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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 6 out of 16

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into effect the provisions of this popular alliance; and the
great Tory poet of that age, in his finest satires, repeatedly
spoke with reverence of the "triple bond."

This negotiation raised the fame of Temple both at home and
abroad to a great height, to such a height, indeed, as seems to
have excited the jealousy of his friend Arlington. While London
and Amsterdam resounded with acclamations of joy, the Secretary,
in very cold official language, communicated to his friend the
approbation of the King; and, lavish as the Government was of
titles and of money, its ablest servant was neither ennobled nor

Temple's next mission was to Aix-la-Chapelle, where a general
congress met for the purpose of perfecting the work of the Triple
Alliance. On his road he received abundant proofs of the
estimation in which he was held. Salutes were fired from the
walls of the towns through which lie passed; the population
poured forth into the streets to see him; and the magistrates
entertained him with speeches and banquets. After the close of
the negotiations at Aix he was appointed Ambassador at the Hague.
But in both these missions he experienced much vexation from the
rigid, and, indeed, unjust parsimony of the Government. Profuse
to many unworthy applicants, the Ministers were niggardly to him
alone. They secretly disliked his politics; and they seem to have
indemnified themselves for the humiliation of adopting his
measures, by cutting down his salary and delaying the settlement
of his outfit.

At the Hague he was received with cordiality by De Witt, and with
the most signal marks of respect by the States-General. His
situation was in one point extremely delicate, The Prince of
Orange, the hereditary chief of the faction opposed to the
administration of De Witt, was the nephew of Charles. To preserve
the confidence of the ruling party, without showing any want of
respect to so near a relation of his own master, was no easy
task, But Temple acquitted himself so well that he appears to
have been in great favour, both with the Grand Pensionary and
with the Prince.

In the main, the years which he spent at the Hague seem, in spite
of some pecuniary difficulties occasioned by the ill-will of the
English Ministers, to have passed very agreeably. He enjoyed the
highest personal consideration. He was surrounded by objects
interesting in the highest degree to a man of his observant turn
of mind. He had no wearing labour, no heavy responsibility; and,
if he had no opportunity of adding to his high reputation, he ran
no risk of impairing it.

But evil times were at hand. Though Charles had for a moment
deviated into a wise and dignified policy, his heart had always
been with France; and France employed every means of seduction to
lure him back. His impatience of control, his greediness for
money, his passion for beauty, his family affections, all his
tastes, all his feelings, were practised on with the utmost
dexterity. His interior Cabinet was now composed of men such as
that generation, and that generation alone, produced; of men at
whose audacious profligacy the renegades and jobbers of our own
time look with the same sort of admiring despair with which our
sculptors contemplate the Theseus, and our painters the Cartoons.
To be a real, hearty, deadly enemy of the liberties and religion
of the nation was, in that dark conclave, an honourable
distinction, a distinction which belonged only to the daring and
impetuous Clifford. His associates were men to whom all creeds
and all constitutions were alike; who were equally ready to
profess the faith of Geneva, of Lambeth, and of Rome; who were
equally ready to be tools of power without any sense of loyalty,
and stirrers of sedition without any zeal for freedom.

It was hardly possible even for a man so penetrating as De Witt
to foresee to what depths of wickedness and infamy this execrable
administration would descend. Yet, many signs of the great woe
which was coming on Europe, the visit of the Duchess of Orleans
to her brother, the unexplained mission of Buckingham to Paris,
the sudden occupation of Lorraine by the French, made the Grand
Pensionary uneasy, and his alarm increased when he learned that
Temple had received orders to repair instantly to London. De Witt
earnestly pressed for an explanation. Temple very sincerely
replied that he hoped that the English Ministers would adhere to
the principles of the Triple Alliance. "I can answer," he said,
"only for myself. But that I can do. If a new system is to be
adopted, I will never have any part in it. I have told the King
so; and I will make my words good. If I return you will know
more: and if I do not return you will guess more." De Witt
smiled, and answered that he would hope the best, and would do
all in his power to prevent others from forming unfavourable

In October 1670, Temple reached London; and all his worst
suspicions were immediately more than confirmed. He repaired to
the Secretary's house, and was kept an hour and a half waiting in
the ante-chamber, whilst Lord Ashley was closeted with Arlington.
When at length the doors were thrown open, Arlington was dry and
cold, asked trifling questions about the voyage, and then, in
order to escape from the necessity of discussing business, called
in his daughter, an engaging little girl of three years old, who
was long after described by poets "as dressed in all the bloom of
smiling nature," and whom Evelyn, one of the witnesses of her
inauspicious marriage, mournfully designated as "the sweetest,
hopefullest, most beautiful, child, and most virtuous too." Any
particular conversation was impossible: and Temple, who with all
his constitutional or philosophical indifference, was
sufficiently sensitive on the side of vanity, felt this treatment
keenly. The next day he offered himself to the notice of the
King, who was snuffing up the morning air and feeding his ducks
in the Mall. Charles was civil, but, like Arlington, carefully
avoided all conversation on politics. Temple found that all his
most respectable friends were entirely excluded from the secrets
of the inner council, and were awaiting in anxiety and dread for
what those mysterious deliberations might produce. At length he
obtained a glimpse of light. The bold spirit and fierce passions
of Clifford made him the most unfit of all men to be the keeper
of a momentous secret. He told Temple, with great vehemence, that
the States had behaved basely, that De Witt was a rogue and a
rascal, that it was below the King of England, or any other king,
to have anything to do with such wretches; that this ought to be
made known to all the world, and that it was the duty of the
Minister of the Hague to declare it publicly. Temple commanded
his temper as well as he could, and replied calmly and firmly,
that he should make no such declaration, and that, if he were
called upon to give his opinion of the States and their
Ministers, he would say exactly what he thought.

He now saw clearly that the tempest was gathering fast, that the
great alliance which he had formed and over which he had watched
with parental care was about to be dissolved, that times were at
hand when it would be necessary for him, if he continued in
public life, either to take part decidedly against the Court, or
to forfeit the high reputation which he enjoyed at home and
abroad. He began to make preparations for retiring altogether
from business. He enlarged a little garden which he had purchased
at Sheen, and laid out some money in ornamenting his house there.
He was still nominally ambassador to Holland; and the English
Ministers continued during some months to flatter the States with
the hope that he would speedily return. At length, in June 1671,
the designs of the Cabal were ripe. The infamous treaty with
France had been ratified. The season of deception was past, and
that of insolence and violence had arrived. Temple received his
formal dismission, kissed the King's hand, was repaid for his
services with some of those vague compliments and promises which
cost so little to the cold heart, the easy temper, and the ready
tongue of Charles, and quietly withdrew to his little nest, as he
called it, at Sheen.

There he amused himself with gardening, which he practised so
successfully that the fame of his fruit-trees soon spread far and
wide. But letters were his chief solace. He had, as we have
mentioned, been from his youth in the habit of diverting himself
with composition. The clear and agreeable language of his
despatches had early attracted the notice of his employers; and,
before the peace of Breda, he had, at the request of Arlington,
published a pamphlet on the war, of which nothing is now known,
except that it had some vogue at the time, and that Charles, not
a contemptible judge, pronounced it to be very well written.
Temple had also, a short time before he began to reside at the
Hague, written a treatise on the state of Ireland, in which he
showed all the feelings of a Cromwellian. He had gradually formed
a style singularly lucid and melodious, superficially deformed,
indeed, by Gallicisms and Hispanicisms, picked up in travel or
in negotiation, but at the bottom pure English, which generally
flowed along with careless simplicity, but occasionally rose even
into Ciceronian magnificence. The length of his sentences has
often been remarked. But in truth this length is only apparent. A
critic who considers as one sentence everything that lies between
two full stops will undoubtedly call Temple's sentences long. But
a critic who examines them carefully will find that they are not
swollen by parenthetical matter, that their structure is scarcely
ever intricate, that they are formed merely by accumulation, and
that, by the simple process of now and then leaving out a
conjunction, and now and then substituting a full stop for a
semicolon, they might, without any alteration in the order of the
words, be broken up into very short periods with no sacrifice
except that of euphony. The long sentences of Hooker and
Clarendon, on the contrary, are really long sentences, and cannot
be turned into short ones, without being entirely taken to

The best known of the works which Temple composed during his
first retreat from official business are an Essay on Government,
which seems to us exceedingly childish, and an Account of the
United Provinces, which we value as a masterpiece in its kind.
Whoever compares these two treatises will probably agree with us
in thinking that Temple was not a very deep or accurate reasoner,
but was an excellent observer, that he had no call to
philosophical speculation, but that he was qualified to excel as
a writer of Memoirs and Travels.

While Temple was engaged in these pursuits, the great storm which
had long been brooding over Europe burst with such fury as for a
moment seemed to threaten ruin to all free governments and all
Protestant churches. France and England, without seeking for any
decent pretext, declared war against Holland. The immense armies
of Lewis poured across the Rhine, and invaded the territory of
the United Provinces. The Dutch seemed to be paralysed by terror.
Great towns opened their gates to straggling parties. Regiments
flung down their arms without seeing an enemy. Guelderland,
Overyssel, Utrecht were overrun by the conquerors. The fires of
the French camp were seen from the walls of Amsterdam. In the
first madness of despair the devoted people turned their rage
against the most illustrious of their fellow-citizens. De Ruyter
was saved with difficulty from assassins. De Witt was torn to
pieces by an infuriated rabble. No hope was left to the
Commonwealth, save in the dauntless, the ardent, the
indefatigable, the unconquerable spirit which glowed under the
frigid demeanour of the young Prince of Orange.

That great man rose at once to the full dignity of his part, and
approved himself a worthy descendant of the line of heroes who
had vindicated the liberties of Europe against the house of
Austria. Nothing could shake his fidelity to his country, not his
close connection with the royal family of England, not the most
earnest solicitations, not the most tempting offers. The spirit
of the nation, that spirit which had maintained the great
conflict against the gigantic power of Philip, revived in all
its strength. Counsels, such as are inspired by a generous
despair, and are almost always followed by a speedy dawn of hope,
were gravely concerted by the statesmen of Holland. To open their
dykes, to man their ships, to leave their country, with all its
miracles of art and industry, its cities, its canals, its villas,
its pastures, and its tulip gardens, buried under the waves of
the German ocean, to bear to a distant climate their Calvinistic
faith and their old Batavian liberties, to fix, perhaps with
happier auspices, the new Stadthouse of their Commonwealth, under
other stars, and amidst a strange vegetation, in the Spice
Islands of the Eastern seas; such were the plans which they had
the spirit to form; and it is seldom that men who have the spirit
to form such plans are reduced to the necessity of executing

The Allies had, during a short period, obtained success beyond
their hopes. This was their auspicious moment. They neglected to
improve it. It passed away; and it returned no more. The Prince
of Orange arrested the progress of the French armies. Lewis
returned to be amused and flattered at Versailles. The country
was under water. The winter approached. The weather became
stormy. The fleets of the combined kings could no longer keep the
sea. The republic had obtained a respite; and the circumstances
were such that a respite was, in a military view, important, in a
political view almost decisive.

