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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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bestowed on any Protestant of any persuasion. Even while the King
had still strong motives to dissemble, he had made a Catholic
Dean of Christ Church and a Catholic President of Magdalen
College. There seems to be no doubt that the See of York was kept
vacant for another Catholic. If James had been suffered to follow
this course for twenty years, every military man from a general
to a drummer, every officer of a ship, every judge, every King's
counsel, every lord-lieutenant of a county, every justice of the
peace, every ambassador, every minister of state, every person
employed in the royal household, in the custom-house, in the
post-office, in the excise, would have been a Catholic. The
Catholics would have had a majority in the House of Lords, even
if that majority had been made, as Sunderland threatened, by
bestowing coronets on a whole troop of the Guards. Catholics
would have had, we believe, the chief weight even in the
Convocation. Every bishop, every dean, every holder of a crown
living, every head of every college which was subject to the
royal power, would have belonged to the Church of Rome. Almost
all the places of liberal education would have been under the
direction of Catholics. The whole power of licensing books would
have been in the hands of Catholics. All this immense mass of
power would have been steadily supported by the arms and by the
gold of France, and would have descended to an heir whose whole
education would have been conducted with a view to one single
end, the complete re-establishment of the Catholic religion. The
House of Commons would have been the only legal obstacle. But the
rights of a great portion of the electors were at the mercy of
the courts of law; and the courts of law were absolutely
dependent on the Crown. We cannot therefore think it altogether
impossible that a House might have been packed which would have
restored the days of Mary.

We certainly do not believe that this would have been tamely
borne. But we do believe that, if the nation had been deluded by
the King's professions of toleration, all this would have been
attempted, and could have been averted only by a most bloody and
destructive contest, in which the whole Protestant
population would have been opposed to the Catholics. On the one
side would have been a vast numerical superiority. But on the
other side would have been the whole organization of government,
and two great disciplined armies, that of James, and that of
Lewis. We do not doubt that the nation would have achieved its
deliverance. But we believe that the struggle would have shaken
the whole fabric of society, and that the vengeance of the
conquerors would have been terrible and unsparing.

But James was stopped at the outset. He thought himself secure of
the Tories, because they professed to consider all resistance as
sinful, and of the Protestant Dissenters, because he offered them
relief. He was in the wrong as to both. The error into which he
fell about the Dissenters was very natural. But the confidence
which he placed in the loyal assurances of the High Church party,
was the most exquisitely ludicrous proof of folly that a
politician ever gave.

Only imagine a man acting for one single day on the supposition
that all his neighbours believe all that they profess, and act up
to all that they believe. Imagine a man acting on the supposition
that he may safely offer the deadliest injuries and insults to
everybody who says that revenge is sinful; or that he may safely
intrust all his property without security to any person who says
that it is wrong to steal. Such a character would be too absurd
for the wildest farce. Yet the folly of James did not stop short
of this incredible extent. Because the clergy had declared that
resistance to oppression was in no case lawful, he conceived that
he might oppress them exactly as much as he chose, without the
smallest danger of resistance. He quite forgot that, when they
magnified the royal prerogative, the prerogative was exerted on
their side, that, when they preached endurance, they had nothing
to endure, that, when they declared it unlawful to resist evil,
none but Whigs and Dissenters suffered any evil. It had never
occurred to him that a man feels the calamities of his enemies
with one sort of sensibility, and his own with quite a different
sort. It had never occurred to him as possible that a reverend
divine might think it the duty of Baxter and Bunyan to bear
insults and to lie in dungeons without murmuring, and yet when he
saw the smallest chance that his own prebend might be transferred
to some sly Father from Italy or Flanders, might begin to
discover much matter for useful meditation in the texts touching
Ehud's knife and Jael's hammer. His majesty was not aware, it
should seem, that people do sometimes reconsider their opinions;
and that nothing more disposes a man to reconsider his opinions,
than a suspicion, that, if he adheres to them, he is very likely
to be a beggar or a martyr. Yet it seems strange that these
truths should have escaped the royal mind. Those Churchmen who
had signed the Oxford Declaration in favour of passive obedience
had also signed the thirty-nine Articles. And yet the very man
who confidently expected that, by a little coaxing and bullying,
he should induce them to renounce the Articles, was thunderstruck
when he found that they were disposed to soften down the
doctrines of the Declaration. Nor did it necessarily follow that,
even if the theory of the Tories had undergone no modification,
their practice would coincide with their theory. It might, one
should think, have crossed the mind of a man of fifty, who had
seen a great deal of the world, that people sometimes do what
they think wrong. Though a prelate might hold that Paul directs
us to obey even a Nero, it might not on that account be perfectly
safe to treat the Right Reverend Father in God after the fashion
of Nero, in the hope that he would continue to obey on the
principles of Paul. The King indeed had only to look at home. He
was at least as much attached to the Catholic Church as any Tory
gentleman or clergyman could be to the Church of England.
Adultery was at least as clearly and strongly condemned by his
Church as resistance by the Church of England. Yet his priests
could not keep him from Arabella Sedley. While he was risking his
crown for the sake of his soul, he was risking his soul for the
sake of an ugly, dirty mistress. There is something delightfully
grotesque in the spectacle of a man who, while living in the
habitual violation of his own known duties, is unable to believe
that any temptation can draw any other person aside from the path
of virtue.

James was disappointed in all his calculations. His hope was that
the Tories would follow their principles, and that the
Nonconformists would follow their interests. Exactly the reverse
took place. The great body of the Tories sacrificed the principle
of non-resistance to their interests; the great body of
Nonconformists rejected the delusive offers of the King, and
stood firmly by their principles. The two parties whose strife
had convulsed the empire during half a century were united for a
moment; and all that vast royal power which three years before
had seemed immovably fixed vanished at once like chaff in a

The very great length to which this article has already been
extended makes it impossible for us to discuss, as we had meant
to do, the characters and conduct of the leading English
statesmen at this crisis. But we must offer a few remarks on the
spirit and tendency of the Revolution of 1688.

The editor of this volume quotes the Declaration of Right, and
tells us that, by looking at it, we may "judge at a glance
whether the authors of the Revolution achieved all they might and
ought, in their position, to have achieved; whether the Commons
of England did their duty to their constituents, their country,
posterity, and universal freedom." We are at a loss to imagine
how he can have read and transcribed the Declaration of Right,
and yet have so utterly misconceived its nature. That famous
document is, as its very name imports, declaratory, and not
remedial. It was never meant to he a measure of reform. It
neither contained, nor was designed to contain, any allusion to
those innovations which the authors of the Revolution considered
as desirable, and which they speedily proceeded to make. The
Declaration was merely a recital of certain old and wholesome
laws which had been violated by the Stuarts, and a solemn protest
against the validity of any precedent which might be set up in
opposition to those laws. The words run thus: "They do claim,
demand, and insist upon all and singular the premises as their
undoubted rights and liberties." Before a man begins to make
improvements on his estate, he must know its boundaries. Before a
legislature sits down to reform a constitution, it is fit to
ascertain what that constitution really is. This is all that the
Declaration was intended to do; and to quarrel with it because it
did not directly introduce any beneficial changes is to quarrel
with meat for not being fuel.

The principle on which the authors of the Revolution acted cannot
be mistaken. They were perfectly aware that the English
institutions stood in need of reform. But they also knew that an
important point was gained if they could settle once for all, by
a solemn compact, the matters which had, during several
generations, been in controversy between Parliament and the
Crown. They therefore most judiciously abstained from mixing up
the irritating and perplexing question of what ought to be the
law with the plain question of what was the law. As to the claims
set forth in the Declaration of Right, there was little room for
debate, Whigs and Tories were generally agreed as to the
illegality of the dispensing power and of taxation imposed by the
royal prerogative. The articles were therefore adjusted in a very
few days. But if the Parliament had determined to revise the
whole constitution, and to provide new securities against
misgovernment, before proclaiming the new sovereign, months would
have been lost in disputes. The coalition which had delivered the
country would have been instantly dissolved. The Whigs would have
quarrelled with the Tories, the Lords with the Commons, the
Church with the Dissenters; and all this storm of conflicting
interests and conflicting theories would have been raging round a
vacant throne. In the meantime, the greatest power on the
Continent was attacking our allies, and meditating a descent on
our own territories. Dundee was preparing to raise the Highlands.
The authority of James was still owned by the Irish. If the
authors of the Revolution had been fools enough to take this
course, we have little doubt that Luxembourg would have been upon
them in the midst of their constitution-making. They might
probably have been interrupted in a debate on Filmer's and
Sydney's theories of government by the entrance of the
musqueteers of Lewis's household, and have been marched off, two
and two, to frame imaginary monarchies and commonwealths in the
Tower. We have had in our own time abundant experience of the
effects of such folly. We have seen nation after nation enslaved,
because the friends of liberty wasted in discussions upon
abstract questions the time which ought to have been employed in
preparing for vigorous national defence. This editor, apparently,
would have had the English Revolution of 1688 end as the
Revolutions of Spain and Naples ended in our days. Thank God, our
deliverers were men of a very different order from the Spanish
and Neapolitan legislators. They might on many subjects hold
opinions which, in the nineteenth century, would not be
considered as liberal. But they were not dreaming pedants. They
were statesmen accustomed to the management of great affairs.
Their plans of reform were not so extensive as those of the
lawgivers of Cadiz; but what they planned, that they effected;
and what they effected, that they maintained against the fiercest
hostility at home and abroad.

Their first object was to seat William on the throne; and they
were right. We say this without any reference to the eminent
personal qualities of William, or to the follies and crimes of
James. If the two princes had interchanged characters, our
opinions would still have been the same. It was even more
necessary to England at that time that her king should be a
usurper than that he should be a hero. There could be no security
for good government without a change of dynasty. The reverence
for hereditary right and the doctrine of passive obedience had
taken such a hold on the minds of the Tories, that, if James
had been restored to power on any conditions, their attachment
to him would in all probability have revived, as the indignation
which recent oppression had produced faded from their minds.
It had become indispensable to have a sovereign whose title
to his throne was strictly bound up with the title of the nation
to its liberties. In the compact between the Prince of Orange
and the Convention, there was one most important article which,
though not expressed, was perfectly understood by both parties,
and for the performance of which the country had securities far
better than all the engagements that Charles the First or
Ferdinand the Seventh ever took in the day of their weakness,
and broke in the day of their power. The article to which we
allude was this, that William would in all things conform
himself to what should appear to be the fixed and deliberate
sense of his Parliament. The security for the performance was
this, that he had no claim to the throne except the choice of
Parliament, and no means of maintaining himself on the throne
but the support of Parliament. All the great and inestimable
reforms which speedily followed the Revolution were implied
in those simple words; "The Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and
Commons, assembled at Westminster, do resolve that William and
Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be, and be declared King
and Queen of England."

