A History of the Four Georges, Volume I (of 4)
by Justin McCarthy
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse




[Sidenote: 1714—Formation of King George's Cabinet]

King George did not make the slightest concealment of his intentions with regard to the political complexion of his future government. He did not attempt or pretend to conciliate the Tories, and, on the other hand, he was determined not to be a puppet in the hands of a "Junto" of illustrious Whigs. He therefore formed a cabinet, composed exclusively, or almost exclusively, of pure Whigs; but he composed it of Whigs who at that time were only rising men in the political world. He was going to govern on Whig principles, but he was not going to be himself governed by another "Junto" of senior Whig statesmen, like that which had been so powerful in the reign of William the Third. He acted with that shrewd, hard common-sense which was an attribute of his family, and which often served instead of genius or enlightenment or intelligence, or even experience. A man of infinitely higher capacity than George might have found himself puzzled as to his proper policy under conditions entirely new and unfamiliar; but George acted as if the conditions were familiar to him, and set about governing England as he would have set about managing his household in Hanover; and he somehow hit upon the course which, under all the circumstances, was the best he could have followed. It is not easy to see how he could have acted otherwise with safety to himself. It would have been idle to try to conciliate the Tories. The more active spirits among the Tories were, in point of fact, conspirators on behalf of the Stuart cause. The {92} colorless Tories were not men whose influence or force of character would have been of much use to the king in endeavoring to bring about a reconciliation between the two great parties in the State. The civil war was not over, or nearly over, yet, and there were still to come some moments of crisis, when it seemed doubtful whether, after all, the cause supposed to be fallen might not successfully lift its head again. As the words of Scott's spirited ballad put it, before the Stuart crown was to go down, "there are heads to be broke." For George the First to attempt to form a Coalition Cabinet of Whigs and Tories at such a time would have been about as wild a scheme as for M. Thiers to have formed a Coalition Cabinet of Republicans and of Bonapartists, while Napoleon the Third was yet living at Chiselhurst.

[Sidenote: 1714—The Treaty of Utrecht]

The Tories had been much discredited in the eyes of the country by the Peace of Utrecht. The long War of the Succession had been allowed to end without securing to England and to Europe the one purpose with which it was undertaken by the allies. It was a war to decide whether a French prince, a grandson of Louis the Fourteenth, and whose accession seemed to threaten a future union of Spain with France, should or should not be allowed to ascend the throne of Spain. The end of the war left the French prince on the throne of Spain. Yet even this fact would not in itself have been very distressing or alarming to the English people, however it might have pained others of the allied States. The English people probably would never have drawn a sword against France in this quarrel if it had not been for the rash act of Louis the Fourteenth in recognizing the chevalier, James Stuart, as King of England on the death of his father, James the Second. But England felt bitterly that the Peace of Utrecht left France and Louis not only unpunished, but actually rewarded. All the campaigns, the victories, the sacrifices, the genius of Marlborough, the heroism of his soldiers, had ended in nothing. Peace was secured at any price. It was not that {93} the people of England did not want to have a peace made at the time. On the contrary, most Englishmen were thoroughly tired of the war, and felt but little interest in the main objects for which it had been originally undertaken. Most Englishmen would have agreed to the very terms which were contained in the Treaty, disadvantageous as these conditions were in many points. But they were ashamed of the manner in which the Treaty had been brought about, more than of the Treaty itself. France lost little or nothing by the arrangement; she sacrificed no territory, and was left with practically the same frontier which she had secured for herself twenty years before. Spain had to give up her possessions in Italy and the Low countries. The Dutch got very little to make up to them for their troubles and losses, but they could do nothing for themselves, and the English statesmen were determined not to continue the war. Yet, on the whole, these terms were not altogether unsatisfactory to the people of England. The war was becoming an insufferable burden. The National Debt was swollen to a size which alarmed at that time and almost horrified many persons, and there seemed no chance whatever of the expulsion of Philip, the French prince, from Spain. All these considerations had much influence over the public mind, and possibly would of themselves have entirely borne down the arguments of those who contended that an opportunity was now come to England of bringing France, so long her principal enemy and greatest danger, completely to her feet. Marlborough's victories had, indeed, made it easy to march to Paris, and dictate there such terms of peace as would keep France powerless for generations to come. But the English people were disgusted by the manner in which the Treaty of Utrecht had been brought about. In order to secure that arrangement it was absolutely necessary to destroy the authority of Marlborough, and the Tory statesmen set about this work with the most shameless and undisguised pertinacity. Through the influence {94} of Mrs. Masham, a cousin of the Duchess of Marlborough, introduced by the Duchess herself to the Queen, the Tory statesmen contrived to get the Whig ministry dismissed, and a ministry formed under Harley and Bolingbroke. These statesmen opened secret negotiations with France. They were determined to bring about a peace by any sort of arrangement. They betrayed England's allies by entering into secret negotiations with the enemy, in express violation of the conditions of the alliance; they sacrificed the Catalonian populations of Northern Spain in the most shameless manner. The Catalans had been encouraged to rise against the French prince, and England had promised in return to protect them, and to secure them the restoration of all their ancient liberties. In making the peace the Catalans were wholly forgotten. The best excuse that can be made for the Tory ministers is to suppose that they positively and actually did forget all about the Catalans. Anyhow, the Catalans were left at the mercy of the new King of Spain, and were treated after the severest fashion of the time in dealing with conquered but obstinate rebels.

[Sidenote: 1714—Degradation of Marlborough]

In order to make such a peace it was necessary to remove Marlborough. Some accusations were pressed against him to secure his removal. He was charged with having taken perquisites from the contractors who were supplying the army with bread, and with having deducted two and one half per cent. from the pay which England allowed to the foreign troops in her service. Marlborough's defence would not have been considered satisfactory in our day; and indeed it is impossible to think of any such accusation being made, or any such defence being needed, in times like ours. Imagination can hardly conceive the possibility of such charges being seriously made against the Duke of Wellington, for example, or the Duke of Wellington condescending to plead custom and usage in reply to them. But in Marlborough's day things were very different, and Marlborough was able {95} to show that, as regarded some of the accusations, he had only done what was customary among men in his position, and what he had full authority for doing; and, as regarded others, that he had applied the sums he got to the business of the State as secret service money, and had not made any personal profit. He did not, indeed, produce any accounts; but, assuming his defence to be well founded, it is quite possible that the keeping of accounts might have been an undesirable and inconvenient practice. At all events it was certain that Marlborough had not done any worse than other statesmen of the time, in civil as well as in military service, had been in the habit of doing; and considering all the conditions of the period, the defence which he set up ought to have been satisfactory to every one. It probably would have satisfied his enemies but that they were determined to get rid of him. They were, indeed, compelled to get rid of him in order to make their secret treaty with France, and they succeeded. Marlborough was dismissed from all his employments, and went for a time into exile. The English people, therefore, saw that peace had been made by the sacrifice of the greatest English commander who, up to that time, had ever taken the field in their service. The treaty had been obtained by the most shameless intrigues to bring about the downfall of this great soldier. No matter how desirable in itself the peace might be, no matter how reasonable the conditions on which it was based, yet it became a national disgrace when secured by means like these. Nor was this all: the Tory statesmen finding it imperative for their purpose to have a majority in the House of Lords, as well as in the House of Commons, prevailed upon the Queen to stretch her royal prerogative to the extent of making twelve peers. All these new peers were Tories; one of them was Mr. Masham, husband of the woman who had assisted so efficiently in the degradation of the Duke of Marlborough. When they first appeared in the House of Lords, a Whig statesman ironically asked them {96} whether they proposed to vote separately or by their foreman?

[Sidenote: 1714—The new Ministry]

Never, perhaps, has a mean and treacherous policy like that which brought about the Treaty of Utrecht had so splendid a literary defence set up for it. Swift, with the guidance of Bolingbroke, and put up, indeed, to the work by Bolingbroke, devoted the best of his powers to defame Marlborough, and to justify the conduct of the Tory ministry. No matter how clear one's own opinions on the question may be, it is impossible, even at this distance of time, to study the writings of Swift on this subject without finding our convictions sometimes shaken. The biting satire, which seems only like cool common-sense and justice taking their keenest tone; the masterly array, or perhaps we should rather say disarray, of facts, dates, and arguments; the bold assumptions which, by their very case and confidence, bear down the reader's knowledge and judgment; the clear, unadorned style, made for convincing and conquering—all these qualities, and others too, unite with almost matchless force to make the worse seem the better cause. It is true that the mind of the reader is never impressed by Swift's vindication of the Tories, as it is always impressed by Burke's denunciation of the French Revolution. Swift does not make one see, as Burke does, that the whole soul and conscience of the author are in his work. Swift is evidently the advocate retained to conduct the case; Burke is the man of impassioned conviction, speaking out because he cannot keep silent. Still, we have all of us been sometimes made to question our own judgment, and almost to repudiate our own previously formed impressions as to facts, by the skill of some great advocate in a court of law; and it is skill of this kind, and of the very highest order, that we have to recognize in Swift's efforts to justify the policy of the Treaty of Utrecht. To make out any case it was necessary to endeavor to lower Marlborough in the estimation of the English people, just as it was necessary to destroy his power in order to get the ground open for the {97} arrangement of the treaty. Swift set himself to this task with a malignity equal to his genius. Arbuthnot, hardly inferior as a satirist to Swift, wrote a "History of John Bull," to hold up Marlborough and Marlborough's wife to ridicule and to hatred. He depicted the great soldier as a low and roguish attorney, who was deluding his clients into the carrying on of a long and costly lawsuit for the mere sake of putting money into his own pocket. He lampooned England's allies as well as England's great general; he described the Dutch, whom the Tory ministers had shamefully betrayed, as self-seeking and perfidious traitors, for whose protection we were sacrificing all, until we found out that they were secretly juggling with our enemies for our destruction. No stronger argument could be found to condemn the conduct of the Tory ministers than the mere fact that Swift and Arbuthnot failed to secure their acquittal at the bar of public opinion. All the attacks on Marlborough were inspired by Bolingbroke, and it has only to be added that Marlborough had been Bolingbroke's first and best benefactor.