The alliance against Holland, formidable as it was, was yet of
such a nature that it could not succeed at all, unless it
succeeded at once. The English Ministers could not carry on the
war without money. They could legally obtain money only from the
Parliament and they were most unwilling to call the Parliament
together. The measures which Charles had adopted at home were
even more unpopular than his foreign policy. He had bound himself
by a treaty with Lewis to re-establish the Catholic religion in
England; and, in pursuance of this design, he had entered on the
same path which his brother afterwards trod with greater
obstinacy to a more fatal end. The King had annulled, by his own
sole authority, the laws against Catholics and other dissenters.
The matter of the Declaration of Indulgence exasperated one-half
of his subjects, and the manner the other half. Liberal men would
have rejoiced to see a toleration granted, at least to all
Protestant sects. Many High Churchmen had no objection to the
King's dispensing power. But a tolerant act done in an
unconstitutional way excited the opposition of all who were
zealous either for the Church or for the privileges of the
people, that is to say, of ninety-nine Englishmen out of a
hundred. The Ministers were, therefore, most unwilling to meet
the Houses. Lawless and desperate as their counsels were, the
boldest of them had too much value for his neck to think of
resorting to benevolences, privy-seals, ship-money, or any of the
other unlawful modes of extortion which had been familiar to the
preceding age. The audacious fraud of shutting up the Exchequer
furnished them with about twelve hundred thousand pounds, a sum
which, even in better hands than theirs, would not have sufficed
for the war-charges of a single year. And this was a step which
could never be repeated, a step which, like most breaches of
public faith, was speedily found to have caused pecuniary
difficulties greater than those which it removed. All the money
that could be raised was gone; Holland was not conquered; and the
King had no resource but in a Parliament.

Had a general election taken place at this crisis, it is probable
that the country would have sent up representatives as resolutely
hostile to the Court as those who met in November 1640; that the
whole domestic and foreign policy of the Government would have
been instantly changed; and that the members of the Cabal would
have expiated their crimes on Tower Hill. But the House of
Commons was still the same which had been elected twelve years
before, in the midst of the transports of joy, repentance, and
loyalty which followed the Restoration; and no pains had been
spared to attach it to the Court by places, pensions, and bribes.
To the great mass of the people it was scarcely less odious than
the Cabinet itself. Yet, though it did not immediately proceed to
those strong measures which a new House would in all probability
have adopted, it was sullen and unmanageable, and undid, slowly
indeed, and by degrees, but most effectually, all that the
Ministers had done. In one session it annihilated their system of
internal government. In a second session it gave a death-blow to
their foreign policy.

The dispensing power was the first object of attack. The Commons
would not expressly approve the war; but neither did they as yet
expressly condemn it; and they were even willing to grant the
King a supply for the purpose of continuing hostilities, on
condition that he would redress internal grievances, among which
the Declaration of Indulgence held the foremost place.

Shaftesbury, who was Chancellor, saw that the game was up, that
he had got all that was to be got by siding with despotism and
Popery, and that it was high time to think of being a demagogue
and a good Protestant. The Lord Treasurer Clifford was marked out
by his boldness, by his openness, by his zeal for the Catholic
religion, by something which, compared with the villainy of his
colleagues, might almost be called honesty, to be the scapegoat
of the whole conspiracy. The King came in person to the House of
Peers for the purpose of requesting their Lordships to mediate
between him and the Commons touching the Declaration of
Indulgence. He remained in the House while his speech was taken
into consideration; a common practice with him; for the debates
amused his sated mind, and were sometimes, he used to say, as
good as a comedy. A more sudden turn his Majesty had certainly
never seen in any comedy of intrigue, either at his own play-
house, or at the Duke's, than that which this memorable debate
produced. The Lord Treasurer spoke with characteristic ardour and
intrepidity in defence of the Declaration. When he sat down, the
Lord Chancellor rose from the woolsack, and, to the amazement of
the King and of the House, attacked Clifford, attacked the
Declaration for which he had himself spoken in Council, gave up
the whole policy of the Cabinet, and declared himself on the side
of the House of Commons. Even that age had not witnessed so
portentous a display of impudence.

The King, by the advice of the French Court, which cared much
more about the war on the Continent than about the conversion of
the English heretics, determined to save his foreign policy at
the expense of his plans in favour of the Catholic church. He
obtained a supply; and in return for this concession he cancelled
the Declaration of Indulgence, and made a formal renunciation of
the dispensing power before he prorogued the Houses.

But it was no more in his power to go on with the war than to
maintain his arbitrary system at home. His Ministry, betrayed
within, and fiercely assailed from without, went rapidly to
pieces. Clifford threw down the white staff, and retired to the
woods of Ugbrook, vowing, with bitter tears, that he would never
again see that turbulent city, and that perfidious Court.
Shaftesbury was ordered to deliver up the Great Seal, and
instantly carried over his front of brass and his tongue of
poison to the ranks of the Opposition. The remaining members of
the Cabal had neither the capacity of the late Chancellor, nor
the courage and enthusiasm of the late Treasurer. They were not
only unable to carry on their former projects, but began to
tremble for their own lands and heads. The Parliament, as soon as
it again met, began to murmur against the alliance with France
and the war with Holland; and the murmur gradually swelled into a
fierce and terrible clamour. Strong resolutions were adopted
against Lauderdale and Buckingham. Articles of impeachment were
exhibited against Arlington. The Triple Alliance was mentioned
with reverence in every debate; and the eyes of all men were
turned towards the quiet orchard, where the author of that great
league was amusing himself with reading and gardening.

Temple was ordered to attend the King, and was charged with the
office of negotiating a separate peace with Holland. The Spanish
Ambassador to the Court of London had been empowered by the
States-General to treat in their name. With him Temple came to a
speedy agreement; and in three days a treaty was concluded.

The highest honours of the State were now within Temple's reach.
After the retirement of Clifford, the white staff had been
delivered to Thomas Osborne, soon after created Earl of Danby,
who was related to Lady Temple, and had, many years earlier,
travelled and played tennis with Sir William. Danby was an
interested and dishonest man, but by no means destitute of
abilities or of judgment. He was, indeed, a far better adviser
than any in whom Charles had hitherto reposed confidence.
Clarendon was a man of another generation, and did not in the
least understand the society which he had to govern. The members
of the Cabal were ministers of a foreign power, and enemies of
the Established Church; and had in consequence raised against
themselves and their master an irresistible storm of national and
religious hatred. Danby wished to strengthen and extend the
prerogative; but he had the sense to see that this could be done
only by a complete change of system. He knew the English people
and the House of Commons; and he knew that the course which
Charles had recently taken, if obstinately pursued, might well
end before the windows of the Banqueting-House. He saw that the
true policy of the Crown was to ally itself, not with the feeble,
the hated, the downtrodden Catholics, but with the powerful, the
wealthy, the popular, the dominant Church of England; to trust
for aid not to a foreign Prince whose name was hateful to the
British nation, and whose succours could be obtained only on
terms of vassalage, but to the old Cavalier party, to the landed
gentry, the clergy, and the universities. By rallying round the
throne the whole strength of the Royalists and High Churchmen,
and by using without stint all the resources of corruption, he
flattered himself that he could manage the Parliament. That he
failed is to be attributed less to himself than to his master. Of
the disgraceful dealings which were still kept up with the French
Court, Danby deserved little or none of the blame, though he
suffered the whole punishment.

Danby, with great parliamentary talents, had paid little
attention to European politics, and wished for the help of some
person on whom he could rely in the foreign department. A plan
was accordingly arranged for making Temple Secretary of State.
Arlington was the only member of the Cabal who still held office
in England. The temper of the House of Commons made it necessary
to remove him, or rather to require him to sell out; for at that
time the great offices of State were bought and sold as
commissions in the army now are. Temple was informed that he
should have the Seals if he would pay Arlington six thousand
pounds. The transaction had nothing in it discreditable,
according to the notions of that age, and the investment would
have been a good one; for we imagine that at that time the gains
which a Secretary of State might make, without doing any thing
considered as improper, were very considerable. Temple's friends
offered to lend him the money; but lie was fully determined not
to take a post of so much responsibility in times so agitated,
and under a Prince on whom so little reliance could be placed,
and accepted the embassy to the Hague, leaving Arlington to find
another purchaser.

Before Temple left England he had a long audience of the King, to
whom he spoke with great severity of the measures adopted by the
late Ministry. The King owned that things had turned out ill.
"But," said he, "if I had been well served, I might have made a
good business of it." Temple was alarmed at this language, and
inferred from it that the system of the Cabal had not been
abandoned, but only suspended. He therefore thought it his duty
to go, as he expresses it, "to the bottom of the matter." He
strongly represented to the King the impossibility of
establishing either absolute government, or the Catholic religion
in England; and concluded by repeating an observation which he
had heard at Brussels from M. Gourville, a very intelligent
Frenchman well known to Charles: "A king of England," said
Gourville, "who is willing to be the man of his people, is the
greatest king in the world, but if he wishes to be more, by
heaven he is nothing at all!" The King betrayed some symptoms of
impatience during this lecture; but at last he laid his hand
kindly on Temple's shoulder, and said, "You are right, and so is
Gourville; and I will be the man of my people."

With this assurance Temple repaired to the Hague in July 1674.
Holland was now secure, and France was surrounded on every side
by enemies. Spain and the Empire were in arms for the purpose of
compelling Lewis to abandon all that he had acquired since the
treaty of the Pyrenees. A congress for the purpose of putting an
end to the war was opened at Nimeguen under the mediation of
England in 1675; and to that congress Temple was deputed. The
work of conciliation however, went on very slowly. The
belligerent powers were still sanguine, and the mediating power
was unsteady and insincere.

In the meantime the Opposition in England became more and more
formidable, and seemed fully determined to force the King into a
war with France. Charles was desirous of making some appointments
which might strengthen the administration and conciliate the
confidence of the public. No man was more esteemed by the nation
than Temple; yet he had never been concerned in any opposition to
any government. In July 1677, he was sent for from Nimeguen.
Charles received him with caresses, earnestly pressed him to
accept the seals of Secretary of State, and promised to bear half
the charge of buying out the present holder. Temple was charmed
by the kindness and politeness of the King's manner, and by the
liveliness of his Majesty's conversation; but his prudence was
not to he so laid asleep. He calmly and steadily excused himself.
The King affected to treat his excuses as mere jest, and gaily
said, "Go; get you gone to Sheen. We shall have no good of you
till you have been there; and when you have rested yourself, come
up again." Temple withdrew and stayed two days at his villa, but
returned to town in the same mind; and the King was forced to
consent at least to a delay.

But while Temple thus carefully shunned the responsibility of
bearing a part in the general direction of affairs, he gave a
signal proof of that never-failing sagacity which enabled him to
find out ways of distinguishing himself without risk. He had a
principal share in bringing about an event which was at the time
hailed with general satisfaction, and which subsequently produced
consequences of the highest importance. This was the marriage of
the Prince of Orange and the Lady Mary.

In the following year Temple returned to the Hague; and thence he
was ordered, in the close of 1678, to repair to Nimeguen, for the
purpose of signing the hollow and unsatisfactory treaty by which
the distractions of Europe were for a short time suspended. He
grumbled much at being required to affix his name to bad articles
which he had not framed, and still more at having to travel in
very cold weather. After all, a difficulty of etiquette prevented
him from signing, and he returned to the Hague. Scarcely had he
arrived there when he received intelligence that the King, whose
embarrassments were now far greater than ever, was fully resolved
immediately to appoint him Secretary of State. He a third time
declined that high post, and began to make preparations for a
journey to Italy; thinking, doubtless, that he should spend his
time much more pleasantly among pictures and ruins than in such
a whirlpool of political and religious frenzy as was then raging
in London.