And what were the reforms of which we speak? We will shortly
recount some which we think the most important; and we will then
leave our readers to judge whether those who consider the
Revolution as a mere change of dynasty, beneficial to a few
aristocrats, but useless to the body of the people, or those who
consider it as a happy era in the history of the British nation
and of the human species, have judged more correctly of its

Foremost in the list of the benefits which our country owes to
the Revolution we place the Toleration Act. It is true that this
measure fell short of the wishes of the leading Whigs. It is true
also that, where Catholics were concerned, even the most
enlightened of the leading Whigs held opinions by no means so
liberal as those which are happily common at the present day.
Those distinguished statesmen did, however, make a noble, and, in
some respects, a successful struggle for the rights of
conscience. Their wish was to bring the great body of the
Protestant Dissenters within the pale of the Church by judicious
alterations in the Liturgy and the Articles, and to grant to
those who still remained without that pale the most ample
toleration. They framed a plan of comprehension which would have
satisfied a great majority of the seceders; and they proposed the
complete abolition of that absurd and odious test which, after
having been, during a century and a half, a scandal to the pious
and a laughing-stock to the profane, was at length removed in our
time. The immense power of the Clergy and of the Tory gentry
frustrated these excellent designs. The Whigs, however, did much.
They succeeded in obtaining a law in the provisions of which a
philosopher will doubtless find much to condemn, but which had
the practical effect of enabling almost every Protestant
Nonconformist to follow the dictates of his own conscience
without molestation. Scarcely a law in the statute-book is
theoretically more objectionable than the Toleration Act. But we
question whether in the whole of that vast mass of legislation,
from the Great Charter downwards, there be a single law which has
so much diminished the sum of human suffering, which has done so
much to allay bad passions, which has put an end to so much petty
tyranny and vexation, which has brought gladness, peace, and a
sense of security to so many private dwellings.

The second of those great reforms which the Revolution produced
was the final establishment of the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland.
We shall not now inquire whether the Episcopal or the Calvinistic
form of church government be more agreeable to primitive
practice. Far be it from us to disturb with our doubts the repose
of any Oxonian Bachelor of Divinity who conceives that the
English prelates with their baronies and palaces, their purple
and their fine linen, their mitred carriages and their sumptuous
tables, are the true successors of those ancient bishops who
lived by catching fish and mending tents. We say only that the
Scotch, doubtless from their own inveterate stupidity and malice,
were not Episcopalians; that they could not be made
Episcopalians; that the whole power of government had been in
vain employed for the purpose of converting them; that the
fullest instruction on the mysterious questions of the
Apostolical succession and the imposition of hands had been
imparted by the very logical process of putting the legs of the
students into wooden boots, and driving two or more wedges
between their knees; that a course of divinity lectures, of the
most edifying kind, had been given in the Grassmarket of
Edinburgh; yet that, in spite of all the exertions of those great
theological professors, Lauderdale and Dundee, the Covenanters
were as obstinate as ever. To the contest between the Scotch
nation and the Anglican Church are to be ascribed near thirty
years of the most frightful misgovernment ever seen in any part
of Great Britain. If the Revolution had produced no other effect
than that of freeing the Scotch from the yoke of an establishment
which they detested, and giving them one to which they were
attached, it would have been one of the happiest events in our

The third great benefit which the country derived from the
Revolution was the alteration in the mode of granting the
supplies. It had been the practice to settle on every prince, at
the commencement of his reign, the produce of certain taxes
which, it was supposed, would yield a sum sufficient to defray
the ordinary expenses of government. The distribution of the
revenue was left wholly to the sovereign. He might be forced by a
war, or by his own profusion, to ask for an extraordinary grant.
But, if his policy were economical and pacific, he might reign
many years without once being under the necessity of summoning
his Parliament, or of taking their advice when he had summoned
them. This was not all. The natural tendency of every society in
which property enjoys tolerable security is to increase in
wealth. With the national wealth, the produce of the customs, of
the excise, and of the post-office, would of course increase; and
thus it might well happen that taxes which, at the beginning of a
long reign, were barely sufficient to support a frugal government
in time of peace, might, before the end of that reign, enable the
sovereign to imitate the extravagance of Nero or Heliogabalus, to
raise great armies, to carry on expensive wars. Something of this
sort had actually happened under Charles the Second, though his
reign, reckoned from the Restoration, lasted only twenty-five
years. His first Parliament settled on him taxes estimated to
produce twelve hundred thousand pounds a year. This they thought
sufficient, as they allowed nothing for a standing army in time
of peace. At the time of Charles's death, the annual produce of
these taxes considerably exceeded a million and a half; and the
King who, during the years which immediately followed his
accession, was perpetually in distress, and perpetually asking
his Parliaments for money, was at last able to keep a body of
regular troops without any assistance from the House of Commons.
If his reign had been as long as that of George the Third, he
would probably, before the close of it, have been in the annual
receipt of several millions over and above what the ordinary
expenses of civil government required; and of those millions
he would have been as absolutely master as the King now is of
the sum allotted for his privy-purse. He might have spent them
in luxury, in corruption, in paying troops to overawe his people,
or in carrying into effect wild schemes of foreign conquest.
The authors of the Revolution applied a remedy to this great
abuse. They settled on the King, not the fluctuating produce of
certain fixed taxes, but a fixed sum sufficient for the support
of his own royal state. They established it as a rule that all
the expenses of the army, the navy, and the ordnance should be
brought annually under the review of the House of Commons, and
that every sum voted should be applied to the service specified
in the vote. The direct effect of this change was important.
The indirect effect has been more important still. From that
time the House of Commons has been really the paramount power
in the State. It has, in truth, appointed and removed ministers,
declared war, and concluded peace. No combination of the King
and the Lords has ever been able to effect anything against
the Lower House, backed by its constituents. Three or four
times, indeed, the sovereign has been able to break the force
of an opposition by dissolving the Parliament. But if that
experiment should fail, if the people should be of the same
mind with their representatives, he would clearly have no course
left but to yield, to abdicate, or to fight.

The next great blessing which we owe to the Revolution is the
purification of the administration of justice in political cases.
Of the importance of this change no person can judge who is not
well acquainted with the earlier volumes of the State Trials.
Those volumes are, we do not hesitate to say, the most frightful
record of baseness and depravity that is extant in the world. Our
hatred is altogether turned away from the crimes and the
criminals, and directed against the law and its ministers. We see
villanies as black as ever were imputed to any prisoner at any
bar daily committed on the bench and in the jury-box. The worst
of the bad acts which brought discredit on the old parliaments of
France, the condemnation of Lally, for example, or even that of
Calas, may seem praiseworthy when compared with the atrocities
which follow each other in endless succession as we turn over
that huge chronicle of the shame of England. The magistrates of
Paris and Toulouse were blinded by prejudice, passion, or
bigotry. But the abandoned judges of our own country committed
murder with their eyes open. The cause of this is plain. In
France there was no constitutional opposition. If a man held
language offensive to the Government, he was at once sent to the
Bastile or to Vincennes. But in England, at least after the days
of the Long Parliament, the King could not, by a mere act of his
prerogative, rid himself of a troublesome politician. He was
forced to remove those who thwarted him by means of perjured
witnesses, packed juries, and corrupt, hardhearted, browbeating
judges. The Opposition naturally retaliated whenever they had the
upper hand. Every time that the power passed from one party to
the other, there was a proscription and a massacre, thinly
disguised under the forms of judicial procedure. The tribunals
ought to be sacred places of refuge, where, in all the
vicissitudes of public affairs, the innocent of all parties may
find shelter. They were, before the Revolution, an unclean public
shambles, to which each party in its turn dragged its opponents,
and where each found the same venal and ferocious butchers
waiting for its custom. Papist or Protestant, Tory or Whig,
Priest or Alderman, all was one to those greedy and savage
natures, provided only there was money to earn, and blood to

Of course, these worthless judges soon created around them, as
was natural, a breed of informers more wicked, if possible, than
themselves. The trial by jury afforded little or no protection to
the innocent. The juries were nominated by the sheriffs. The
sheriffs were in most parts of England nominated by the Crown. In
London, the great scene of political contention, those officers
were chosen by the people. The fiercest parliamentary election of
our time will give but a faint notion of the storm which raged in
the city on the day when two infuriated parties, each bearing its
badge, met to select the men in whose hands were to be the issues
of life and death for the coming year. On that day, nobles of the
highest descent did not think it beneath them to canvass and
marshal the livery, to head the procession, and to watch the
poll. On that day, the great chiefs of parties waited in an
agony of suspense for the messenger who was to bring from
Guildhall the news whether their lives and estates were, for the
next twelve months, to be at the mercy of a friend or of a foe.
In 1681, Whig sheriffs were chosen; and Shaftesbury defied the
whole power of the Government. In 1682 the sheriffs were Tories.
Shaftesbury fled to Holland. The other chiefs of the party broke
up their councils, and retired in haste to their country seats.
Sydney on the scaffold told those sheriffs that his blood was on
their heads. Neither of them could deny the charge; and one of
them wept with shame and remorse.

Thus every man who then meddled with public affairs took his life
in his hand. The consequence was that men of gentle natures stood
aloof from contests in which they could not engage without
hazarding their own necks and the fortunes of their children.
This was the course adopted by Sir William Temple, by Evelyn, and
by many other men who were, in every respect, admirably qualified
to serve the State. On the other hand, those resolute and
enterprising men who put their heads and lands to hazard in the
game of politics naturally acquired, from the habit of playing
for so deep a stake, a reckless and desperate turn of mind. It
was, we seriously believe, as safe to be a highwayman as to be a
distinguished leader of Opposition. This may serve to explain,
and in some degree to excuse, the violence with which the
factions of that age are justly reproached. They were fighting,
not merely for office, but for life. If they reposed for a moment
from the work of agitation, if they suffered the public
excitement to flag, they were lost men. Hume, in describing this
state of things, has employed an image which seems hardly to suit
the general simplicity of his style, but which is by no means too
strong for the occasion. "Thus," says he, "the two parties
actuated by mutual rage, but cooped up within the narrow limits
of the law, levelled with poisoned daggers the most deadly blows
against each other's breast, and buried in their factious
divisions all, regard to truth, honour, and humanity."

From this terrible evil the Revolution set us free. The law which
secured to the judges their seats during life or good behaviour
did something. The law subsequently passed for regulating trials
in cases of treason did much more. The provisions of that law
show, indeed, very little legislative skill. It is not framed on
the principle of securing the innocent, but on the principle of
giving a great chance of escape to the accused, whether innocent
or guilty. This, however, is decidedly a fault on the right side.
The evil produced by the occasional escape of a bad citizen is
not to be compared with the evils of that Reign of Terror, for
such it was, which preceded the Revolution. Since the passing of
this law scarcely one single person has suffered death in England
as a traitor, who had not been convicted on overwhelming
evidence, to the satisfaction of all parties, of the highest
crime against the State. Attempts have been made in times of
great excitement, to bring in persons guilty of high treason for
acts which, though sometimes highly blamable, did not necessarily
imply a design falling within the legal definition of treason.
All those attempts have failed. During a hundred and forty years
no statesman, while engaged in constitutional opposition to a
government, has had the axe before his eyes. The smallest
minorities, struggling against the most powerful majorities, in
the most agitated times, have felt themselves perfectly secure.
Pulteney and Fox wore the two most distinguished leaders of
Opposition, since the Revolution. Both were personally obnoxious
to the Court. But the utmost harm that the utmost anger of the
Court could do to them was to strike off the "Right Honourable"
from before their names.

But of all the reforms produced by the Revolution, perhaps the
most important was the full establishment of the liberty of
unlicensed printing. The Censorship which, under some form or
other, had existed, with rare and short intermissions, under
every government, monarchical or republican, from the time of
Henry the Eighth downwards, expired, and has never since been

We are aware that the great improvements which we have
recapitulated were, in many respects, imperfectly and unskilfully
executed. The authors of those improvements sometimes, while they
removed or mitigated a great practical evil, continued to
recognise the erroneous principle from which that evil had
sprung. Sometimes, when they had adopted a sound principle, they
shrank from following it to all the conclusions to which it would
have led them. Sometimes they failed to perceive that the
remedies which they applied to one disease of the State were
certain to generate another disease, and to render another remedy
necessary. Their knowledge was inferior to ours: nor were they
always able to act up to their knowledge. The pressure of
circumstances, the necessity of compromising differences of
opinion, the power and violence of the party which was altogether
hostile to the new settlement, must be taken into the account.
When these things are fairly weighed, there will, we think, be
little difference of opinion among liberal and right-minded men
as to the real value of what the great events of 1688 did for
this country.