The King appointed Lord Townshend his Secretary of State. The office was then regarded as that of First Lord of the Treasury is now; it carried with it the authority of Prime-minister. James Stanhope was Second Secretary. Walpole was at first put in the subordinate office of Paymaster-general, without a seat in the Cabinet; a place in Administration which at a later period was assigned to no less a man than Edmund Burke. Walpole's political capacity soon, however, made it evident that he was fitted for higher office, and we shall find that he does not remain long at the post of Paymaster-general. The Duke of Shrewsbury had resigned both his offices: that of Lord Treasurer, and that of Viceroy of Ireland. Lord Sunderland accepted the Irish Viceroyalty, and the Lord Treasurership was put into commission, and from that time was heard of no more. Next to Walpole himself, the most notable man in the administration—the man, that is to say, who became best known to the world afterwards—was {98} Pulteney, now Walpole's devoted friend, before long to be his bitter and unrelenting enemy. Pulteney, just now, is still a very young man, only in his thirty-third year; but he is the hereditary representative of good Whig principles, and has already distinguished himself in the House of Commons as a skilful and fearless advocate of his political faith; he is a keen and clever pamphleteer; in later days, if he had lived then, he would doubtless have been a writer of leading articles in newspapers. His style is polished and penetrating, like that of an epigrammatist. He has travelled much for that time, and is what was then called an elegant scholar. The eloquent and silver-tongued Lord Cowper was restored to the office of Lord Chancellor, which he had already held under Queen Anne, and by virtue of which he had presided at the impeachment of Sacheverell. When Cowper was made Lord Keeper of the Great Seal by Anne in 1705, he was in the forty-first year of his age, but looked very much younger. He wore his own hair at that time, an unusual thing in Anne's days, and this added to his juvenile appearance. The Queen insisted that he must have his hair cut off and must wear a heavy wig; otherwise, she said, the world would think she had given the seals to a boy. Cowper was a prudent, cautious, clever man, whose abilities made a considerable impression upon his own time, but have carried his memory only in a faint and feeble way on to ours. He was a fine speaker, so far as style and manner went, and he had a charming voice. Chesterfield said of him that the ears and the eyes gave him up the hearts and understandings of the audience. The Duke of Argyll became Commander-in-chief for Scotland. In Ireland, Sir Constantine Phipps was removed from the office of Chancellor, on the ground of his Jacobite opinions; and it is a curious fact, worth noting as a sign of the times, that the University of Oxford unanimously agreed to confer on him an honorary degree almost immediately after—on the day, in fact, of the King's coronation.


[Sidenote: 1714—Lord Townshend]

Lord Townshend, the Prime-minister, as we may call him, was not a man of any conspicuous ability. He belonged to that class of competent, capable, trustworthy Englishmen who discharge satisfactorily the duties of any office to which they are called in the ordinary course of their lives. Such a man as Townshend would have made a respectable Lord Mayor or a satisfactory Chairman of Quarter Sessions, if fortune had appointed him to no higher functions. He might have changed places probably with an average Lord Mayor or Chairman of Quarter Sessions without any particular effect being wrought on English history. Men of this stamp have nothing but official rank in common with the statesmen Prime-ministers—the Walpoles and Peels and Palmerstons; or with the men of genius—the Pitts and Disraelis and Gladstones. Lord Townshend had performed the regular functions of a statesman in training at that time. He had been an Envoy Extraordinary, and had made treaties. He was a brother-in-law of Walpole. Just now Walpole and he are friends as well as connections; the time came when Walpole and he were destined to quarrel; and then Townshend conducted himself with remarkable forbearance, self-restraint, and dignity. He was an honest and respectable man, blunt of speech, and of rugged, homespun intelligence, about whom, since his day, the world is little concerned. Such name as he had is almost absorbed in the more brilliant reputation of his grandson—the spoiled child of the House of Commons, as Burke called him—that Charles Townshend of the famous "Champagne Speech;" the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of whom we shall hear a good deal later on, and who, by the sheer force of animal spirits, feather-headed talents, and ignorance, became, in a certain perverted sense, the father of American Independence.

The Second Secretary of State, James, afterwards Earl, Stanhope, was a man of very different mould. Stanhope was one of the few Englishmen who have held high position in arms and politics. He had been a brilliant {100} soldier; had fought in Flanders and Spain; had distinguished himself at Barcelona, even under a commander like Peterborough, whose daring spirit rendered it hard for any subaltern to shine in rivalry; had been himself raised to command, and kept on winning victories until his military genius found itself overcrowed by that of the great French captain, the Duke de Vendome. His soldier's career came to a premature close, as indeed his whole mortal career did not very long after the time at which we have now arrived. Stanhope was a man of scholarly education, almost a scholar; he had abilities above the common; he had indomitable energy, and was as daring and resolute in the council as in the field. He had a domineering mind, was outspoken and haughty, trampling over other men's opinions as a charge of cavalry treads down the grasses of the field it traverses. He made enemies, and did not heed their enmity. He was single-minded, and, what was not very common in that day, he was free from any love of money or taint of personal greed. He does not rank high either among statesmen or soldiers, but as statesman and soldier together he has made for himself a distinct and a peculiar place. His career will always be remembered without effort by the readers of English history.

[Sidenote: 1714—Coronation of the King]

A new Privy Council was formed which included the name of Marlborough. The Duchess of Marlborough urged her husband not to accept this office of barren honor. It is said that the one only occasion on which Marlborough had ventured to act against the dictation of his wife was when he thus placed himself again at the disposal of the King. He never ceased to regret that he had not followed her advice in this instance as in others. His proud heart soon burned within him when he found that he was appreciated, understood, and put aside; mocked with a semblance of power, humiliated under the pretext of doing him honor.

Much more humiliating, much more ominous, however, was the reception awaiting Oxford and Bolingbroke. From the moment of his arrival, the King showed himself {101} determined to take no friendly notice of the great Tories. Oxford found it most difficult even to get audience of his Majesty. The morning after the King's arrival, Oxford was allowed, after much pressure and many entreaties, to wait upon the Sovereign, and to kiss his hand. He was received in chilling silence. Truly, it was not likely that much conversation would take place, seeing that George spoke no English and Oxford spoke no German. But there was something in the King's demeanor towards him, as well as in the mere fact that no words were exchanged, which must have told Oxford that his enemies were in triumph over him, and were determined to bring about his doom. Even before George had landed in England he had sent directions that Bolingbroke should be removed from his place of Secretary of State. On the last day of August this order was executed in a manner which made it seem especially premature, and even ignominious. The Privy Council, as it stood, was then dissolved, and the new Council appointed, which consisted of only thirty-three members. Somers was one of this new Council, but in name alone; his growing years, his increasing infirmities, and the flickering decay of his once great intellect, allowed him but little chance of ever again taking an active part in the affairs of the State. Marlborough was named a member of it, as we have seen. The Lords Justices ordered that all despatches addressed to the Secretary of State should be brought to them. Bolingbroke himself had to wait at the door of the Council Chamber with his despatch-box, to receive the commands of his new masters.

France, tired of war, recognized the new King of England. The coronation of the King took place on October 20th; Bolingbroke and Oxford were both present. We learn from some of the journals of the day that it had rained on the previous afternoon, and that many of the Jacobites promised themselves that the rain would continue to the next day, and so retard, if only for a few hours, the hateful ceremony. But their hopes of foul weather {102} were disappointed. The rain did not keep on, and the coronation took place successfully in London; not, however, without some Jacobite disturbances in Bristol, Birmingham, Norwich, and other places.

[Sidenote: 1714—Flight of Bolingbroke]

The Government soon after issued a proclamation dissolving the existing Parliament, and another summoning a new one. The latter called on all the electors of the kingdom, in consequence of the evil designs of men disaffected to the King, "to have a particular regard to such as showed a firmness to the Protestant Succession when it was in danger." The appeal was clearly unconstitutional, according to our ideas, but it was made, probably, in answer to James Stuart's manifesto a few weeks before, in which the Pretender reasserted his claims to the throne, and declared that he had only waited until the death "of the Princess, our sister, of whose good intentions towards us we could not for some time past well doubt."