But the King was in extreme necessity, and was no longer to be so
easily put off. Temple received positive orders to repair
instantly to England. He obeyed, and found the country in a state
even more fearful than that which he had pictured to himself.

Those are terrible conjunctures, when the discontents of a
nation, not light and capricious discontents, but discontents
which have been steadily increasing during a long series of
years, have attained their full maturity. The discerning few
predict the approach of these conjunctures, but predict in vain.
To the many, the evil season comes as a total eclipse of the sun
at noon comes to a people of savages. Society which, but a short
time before, was in a state of perfect repose, is on a sudden
agitated with the most fearful convulsions, and seems to be on
the verge of dissolution; and the rulers who, till the mischief
was beyond the reach of all ordinary remedies, had never bestowed
one thought on its existence, stand bewildered and panic-
stricken, without hope or resource, in the midst of the
confusion. One such conjuncture this generation has seen. God
grant that we may never see another! At such a conjuncture it was
that Temple landed on English ground in the beginning of 1679.

The Parliament had obtained a glimpse of the King's dealings with
France; and their anger had been unjustly directed against Danby,
whose conduct as to that matter had been, on the whole, deserving
rather of praise than of censure. The Popish plot, the murder of
Godfrey, the infamous inventions of Oates, the discovery of
Colman's letters, had excited the nation to madness. All the
disaffection which had been generated by eighteen years of
misgovernment had come to the birth together. At this moment the
King had been advised to dissolve that Parliament which had been
elected just after his restoration, and which, though its
composition had since that time been greatly altered, was still
far more deeply imbued with the old cavalier spirit than any that
had preceded, or that was likely to follow it. The general
election had commenced, and was proceeding with a degree of
excitement never before known. The tide ran furiously against the
Court. It was clear that a majority of the new House of Commons
would be, to use a word which came into fashion a few months
later, decided Whigs. Charles had found it necessary to yield to
the violence of the public feeling. The Duke of York was on the
point of retiring to Holland. "I never," says Temple, who had
seen the abolition of monarchy, the dissolution of the Long
Parliament, the fall of the Protectorate, the declaration of Monk
against the Rump, "I never saw greater disturbance in men's

The King now with the utmost urgency besought Temple to take the
seals. The pecuniary part of the arrangement no longer presented
any difficulty; and Sir William was not quite so decided in his
refusal as he had formerly been. He took three days to consider
the posture of affairs, and to examine his own feelings; and he
came to the conclusion that "the scene was unfit for such an
actor as he knew himself to be." Yet he felt that, by refusing
help to the King at such a crisis, he might give much offence and
incur much censure. He shaped his course with his usual
dexterity. He affected to be very desirous of a seat in
Parliament; yet he contrived to be an unsuccessful candidate;
and, when all the writs were returned, he represented that it
would be useless for him to take the seals till he could procure
admittance to the House of Commons; and in this manner he
succeeded in avoiding the greatness which others desired to
thrust upon him.

The Parliament met; and the violence of its proceedings surpassed
all expectation. The Long Parliament itself, with much greater
provocation, had at its commencement been less violent. The
Treasurer was instantly driven from office, impeached, sent to
the Tower. Sharp and vehement votes were passed on the subject of
the Popish Plot. The Commons were prepared to go much further, to
wrest from the King his prerogative of mercy in cases of high
political crimes, and to alter the succession to the Crown.
Charles was thoroughly perplexed and dismayed. Temple saw him
almost daily and thought him impressed with a deep sense of his
errors, and of the miserable state into which they had brought
him. Their conferences became longer and more confidential; and
Temple began to flatter himself with the hope that he might be
able to reconcile parties at home as he had reconciled hostile
States abroad; that he might be able to suggest a plan which
should allay all heats, efface the memory of all past grievances,
secure the nation from misgovernment, and protect the Crown
against the encroachments of Parliament.

Temple's plan was that the existing Privy Council, which
consisted of fifty members, should be dissolved, that there
should no longer be a small interior council, like that which is
now designated as the Cabinet, that a new Privy Council of thirty
members should be appointed, and that the King should pledge
himself to govern by the constant advice of this body, to suffer
all his affairs of every kind to be freely debated there, and not
to reserve any part of the public business for a secret

Fifteen of the members of this new council were to be great
officers of State. The other fifteen were to be independent
noblemen and gentlemen of the greatest weight in the country. In
appointing them particular regard was to be had to the amount of
their property. The whole annual income of the counsellors was
estimated at 300,000. The annual income of all the members of
the House of Commons was not supposed to exceed 400,000 The
appointment of wealthy counsellors Temple describes as "a chief
regard, necessary to this constitution."

This plan was the subject of frequent conversation between the
King and Temple. After a month passed in discussions to which no
third person appears to have been privy, Charles declared himself
satisfied of the expediency of the proposed measure, and resolved
to carry it into effect.

It is much to be regretted that Temple has left us no account of
these conferences. Historians have, therefore, been left to form
their own conjectures as to the object of this very extraordinary
plan, "this Constitution," as Temple himself calls it. And we
cannot say that any explanation which has yet been given seems to
us quite satisfactory. Indeed, almost all the writers whom we
have consulted appear to consider the change as merely a change
of administration, and so considering it, they generally applaud
it. Mr. Courtenay, who has evidently examined this subject with
more attention than has often been bestowed upon it, seems to
think Temple's scheme very strange, unintelligible, and absurd.
It is with very great diffidence that we offer our own solution
of what we have always thought one of the great riddles of
English history. We are strongly inclined to suspect that the
appointment of the new Privy Council was really a much more
remarkable event than has generally been supposed, and that what
Temple had in view was to effect, under colour of a change of
administration, a permanent change in the Constitution.

The plan, considered merely as a plan for the formation of a
Cabinet, is so obviously inconvenient, that we cannot easily
believe this to have been Temple's chief object. The number of
the new Council alone would be a most serious objection. The
largest Cabinets of modern times have not, we believe, consisted
of more than fifteen members. Even this number has generally been
thought too large. The Marquess Wellesley, whose judgment on a
question of executive administration is entitled to as much
respect as that of any statesman that England ever produced,
expressed, during the ministerial negotiations of the year 1812,
his conviction that even thirteen was an inconveniently large
number. But in a Cabinet of thirty members what chance could
there be of finding unity, secrecy, expedition, any of the
qualities which such a body ought to possess? If, indeed, the
members of such a Cabinet were closely bound together by
interest, if they all had a deep stake in the permanence of the
Administration, if the majority were dependent on a small number
of leading men, the thirty might perhaps act as a smaller number
would act, though more slowly, more awkwardly, and with more risk
of improper disclosures. But the Council which Temple proposed
was so framed that if, instead of thirty members, it had
contained only ten, it would still have been the most unwieldy
and discordant Cabinet that ever sat. One half of the members
were to be persons holding no office, persons who had no motive
to compromise their opinions, or to take any share of the
responsibility of an unpopular measure, persons, therefore, who
might be expected as often as there might be a crisis requiring
the most cordial co-operation, to draw off from the rest, and to
throw every difficulty in the way of the public business. The
circumstance that they were men of enormous private wealth only
made the matter worse. The House of Commons is a checking body;
and therefore it is desirable that it should, to a great extent,
consist of men of independent fortune, who receive nothing and
expect nothing from the Government. But with executive boards the
case is quite different. Their business is not to check, but to
act. The very same things, therefore, which are the virtues of
Parliaments may be vices in Cabinets. We can hardly conceive a
greater curse to the country than an Administration, the members
of which should be as perfectly independent of each other, and as
little under the necessity of making mutual concessions, as the
representatives of London and Devonshire in the House of Commons
are and ought to be. Now Temple's new Council was to contain
fifteen members who were to hold no offices, and the average
amount of whose private estates was ten thousand pounds a year,
an income which, in proportion to the wants of a man of rank of
that period, was at least equal to thirty thousand a year in our
time. Was it to be expected that such men would gratuitously take
on themselves the labour and responsibility of Ministers, and the
unpopularity which the best Ministers must sometimes be prepared
to brave? Could there be any doubt that an Opposition would soon
be formed within the Cabinet itself, and that the consequence
would be disunion, altercation, tardiness in operations, the
divulging of secrets, everything most alien from the nature of an
executive council?

Is it possible to imagine that considerations so grave and so
obvious should have altogether escaped the notice of a man of
Temple's sagacity and experience? One of two things appears to us
to be certain, either that his project has been misunderstood, or
that his talents for public affairs have been overrated.

We lean to the opinion that his project has been misunderstood.
His new Council, as we have shown, would have been an exceedingly
bad Cabinet. The inference which we are inclined to draw is this,
that he meant his Council to serve some other purpose than that
of a mere Cabinet. Barillon used four or five words which
contain, we think, the key of the whole mystery. Mr. Courtenay
calls them pithy words; but he does not, if we are right,
apprehend their whole force. "Ce sont," said Barillon, "des
Etats, non des conseils."

In order clearly to understand what we imagine to have been
Temple's views, the reader must remember that the Government of
England was at that moment, and had been during, nearly eighty
years, in a state of transition. A change, not the less real or
the less extensive because disguised under ancient names and
forms, was in constant progress. The theory of the Constitution,
the fundamental laws which fix the powers of the three branches
of the legislature, underwent no material change between the time
of Elizabeth and the time of William the Third. The most
celebrated laws of the seventeenth century on those subjects, the
Petition of Right, the Declaration of Right, are purely
declaratory. They purport to be merely recitals of the old polity
of England. They do not establish free government as a salutary
improvement, but claim it as an undoubted and immemorial
inheritance. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that, during the
period of which we speak, all the mutual relations of all the
orders of the State did practically undergo an entire change. The
letter of the law might be unaltered; but, at the beginning of
the seventeenth century, the power of the Crown was, in fact,
decidedly predominant in the State; and at the end of that
century the power of Parliament, and especially of the Lower
House, had become, in fact, decidedly predominant. At the
beginning of the century, the sovereign perpetually violated,
with little or no opposition, the clear privileges of Parliament.
At the close of the century, the Parliament had virtually drawn
to itself just as much as it chose of the prerogative of the
Crown. The sovereign retained the shadow of that authority of
which the Tudors had held the substance. He had a legislative
veto which he never ventured to exercise, a power of appointing
Ministers, whom an address of the Commons could at any moment
force him to discard, a power of declaring war which, without
Parliamentary support, could not be carried on for a single day.
The Houses of Parliament were now not merely legislative
assemblies, not merely checking assemblies; they were great
Councils of State, whose voice, when loudly and firmly raised,
was decisive on all questions of foreign and domestic policy.
There was no part of the whole system of Government with which
they had not power to interfere by advice equivalent to command;
and, if they abstained from intermeddling with some departments
of the executive administration, they were withheld from doing so
only by their own moderation, and by the confidence which they
reposed in the Ministers of the Crown. There is perhaps no other
instance in history of a change so complete in the real
constitution of an empire, unaccompanied by any corresponding
change in the theoretical constitution. The disguised
transformation of the Roman commonwealth into a despotic
monarchy, under the long administration of Augustus, is perhaps
the nearest parallel.

This great alteration did not take place without strong and
constant resistance on the part of the kings of the house of
Stuart. Till 1642, that resistance was generally of an open,
violent, and lawless nature. If the Commons refused supplies, the
sovereign levied a benevolence. If the Commons impeached a
favourite minister, the sovereign threw the chiefs of the
Opposition into prison. Of these efforts to keep down the
Parliament by despotic force, without the pretext of law, the
last, the most celebrated, and the most wicked was the attempt to
seize the five members. That attempt was the signal for civil
war, and was followed by eighteen years of blood and confusion.