We have recounted what appear to us the most important of those
changes which the Revolution produced in our laws. The changes
which it produced in our laws, however, were not more important
than the change which it indirectly produced in the public mind,
The Whig party had, during seventy years, an almost uninterrupted
possession of power. It had always been the fundamental doctrine
of that party, that power is a trust for the people; that it is
given to magistrates, not for their own, but for the public
advantage--that, where it is abused by magistrates, even by the
highest of all, it may lawfully be withdrawn. It is perfectly
true, that the Whigs were not more exempt than other men from the
vices and infirmities of our nature, and that, when they had
power, they sometimes abused it. But still they stood firm to
their theory. That theory was the badge of their party. It was
something more. It was the foundation on which rested the power
of the houses of Nassau and Brunswick. Thus, there was a
government interested in propagating a class of opinions which
most governments are interested in discouraging, a government
which looked with complacency on all speculations favourable to
public liberty, and with extreme aversion on all speculations
favourable to arbitrary power. There was a King who decidedly
preferred a republican to a believer in the divine right of
kings; who considered every attempt to exalt his prerogative as
an attack on his title; and who reserved all his favours for
those who declaimed on the natural equality of men, and the
popular origin of government. This was the state of things from
the Revolution till the death of George the Second. The effect
was what might have been expected. Even in that profession which
has generally been most disposed to magnify the prerogative, a
great change took place. Bishopric after bishopric and deanery
after deanery were bestowed on Whigs and Latitudinarians. The
consequence was that Whiggism and Latitudinarianism were
professed by the ablest and most aspiring churchmen.

Hume complained bitterly of this at the close of his history.
"The Whig party," says he, "for a course of near seventy years,
has almost without interruption enjoyed the whole authority of
government, and no honours or offices could be obtained but by
their countenance and protection. But this event, which in some
particulars has been advantageous to the State, has proved
destructive to the truth of history, and has established many
gross falsehoods, which it is unaccountable how any civilised
nation could have embraced, with regard to its domestic
occurrences. Compositions the most despicable, both for style and
matter,"--in a note he instances the writings of Locke, Sydney,
Hoadley, and Rapin,--"have been extolled and propagated and read
as if they had equalled the most celebrated remains of antiquity.
And forgetting that a regard to liberty, though a laudable
passion, ought commonly to be subservient to a reverence for
established government, the prevailing faction has celebrated
only the partisans of the former." We will not here enter into
an argument about the merit of Rapin's History or Locke's
political speculations. We call Hume merely as evidence to a fact
well known to all reading men, that the literature patronised by
the English Court and the English ministry, during the first half
of the eighteenth century, was of that kind which courtiers and
ministers generally do all in their power to discountenance, and
tended to inspire zeal for the liberties of the people rather
than respect for the authority of the Government.

There was still a very strong Tory party in England. But that
party was in opposition. Many of its members still held the
doctrine of passive obedience. But they did not admit that the
existing dynasty had any claim to such obedience. They condemned
resistance. But by resistance they meant the keeping out of James
the Third, and not the turning out of George the Second. No
radical of our times could grumble more at the expenses of the
royal household, could exert himself more strenuously to reduce
the military establishment, could oppose with more earnestness
every proposition for arming the executive with extraordinary
powers, or could pour more unmitigated abuse on placemen and
courtiers. If a writer were now, in a massive Dictionary, to
define a Pensioner as a traitor and a slave, the Excise as a
hateful tax, the Commissioners of the Excise as wretches, if he
were to write a satire full of reflections on men who receive
"the price of boroughs and of souls," who "explain their
country's dear-bought rights away," or

"whom pensions can incite,
To vote a patriot black, a courtier white,"

we should set him down for something more democratic than a Whig.
Yet this was the language which Johnson, the most bigoted of
Tories and High Churchmen held under the administration of
Walpole and Pelham.

Thus doctrines favourable to public liberty were inculcated alike
by those who were in power and by those who were in opposition.
It was by means of these doctrines alone that the former could
prove that they had a King de jure. The servile theories of the
latter did not prevent them from offering every molestation to
one whom they considered as merely a King de facto. The attachment
of one party to the House of Hanover, of the other to that of
Stuart, induced both to talk a language much more favourable to
popular rights than to monarchical power. What took place at the
first representation of Cato is no bad illustration of the way in
which the two great sections of the community almost invariably
acted. A play, the whole merit of which consists in its stately
rhetoric sometimes not unworthy of Lucan, about hating tyrants
and dying for freedom, is brought on the stage in a time of great
political excitement. Both parties crowd to the theatre. Each
affects to consider every line as a compliment to itself, and an
attack on its opponents. The curtain falls amidst an unanimous
roar of applause. The Whigs of the Kit Cat embrace the author,
and assure him that he has rendered an inestimable service to
liberty. The Tory secretary of state presents a purse to the
chief actor for defending the cause of liberty so well. The
history of that night was, in miniature, the history of two

We well know how much sophistry there was in the reasonings, and
how much exaggeration in the declamations of both parties. But
when we compare the state in which political science was at the
close of the reign of George the Second with the state in which
it had been when James the Second came to the throne, it is
impossible not to admit that a prodigious improvement had taken
place. We are no admirers of the political doctrines laid down in
Blackstone's Commentaries. But if we consider that those
Commentaries were read with great applause in the very schools
where, seventy or eighty years before, books had been publicly
burned by order of the University of Oxford for containing the
damnable doctrine that the English monarchy is limited and mixed,
we cannot deny that a salutary change had taken place. "The
Jesuits," says Pascal, in the last of his incomparable letters,
"have obtained a Papal decree, condemning Galileo's doctrine
about the motion of the earth. It is all in vain. If the world is
really turning round, all mankind together will not be able to
keep it from turning, or to keep themselves from turning with
it." The decrees of Oxford were as ineffectual to stay the great
moral and political revolution as those of the Vatican to stay
the motion of our globe. That learned University found itself not
only unable to keep the mass from moving, but unable to keep
itself from moving along with the mass. Nor was the effect of the
discussions and speculations of that period confined to our own
country. While the Jacobite party was in the last dotage and
weakness of its paralytic old age, the political philosophy of
England began to produce a mighty effect on France, and, through
France, on Europe.

Here another vast field opens itself before us. But we must
resolutely turn away from it. We will conclude by advising all
our readers to study Sir James Mackintosh's valuable Fragment,
and by expressing our hope that they will soon he able to study
it without those accompaniments which have hitherto impeded its


(October 1833)

Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann,
British Envoy at the Court of Tuscany. Now first published from
the Originals in the Possession of the EARL OF WALDEGRAVE. Edited
by LORD DOVER 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1833.

We cannot transcribe this title-page without strong feelings of
regret. The editing of these volumes was the last of the useful
and modest services rendered to literature by a nobleman of
amiable manners, of untarnished public and private character, and
of cultivated mind. On this, as on other occasions, Lord Dover
performed his part diligently, judiciously, and without the
slightest ostentation. He had two merits which are rarely found
together in a commentator, he was content to be merely a
commentator, to keep in the background, and to leave the
foreground to the author whom he had undertaken to illustrate.
Yet, though willing to be an attendant, he was by no means a
slave; nor did he consider it as part of his duty to see no
faults in the writer to whom he faithfully and assiduously
rendered the humblest literary offices.

The faults of Horace Walpole's head and heart are indeed
sufficiently glaring. His writings, it is true, rank as high
among the delicacies of intellectual epicures as the Strasburg
pies among the dishes described in the Almanach des Gourmands.
But as the pate-de-foie-gras owes its excellence to the diseases
of the wretched animal which furnishes it, and would be good for
nothing if it were not made of livers preternaturally swollen, so
none but an unhealthy and disorganised mind could have produced
such literary luxuries as the works of Walpole.

He was, unless we have formed a very erroneous judgment of his
character, the most eccentric, the most artificial, the most
fastidious, the most capricious of men. His mind was a bundle of
inconsistent whims and affectations. His features were covered by
mask within mask. When the outer disguise of obvious affectation
was removed, you were still as far as ever from seeing the real
man. He played innumerable parts and over-acted them all. When he
talked misanthropy, he out-Timoned Timon. When he talked
philanthropy, he left Howard at an immeasurable distance. He
scoffed at courts, and kept a chronicle of their most trifling
scandal; at society, and was blown about by its slightest
veerings of opinion; at literary fame, and left fair copies of
his private letters, with copious notes, to be published after
his decease; at rank, and never for a moment forgot that he was
an Honourable; at the practice of entail, and tasked the
ingenuity of conveyancers to tie up his villa in the strictest

The conformation of his mind was such that whatever was little
seemed to him great, and whatever was great seemed to him little.
Serious business was a trifle to him, and trifles were his
serious business. To chat with blue-stockings, to write little
copies of complimentary verses on little occasions, to
superintend a private press, to preserve from natural decay the
perishable topics of Ranelagh and White's, to record divorces and
bets, Miss Chudleigh's absurdities and George Selwyn's good
sayings, to decorate a grotesque house with pie-crust
battlements, to procure rare engravings and antique chimney-
boards, to match odd gauntlets, to lay out a maze of walks within
five acres of ground, these were the grave employments of his
long life. From these he turned to politics as to an amusement.
After the labours of the print-shop and the auction-room, he
unbent his mind in the House of Commons. And, having indulged in
the recreation of making laws and voting millions, he returned to
more important pursuits, to researches after Queen Mary's comb,
Wolsey's red hat, the pipe which Van Tromp smoked during his last
sea-fight, and the spur which King William struck into the flank
of Sorrel.

In everything in which Walpole busied himself, in the fine arts,
in literature, in public affairs, he was drawn by some strange
attraction from the great to the little, and from the useful to
the odd. The politics in which he took the keenest interests,
were politics scarcely deserving of the name. The growlings of
George the Second, the flirtations of Princess Emily with the
Duke of Grafton, the amours of Prince Frederic and Lady
Middlesex, the squabbles between Gold Stick in waiting and the
Master of the Buckhounds, the disagreements between the tutors of
Prince George, these matters engaged almost all the attention
which Walpole could spare from matters more important still, from
bidding for Zinckes and Petitots, from cheapening fragments of
tapestry and handles of old lances, from joining bits of painted
glass, and from setting up memorials of departed cats and dogs.
While he was fetching and carrying the gossip of Kensington
Palace and Carlton House, he fancied that he was engaged in
politics, and when he recorded that gossip, he fancied that he
was writing history.

He was, as he has himself told us, fond of faction as an
amusement. He loved mischief: but he loved quiet; and he was
constantly on the watch for opportunities of gratifying both his
tastes at once. He sometimes contrived, without showing himself,
to disturb the course of ministerial negotiations, and to spread
confusion through the political circles. He does not himself
pretend that, on these occasions, he was actuated by public
spirit; nor does he appear to have had any private advantage in
view. He thought it a good practical joke to set public men
together by the ears; and he enjoyed their perplexities, their
accusations, and their recriminations, as a malicious boy enjoys
the embarrassment of a misdirected traveller.