The general elections showed an overwhelming majority for the Whigs. The not unnatural fluctuations of public opinion at such a time are effectively illustrated by the sudden and complete manner in which the majority was transferred, now to this side, now to that. Just at this moment, and indeed for long after, the Whigs had it all their own way. Only a few years ago their fortunes had seemed to have sunk to zero, and now they had mounted again to the zenith. The King opened Parliament in person; the Speech was read for him by the Lord Chancellor, for the very good reason that George could not pronounce English. That Speech declared that the established Constitution, Church and State, should be the rule of his Government. The debate on the Address was remarkable. In the House of Lords the Address contained the words, "To recover the reputation of this kingdom." Bolingbroke made his last speech in Parliament. He objected to these words, and proposed an amendment, with an eloquence and an energy worthy of his best days, and with a front as seemingly fearless as though his fortunes were at the full. He contended that to talk of {103} "recovering" the reputation of the kingdom was to cast a stigma on the glory of the late reign. He proposed to substitute the word "maintain" for the word "recover." His amendment was defeated by sixty-six votes to thirty-three: exactly two to one. In the House of Commons the Address, which was moved by Walpole, contained words still more significant. The Address spoke of the Pretender's attempts "to stir up your Majesty's subjects to rebellion," declared that his hopes "were built upon the measures that had been taken for some time past in Great Britain," and added: "It shall be our business to trace out those measures whereon he placed his hopes, and to bring the authors of them to condign punishment." These words were the first distinct intimation given by the Ministers that they intended to call their predecessors to account. Stanhope stated their resolve still more explicitly in the course of the debate. Bolingbroke sat and heard it announced that he and his late colleague were to be impeached for high-treason. He put on an appearance of serenity and philosophic boldness for a time, but in his heart he had already taken fright. For a few days he went about in public, showing himself ostentatiously, with all the manner of a man who is happy in his unwonted ease, and is only anxious for relaxation and amusement. He professed to be rejoiced by his release from office, and those of his friends who wished to please him offered him their formal congratulations on his promotion to a retirement that placed him above the petty struggles and cares of political life. He visited Drury Lane Theatre on March 26, 1715, went about among his friends, chatted, flirted, paid compliments, received compliments, arranged to attend another performance at the same theatre the following evening. That same night he disguised himself as a serving-man, slipped quietly down to Dover, escaped from thence to Calais, and went hurriedly on to Paris, ready to place himself and his talents and his influence—such as it might be—at the service of the Stuarts.

There seems good reason to believe that the Duke of {104} Marlborough, by a master-stroke of treachery, avenged himself on Bolingbroke at this crisis in Bolingbroke's fortunes, and decided the flight to Paris. Bolingbroke sought out Marlborough, and appealing to the memories of their old friendship, begged for advice and assistance. Marlborough professed the utmost concern for Bolingbroke, and gave him to understand that it was agreed upon between the Ministers of the Crown and the Dutch Government that Bolingbroke was to be brought to the scaffold. Marlborough pretended to have certain knowledge of this, and he told Bolingbroke that his only chance was in flight. Bolingbroke fled, and thereby seemed to admit in advance all the accusations of his enemies and to abandon his friends to their mercy. One of Bolingbroke's biographers appears to consider that on the whole this was well done by Marlborough, and that it was only a fair retaliation on Bolingbroke. In any case, it is clear that Bolingbroke acted in strict consistency with the principles on which he had moulded his public and private life; he consulted for himself first of all. It may have been necessary for his own safety that he should fly from the threatening storm, It is certain that he had bitter and unrelenting enemies. These would not have spared him if they could have made out a case against him. No one but Bolingbroke himself could know to the full how much of a case there was against him. But his flight, if it saved himself, might have been fatal to those who were in league with him for the return of the Stuarts. If he had stood firm, it is probable that his enemies would not have been able to prevail any further against him than they were able to prevail in his absence against Harley, whom his flight so seriously compromised. Nobody needs to be told that the one last hope for conspirators whose plans are being discovered is for all in the plot to stand together or all to fly together. Bolingbroke does not seem to have given his associates any chance of considering the position and making up their minds.

[Sidenote: 1715—The Committee of Secrecy]

A committee of secrecy was struck. It was composed {105} of twenty-one members, and the hearts of Bolingbroke's friends may well have sunk within them as they studied the names upon its roll. Many of its members were conscientious Whigs—Whigs of conviction, eaten up with the zeal of their house, like James Stanhope himself, and Spencer Cowper and Lord Coningsby and young Lord Finch and Pulteney, now in his period of full devotion to Walpole. There were Whig lawyers, like Lechmere; there were steady, obtuse Whigs, like Edward Wortley Montagu, husband of the brilliant and beautiful woman whom Pope first loved and then hated. There was Aislabie, then Treasurer of the Navy, afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came to disgrace at the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, and who would at any time have elected to go with the strongest, and loved to tread the path lighted by his own impressions as to his own interests. Thomas Pitt, grandfather to the great Chatham, the "Governor Pitt" of Madras, whose diamonds were objects of admiration to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, was a member of the committee; and so was Sir Richard Onslow, afterwards speaker of the House of Commons, and uncle of the much more celebrated "Speaker Onslow." From none of these men could Bolingbroke have much favor to expect. Those who were honest and unselfish would be ill-disposed towards him because of their honesty and unselfishness; those who were not exactly honest and certainly not unselfish, would, by reason of their character, probably be only too anxious to help the winning party to get rid of him. But the names that must have showed most formidable in the eyes of Bolingbroke and his friends were those of Robert Walpole and Richard Hampden. Two years before this time the persistent enmity of Bolingbroke had sent Walpole to the Tower, branded with the charge of corruption and expelled from the House of Commons. Now things are changed indeed. Walpole is chairman of the committee, and "Hast thou found me, oh, mine enemy?" St. John had threatened Hampden, who was a lineal descendant of the {106} Hampden of the Civil War, with the Tower, for daring to censure the Ministry of the day, and was only deterred from carrying out his threat by prudent counsellors, who showed him that Hampden would be only too proud to share Walpole's imprisonment. These were men not likely to forget or to forgive such injuries.

At first the Tories seem scarcely to have believed that the Whigs would push their policy to extremities. The eccentric Jacobite Shippen publicly scoffed at the committee, and declared in the Mouse of Commons that its investigations would vanish into smoke. Such confidence was quickly and rudely shattered. June 9th saw a memorable scene. On that day Robert Walpole, as chairman of the Committee of Secrecy, rose and told the House of Commons that he had to present a report, but that he was commanded by the committee to move in the first instance that a warrant be issued by the Speaker to apprehend several persons who should be named by him, and that meantime no member be permitted to leave the House. Thereupon the lobbies were cleared of all strangers, and the Sergeant-at-arms stood at the door in order to prevent any member from going out. Then Walpole named Mr. Matthew Prior, Mr. Thomas Harley, and other persons, and the Speaker issued his warrant for their arrest. Mr. Prior was arrested at once; Mr. Harley a few hours afterwards.

[Sidenote: 1715—"Most contagious treason"]

Prior was the poet, the friend and correspondent of Bolingbroke. He had been much engaged in the negotiations for the Treaty of Utrecht, and had at one time actually held the rank of English Envoy. He had but lately returned from Paris; had arrived in London just before Bolingbroke's flight. Thomas Harley, cousin of Lord Oxford, had also been concerned in the negotiations in a less formal and more underhand sort of way. When the arrests had been ordered, Walpole informed the House that the Committee of Secrecy had agreed upon their report, and had commanded him to submit it to the House of Commons. The report, which Walpole himself, as {107} chairman of the committee, had drawn up, was a document of great length; it occupied many hours in the reading. But the time could not have seemed tedious to those who listened. The report was an indictment and a State paper combined. It arrayed with the utmost skill all the evidences and arguments, all the facts and all the passages of correspondence, necessary to make out a case against the accused statesmen. It carried with it, beyond question, the complete historical condemnation of Oxford and Bolingbroke in all that related to the Treaty of Utrecht. Never was it more conclusively established for the historian that Ministers of State had used the basest means to bring about the basest objects. It was made clear as light that the national interests and the national honor had been sacrificed for partisan and for personal purposes. Objects in themselves criminal for statesmen to aim at had been sought by means which would have been shameful even if employed for justifiable ends. Had Bolingbroke and Oxford been endeavoring to save the State by the arts which they employed to sacrifice it, their conduct would have called for the condemnation of all honest men. But as regards the transactions with James Stuart there was ample ground shown for suspicion, there was good reason to conjecture or to infer, but there was no positive evidence of intended treason. A historian reading over the report would in all probability come to the conclusion that Oxford and Bolingbroke had been plotting with James Stuart, but he would not see in it satisfactory grounds for an impeachment. No jury would convict on such evidence; no jury probably would even leave the box for the purpose of considering their verdict. In the course of the events that were soon to follow it was placed beyond any doubt that Bolingbroke and Oxford had all along been trying to arrange for the return of the Stuarts. They were not driven to throw themselves in despair into the Stuart cause by reason of harsh proceedings taken against them by their enemies in England; they had been "pipe-laying," to use an expressive {108} American word, for the Stuart restoration during all the closing years of Queen Anne's reign. The reader must decide for himself as to the degree of moral or political guilt involved in such transactions. It has to be remembered that nearly half—some still say more than half—of the population of these countries was in favor of such a restoration, and that Anne herself unquestionably leaned to the same view. What is certain is that Oxford and Bolingbroke were planning for it. But what seems equally clear is that the report of the Secret Committee did not contain satisfactory evidence on which to sustain a charge of treason. Swift is not a trustworthy witness on these subjects, but he is quite right when he says that the allegations were "more proper materials to furnish out a pamphlet than an impeachment."