The days of trouble passed by; the exiles returned; the throne
was again set up in its high place; the peerage and the hierarchy
recovered their ancient splendour. The fundamental laws which had
been recited in the Petition of Right were again solemnly
recognised. The theory of the English constitution was the same
on the day when the hand of Charles the Second was kissed by the
kneeling Houses at Whitehall as on the day when his father set up
the royal standard at Nottingham. There was a short period of
doting fondness, a hysterica passio of loyal repentance and love.
But emotions of this sort are transitory; and the interests on
which depends the progress of great societies are permanent. The
transport of reconciliation was soon over; and the old struggle

The old struggle recommenced; but not precisely after the old
fashion. The Sovereign was not indeed a man whom any common
warning would have restrained from the grossest violations of
law. But it was no common warning that he had received. All
around him were the recent signs of the vengeance of an oppressed
nation, the fields on which the noblest blood of the island had
been poured forth, the castles shattered by the cannon of the
Parliamentary armies, the hall where sat the stern tribunal to
whose bar had been led, through lowering ranks of pikemen, the
captive heir of a hundred kings, the stately pilasters before
which the great execution had been so fearlessly done in the face
of heaven and earth. The restored Prince, admonished by the fate
of his father, never ventured to attack his Parliaments with open
and arbitrary violence. It was at one time by means of the
Parliament itself, at another time by means of the courts of law,
that he attempted to regain for the Crown its old predominance.
He began with great advantages. The Parliament of 1661 was called
while the nation was still full of joy and tenderness. The great
majority of the House of Commons were zealous royalists. All the
means of influence which the patronage of the Crown afforded were
used without limit. Bribery was reduced to a system. The King,
when he could spare money from his pleasures for nothing else,
could spare it for purposes of corruption. While the defence of
the coasts was neglected, while ships rotted, while arsenals lay
empty, while turbulent crowds of unpaid seamen swarmed in the
streets of the seaports, something could still be scraped
together in the Treasury for the members of the House of Commons.
The gold of France was largely employed for the same purpose. Yet
it was found, as indeed might have been foreseen, that there is a
natural limit to the effect which can be produced by means like
these. There is one thing which the most corrupt senates are
unwilling to sell; and that is the power which makes them worth
buying. The same selfish motives which induced them to take a
price for a particular vote induce them to oppose every measure
of which the effect would be to lower the importance, and
consequently the price, of their votes. About the income of their
power, so to speak, they are quite ready to make bargains. But
they are not easily persuaded to part with any fragment of the
principal. It is curious to observe how, during the long
continuance of this Parliament, the Pensionary Parliament, as it
was nicknamed by contemporaries, though every circumstance seemed
to be favourable to the Crown, the power of the Crown was
constantly sinking, and that of the Commons constantly rising.
The meetings of the Houses were more frequent than in former
reigns; their interference was more harassing to the Government
than in former reigns; they had begun to make peace, to make war;
to pull down, if they did not set up, administrations. Already a
new class of statesmen had appeared, unheard of before that time,
but common ever since. Under the Tudors and the earlier Stuarts,
it was generally by courtly arts, or by official skill and
knowledge, that a politician raised himself to power. From the
time of Charles the Second down to our own days a different
species of talent, parliamentary talent, has been the most
valuable of all the qualifications of an English statesman. It
has stood in the place of all other acquirements. It has covered
ignorance, weakness, rashness, the most fatal maladministration.
A great negotiator is nothing when compared with a great debater;
and a Minister who can make a successful speech need trouble
himself little about an unsuccessful expedition. This is the
talent which has made judges without law, and diplomatists
without French, which has sent to the Admiralty men who did not
know the stern of a ship from her bowsprit, and to the India
Board men who did not know the difference between a rupee and a
pagoda, which made a foreign secretary of Mr. Pitt, who, as
George the Second said, had never opened Vattel, and which was
very near making a Chancellor of the Exchequer of Mr. Sheridan,
who could not work a sum in long division. This was the sort of
talent which raised Clifford from obscurity to the head of
affairs. To this talent Osborne, by birth a simple country
gentleman, owed his white staff. his garter, and his dukedom. The
encroachment of the power of the Parliament on the power of the
Crown resembled a fatality, or the operation of some great law of
nature. The will of the individual on the throne, or of the
individuals in the two Houses, seemed to go for nothing. The King
might be eager to encroach; yet something constantly drove him
back. The Parliament might be loyal, even servile; yet something
constantly urged them forward.

These things were done in the green tree. What then was likely to
be done in the dry? The Popish Plot and the general election came
together, and found a people predisposed to the most violent
excitation. The composition of the House of Commons was changed.
The Legislature was filled with men who leaned to Republicanism
in politics, and to Presbyterianism in religion. They no sooner
met than they commenced an attack on the Government, which, if
successful, must have made them supreme in the State.

Where was this to end? To us who have seen the solution the
question presents few difficulties. But to a statesman of the age
of Charles the Second, to a statesman, who wished, without
depriving the Parliament of its privileges, to maintain the
monarch in his old supremacy, it must have appeared very

Clarendon had, when Minister, struggled honestly, perhaps, but,
as was his wont, obstinately, proudly, and offensively, against
the growing power of the Commons. He was for allowing them their
old authority, and not one atom more. He would never have claimed
for the Crown a right to levy taxes from the people without the
consent of Parliament. But when the Parliament, in the first
Dutch war, most properly insisted on knowing how it was that the
money which they had voted had produced so little effect, and
began to inquire through what hands it had passed, and on what
services it had been expended, Clarendon considered this as a
monstrous innovation. He told the King, as he himself says, "that
he could not be too indulgent in the defence of the privileges of
Parliament, and that he hoped he would never violate any of them;
but he desired him to be equally solicitous to prevent the
excesses in Parliament, and not to suffer them to extend their
jurisdiction to cases they have nothing to do with; and that to
restrain them within their proper bounds and limits is as
necessary as it is to preserve them from being invaded; and that
this was such a new encroachment as had no bottom." This is a
single instance. Others might easily be given.

The bigotry, the strong passions, the haughty and disdainful
temper, which made Clarendon's great abilities a source of almost
unmixed evil to himself and to the public, had no place in the
character of Temple. To Temple, however, as well as to Clarendon,
the rapid change which was taking place in the real working of
the Constitution gave great disquiet; particularly as Temple had
never sat in the English Parliament, and therefore regarded it
with none of the predilection which men naturally feel for a body
to which they belong, and for a theatre on which their own
talents have been advantageously displayed.

To wrest by force from the House of Commons its newly acquired
powers was impossible; nor was Temple a man to recommend such a
stroke, even if it had been possible. But was it possible that
the House of Commons might he induced to let those powers drop?
Was it possible that, as a great revolution had been effected
without any change in the outward form of the Government, so a
great counter-revolution might be effected in the same manner?
Was it possible that the Crown and the Parliament might be placed
in nearly the same relative position in which they had stood in
the reign of Elizabeth, and that this might be done without one
sword drawn, without one execution, and with the general
acquiescence of the nation?

The English people--it was probably thus that Temple argued--will
not bear to be governed by the unchecked power of the Sovereign,
nor ought they to be so governed. At present there is no check
but the Parliament. The limits which separate the power of
checking those who govern from the power of governing are not
easily to be defined. The Parliament, therefore, supported by the
nation, is rapidly drawing to itself all the powers of
Government. If it were possible to frame some other check on the
power of the Crown, some check which might be less galling to the
Sovereign than that by which he is now constantly tormented, and
yet which might appear to the people to be a tolerable security
against maladministration, Parliaments would probably meddle
less; and they would be less supported by public opinion in their
meddling. That the King's hands may not be rudely tied by others,
he must consent to tie them lightly himself. That the executive
administration may not be usurped by the checking body, something
of the character of a checking body must be given to the body
which conducts the executive administration. The Parliament is
now arrogating to itself every day a larger share of the
functions of the Privy Council. We must stop the evil by giving
to the Privy Council something of the constitution of a
Parliament. Let the nation see that all the King's measures are
directed by a Cabinet composed of representatives of every order
in the State, by a Cabinet which contains, not placemen alone,
but independent and popular noblemen and gentlemen who have large
estates and no salaries, and who are not likely to sacrifice the
public welfare in which they have a deep stake, and the credit
which they have obtained with the country, to the pleasure of a
Court from which they receive nothing. When the ordinary
administration is in such hands as these, the people will be
quite content to see the Parliament become, what it formerly was,
an extraordinary check. They will be quite willing that the House
of Commons should meet only once in three years for a short
session, and should take as little part in matters of state as it
did a hundred years ago.

Thus we believe that Temple reasoned: for on this hypothesis his
scheme is intelligible; and on any other hypothesis his scheme
appears to us, as it does to Mr. Courtenay, exceedingly absurd
and unmeaning. This Council was strictly what Barillon called it,
an Assembly of States. There are the representatives of all the
great sections of the community, of the Church, of the Law, of
the Peerage, of the Commons. The exclusion of one half of the
counsellors from office under the Crown, an exclusion which is
quite absurd when we consider the Council merely as an executive
board, becomes at once perfectly reasonable when we consider the
Council as a body intended to restrain the Crown as well as to
exercise the powers of the Crown, to perform some of the
functions of a Parliament as well as the functions of a Cabinet.
We see, too, why Temple dwelt so much on the private wealth of
the members, why he instituted a comparison between their united
incomes and the united incomes of the members of the House of
Commons. Such a parallel would have been idle in the case of a
mere Cabinet. It is extremely significant in the case of a body
intended to supersede the House of Commons in some very important

We can hardly help thinking that the notion of this Parliament on
a small scale was suggested to Temple by what he had himself seen
in the United Provinces. The original Assembly of the States-
General consisted, as he tells us, of above eight hundred
persons. But this great body was represented by a smaller Council
of about thirty, which bore the name and exercised the powers of
the States-General. At last the real States altogether ceased to
meet; and their power, though still a part of the theory of the
Constitution, became obsolete in practice. We do not, of course,
imagine that Temple either expected or wished that Parliaments
should be thus disused; but he did expect, we think, that
something like what had happened in Holland would happen in
England, and that a large portion of the functions lately assumed
by Parliament would be quietly transferred to the miniature
Parliament which he proposed to create.

Had this plan, with some modifications, been tried at an earlier
period, in a more composed state of the public mind, and by a
better sovereign, we are by no means certain that it might not
have effected the purpose for which it was designed. The
restraint imposed on the King by the Council of thirty, whom he
had himself chosen, would have been feeble indeed when compared
with the restraint imposed by Parliament. But it would have been
more constant. It would have acted every year, and all the year
round; and before the Revolution the sessions of Parliament were
short and the recesses long. The advice of the Council would
probably have prevented any very monstrous and scandalous
measures; and would consequently have prevented the discontents
which follow such measures, and the salutary laws which are the
fruit of such discontents. We believe, for example, that the
second Dutch war would never have been approved by such a Council
as that which Temple proposed. We are quite certain that the
shutting up of the Exchequer would never even have been mentioned
in such a Council. The people, pleased to think that Lord
Russell, Lord Cavendish, and Mr. Powle, unplaced and unpensioned,
were daily representing their grievances and defending their
rights in the Royal presence, would not have pined quite so much
for the meeting of Parliaments. The Parliament, when it met,
would have found fewer and less glaring abuses to attack. There
would have been less misgovernment and less reform. We should not
have been cursed with the Cabal, or blessed with the Habeas
Corpus Act. In the mean time the Council, considered as an
executive Council, would, unless some at least of its powers had
been delegated to a smaller body, have been feeble, dilatory,
divided, unfit for everything that requires secrecy and despatch,
and peculiarly unfit for the administration of war.

The Revolution put an end, in a very different way, to the long
contest between the King and the Parliament. From that time, the
House of Commons has been predominant in the State. The Cabinet
has really been, from that time, a committee nominated by the
Crown out of the prevailing party in Parliament. Though the
minority in the Commons are Constantly proposing to condemn
executive measures, or to call for papers which may enable the
House to sit in judgment on such measures, these propositions are
scarcely ever carried; and, if a proposition of this kind is
carried against the Government, a change of Ministry almost
necessarily follows. Growing and struggling power always gives
more annoyance and is more unmanageable than established power.
The House of Commons gave infinitely more trouble to the
Ministers of Charles the Second than to any Ministers of later
times; for, in the time of Charles the Second, the House was
checking Ministers in whom it did not confide. Now that its
ascendency is fully established, it either confides in Ministers
or turns them out. This is undoubtedly a far better state of
things than that which Temple wished to introduce. The modern
Cabinet is a far better Executive Council than his. The worst
House of Commons that has sate since the Revolution was a far
more efficient check on misgovernment than his fifteen
independent counsellors would have been. Yet, everything
considered, it seems to us that his plan was the work of an
observant, ingenious, and fertile mind.

On this occasion, as on every occasion on which he came
prominently forward, Temple had the rare good fortune to please
the public as well as the Sovereign. The general exultation was
great when it was known that the old Council, made up of the most
odious tools of power, was dismissed, that small interior
committees, rendered odious by the recent memory of the Cabal,
were to be disused, and that the King would adopt no measure till
it had been discussed and approved by a body, of which one half
consisted of independent gentlemen and noblemen, and in which
such persons as Russell, Cavendish, and Temple himself had seats.
Town and country were in a ferment of joy. The bells were rung;
bonfires were lighted; and the acclamations of England were
echoed by the Dutch, who considered the influence obtained by
Temple as a certain omen of good for Europe. It is, indeed, much
to the honour of his sagacity that every one of his great
measures should, in such times, have pleased every party which he
had any interest in pleasing. This was the case with the Triple
Alliance, with the treaty which concluded the second Dutch war,
with the marriage of the Prince of Orange, and, finally, with the
institution of this new Council.

The only people who grumbled were those popular leaders of the
House of Commons who were not among the Thirty; and, if our view
of the measure be correct, they were precisely the people who had
good reason to grumble. They were precisely the people whose
activity and whose influence the new Council was intended to

But there was very soon an end of the bright hopes and loud
applauses with which the publication of this scheme had been
hailed. The perfidious levity of the King and the ambition of the
chiefs of parties produced the instant, entire, and irremediable
failure of a plan which nothing but firmness, public spirit, and
self-denial on the part of all concerned in it could conduct to a
happy issue. Even before the project was divulged, its author had
already found reason to apprehend that it would fail.
Considerable difficulty was experienced in framing the list of
counsellors. There were two men in particular about whom the King
and Temple could not agree, two men deeply tainted with the vices
common to the English statesman of that age, but unrivalled in
talents, address, and influence. These were the Earl of
Shaftesbury, and George Savile Viscount Halifax.

It was a favourite exercise among the Greek sophists to write
panegyrics on characters proverbial for depravity. One professor
of rhetoric sent to Isocrates a panegyric on Busiris; and
Isocrates himself wrote another which has come down to us. It is,
we presume, from an ambition of the same kind that some writers
have lately shown a disposition to eulogise Shaftesbury. But the
attempt is vain. The charges against him rest on evidence not to
be invalidated by any arguments which human wit can devise, or by
any information which may be found in old trunks and escritoires.

It is certain that, just before the Restoration, he declared to
the Regicides that he would be damned, body and soul, rather than
suffer a hair of their heads to be hurt, and that, just after the
Restoration, he was one of the judges who sentenced them to
death. It is certain that he was a principal member of the most
profligate Administration ever known, and that he was afterwards
a principal member oft the most profligate Opposition ever known.
It is certain that, in power, he did not scruple to violate the
great fundamental principle of the Constitution, in order to
exalt the Catholics, and that, out of power, he did not scruple
to violate every principle of justice, in order to destroy them.
There were in that age some honest men, such as William Penn, who
valued toleration so highly that they would willingly have seen
it established even by an illegal exertion of the prerogative.
There were many honest men who dreaded arbitrary power so much
that, on account of the alliance between Popery and arbitrary
power, they were disposed to grant no toleration to Papists. On
both those classes we look with indulgence, though we think both
in the wrong. But Shaftesbury belonged to neither class. He
united all that was worst in both. From the misguided friends
of toleration he borrowed their contempt for the Constitution,
and from the misguided friends of civil liberty their contempt for
the rights of conscience. We never can admit that his conduct as a
mmember of the Cabal was redeemed by his conduct as a leader of
Opposition. On the contrary, his life was such that every part of it,
as if by a skilful contrivance, reflects infamy on every other. We
should never have known how abandoned a prostitute he was in
place, if we had not known how desperate an incendiary he was out
of it. To judge of him fairly, we must bear in mind that the
Shaftesbury who, in office, was the chief author of the
Declaration of Indulgence, was the same Shaftesbury who, out of
office, excited and kept up the savage hatred of the rabble of
London against the very class to whom that Declaration of
Indulgence was intended to give illegal relief.

It is amusing to see the excuses that are made for him. We will
give two specimens. It is acknowledged that he was one of the
Ministry which made the alliance with France against Holland, and
that this alliance was most pernicious. What, then, is the
defence? Even this, that he betrayed his master's counsels to the
Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, and tried to rouse all the
Protestant powers of Germany to defend the States. Again, it is
acknowledged that he was deeply concerned in the Declaration of
Indulgence, and that his conduct on this occasion was not only
unconstitutional, but quite inconsistent with the course which he
afterwards took respecting the professors of the Catholic faith.
What, then, is the defence? Even this, that he meant only to
allure concealed Papists to avow themselves, and thus to become
open marks for the vengeance of the public. As often as he is
charged with one treason, his advocates vindicate him by
confessing two. They had better leave him where they find him.
For him there is no escape upwards. Every outlet by which he can
creep out of his present position, is one which lets him down
into a still lower and fouler depth of infamy. To whitewash an
Ethiopian is a proverbially hopeless attempt ; but to whitewash
an Ethiopian by giving him a new coat of blacking is an
enterprise more extraordinary still. That in the course of
Shaftesbury's dishonest and revengeful opposition to the Court he
rendered one or two most useful services to his country we admit.
And he is, we think, fairly entitled, if that be any glory, to
have his name eternally associated with the Habeas Corpus Act in
the same way in which the name of Henry the Eighth is associated
with the reformation of the Church, and that of Jack Wilkes with
the most sacred rights of electors.

While Shaftesbury was still living, his character was elaborately
drawn by two of the greatest writers of the age, by Butler, with
characteristic brilliancy of wit, by Dryden, with even more than
characteristic energy and loftiness, by both with all the
inspiration of hatred. The sparkling illustrations of Butler have
been thrown into the shade by the brighter glory of that gorgeous
satiric Muse, who comes sweeping by in sceptred pall, borrowed
from her most august sisters. But the descriptions well deserve
to be compared. The reader will at once perceive a considerable
difference between Butler's

With more beads than a beast in vision,"

and the Achitophel of Dryden. Butler dwells on Shaftesbury's
unprincipled versatility; on his wonderful and almost instinctive
skill in discerning the approach of a change of fortune; and on
the dexterity with which he extricated himself from the snares in
which he left his associates to perish.

"Our state-artificer foresaw
Which way the world began to draw.
For as old sinners have all points
0' th' compass in their bones and joints,
Can by their pangs and aches find
All turns and changes of the wind,
And better than by Napier's bones
Feel in their own the age of moons:
So guilty sinners in a state
Can by their crimes prognosticate,
And in their consciences feel pain
Some days before a shower of rain.
He, therefore, wisely cast about
All ways he could to ensure his throat."

In Dryden's great portrait, on the contrary, violent passion,
implacable revenge, boldness amounting to temerity, are the most
striking features. Achitophel is one of the "great wits to
madness near allied." And again--

"A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleased with the danger when the waves went high,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too near the sands to boast his wit."

[It has never, we believe, been remarked, that two of the most
striking lines in the description of Achitophel are borrowed from
a most obscure quarter. In Knolles's History of the Turks,
printed more than sixty years before the appearance of Absalom
and Achitophel, are the following verses, under a portrait of the
Sultan Mustapha the First:

"Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not stand,
And leaves for Fortune's ice Vertue's firme land."

Dryden's words are

"But wild Ambition loves to slide, not stand,
And Fortune's ice prefers to Virtue's land."

The circumstance is the more remarkable, because Dryden has
really no couplet which would seem to a good critic more
intensely Drydenian, both in thought and expression, than this,
of which the whole thought, and almost the whole expression, are

As we are on this subject, we cannot refrain from observing that
Mr. Courtenay has done Dryden injustice by inadvertently
attributing to him some feeble lines which are in Tate's part of
Absalom and Achitophel.]

The dates of the two poems will, we think, explain this
discrepancy. The third part of Hudibras appeared in 1678, when
the character of Shaftesbury had as yet but imperfectly developed
itself. He had, indeed, been a traitor to every party in the
State; but his treasons had hitherto prospered. Whether it were
accident or sagacity, he had timed his desertions in such a
manner that fortune seemed to go to and fro with him from side to
side. The extent of his perfidy was known; but it was not till
the Popish Plot furnished him with a machinery which seemed
sufficiently powerful for all his purposes, that the audacity of
his spirit, and the fierceness of his malevolent passions, became
fully manifest. His subsequent conduct showed undoubtedly great
ability, but not ability of the sort for which he had formerly
been so eminent. He was now headstrong, sanguine, full of
impetuous confidence in his own wisdom and his own good luck. He,
whose fame as a political tactician had hitherto rested chiefly
on his skilful retreats, now set himself to break down all the
bridges behind him. His plans were castles in the air: his talk
was rhodomontade. He took no thought for the morrow: he treated
the Court as if the King were already a prisoner in his hands: he
built on the favour of the multitude, as if that favour were not
proverbially inconstant. The signs of the coming reaction were
discerned by men of far less sagacity than his, and scared from
his side men more consistent than he had ever pretended to be.
But on him they were lost. The counsel of Achitophel, that
counsel which was as if a man had inquired of the oracle of God,
was turned into foolishness. He who had become a by-word, for the
certainty with which he foresaw and the suppleness with which he
evaded danger, now, when beset on every side with snares and
death, seemed to be smitten with a blindness as strange as his
former clear-sightedness, and, turning neither to the right nor
to the left, strode straight on with desperate hardihood to his
doom. Therefore, after having early acquired and long preserved
the reputation of infallible wisdom and invariable success, he
lived to see a mighty ruin wrought by his own ungovernable
passions, to see the great party which he had led vanquished, and
scattered, and trampled down, to see all his own devilish
enginery of lying witnesses, partial sheriffs, packed juries,
unjust judges, bloodthirsty mobs, ready to be employed against
himself and his most devoted followers, to fly from that proud
city whose favour had almost raised him to be Mayor of the
Palace, to hide himself in squalid retreats, to cover his grey
head with ignominious disguises; and he died in hopeless exile,
sheltered by the generosity of a State which he had cruelly
injured and insulted, from the vengeance of a master whose favour
he had purchased by one series of crimes, and forfeited by

Halifax had, in common with Shaftesbury, and with almost all the
politicians of that age, a very loose morality where the public
was concerned; but in Halifax the prevailing infection was
modified by a very peculiar constitution both of heart and head,
by a temper singularly free from gall, and by a refining and
sceptical understanding. He changed his course as often as
Shaftesbury; but he did not change it to the same extent, or in
the same direction. Shaftesbury was the very reverse of a
trimmer. His disposition led him generally to do his utmost to
exalt the side which was up, and to depress the side which was
down. His transitions were from extreme to extreme. While he
stayed with a party he went all lengths for it: when he quitted
it he went all lengths against it. Halifax was emphatically a
trimmer; a trimmer both by intellect and by constitution. The
name was fixed on him by his contemporaries; and he was so far
from being ashamed of it that he assumed it as a badge of honour.
He passed from faction to faction. But instead of adopting and
inflaming the passions of those whom he joined, he tried to
diffuse among them something of the spirit of those whom he had
just left. While he acted with the Opposition he was suspected of
being a spy of the Court; and when he had joined the Court all
the Tories were dismayed by his Republican doctrines.

He wanted neither arguments nor eloquence to exhibit what was
commonly regarded as his wavering policy in the fairest light. He
trimmed, he said, as the temperate zone trims between intolerable
heat and intolerable cold, as a good government trims between
despotism and anarchy, as a pure church trims between the errors
of the Papist and those of the Anabaptist. Nor was this defence
by any means without weight; for though there is abundant proof
that his integrity was not of strength to withstand the
temptations by which his cupidity and vanity were sometimes
assailed, yet his dislike of extremes, and a forgiving and
compassionate temper which seems to have been natural to him,
preserved him from all participation in the worst crimes of his
time. If both parties accused him of deserting them, both were
compelled to admit that they had great obligations to his
humanity, and that, though an uncertain friend, he was a placable
enemy. He voted in favour of Lord Stafford, the victim of the
Whigs; he did his utmost to save Lord Russell, the victim of the
Tories; and, on the whole, we are inclined to think that his
public life, though far indeed from faultless, has as few great
stains as that of any politician who took an active part in
affairs during the troubled and disastrous period of ten years
which elapsed between the fall of Lord Danby and the Revolution.

His mind was much less turned to particular observations, and
much more to general speculations, than that of Shaftesbury.
Shaftesbury knew the King, the Council, the Parliament, the City,
better than Halifax; but Halifax would have written a far better
treatise on political science than Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury shone
more in consultation, and Halifax in controversy: Shaftesbury was
more fertile in expedients, and Halifax in arguments. Nothing
that remains from the pen of Shaftesbury will bear a comparison
with the political tracts of Halifax. Indeed, very little of the
prose of that age is so well worth reading as the Character of a
Trimmer and the Anatomy of an Equvivalent. What particularly
strikes us in those works is the writer's passion for
generalisation. He was treating of the most exciting subjects in
the most agitated times he was himself placed in the very thick
of the civil conflict; yet there is no acrimony, nothing
inflammatory, nothing personal. He preserves an air of cold
superiority, a certain philosophical serenity, which is perfectly
marvellous. He treats every question as an abstract question,
begins with the widest propositions, argues those propositions on
general grounds, and often, when he has brought out his theorem,
leaves the reader to make the application, without adding an
allusion to particular men, or to passing events. This
speculative turn of mind rendered him a bad adviser in cases
which required celerity. He brought forward, with wonderful
readiness and copiousness, arguments, replies to those arguments,
rejoinders to those replies, general maxims of policy, and
analogous cases from history. But Shaftesbury was the man for a
prompt decision. Of the parliamentary eloquence of these
celebrated rivals, we can judge only by report; and, so judging,
we should be inclined to think that, though Shaftesbury was a
distinguished speaker, the superiority belonged to Halifax.
Indeed the readiness of Halifax in debate, the extent of his
knowledge, the ingenuity of his reasoning, the liveliness of his
expression, and the silver clearness and sweetness of his voice,
seems to have made the strongest impression on his
contemporaries. By Dryden he is described as

"of piercing wit and pregnant thought,
Endued by nature and by learning taught
To move assemblies."

His oratory is utterly and irretrievably lost to us, like that of
Somers, of Bolingbroke, of Charles Townshend, of many others who
were accustomed to rise amid the breathless expectation of
senates, and to sit down amidst reiterated bursts of applause.
But old men who lived to admire the eloquence of Pulteney in its
meridian, and that of Pitt in its splendid dawn, still murmured
that they had heard nothing like the great speeches of Lord
Halifax on the Exclusion Bill. The power of Shaftesbury over
large masses was unrivalled. Halifax was disqualified by his
whole character, moral and intellectual, for the part of a
demagogue. It was in small circles, and, above all, in the House
of Lords, that his ascendency was felt.

Shaftesbury seems to have troubled himself very little about
theories of government. Halifax was, in speculation, a strong
republican, and did not conceal it. He often made hereditary
monarchy and aristocracy the subjects of his keen pleasantry,
while he was fighting the battles of the Court, and obtaining for
himself step after step in the peerage. In this way, he tried to
gratify at once his intellectual vanity and his more vulgar
ambition. He shaped his life according to the opinion of the
multitude, and indemnified himself by talking according to his
own. His colloquial powers were great; his perception of the
ridiculous exquisitely fine; and he seems to have had the rare
art of preserving the reputation of good breeding and good
nature, while habitually indulging a strong propensity to

Temple wished to put Halifax into the new Council, and leave out
Shaftesbury. The King objected strongly to Halifax, to whom he
had taken a great dislike, which is not accounted for, and which
did not last long. Temple replied that Halifax was a man eminent
both by his station and by his abilities, and would, if excluded,
do everything against the new arrangement that could be done by
eloquence, sarcasm, and intrigue. All who were consulted were of
the same mind; and the King yielded, but not till Temple had
almost gone on his knees. This point was no sooner settled than
his Majesty declared that he would have Shaftesbury too. Temple
again had recourse to entreaties and expostulations. Charles told
him that the enmity of Shaftesbury would be at least as
formidable as that of Halifax, and this was true; but Temple
might have replied that by giving power to Halifax they gained a
friend, and that by giving power to Shaftesbury they only
strengthened an enemy. It was vain to argue and protest. The King
only laughed and jested at Temple's anger; and Shaftesbury was
not only sworn of the Council, but appointed Lord President.

Temple was so bitterly mortified by this step that he had at one
time resolved to have nothing to do with the new Administration,
and seriously thought of disqualifying himself from sitting in
council by omitting to take the Sacrament. But the urgency of
Lady Temple and Lady Giffard induced him to abandon that

The Council was organised on the twenty-first of April, 1679;
and, within a few hours, one of the fundamental principles on
which it had been constructed was violated. A secret committee,
or, in the modern phrase, a cabinet of nine members, was formed.
But as this committee included Shaftesbury and Monmouth, it
contained within itself the elements of as much faction as would
have sufficed to impede all business. Accordingly there soon
arose a small interior cabinet, consisting of Essex, Sunderland,
Halifax, and Temple. For a time perfect harmony and confidence
subsisted between the four. But the meetings of the thirty were
stormy. Sharp retorts passed between Shaftesbury and Halifax, who
led the opposite parties, In the Council, Halifax generally had
the advantage. But it soon became apparent that Shaftesbury still
had at his back the majority of the House of Commons. The
discontents which the change of Ministry had for a moment quieted
broke forth again with redoubled violence; and the only effect
which the late measures appeared to have produced was that the
Lord President, with all the dignity and authority belonging to
his high place, stood at the head of the Opposition. The
impeachment of Lord Danby was eagerly prosecuted. The Commons
were determined to exclude the Duke of York from the throne. All
offers of compromise were rejected. It must not be forgotten,
however, that, in the midst of the confusion, one inestimable
law, the only benefit which England has derived from the troubles
of that period, but a benefit which may well be set off against a
great mass of evil, the Habeas Corpus Act, was pushed through the
Houses and received the royal assent.

The King, finding the Parliament as troublesome as ever,
determined to prorogue it; and he did so, without even mentioning
his intention to the Council by whose advice he had pledged
himself, only a month before, to conduct the Government. The
counsellors were generally dissatisfied; and Shaftesbury swore,
with great vehemence, that if he could find out who the secret
advisers were, he would have their heads.

The Parliament rose; London was deserted; and Temple retired to
his villa, whence, on council days, he went to Hampton Court. The
post of Secretary was again and again pressed on him by his
master and by his three colleagues of the inner Cabinet. Halifax,
in particular, threatened laughingly to burn down the house at
Sheen. But Temple was immovable. His short experience of English
politics had disgusted him; and he felt himself so much oppressed
by the responsibility under which he at present lay that he had
no inclination to add to the load.

When the term fixed for the prorogation had nearly expired, it
became necessary to consider what course should be taken. The
King and his four confidential advisers thought that a new
Parliament might possibly be more manageable, and could not
possibly be more refractory, than that which they now had, and
they therefore determined on a dissolution. But when the question
was proposed at council, the majority, jealous, it should seem,
of the small directing knot, and unwilling to bear the
unpopularity of the measures of Government, while excluded from
all power, joined Shaftesbury, and the members of the Cabinet
were left alone in the minority. The King, however, had made up
his mind, and ordered the Parliament to be instantly dissolved.
Temple's Council was now nothing more than an ordinary Privy
Council, if indeed it were not something less; and, though Temple
threw the blame of this on the King, on Lord Shaftesbury, on
everybody but himself, it is evident that the failure of his plan
is to be chiefly ascribed to its own inherent defects. His
Council was too large to transact business which required
expedition, secrecy, and cordial cooperation. A Cabinet was
therefore formed within the Council. The Cabinet and the majority
of the Council differed; and, as was to be expected, the Cabinet
carried their point. Four votes outweighed six-and-twenty. This
being the case, the meetings of the thirty were not only useless,
but positively noxious.

At the ensuing election, Temple was chosen for the University of
Cambridge. The only objection that was made to him by the members
of that learned body was that, in his little work on Holland, he
had expressed great approbation of the tolerant policy of the
States; and this blemish, however serious, was overlooked, in
consideration of his high reputation, and of the strong
recommendations with which he was furnished by the Court.

During the summer he remained at Sheen, and amused himself with
rearing melons, leaving to the three other members of the inner
Cabinet the whole direction of public affairs. Some unexplained
cause began about this time, to alienate them from him. They do
not appear to have been made angry by any part of his conduct, or
to have disliked him personally. But they had, we suspect, taken
the measure of his mind, and satisfied themselves that he was not
a man for that troubled time, and that he would be a mere
incumbrance to them. Living themselves for ambition, they
despised his love of ease. Accustomed to deep stakes in the game
of political hazard, they despised his piddling play. They looked
on his cautious measures with the sort of scorn with which the
gamblers at the ordinary, in Sir Walter Scott's novel, regarded
Nigel's practice of never touching a card but when he was certain
to win. He soon found that he was left out of their secrets. The
King had, about this time, a dangerous attack of illness. The
Duke of York, on receiving the news, returned from Holland. The
sudden appearance of the detested Popish successor excited
anxiety throughout the country. Temple was greatly amazed and
disturbed. He hastened up to London and visited Essex, who
professed to be astonished and mortified, but could not disguise
a sneering smile. Temple then saw Halifax, who talked to him much
about the pleasures of the country, the anxieties of office, and
the vanity of all human things, but carefully avoided politics
and when the Duke's return was mentioned, only sighed, shook his
head, shrugged his shoulders, and lifted up his eyes and hands.
In a short time Temple found that his two friends had been
laughing at him, and that they had themselves sent for the Duke,
in order that his Royal Highness might, if the King should die,
be on the spot to frustrate the designs of Monmouth.

He was soon convinced, by a still stronger proof, that, though he
had not exactly offended his master or his colleagues in the
Cabinet, he had ceased to enjoy their confidence. The result of
the general election had been decidedly unfavourable to the
Government; and Shaftesbury impatiently expected the day when the
Houses were to meet. The King, guided by the advice of the inner
Cabinet, determined on a step of the highest importance. He told
the Council that he had resolved to prorogue the new Parliament
for a year, and requested them not to object; for he had, he
said, considered the subject fully, and had made up his mind. All
who were not in the secret were thunderstruck, Temple as much as
any. Several members rose, and entreated to be heard against the
prorogation. But the King silenced them, and declared that his
resolution was unalterable. Temple, much hurt at the manner in
which both himself and the Council had been treated, spoke with
great spirit. He would not, he said, disobey the King by
objecting to a measure an which his Majesty was determined to
hear no argument; but he would most earnestly entreat his
Majesty, if the present Council was incompetent to give advice,
to dissolve it and select another; for it was absurd to have
counsellors who did not counsel, and who were summoned only to be
silent witnesses of the acts of others. The King listened
courteously. But the members of the Cabinet resented this reproof
highly; and from that day Temple was almost as much estranged
from them as from Shaftesbury.

He wished to retire altogether from business. But just at this
time Lord Russell, Lord Cavendish, and some other counsellors of
the popular party, waited on the King in a body, declared their
strong disapprobation of his measures, and requested to be
excused from attending any more at council. Temple feared that
if, at this moment, he also were to withdraw, he might be
supposed to act in concert with those decided opponents of the
Court, and to have determined on taking a course hostile to the
Government. He, therefore, continued to go occasionally to the
board; but he had no longer any real share in the direction of
public affairs.

At length the long term of the prorogation expired. In October
1680, the Houses met; and the great question of the Exclusion was
revived. Few parliamentary contests in our history appear to have
called forth a greater display of talent; none certainly ever
called forth more violent passions. The whole nation was
convulsed by party spirit. The gentlemen of every county, the
traders of every town, the boys of every public school, were
divided into exclusionists and abhorrers. The book-stalls were
covered with tracts on the sacredness of hereditary right, on the
omnipotence of Parliament, on the dangers of a disputed
succession, on the dangers of a Popish reign. It was in the midst
of this ferment that Temple took his seat, for the first time, in
the House of Commons.

The occasion was a very great one. His talents, his long
experience of affairs, his unspotted public character, the high
posts which he had filled, seemed to mark him out as a man on
whom much would depend. He acted like himself, He saw that, if he
supported the Exclusion, he made the King and the heir
presumptive his enemies, and that, if he opposed it, he made
himself an object of hatred to the unscrupulous and turbulent
Shaftesbury. He neither supported nor opposed it. He quietly
absented himself from the House. Nay, he took care, he tells us,
never to discuss the question in any society whatever. Lawrence
Hyde, afterwards Earl of Rochester, asked him why he did not
attend in his place. Temple replied that he acted according to
Solomon's advice, neither to oppose the mighty, nor to go about
to stop the current of a river. Hyde answered, "You are a wise
and a quiet man." And this might be true. But surely such wise
and quiet men have no call to be members of Parliament in
critical times.

A single session was quite enough for Temple. When the Parliament
was dissolved, and another summoned at Oxford, he obtained an
audience of the King, and begged to know whether his Majesty
wished him to continue in Parliament. Charles, who had a
singularly quick eye for the weaknesses of all who came near him,
had no doubt seen through Temple, and rated the parliamentary
support of so cool and guarded a friend at its proper value. He
answered good-naturedly, but we suspect a little contemptuously,
"I doubt, as things stand, your coming into the House will not do
much good. I think you may as well let it alone." Sir William
accordingly informed his constituents that he should not again
apply for their suffrages, and set off for Sheen, resolving never
again to meddle with public affairs. He soon found that the King
was displeased with him. Charles, indeed, in his usual easy way,
protested that he was not angry, not at all. But in a few days he
struck Temple's name out of the list of Privy Councillors.

Why this was done Temple declares himself unable to comprehend.
But surely it hardly required his long and extensive converse
with the world to teach him that there are conjunctures when men
think that all who are not with them are against them, that there
are conjunctures when a lukewarm friend, who will not put himself
the least out of his way, who will make no exertion, who will run
no risk, is more distasteful than an enemy. Charles had hoped
that the fair character of Temple would add credit to an
unpopular and suspected Government. But his Majesty soon found
that this fair character resembled pieces of furniture which we
have seen in the drawing-rooms of very precise old ladies, and
which are a great deal too white to be used. This exceeding
niceness was altogether out of season. Neither party wanted a man
who was afraid of taking a part, of incurring abuse, of making
enemies. There were probably many good and moderate men who would
have hailed the appearance of a respectable mediator. But Temple
was not a mediator. He was merely a neutral.

At last, however, he had escaped from public life, and found
himself at liberty to follow his favourite pursuits. His fortune
was easy. He had about fifteen hundred a year, besides the
Mastership of the Rolls in Ireland, an office in which he had
succeeded his father, and which was then a mere sinecure for
life, requiring no residence. His reputation both as a negotiator
and a writer stood high. He resolved to be safe, to enjoy
himself, and to let the world take its course; and he kept his

Darker times followed. The Oxford Parliament was dissolved. The
Tories were triumphant. A terrible vengeance was inflicted on the
chiefs of the Opposition. Temple learned in his retreat the
disastrous fate of several of his old colleagues in council.
Shaftesbury fled to Holland. Russell died on the scaffold. Essex
added a yet sadder and more fearful story to the bloody
chronicles of the Tower. Monmouth clung in agonies of
supplication round the knees of the stern uncle whom he had
wronged, and tasted a bitterness worse than that of death, the
bitterness of knowing that he had humbled himself in vain. A
tyrant trampled on the liberties and religion of the realm. The
national spirit swelled high under the oppression. Disaffection
spread even to the strongholds of loyalty, to the Cloisters of
Westminster, to the schools of Oxford, to the guard-room of the
household troops, to the very hearth and bed-chamber of the
Sovereign. But the troubles which agitated the whole country
did not reach the quiet orangery in which Temple loitered away
several years without once seeing the smoke of London. He now
and then appeared in the circle at Richmond or Windsor. But
the only expressions which he is recorded to have used during
these perilous times were, that he would be a good subject,
but that he had done with politics.

The Revolution came: he remained strictly neutral during the
short struggle; and he then transferred to the new settlement the
same languid sort of loyalty which he had felt for his former
masters. He paid court to William at Windsor, and William dined
with him at Sheen. But, in spite of the most pressing
solicitations, Temple refused to become Secretary of State. The
refusal evidently proceeded only from his dislike of trouble and
danger; and not, as some of his admirers would have us believe,
from any scruple of conscience or honour. For he consented that
his son should take the office of Secretary at War under the new
Sovereign. This unfortunate young man destroyed himself within a
week after his appointment from vexation at finding that his
advice had led the King into some improper steps with regard to
Ireland. He seems to have inherited his father's extreme
sensibility to failure, without that singular prudence which kept
his father out of all situations in which any serious failure was
to be apprehended. The blow fell heavily on the family. They
retired in deep dejection to Moor Park, [Mr. Courtenay (vol. ii.
p. 160) confounds Moor Park in Surrey, where Temple resided, with
the Moor Park in Hertfordshire, which is praised in the Essay on
Gardening.] which they now preferred to Sheen, on account of the
greater distance from London. In that spot, then very secluded,
Temple passed the remainder of his life. The air agreed with him.
The soil was fruitful, and well suited to an experimental farmer
and gardener. The grounds were laid out with the angular
regularity which Sir William had admired in the flower-beds of
Haarlem and the Hague. A beautiful rivulet, flowing from the
hills of Surrey, bounded the domain. But a straight canal which,
bordered by a terrace, intersected the garden, was probably more
admired by the lovers of the picturesque in that age. The house
was small but neat, and well-furnished; the neighbourhood very
thinly peopled. Temple had no visitors, except a few friends who
were willing to travel twenty or thirty miles in order to see
him, and now and then a foreigner whom curiosity brought to have
a look at the author of the Triple Alliance.

Here, in May 1694, died Lady Temple. From the time of her
marriage we know little of her, except that her letters were
always greatly admired, and that she had the honour to correspond
constantly with Queen Mary. Lady Giffard, who, as far as appears,
had always been on the best terms with her sister-in-law, still
continued to live with Sir William.

But there were other inmates of Moor Park to whom a far higher
interest belongs. An eccentric, uncouth, disagreeable young
Irishman, who had narrowly escaped plucking at Dublin, attended
Sir William as an amanuensis, for board and twenty pounds a year,
dined at the second table, wrote bad verses in praise of his
employer, and made love to a very pretty, dark-eyed young girl,
who waited on Lady Giffard. Little did Temple imagine that the
coarse exterior of his dependant concealed a genius equally
suited to politics and to letters, a genius destined to shake
great kingdoms, to stir the laughter and the rage of millions,
and to leave to posterity memorials which can perish only with
the English language. Little did he think that the flirtation in
his servants' hall, which he perhaps scarcely deigned to make the
subject of a jest, was the beginning of a long unprosperous love,
which was to be as widely famed as the passion of Petrarch or of
Abelard. Sir William's secretary was Jonathan Swift. Lady
Giffard's waiting-maid was poor Stella.

Swift retained no pleasing recollection of Moor Park. And we may
easily suppose a situation like his to have been intolerably
painful to a mind haughty, irascible, and conscious of pre-
eminent ability. Long after, when he stood in the Court of
Requests with a circle of gartered peers round him, or punned and
rhymed with Cabinet Ministers over Secretary St. John's Monte-
Pulciano, he remembered, with deep and sore feeling, how
miserable he used to be for days together when he suspected that
Sir William had taken something ill. He could hardly believe that
he, the Swift who chid the Lord Treasurer, rallied the Captain
General, and confronted the pride of the Duke of Buckinghamshire
with pride still more inflexible, could be the same being who had
passed nights of sleepless anxiety, in musing over a cross look
or a testy word of a patron. "Faith," he wrote to Stella, with
bitter levity, "Sir William spoiled a fine gentleman." Yet, in
justice to Temple, we must say that there is no reason to think
that Swift was more unhappy at Moor Park than he would have been
in a similar situation under any roof in England. We think also
that the obligations which the mind of Swift owed to that of
Temple were not inconsiderable. Every judicious reader must be
struck by the peculiarities which distinguish Swift's political
tracts from all similar works produced by mere men of letters.
Let any person compare, for example, the Conduct of the Allies,
or the Letter to the October Club, with Johnson's False Alarm, or
Taxation no Tyranny, and he will be at once struck by the
difference of which we speak. He may possibly think Johnson a
greater man than Swift. He may possibly prefer Johnson's style to
Swift's. But he will at once acknowledge that Johnson writes like
a man who has never been out of his study. Swift writes like a
man who has passed his whole life in the midst of public
business, and to whom the most important affairs of state are as
familiar as his weekly bills.

"Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter."

The difference, in short, between a political pamphlet by Johnson
and a political pamphlet by Swift, is as great as the difference
between an account of a battle by Mr. Southey, and the account of
the same battle by Colonel Napier. It is impossible to doubt that
the superiority of Swift is to be, in a great measure, attributed
to his long and close connection with Temple.

Indeed, remote as were the alleys and flower-pots of Moor Park
from the haunts of the busy and the ambitious, Swift had ample
opportunities of becoming acquainted with the hidden causes of
many great events. William was in the habit of consulting Temple,
and occasionally visited him. Of what passed between them very
little is known. It is certain, however, that when the Triennial
Bill had been carried through the two Houses, his Majesty, who
was exceedingly unwilling to pass it, sent the Earl of Portland
to learn Temple's opinion. Whether Temple thought the bill in
itself a good one does not appear; but he clearly saw how
imprudent it must be in a prince, situated as William was, to
engage in an altercation with his Parliament, and directed Swift
to draw up a paper on the subject, which, however, did not
convince the King.

The chief amusement of Temple's declining years was literature.
After his final retreat from business, he wrote his very
agreeable Memoirs, corrected and transcribed many of his letters,
and published several miscellaneous treatises, the best of which,
we think, is that on Gardening. The style of his essays is, on
the whole, excellent, almost always pleasing, and now and then
stately and splendid. The matter is generally of much less value;
as our readers will readily believe when we inform them that Mr.
Courtenay, a biographer, that is to say, a literary vassal, bound
by the immemorial law of his tenure to render homage, aids,
reliefs, and all other customary services to his lord, avows that
he cannot give an opinion about the essay on Heroic Virtue,
because he cannot read it without skipping; a circumstance which
strikes us as peculiarly strange, when we consider how long Mr.
Courtenay was at the India Board, and how many thousand
paragraphs of the copious official eloquence of the East he must
have perused.

One of Sir William's pieces, however, deserves notice, not,
indeed, on account of its intrinsic merit, but on account of the
light which it throws on some curious weaknesses of his
character, and on account of the extraordinary effects which it
produced in the republic of letters. A most idle and contemptible
controversy had arisen in France touching the comparative merit
of the ancient and modern writers. It was certainly not to be
expected that, in that age, the question would be tried
according to those large and philosophical principles of
criticism which guided the judgments of Lessing and of Herder.
But it might have been expected that those who undertook to
decide the point would at least take the trouble to read and
understand the authors on whose merits they were to pronounce.
Now, it is no exaggeration to say that, among the disputants who
clamoured, some for the ancients and some for the moderns, very
few were decently acquainted with either ancient or modern
literature, and hardly one was well acquainted with both. In
Racine's amusing preface to the Iphigenie the reader may find
noticed a most ridiculous mistake into which one of the champions
of the moderns fell about a passage in the Alcestis of Euripides.
Another writer is so inconceivably ignorant as to blame Homer for
mixing the four Greek dialects, Doric, Ionic, Aeolic, and Attic,
just, says he, as if a French poet were to put Gascon phrases and
Picard phrases into the midst of his pure Parisian writing. On
the other hand, it is no exaggeration to say that the defenders
of the ancients were entirely unacquainted with the greatest
productions of later times; nor, indeed, were the defenders of
the moderns better informed. The parallels which were instituted
in the course of this dispute are inexpressibly ridiculous.
Balzac was selected as the rival of Cicero. Corneille was said to
unite the merits of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. We
should like to see a Prometheus after Corneille's fashion. The
Provincial Letters, masterpieces undoubtedly of reasoning, wit,
and eloquence, were pronounced to be superior to all the writings
of Plato, Cicero, and Lucian together, particularly in the art of
dialogue, an art in which, as it happens, Plato far excelled all
men, and in which Pascal, great and admirable in other respects,
is notoriously very deficient

This childish controversy spread to England; and some mischievous
daemon suggested to Temple the thought of undertaking the defence
of the ancients. As to his qualifications for the task, it is
sufficient to say that he knew not a word of Greek. But his
vanity, which, when he was engaged in the conflicts of active
life and surrounded by rivals, had been kept in tolerable order
by his discretion, now, when he had long lived in seclusion, and
had become accustomed to regard himself as by far the first man
of his circle, rendered him blind to his own deficiencies. In an
evil hour he published an Essay on Ancient and Modern Learning.
The style of this treatise is very good, the matter ludicrous and
contemptible to the last degree. There we read how Lycurgus
travelled into India, and brought the Spartan laws from that
country; how Orpheus made voyages in search of knowledge, and
attained to a depth of learning which has made him renowned in
all succeeding ages; how Pythagoras passed twenty-two years in
Egypt, and, after graduating there, spent twelve years more at
Babylon, where the Magi admitted him ad eundem; how the ancient
Brahmins lived two hundred years; how the earliest Greek
philosophers foretold earthquakes and plagues, and put down riots
by magic; and how much Ninus surpassed in abilities any of his
successors on the throne of Assyria. The moderns, Sir William
owns, have found out the circulation of blood; but, on the other
hand, they have quite lost the art of conjuring ; nor can any
modern fiddler enchant fishes, fowls, and serpents by his
performance. He tells us that "Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus,
Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus made greater
progresses in the several empires of science than any of their
successors have since been able to reach"; which is just as
absurd as if he had said that the greatest names in British
science are Merlin, Michael Scott, Dr. Sydenham, and Lord Bacon.
Indeed, the manner in which Temple mixes the historical and the
fabulous reminds us of those classical dictionaries, intended for
the use of schools, in which Narcissus the lover of himself and
Narcissus the freedman of Claudius, Pollux the son of Jupiter and
Leda and Pollux the author of the Onomasticon, are ranged under
the same headings, and treated as personages equally real.

The effect of this arrangement resembles that which would be
produced by a dictionary of modern names, consisting of such
articles as the following:-"Jones, William, an eminent
Orientalist, and one of the judges of the Supreme Court of
judicature in Bengal--Davy, a fiend, who destroys ships--Thomas,
a foundling, brought up by Mr. Allworthy." It is from such
sources as these that Temple seems to have learned all that he
knew about the ancients. He puts the story of Orpheus between the
Olympic games and the battle of Arbela; as if we had exactly the
same reasons for believing that Orpheus led beasts with his lyre,
which we have for believing that there were races at Pisa, or
that Alexander conquered Darius.

He manages little better when he comes to the moderns. He gives
us a catalogue of those whom he regards as the greatest writers
of later times. It is sufficient to say that, in his list of
Italians, he has omitted Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso; in
his list of Spaniards, Lope and Calderon; in his list of French,
Pascal, Bossuet, Moliere, Corneille, Racine, and Boileau; and in
his list of English, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton.

In the midst of all this vast mass of absurdity one paragraph
stands out pre-eminent. The doctrine of Temple, not a very
comfortable doctrine, is that the human race is constantly
degenerating, and that the oldest books in every kind are the
best In confirmation of this notion, he remarks that the Fables
of Aesop are the best Fables, and the Letters of Phalaris the
best Letters in the world. On the merit of the Letters of
Phalaris he dwells with great warmth and with extraordinary
felicity of language. Indeed we could hardly select a more
favourable specimen of the graceful and easy majesty to which his
style sometimes rises than this unlucky passage. He knows, he
says, that some learned men, or men who pass for learned, such as
Politian, have doubted the genuineness of these letters; but of
such doubts he speaks with the greatest contempt. Now it is
perfectly certain, first, that the letters are very bad;
secondly, that they are spurious; and thirdly, that, whether they
be bad or good, spurious or genuine, Temple could know nothing of
the matter; inasmuch as he was no more able to construe a line of
them than to decipher an Egyptian obelisk.

This Essay, silly as it is, was exceedingly well received, both
in England and on the Continent. And the reason is evident. The
classical scholars who saw its absurdity were generally on the
side of the ancients, and were inclined rather to veil than to
expose the blunders of an ally; the champions of the moderns were
generally as ignorant as Temple himself; and the multitude was
charmed by his flowing and melodious diction. He was doomed,
however, to smart, as he well deserved, for his vanity and folly.

Christchurch at Oxford was then widely and justly celebrated as a
place where the lighter parts of classical learning were
cultivated with success. With the deeper mysteries of philology
neither the instructors nor the pupils had the smallest
acquaintance. They fancied themselves Scaligers, as Bentley
scornfully said, if they could write a copy of Latin verses with
only two or three small faults. From this College proceeded a new
edition of the Letters of Phalaris, which were rare, and had been
in request since the appearance of Temple's Essay. The nominal
editor was Charles Boyle, a young man of noble family and
promising parts; but some older members of the society lent their
assistance. While this work was in preparation, an idle quarrel,
occasioned, it should seem, by the negligence and
misrepresentations of a bookseller, arose between Boyle and the
King's Librarian, Richard Bentley. Boyle in the preface to his
edition, inserted a bitter reflection on Bentley. Bentley
revenged himself by proving that the Epistles of Phalaris were
forgeries, and in his remarks on this subject treated Temple, not
indecently, but with no great reverence.

Temple, who was quite unaccustomed to any but the most respectful
usage, who, even while engaged in politics, had always shrunk
from all rude collision, and had generally succeeded in avoiding
it, and whose sensitiveness had been increased by many years of
seclusion and flattery, was moved to most violent resentment,
complained, very unjustly, of Bentley's foul-mouthed raillery,
and declared that he had commenced an answer, but had laid it
aside, "having no mind to enter the lists with such a mean,
dull, unmannerly pedant" Whatever may be thought of the temper
which Sir William showed on this occasion, we cannot too highly
applaud his discretion in not finishing and publishing his
answer, which would certainly have been a most extraordinary

He was not, however, without defenders. Like Hector, when struck
down prostrate by Ajax, he was in an instant covered by a thick
crowd of shields.

Outis edunesato poimena laou
Outasai oudi balein prin gar peribesan aristoi
Polubmas te, kai Aineias, kai dios Agenor,
Sarpedon t'archos Lukion, kai Glaukos amumon.

Christchurch was up in arms; and though that College seems then
to have been almost destitute of severe and accurate learning, no
academical society could show, a greater array of orators, wits,
politicians, bustling adventurers who united the superficial
accomplishments of the scholar with the manners and arts of the
man of the world; and this formidable body resolved to try how
far smart repartees, well-turned sentences, confidence, puffing,
and intrigue could, on the question whether a Greek book were or
were not genuine, supply the place of a little knowledge of

Out came the Reply to Bentley, bearing the name of Boyle, but in
truth written by Atterbury with the assistance of Smalridge and
others. A most remarkable book it is, and often reminds us of
Goldsmith's observation, that the French would he the best cooks
in the world if they had any butcher's meat, for that they can
make ten dishes out of a nettle-top. It really deserves the
praise, whatever that praise may be worth, of being the best book
ever written by any man on the wrong side of a question of which
he was profoundly ignorant. The learning of the confederacy is
that of a schoolboy, and not of an extraordinary schoolboy; but
it is used with the skill and address of most able, artful, and
experienced men; it is beaten out to the very thinnest leaf, and
is disposed in such a way as to seem ten times larger than it is.
The dexterity with which the confederates avoid grappling with
those parts of the subject with which they know themselves to be
incompetent to deal is quite wonderful. Now and then, indeed,
they commit disgraceful blunders, for which old Busby, under whom
they had studied, would have whipped them all round. But this

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