About politics, in the high sense of the word, he knew nothing,
and cared nothing. He called himself a Whig. His father's son
could scarcely assume any other name. It pleased him also to
affect a foolish dislike of kings as kings, and a foolish love
and admiration of rebels as rebels; and perhaps, while kings were
not in danger, and while rebels were not in being, he really
believed that he held the doctrines which he professed. To go no
further than the letters now before us, he is perpetually
boasting to his friend Mann of his aversion to royalty and to
royal persons. He calls the crime of Damien "that least bad of
murders, the murder of a king." He hung up in his villa an
engraving of the death-warrant of Charles, with the inscription
"Major Charta." Yet the most superficial knowledge of history
might have taught him that the Restoration, and the crimes and
follies of the twenty-eight years which followed the Restoration,
were the effects of this Greater Charter. Nor was there much in
the means by which that instrument was obtained that could
gratify a judicious lover of liberty. A man must hate kings very
bitterly, before he can think it desirable that the
representatives of the people should he turned out of doors by
dragoons, in order to get at a king's head. Walpole's Whiggism,
however, was of a very harmless kind. He kept it, as he kept the
old spears and helmets at Strawberry Hill, merely for show. He
would just as soon have thought of taking down the arms of the
ancient Templars and Hospitallers from the walls of his hall, and
setting off on a crusade to the Holy Land, as of acting in the
spirit of those daring warriors and statesmen, great even in
their errors, whose names and seals were affixed to the warrant
which he prized so highly. He liked revolution and regicide only
when they were a hundred years old. His republicanism, like the
courage of a bully, or the love of a fribble, was strong and
ardent when there was no occasion for it, and subsided when he
had an opportunity of bringing it to the proof. As soon as the
revolutionary spirit really began to stir in Europe, as soon as
the hatred of kings became something more than a sonorous phrase,
he was frightened into a fanatical royalist, and became one of
the most extravagant alarmists of those wretched times. In truth,
his talk about liberty, whether he knew it or not, was from the
beginning a mere cant, the remains of a phraseology which had
meant something in the mouths of those from whom he had learned
it, but which, in his mouth, meant about as much as the oath by
which the Knights of some modern orders bind themselves to
redress the wrongs of all injured ladies. He had been fed in his
boyhood with Whig speculations on government. He must often have
seen, at Houghton or in Downing Street, men who had been Whigs
when it was as dangerous to be a Whig as to be a highwayman, men
who had voted for the Exclusion Bill, who had been concealed in
garrets and cellars after the battle of Sedgemoor, and who had
set their names to the declaration that they would live and die
with the Prince of Orange. He had acquired the language of these
men, and he repeated it by rote, though it was at variance with
all his tastes and feelings; just as some old Jacobite families
persisted in praying for the Pretender, and in passing their
glasses over the water decanter when they drank the King's
health, long after they had become loyal supporters of the
government of George the Third. He was a Whig by the accident of
hereditary connection; but he was essentially a courtier; and
not the less a courtier because he pretended to sneer at the
objects which excited his admiration and envy. His real tastes
perpetually show themselves through the thin disguise. While
professing all the contempt of Bradshaw or Ludlow for crowned
heads, he took the trouble to write a book concerning Royal
Authors. He pryed with the utmost anxiety into the most minute
particulars relating to the Royal family. When, he was a child,
he was haunted with a longing to see George the First, and gave
his mother no peace till she had found a way of gratifying his
curiosity. The same feeling, covered with a thousand disguises,
attended him to the grave. No observation that dropped from the
lips of Majesty seemed to him too trifling to be recorded. The
French songs of Prince Frederic, compositions certainly not
deserving of preservation on account of their intrinsic merit,
have been carefully preserved for us by this contemner of
royalty. In truth, every page of Walpole's works betrays him.
This Diogenes, who would be thought to prefer his tub to a
palace, and who has nothing to ask of the masters of Windsor and
Versailles but that they will stand out of his light, is a
gentleman-usher at heart.

He had, it is plain, an uneasy consciousness of the frivolity of
his favourite pursuits; and this consciousness produced one of
the most diverting of his ten thousand affectations. His busy
idleness, his indifference to matters which the world generally
regards as important, his passion for trifles, he thought fit to
dignify with the name of philosophy. He spoke of himself as of a
man whose equanimity was proof to ambitious hopes and fears, who
had learned to rate power, wealth, and fame at their true value,
and whom the conflict of parties, the rise and fall of statesmen,
the ebb and flow of public opinion, moved only to a smile of
mingled compassion and disdain. It was owing to the peculiar
elevation of his character that he cared about a pinnacle of lath
and plaster more than about the Middlesex election, and about a
miniature of Grammont more than about the American Revolution.
Pitt and Murray might talk themselves hoarse about trifles. But
questions of government and war were too insignificant to detain
a mind which was occupied in recording the scandal of club-rooms
and the whispers of the back-stairs, and which was even capable
of selecting and disposing chairs of ebony and shields of

One of his innumerable whims was an extreme unwillingness to be
considered a man of letters. Not that he was indifferent to
literary fame. Far from it. Scarcely any writer has ever troubled
himself so much about the appearance which his works were to make
before posterity. But he had set his heart on incompatible
objects. He wished to be a celebrated author, and yet to be a
mere idle gentleman, one of those Epicurean gods of the earth who
do nothing at all, and who pass their existence in the
contemplation of their own perfections. He did not like to have
anything in common with the wretches who lodged in the little
courts behind St. Martin's Church, and stole out on Sundays to
dine with their bookseller. He avoided the society of authors. He
spoke with lordly contempt of the most distinguished among them.
He tried to find out some way of writing books, as M. Jourdain's
father sold cloth, without derogating from his character of
Gentilhomme. "Lui, marchand? C'est pure medisance: il ne l'a
jamais ete. Tout ce qu'il faisait, c'est qu'il etait fort
obligeant, fort officieux; et comme il se connaissait fort bien
en etoffes, il en allait choisir de tons les cotes, les faisait
apporter chez lui, et en donnait a ses amis pour de l'argent."
There are several amusing instances of Walpole's feeling on this
subject in the letters now before us. Mann had complimented him
on the learning which appeared in the Catalogue of Royal and
Noble Authors; and it is curious to see how impatiently Walpole
bore the imputation of having attended to anything so
unfashionable as the improvement of his mind. "I know nothing.
How should I? I who have always lived in the big busy world; who
lie a-bed all the morning, calling it morning as long as you
please; who sup in company; who have played at faro half my life,
and now at loo till two and three in the morning; who have always
loved pleasure; haunted auctions. . . . How I have laughed when
some of the Magazines have called me the learned gentleman. Pray
don't be like the Magazines." This folly might be pardoned in a
boy. But a man between forty and fifty years old, as Walpole then
was, ought to be quite as much ashamed of playing at loo till
three every morning as of being that vulgar thing, a learned

The literary character has undoubtedly its full share of faults,
and of very serious and offensive faults. If Walpole had avoided
those faults, we could have pardoned the fastidiousness with
which he declined all fellowship with men of learning. But from
those faults Walpole was not one jot more free than the
garreteers from whose contact he shrank. Of literary meannesses
and literary vices, his life and his works contain as many
instances as the life and the works of any member of Johnson's
club. The fact is, that Walpole had the faults of Grub Street,
with a large addition from St. James's Street, the vanity, the
jealousy, and the irritability of a man of letters, the affected
superciliousness and apathy of a man of ton.

His judgment of literature, of contemporary literature
especially, was altogether perverted by his aristocratical
feelings. No writer surely was ever guilty of so much false and
absurd criticism. He almost invariably speaks with contempt of
those books which are now universally allowed to be the best that
appeared in his time; and, on the other hand, he speaks of
writers of rank and fashion as if they were entitled to the same
precedence in literature which would have been allowed to them in
a drawing-room. In these letters, for example, he says that he
would rather have written the most absurd lines in Lee than
Thomson's Seasons. The periodical paper called The World, on the
other hand, was by "our first writers." Who, then, were the first
writers of England in the year 1750? Walpole has told us in a
note. Our readers will probably guess that Hume, Fielding,
Smollett, Richardson, Johnson, Warburton, Collins, Akenside,
Gray, Dyer, Young, Warton, Mason, or some of those distinguished
men, were in the list. Not one of them. Our first writers, it
seems, were Lord Chesterfield, Lord Bath, Mr. W. Whithed, Sir
Charles Williams, Mr. Soame Jenyns, Mr. Cambridge, Mr. Coventry.
Of these seven personages, Whithed was the lowest in station, but
was the most accomplished tuft-hunter of his time. Coventry was
of a noble family. The other five had among them two seats in the
House of Lords, two seats in the House of Commons, three seats in
the Privy Council, a baronetcy, a blue riband, a red riband,
about a hundred thousand pounds a year, and not ten pages that
are worth reading. The writings of Whithed, Cambridge, Coventry,
and Lord Bath are forgotten. Soame Jenyns is remembered chiefly
by Johnson's review of the foolish Essay on the Origin of Evil.
Lord Chesterfield stands much lower in the estimation of
posterity than he would have done if his letters had never been
published. The lampoons of Sir Charles Williams are now read only
by the curious, and, though not without occasional flashes of
wit, have always seemed to us, we must own, very poor

Walpole judged of French literature after the same fashion. He
understood and loved the French language. Indeed, he loved it too
well. His style is more deeply tainted with Gallicism than that
of any other English writer with whom we are acquainted. His
composition often reads, for a page together, like a rude
translation from the French. We meet every minute with such
sentences as these, "One knows what temperaments Annibal Caracci
painted." "The impertinent personage!" "She is dead rich." "Lord
Dalkeith is dead of the small-pox in three days." "It will now be
seen whether he or they are most patriot."

His love of the French language was of a peculiar kind. He loved
it as having been for a century the vehicle of all the polite
nothings of Europe, as the sign by which the freemasons of
fashion recognised each other in every capital from Petersburgh
to Naples, as the language of raillery, as the language of
anecdote, as the language of memoirs, as the language of
correspondence. Its higher uses he altogether disregarded. The
literature of France has been to ours what Aaron was to Moses,
the expositor of great truths which would else have perished for
want of a voice to utter them with distinctness. The relation
which existed between Mr. Bentham and M. Dumont is an exact
illustration of the intellectual relation in which the two
countries stand to each other. The great discoveries in physics,
in metaphysics, in political science, are ours. But scarcely any
foreign nation except France has received them from us by direct
communication. Isolated by our situation, isolated by our
manners, we found truth, but we did not impart it. France has
been the interpreter between England and mankind.

In the time of Walpole, this process of interpretation was in
full activity. The great French writers were busy in proclaiming
through Europe the names of Bacon, of Newton, and of Locke. The
English principles of toleration, the English respect for
personal liberty, the English doctrine that all power is a trust
for the public good, were making rapid progress. There is
scarcely anything in history so interesting as that great
stirring up of the mind of France, that shaking of the
foundations of all established opinions, that uprooting of old
truth and old error. It was plain that mighty principles were at
work whether for evil or for good. It was plain that a great
change in the whole social system was at hand. Fanatics of one
kind might anticipate a golden age, in which men should live
under the simple dominion of reason, in perfect equality and
perfect amity, without property, or marriage, or king, or God. A
fanatic of another kind might see nothing in the doctrines of the
philosophers but anarchy and atheism, might cling more closely to
every old abuse, and might regret the good old days when St.
Dominic and Simon de Montfort put down the growing heresies of
Provence. A wise man would have seen with regret the excesses
into which the reformers were running; but he would have done
justice to their genius and to their philanthropy. He would have
censured their errors; but he would have remembered that, as
Milton has said, error is but opinion in the making. While he
condemned their hostility to religion, he would have acknowledged
that it was the natural effect of a system under which religion
had been constantly exhibited to them in forms which common sense
rejected and at which humanity shuddered. While he condemned some
of their political doctrines as incompatible with all law, all
property, and all civilisation, he would have acknowledged that
the subjects of Lewis the Fifteenth had every excuse which men
could have for being eager to pull down, and for being ignorant
of the far higher art of setting up. While anticipating a fierce
conflict, a great and wide-wasting destruction, he would yet have
looked forward to the final close with a good hope for France
and for mankind.

