in to the aid of his ambitious or party schemes certain general ideas; this is a daily adding to the growing conviction of want of all times for distinguished minds ; one his inferiority. “ Undecided, lying, indolikes to find the principle of one's actions ; but it lent, he had only activity enough to disis probable that circumstances

, parliamentary semble his negligences, his perfidies and his engagements, the state of the court, characters, faults. More brilliant, more decided, more tastes, antipathies, the doubts which still hung alluring, Bolingbroke carried more loyalty over the succession to the throne, the possibility into the details, and only deceived in greater of a counter-revolution discerned or sought, the interest of self-defence, the need of success, the matters. He used to say that a little desire of revenge, a thousand particular causes, trickery (ruse) was required in public eventually contributed more powerfully to deter- business, as a little alloy is needed in gold or mine both the language and the course of the silver coin, but that the money becomes base, cabinet."

if the just proportion is exceeded." In

claiming the honour of the peace, however, This explanation may serve for many Bolingbroke necessarily exposed himself to other situations as well as that for which it a proportionate share of the obloquy heaped was intended, — and for many other states- upon its concoctors; and the Whig writers men besides St. John. His success in pre- so exasperated him, that in 1713, he was disposing matters for a general pacification guilty of the folly and inconsistency of was rewarded (1712) by his elevation declaring war against the press. It was at to the peerage with the title of Viscount his instance that a Bill was passed for im

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