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The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 5 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 3 out of 5

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noisily condemned, and for which scarcely any writer has ventured
to offer even a timid apology, but which it may perhaps not be
impossible to defend by grave and temperate argument.

It was said, when first the terms of the Partition Treaty were
made public, and has since been many times repeated, that the
English and Dutch Governments, in making this covenant with
France, were guilty of a violation of plighted faith. They had,
it was affirmed, by a secret article of a Treaty of Alliance
concluded in 1689, bound themselves to support the pretensions of
the Emperor to the Spanish throne; and they now, in direct
defiance of that article, agreed to an arrangement by which he
was excluded from the Spanish throne. The truth is that the
secret article will not, whether construed according to the
letter or according to the spirit, bear the sense which has
generally been put upon it. The stipulations of that article were
introduced by a preamble, in which it was set forth that the
Dauphin was preparing to assert by arms his claim to the great
heritage which his mother had renounced, and that there was
reason to believe that he also aspired to the dignity of King of
the Romans. For these reasons, England and the States General,
considering the evil consequences which must follow if he should
succeed in attaining either of his objects, promised to support
with all their power his Caesarean Majesty against the French and
their adherents. Surely we cannot reasonably interpret this
engagement to mean that, when the dangers mentioned in the
preamble had ceased to exist, when the eldest Archduke was King
of the Romans, and when the Dauphin had, for the sake of peace,
withdrawn his claim to the Spanish Crown, England and the United
Provinces would be bound to go to war for the purpose of
supporting the cause of the Emperor, not against the French but
against his own grandson, against the only prince who could reign
at Madrid without exciting fear and jealousy throughout all

While some persons accused William of breaking faith with the
House of Austria, others accused him of interfering unjustly in
the internal affairs of Spain. In the most ingenious and humorous
political satire extant in our language, Arbuthnot's History of
John Bull, England and Holland are typified by a clothier and a
linendraper, who take upon themselves to settle the estate of a
bedridden old gentleman in their neighbourhood. They meet at the
corner of his park with paper and pencils, a pole, a chain and a
semicircle, measure his fields, calculate the value of his mines,
and then proceed to his house in order to take an inventory of
his plate and furniture. But this pleasantry, excellent as
pleasantry, hardly deserves serious refutation. No person who has
a right to give any opinion at all about politics can think that
the question, whether two of the greatest empires in the world
should be virtually united so as to form one irresistible mass,
was a question with which other states had nothing to do, a
question about which other states could not take counsel together
without being guilty of impertinence as gross as that of a
busybody in private life who should insist on being allowed to
dictate the wills of other people. If the whole Spanish monarchy
should pass to the House of Bourbon, it was highly probable that
in a few years England would cease to be great and free, and that
Holland would be a mere province of France. Such a danger England
and Holland might lawfully have averted by war; and it would be
absurd to say that a danger which may be lawfully averted by war
cannot lawfully be averted by peaceable means. If nations are so
deeply interested in a question that they would be justified in
resorting to arms for the purpose of settling it, they must
surely be sufficiently interested in it to be justified in
resorting to amicable arrangements for the purpose of settling
it. Yet, strange to say, a multitude of writers who have warmly
praised the English and Dutch governments for waging a long and
bloody war in order to prevent the question of the Spanish
succession from being settled in a manner prejudicial to them,
have severely blamed those governments for trying to attain the
same end without the shedding of a drop of blood, without the
addition of a crown to the taxation of any country in
Christendom, and without a moment's interruption of the trade of
the world by land or by sea.

It has been said to have been unjust that three states should
have combined to divide a fourth state without its own consent;
and, in recent times, the partition of the Spanish monarchy which
was meditated in 1698 has been compared to the greatest political
crime which stains the history of modern Europe, the partition of
Poland. But those who hold such language cannot have well
considered the nature of the Spanish monarchy in the seventeenth
century. That monarchy was not a body pervaded by one principle
of vitality and sensation. It was an assemblage of distinct
bodies, none of which had any strong sympathy with the rest, and
some of which had a positive antipathy for each other. The
partition planned at Loo was therefore the very opposite of the
partition of Poland. The partition of Poland was the partition of
a nation. It was such a partition as is effected by hacking a
living man limb from limb. The partition planned at Loo was the
partition of an ill governed empire which was not a nation. It
was such a partition as is effected by setting loose a drove of
slaves who have been fastened together with collars and
handcuffs, and whose union has produced only pain, inconvenience
and mutual disgust. There is not the slightest reason to believe
that the Neapolitans would have preferred the Catholic King to
the Dauphin, or that the Lombards would have preferred the
Catholic King to the Archduke. How little the Guipuscoans would
have disliked separation from Spain and annexation to France we
may judge from the fact that, a few years later, the States of
Guipuscoa actually offered to transfer their allegiance to France
on condition that their peculiar franchises should be held

One wound the partition would undoubtedly have inflicted, a wound
on the Castilian pride. But surely the pride which a nation takes
in exercising over other nations a blighting and withering
dominion, a dominion without prudence or energy, without justice
or mercy, is not a feeling entitled to much respect. And even a
Castilian who was not greatly deficient in sagacity must have
seen that an inheritance claimed by two of the greatest
potentates in Europe could hardly pass entire to one claimant;
that a partition was therefore all but inevitable; and that the
question was in truth merely between a partition effected by
friendly compromise and a partition effected by means of a long
and devastating war.

There seems, therefore, to be no ground at all for pronouncing
the terms of the Treaty of Loo unjust to the Emperor, to the
Spanish monarchy considered as a whole, or to any part of that
monarchy. Whether those terms were or were not too favourable to
France is quite another question. It has often been maintained
that she would have gained more by permanently annexing to
herself Guipuscoa, Naples and Sicily than by sending the Duke of
Anjou or the Duke of Berry to reign at the Escurial. On this
point, however, if on any point, respect is due to the opinion of
William. That he thoroughly understood the politics of Europe is
as certain as that jealousy of the greatness of France was with
him a passion, a ruling passion, almost an infirmity. Before we
blame him, therefore, for making large concessions to the power
which it was the chief business of his life to keep within
bounds, we shall do well to consider whether those concessions
may not, on close examination, be found to be rather apparent
than real. The truth is that they were so, and were well known to
be so both by William and by Lewis.

Naples and Sicily formed indeed a noble kingdom, fertile,
populous, blessed with a delicious climate, and excellently
situated for trade. Such a kingdom, had it been contiguous to
Provence, would indeed have been a most formidable addition to
the French monarchy. But a glance at the map ought to have been
sufficient to undeceive those who imagined that the great
antagonist of the House of Bourbon could be so weak as to lay the
liberties of Europe at the feet of that house. A King of France
would, by acquiring territories in the South of Italy, have
really bound himself over to keep the peace; for, as soon as he
was at war with his neighbours, those territories were certain to
be worse than useless to him. They were hostages at the mercy of
his enemies. It would be easy to attack them. It would be hardly
possible to defend them. A French army sent to them by land would
have to force its way through the passes of the Alps, through
Piedmont, through Tuscany, and through the Pontifical States, in
opposition probably to great German armies. A French fleet would
run great risk of being intercepted and destroyed by the
squadrons of England and Holland. Of all this Lewis was perfectly
aware. He repeatedly declared that he should consider the kingdom
of the Two Sicilies as a source, not of strength, but of
weakness. He accepted it at last with murmurs; he seems to have
intended to make it over to one of his younger grandsons; and he
would beyond all doubt have gladly given it in exchange for a
thirtieth part of the same area in the Netherlands.15 But in the
Netherlands England and Holland were determined to allow him
nothing. What he really obtained in Italy was little more than a
splendid provision for a cadet of his house. Guipuscoa was then
in truth the price in consideration of which France consented
that the Electoral Prince of Bavaria should be King of Spain and
the Indies. Guipuscoa, though a small, was doubtless a valuable
province, and was in a military point of view highly important.
But Guipuscoa was not in the Netherlands. Guipuscoa would not
make Lewis a more formidable neighbour to England or to the
United Provinces. And, if the Treaty should be broken off, if the
vast Spanish empire should be struggled for and torn in pieces by
the rival races of Bourbon and Habsburg, was it not possible, was
it not probable, that France might lay her iron grasp, not on
Guipuscoa alone, but on Luxemburg and Namur, on Hainault, Brabant
and Antwerp, on Flanders East and West? Was it certain that the
united force of all her neighbours would be sufficient to compel
her to relinquish her prey? Was it not certain that the contest
would be long and terrible? And would not the English and Dutch
think themselves most fortunate if, after many bloody and costly
campaigns, the French King could be compelled to sign a treaty,
the same, word for word, with that which he was ready uncompelled
to sign now?

William, firmly relying on his own judgment, had not yet, in the
whole course of this momentous negotiation, asked the advice or
employed the agency of any English minister. But the treaty could
not be formally concluded without the instrumentality of one of
the Secretaries of State and of the Great Seal. Portland was
directed to write to Vernon. The King himself wrote to the
Chancellor. Somers was authorised to consult any of his
colleagues whom he might think fit to be entrusted with so high a
secret; and he was requested to give his own opinion of the
proposed arrangement. If that opinion should be favourable, not a
day must be lost. The King of Spain might die at any moment, and
could hardly live till the winter. Full powers must be sent to
Loo, sealed, but with blanks left for the names of the
plenipotentiaries. Strict secresy must be observed; and care must
be taken that the clerks whose duty it was to draw up the
necessary documents should not entertain any suspicion of the
importance of the work which they were performing.

The despatch from Loo found Somers at a distance from all his
political friends, and almost incapacitated by infirmities and by
remedies from attending to serious business, his delicate frame
worn out by the labours and vigils of many months, his head
aching and giddy with the first draughts from the chalybeate
spring. He roused himself, however, and promptly communicated by
writing with Shrewsbury and Orford. Montague and Vernon came down
to Tunbridge Wells, and conferred fully with him. The opinion of
the leading Whig statesmen was communicated to the King in a
letter which was not many months later placed on the records of
Parliament. These statesmen entirely agreed with William in
wishing to see the question of the Spanish succession speedily
and peaceably settled. They apprehended that, if Charles should
die leaving that question unsettled, the immense power of the
French King and the geographical situation of his dominions would
enable him to take immediate possession of the most important
parts of the great inheritance. Whether he was likely to venture
on so bold a course, and whether, if he did venture on it, any
continental government would have the means and the spirit to
withstand him, were questions as to which the English ministers,
with unfeigned deference, submitted their opinion to that of
their master, whose knowledge of the interests and tempers of all
the courts of Europe was unrivalled. But there was one important
point which must not be left out of consideration, and about
which his servants might perhaps be better informed than himself,
the temper of their own country. It was, the Chancellor wrote,
their duty to tell His Majesty that the recent elections had
indicated the public feeling in a manner which had not been
expected, but which could not be mistaken. The spirit which had
borne the nation up through nine years of exertions and
sacrifices seemed to be dead. The people were sick of taxes; they
hated the thought of war. As it would, in such circumstances, be
no easy matter to form a coalition capable of resisting the
pretensions of France, it was most desirable that she should be
induced to withdraw those pretensions; and it was not to be
expected that she would withdraw them without securing for
herself a large compensation. The principle of the Treaty of Loo,
therefore, the English Ministers cordially approved. But whether
the articles of that treaty were or were not too favourable to
the House of Bourbon, and whether the House of Bourbon was likely
faithfully to observe them, were questions about which Somers
delicately hinted that he and his colleagues felt some
misgivings. They had their fears that Lewis might be playing
false. They had their fears also that, possessed of Sicily, he
would be master of the trade of the Levant; and that, possessed
of Guipuscoa, he would be able at any moment to push an army into
the heart of Castile. But they had been reassured by the thought
that their Sovereign thoroughly understood this department of
politics, that he had fully considered all these things, that he
had neglected no precaution, and that the concessions which he
had made to France were the smallest which could have averted the
calamities impending over Christendom. It was added that the
service which His Majesty had rendered to the House of Bavaria
gave him a right to ask for some return. Would it be too much to
expect, from the gratitude of the prince who was soon to be a
great king, some relaxation of the rigorous system which excluded
the English trade from the Spanish colonies? Such a relaxation
would greatly endear His Majesty to his subjects.