Walpole had neither hopes nor fears. Though the most Frenchified
English writer of the eighteenth century, he troubled himself
little about the portents which were daily to be discerned in the
French literature of his time. While the most eminent Frenchmen
were studying with enthusiastic delight English politics and
English philosophy, he was studying as intently the gossip of the
old court of France. The fashions and scandal of Versailles and
Marli, fashions and scandal a hundred years old, occupied him
infinitely more than a great moral revolution which was taking
place in his sight. He took a prodigious interest in every noble
sharper whose vast volume of wig and infinite length of riband
had figured at the dressing or at the tucking up of Lewis the
Fourteenth, and of every profligate woman of quality who had
carried her train of lovers backward and forward from king to
parliament, and from parliament to king, during the wars of the
Fronde. These were the people of whom he treasured up the
smallest memorial, of whom he loved to hear the most trifling
anecdote, and for whose likenesses he would have given any price.
Of the great French writers of his own time, Montesquieu is the
only one of whom he speaks with enthusiasm. And even of
Montesquieu he speaks with less enthusiasm than of that abject
thing, Crebillon the younger, a scribbler as licentious as Louvet
and as dull as Rapin. A man must be strangely constituted who can
take interest in pedantic journals of the blockades laid by the
Duke of A. to the hearts of the Marquise de B. and the Comtesse
de C. This trash Walpole extols in language sufficiently high for
the merits of Don Quixote. He wished to possess a likeness of
Crebillon; and Liotard, the first painter of miniatures then
living, was employed to preserve the features of the profligate
dunce. The admirer of the Sopha and of the Lettres Atheniennes
had little respect to spare for the men who were then at the head
of French literature. He kept carefully out of their way. He
tried to keep other People from paying them any attention. He
could not deny that Voltaire and Rousseau were clever men; but he
took every opportunity of depreciating them. Of D'Alembert he
spoke with a contempt which, when the intellectual powers of the
two men are compared, seems exquisitely ridiculous. D'Alembert
complained that he was accused of having written Walpole's squib
against Rousseau. "I hope," says Walpole, "that nobody will
attribute D'Alembert's works to me." He was in little danger.

It is impossible to deny, however, that Walpole's writings have
real merit, and merit of a very rare, though not of a very high
kind. Sir Joshua Reynolds used to say that, though nobody would
for a moment compare Claude to Raphael, there would be another
Raphael before there was another Claude. And we own that we
expect to see fresh Humes and fresh Burkes before we again fall
in with that peculiar combination of moral and intellectual
qualities to which the writings of Walpole owe their
extraordinary popularity.

It is easy to describe him by negatives. He had not a creative
imagination. He had not a pure taste. He was not a great
reasoner. There is indeed scarcely any writer in whose works it
would be possible to find so many contradictory judgments, so
many sentences of extravagant nonsense. Nor was it only in his
familiar correspondence that he wrote in this flighty and
inconsistent manner, but in long and elaborate books, in books
repeatedly transcribed and intended for the public eye. We will
give an instance or two; for without instances readers not very
familiar with his works will scarcely understand our meaning. In
the Anecdotes of Painting, he states, very truly, that the art
declined after the commencement of the civil wars. He proceeds to
inquire why this happened. The explanation, we should have
thought, would have been easily found. He might have mentioned
the loss of a king who was the most munificent and judicious
patron that the fine arts have ever had in England, the troubled
state of the country, the distressed condition of many of the
aristocracy, perhaps also the austerity of the victorious party.
These circumstances, we conceive, fully account for the
phaenomenon. But this solution was not odd enough to satisfy
Walpole. He discovers another cause for the decline of the art,
the want of models. Nothing worth painting, it seems, was left to
paint. "How picturesque," he exclaims, "was the figure of an
Anabaptist!"--as if puritanism had put out the sun and withered
the trees; as if the civil wars had blotted out the expression of
character and passion from the human lip and brow; as if many of
the men whom Vandyke painted had not been living in the time of
the Commonwealth, with faces little the worse for wear; as if
many of the beauties afterwards portrayed by Lely were not in
their prime before the Restoration; as if the garb or the
features of Cromwell and Milton were less picturesque than those
of the round-faced peers, as like each other as eggs to eggs, who
look out from the middle of the periwigs of Kneller. In the
Memoirs, again, Walpole sneers at the Prince of Wales, afterwards
George the Third, for presenting a collection of books to one of
the American colleges during the Seven Years' War, and says that,
instead of books, his Royal Highness ought to have sent arms and
ammunition, as if a war ought to suspend all study and all
education; or as if it were the business of the Prince of Wales
to supply the colonies with military stores out of his own
pocket. We have perhaps dwelt too long on these passages; but we
have done so because they are specimens of Walpole's manner.
Everybody who reads his works with attention will find that they
swarm with loose and foolish observations like those which we
have cited; observations which might pass in conversation or in a
hasty letter, but which are unpardonable in books deliberately
written and repeatedly corrected.

He appears to have thought that he saw very far into men; but we
are under the necessity of altogether dissenting from his
opinion. We do not conceive that he had any power of discerning
the finer shades of character. He practised an art, however,
which, though easy and even vulgar, obtains for those who
practise it the reputation of discernment with ninety-nine people
out of a hundred. He sneered at everybody, put on every action
the worst construction which it would bear, "spelt every man
backward," to borrow the Lady Hero's phrase,

"Turned every man the wrong side out,
And never gave to truth and virtue that
Which simpleness and merit purchaseth."

In this way any man may, with little sagacity and little trouble,
be considered by those whose good opinion is not worth having as
a great judge of character.

It is said that the hasty and rapacious Kneller used to send away
the ladies who sate to him as soon as he had sketched their
faces, and to paint the figure and hands from his housemaid. It
was in much the same way that Walpole portrayed the minds oft
others. He copied from the life only those glaring and obvious
peculiarities which could not escape the most superficial
observation. The rest of the canvas he filled up, in a careless
dashing way, with knave and fool, mixed in such proportions as
pleased Heaven. What a difference between these daubs and the
masterly portraits of Clarendon!

There are contradictions without end in the sketches of character
which abound in Walpole's works. But if we were to form our
opinion of his eminent contemporaries from a general survey of
what he has written concerning them, we should say that Pitt was
a strutting, ranting, mouthing actor, Charles Townshend an
impudent and voluble jack-pudding, Murray a demure, cold-blooded,
cowardly hypocrite, Hardwicke an insolent upstart, with the
understanding of a pettifogger and the heart of a hangman, Temple
an impertinent poltroon, Egmont a solemn coxcomb, Lyttelton a
poor creature whose only wish was to go to heaven in a coronet,
Onslow a pompous proser, Washington a braggart, Lord Camden
sullen, Lord Townshend malevolent, Secker an atheist who had
shammed Christian for a mitre, Whitefield an impostor who
swindled his converts out of their watches. The Walpoles fare
little better than their neighbours. Old Horace is constantly
represented as a coarse, brutal, niggardly buffoon, and his son
as worthy of such a father. In short, if we are to trust this
discerning judge of human nature, England in his time contained
little sense and no virtue, except what was distributed between
himself, Lord Waldegrave, and Marshal Conway.

Of such a writer it is scarcely necessary to say, that his works
are destitute of every charm which is derived from elevation, or
from tenderness of sentiment. When he chose to be humane and
magnanimous,--for he sometimes, by way of variety, tried this
affectation,--he overdid his part most ludicrously. None of his
many disguises sat so awkwardly upon him. For example, he tells
us that he did not choose to be intimate with Mr. Pitt. And why?
Because Mr. Pitt had been among the persecutors of his father? Or
because, as he repeatedly assures us, Mr. Pitt was a disagreeable
man in private? Not at all; but because Mr. Pitt was too fond of
war, and was great with too little reluctance. Strange that a
habitual scoffer like Walpole should imagine that this cant could
impose on the dullest reader! If Moliere had put such a speech
into the mouth of Tartuffe, we should have said that the fiction
was unskilful, and that Orgon could not have been such a fool as
to be taken in by it. Of the twenty-six years during which
Walpole sat in Parliament, thirteen were years of war. Yet he did
not, during all those thirteen years, utter a single word or give
a single vote tending to peace. His most intimate friend, the
only friend, indeed, to whom he appears to have been sincerely
attached, Conway, was a soldier, was fond of his profession, and
was perpetually entreating Mr. Pitt to give him employment. In
this Walpole saw nothing but what was admirable. Conway was a
hero for soliciting the command of expeditions which Mr. Pitt was
a monster for sending out.

What then is the charm, the irresistible charm, of Walpole's
writings? It consists, we think, in the art of amusing without
exciting. He never convinces the reason or fills the imagination,
or touches the heart; but he keeps the mind of the reader
constantly attentive and constantly entertained. He had a strange
ingenuity peculiarly his own, an ingenuity which appeared in all
that he did, in his building, in his gardening, in his
upholstery, in the matter and in the manner of his writings. If
we were to adopt the classification, not a very accurate
classification, which Akenside has given of the pleasures of the
imagination, we should say that with the Sublime and the
Beautiful Walpole had nothing to do, but that the third province,
the Odd, was his peculiar domain. The motto which he prefixed to
his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors might have been
inscribed with perfect propriety over the door of every room in
his house, and on the title-page of every one of his books; "Dove
Diavolo, Messer Ludovico, avete pigliate tante coglionerie?" In
his villa, every apartment is a museum; every piece of furniture
is a curiosity; there is something strange in the form of the
shovel; there is a long story belonging to the bell-rope. We
wander among a profusion of rarities, of trifling intrinsic
value, but so quaint in fashion, or connected with such
remarkable names and events, that they may well detain our
attention for a moment. A moment is enough. Some new relic, some
new unique, some new carved work, some new enamel, is forthcoming
in an instant. One cabinet of trinkets is no sooner closed than
another is opened. It is the same with Walpole's writings. It is
not in their utility, it is not in their beauty, that their
attraction lies. They are to the works of great historians and
poets, what Strawberry Hill is to the Museum of Sir Hans Sloane
or to the Gallery of Florence. Walpole is constantly showing us
things, not of very great value indeed, yet things which we are
pleased to see, and which we can see nowhere else. They are
baubles; but they are made curiosities either by his grotesque
workmanship or by some association belonging to them. His style
is one of those peculiar styles by which everybody is attracted,
and which nobody can safely venture to imitate. He is a mannerist
whose manner has become perfectly easy to him, His affectation is
so habitual and so universal that it can hardly be called
affectation. The affectation is the essence of the man. It
pervades all his thoughts and all his expressions. If it were
taken away, nothing would be left. He coins new words, distorts
the senses of old words, and twists sentences into forms which
make grammarians stare. But all this he does, not only with an
air of ease, but as if he could not help doing it. His wit was,
in its essential properties, of the same kind with that of Cowley
and Donne. Like theirs, it consisted in an exquisite perception
of points of analogy and points of contrast too subtile for
common observation. Like them, Walpole perpetually startles us by
the ease with which he yokes together ideas between which there
would seem, at first sight, to be no connection. But he did not,
like them, affect the gravity of a lecture, and draw his
illustrations from the laboratory and from the schools. His tone
was light and fleering; his topics were the topics of the club
and the ballroom; and therefore his strange combinations and far-
fetched allusions, though very closely resembling those which
tire us to death in the poems of the time of Charles the First,
are read with pleasure constantly new.