[Sidenote: 1715—"An intricate impeach is this!"]

Bolingbroke's friends must have felt deeply grieved at his flight when they heard the statement of the case against him. Even as regards the Treaty of Utrecht, it seems questionable whether the historical conviction assuredly obtained against him by the contents of the report would, in the existing condition of politics and parties, have been followed by any sort of judicial conviction, whether in a court of law or a trial by Parliament.

The day after the reading of the report gave Walpole his long-desired revenge; he impeached Bolingbroke of high-treason. There was a dead silence in the House when he had finished. Then two of Bolingbroke's friends, Mr. Hungerford and General Ross, mustered up courage to speak a few words for their lost leader. The star of the morning, the Tory Lucifer, had fallen indeed! Lord Coningsby got up and made a clever little set speech. Walpole had impeached the hand, and Lord Coningsby impeached the head; Walpole had impeached the clerk, and Coningsby impeached the justice; Walpole had impeached the scholar, and Coningsby impeached the master. This head, this justice, this master, was, of course, the Lord Oxford. As a piece of dramatic declamation {109} Coningsby's impeachment was telling enough; as a historical presentation of the case against the two men it was absurd. Through all Anne's later years Oxford had been nothing and Bolingbroke everything. On the very eve of the Queen's death Bolingbroke had secured his triumph over his former friend by driving Oxford out of all office. Had Oxford been first impeached, and the speech of Lord Coningsby been aimed at Bolingbroke, it would have been strikingly appropriate; as it was, it became meaningless rhetoric. Next day Oxford went to the House of Lords, and tried to appear cool and unconcerned, but, according to a contemporary account, "finding that most members avoided sitting near him, and that even the Earl Powlet was shy of exchanging a few words with him, he was dashed out of countenance, and retired out of the House."

Impeachments were now the order of the day. The loyal Whigs of the Commons were incessantly passing between the Upper House and the Lower with articles of impeachment, and still further articles when the first were not found to be strong enough for the purpose. Stanhope impeached the Duke of Ormond; Aislabie impeached Lord Strafford—not of high-treason, but of high crimes and misdemeanors; Strafford was accused of being not only "the tool of a Frenchified ministry," but the adviser of most pernicious measures. Strafford's part in the negotiations had not been one of any considerable importance. He had been sent as English Plenipotentiary to the Congress at Utrecht. Associated with him as Second Plenipotentiary was Dr. John Robinson, then Bishop of Bristol, and more lately made Bishop of London, the churchman on whom the office of the Privy Seal had been conferred by Harley, to the great anger of the Whigs. It was said that Strafford, in his high and mighty way, had refused flatly to accept a mere poet like Prior for his official colleague. Strafford had, in reality, little or nothing to do with the making of the Treaty. The negotiations were carried on between Bolingbroke and {110} the Marquis de Torcy, French Secretary of State and nephew of the great Colbert; and when these wanted agents they employed men more clever and less pompous than Strafford. Aislabie, in bringing on his motion, drew a curious distinction between Strafford and Strafford's official colleague. "The good and pious Prelate," he said, had been only a cipher, and "seemed to have been put at the head of that negotiation only to palliate the iniquity of it under the sacredness of his character." He was glad, therefore, that nothing could be charged upon the Bishop, and complacently observed that the course taken with regard to Dr. Robinson, who was not to be impeached, "ought to convince the world that the Church was not in danger." There was some wisdom as well as wit in a remark made thereupon by a member of the House in opposing the motion—"the Bishop, it seems, is to have the benefit of clergy."

[Sidenote: 1715—Ormond's hesitation]

The motions for the impeachment of Bolingbroke and Oxford were carried without a division. This fact, however, would be little indication as to the result of an impeachment after a long trial, and after the minds of men had cooled down on both sides; when Whigs had grown less passionate in their hate, and Tories had recovered their courage to sustain their friends. Even at the moment the impeachment of the Duke of Ormond was a matter of far greater difficulty. Ormond had many friends, even among the most genuine supporters of the Hanoverian succession. He was the idol of the High-Church party; at all events, of the High-Church mob. Had he acted with anything like a steady resolve he would, in all probability, have escaped even impeachment. To some of the most serious charges against him, his refusal, for instance, to attack the French while the secret negotiations for the Treaty of Utrecht were going on, he could fairly have pleaded that he had acted only as a soldier taking positive instructions and carrying them out. His clear and obvious policy would have been to take the quiet stand of a man conscious of innocence, and {111} therefore not afraid of the scrutiny of any committee or the judgment of any tribunal.

But Ormond hesitated. Ormond was always hesitating. Many of his influential supporters urged him to seek an audience of the King at once, and to profess to George his unfailing and incorruptible loyalty. Had he taken such a course it is not at all unlikely that the King might have caused the measures against him to be abandoned. Ormond's friends, indeed, were full of hope that they could, in any case, induce the Ministry not to persevere in the proceedings against him. On the other hand, he was urged to join in an insurrection in the West of England, towards which, beyond doubt, he had already himself taken some steps. The less cautious of his friends assured him that his appearance in the West would be welcomed with open arms, and would bring a vast number of adherents round him, and that a powerful blow could be struck at once against the Hanoverian succession. Ormond, however, took neither the one course nor the other. To do him justice, he was far too honorable for the utter perfidy of the first course, and it is doing him no injustice to say that he was too feeble for the daring enterprise of the second. It is believed that Ormond had an interview with Oxford before his flight, and that he urged Oxford to attempt an escape in terms not unlike those with which William the Silent, in Goethe's play, endeavors to persuade Egmont not to remain in the power of Philip the Second. Then Ormond himself fled to France. He lived there for thirty years after. He led a pleasant, easy, harmless life, and was completely forgotten in England for years and years before his death. More than twenty years after his flight he is described by vivacious Mary Wortley Montagu as "one who seems to have forgotten every part of his past life, and to be of no party." He was a weak man, with only a very faint outline of a character; but he was more honorable and consistent than was common with the men of his time. When he had once taken up a cause or a principle he held to it. {112} He was the very opposite to Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke was genius and force without principle. Ormond had principle without genius or force.

[Sidenote: 1715—Oxford committed to the Tower]

Two, then, of the great accused peers were beyond the reach of the House of Lords. Oxford alone remained. On July 9, 1715, articles of impeachment were brought up against him. The impeachment does not seem to have been very substantial in its character. The great majority of its articles referred to the conduct of Oxford with regard to the Treaty of Utrecht. One article accused him of having abused his influence over her Majesty by prevailing upon her to exercise "in the most unprecedented and dangerous manner" her prerogative by the creation of twelve Peers in December, 1711. A motion that Oxford be committed to the Tower was made, and on this motion he spoke a few words which were at once ingenious and dignified. He asserted his innocence of any treasonable practice or thought, and declared that what he had done was done in obedience to the positive orders of the Queen. He asked the House what might not happen if Ministers of State, acting on the immediate commands of their sovereign, were afterwards to be made accountable for their proceedings. Then in a few words he commended his cause to the justice of his brother peers, and took leave of the House of Lords, as he put it, "perhaps forever." Such an impeachment would have been impossible in more recent days. If Oxford had been accused of treasonable dealings with the Stuarts, and if evidence could have been brought home to him, there indeed might have been a reasonable ground for impeachment. But there was no sufficient evidence for any such purpose, and to impeach a statesman simply because he had taken a political course which was afterwards disapproved by the nation, and which was discredited by results, was simply to say that any failure in the policy of a Minister of the Crown might make him liable to impeachment when his enemies came into power. The Peace of Utrecht, bad as it was, had been condoned, or rather {113} approved of, by two successive Parliaments. Shrewsbury, who was now in high favor, had been actively concerned in its promotion. It was a question of compromise altogether, on which politicians were entitled to form the strongest opinions. No doubt the enemies of the Tory party had ample ground for condemning and denouncing the Peace. But the part which a statesman had taken in bringing about the Peace could not, according to our modern ideas, form any just ground of ministerial impeachment. Much more reasonably might the statesmen of a later day have been impeached who, by their blundering and obstinacy, brought about the armed resistance and the final independence of the North American colonies. It is curious, in our eyes, to find Oxford defending his conduct on the ground that he had simply obeyed the positive orders of his sovereign. The minister would run more risk of impeachment, in our days, who declared that he had acted in some great public crisis simply in obedience to his sovereign's orders, than if he were to stand accountable for the greatest errors, the grossest blunders, committed on the judgment and on the responsibility of himself and his colleagues.