With these suggestions the Chancellor sent off the powers which
the King wanted. They were drawn up by Vernon with his own hand,
and sealed in such a manner that no subordinate officer was let
into the secret. Blanks were left, as the King had directed, for
the names of two Commissioners. But Somers gently hinted that it
would be proper to fill those blanks with the names of persons
who were English by naturalisation, if not by birth, and who
would therefore be responsible to Parliament.

The King now had what he wanted from England. The peculiarity of
the Batavian polity threw some difficulties in his way; but every
difficulty gelded to his authority and to the dexterous
management of Heinsius. And in truth the treaty could not but be
favourably regarded by the States General; for it had been
carefully framed with the especial object of preventing France
from obtaining any accession of territory, or influence on the
side of the Netherlands; and Dutchmen, who remembered the
terrible year when the camp of Lewis had been pitched between
Utrecht and Amsterdam, were delighted to find that he was not to
add to his dominions a single fortress in their neighbourhood,
and were quite willing to buy him off with whole provinces under
the Pyrenees and the Apennines. The sanction both of the federal
and of the provincial governments was given with ease and
expedition; and in the evening of the fourth of September 1698,
the treaty was signed. As to the blanks in the English powers,
William had attended to his Chancellor's suggestion, and had
inserted the names of Sir Joseph Williamson, minister at the
Hague, a born Englishman, and of Portland, a naturalised
Englishman. The Grand Pensionary and seven other Commissioners
signed on behalf of the United Provinces. Tallard alone signed
for France. He seems to have been extravagantly elated by what
seemed to be the happy issue of the negotiation in which he had
borne so great a part, and in his next despatch to Lewis boasted
of the new treaty as destined to be the most famous that had been
made during many centuries.

William too was well pleased; and he had reason to be so. Had the
King of Spain died, as all men expected, before the end of that
year, it is highly probable that France would have kept faith
with England and the United Provinces; and it is almost certain
that, if France had kept faith, the treaty would have been
carried into effect without any serious opposition in any
quarter. The Emperor might have complained and threatened; but he
must have submitted; for what could he do? He had no fleet; and
it was therefore impossible for him even to attempt to possess
himself of Castile, of Arragon, of Sicily, of the Indies, in
opposition to the united navies of the three greatest maritime
powers in the world. In fact, the only part of the Spanish empire
which he could hope to seize and hold by force against the will
of the confederates of Loo was the Milanese; and the Milanese the
confederates of Loo had agreed to assign to his family. He would
scarcely have been so mad as to disturb the peace of the world
when the only thing which he had any chance of gaining by war was
offered him without war. The Castilians would doubtless have
resented the dismemberment of the unwieldy body of which they
formed the head. But they would have perceived that by resisting
they were much more likely to lose the Indies than to preserve
Guipuscoa. As to Italy, they could no more make war there than in
the moon. Thus the crisis which had seemed likely to produce an
European war of ten years would have produced nothing worse than
a few angry notes and plaintive manifestoes.

Both the confederate Kings wished their compact to remain a
secret while their brother Charles lived; and it probably would
have remained secret, had it been confided only to the English
and French Ministers. But the institutions of the United
Provinces were not well fitted for the purpose of concealment. It
had been necessary to trust so many deputies and magistrates that
rumours of what had been passing at Loo got abroad. Quiros, the
Spanish Ambassador at the Hague, followed the trail with such
skill and perseverance that he discovered, if not the whole
truth, yet enough to furnish materials for a despatch which
produced much irritation and alarm at Madrid. A council was
summoned, and sate long in deliberation. The grandees of the
proudest of Courts could hardly fail to perceive that their next
sovereign, be he who he might, would find it impossible to avoid
sacrificing part of his defenceless and widely scattered empire
in order to preserve the rest; they could not bear to think that
a single fort, a single islet, in any of the four quarters of the
world was about to escape from the sullen domination of Castile.
To this sentiment all the passions and prejudices of the haughty
race were subordinate. "We are ready," such was the phrase then
in their mouths, "to go to any body, to go to the Dauphin, to go
to the Devil, so that we all go together." In the hope of
averting the threatened dismemberment, the Spanish ministers
advised their master to adopt as his heir the candidate whose
pretensions it was understood that France, England and Holland
were inclined to support. The advice was taken; and it was soon
every where known that His Catholic Majesty had solemnly
designated as his successor his nephew Francis Joseph, Electoral
Prince of Bavaria. France protested against this arrangement,
not, as far as can now be judged, because she meant to violate
the Treaty of Loo, but because it would have been difficult for
her, if she did not protest, to insist on the full execution of
that treaty. Had she silently acquiesced in the nomination of the
Electoral Prince, she would have appeared to admit that the
Dauphin's pretensions were unfounded; and, if she admitted the
Dauphin's pretensions to be unfounded, she could not, without
flagrant injustice, demand several provinces as the price in
consideration of which she would consent to waive those
pretensions. Meanwhile the confederates had secured the
cooperation of a most important person, the Elector of Bavaria,
who was actually Governor of the Netherlands, and was likely to
be in a few months, at farthest, Regent of the whole Spanish
monarchy. He was perfectly sensible that the consent of France,
England and Holland to his son's elevation was worth purchasing
at almost any cost, and, with much alacrity, promised that, when
the time came, he would do all in his power to facilitate the
execution of the Treaty of Partition. He was indeed bound by the
strongest ties to the confederates of Loo. They had, by a secret
article, added to the treaty, agreed that, if the Electoral
Prince should become King of Spain, and then die without issue,
his father should be his heir. The news that young Francis Joseph
had been declared heir to the throne of Spain was welcome to all
the potentates of Europe with the single exception of his
grandfather the Emperor. The vexation and indignation of Leopold
were extreme. But there could be no doubt that, graciously or
ungraciously, he would submit. It would have been madness in him
to contend against all Western Europe on land; and it was
physically impossible for him to wage war on the sea. William was
therefore able to indulge, during some weeks, the pleasing belief
that he had by skill and firmness averted from the civilised
world a general war which had lately seemed to be imminent, and
that he had secured the great community of nations against the
undue predominance of one too powerful member.

But the pleasure and the pride with which he contemplated the
success of his foreign policy gave place to very different
feelings as soon as he again had to deal with our domestic
factions. And, indeed, those who most revere his memory must
acknowledge that, in dealing with these factions, he did not, at
this time, show his wonted statesmanship. For a wise man, he
seems never to have been sufficiently aware how much offence is
given by discourtesy in small things. His ministers had apprised
him that the result of the elections had been unsatisfactory, and
that the temper of the new representatives of the people would
require much management. Unfortunately he did not lay this
intimation to heart. He had by proclamation fixed the opening of
the Parliament for the 29th of November. This was then considered
as a very late day. For the London season began together with
Michaelmas Term; and, even during the war, the King had scarcely
ever failed to receive the compliments of his faithful Lords and
Commons on the fifth of November, the anniversary both of his
birth and of his memorable landing. The numerous members of the
House of Commons who were in town, having their tune on their
hands, formed cabals, and heated themselves and each other by
murmuring at his partiality for the country of his birth. He had
been off to Holland, they said, at the earliest possible moment.
He was now lingering in Holland till the latest possible moment.
This was not the worst. The twenty-ninth of November came; but
the King was not come. It was necessary that the Lords Justices
should prorogue the Parliament to the sixth of December. The
delay was imputed, and justly, to adverse winds. But the
malecontents asked, with some reason, whether His Majesty had not
known that there were often gales from the West in the German
Ocean, and whether, when he had made a solemn appointment with
the Estates of his Realm for a particular day, he ought not to
have arranged things in such a way that nothing short of a
miracle could have prevented him from keeping that appointment.

Thus the ill humour which a large proportion of the new
legislators had brought up from their country seats became more
and more aced every day, till they entered on their functions.
One question was much agitated during this unpleasant interval.
Who was to be Speaker? The junto wished to place Sir Thomas
Littleton in the chair. He was one of their ablest, most zealous
and most steadfast friends; and had been, both in the House of
Commons and at the Board of Treasury, an invaluable second to
Montague. There was reason indeed to expect a strong opposition.
That Littleton was a Whig was a grave objection to him in the
opinion of the Tories. That he was a placeman, and that he was
for a standing army, were grave objections to him in the opinion
of many who were not Tories. But nobody else came forward. The
health of the late Speaker Foley had failed. Musgrave was talked
of in coffeehouses; but the rumour that he would be proposed soon
died away. Seymour's name was in a few mouths; but Seymour's day
had gone by. He still possessed, indeed, those advantages which
had once made him the first of the country gentlemen of England,
illustrious descent, ample fortune, ready and weighty eloquence,
perfect familiarity with parliamentary business. But all these
things could not do so much to raise him as his moral character
did to drag him down. Haughtiness such as his, though it could
never have been liked, might, if it had been united with elevated
sentiments of virtue and honour, have been pardoned. But of all
the forms of pride, even the pride of upstart wealth not
excepted, the most offensive is the pride of ancestry when found
in company with sordid and ignoble vices, greediness, mendacity,
knavery and impudence; and such was the pride of Seymour. Many,
even of those who were well pleased to see the ministers galled
by his keen and skilful rhetoric, remembered that he had sold
himself more than once, and suspected that he was impatient to
sell himself again. On the very eve of the opening of Parliament,
a little tract entitled "Considerations on the Choice of a
Speaker" was widely circulated, and seems to have produced a
great sensation. The writer cautioned the representatives of the
people, at some length, against Littleton; and then, in even
stronger language, though more concisely, against Seymour; but
did not suggest any third person. The sixth of December came, and
found the Country party, as it called itself, still unprovided
with a candidate. The King, who had not been many hours in
London, took his seat in the House of Lords. The Commons were
summoned to the bar, and were directed to choose a Speaker. They
returned to their Chamber. Hartington proposed Littleton; and the
proposition was seconded by Spencer. No other person was put in
nomination; but there was a warm debate of two hours. Seymour,
exasperated by finding that no party was inclined to support his
pretensions, spoke with extravagant violence. He who could well
remember the military despotism of Cromwell, who had been an
active politician in the days of the Cabal, and who had seen his
own beautiful county turned into a Golgotha by the Bloody
Circuit, declared that the liberties of the nation had never been
in greater danger than at that moment, and that their doom would
be fixed if a courtier should be called to the chair. The
opposition insisted on dividing. Hartington's motion was carried
by two hundred and forty-two votes to a hundred and thirty-five,
Littleton himself, according to the childish old usage which has
descended to our times, voting in the minority. Three days later,
he was presented and approved.

The King then spoke from the throne. He declared his firm
conviction that the Houses were disposed to do whatever was
necessary for the safety, honour and happiness of the kingdom;
and he asked them for nothing more. When they came to consider
the military and naval establishments, they would remember that,
unless England were secure from attack, she could not continue to
hold the high place which she had won for herself among European
powers; her trade would languish; her credit would fail; and even
her internal tranquillity would be in danger. He also expressed a
hope that some progress would be made in the discharge of the
debts contracted during the War. "I think," he said, "an English
Parliament can never make such a mistake as not to hold sacred
all Parliamentary engagements."