No man who has written so much is so seldom tiresome. In his
books there are scarcely any of those passages which, in our
school-days, we used to call skip. Yet he often wrote on subjects
which are generally considered as dull, on subjects which men of
great talents have in vain endeavoured to render popular. When we
compare the Historic Doubts about Richard the Third with
Whitaker's and Chalmers's books on a far more interesting
question, the character of Mary Queen of Scots; when we compare
the Anecdotes of Painting with the works of Anthony Wood, of
Nichols, of Granger, we at once see Walpole's superiority, not in
industry, not in learning, not in accuracy, not in logical power,
but in the art of writing what people will like to read. He
rejects all but the attractive parts of his subject. He keeps
only what is in itself amusing or what can be made so by the
artifice of his diction. The coarser morsels of antiquarian
learning he abandons to others, and sets out an entertainment
worthy of a Roman epicure, an entertainment consisting of nothing
but delicacies, the brains of singing birds, the roe of mullets,
the sunny halves of peaches. This, we think, is the great merit
of his romance. There is little skill in the delineation of the
characters. Manfred is as commonplace a tyrant, Jerome as
commonplace a confessor, Theodore as commonplace a young
gentleman, Isabella and Matilda as commonplace a pair of young
ladies, as are to be found in any of the thousand Italian castles
in which condottieri have revelled or in which imprisoned
duchesses have pined. We cannot say that we much admire the big
man whose sword is dug up in one quarter of the globe, whose
helmet drops from the clouds in another, and who, after
clattering and rustling for some days, ends by kicking the house
down. But the story, whatever its value may be, never flags for a
single moment. There are no digressions, or unseasonable
descriptions, or long speeches. Every sentence carries the action
forward. The excitement is constantly renewed. Absurd as is the
machinery, insipid as are the human actors, no reader probably
ever thought the book dull.

Walpole's Letters are generally considered as his best
performances, and, we think, with reason. His faults are far less
offensive to us in his correspondence than in his books. His
wild, absurd, and ever-changing opinions about men and things are
easily pardoned in familiar letters. His bitter, scoffing,
depreciating disposition does not show itself in so unmitigated a
manner as in his Memoirs. A writer of letters must in general be
civil and friendly to his correspondent at least, if to no other

He loved letter-writing, and had evidently, studied it as an art.
It was, in truth, the very kind of writing for such a man, for a
man very ambitious to rank among wits, yet nervously afraid that,
while obtaining the reputation of a wit, he might lose caste as a
gentleman. There was nothing vulgar in writing a letter. Not even
Ensign Northerton, not even the Captain described in Hamilton's
Bawn,--and Walpole, though the author of many quartos, had some
feelings in common with those gallant officers,--would have
denied that a gentleman might sometimes correspond with a friend.
Whether Walpole bestowed much labour on the composition of his
letters, it is impossible to judge from internal evidence. There
are passages which seem perfectly unstudied. But the appearance
of ease may be the effect of labour. There are passages which
have a very artificial air. But they may have been produced
without effort by a mind of which the natural ingenuity had been
improved into morbid quickness by constant exercise. We are never
sure that we see him as he was. We are never sure that what
appears to be nature is not disguised art. We are never sure that
what appears to be art is not merely habit which has become
second nature.

In wit and animation the present collection is not superior to
those which have preceded it. But it has one great advantage over
them all. It forms a connected whole, a regular journal of what
appeared to Walpole the most important transactions of the last
twenty years of George the Second's reign. It furnishes much new
information concerning the history of that time, the portion of
English history of which common readers know the least.

The earlier letters contain the most lively and interesting
account which we possess of that "great Walpolean battle," to use
the words of Junius, which terminated in the retirement of Sir
Robert. Horace entered the House of Commons just in time to
witness the last desperate struggle which his father, surrounded
by enemies and traitors, maintained, with a spirit as brave as
that of the column of Fontenoy, first for victory, and then for
honourable retreat. Horace was, of course, on the side of his
family. Lord Dover seems to have been enthusiastic on the same
side, and goes so far as to call Sir Robert "the glory of the

Sir Robert deserved this high eulogium, we think, as little as he
deserved the abusive epithets which have often been coupled with
his name. A fair character of him still remains to be drawn; and,
whenever it shall be drawn, it will be equally unlike the
portrait by Coxe and the portrait by Smollett.

He had, undoubtedly, great talents and great virtues. He was not,
indeed, like the leaders of the party which opposed his
government, a brilliant orator. He was not a profound scholar,
like Carteret, or a wit and a fine gentleman, like Chesterfield.
In all these respects his deficiencies were remarkable. His
literature consisted of a scrap or two of Horace and an anecdote
or two from the end of the Dictionary. His knowledge of history
was so limited that, in the great debate on the Excise Bill, he
was forced to ask Attorney-General Yorke who Empson and Dudley
were. His manners were a little too coarse and boisterous even
for that age of Westerns and Topehalls. When he ceased to talk of
politics, he could talk of nothing but women and he dilated on
his favourite theme with a freedom which shocked even that plain-
spoken generation, and which was quite unsuited to his age and
station. The noisy revelry of his summer festivities at Houghton
gave much scandal to grave people, and annually drove his kinsman
and colleague, Lord Townshend, from the neighbouring mansion of

But, however ignorant Walpole might be of general history and of
general literature, he was better acquainted than any man of his
day with what it concerned him most to know, mankind, the English
nation, the Court, the House of Commons, and the Treasury. Of
foreign affairs he knew little; but his judgment was so good
that his little knowledge went very far. He was an excellent
parliamentary debater, an excellent parliamentary tactician, an
excellent man of business. No man ever brought more industry or
more method to the transacting of affairs. No minister in his
time did so much; yet no minister had so much leisure.

He was a good-natured man who had during thirty years seen
nothing but the worst parts of human nature in other men. He was
familiar with the malice of kind people, and the perfidy of
honourable people. Proud men had licked the dust before him.
Patriots had begged him to come up to the price of their puffed
and advertised integrity. He said after his fall that it was a
dangerous thing to be a minister, that there were few minds which
would not be injured by the constant spectacle of meanness and
depravity. To his honour it must be confessed that few minds have
come out of such a trial so little damaged in the most important
parts. He retired, after more than twenty years of supreme power,
with a temper not soured, with a heart not hardened, with simple
tastes, with frank manners, and with a capacity for friendship.
No stain of treachery, of ingratitude, or of cruelty rests on his
memory. Factious hatred, while flinging on his name every other
foul aspersion, was compelled to own that he was not a man of
blood. This would scarcely seem a high eulogium on a statesman of
our times. It was then a rare and honourable distinction. The
contests of parties in England had long been carried on with a
ferocity unworthy of a civilised people. Sir Robert Walpole was
the minister who gave to our Government that character of lenity
which it has since generally preserved. It was perfectly known to
him that many of his opponents had dealings with the Pretender.
The lives of some were at his mercy. He wanted neither Whig nor
Tory precedents for using his advantage unsparingly. But with a
clemency to which posterity has never done justice, he suffered
himself to he thwarted, vilified, and at last overthrown, by a
party which included many men whose necks were in his power.

That he practised corruption on a large scale, is, we think,
indisputable. But whether he deserves all the invectives which
have been uttered against him on that account may be questioned.
No man ought to be severely censured for not being beyond
his age in virtue. To buy the votes of constituents is as immoral
as to buy the votes of representatives. The candidate who gives
five guineas to the freeman is as culpable as the man who gives
three hundred guineas to the member. Yet we know that, in our own
time, no man is thought wicked or dishonourable, no man is cut,
no man is black-balled, because, under the old system of
election, he was returned in the only way in which he could be
returned, for East Redford, for Liverpool, or for Stafford.
Walpole governed by corruption, because, in his time, it was
impossible to govern otherwise. Corruption was unnecessary to the
Tudors, for their Parliaments were feeble. The publicity which
has of late years been given to parliamentary proceedings has
raised the standard of morality among public men. The power of
public opinion is so great that, even before the reform of the
representation, a faint suspicion that a minister had given
pecuniary gratifications to Members of Parliament in return for
their votes would have been enough to ruin him. But, during the
century which followed the Restoration, the House of Commons was
in that situation in which assemblies must be managed by
corruption, or cannot be managed at all. It was not held in awe,
as in the sixteenth century, by the throne. It was not held in
awe as in the nineteenth century, by the opinion of the people.
Its constitution was oligarchical. Its deliberations were secret.
Its power in the State was immense. The Government had every
conceivable motive to offer bribes. Many of the members, if they
were not men of strict honour and probity, had no conceivable
motive to refuse what the Government offered. In the reign of
Charles the Second, accordingly, the practice of buying votes in
the House of Commons was commenced by the daring Clifford, and
carried to a great extent by the crafty and shameless Danby. The
Revolution, great and manifold as were the blessings of which it
was directly or remotely the cause, at first aggravated this
evil. The importance of the House of Commons was now greater than
ever. The prerogatives of the Crown were more strictly limited
than ever; and those associations in which, more than in its
legal prerogatives, its power had consisted, were completely
broken. No prince was ever in so helpless and distressing a
situation as William the Third. The party which defended his
title was, on general grounds, disposed to curtail his
prerogative. The party which was, on general grounds, friendly to
prerogative, was adverse to his title. There was no quarter in
which both his office and his person could find favour. But while
the influence of the House of Commons in the Government was
becoming paramount, the influence of the people over the House of
Commons was declining. It mattered little in the time of Charles
the First whether that House were or were not chosen by the
people; it was certain to act for the people, because it would
have been at the mercy of the Court but for the support of the
people. Now that the Court was at the mercy of the House of
Commons, those members who were not returned by popular election
had nobody to please but themselves. Even those who were returned
by popular election did not live, as now, under a constant sense
of responsibility. The constituents were not, as now, daily
apprised of the votes and speeches of their representatives. The
privileges which had in old times been indispensably necessary to
the security and efficiency of Parliaments were now superfluous.
But they were still carefully maintained, by honest legislators
from superstitious veneration, by dishonest legislators for their
own selfish ends. They had been an useful defence to the Commons
during a long and doubtful conflict with powerful sovereigns.
They were now no longer necessary for that purpose; and they
became a defence to the members against their constituents. That
secrecy which had been absolutely necessary in times when the
Privy Council was in the habit of sending the leaders of
Opposition to the Tower was preserved in times when a vote of the
House of Commons was sufficient to hurl the most powerful
minister from his post.

The Government could not go on unless the Parliament could be
kept in order. And how was the Parliament to be kept in order?
Three hundred years ago it would have been enough for the
statesman to have the support of the Crown. It would now, we hope
and believe, be enough for him to enjoy the confidence and
approbation of the great body of the middle class. A hundred
years ago it would not have been enough to have both Crown and
people on his side. The Parliament had shaken off the control of
the Royal prerogative. It had not yet fallen under the control of
public opinion. A large proportion of the members had absolutely
no motive to support any administration except their own
interest, in the lowest sense of the word. Under these
circumstances, the country could be governed only by corruption.
Bolingbroke, who was the ablest and the most vehement of those
who raised the clamour against corruption, had no better remedy
to propose than that the Royal prerogative should be
strengthened. The remedy would no doubt have been efficient. The
only question is, whether it would not have been worse than the
disease. The fault was in the constitution of the Legislature;
and to blame those ministers who managed the Legislature in the
only way in which it could be managed is gross injustice. They
submitted to extortion because they could not help themselves. We
might as well accuse the poor Lowland farmers who paid black-mail
to Rob Roy of corrupting the virtue of the Highlanders, as accuse
Sir Robert Walpole of corrupting the virtue of Parliament. His
crime was merely this, that he employed his money more
dexterously, and got more support in return for it, than any of
those who preceded or followed him.