Oxford was committed to the Tower, whither he went escorted by an immense popular procession of his admirers, who cheered vociferously for him and for High-Church together. He may now be said to drop out of our history altogether. He was destined to linger in long confinement, almost like one forgotten by friends and enemies. We shall have to tell afterwards how he petitioned for a trial, and was brought to trial, and in what fashion he came to be acquitted by his peers. The remainder of his life he passed in happy quietude among his books and curious manuscripts; the books and manuscripts which formed the original stock of the Harleian Library, afterwards completed by his son. Harley lived until 1724, and was not an old man even then—only sixty-three. It is not necessary that in this work we should concern ourselves much more about him. Despite all the {114} praises of his friends, some of them men of the highest intellectual gifts, like Swift and Pope, there does not seem to have been any great quality, intellectual or moral, in Harley. He had a narrow and feeble mind; he was incapable of taking a large view of anything; he was selfish and deceitful; although it has to be said that sometimes that which men called deceit in him was but a lack of the capacity to look straight before him and make up his mind. He often led astray those who acted with him merely because his own confusion of intellect and want of defined purpose were leading himself astray. Perhaps the most dignified passage in his life was that which showed him calmly awaiting the worst in London, when men like Bolingbroke and Ormond had chosen to seek safety in flight. Yet even the course which he took in this instance seems to have been rather the result of indecision than of independent self-sufficing courage and resolve. He does not appear to have been able to decide upon anything until the time had passed when movement of any kind would have availed, and so he remained where he was. Many a man has gained credit for courage, and has seemed to surround himself with dignity, because at a moment of alarm, when others did this or that, he was unable quite to make up his mind as to what he ought to do, and so did nothing, and let the world go by.

[Sidenote: 1715—Sir Henry St. John]

On September 17, Norroy, King at Arms, came solemnly down to the House of Lords and razed the names of Ormond and of Bolingbroke from the roll of peers. Bolingbroke had some consolation of a sham kind. He had wished and schemed to be Earl of Bolingbroke before his fall, and now his new king, James of St. Germains, had given him the patent of enhanced nobility. If he ceased to be a viscount in the eyes of English peers and of English heralds, he was still an earl in the Pretender's court. Bolingbroke had too keen a sense of humor not to be painfully aware of the irony of the situation. Nor was he likely to find much satisfaction in the peerage {115} which the Government had just conferred upon his father, Sir Henry St. John, by creating him Baron of Battersea and Viscount St. John. Sir Henry St. John was an idle, careless roue, a haunter of St. James's coffee-houses, living in the manner and in the memories of the Restoration, listlessly indifferent to all parties, leaning, perhaps, a little to the Whigs. He had no manner of sympathy with his son or appreciation of his genius. When the son was made a peer the father only said, "Well, Harry, I thought thee would be hanged, but now I see thee wilt be beheaded." The father himself was once very near being hanged. In his wild youth he had killed a man in a quarrel, and was tried for murder and condemned to death, and then pardoned by the King, Charles II., in consideration, it is said, of a liberal money-payment to the merry monarch and his yet more merry mistresses.




[Sidenote: 1715—Bolingbroke at St. Germains]

When Bolingbroke got to Paris he did not immediately attach himself to the service of James. Even then and there he still appears to have been undecided. In the modern American phrase, he "sat on the fence" for a while. Probably, if he had seen even then a chance of returning with safety to England, if the impeachments had not been going on, and if any manner of overture had been made to him from London, he would forthwith have dropped the Jacobite cause, and returned to profess his loyalty to the reigning English sovereign. After a while, however, seeing that there was no chance for him at home, he went openly into the cause of the Stuarts, and accepted the office of Secretary of State to James. It must have been a trying position for a man of Bolingbroke's genius and ambition when he found himself thus compelled to put up with an empty office at a sham court. Bolingbroke's desire was to play on a great stage, with a vast admiring audience. He loved the heat and passion of debate; he enjoyed his own rhetorical triumphs. He must have been chilled and cramped indeed in a situation which allowed him no opportunity of displaying his most splendid and genuine qualities, while it constantly called on him for the exercise of the very qualities which he had least at hand. Nature had never meant him for a conspirator, or even for a subtle political intriguer; nor, indeed, had Nature ever intended him to be the adherent of a lost cause. All that could have made a position like his tolerable to a man of his peculiar capacity would have been faith in the cause—that faith which would have {117} prevented him from seeing any but its noble and exalted qualities, and would have made him forget himself in its hopes, its perils, its triumphs, and its disasters. On the contrary, it would seem that Bolingbroke found it difficult to take the Stuart cause seriously, even when he was himself playing the part of its leading statesman. A critical observer writes from Paris in the early part of the year 1716, saying that he believed Bolingbroke's chief fault was "that he could not play his part with a grave enough face; he could not help laughing now and then at such kings and queens." Meantime, Bolingbroke amused himself in his moments of recreation after his old fashion, he indulged in amour after amour, intrigue after intrigue. Lord Chesterfield said of him, that "though nobody spoke and wrote better upon philosophy than Lord Bolingbroke, no man in the world had less share of philosophy than himself. The least trifle, such as the overroasting of a leg of mutton, would strangely disturb and ruffle his temper." On the other hand, a glance from a pretty woman, or a glimpse of her ankle, would send all Bolingbroke's political combinations and philosophical speculations flying into the air, and convert him in a moment from the statesman or the philosopher into the merest petit maitre, macaroni, and gallant.

Louis the Fourteenth refused to give open assistance to the cause of the Stuarts, but he was willing enough to lend any help that he could in private to Bolingbroke and to them. His death was the first severe blow to the cause which Bolingbroke now represented. Louis the Fourteenth was, according to Bolingbroke himself, the best friend James then had. "When I engaged," says Bolingbroke, "in this business, my principal dependence was on his personal character; my hopes sank as he declined, and died when he expired." The Regent, Duke of Orleans, was a man who, with all his coarse and unrestricted dissipation, had some political capacity and even statesmanship. He saw that the Stuart was a sinking, the Hanoverian a rising cause. Even when the two seemed {118} most nearly balanced it yet appeared to Orleans, if we may quote a phrase more often used in our days than in his, that the one cause was only half alive, but the other was half dead. Orleans, moreover, had a good deal of that feeling which was more strongly marked still in a Duke of Orleans of a later day. He had a liking for England and for English ways; he was, indeed, rather inclined to affect the political manners of an English statesman. He therefore leaned to the side of the Government established in England; and, at the urgent request of the English Ambassador in Paris, he acted with some energy in preventing the sailing of vessels intended for the uses of an expedition to the English coast.

[Sidenote: 1715—"Mischief, thou art afoot."]

James Stuart seemed as if he were determined still further to imperil the chances of his family, and to embarrass his adherents. The right moment for a movement in his favor had been allowed to pass away, and now, with characteristic blundering and ill fortune, he seized upon the most unsuitable time that could possibly have been employed for such an attempt. Something might have been done, perhaps, a temporary alteration in the dynasty might have been obtained, if energy and decision had been shown in that momentous interval when Queen Anne lay dying. But when that time had been allowed to pass, the clear policy of the Pretender was to permit the fears of Englishmen to go to sleep for a while, to endeavor to reorganize his plans and his party; to wait until a certain reaction should set in, a reaction very likely to come about because of the apparent incapacity and the unattractive character of George the First, and then at some timely hour, with well-matured preparations, to strike an energetic blow. George the First was only a year on the throne when the adherents of James got up a miserable attempt at an insurrection.

There were three conditions under which, and under which alone, an insurrection just then would have had a reasonable chance of success. These conditions were fully recognized and understood by the Jacobite leaders {119} in England, Scotland, and France. The first was that a rising should take place at once in England and in Scotland, the second that the Chevalier in person should take the field, and the third that France should give positive assistance to the enterprise. The Jacobite cause was strong in the south-western counties of England, and there the influence of the Duke of Ormond was strong likewise. The general arrangement, therefore, in the minds of the Jacobite chiefs was that James Stuart should make his appearance in Scotland, that at the same moment the Duke of Ormond should raise the standard of revolt in some of the south-western counties, and that France should assist the expedition with men, money, and arms. When James, acting against the advice of his best counsellors, resolved on striking a blow at once, two of the necessary conditions were clearly wanting. France was not willing to give any actual assistance, and Ormond was not ready to raise the standard of rebellion in England.