The speech appeared to be well received; and during a short time
William flattered himself that the great fault, as he considered
it, of the preceding session would be repaired, that the army
would be augmented, and that he should be able, at the important
conjuncture which was approaching, to speak to foreign powers in
tones of authority, and especially to keep France steady to her
engagements. The Whigs of the junto, better acquainted with the
temper of the country and of the new House of Commons, pronounced
it impossible to carry a vote for a land force of more than ten
thousand men. Ten thousand men would probably be obtained if His
Majesty would authorise his servants to ask in his name for that
number, and to declare that with a smaller number he could not
answer for the public safety. William, firmly convinced that
twenty thousand would be too few, refused to make or empower
others to make a proposition which seemed to him absurd and
disgraceful. Thus, at a moment at which it was peculiarly
desirable that all who bore a part in the executive
administration should act cordially together, there was serious
dissension between him and his ablest councillors. For that
dissension neither he nor they can be severely blamed. They were
differently situated, and necessarily saw the same objects from
different points of view. He, as was natural, considered the
question chiefly as an European question. They, as was natural,
considered it chiefly as an English question. They had found the
antipathy to a standing army insurmountably strong even in the
late Parliament, a Parliament disposed to place large confidence
in them and in their master. In the new Parliament that
antipathy amounted almost to a mania. That liberty, law,
property, could never be secured while the Sovereign had a large
body of regular troops at his command in time of peace, and that
of all regular troops foreign troops were the most to be dreaded,
had, during the recent elections, been repeated in every town
hall and market place, and scrawled upon every dead wall. The
reductions of the preceding year, it was said, even if they had
been honestly carved into effect, would not have been sufficient;
and they had not been honestly carried into effect. On this
subject the ministers pronounced the temper of the Commons to be
such that, if any person high in office were to ask for what His
Majesty thought necessary, there would assuredly be a violent
explosion; the majority would probably be provoked into
disbanding all that remained of the army; and the kingdom would
be left without a single soldier. William, however, could not be
brought to believe that the case was so hopeless. He listened too
easily to some secret adviser, Sunderland was probably the man,
who accused Montague and Somers of cowardice and insincerity.
They had, it was whispered in the royal ear, a majority, whenever
they really wanted one. They were bent upon placing their friend
Littleton in the Speaker's chair; and they had carried their
point triumphantly. They would carry as triumphantly a vote for a
respectable military establishment if the honour of their master
and the safety of their country were as dear to them as the petty
interests of their own faction. It was to no purpose that the
King was told, what was nevertheless perfectly true, that not one
half of the members who had voted for Littleton, could, by any
art or eloquence, be induced to vote for an augmentation of the
land force. While he was urging his ministers to stand up
manfully against the popular prejudice, and while they were
respectfully representing to him that by so standing up they
should only make that prejudice stronger and more noxious, the
day came which the Commons had fixed for taking the royal speech
into consideration. The House resolved itself into a Committee.
The great question was instantly raised; What provision should be
made for the defence of the realm? It was naturally expected that
the confidential advisers of the Crown would propose something.
As they remained silent, Harley took the lead which properly
belonged to them, and moved that the army should not exceed seven
thousand men. Sir Charles Sedley suggested ten thousand. Vernon,
who was present, was of opinion that this number would have been
carved if it had been proposed by one who was known to speak on
behalf of the King. But few members cared to support an amendment
which was certain to be less pleasing to their constituents, and
did not appear to be more pleasing to the Court, than the
original motion. Harley's resolution passed the Committee. On the
morrow it was reported and approved. The House also resolved that
all the seven thousand men who were to be retained should be
natural born English subjects. Other votes were carried without a
single division either in the Committee or when the mace was on
the table.

The King's indignation and vexation were extreme. He was angry
with the opposition, with the ministers, with all England. The
nation seemed to him to be under a judicial infatuation, blind to
dangers which his sagacity perceived to be real, near and
formidable, and morbidly apprehensive of dangers which his
conscience told him were no dangers at all. The perverse
islanders were willing to trust every thing that was most
precious to them, their independence, their property, their laws,
their religion, to the moderation and good faith of France, to
the winds and the waves, to the steadiness and expertness of
battalions of ploughmen commanded by squires; and yet they were
afraid to trust him with the means of protecting them lest he
should use those means for the destruction of the liberties which
he had saved from extreme peril, which he had fenced with new
securities, which he had defended with the hazard of his life,
and which from the day of his accession he had never once
violated. He was attached, and not without reason, to the Blue
Dutch Foot Guards. That brigade had served under him for many
years, and had been eminently distinguished by courage,
discipline and fidelity. In December 1688 that brigade had been
the first in his army to enter the English capital, and had been
entrusted with the important duty of occupying Whitehall and
guarding the person of James. Eighteen months later, that brigade
had been the first to plunge into the waters of the Boyne. Nor
had the conduct of these veteran soldiers been less exemplary in
their quarters than in the field. The vote which required the
King to discard them merely because they were what he himself was
seemed to him a personal affront. All these vexations and
scandals he imagined that his ministers might have averted, if
they had been more solicitous for his honour and for the success
of his great schemes of policy, and less solicitous about their
own popularity. They, on the other hand, continued to assure him,
and, as far as can now be judged, to assure him with perfect
truth, that it was altogether out of their power to effect what
he wished. Something they might perhaps be able to do. Many
members of the House of Commons had said in private that seven
thousand men was too small a number. If His Majesty would let it
be understood that he should consider those who should vote for
ten thousand as having done him good service, there might be
hopes. But there could be no hope if gentlemen found that by
voting for ten thousand they should please nobody, that they
should be held up to the counties and towns which they
represented as turncoats and slaves for going so far to meet his
wishes, and that they should be at the same time frowned upon at
Kensington for not going farther. The King was not to be moved.
He had been too great to sink into littleness without a struggle.
He had been the soul of two great coalitions, the dread of
France, the hope of all oppressed nations. And was he to be
degraded into a mere puppet of the Harleys and the Hooves, a
petty prince who could neither help nor hurt, a less formidable
enemy and less valuable ally than the Elector of Brandenburg or
the Duke of Savoy? His spirit, quite as arbitrary and as
impatient of control as that of any of his predecessors, Stuart,
Tudor or Plantagenet, swelled high against this ignominious
bondage. It was well known at Versailles that he was cruelly
mortified and incensed; and, during a short time, a strange hope
was cherished there that, in the heat of his resentment, he might
be induced to imitate his uncles, Charles and James, to conclude
another treaty of Dover, and to sell himself into vassalage for a
subsidy which might make him independent of his niggardly and
mutinous Parliament. Such a subsidy, it was thought, might be
disguised under the name of a compensation for the little
principality of Orange, which Lewis had long been desirous to
purchase even at a fancy price. A despatch was drawn up
containing a paragraph by which Tallard was to be apprised of his
master's views, and instructed not to hazard any distinct
proposition, but to try the effect of cautious and delicate
insinuations, and, if possible, to draw William on to speak
first. This paragraph was, on second thoughts, cancelled; but
that it should ever have been written must be considered a most
significant circumstance.

It may with confidence be affirmed that William would never have
stooped to be the pensioner of France; but it was with difficulty
that he was, at this conjuncture, dissuaded from throwing up the
government of England. When first he threw out hints about
retiring to the Continent, his ministers imagined that he was
only trying to frighten them into making a desperate effort to
obtain for him an efficient army. But they soon saw reason to
believe that he was in earnest. That he was in earnest, indeed,
can hardly be doubted. For, in a confidential letter to Heinsius,
whom he could have no motive for deceiving, he intimated his
intention very clearly. "I foresee," he writes, "that I shall be
driven to take an extreme course, and that I shall see you again
in Holland sooner than I had imagined."16 In fact he had resolved
to go down to the Lords, to send for the Commons, and to make his
last speech from the throne. That speech he actually prepared and
had it translated. He meant to tell his hearers that he had come
to England to rescue their religion and their liberties; that,
for that end, he had been under the necessity of waging a long
and cruel war; that the war had, by the blessing of God, ended in
an honourable and advantageous peace; and that the nation might
now be tranquil and happy, if only those precautions were adopted
which he had on the first day of the session recommended as
essential to the public security. Since, however, the Estates of
the Realm thought fit to slight his advice, and to expose
themselves to the imminent risk of ruin, he would not be the
witness of calamities which he had not caused and which he could
not avert. He must therefore request the Houses to present to him
a bill providing for the government of the realm; he would pass
that bill, and withdraw from a post in which he could no longer
be useful, but he should always take a deep interest in the
welfare of England; and, if what he foreboded should come to
pass, if in some day of danger she should again need his
services, his life should be hazarded as freely as ever in her

When the King showed his speech to the Chancellor, that wise
minister forgot for a moment his habitual self-command. "This is
extravagance, Sir," he said: "this is madness. I implore your
Majesty, for the sake of your own honour, not to say to anybody
else what you have said to me." He argued the matter during two
hours, and no doubt lucidly and forcibly. William listened
patiently; but his purpose remained unchanged.

The alarm of the ministers seems to have been increased by
finding that the King's intention had been confided to
Marlborough, the very last man to whom such a secret would have
been imparted unless William had really made up his mind to
abdicate in favour of the Princess of Denmark. Somers had another
audience, and again began to expostulate. But William cut him
short. "We shall not agree, my Lord; my mind is made up." "Then,
Sir," said Somers, "I have to request that I may be excused from
assisting as Chancellor at the fatal act which Your Majesty
meditates. It was from my King that I received this seal; and I
beg that he will take it from me while he is still my King."

In these circumstances the ministers, though with scarcely the
faintest hope of success, determined to try what they could do to
meet the King's wishes. A select Committee had been appointed by
the House of Commons to frame a bill for the disbanding of all
the troops above seven thousand. A motion was made by one of the
Court party that this Committee should be instructed to
reconsider the number of men. Vernon acquitted himself well in
the debate. Montague spoke with even more than his wonted ability
and energy, but in vain. So far was he from being able to rally
round him such a majority as that which had supported him in the
preceding Parliament, that he could not count on the support even
of the placemen who sate at the same executive board with him.
Thomas Pelham, who had, only a few months before, been made a
Lord of the Treasury, tried to answer him. "I own," said Pelham,
"that last year I thought a large land force necessary; this year
I think such a force unnecessary; but I deny that I have been
guilty of any inconsistency. Last year the great question of the
Spanish succession was unsettled, and there was serious danger of
a general war. That question has now been settled in the best
possible way; and we may look forward to many years of peace." A
Whig of still greater note and authority, the Marquess of
Hartington, separated himself on this occasion from the junto.
The current was irresistible. At last the voices of those who
tried to speak for the Instruction were drowned by clamour. When
the question was put, there was a great shout of No, and the
minority submitted. To divide would have been merely to have
exposed their weakness.