He was himself incorruptible by money. His dominant passion was
the love of power: and the heaviest charge which can be brought
against him is that to this passion he never scrupled to
sacrifice the interests of his country.

One of the maxims which, as his son tells us, he was most In the
habit of repeating, was quieta non movere. It was indeed the
maxim by which he generally regulated his public conduct. It is
the maxim of a man more solicitous to hold power long than to use
it well. It is remarkable that, though he was at the head of
affairs during more than twenty years, not one great measure, not
one important change for the better or for the worse in any part
of our institutions, marks the period of his supremacy. Nor was
this because he did not clearly see that many changes were very
desirable. He had been brought up in the school of toleration, at
the feet of Somers and of Burnet. He disliked the shameful laws
against Dissenters. But he never could be induced to bring
forward a proposition for repealing them. The sufferers
represented to him the injustice with which they were treated,
boasted of their firm attachment to the House of Brunswick and to
the Whig party, and reminded him of his own repeated declarations
of goodwill to their cause. He listened, assented, promised, and
did nothing. At length, the question was brought forward by
others, and the Minister, after a hesitating and evasive speech,
voted against it. The truth was that he remembered to the latest
day of his life that terrible explosion of high-church feeling
which the foolish prosecution of a foolish parson had occasioned
in the days of Queen Anne. If the Dissenters had been turbulent
he would probably have relieved them; but while he apprehended no
danger from them, he would not run the slightest risk for their
sake. He acted in the same manner with respect to other
questions. He knew the state of the Scotch Highlands. He was
constantly predicting another insurrection in that part of the
empire. Yet, during his long tenure of power, he never attempted
to perform what was then the most obvious and pressing duty of a
British Statesman, to break the power of the Chiefs, and to
establish the authority of law through the furthest corners of
the Island. Nobody knew better than he that, if this were not
done, great mischiefs would follow. But the Highlands were
tolerably quiet in his time. He was content to meet daily
emergencies by daily expedients; and he left the rest to his
successors. They had to conquer the Highlands in the midst of a
war with France and Spain, because he had not regulated the
Highlands in a time of profound peace.

Sometimes, in spite of all his caution, he found that measures
which he had hoped to carry through quietly had caused great
agitation. When this was the case he generally modified or
withdrew them. It was thus that he cancelled Wood's patent in
compliance with the absurd outcry of the Irish. It was thus that
he frittered away the Porteous Bill to nothing, for fear of
exasperating the Scotch. It was thus that he abandoned the Excise
Bill, as soon as he found that it was offensive to all the great
towns of England. The language which he held about that measure
in a subsequent session is strikingly characteristic. Pulteney
had insinuated that the scheme would be again brought forward.
"As to the wicked scheme," said Walpole, "as the gentleman is
pleased to call it, which he would persuade gentlemen is not yet
laid aside, I for my part assure this House I am not so mad as
ever again to engage in anything that looks like an Excise;
though, in my private opinion, I still think it was a scheme that
would have tended very much to the interest of the nation."

The conduct of Walpole with regard to the Spanish war is the
great blemish of his public life. Archdeacon Coxe imagined that
he had discovered one grand principle of action to which the
whole public conduct of his hero ought to be referred.

"Did the administration of Walpole," says the biographer,
"present any uniform principle which may be traced in every part,
and which gave combination and consistency to the whole? Yes, and
that principle was, THE LOVE OF PEACE." It would be difficult, we
think, to bestow a higher eulogium on any statesman. But the
eulogium is far too high for the merits of Walpole. The great
ruling principle of his public conduct was indeed a love of
peace, but not in the sense in which Archdeacon Coxe uses the
phrase. The peace which Walpole sought was not the peace of the
country, but the peace of his own administration. During the
greater part of his public life, indeed, the two objects were
inseparably connected. At length he was reduced to the necessity
of choosing between them, of plunging the State into hostilities
for which there was no just ground, and by which nothing was to
be got, or of facing a violent opposition in the country, in
Parliament, and even in the royal closet. No person was more
thoroughly convinced than he of the absurdity of the cry against
Spain. But his darling power was at stake, and his choice was
soon made. He preferred an unjust war to a stormy session. It is
impossible to say of a Minister who acted thus that the love of
peace was the one grand principle to which all his conduct is to
be referred. The governing principle of his conduct was neither
love of peace nor love of war, but love of power.

The praise to which he is fairly entitled is this, that he
understood the true interest of his country better than any of
his contemporaries, and that he pursued that interest whenever it
was not incompatible with the interest of his own intense and
grasping ambition. It was only in matters of public moment that
he shrank from agitation and had recourse to compromise. In his
contests for personal influence there was no timidity, no
flinching. He would have all or none. Every member of the
Government who would not submit to his ascendency was turned out
or forced to resign. Liberal of everything else, he was
avaricious of power. Cautious everywhere else, when power was at
stake he had all the boldness of Richelieu or Chatham. He might
easily have secured his authority if he could have been induced
to divide it with others. But he would not part with one fragment
of it to purchase defenders for all the rest. The effect of this
policy was that he had able enemies and feeble allies. His most
distinguished coadjutors left him one by one, and joined the
ranks of the Opposition. He faced the increasing array of his
enemies with unbroken spirit, and thought it far better that they
should attack his power than that they should share it.

The Opposition was in every sense formidable. At its head were
two royal personages, the exiled head of the House of Stuart, the
disgraced heir of the House of Brunswick. One set of members
received directions from Avignon. Another set held their
consultations and banquets at Norfolk House. The majority of the
landed gentry, the majority of the parochial clergy, one of the
universities, and a strong party in the City of London and in the
other great towns, were decidedly adverse to the Government. Of
the men of letters, some were exasperated by the neglect with
which the Minister treated them, a neglect which was the more
remarkable, because his predecessors, both Whig and Tory, had
paid court with emulous munificence to the wits and poets; others
were honestly inflamed by party zeal; almost all lent their aid
to the Opposition. In truth, all that was alluring to ardent and
imaginative minds was on that side; old associations, new visions
of political improvement, high-flown theories of loyalty, high-
flown theories of liberty, the enthusiasm of the Cavalier, the
enthusiasm of the Roundhead. The Tory gentleman, fed in the
common-rooms of Oxford with the doctrines of Filmer and
Sacheverell, and proud of the exploits of his great-grandfather,
who had charged with Rupert at Marston, who had held out the old
manor-house against Fairfax, and who, after the King's return,
had been set down for a Knight of the Royal Oak, flew to that
section of the Opposition which, under pretence of assailing the
existing administration, was in truth assailing the reigning
dynasty. The young republican, fresh from his Livy and his Lucan,
and glowing with admiration of Hampden, of Russell, and of
Sydney, hastened with equal eagerness to those benches from which
eloquent voices thundered nightly against the tyranny and perfidy
of courts. So many young politicians were caught by these
declamations that Sir Robert, in one of his best speeches,
observed that the Opposition consisted of three bodies, the
Tories, the discontented Whigs, who were known by the name of the
Patriots, and the Boys. In fact almost every young man of warm
temper and lively imagination, whatever his political bias might
be, was drawn into the party adverse to the Government; and some
of the most distinguished among them, Pitt, for example, among
public men, and Johnson, among men of letters, afterwards openly
acknowledged their mistake.

The aspect of the Opposition, even while it was still a minority
in the House of Commons, was very imposing. Among those who, in
Parliament or out of Parliament, assailed the administration of
Walpole, were Bolingbroke, Carteret, Chesterfield, Argyle,
Pulteney, Wyndham, Doddington, Pitt, Lyttelton, Barnard, Pope,
Swift, Gay, Arbuthnot, Fielding, Johnson, Thomson, Akenside,

The circumstance that the Opposition was divided into two
parties, diametrically opposed to each other in political
opinions, was long the safety of Walpole. It was at last his
ruin. The leaders of the minority knew that it would be difficult
for them to bring forward any important measure without producing
an immediate schism in their party. It was with very great
difficulty that the Whigs in opposition had been induced to give
a sullen and silent vote for the repeal of the Septennial Act.
The Tories, on the other hand, could not be induced to support
Pulteney's motion for an addition to the income of Prince
Frederic. The two parties had cordially joined in calling out for
a war with Spain; but they now had their war. Hatred of Walpole
was almost the only feeling which was common to them. On this one
point, therefore, they concentrated their whole strength. With
gross ignorance, or gross dishonesty, they represented the
Minister as the main grievance of the State. His dismissal, his
punishment, would prove the certain cure for all the evils which
the nation suffered. What was to be done after his fall, how
misgovernment was to be prevented in future, were questions to
which there were as many answers as there were noisy and ill-
informed members of the Opposition. The only cry in which all
could join was, "Down with Walpole!" So much did they narrow the
disputed ground, so purely personal did they make the question,
that they threw out friendly hints to the other members of the
Administration, and declared that they refused quarter to the
Prime Minister alone. His tools might keep their heads, their
fortunes, even their places, if only the great father of
corruption were given up to the just vengeance of the nation.

If the fate of Walpole's colleagues had been inseparably bound up
with his, he probably would, even after the unfavourable
elections of 1741, have been able to weather the storm. But as
soon as it was understood that the attack was directed against
him alone, and that, if he were sacrificed, his associates might
expect advantageous and honourable terms, the ministerial ranks
began to waver, and the murmur of sauve qui peut was heard. That
Walpole had foul play is almost certain, but to what extent it is
difficult to say. Lord Islay was suspected; the Duke of Newcastle
something more than suspected. It would have been strange,
indeed, if his Grace had been idle when treason was hatching.

"Ch' i' ho de' traditor' sempre sospetto,
E Gan fu traditor prima che nato."

"His name," said Sir Robert, "is perfidy."

Never was a battle more manfully fought out than the last
struggle of the old statesman. His clear judgment, his long
experience, and his fearless spirit, enabled him to maintain a
defensive war through half the session. To the last his heart
never failed him--and, when at last he yielded, he yielded not to
the threats of his enemies, but to the entreaties of his
dispirited and refractory followers. When he could no longer
retain his power, he compounded for honour and security, and
retired to his garden and his paintings, leaving to those who had
overthrown him shame, discord, and ruin.

Everything was in confusion. It has been said that the confusion
was produced by the dexterous policy of Walpole; and,
undoubtedly, he did his best to sow dissension amongst his
triumphant enemies. But there was little for him to do. Victory
had completely dissolved the hollow truce, which the two sections
of the Opposition had but imperfectly observed, even while the
event of the contest was still doubtful. A thousand questions
were opened in a moment. A thousand conflicting claims were
preferred. It was impossible to follow any line of policy which
would not have been offensive to a large portion of the
successful party. It was impossible to find places for a tenth
part of those who thought that they had a right to office. While
the parliamentary leaders were preaching patience and confidence,
while their followers were clamouring for reward, a still louder
voice was heard from without, the terrible cry of a people angry,
they hardly know with whom, and impatient they hardly knew for
what. The day of retribution had arrived. The Opposition reaped
that which they had sown. Inflamed with hatred and cupidity,
despairing of success by any ordinary mode of political warfare,
and blind to consequences, which, though remote, were certain,
they had conjured up a devil whom they could not lay. They had
made the public mind drunk with calumny and declamation. They had
raised expectations which it was impossible to satisfy. The
downfall of Walpole was to be the beginning of a political
millennium; and every enthusiast had figured to himself that
millennium according to the fashion of his own wishes. The
republican expected that the power of the Crown would be reduced
to a mere shadow, the high Tory that the Stuarts would be
restored, the moderate Tory that the golden days which the Church
and the landed interest had enjoyed during the last years of Queen
Anne would immediately return. It would have been impossible to
satisfy everybody. The conquerors satisfied nobody.