Ormond's sudden appearance in Paris struck dismay into the hearts of the Jacobite counsellors, men and women, there. It had been distinctly understood that he was to remain in England, and that, if threatened with arrest, he was to hasten to one of the western counties, where he and his friends were strong, and strike a sudden blow. He was to seize Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, and other towns, and set the Stuart flag flying all over that part of England. When he appeared in France, a mere solitary fugitive, all men of sense saw that the game was up. Bolingbroke at once sent through safe hands a clear statement of the condition of things, to be laid before Lord Mar. Bolingbroke's object was to restrain Mar from any movement in the altered state of affairs. The letter, however, came too late. Mar had already made his movement towards the Highlands: there was no stopping the enterprise then; the rebellion had taken fire. James was determined more than ever to go. His arguments were the arguments of mere desperation. "I cannot but {120} see," he wrote to Bolingbroke, "that affairs grow daily worse and worse by delays, and that, as the business is now more difficult than it was six months ago, so these difficulties will, in all human appearance, rather increase than diminish. Violent diseases must have violent remedies, and to use none has, in some cases, the same effect as to use bad ones." Indeed, it was impossible that the Chevalier himself or the Duke of Ormond could hold back. Both had personal courage quite enough for such an attempt. On the 28th of October James Stuart, after many delays, set out in disguise, and travelled westward to St. Malo. Ormond sailed from the coast of Normandy to that of Devonshire, but found there no sign of any arrangement for a rising. His plans had long been known to the English Government, and measures had been taken to frustrate them. In that little Jacobite Parliament sitting in Paris, which Bolingbroke spoke of with such contempt, and from which, as he puts it, "no sex was excluded," there was hardly any secret made of the projects they were carrying on. Before the sudden appearance of Ormond in Paris they had counted, with the utmost confidence, on a full success, and were already talking of the Restoration as if it were an accomplished fact. Every word they uttered which it was of the least importance for the British Government to hear was instantly made known to Lord Stair, the new English Ambassador—a resolute and capable man, a brilliant soldier, an astute and bold diplomatist, equal to any craft, ready for any emergency, charming to all, dear to his friends, very formidable to his enemies. Ormond found that, as he had let the favorable moment slip when he fled from England to France, there was now no means whatever of recalling the lost opportunity. He returned to Brittany, and there he found the Chevalier preparing to start for Scotland. After various goings and comings the Chevalier was at last enabled to embark at Dunkirk in a small vessel, with a few guns and half a dozen Jacobite officers to attend him, and he made for the Scottish coast.


[Sidenote: 1715—The camp in Hyde Park]

About the same time, and as if in obedience to some word of command from France, there was a general and almost simultaneous outburst of Jacobite demonstration in England, amounting in most places to riot. In London, and all over England, so far as one can judge, the popular feeling appears to have been rather with the Jacobites than against them. Stout Jacobites toasted a mysterious person called Job, who had no connection with the prophet, but whose name contained the initial letters of James, Ormond, and Bolingbroke; and "Kit" was no less popular, because it stood for "King James III.," while the mysterious symbolism of the "Three B's" implied "Best Born Briton," and so the Chevalier de St. George. The Chevalier's birthday—the 10th of June—was celebrated with wild outbursts of enthusiasm in several places. Stuart-loving Oxford in especial made a brave show of its white roses. The Loyalists, who endeavored to do a similar honor to the birthday of King George, were often violently assailed by mobs. In many places the windows of houses whose inmates refused to illuminate in honor of the Chevalier were broken; William the Third was burned in effigy in various parts of London, and in many towns throughout the country. So serious at one period did the revulsion of Jacobite feeling appear to be, that it was thought necessary to form a camp in Hyde Park, and to bring together a large body of troops there. The Life Guards and Horse Grenadiers, three battalions of the Foot Guards, the Duke of Argyll's regiment, and several pieces of cannon were established in the camp. By a curious coincidence the troops were reviewed by King George, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Marlborough, on the 25th of August, 1715, the very day on which, as we shall presently see, the Highland clans set up the standard of the Stuarts at Braemar, in Scotland. The camp had a certain amount of practical advantage in it, independently of its supposed political necessity—it made Hyde Park safe at night. Before the camp was established, and after it was broken up, the Park appears to {122} have been little better than Bagshot Heath or Hounslow Heath. It was the favorite parade-ground of highway robbers and murderers. The soldiers themselves were occasionally suspected of playing the part of highwaymen. "A man in those days," says Scott, "might have all the external appearance of a gentleman, and yet turn out to be a highwayman;" and "the profession of the polite and accomplished adventurer who nicked you out of your money at White's, or bowled you out of it at Marylebone, was often united with that of the professed ruffian who, on Bagshot Heath or Finchley Common, commanded his brother beau to stand and deliver." "Robbers—a fertile and alarming theme—filled up every vacancy, and the names of the Golden Farmer, the Flying Highwayman, Jack Needham, and other Beggars' Opera heroes, were familiar in our mouths as household words." The revulsion of Jacobite feeling actually showed itself sometimes among the soldiers in the camp. Accounts published at the time tell us of men having been flogged and shot for wearing Jacobite emblems in their caps. Perhaps in mentioning this Hyde Park camp it may not be inappropriate to notice the fact that General Macartney, who had figured in a terrible tragedy in the Park two or three years before, returned to England, and obtained the favor of George by bringing over six thousand soldiers from Holland to assist the King. General Macartney was the man who had acted as second to Lord Mohun in the fatal duel in Hyde Park on the 15th of November, 1712, when both Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton were killed. Macartney escaped to Holland, and was charged by the Duke of Hamilton's second with having stabbed the Duke through the heart while Colonel Hamilton was endeavoring to raise him from the ground. Macartney came back and took his trial, but was only found guilty of manslaughter—that is to say, found guilty of having taken part in the duel, and escaped without punishment. Probably Macartney, and Hamilton, and Mohun, and the Duke are best remembered in our time because of the {123} effect which that fatal meeting had upon the fortunes of Beatrix Esmond.

[Sidenote: 1715—John Erskine of Mar]

The insurrection had already broken out in Scotland. John Erskine, eleventh Earl of Mar, set himself up as lieutenant-general in the cause of the Chevalier. Lord Mar was a man of much courage and some capacity. He had held high office under Queen Anne. One of the biographers of that period describes Mar as a devoted adherent of the Stuarts. His career is indeed a fair illustration of the sort of thing which then sometimes passed for devoted adherence to a cause. When King George reached England he dismissed Mar from office, suspecting him of sympathy with the Jacobite movement. Mar had expected something of the kind, and had written an obsequious and a grovelling letter to George, in which he spoke of the king's "happy accession," professed unbounded devotion to the house of Hanover, and promised that "You shall ever find in me as faithful a subject as ever any king had." The new king, however, declined to trust to the faithfulness of this subject; and a year after the faithful subject had returned to his Jacobite convictions, and was gathering the Highland clans in James Stuart's name.

The clans were got together at Braemar. The white cockade was mounted there by clan after clan, the Macintoshes being the first to display it as the emblem of the Stuart cause. Inverness was seized. King James was proclaimed at several places, notably at Dundee, by Graham, the brother of "conquering Graham," Bonnie Dundee, the fearless, cruel, clever Claverhouse who fell at Killiecrankie. Perth was secured. The force under Mar's leadership grow greater every day. He had begun with a handful of men. He had now a little army. He had set up his standard almost at hap-hazard at Braemar, and now nearly all the country north of the Tay was in the hands of the Jacobites.

The Duke of Argyll was put in command of the royal forces, and arrived in Scotland in the middle of September 1716. He hastened to the camp, which had been got {124} together somehow at Stirling. He came there almost literally alone. He brought no soldiers with him. He found few soldiers there to receive him. Under his command he had altogether about a thousand foot and half as many dragoons, the latter consisting in great measure of the famous and excellent Scots Grays. His prospect looked indeed very doubtful. He could expect little or no assistance from his own clan. They had work enough to do in guarding against a possible attack from some of the followers of Lord Mar. Glasgow, Dumfries, and other towns were likewise in imminent danger from some of the Highland clans, and were kept in a continual agony of apprehension. It seemed likely enough that Argyll might soon be surrounded at Stirling. If Mar had only made a forward movement it is impossible to say what degree of success he might not have accomplished. It seems almost marvellous, when we look back and survey the state of things, to see what a miserable force the Government had to rely upon. In the whole country they had only about eight thousand men. They had more men abroad than at home, and in the critical condition of things which still prevailed upon the Continent, it did not seem clear that they could, except in the very last extremity, bring home many of the men whom they kept abroad. Of that little force of eight thousand soldiers they did not venture to send a considerable proportion up to the North. They had, perhaps, good reason. They did not know yet where the serious blow was to be struck for the Stuart cause. Many of George's counsellors still looked upon the movement in Scotland as something merely in the nature of a feint. They believed that the real blow would yet be struck by Ormond in the West of England.

[Sidenote: 1715—Sheriffmuir]

But the evil fortune which hung over the Stuart cause in all its later days clung to it now. There was no conceivable reason why Mar should not have marched southward. The forces of the King were few in number, and were not well placed for the purpose of making any considerable resistance. But in an enterprise like that of {125} Mar all depends upon rapidity of movement. What we may call the ultimate resources of the country were in the hands of the King and his adherents. Every day's delay enabled them to grow stronger. Every day's delay beyond a certain time discouraged and weakened the invaders. Mar might, at one critical moment, have swept Argyll's exhausted troops before him, but he was feeble and timorous; he dallied; he let the time pass; he allowed Argyll to get away without making an effort to attack him. It was then that one of the Gordon clan broke into that memorable exclamation, "Oh for one hour of Dundee!"—the exclamation which Byron has paraphrased in the line,

Oh, for one hour of blind old Dandolo!