By this time it became clear that the relations between the
executive government and the Parliament were again what they had
been before the year 1695. The history of our polity at this time
is closely connected with the history of one man. Hitherto
Montague's career had been more splendidly and uninterruptedly
successful than that of any member of the House of Commons, since
the House of Commons had begun to exist. And now fortune had
turned. By the Tories he had long been hated as a Whig; and the
rapidity of his rise, the brilliancy of his fame, and the
unvarying good luck which seemed to attend him, had made many
Whigs his enemies. He was absurdly compared to the upstart
favourites of a former age, Carr and Villiers, men whom he
resembled in nothing but in the speed with which he had mounted
from a humble to a lofty position. They had, without rendering
any service to the State, without showing any capacity for the
conduct of great affairs, been elevated to the highest dignities,
in spite of the murmurs of the whole nation, by the mere
partiality of the Sovereign. Montague owed every thing to his own
merit and to the public opinion of his merit. With his master he
appears to have had very little intercourse, and none that was
not official. He was in truth a living monument of what the
Revolution had done for the Country. The Revolution had found him
a young student in a cell by the Cam, poring on the diagrams
which illustrated the newly discovered laws of centripetal and
centrifugal force, writing little copies of verses, and indulging
visions of parsonages with rich glebes, and of closes in old
cathedral towns had developed in him new talents; had held out
to him the hope of prizes of a very different sort from a rectory
or a prebend. His eloquence had gained for him the ear of the
legislature. His skill in fiscal and commercial affairs had won
for him the confidence of the City. During four years he had been
the undisputed leader of the majority of the House of Commons;
and every one of those years he had made memorable by great
parliamentary victories, and by great public services. It should
seem that his success ought to have been gratifying to the
nation, and especially to that assembly of which he was the chief
ornament, of which indeed he might be called the creature. The
representatives of the people ought to have been well pleased to
find that their approbation could, in the new order of things, do
for the man whom they delighted to honour all that the mightiest
of the Tudors could do for Leicester, or the most arbitrary of
the Stuarts for Strafford. But, strange to say, the Commons soon
began to regard with an evil eve that greatness which was their
own work. The fault indeed was partly Montague's. With all his
ability, he had not the wisdom to avert, by suavity and
moderation, that curse, the inseparable concomitant of prosperity
and glory, which the ancients personified under the name of
Nemesis. His head, strong for all the purposes of debate and
arithmetical calculation, was weak against the intoxicating
influence of success and fame. He became proud even to insolence.
Old companions, who, a very few years before, had punned and
rhymed with him in garrets, had dined with him at cheap
ordinaries, had sate with him in the pit, and had lent him some
silver to pay his seamstress's bill, hardly knew their friend
Charles in the great man who could not forget for one moment that
he was First Lord of the Treasury, that he was Chancellor of the
Exchequer, that he had been a Regent of the kingdom, that he had
founded the Bank of England and the new East India Company, that
he had restored the currency, that he had invented the Exchequer
Bills, that he had planned the General Mortgage, and that he had
been pronounced, by a solemn vote of the Commons, to have
deserved all the favours which he had received from the Crown. It
was said that admiration of himself and contempt of others were
indicated by all his gestures and written in all the lines of his
face. The very way in which the little jackanapes, as the hostile
pamphleteers loved to call him, strutted through the lobby,
making the most of his small figure, rising on his toe, and
perking up his chin, made him enemies. Rash and arrogant sayings
were imputed to him, and perhaps invented for him. He was accused
of boasting that there was nothing that he could not carry
through the House of Commons, that he could turn the majority
round his finger. A crowd of libellers assailed him with much
more than political hatred. Boundless rapacity and corruption
were laid to his charge. He was represented as selling all the
places in the revenue department for three years' purchase. The
opprobrious nickname of Filcher was fastened on him. His luxury,
it was said, was not less inordinate than his avarice. There was
indeed an attempt made at this time to raise against the leading
Whig politicians and their allies, the great moneyed men of the
City, a cry much resembling the cry which, seventy or eighty
years later, was raised against the English Nabobs. Great wealth,
suddenly acquired, is not often enjoyed with moderation, dignity
and good taste. It is therefore not impossible that there may
have been some small foundation for the extravagant stories with
which malecontent pamphleteers amused the leisure of malecontent
squires. In such stories Montague played a conspicuous part. He
contrived, it was said, to be at once as rich as Croesus and as
riotous as Mark Antony. His stud and his cellar were beyond all
price. His very lacqueys turned up their noses at claret. He and
his confederates were described as spending the immense sums of
which they had plundered the public in banquets of four courses,
such as Lucullus might have eaten in the Hall of Apollo. A supper
for twelve Whigs, enriched by jobs, grants, bribes, lucky
purchases and lucky sales of stock, was cheap at eighty pounds.
At the end of every course all the fine linen on the table was
changed. Those who saw the pyramids of choice wild fowl imagined
that the entertainment had been prepared for fifty epicures at
the least. Only six birds' nests from the Nicobar islands were to
be had in London; and all the six, bought at an enormous price,
were smoking in soup on the board. These fables were destitute
alike of probability and of evidence. But Grub Street could
devise no fable injurious to Montague which was not certain to
find credence in more than half the manor houses and vicarages of

It may seem strange that a man who loved literature passionately,
and rewarded literary merit munificently, should have been more
savagely reviled both in prose and verse than almost any other
politician in our history. But there is really no cause for
wonder. A powerful, liberal and discerning protector of genius
is very likely to be mentioned with honour long after his death,
but is very likely also to be most brutally libelled during his
life. In every age there will be twenty bad writers for one good
one; and every bad writer will think himself a good one. A ruler
who neglects all men of letters alike does not wound the self
love of any man of letters. But a ruler who shows favour to the
few men of letters who deserve it inflicts on the many the
miseries of disappointed hope, of affronted pride, of jealousy
cruel as the grave. All the rage of a multitude of authors,
irritated at once by the sting of want and by the sting of
vanity, is directed against the unfortunate patron. It is true
that the thanks and eulogies of those whom he has befriended will
be remembered when the invectives of those whom he has neglected
are forgotten. But in his own time the obloquy will probably make
as much noise and find as much credit as the panegyric. The name
of Maecenas has been made immortal by Horace and Virgil, and is
popularly used to designate an accomplished statesman, who lives
in close intimacy with the greatest poets and wits of his time,
and heaps benefits on them with the most delicate generosity. But
it may well be suspected that, if the verses of Alpinus and
Fannius, of Bavius and Maevius, had come down to us, we might see
Maecenas represented as the most niggardly and tasteless of human
beings, nay as a man who, on system, neglected and persecuted all
intellectual superiority. It is certain that Montague was thus
represented by contemporary scribblers. They told the world in
essays, in letters, in dialogues, in ballads, that he would do
nothing for anybody without being paid either in money or in some
vile services; that he not only never rewarded merit, but hated
it whenever he saw it; that he practised the meanest arts for the
purpose of depressing it; that those whom he protected and
enriched were not men of ability and virtue, but wretches
distinguished only by their sycophancy and their low
debaucheries. And this was said of the man who made the fortune
of Joseph Addison, and of Isaac Newton.

Nothing had done more to diminish the influence of Montague in
the House of Commons than a step which he had taken a few weeks
before the meeting of the Parliament. It would seem that the
result of the general election had made him uneasy, and that he
had looked anxiously round him for some harbour in which he might
take refuge from the storms which seemed to be gathering. While
his thoughts were thus employed, he learned that the Auditorship
of the Exchequer had suddenly become vacant. The Auditorship was
held for life. The duties were formal and easy. The gains were
uncertain; for they rose and fell with the public expenditure;
but they could hardly, in time of peace, and under the most
economical administration, be less than four thousand pounds a
year, and were likely, in time of war, to be more than double of
that sum. Montague marked this great office for his own. He could
not indeed take it, while he continued to be in charge of the
public purse. For it would have been indecent, and perhaps
illegal, that he should audit his own accounts. He therefore
selected his brother Christopher, whom he had lately made a
Commissioner of the Excise, to keep the place for him. There was,
as may easily be supposed, no want of powerful and noble
competitors for such a prize. Leeds had, more than twenty years
before, obtained from Charles the Second a patent granting the
reversion to Caermarthen. Godolphin, it was said, pleaded a
promise made by William. But Montague maintained, and was, it
seems, right in maintaining, that both the patent of Charles and
the promise of William had been given under a mistake, and that
the right of appointing the Auditor belonged, not to the Crown,
but to the Board of Treasury. He carried his point with
characteristic audacity and celerity. The news of the vacancy
reached London on a Sunday. On the Tuesday the new Auditor was
sworn in. The ministers were amazed. Even the Chancellor, with
whom Montague was on terms of intimate friendship, had not been
consulted. Godolphin devoured his ill temper. Caermarthen ordered
out his wonderful yacht, and hastened to complain to the King,
who was then at Loo. But what had been done could not be undone.

This bold stroke placed Montague's fortune, in the lower sense of
the word, out of hazard, but increased the animosity of his
enemies and cooled the zeal of his adherents. In a letter written
by one of his colleagues, Secretary Vernon, on the day after the
appointment, the Auditorship is described as at once a safe and
lucrative place. "But I thought," Vernon proceeds, "Mr. Montague
was too aspiring to stoop to any thing below the height he was
in, and that he least considered profit." This feeling was no
doubt shared by many of the friends of the ministry. It was plain
that Montague was preparing a retreat for himself. This flinching
of the captain, just on the eve of a perilous campaign, naturally
disheartened the whole army. It deserves to be remarked that,
more than eighty years later, another great parliamentary leader
was placed in a very similar situation. The younger William Pitt
held in 1784 the same offices which Montague had held in 1698.
Pitt was pressed in 1784 by political difficulties not less than
those with which Montague had contended in 1698. Pitt was also in
1784 a much poorer man than Montague in 1698. Pitt, in 1784, like
Montage in 1698, had at his own absolute disposal a lucrative
sinecure place in the Exchequer. Pitt gave away the office which
would have made him an opulent man, and gave it away in such a
manner as at once to reward unfortunate merit, and to relieve the
country from a burden. For this disinterestedness he was repaid
by the enthusiastic applause of his followers, by the enforced
respect of his opponents, and by the confidence which, through
all the vicissitudes of a chequered and at length disastrous
career, the great body of Englishmen reposed in his public spirit
and in his personal integrity. In the intellectual qualities of a
statesman Montague was probably not inferior to Pitt. But the
magnanimity, the dauntless courage, the contempt for riches and
for baubles, to which, more than to any intellectual quality,
Pitt owed his long ascendency, were wanting to Montague.

The faults of Montague were great; but his punishment was cruel.
It was indeed a punishment which must have been more bitter than
the bitterness of death to a man whose vanity was exquisitely
sensitive, and who had been spoiled by early and rapid success
and by constant prosperity. Before the new Parliament had been a
month sitting it was plain that his empire was at an end. He
spoke with the old eloquence; but his speeches no longer called
forth the old response. Whatever he proposed was maliciously
scrutinised. The success of his budget of the preceding year had
surpassed all expectation. The two millions which he had
undertaken to find had been raised with a rapidity which seemed
magical. Yet for bringing the riches of the City, in an
unprecedented flood, to overflow the Exchequer he was reviled as
if his scheme had failed more ludicrously than the Tory Land
Bank. Emboldened by his unpopularity, the Old East India Company
presented a petition praying that the General Society Act, which
his influence and eloquence had induced the late Parliament to
pass, might be extensively modified. Howe took the matter up. It
was moved that leave should be given to bring in a bill according
to the prayer of the petition; the motion was carried by a
hundred and seventy-five votes to a hundred and forty-eight; and
the whole question of the trade with the Eastern seas was
reopened. The bill was brought in, but was, with great difficulty
and by a very small majority, thrown out on the second reading.17
On other financial questions Montague, so lately the oracle of
the Committee of Supply, was now heard with malevolent distrust.
If his enemies were unable to detect any flaw in his reasonings
and calculations, they could at least whisper that Mr. Montague
was very cunning, that it was not easy to track him, but that it
might be taken for granted that for whatever he did he had some
sinister motive, and that the safest course was to negative
whatever he proposed. Though that House of Commons was economical
even to a vice, the majority preferred paying high interest to
paying low interest, solely because the plan for raising money at
low interest had been framed by him. In a despatch from the Dutch
embassy the States General were informed that many of the votes
of that session which had caused astonishment out of doors were
to be ascribed to nothing but to the bitter envy which the
ability and fame of Montague had excited. It was not without a
hard struggle and a sharp pang that the first Englishman who has
held that high position which has now been long called the
Leadership of the House of Commons submitted to be deposed. But
he was set upon with cowardly malignity by whole rows of small
men none of whom singly would have dared to look him in the face.
A contemporary pamphleteer compared him to an owl in the sunshine
pursued and pecked to death by flights of tiny birds. On one
occasion he was irritated into uttering an oath. Then there was
a cry of Order; and he was threatened with the Serjeant and the
Tower. On another occasion he was moved even to shedding tears of
rage and vexation, tears which only moved the mockery of his low
minded and bad hearted foes.