We have no reverence for the memory of those who were then called
the patriots. We are for the principles of good government
against Walpole,--and for Walpole against the Opposition. It was
most desirable that a purer system should be introduced; but, if
the old system was to be retained, no man was so fit as Walpole
to be at the head of affairs. There were grievous abuses in the
Government, abuses more than sufficient to justify a strong
Opposition. But the party opposed to Walpole, while they
stimulated the popular fury to the highest point, were at no
pains to direct it aright. Indeed they studiously misdirected it.
They misrepresented the evil. They prescribed inefficient and
pernicious remedies. They held up a single man as the sole cause
of all the vices of a bad system which had been in full operation
before his entrance into public life, and which continued to be
in full operation when some of these very brawlers had succeeded
to his power. They thwarted his best measures. They drove him
into an unjustifiable war against his will. Constantly talking
in magnificent language about tyranny, corruption, wicked
ministers, servile courtiers, the liberty of Englishmen, the
Great Charter, the rights for which our fathers bled, Timoleon,
Brutus, Hampden, Sydney, they had absolutely nothing to propose
which would have been an improvement on our institutions. Instead
of directing the public mind to definite reforms which might have
completed the work of the revolution, which might have brought
the legislature into harmony with the nation, and which might
have prevented the Crown from doing by influence what it could no
longer do by prerogative, they excited a vague craving for
change, by which they profited for a single moment, and of which,
as they well deserved, they were soon the victims.

Among the reforms which the State then required, there were two
of paramount importance, two which would alone have remedied
almost every gross abuse, and without which all other remedies
would have been unavailing, the publicity of parliamentary
proceedings, and the abolition of the rotten boroughs. Neither of
these was thought of. It seems us clear that, if these were not
adopted, all other measures would have been illusory. Some of the
patriots suggested changes which would, beyond all doubt, have
increased the existing evils a hundredfold. These men wished to
transfer the disposal of employments and the command of the army
from the Crown to the Parliament; and this on the very ground
that the Parliament had long been a grossly corrupt body. The
security against malpractices was to be that the members, instead
of having a portion of the public plunder doled out to them by a
minister, were to help themselves.

The other schemes of which the public mind was full were less
dangerous than this. Some of them were in themselves harmless.
But none of them would have done much good, and most of them were
extravagantly absurd. What they were we may learn from the
instructions which many constituent bodies, immediately after the
change of administration, sent up to their representatives. A
more deplorable collection of follies can hardly be imagined.
There is, in the first place, a general cry for Walpole's head.
Then there are better complaints of the decay of trade, a decay
which, in the judgment of these enlightened politicians, was
brought about by Walpole and corruption. They would have been
nearer to the truth if they had attributed their sufferings to
the war into which they had driven Walpole against his better
judgment. He had foretold the effects of his unwilling
concession. On the day when hostilities against Spain were
proclaimed, when the heralds were attended into the city by the
chiefs of the Opposition, when the Prince of Wales himself
stopped at Temple Bar to drink success to the English arms, the
minister heard all the steeples of the city jingling with a merry
peal, and muttered, "They may ring the bells now; they will be
wringing their hands before long."

Another grievance, for which of course Walpole and corruption
were answerable, was the great exportation of English wool. In
the judgment of the sagacious electors of several large towns,
the remedying of this evil was a matter second only in importance
to the hanging of Sir Robert. There were also earnest injunctions
that the members should vote against standing armies in time of
peace, injunctions which were, to say the least, ridiculously
unseasonable in the midst of a war which was likely to last, and
which did actually last, as long as the Parliament. The repeal of
the Septennial Act, as was to be expected, was strongly pressed.
Nothing was more natural than that the voters should wish for a
triennial recurrence of their bribes and their ale. We feel
firmly convinced that the repeal of the Septennial Act,
unaccompanied by a complete reform of the constitution of the
elective body, would have been an unmixed curse to the country.
The only rational recommendation which we can find in all these
instructions is that the number of placemen in Parliament should
be limited, and that pensioners should not he allowed to sit
there. It is plain, however, that this cure was far from going to
the root of the evil, and that, if it had been adopted without
other reforms, secret bribery would probably have been more
practised than ever.

We will give one more instance of the absurd expectations which
the declamations of the Opposition had raised in the country.
Akenside was one of the fiercest and most uncompromising of the
young patriots out of Parliament. When he found that the change
of administration had produced no change of system, he gave vent
to his indignation in the Epistle to Curio, the best poem that he
ever wrote, a poem, indeed, which seems to indicate, that, if he
had left lyric composition to Gray and Collins, and had employed
his powers in grave and elevated satire, he might have disputed
the pre-eminence of Dryden. But whatever be the literary merits
of the epistle, we can say nothing in praise of the political
doctrines which it inculcates. The poet, in a rapturous
apostrophe to the spirits of the great men of antiquity, tells
us what he expected from Pulteney at the moment of the fall of
the tyrant.

"See private life by wisest arts reclaimed,
See ardent youth to noblest manners framed,
See us achieve whate'er was sought by you,
If Curio--only Curio--will be true."

It was Pulteney's business, it seems, to abolish faro, and
masquerades, to stint the young Duke of Marlborough to a bottle
of brandy a day, and to prevail on Lady Vane to be content with
three lovers at a time.

Whatever the people wanted, they certainly got nothing. Walpole
retired in safety; and the multitude were defrauded of the
expected show on Tower Hill. The Septennial Act was not repealed.
The placemen were not turned out of the House of Commons. Wool,
we believe, was still exported. "Private life" afforded as much
scandal as if the reign of Walpole and corruption had continued;
and "ardent youth" fought with watchmen and betted with blacklegs
as much as ever.

The colleagues of Walpole had, after his retreat, admitted some
of the chiefs of the Opposition into the Government, and soon
found themselves compelled to submit to the ascendency of one of
their new allies. This was Lord Carteret, afterwards Earl
Granville. No public man of that age had greater courage, greater
ambition, greater activity, greater talents for debate or for
declamation. No public man had such profound and extensive
learning. He was familiar with the ancient writers, and loved to
sit up till midnight discussing philological and metrical
questions with Bentley. His knowledge of modern languages was
prodigious. The privy council, when he was present; needed no
interpreter. He spoke and wrote French, Italian, Spanish,
Portuguese, German, even Swedish. He had pushed his researches
into the most obscure nooks of literature. He was as familiar
with Canonists and Schoolmen as with orators and poets. He had
read all that the universities of Saxony and Holland had produced
on the most intricate questions of public law. Harte, in the
preface to the second edition of his History of Gustavus
Adolphus, bears a remarkable testimony to the extent and accuracy
of Lord Carteret's knowledge. "It was my good fortune or prudence
to keep the main body of my army (or in other words my matters of
fact) safe and entire. The late Earl of Granville was pleased to
declare himself of this opinion; especially when he found that I
had made Chemnitius one of my principal guides; for his Lordship
was apprehensive I might not have seen that valuable and
authentic book, which is extremely scarce. I thought myself happy
to have contented his Lordship even in the lowest degree: for he
understood the German and Swedish histories to the highest

With all this learning, Carteret was far from being a pedant. His
was not one of those cold spirits of which the fire is put out by
the fuel. In council, in debate, in society, he was all life and
energy. His measures were strong, prompt, and daring, his oratory
animated and glowing. His spirits were constantly high. No
misfortune, public or private, could depress him. He was at once
the most unlucky and the happiest public man of his time.

He had been Secretary of State in Walpole's Administration, and
had acquired considerable influence over the mind of George the
First. The other ministers could speak no German. The King could
speak no English. All the communication that Walpole held with
his master was in very bad Latin. Carteret dismayed his
colleagues by the volubility with which he addressed his Majesty
in German. They listened with envy and terror to the mysterious
gutturals which might possibly convey suggestions very little in
unison with their wishes.

Walpole was not a man to endure such a colleague as Carteret. The
King was induced to give up his favourite. Carteret joined the
Opposition, and signalised himself at the head of that party
till, after the retirement of his old rival, he again became
Secretary of State.

During some months he was chief Minister, indeed sole Minister.
He gained the confidence and regard of George the Second. He was
at the same time in high favour with the Prince of Wales. As a
debater in the House of Lords, he had no equal among his
colleagues. Among his opponents, Chesterfield alone could be
considered as his match. Confident in his talents, and in the
royal favour, he neglected all those means by which the power of
Walpole had been created and maintained. His head was full of
treaties and expeditions, of schemes for supporting the Queen of
Hungary and for humbling the House of Bourbon. He contemptuously
abandoned to others all the drudgery, and, with the drudgery, all
the fruits of corruption. The patronage of the Church and of the
Bar he left to the Pelhams as a trifle unworthy of his care. One
of the judges, Chief Justice Willes, if we remember rightly, went
to him to beg some ecclesiastical preferment for a friend.
Carteret said, that he was too much occupied with continental
politics to think about the disposal of places and benefices.
"You may rely on it, then," said the Chief Justice, "that people
who want places and benefices will go to those who have more
leisure." The prediction was accomplished. It would have been a
busy time indeed in which the Pelhams had wanted leisure for
jobbing; and to the Pelhams the whole cry of place-hunters and
pension-hunters resorted. The parliamentary influence of the two
brothers became stronger every day, till at length they were at
the head of a decided majority in the House of Commons. Their
rival, meanwhile, conscious of his powers, sanguine in his hopes,
and proud of the storm which he had conjured up on the Continent,
would brook neither superior nor equal. "His rants," says Horace
Walpole, "are amazing; so are his parts and his spirits." He
encountered the opposition of his colleagues, not with the fierce
haughtiness of the first Pitt, or the cold unbending arrogance of
the second, but with a gay vehemence, a good-humoured
imperiousness, that bore everything down before it. The period of
his ascendency was known by the name of the "Drunken
Administration"; and the expression was not altogether
figurative. His habits were extremely convivial; and champagne
probably lent its aid to keep him in that state of joyous
excitement in which his life was passed.

That a rash and impetuous man of genius like Carteret should not
have been able to maintain his ground in Parliament against the
crafty and selfish Pelhams is not strange. But it is less easy to
understand why he should have been generally unpopular throughout
the country. His brilliant talents, his bold and open temper,
ought, it should seem, to have made him a favourite with the
public. But the people had been bitterly disappointed; and he had
to face the first burst of their rage. His close connection with
Pulteney, now the most detested man in the nation, was an
unfortunate circumstance. He had, indeed, only three partisans,
Pulteney, the King, and the Prince of Wales, a most singular

He was driven from his office. He shortly after made a bold,
indeed a desperate, attempt to recover power. The attempt failed.
From that time he relinquished all ambitious hopes, and retired
laughing to his books and his bottle. No statesman ever enjoyed
success with so exquisite a relish, or submitted to defeat with
so genuine and unforced a cheerfulness. Ill as he had been used,
he did not seem, says Horace Walpole, to have any resentment, or
indeed any feeling except thirst.

These letters contain many good stories, some of them no doubt

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