Certainly one hour of Dundee might, at more than one crisis in this melancholy struggle, have secured for the time the cause of the Stuarts, and won for James at least a temporary occupation of the throne of his ancestors. Mar's little force remained motionless long enough to allow the Duke of Argyll to get sufficient strength to make an attack upon it at Sheriffmuir. Sheriffmuir was not much of a victory. Each side, in fact, claimed the conqueror's honor. Mar was not annihilated, nor Argyll driven back. The Duke of Argyll probably lost more of his men, but, on the other hand, he captured many guns and standards, and he re-appeared on the same field the next day, while Mar showed there no more. Tested in the only practical way, it is clear that the Duke of Argyll had the better of it. Lord Mar wanted to do something, and was prevented from doing it at a time when to him everything depended on advance and on success. The Duke of Argyll successfully interposed between Mar and his object, and therefore was clearly the victor.

It is on record that no small share of Mar's ill-success was due to the action, or rather the inaction, of the famous Highland outlaw, Rob Roy. He and his clan had joined Mar's standard, but his sympathies seem to have been with Argyll. He had an unusually large body of {126} men under his command, for many of the clan Macpherson had been committed to his leadership, in consequence of the old age of their chief; but at a critical moment he refused to lead his men to the charge, and stood on a hill with his followers unconcernedly surveying the fight. It is said that had he kept faith he could have turned the fortunes of the day.

[Sidenote: 1715—"If he will die like a prince"]

Argyll and the cause he represented could afford to wait, and Mar could not. The insurrection already began to melt. James Stuart himself made his appearance in Scotland. He was characteristically late for Sheriffmuir, and when he did throw himself into the field he seemed unable to take any decisive step, or even to come to any clear decision. He did not succeed in making himself popular, even for the moment, among his followers in Scotland. The occasion was one in which gallant bearing and kingly demeanor would have gone for much, and indeed it is not at all impossible that a leader of a different stamp from James might even then have so inspired the Highland clansmen, and so made use of his opportunity, as to overwhelm Argyll and the Hanoverian forces, and turn the whole crisis to his favor. But James was peculiarly unsuited to an enterprise of the kind. He had graceful manners, a mild, serene temper, and great power of application to work. His personal courage was undoubted, and he was willing enough to risk his own life on any chance; but he had none of the spirit of a commander. He was sometimes weak and sometimes obstinate. His very appearance was not in his favor among the Highland men, to whom he had previously been unknown. He was tall and thin, with pale face, and eyes that wanted fire and expression. His words were few, his behavior always sedate and somewhat depressed. Here, among the Scottish clansmen on the verge of rebellion, he seemed utterly borne down by the greatness of the enterprise. He was wholly unable to infuse anything like spirit or hope into his followers. On the contrary, his appearance among them, when he did show {127} himself, had a dispiriting and a depressing effect on almost every mind. Those who remember the manner and demeanor of the late Louis Napoleon, Emperor of the French, the silent shyness, the appearance of almost constant depression, which were characteristic of that sovereign, will, we think, be easily able to form a clear idea of the effect that James Stuart produced among his followers in Scotland. He did not care to see the soldiers exercise, and handle their arms; he avoided going among them as much as possible. The men at last began to feel a mistrust of his courage—the one great quality which he certainly did not lack. A feeling of something like contempt began to spread abroad. "Can he speak at all?" some of the soldiers asked. He was all ice; his very kindness was freezing. A man like Dundee called to such an enterprise would have set the clans of Scotland aflame with enthusiasm. James Stuart was only a chilling and a dissolving influence. His more immediate military counsellors were like himself, and their only policy seemed to be one of postponement and delay. They advised him against action of every kind. The clansmen grew impatient. At Perth, one devoted Highland chief actually suggested that James should be taken away by force from his advisers, and brought among men who were ready to fight. "If he is willing to die like a prince," said this man, "he will find there are ten thousand gentlemen in Scotland who are willing to die with him." If James had followed the bent of his own disposition, he might even then have died like a prince, or gone on to a throne. His opponents were as little inclined for action as his own immediate advisers. The Duke of Argyll himself delayed making an advance until peremptory orders were sent to him from London. So long, and with so little excuse, did he delay, that statesmen in London suspected, not unreasonably, that Argyll was still willing to give James Stuart a chance, or was not yet quite certain whether the cause of the Stuarts was wholly lost. It is characteristic of the time that so long as there seemed any possibility of James {128} redeeming his crown Argyll's own colleagues suspected that Argyll was not willing to put himself personally in the way. At last, however, the peremptory order came that Argyll must advance upon Perth. The moment the advance became apparent, the counsellors of James Stuart insisted on a retreat. On a day of ill omen to the Stuart cause, the 30th of January, 1716, the anniversary of the day when Charles the First was executed, the retreat from Perth was resolved on. That retreat was the end of the enterprise. Many Jacobites had already made up their minds that the struggle was over, that there was nothing better to be done than to disperse before the advancing troops of King George, that the sooner the forces of James Stuart melted away, and James Stuart himself got back to France, the better. James Stuart went back to France, and the clansmen returned to their homes. Some of the Roman Catholic gentlemen rose in Northumberland, and endeavored to form a junction with a portion of Mar's force which had come southward to meet them. The English Jacobites, however, were defeated at Preston, and compelled to surrender. After a voyage of five days in a small vessel, James succeeded in reaching Gravelines safely on the 8th of February, 1716. His whole expedition had not occupied him more than six weeks.

[Sidenote: 1715—Marlborough's counsels]

It was believed at the time that the counsels of the Duke of Marlborough were mainly instrumental in bringing about the prompt suppression of the rebellion. Marlborough's advice was asked with regard to the military movements and dispositions to be made, and the belief of the day was that it was his counsel, and the manner in which the Government followed it out, which led to the utter overthrow of James Stuart and the dispersion of his followers. Marlborough is said to have actually told in advance the very time at which, if his advice were followed, the rebellion could be put down. Nothing is more likely than that Marlborough's advice should have been sought and should have been given. It would not in the {129} least degree militate against the truth of the story that the outbreak took place so soon after Marlborough had been professing the most devoted attachment to the cause of the Stuarts, and had declared, as we have said already, that he would rather cut off his right hand than do anything to injure the claims of the Chevalier St. George. But it would not seem that any advice Marlborough might have given was followed out very strictly in the measures taken to put down the rebellion. We may be sure that Marlborough's would have been military counsel worthy of the greatest commander of his age. But in the measures taken to put down the rebellion we can see nothing but incapacity, vacillation, and even timidity. An energetic man in Argyll's position, seeing how James Stuart halted and fluctuated, must have made up his mind at once that a rapid and bold movement would finish the rebellion, and we find no such movement made, until at last the most peremptory orders from London compelled Argyll at all hazards to advance. If then Marlborough gave his advice in London, which is very likely, it would seem that, for some reason or other, the advice was not followed by the commanders in the field. The whole story reminds one of the belief long entertained in France, and which we suppose has some votaries there still, that the great success of the Duke of Wellington, in the latter part of the war against Napoleon, was due to the military counsels of Dumouriez, then an exile in London.

There was a plan for the capture of Edinburgh Castle, which, like other Stuart enterprises, would have been a great thing if it had only succeeded. Edinburgh Castle was then full of arms, stores, and money. Some eighty of the Jacobites, chiefly Highlanders, contrived a well-laid scheme by which to get possession of the Castle. They managed by bribes and promises to win over three soldiers in the Castle itself. The arrangement was that these men were to be furnished with ladders of a peculiar construction suited to the purpose, which, at a certain hour of the night, they were to lower down the Castle rock on the {130} north side—the side looking on the Prince Street of our day. By these ladders the assailants were quietly to ascend, and then overpower the little garrison, and possess themselves of the Castle. When the stroke had been done, they were to fire three cannon, and men stationed on the opposite coast of Fife were thereupon to light a beacon; and the flash of that light would be the signal for other beacons from hill to hill to bear the news to Mar—as the lights along the Argive hills carried the tale of Troy's fall to Argos. The plan was an utter failure. It broke down in two places. One of the conspirators told his brother; the brother told his wife; the lady took alarm, and sent an anonymous letter disclosing the whole plot to the Lord Justice Clerk. Yet even then, had the conspirators been in time, their plan might have succeeded; for the anonymous letter did not reach its destination till an hour after the time appointed to make the attempt on the Castle. But the conspirators were not punctual. Some of them were in a tavern in Edinburgh, drinking to the success of their enterprise. Every one in the neighborhood seems to have known what their enterprise was, to have had some sympathy with it, to have talked freely about it. Eighteen of these heroes kept up their conviviality in the tavern till long after the appointed time. The hostess of the place was heard to say that they were powdering their hair to go to the attack on the Castle. "A strange sort of powder," Lord Stanhope remarks, "to provide on such an occasion." Lord Stanhope evidently takes the hostess's words in a literal sense, and believes that the lady really meant to say that the jovial conspirators were actually powdering their locks as if for a ball. We may assume that the hostess spoke as Hamlet did, "tropically." Whether she did or not—whether they were really adorning their locks, or simply draining the flagon—the result was all the same. They came too late; the plot was discovered; the sympathizing soldiers from the Castle were already under arrest. The conspirators had to disperse and fly; a few of them were arrested; {131} their neighbors were only too willing to help them to escape. It cannot be doubted that there was sympathy enough in Edinburgh to have made their plan the beginning of a complete success—if it had only itself been allowed to succeed. But the disclosure to the lady, and the powder for the hair, brought all to nothing. The whole story might almost be said to be an allegorical illustration of the fortunes of the Stuarts. The pint and the petticoat always came in the way of a success to that cause.