If a minister were now to find himself thus situated in a House
of Commons which had just been elected, and from which it would
therefore be idle to appeal to the electors, he would instantly
resign his office, and his adversaries would take his place. The
change would be most advantageous to the public, even if we
suppose his successor to be both less virtuous and less able than
himself. For it is much better for the country to have a bad
ministry than to have no ministry at all, and there would be no
ministry at all if the executive departments were filled by men
whom the representatives of the people took every opportunity of
thwarting and insulting. That an unprincipled man should be
followed by a majority of the House of Commons is no doubt an
evil. But, when this is the case, he will nowhere be so harmless
as at the head of affairs. As he already possesses the power to
do boundless mischief, it is desirable to give him a strong
motive to abstain from doing mischief; and such a motive he has
from the moment that he is entrusted with the administration.
Office of itself does much to equalise politicians. It by no
means brings all characters to a level; but it does bring high
characters down and low characters up towards a common standard.
In power the most patriotic and most enlightened statesman finds
that he must disappoint the expectations of his admirers; that,
if he effects any good, he must effect it by compromise; that he
must relinquish many favourite schemes; that he must bear with
many abuses. On the other hand, power turns the very vices of the
most worthless adventurer, his selfish ambition, his sordid
cupidity, his vanity, his cowardice, into a sort of public
spirit. The most greedy and cruel wrecker that ever put up false
lights to lure mariners to their destruction will do his best to
preserve a ship from going to pieces on the rocks, if he is taken
on board of her and made pilot; and so the most profligate
Chancellor of the Exchequer most wish that trade may flourish,
that the revenue may come in well, and that he may be able to
take taxes off instead of putting them on. The most profligate
First Lord of the Admiralty must wish to receive news of a
victory like that of the Nile rather than of a mutiny like that
at the Nore. There is, therefore, a limit to the evil which is to
be apprehended from the worst ministry that is likely ever to
exist in England. But to the evil of having no ministry, to the
evil of having a House of Commons permanently at war with the
executive government, there is absolutely no limit. This was
signally proved in 1699 and 1700. Had the statesmen of the junto,
as soon as they had ascertained the temper of the new Parliament,
acted as statesmen similarly situated would now act, great
calamities would have been averted. The chiefs of the opposition
must then have been called upon to form a government. With the
power of the late ministry the responsibility of the late
ministry would have been transferred to them; and that
responsibility would at once have sobered them. The orator whose
eloquence had been the delight of the Country party would have
had to exert his ingenuity on a new set of topics. There would
have been an end of his invectives against courtiers and
placemen, of piteous meanings about the intolerable weight of the
land tax, of his boasts that the militia of Kent and Sussex,
without the help of a single regular soldier, would turn the
conquerors of Landen to the right about. He would himself have
been a courtier; he would himself have been a placeman; he would
have known that he should be held accountable for all the misery
which a national bankruptcy or a French invasion might produce;
and, instead of labouring to get up a clamour for the reduction
of imposts, and the disbanding of regiments, he would have
employed all his talents and influence for the purpose of
obtaining from Parliament the means of supporting public credit,
and of putting the country in a good posture of defence.
Meanwhile the statesmen who were out might have watched the new
men, might have checked them when they were wrong, might have
come to their help when, by doing right, they had raised a mutiny
in their own absurd and perverse faction. In this way Montague
and Somers might, in opposition, have been really far more
powerful than they could be while they filled the highest posts
in the executive government and were outvoted every day in the
House of Commons. Their retirement would have mitigated envy;
their abilities would have been missed and regretted; their
unpopularity would have passed to their successors, who would
have grievously disappointed vulgar expectation, and would have
been under the necessity of eating their own words in every
debate. The league between the Tories and the discontented Whigs
would have been dissolved; and it is probable that, in a session
or two, the public voice would have loudly demanded the recall of
the best Keeper of the Great Seal, and of the best First Lord of
the Treasury, the oldest man living could remember.

But these lessons, the fruits of the experience of five
generations, had never been taught to the politicians of the
seventeenth century. Notions imbibed before the Revolution still
kept possession of the public mind. Not even Somers, the foremost
man of his age in civil wisdom, thought it strange that one party
should be in possession of the executive administration while the
other predominated in the legislature. Thus, at the beginning of
1699, there ceased to be a ministry; and years elapsed before the
servants of the Crown and the representatives of the people were
again joined in an union as harmonious as that which had existed
from the general election of 1695 to the general election of
1698. The anarchy lasted, with some short intervals of
composedness, till the general election of 1765. No portion of
our parliamentary history is less pleasing or more instructive.
It will be seen that the House of Commons became altogether
ungovernable, abused its gigantic power with unjust and insolent
caprice, browbeat King and Lords, the Courts of Common Law and
the Constituent bodies, violated rights guaranteed by the Great
Charter, and at length made itself so odious that the people were
glad to take shelter, under the protection of the throne and of
the hereditary aristocracy, from the tyranny of the assembly
which had been chosen by themselves.

The evil which had brought on so much discredit on representative
institutions was of gradual though of rapid growth, and did not,
in the first session of the Parliament of 1698, take the most
alarming form. The lead of the House of Commons had, however,
entirely passed away from Montague, who was still the first
minister of finance, to the chiefs of the turbulent and
discordant opposition. Among those chiefs the most powerful was
Harley, who, while almost constantly acting with the Tories and
High Churchmen, continued to use, on occasions cunningly
selected, the political and religious phraseology which he had
learned in his youth among the Roundheads. He thus, while high in
the esteem of the country gentlemen and even of his hereditary
enemies, the country parsons, retained a portion of the favour
with which he and his ancestors had long been regarded by Whigs
and Nonconformists. He was therefore peculiarly well qualified to
act as mediator between the two sections of the majority.

The bill for the disbanding of the army passed with little
opposition through the House till it reached the last stage.
Then, at length, a stand was made, but in vain. Vernon wrote the
next day to Shrewsbury that the ministers had had a division
which they need not be ashamed of; for that they had mustered a
hundred and fifty-four against two hundred and twenty-one. Such a
division would not be considered as matter of boast by a
Secretary of State in our time.

The bill went up to the House of Lords, where it was regarded
with no great favour. But this was not one of those occasions on
which the House of Lords can act effectually as a check on the
popular branch of the legislature. No good would have been done
by rejecting the bill for disbanding the troops, unless the King
could have been furnished with the means of maintaining them; and
with such means he could be furnished only by the House of
Commons. Somers, in a speech of which both the eloquence and the
wisdom were greatly admired, placed the question in the true
light. He set forth strongly the dangers to which the jealousy
and parsimony of the representatives of the people exposed the
country. But any thing, he said, was better than that the King
and the Peers should engage, without hope of success, in an
acrimonious conflict with the Commons. Tankerville spoke with his
usual ability on the same side. Nottingham and the other Tories
remained silent; and the bill passed without a division.

By this time the King's strong understanding had mastered, as it
seldom failed, after a struggle, to master, his rebellious
temper. He had made up his mind to fulfil his great mission to
the end. It was with no common pain that he admitted it to be
necessary for him to give his assent to the disbanding bill. But
in this case it would have been worse than useless to resort to
his veto. For, if the bill had been rejected, the army would have
been dissolved, and he would have been left without even the
seven thousand men whom the Commons were willing to allow him. He
determined, therefore, to comply with the wish of his people, and
at the same time to give them a weighty and serious but friendly
admonition. Never had he succeeded better in suppressing the
outward signs of his emotions than on the day on which he carried
this determination into effect. The public mind was much excited.
The crowds in the parks and streets were immense. The Jacobites
came in troops, hoping to enjoy the pleasure of reading shame and
rage on the face of him whom they most hated and dreaded. The
hope was disappointed. The Prussian Minister, a discerning
observer, free from the passions which distracted English
society, accompanied the royal procession from St. James's Palace
to Westminster Hall. He well knew how bitterly William had been
mortified, and was astonished to see him present himself to the
public gaze with a serene and cheerful aspect.

The speech delivered from the throne was much admired; and the
correspondent of the States General acknowledged that he
despaired of exhibiting in a French translation the graces of
style which distinguished the original. Indeed that weighty,
simple and dignified eloquence which becomes the lips of a
sovereign was seldom wanting in any composition of which the plan
was furnished by William and the language by Somers. The King
informed the Lords and Commons that he had come down to pass
their bill as soon as it was ready for him. He could not indeed
but think that they had carried the reduction of the army to a
dangerous extent. He could not but feel that they had treated him
unkindly in requiring him to part with those guards who had come
over with him to deliver England, and who had since been near him
on every field of battle. But it was his fixed opinion that
nothing could be so pernicious to the State as that he should be
regarded by his people with distrust, distrust of which he had
not expected to be the object after what he had endeavoured,
ventured, and acted, to restore and to secure their liberties. He
had now, he said, told the Houses plainly the reason, the only
reason, which had induced him to pass their bill; and it was his
duty to tell them plainly, in discharge of his high trust, and in
order that none might hold him accountable for the evils which he
had vainly endeavoured to avert, that, in his judgment, the
nation was left too much exposed.

When the Commons had returned to their chamber, and the King's
speech had been read from the chair, Howe attempted to raise a
storm. A gross insult had been offered to the House. The King
ought to be asked who had put such words into his mouth. But the
spiteful agitator found no support. The majority were so much
pleased with the King for promptly passing the bill that they
were not disposed to quarrel with him for frankly declaring that
he disliked it. It was resolved without a division that an
address should be presented, thanking him for his gracious speech
and for his ready compliance with the wishes of his people, and
assuring him that his grateful Commons would never forget the
great things which he had done for the country, would never give
him cause to think them unkind or undutiful, and would, on all
occasions, stand by him against all enemies.

Just at this juncture tidings arrived which might well raise
misgivings in the minds of those who had voted for reducing the
national means of defence. The Electoral Prince of Bavaria was no
more. The Gazette which announced that the Disbanding Bill had
received the royal assent informed the public that he was
dangerously ill at Brussels. The next Gazette contained the news
of his death. Only a few weeks had elapsed since all who were
anxious for the peace of the world had learned with joy that he
had been named heir to the Spanish throne. That the boy just
entering upon life with such hopes should die, while the wretched
Charles, long ago half dead, continued to creep about between his
bedroom and his chapel, was an event for which, notwithstanding
the proverbial uncertainty of life, the minds of men were
altogether unprepared. A peaceful solution of the great question
now seemed impossible. France and Austria were left confronting
each other. Within a month the whole Continent might be in arms.
Pious men saw in this stroke, so sudden and so terrible, the
plain signs of the divine displeasure. God had a controversy with
the nations. Nine years of fire, of slaughter and of famine had
not been sufficient to reclaim a guilty world; and a second and
more severe chastisement was at hand. Others muttered that the
event which all good men lamented was to be ascribed to
unprincipled ambition. It would indeed have been strange if, in
that age, so important a death, happening at so critical a
moment, had not been imputed to poison. The father of the
deceased Prince loudly accused the Court of Vienna; and the
imputation, though not supported by the slightest evidence, was,
during some time, believed by the vulgar.

The politicians at the Dutch embassy imagined that now at length
the parliament would listen to reason. It seemed that even the
country gentlemen must begin to contemplate the probability of an
alarming crisis. The merchants of the Royal Exchange, much better
acquainted than the country gentlemen with foreign lands, and
much more accustomed than the country gentlemen to take large
views, were in great agitation. Nobody could mistake the beat of
that wonderful pulse which had recently begun, and has during
five generations continued, to indicate the variations of the
body politic. When Littleton was chosen speaker, the stocks rose.
When it was resolved that the army should be reduced to seven
thousand men, the stocks fell. When the death of the Electoral
Prince was known, they fell still lower. The subscriptions to a
new loan, which the Commons had, from mere spite to Montague,
determined to raise on conditions of which he disapproved, came
in very slowly. The signs of a reaction of feeling were
discernible both in and out of Parliament. Many men are alarmists
by constitution. Trenchard and Howe had frightened most men by
writing and talking about the danger to which liberty and
property would be exposed if the government were allowed to keep
a large body of Janissaries in pay. The danger had ceased to
exist; and those people who must always be afraid of something,
as they could no longer be afraid of a standing army, began to be
afraid of the French King. There was a turn in the tide of public
opinion; and no part of statesmanship is more important than the
art of taking the tide of public opinion at the turn. On more
than one occasion William showed himself a master of that art.
But, on the present occasion, a sentiment, in itself amiable and
respectable, led him to commit the greatest mistake of his whole
life. Had he at this conjuncture again earnestly pressed on the
Houses the importance of providing for the defence of the
kingdom, and asked of them an additional number of English
troops, it is not improbable that he might have carried his
point; it is certain that, if he had failed, there would have
been nothing ignominious in his failure. Unhappily, instead of
raising a great public question, on which he was in the right, on
which he had a good chance of succeeding, and on which he might
have been defeated without any loss of dignity, he chose to raise
a personal question, on which he was in the wrong, on which,
right or wrong, he was sure to be beaten, and on which he could
not be beaten without being degraded. Instead of pressing for
more English regiments, he exerted all his influence to obtain
for the Dutch guards permission to remain in the island.

The first trial of strength was in the Upper House. A resolution
was moved there to the effect that the Lords would gladly concur
in any plan that could be suggested for retaining the services of
the Dutch brigade. The motion was carried by fifty-four votes to
thirty-eight. But a protest was entered, and was signed by all
the minority. It is remarkable that Devonshire was, and that
Marlborough was not, one of the Dissentients. Marlborough had
formerly made himself conspicuous by the keenness and pertinacity
with which he had attacked the Dutch. But he had now made his
peace with the Court, and was in the receipt of a large salary
from the civil list. He was in the House on that day; and
therefore, if he voted, must have voted with the majority. The
Cavendishes had generally been strenuous supporters of the King
and the junto. But on the subject of the foreign troops
Hartington in one House and his father in the other were

This vote of the Lords caused much murmuring among the Commons.
It was said to be most unparliamentary to pass a bill one week,
and the next week to pass a resolution condemning that bill. It
was true that the bill had been passed before the death of the
Electoral Prince was known in London. But that unhappy event,
though it might be a good reason for increasing the English army,
could be no reason for departing from the principle that the
English army should consist of Englishmen. A gentleman who
despised the vulgar clamour against professional soldiers, who
held the doctrine of Somers's Balancing Letter, and who was
prepared to vote for twenty or even thirty thousand men, might
yet well ask why any of those men should be foreigners. Were our
countrymen naturally inferior to men of other races in any of the
qualities which, under proper training, make excellent soldiers?
That assuredly was not the opinion of the Prince who had, at the
head of Ormond's Life Guards, driven the French household troops,
till, then invincible, back over the ruins of Neerwinden, and
whose eagle eye and applauding voice had followed Cutts's
grenadiers up the glacis of Namur. Bitter spirited malecontents
muttered that, since there was no honourable service which could
not be as well performed by the natives of the realm as by alien
mercenaries, it might well be suspected that the King wanted his
alien mercenaries for some service not honourable. If it were
necessary to repel a French invasion or to put down an Irish
insurrection, the Blues and the Buffs would stand by him to the
death. But, if his object were to govern in defiance of the votes
of his Parliament and of the cry of his people, he might well
apprehend that English swords and muskets would, at the crisis,
fail him, as they had failed his father in law, and might well
wish to surround himself with men who were not of our blood, who
had no reverence for our laws, and no sympathy with our feelings.
Such imputations could find credit with no body superior in
intelligence to those clownish squires who with difficulty
managed to spell out Dyer's Letter over their ale. Men of sense
and temper admitted that William had never shown any disposition
to violate the solemn compact which he had made with the nation,
and that, even if he were depraved enough to think of destroying
the constitution by military violence, he was not imbecile enough
to imagine that the Dutch brigade, or five such brigades, would
suffice for his purpose. But such men, while they fully acquitted
him of the design attributed to him by factious malignity, could
not acquit him of a partiality which it was natural that he
should feel, but which it would have been wise in him to hide,
and with which it was impossible that his subjects should
sympathise. He ought to have known that nothing is more offensive
to free and proud nations than the sight of foreign uniforms and
standards. Though not much conversant with books, he must have
been acquainted with the chief events in the history of his own
illustrious House; and he could hardly have been ignorant that
his great grandfather had commenced a long and glorious struggle
against despotism by exciting the States General of Ghent to
demand that all Spanish troops should be withdrawn from the
Netherlands. The final parting between the tyrant and the future
deliverer was not an event to be forgotten by any of the race of
Nassau. "It was the States, Sir," said the Prince of Orange.
Philip seized his wrist with a convulsive grasp, and exclaimed,
"Not the States, but you, you, you."

William, however, determined to try whether a request made by
himself in earnest and almost supplicating terms
would induce his subjects to indulge his national partiality at
the expense of their own. None of his ministers could flatter him
with any hope of success. But on this subject he was too much
excited to hear reason. He sent down to the Commons a message,
not merely signed by himself according to the usual form, but
written throughout with his own hand. He informed them that the
necessary preparations had been made for sending away the guards
who came with him to England, and that they would immediately
embark, unless the House should, out of consideration for him, be
disposed to retain them, which he should take very kindly. When
the message had been read, a member proposed that a day might be
fixed for the consideration of the subject. But the chiefs of the
majority would not consent to any thing which might seem to
indicate hesitation, and moved the previous question. The
ministers were in a false position. It was out of their power to
answer Harley when he sarcastically declared that he did not
suspect them of having advised His Majesty on this occasion. If,
he said, those gentlemen had thought it desirable that the Dutch
brigade should remain in the kingdom, they would have done so
before. There had been many opportunities of raising the question
in a perfectly regular manner during the progress of the
Disbanding Bill. Of those opportunities nobody had thought fit to
avail himself; and it was now too late to reopen the question.
Most of the other members who spoke against taking the message
into consideration took the same line, declined discussing points
which might have been discussed when the Disbanding Bill was
before the House, and declared merely that they could not consent
to any thing so unparliamentary as the repealing of an Act which
had just been passed. But this way of dealing with the message
was far too mild and moderate to satisfy the implacable malice of
Howe. In his courtly days he had vehemently called on the King to
use the Dutch for the purpose of quelling the insubordination of
the English regiments. "None but the Dutch troops," he said, "are
to be trusted." He was now not ashamed to draw a parallel between
those very Dutch troops and the Popish Kernes whom James had
brought over from Munster and Connaught to enslave our island.
The general feeling was such that the previous question was
carried without a division. A Committee was immediately appointed
to draw up an address explaining the reasons which made it
impossible for the House to comply with His Majesty's wish. At
the next sitting the Committee reported; and on the report there
was an animated debate. The friends of the government thought the
proposed address offensive. The most respectable members of the
majority felt that it would be ungraceful to aggravate by harsh
language the pain which must be caused by their conscientious
opposition to the King's wishes. Some strong expressions were
therefore softened down; some courtly phrases were inserted; but
the House refused to omit one sentence which almost reproachfully
reminded the King that in his memorable Declaration of 1688 he
had promised to send back all the foreign forces as soon as he
had effected the deliverance of this country. The division was,
however, very close. There were one hundred and fifty-seven votes
for omitting this passage, and one hundred and sixty-three for
retaining it.18

The address was presented by the whole House. William's answer
was as good as it was possible for him, in the unfortunate
position in which he had placed himself, to return. It showed
that he was deeply hurt; but it was temperate and dignified.
Those who saw him in private knew that his feelings had been
cruelly lacerated. His body sympathised with his mind. His sleep
was broken. His headaches tormented him more than ever. From
those whom he had been in the habit of considering as his
friends, and who had failed him in the recent struggle, he did
not attempt to conceal his displeasure. The lucrative see of
Worcester was vacant; and some powerful Whigs of the cider
country wished to obtain it for John Hall, Bishop of Bristol. One
of the Foleys, a family zealous for the Revolution, but hostile
to standing armies, spoke to the King on the subject. "I will pay
as much respect to your wishes," said William, "as you and yours
have paid to mine." Lloyd of St. Asaph was translated to

The Dutch Guards immediately began to march to the coast. After
all the clamour which had been raised against them, the populace
witnessed their departure rather with sorrow than with triumph.
They had been long domiciled here; they had been honest and
inoffensive; and many of them were accompanied by English wives
and by young children who talked no language but English. As they
traversed the capital, not a single shout of exultation was
raised; and they were almost everywhere greeted with kindness.
One rude spectator, indeed, was heard to remark that Hans made a
much better figure, now that he had been living ten years on the
fat of the land, than when he first came. "A pretty figure you
would have made," said a Dutch soldier, "if we had not come." And
the retort was generally applauded. It would not, however, be
reasonable to infer from the signs of public sympathy and good
will with which the foreigners were dismissed that the nation
wished them to remain. It was probably because they were going
that they were regarded with favour by many who would never have
seen them relieve guard at St. James's without black looks and
muttered curses.

Side by side with the discussion about the land force had been
proceeding a discussion, scarcely less animated, about the naval
administration. The chief minister of marine was a man whom it
had once been useless and even perilous to attack in the Commons.
It was to no purpose that, in 1693, grave charges, resting on
grave evidence, had been brought against the Russell who had
conquered at La Hogue. The name of Russell acted as a spell on
all who loved English freedom. The name of La Hogue acted as a
spell on all who were proud of the glory of the English arms. The
accusations, unexamined and unrefuted, were contemptuously flung
aside; and the thanks of the House were voted to the accused
commander without one dissentient voice. But times had changed.
The Admiral still had zealous partisans; but the fame of his
exploits had lost their gloss; people in general were quick to
discern his faults; and his faults were but too discernible. That
he had carried on a traitorous correspondence with Saint Germains
had not been proved, and had been pronounced by the
representatives of the people to be a foul calumny. Yet the
imputation had left a stain on his name. His arrogant, insolent
and quarrelsome temper made him an object of hatred. His vast and
growing wealth made him an object of envy. What his official
merits and demerits really were it is not easy to discover through
the mist made up of factious abuse and factious panegyric. One
set of writers described him as the most ravenous of all the
plunderers of the poor overtaxed nation. Another set asserted
that under him the ships were better built and rigged, the crews
were better disciplined and better tempered, the biscuit was
better, the beer was better, the slops were better, than under
any of his predecessors; and yet that the charge to the public
was less than it had been when the vessels were unseaworthy, when
the sailors were riotous, when the food was alive with vermin,
when the drink tasted like tanpickle, and when the clothes and
hammocks were rotten. It may, however, be observed that these two
representations are not inconsistent with each other; and there
is strong reason to believe that both are, to a great extent,
true. Orford was covetous and unprincipled; but he had great
professional skill and knowledge, great industry, and a strong
will. He was therefore an useful servant of the state when the
interests of the state were not opposed to his own; and this was
more than could be said of some who had preceded him. He was, for
example, an incomparably better administrator than Torrington.
For Torrington's weakness and negligence caused ten times as much
mischief as his rapacity. But, when Orford had nothing to gain by
doing what was wrong, he did what was right, and did it ably and
diligently. Whatever Torrington did not embezzle he wasted.
Orford may have embezzled as much as Torrington; but he wasted

Early in the session, the House of Commons resolved itself into a
Committee on the state of the Navy. This Committee sate at
intervals during more than three months. Orford's administration
underwent a close scrutiny, and very narrowly escaped a severe
censure. A resolution condemning the manner in which his accounts
had been kept was lost by only one vote. There were a hundred and
forty against him, and a hundred and forty-one for him. When the
report was presented to the House, another attempt was made to
put a stigma upon him. It was moved that the King should be
requested to place the direction of maritime affairs in other
hands. There were a hundred and sixty Ayes to a hundred and
sixty-four Noes. With this victory, a victory hardly to be
distinguished from a defeat, his friends were forced to be
content. An address setting forth some of the abuses in the naval
department, and beseeching King William to correct them, was
voted without a division. In one of those abuses Orford was
deeply interested. He was First Lord of the Admiralty; and he had
held, ever since the Revolution, the lucrative place of Treasurer
of the Navy. It was evidently improper that two offices, one of
which was meant to be a check on the other, should be united in
the same person; and this the Commons represented to the King.

Questions relating to the military and naval Establishments
occupied the attention of the Commons so much during the session
that, until the prorogation was at hand, little was said about
the resumption of the Crown grants. But, just before the Land Tax
Bill was sent up to the Lords, a clause was added to it by which
seven Commissioners were empowered to take account of the
property forfeited in Ireland during the late troubles. The
selection of those Commissioners the House reserved to itself.
Every member was directed to bring a list containing the names of
seven persons who were not members; and the seven names which
appeared in the greatest number of lists were inserted in the
bill. The result of the ballot was unfavourable to the
government. Four of the seven on whom the choice fell were
connected with the opposition; and one of them, Trenchard, was
the most conspicuous of the pamphleteers who had been during many
months employed in raising a cry against the army.

The Land Tax Bill, with this clause tacked to it, was carried to
the Upper House. The Peers complained, and not without reason, of
this mode of proceeding. It may, they said, be very proper that
Commissioners should be appointed by Act of Parliament to take
account of the forfeited property in Ireland. But they should be
appointed by a separate Act. Then we should be able to make
amendments, to ask for conferences, to give and receive
explanations. The Land Tax Bill we cannot amend. We may indeed
reject it; but we cannot reject it without shaking public credit,
without leaving the kingdom defenceless, without raising a mutiny
in the navy. The Lords yielded, but not without a protest which
was signed by some strong Whigs and some strong Tories. The King
was even more displeased than the Peers. "This Commission," he
said, in one of his private letters, "will give plenty of trouble
next winter." It did indeed give more trouble than he at all
anticipated, and brought the nation nearer than it has ever since
been to the verge of another revolution.

And now the supplies had been voted. The spring was brightening
and blooming into summer. The lords and squires were sick of
London; and the King was sick of England. On the fourth day of
May he prorogued the Houses with a speech very different from the
speeches with which he had been in the habit of dismissing the
preceding Parliament. He uttered not one word of thanks or
praise. He expressed a hope that, when they should meet again,
they would make effectual provision for the public safety. "I
wish," these were his concluding words, "no mischief may happen
in the mean time." The gentlemen who thronged the bar withdrew in
wrath, and, as they could not take immediate vengeance, laid up
his reproaches in their hearts against the beginning of the next

The Houses had broken up; but there was still much to be done
before the King could set out for Loo. He did not yet perceive
that the true way to escape from his difficulties was to form an
entirely new ministry possessing the confidence of the majority
which had, in the late session, been found so unmanageable. But
some partial changes he could not help making. The recent votes
of the Commons forced him seriously to consider the state of the
Board of Admiralty. It was impossible that Orford could continue
to preside at that Board and be at the same time Treasurer of the
Navy. He was offered his option. His own wish was to keep the
Treasurership, which was both the more lucrative and the more
secure of his two places. But it was so strongly represented to
him that he would disgrace himself by giving up great power for
the sake of gains which, rich and childless as he was, ought to
have been beneath his consideration, that he determined to remain
at the Admiralty. He seems to have thought that the sacrifice
which he had made entitled him to govern despotically the
department at which he had been persuaded to remain. But be soon
found that the King was determined to keep in his own hands the
power of appointing and removing the junior Lords. One of these
Lords, especially, the First Commissioner hated, and was bent on
ejecting, Sir George Rooke, who was Member of Parliament for
Portsmouth. Rooke was a brave and skilful officer, and had,
therefore, though a Tory in politics, been suffered to keep his
place during the ascendency of the Whig junto. Orford now
complained to the King that Rooke had been in correspondence with
the factious opposition which had given so much trouble, and had
lent the weight of his professional and official authority to the
accusations which had been brought against the naval
administration. The King spoke to Rooke, who declared that Orford
had been misinformed. "I have a great respect for my Lord; and on
proper occasions I have not failed to express it in public. There
have certainly been abuses at the Admiralty which I am unable to
defend. When those abuses have been the subject of debate in the
House of Commons, I have sate silent. But, whenever any personal
attack has been made on my Lord, I have done him the best service
that I could." William was satisfied, and thought that Orford
should have been satisfied too. But that haughty and perverse
nature could be content with nothing but absolute dominion. He
tendered his resignation, and could not be induced to retract it.
He said that he could be of no use. It would be easy to supply
his place; and his successors should have his best wishes. He
then retired to the country, where, as was reported and may
easily be believed, he vented his ill humour in furious
invectives against the King. The Treasurership of the Navy was
given to the Speaker Littleton. The Earl of Bridgewater, a
nobleman of very fair character and of some experience in
business, became First Lord of the Admiralty.

Other changes were made at the same time. There had during some
time been really no Lord President of the Council. Leeds, indeed,
was still called Lord President, and, as such, took precedence of
dukes of older creation; but he had not performed any of the
duties of his office since the prosecution instituted against him
by the Commons in 1695 had been suddenly stopped by an event
which made the evidence of his guilt at once legally defective
and morally complete. It seems strange that a statesman of
eminent ability, who had been twice Prime Minister, should have
wished to hold, by so ignominious a tenure, a place which can
have had no attraction for him but the salary. To that salary,
however, Leeds had clung, year after year; and he now
relinquished it with a very bad grace. He was succeeded by
Pembroke; and the Privy Seal which Pembroke laid down was put
into the hands of a peer of recent creation, Viscount Lonsdale.
Lonsdale had been distinguished in the House of Commons as Sir
John Lowther, and had held high office, but had quitted public
life in weariness and disgust, and had passed several years in
retirement at his hereditary seat in Cumberland. He had planted
forests round his house, and had employed Verrio to decorate the
interior with gorgeous frescoes which represented the gods at
their banquet of ambrosia. Very reluctantly, and only in
compliance with the earnest and almost angry importunity of the
King, Lonsdale consented to leave his magnificent retreat, and
again to encounter the vexations of public life.

Trumball resigned the Secretaryship of State; and the Seals which
he had held were given to Jersey, who was succeeded at Paris by
the Earl of Manchester.

It is to be remarked that the new Privy Seal and the new
Secretary of State were moderate Tories. The King had probably
hoped that, by calling them to his councils, he should conciliate
the opposition. But the device proved unsuccessful; and soon it
appeared that the old practice of filling the chief offices of
state with men taken from various parties, and hostile to one
another, or, at least, unconnected with one another, was
altogether unsuited to the new state of affairs; and that, since
the Commons had become possessed of supreme power, the only way
to prevent them from abusing that power with boundless folly and
violence was to intrust the government to a ministry which
enjoyed their confidence.

While William was making these changes in the great offices of
state, a change in which he took a still deeper interest was
taking place in his own household. He had laboured in vain during
many months to keep the peace between Portland and Albemarle.
Albemarle, indeed, was all courtesy, good humour, and submission;
but Portland would not be conciliated. Even to foreign ministers
he railed at his rival and complained of his master. The whole
Court was divided between the competitors, but divided very
unequally. The majority took the side of Albemarle, whose manners
were popular and whose power was evidently growing. Portland's
few adherents were persons who, like him, had already made their
fortunes, and who did not therefore think it worth their while to
transfer their homage to a new patron. One of these persons tried
to enlist Prior in Portland's faction, but with very little
success. "Excuse me," said the poet, "if I follow your example
and my Lord's. My Lord is a model to us all; and you have
imitated him to good purpose. He retires with half a million. You
have large grants, a lucrative employment in Holland, a fine
house. I have nothing of the kind. A court is like those
fashionable churches into which we have looked at Paris. Those
who have received the benediction are instantly away to the Opera
House or the wood of Boulogne. Those who have not received the
benediction are pressing and elbowing each other to get near the
altar. You and my Lord have got your blessing, and are quite
right to take yourselves off with it. I have not been blest, and
must fight my way up as well as I can." Prior's wit was his own.
But his worldly wisdom was common to him with multitudes; and the
crowd of those who wanted to be lords of the bedchamber, rangers
of parks, and lieutenants of counties, neglected Portland and
tried to ingratiate themselves with Albemarle.

By one person, however, Portland was still assiduously courted;
and that person was the King. Nothing was omitted which could
soothe an irritated mind. Sometimes William argued, expostulated
and implored during two hours together. But he found the comrade
of his youth an altered man, unreasonable, obstinate and
disrespectful even before the public eye. The Prussian minister,
an observant and impartial witness, declared that his hair had
more than once stood on end to see the rude discourtesy with
which the servant repelled the gracious advances of the master.
Over and over William invited his old friend to take the long
accustomed seat in his royal coach, that seat which Prince George
himself had never been permitted to invade; and the invitation
was over and over declined in a way which would have been thought
uncivil even between equals. A sovereign could not, without a
culpable sacrifice of his personal dignity, persist longer in
such a contest. Portland was permitted to withdraw from the
palace. To Heinsius, as to a common friend, William announced
this separation in a letter which shows how deeply his feelings
had been wounded. "I cannot tell you what I have suffered. I have
done on my side every thing that I could do to satisfy him; but
it was decreed that a blind jealousy should make him regardless
of every thing that ought to have been dear to him." To Portland
himself the King wrote in language still more touching. "I hope
that you will oblige me in one thing. Keep your key of office. I
shall not consider you as bound to any attendance. But I beg you
to let me see you as often as possible. That will be a great
mitigation of the distress which you have caused me. For, after
all that has passed, I cannot help loving you tenderly."

Thus Portland retired to enjoy at his ease immense estates
scattered over half the shires of England, and a hoard of ready
money, such, it was said, as no other private man in Europe
possessed. His fortune still continued to grow. For, though,
after the fashion of his countrymen, he laid out large sums on
the interior decoration of his houses, on his gardens, and on his
aviaries, his other expenses were regulated with strict
frugality. His repose was, however, during some years not
uninterrupted. He had been trusted with such grave secrets, and
employed in such high missions, that his assistance was still
frequently necessary to the government; and that assistance was
given, not, as formerly, with the ardour of a devoted friend, but
with the exactness of a conscientious servant. He still continued
to receive letters from William; letters no longer indeed
overflowing with kindness, but always indicative of perfect
confidence and esteem.

The chief subject of those letters was the question which had
been for a time settled in the previous autumn at Loo, and which
had been reopened in the spring by the death of the Electoral
Prince of Bavaria.

As soon as that event was known at Paris, Lewis directed Tallard
to sound William as to a new treaty. The first thought which
occurred to William was that it might be possible to put the
Elector of Bavaria in his son's place. But this suggestion was
coldly received at Versailles, and not without reason. If,
indeed, the young Francis Joseph had lived to succeed Charles,
and had then died a minor without issue, the case would have been
very different. Then the Elector would have been actually
administering the government of the Spanish monarchy, and,
supported by France, England and the United Provinces, might
without much difficulty have continued to rule as King the empire
which he had begun to rule as Regent. He would have had also, not
indeed a right, but something which to the vulgar would have
looked like a right, to be his son's heir. Now he was altogether
unconnected with Spain. No more reason could be given for
selecting him to be the Catholic King than for selecting the
Margrave of Baden or the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Something was
said about Victor Amadeus of Savoy, and something about the King
of Portugal; but to both there were insurmountable objections. It
seemed, therefore, that the only choice was between a French
Prince and an Austrian Prince; and William learned, with
agreeable surprise, that Lewis might possibly be induced to
suffer the younger Archduke to be King of Spain and the Indies.
It was intimated at the same time that the House of Bourbon would
expect, in return for so great a concession to the rival House of
Habsburg, greater advantages than had been thought sufficient
when the Dauphin consented to waive his claims in favour of a
candidate whose elevation could cause no jealousies. What Lewis
demanded, in addition to the portion formerly assigned to France,
was the Milanese. With the Milanese he proposed to buy Lorraine
from its Duke. To the Duke of Lorraine this arrangement would
have been beneficial, and to the people of Lorraine more
beneficial still. They were, and had long been, in a singularly
unhappy situation. Lewis domineered over them as if they had been
his subjects, and troubled himself as little about their
happiness as if they had been his enemies. Since he exercised as
absolute a power over them as over the Normans and Burgundians,
it was desirable that he should have as great an interest in
their welfare as in the welfare of the Normans and Burgundians.

On the basis proposed by France William was willing to negotiate;
and, when, in June 1699, he left Kensington to pass the summer at
Loo, the terms of the treaty known as the Second Treaty of
Partition were very nearly adjusted. The great object now was to
obtain the consent of the Emperor. That consent, it should seem,
ought to have been readily and even eagerly given. Had it been
given, it might perhaps have saved Christendom from a war of
eleven years. But the policy of Austria was, at that time,
strangely dilatory and irresolute. It was in vain that William
and Heinsius represented the importance of every hour. "The
Emperor's ministers go on dawdling," so the King wrote to
Heinsius, "not because there is any difficulty about the matter,
not because they mean to reject the terms, but solely because
they are people who can make up their minds to nothing." While
the negotiation at Vienna was thus drawn out into endless length,
evil tidings came from Madrid.

Spain and her King had long been sunk so low that it seemed
impossible for him to sink lower. Yet the political maladies of
the monarchy and the physical maladies of the monarch went on
growing, and exhibited every day some new and frightful symptom.
Since the death of the Bavarian Prince, the Court had been
divided between the Austrian faction, of which the Queen and the
leading ministers Oropesa and Melgar were the chiefs, and the
French faction, of which the most important member was Cardinal
Portocarrero, Archbishop of Toledo. At length an event which, as
far as can now be judged, was not the effect of a deeply
meditated plan, and was altogether unconnected with the disputes
about the succession, gave the advantage to the adherents of
France. The government, having committed the great error of
undertaking to supply Madrid with food, committed the still
greater error of neglecting to perform what it had undertaken.
The price of bread doubled. Complaints were made to the
magistrates, and were heard with the indolent apathy
characteristic of the Spanish administration from the highest to
the lowest grade. Then the populace rose, attacked the house of
Oropesa, poured by thousands into the great court of the palace,
and insisted on seeing the King. The Queen appeared in a balcony,
and told the rioters that His Majesty was asleep. Then the
multitude set up a roar of fury. "It is false; we do not believe
you. We will see him." "He has slept too long," said one
threatening voice; "and it is high time that he should wake." The
Queen retired weeping; and the wretched being on whose dominions
the sun never set tottered to the window, bowed as he had never
bowed before, muttered some gracious promises, waved a
handkerchief in the air, bowed again, and withdrew. Oropesa,
afraid of being torn to pieces, retired to his country seat.
Melgar made some show of resistance, garrisoned his house, and
menaced the rabble with a shower of grenades, but was soon forced
to go after Oropesa; and the supreme power passed to

Portocarrero was one of a race of men of whom we, happily for us,
have seen very little, but whose influence has been the curse of
Roman Catholic countries. He was, like Sixtus the Fourth and
Alexander the Sixth, a politician made out of an impious priest.
Such politicians are generally worse than the worst of the laity,
more merciless than any ruffian that can be found in camps, more
dishonest than any pettifogger who haunts the tribunals. The
sanctity of their profession has an unsanctifying influence on
them. The lessons of the nursery, the habits of boyhood and of
early youth, leave in the minds of the great majority of avowed
infidels some traces of religion, which, in seasons of mourning
and of sickness, become plainly discernible. But it is scarcely
possible that any such trace should remain in the mind of the
hypocrite who, during many years, is constantly going through
what he considers as the mummery of preaching, saying mass,
baptizing, shriving. When an ecclesiastic of this sort mixes in
the contests of men of the world, he is indeed much to be dreaded
as an enemy, but still more to be dreaded as an ally. From the
pulpit where he daily employs his eloquence to embellish what he
regards as fables, from the altar whence he daily looks down with
secret scorn on the prostrate dupes who believe that he can turn
a drop of wine into blood, from the confessional where he daily
studies with cold and scientific attention the morbid anatomy of
guilty consciences, he brings to courts some talents which may
move the envy of the more cunning and unscrupulous of lay
courtiers; a rare skill in reading characters and in managing
tempers, a rare art of dissimulation, a rare dexterity in
insinuating what it is not safe to affirm or to propose in
explicit terms. There are two feelings which often prevent an
unprincipled layman from becoming utterly depraved and
despicable, domestic feeling, and chivalrous feeling. His heart
may be softened by the endearments of a family. His pride may
revolt from the thought of doing what does not become a
gentleman. But neither with the domestic feeling nor with the
chivalrous feeling has the wicked priest any sympathy. His gown
excludes him from the closest and most tender of human relations,
and at the same time dispenses him from the observation of the
fashionable code of honour.

Such a priest was Portocarrero; and he seems to have been a
consummate master of his craft. To the name of statesman he had
no pretensions. The lofty part of his predecessor Ximenes was out
of the range, not more of his intellectual, than his moral
capacity. To reanimate a paralysed and torpid monarchy, to
introduce order and economy into a bankrupt treasury, to restore
the discipline of an army which had become a mob, to refit a navy
which was perishing from mere rottenness, these were achievements
beyond the power, beyond even the ambition, of that ignoble
nature. But there was one task for which the new minister was
admirably qualified, that of establishing, by means of
superstitious terror, an absolute dominion over a feeble mind;
and the feeblest of all minds was that of his unhappy sovereign.
Even before the riot which had made the cardinal supreme in the
state, he had succeeded in introducing into the palace a new
confessor selected by himself. In a very short time the King's
malady took a new form. That he was too weak to lift his food to
his misshapen mouth, that, at thirty-seven, he had the bald head
and wrinkled face of a man of seventy, that his complexion was
turning from yellow to green, that he frequently fell down in
fits and remained long insensible, these were no longer the worst
symptoms of his malady. He had always been afraid of ghosts and
demons; and it had long been necessary that three friars should
watch every night by his restless bed as a guard against
hobgoblins. But now he was firmly convinced that he was
bewitched, that he was possessed, that there was a devil within
him, that there were devils all around him. He was exorcised
according to the forms of his Church; but this ceremony, instead
of quieting him, scared him out of almost all the little reason
that nature had given him. In his misery and despair he was
induced to resort to irregular modes of relief. His confessor
brought to court impostors who pretended that they could
interrogate the powers of darkness. The Devil was called up,
sworn and examined. This strange deponent made oath, as in the
presence of God, that His Catholic Majesty was under a spell,
which had been laid on him many years before, for the purpose of
preventing the continuation of the royal line. A drug had been
compounded out of the brains and kidneys of a human corpse, and
had been administered in a cup of chocolate. This potion had
dried up all the sources of life; and the best remedy to which
the patient could now resort would be to swallow a bowl of
consecrated oil every morning before breakfast. Unhappily, the
authors of this story fell into contradictions which they could
excuse only by throwing the blame on Satan, who, they said, was
an unwilling witness, and a liar from the beginning. In the midst
of their conjuring, the Inquisition came down upon them. It must
be admitted that, if the Holy Office had reserved all its terrors
for such cases, it would not now have been remembered as the most
hateful judicature that was ever known among civilised men. The
subaltern impostors were thrown into dungeons. But the chief
criminal continued to be master of the King and of the kingdom.
Meanwhile, in the distempered mind of Charles one mania succeeded
another. A longing to pry into those mysteries of the grave from
which human beings avert their thoughts had long been hereditary
in his house. Juana, from whom the mental constitution of her
posterity seems to have derived a morbid taint, had sate, year
after year, by the bed on which lay the ghastly remains of her
husband, apparelled in the rich embroidery and jewels which he
had been wont to wear while living. Her son Charles found an
eccentric pleasure in celebrating his own obsequies, in putting
on his shroud, placing himself in the coffin, covering himself
with the pall; and lying as one dead till the requiem had been
sung, and the mourners had departed leaving him alone in the
tomb. Philip the Second found a similar pleasure in gazing on the
huge chest of bronze in which his remains were to be laid, and
especially on the skull which, encircled with the crown of Spain,
grinned at him from the cover. Philip the Fourth, too, hankered
after burials and burial places, gratified his curiosity by
gazing on the remains of his great grandfather, the Emperor, and
sometimes stretched himself out at full length like a corpse in
the niche which he had selected for himself in the royal
cemetery. To that cemetery his son was now attracted by a strange
fascination. Europe could show no more magnificent place of
sepulture. A staircase encrusted with jasper led down from the
stately church of the Escurial into an octagon situated just
beneath the high altar. The vault, impervious to the sun, was
rich with gold and precious marbles, which reflected the blaze
from a huge chandelier of silver. On the right and on the left
reposed, each in a massy sarcophagus, the departed kings and
queens of Spain. Into this mausoleum the King descended with a
long train of courtiers, and ordered the coffins to be unclosed.
His mother had been embalmed with such consummate skill that she
appeared as she had appeared on her death bed. The body of his
grandfather too seemed entire, but crumbled into dust at the
first touch. From Charles neither the remains of his mother nor
those of his grandfather could draw any sign of sensibility. But,
when the gentle and graceful Louisa of Orleans, the miserable
man's first wife, she who had lighted up his dark existence with
one short and pale gleam of happiness, presented herself, after
the lapse of ten years, to his eyes, his sullen apathy gave way.
"She is in heaven," he cried; "and I shall soon be there with
her;" and, with all the speed of which his limbs were capable, he
tottered back to the upper air.

Such was the state of the Court of Spain when, in the autumn of
1699, it became known that, since the death of the Electoral
Prince of Bavaria, the governments of France, of England and of
the United Provinces, were busily engaged in framing a second
Treaty of Partition. That Castilians would be indignant at
learning that any foreign potentate meditated the dismemberment
of that empire of which Castile was the head might have been
foreseen. But it was less easy to foresee that William would be
the chief and indeed almost the only object of their indignation.
If the meditated partition really was unjustifiable, there could
be no doubt that Lewis was far more to blame than William. For it
was by Lewis, and not by William, that the partition had been
originally suggested; and it was Lewis, and not William, who was
to gain an accession of territory by the partition. Nobody could
doubt that William would most gladly have acceded to any
arrangement by which the Spanish monarchy, could be preserved
entire without danger to the liberties of Europe, and that he had
agreed to the division of that monarchy solely for the purpose of
contenting Lewis. Nevertheless the Spanish ministers carefully
avoided whatever could give offence to Lewis, and indemnified
themselves by offering a gross indignity to William. The truth is
that their pride had, as extravagant pride often has, a close
affinity with meanness. They knew that it was unsafe to insult
Lewis; and they believed that they might with perfect safety
insult William. Lewis was absolute master of his large kingdom.
He had at no great distance armies and fleets which one word from
him would put in motion. If he were provoked, the white flag
might in a few days be again flying on the walls of Barcelona.
His immense power was contemplated by the Castilians with hope as
well as with fear. He and he alone, they imagined, could avert
that dismemberment of which they could not bear to think. Perhaps
he might yet be induced to violate the engagements into which he
had entered with England and Holland, if one of his grandsons

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