[Sidenote: 1715—Bolingbroke's dismissal]

When James reached Gravelines, he hurried on to St. Germains. There, the next morning, Bolingbroke came to see him. Bolingbroke, to do him justice, had done all in his power to dissuade James from making his fatal expedition at such a time, and under such untoward circumstances. He had shown judgment, prudence, and, in the true sense, courage. He had shown himself a statesman. He might very well have met James in the mood and with the remonstrances of the counsellors who, after the event, are able to say, "I told you so." But Bolingbroke appears to have had more discretion and more manliness. He advised James to withdraw once again from the dominions of the King, and take refuge in Lorraine. Bolingbroke knew well, by this time, that there was not the slightest chance of any open assistance from the French Court; and even that the French Court would be only too ready to throw James over, and sacrifice him, if, by doing so, they could strengthen the bonds of good feeling between France and England. James professed to take Bolingbroke's counsel in very friendly fashion, and parted from Bolingbroke with many expressions of confidence and affection. Yet it is certain that at this time he had made up his mind not to see Bolingbroke any more. He went for a time to a house near Versailles, a kind of headquarters of intriguing political women, and thence immediately despatched a letter to Bolingbroke, relieving him of all his duties as Secretary of State. Bolingbroke affects to have taken his dismissal very composedly, but it cannot be doubted that his heart burned within him at what he, {132} doubtless, believed to be the ingratitude of the prince for whom he had done and sacrificed so much. For Bolingbroke had that unlucky gift of fancy which enables a man to see himself, and his own doings, and his own merits, in whatever light is most gratifying to his personal vanity. He had, in truth, never risked nor sacrificed anything for the sake of James or the Stuart cause. He never had the least idea of risking or sacrificing anything for that cause, or for any other. It was only when his fortunes in England became desperate, when impeachment, and, as he believed, a scaffold threatened him, when he had no apparent alternative left but to join the Pretender or stay at home and lose all—it was only then that he took any decided step as an adherent of the cause of the Stuarts. We cannot doubt that James Stuart knew to the full the part that Bolingbroke had played. He knew that he owed Bolingbroke no favor, and that he could have no confidence in him. Still, it remains to the present hour a mystery why James should then, and in that manner, have got rid of Bolingbroke forever. Bolingbroke himself does not appear to have known the cause of his dismissal. It may be that James had grown tired of the whole fruitless struggle, and was glad to get rid of a minister whose restless energy and genius would always have kept political intrigue alive, and political enterprises going. Or it may be that just then there had fallen into James's hands some new and recent evidences of Bolingbroke's willingness to treat, on occasion, with either side. However this may be, James made up his mind to dismiss his great follower, and Bolingbroke at once made up his mind to endeavor to ingratiate himself into the favor of the House of Hanover, and to secure his restoration to London society. Almost at the very moment of his dismissal he made application to some of his friends in London to endeavor to obtain for him a permission to return.

[Sidenote: 1715—"Banished Bolingbroke repeats himself"]

We do not absolutely say a farewell to Bolingbroke now and here, as he stands dismissed from the service of {133} the Stuarts and disqualified for the service of the Hanoverians. Nearly forty years of life were yet before him, but his work as a statesman was done. Never again had his genius a chance of shining in the service of a throne. The master-politician of the age was out of employment forever. We do not know if history anywhere supplies such another example of a great political career snapped off so suddenly at its midst, hardly even at its midst, and never put together again. Bolingbroke re-appeared again and again in England. He even took more than once a certain kind of part in politics—that is in pamphleteering; he tried to be the inspiration and the guiding-star of Pulteney and other rising men who had come, for one reason or another, to detest Walpole. But even these soon began to find Bolingbroke rather more of a hinderance than a help, and were glad to shake him off and be rid of him. He becomes everything by turns; plays at cool philosophy and philosophic retreat; is always assuring the world in tones of highly suspicious eagerness that he is done forever with it and its works and pomps; and he is always yearning and striving to get back to the works and pomps again. He plays at farming, actually puts on countrified manners, and dines ostentatiously off homely farmer-like fare, to the amusement of some of his friends. He undertakes to settle the whole question of religion, of this world and the next, including the entire code of human ethics; and at the same time he is very fond of expatiating to young men concerning the most effective ways for the seduction of women, the course to be followed with a lady of quality, the different course in dealing with an actress, the policy of a long siege, and the policy of an attack by storm. He marries again and gets money with his wife, a French marquise, once beautiful, somewhat older than himself, and seems to be fond of her and happy with her, and discourses to her as to others about the variety of his successful amours. Through long, long years his shadow, his ghost, for in the political sense it is {134} nothing else, keeps revisiting the glimpses of the moon in England. For all the influence he is destined to have on the realities of political life, he might as well be already lying in that tomb in the old church on the edge of the Thames at Battersea where his strangely brilliant, strangely blighted career is to come to an end at last.




[Sidenote: 1715—Conflicts of parties]

All this time the Jacobite demonstrations were still going on in London and in various parts of England with as much energy as ever. Green boughs and oak apples were worn, and even flaunted, about the streets, by groups of persons on May 29th, the anniversary of Charles the Second's restoration. We read of the riots in London, of Whigs of the "Loyal Society" going about with little warming-pans as emblems of their hostility to the Stuart cause, and being met by other mobs bearing white roses as badges of the Stuart cause. There was a continual battle of pamphleteers and of ballad-writers. "High-Church and Ormond!" were shouted for and sung on one side of the political field, and the "Pope and Perkin," that is to say, James Stuart, were as liberally denounced on the other. The scandals about King George's mistresses were freely alluded to in the Jacobite songs. The public of all parties seem to have very cordially detested the ill-favored ladies whom George had brought over from Hanover. The coarsest and grossest abuse was poured forth in ballads and in pamphlets against the King's favorites and courtiers, and was sung and shouted day and night in the public streets.

Then, and for long after, these public streets were battle-grounds on which Whigs and Tories, Hanoverians and Jacobites, fought out their quarrel. Men carried turnips in their hats in mockery of the German elector who had threatened to make St. James's Park a turnip-field, and were prepared to fight lustily for their bucolic emblem. Women fanned the strife, wore white roses for the King {136} over the water, or Sweet William in compliment to the "immortal memory" of William of Nassau. Sometimes even women were roughly treated. On one occasion we read of a serving-girl, who had made known the hiding-place of a Jacobite, being attacked and nearly murdered by a Jacobite mob, and rescued by some Whig gentlemen. On another occasion a Whig gentleman seeing a young lady in the street with a white rose in her bosom, jumped from his coach, tore out the disloyal blossom, lashed the young lady with his whip, and handed her over to a gang of Whigs, who would have stripped and scourged her but for the timely appearance of some Jacobite gentry, by whom she was carried home in safety. The "Flying Post" warns all "he-Jacobites" and "she-Jacobites" that if they are not careful they will meet with more severe treatment than hitherto, and then alludes to some pretty severe treatment the poor "she-Jacobites" had already received.

[Sidenote: 1715—"All for our rightful King"]

To do the King and his family justice, they behaved with courage and composure through this long season of popular excitement. They went everywhere as they pleased, braving the dangers that certainly existed. Once a man named Moor spat in the face of the Princess of Wales as she was going through the streets, and he was scourged till he cried "God bless King George!" In 1718 a youth named Sheppard was hanged for planning King George's death. This led a Hanoverian fanatic named Bowes to suggest to the ministry that in return he should go to Italy and kill King James. His proffer of political retaliation only resulted in his being shut up as a madman. At last the temper of the times and the frequent threats of assassination compelled the King to take more care of himself. Though he walked in Kensington Gardens every day, the gardens were first searched, and then carefully watched by soldiers.

When the rebellion was over, the Government found they had a large number of prisoners on their hands, many of them of high rank. Several officers taken on {137} the field had already been treated as deserters and shot, after a trial by drum-head court-martial. Some of the prisoners of higher rank were brought into London in a manner like that of captives dragged along in an old Roman triumph, or like that of actual convicts taken to Tyburn. They were marched in procession from Highgate through London, each man sitting on a horse, having his arms tied with cords behind his back, the horses led by soldiers, with a military escort drumming and fifing a march of triumph. The men of noble rank were confined in the Tower; others, many of them men of position, such as Mr. Thomas Forster, a Northumberland gentleman, and member for his county, were thrust into Newgate, whose horrors have been so well described in Scott's "Rob Roy." The Rev. Robert Patten, who had been a conspicuous Jacobite, played a Titus Oates part in betraying his companions, and his name figures for King's evidence incessantly in the political trials. When he tired of treachery he retired to the obscurity of his parish of Allendale, in Northumberland, and gave the world his history of the rebellion in which he had played so base a part.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse