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The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 4 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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to him that, on all principles of the military art, he ought to
accept the challenge rashly given by the enemy. His Majesty had
gravely expressed his sorrow that he could not, consistently with
his public duty, obey the impetuous movement of his blood, had
turned his rein, and had galloped back to his quarters.444 Was it
not frightful to think what rivers of the best blood of France,
of Spain, of Germany and of England, had flowed, and were
destined still to flow, for the gratification of a man who wanted
the vulgar courage which was found in the meanest of the hundreds
of thousands whom he had sacrificed to his vainglorious ambition?

Though the French army in the Netherlands had been weakened by
the departure of the forces commanded by the Dauphin and
Boufflers, and though the allied army was daily strengthened by
the arrival of fresh troops, Luxemburg still had a superiority of
force; and that superiority he increased by an adroit stratagem.
He marched towards Liege, and made as if he were about to form
the siege of that city. William was uneasy, and the more uneasy
because he knew that there was a French party among the
inhabitants. He quitted his position near Louvain, advanced to
Nether Hespen, and encamped there with the river Gette in his
rear. On his march he learned that Huy had opened its gates to
the French. The news increased his anxiety about Liege, and
determined him to send thither a force sufficient to overawe
malecontents within the city, and to repel any attack from
without.445 This was exactly what Luxemburg had expected and
desired. His feint had served its purpose. He turned his back on
the fortress which had hitherto seemed to be his object, and
hastened towards the Gette. William, who had detached more than
twenty thousand men, and who had but fifty thousand left in his
camp, was alarmed by learning from his scouts, on the eighteenth
of July, that the French General, with near eighty thousand, was
close at hand.

It was still in the King's power, by a hasty retreat, to put the
narrow, but deep, waters of the Gette, which had lately been
swollen by rains, between his army and the enemy. But the site
which he occupied was strong; and it could easily be made still
stronger. He set all his troops to work. Ditches were dug, mounds
thrown up, palisades fixed in the earth. In a few hours the
ground wore a new aspect; and the King trusted that he should be
able to repel the attack even of a force greatly outnumbering his
own. Nor was it without much appearance of reason that he felt
this confidence. When the morning of the nineteenth of July
broke, the bravest men of Lewis's army looked gravely and
anxiously on the fortress which had suddenly sprung up to arrest
their progress. The allies were protected by a breastwork. Here
and there along the entrenchments were formed little redoubts and
half moons. A hundred pieces of cannon were disposed along the
ramparts. On the left flank, the village of Romsdorff rose close
to the little stream of Landen, from which the English have named
the disastrous day. On the right was the village of Neerwinden.
Both villages were, after the fashion of the Low Countries,
surrounded by moats and fences; and, within these enclosures, the
little plots of ground occupied by different families were
separated by mud walls five feet in height and a foot in
thickness. All these barricades William had repaired and
strengthened. Saint Simon, who, after the battle, surveyed the
ground, could hardly, he tells us, believe that defences so
extensive and so formidable could have been created with such

Luxemburg, however, was determined to try whether even this
position could be maintained against the superior numbers and the
impetuous valour of his soldiers. Soon after sunrise the roar of
cannon began to be heard. William's batteries did much execution
before the French artillery could be so placed as to return the
fire. It was eight o'clock before the close fighting began. The
village of Neerwinden was regarded by both commanders as the
point on which every thing depended. There an attack was made by
the French left wing commanded by Montchevreuil, a veteran
officer of high reputation, and by Berwick, who, though young,
was fast rising to a high place among the captains of his time.
Berwick led the onset, and forced his way into the village, but
was soon driven out again with a terrible carnage. His followers
fled or perished; he, while trying to rally them, and cursing
them for not doing their duty better, was surrounded by foes. He
concealed his white cockade, and hoped to be able, by the help of
his native tongue, to pass himself off as an officer of the
English army. But his face was recognised by one of his mother's
brothers, George Churchill, who held on that day the command of a
brigade. A hurried embrace was exchanged between the kinsmen; and
the uncle conducted the nephew to William, who, as long as every
thing seemed to be going well, remained in the rear. The meeting
of the King and the captive, united by such close domestic ties,
and divided by such inexpiable injuries, was a strange sight.
Both behaved as became them. William uncovered, and addressed to
his prisoner a few words of courteous greeting. Berwick's only
reply was a solemn bow. The King put on his hat; the Duke put on
his hat; and the cousins parted for ever.

By this time the French, who had been driven in confusion out of
Neerwinden, had been reinforced by a division under the command
of the Duke of Bourbon, and came gallantly back to the attack.
William, well aware of the importance of this post, gave orders
that troops should move thither from other parts of his line.
This second conflict was long and bloody. The assailants again
forced an entrance into the village. They were again driven out
with immense slaughter, and showed little inclination to return
to the charge.

Meanwhile the battle had been raging all along the entrenchments
of the allied army. Again and again Luxemburg brought up his
troops within pistolshot of the breastwork; but he could bring
them no nearer. Again and again they recoiled from the heavy fire
which was poured on their front and on their flanks. It seemed
that all was over. Luxemburg retired to a spot which was out of
gunshot, and summoned a few of his chief officers to a
consultation. They talked together during some time; and their
animated gestures were observed with deep interest by all who
were within sight.

At length Luxemburg formed his decision. A last attempt must be
made to carry Neerwinden; and the invincible household troops,
the conquerors of Steinkirk, must lead the way.

The household troops came on in a manner worthy of their long
and terrible renown. A third time Neerwinden was taken. A third
time William tried to retake it. At the head of some English
regiments he charged the guards of Lewis with such fury that, for
the first time in the memory of the oldest warrior, that far
famed band gave way.446 It was only by the strenuous exertions of
Luxemburg, of the Duke of Chartres, and of the Duke of Bourbon,
that the broken ranks were rallied. But by this time the centre
and left of the allied army had been so much thinned for the
purpose of supporting the conflict at Neerwinden that the
entrenchments could no longer be defended on other points. A
little after four in the afternoon the whole line gave way. All
was havoc and confusion. Solmes had received a mortal wound, and
fell, still alive, into the hands of the enemy. The English
soldiers, to whom his name was hateful, accused him of having in
his sufferings shown pusillanimity unworthy of a soldier. The
Duke of Ormond was struck down in the press; and in another
moment he would have been a corpse, had not a rich diamond on his
finger caught the eye of one of the French guards, who justly
thought that the owner of such a jewel would be a valuable
prisoner. The Duke's life was saved; and he was speedily
exchanged for Berwick. Ruvigny, animated by the true refugee
hatred of the country which had cast him out, was taken fighting
in the thickest of the battle. Those into whose hands he had
fallen knew him well, and knew that, if they carried him to their
camp, his head would pay for that treason to which persecution
had driven him. With admirable generosity they pretended not to
recognise him, and suffered him to make his escape in the tumult.

It was only on such occasions as this that the whole greatness of
William's character appeared. Amidst the rout and uproar, while
arms and standards were flung away, while multitudes of fugitives
were choking up the bridges and fords of the Gette or perishing
in its waters, the King, having directed Talmash to superintend
the retreat, put himself at the head of a few brave regiments,
and by desperate efforts arrested the progress of the enemy. His
risk was greater than that which others ran. For he could not be
persuaded either to encumber his feeble frame with a cuirass, or
to hide the ensigns of the garter. He thought his star a good
rallying point for his own troops, and only smiled when he was
told that it was a good mark for the enemy. Many fell on his
right hand and on his left. Two led horses, which in the field
always closely followed his person, were struck dead by cannon
shots. One musket ball passed through the curls of his wig,
another through his coat; a third bruised his side and tore his
blue riband to tatters. Many years later greyhaired old
pensioners who crept about the arcades and alleys of Chelsea
Hospital used to relate how he charged at the head of Galway's
horse, how he dismounted four times to put heart into the
infantry, how he rallied one corps which seemed to be shrinking;
"That is not the way to fight, gentlemen. You must stand close up
to them. Thus, gentlemen, thus." "You might have seen him," an
eyewitness wrote, only four days after the battle, "with his
sword in his hand, throwing himself upon the enemy. It is certain
that one time, among the rest, he was seen at the head of two
English regiments, and that he fought seven with these two in
sight of the whole army, driving them before him above a quarter
of an hour. Thanks be to God that preserved him." The enemy
pressed on him so close that it was with difficulty that he at
length made his way over the Gette. A small body of brave men,
who shared his peril to the last, could hardly keep off the
pursuers as he crossed the bridge.447

Never, perhaps, was the change which the progress of civilisation
has produced in the art of war more strikingly illustrated than
on that day. Ajax beating down the Trojan leader with a rock
which two ordinary men could scarcely lift, Horatius defending
the bridge against an army, Richard the Lionhearted spurring
along the whole Saracen line without finding an enemy to stand
his assault, Robert Bruce crushing with one blow the helmet and
head of Sir Henry Bohun in sight of the whole array of England
and Scotland, such are the heroes of a dark age. In such an age
bodily vigour is the most indispensable qualification of a
warrior. At Landen two poor sickly beings, who, in a rude state
of society, would have been regarded as too puny to bear any part
in combats, were the souls of two great armies. In some heathen
countries they would have been exposed while infants. In
Christendom they would, six hundred years earlier, have been sent
to some quiet cloister. But their lot had fallen on a time when
men had discovered that the strength of the muscles is far
inferior in value to the strength of the mind. It is probable
that, among the hundred and twenty thousand soldiers who were
marshalled round Neerwinden under all the standards of Western
Europe, the two feeblest in body were the hunchbacked dwarf who
urged forward the fiery onset of France, and the asthmatic
skeleton who covered the slow retreat of England.

The French were victorious; but they had bought their victory
dear. More than ten thousand of the best troops of Lewis had
fallen. Neerwinden was a spectacle at which the oldest soldiers
stood aghast. The streets were piled breast high with corpses.
Among the slain were some great lords and some renowned warriors.
Montchevreuil was there, and the mutilated trunk of the Duke of
Uzes, first in order of precedence among the whole aristocracy of
France. Thence too Sarsfield was borne desperately wounded to a
pallet from which he never rose again. The Court of Saint
Germains had conferred on him the empty title of Earl of Lucan;
but history knows him by the name which is still dear to the most
unfortunate of nations. The region, renowned in history as the
battle field, during many ages, of the most warlike nations of
Europe, has seen only two more terrible days, the day of
Malplaquet and the day of Waterloo. During many months the ground
was strewn with skulls and bones of men and horses, and with
fragments of hats and shoes, saddles and holsters. The next
summer the soil, fertilised by twenty thousand corpses, broke
forth into millions of poppies. The traveller who, on the road
from Saint Tron to Tirlemont, saw that vast sheet of rich scarlet
spreading from Landen to Neerwinden, could hardly help fancying
that the figurative prediction of the Hebrew prophet was
literally accomplished, that the earth was disclosing her blood,
and refusing to cover the slain.448

There was no pursuit, though the sun was still high in the heaven
when William crossed the Gette. The conquerors were so much
exhausted by marching and fighting that they could scarcely move;
and the horses were in even worse condition than the men. Their
general thought it necessary to allow some time for rest and
refreshment. The French nobles unloaded their sumpter horses,
supped gaily, and pledged one another in champagne amidst the
heaps of dead; and, when night fell, whole brigades gladly lay
down to sleep in their ranks on the field of battle. The
inactivity of Luxemburg did not escape censure. None could deny
that he had in the action shown great skill and energy. But some
complained that he wanted patience and perseverance. Others
whispered that he had no wish to bring to an end a war which made
him necessary to a Court where he had never, in time of peace,
found favour or even justice.449 Lewis, who on this occasion was
perhaps not altogether free from some emotions of jealousy,
contrived, it was reported, to mingle with the praise which he
bestowed on his lieutenant blame which, though delicately
expressed, was perfectly intelligible. "In the battle," he said,
"the Duke of Luxemburg behaved like Conde; and since the battle
the Prince of Orange has behaved like Turenne."

In truth the ability and vigour with which William repaired his
terrible defeat might well excite admiration. "In one respect,"
said the Admiral Coligni, "I may claim superiority over
Alexander, over Scipio, over Caesar. They won great battles, it is
true. I have lost four great battles; and yet I show to the enemy
a more formidable front than ever." The blood of Coligni ran in
the veins of William; and with the blood had descended the
unconquerable spirit which could derive from failure as much
glory as happier commanders owed to success. The defeat of Landen
was indeed a heavy blow. The King had a few days of cruel
anxiety. If Luxemburg pushed on, all was lost. Louvain must fall,
and Mechlin, Nieuport, and Ostend. The Batavian frontier would be
in danger. The cry for peace throughout Holland might be such as
neither States General nor Stadtholder would be able to
resist.450 But there was delay; and a very short delay was enough
for William. From the field of battle he made his way through the
multitude of fugitives to the neighbourhood of Louvain, and there
began to collect his scattered forces. His character is not
lowered by the anxiety which, at that moment, the most disastrous
of his life, he felt for the two persons who were dearest to him.
As soon as he was safe, he wrote to assure his wife of his
safety.451 In the confusion of the flight he had lost sight of
Portland, who was then in very feeble health, and had therefore
run more than the ordinary risks of war. A short note which the
King sent to his friend a few hours later is still extant.452
"Though I hope to see you this evening, I cannot help writing to
tell you how rejoiced I am that you got off so well. God grant
that your health may soon be quite restored. These are great
trials, which he has been pleased to send me in quick succession.
I must try to submit to his pleasure without murmuring, and to
deserve his anger less."

His forces rallied fast. Large bodies of troops which he had,
perhaps imprudently, detached from his army while he supposed
that Liege was the object of the enemy, rejoined him by forced
marches. Three weeks after his defeat he held a review a few
miles from Brussels. The number of men under arms was greater
than on the morning of the bloody day of Landen; their appearance
was soldierlike; and their spirit seemed unbroken. William now
wrote to Heinsius that the worst was over. "The crisis," he said,
"has been a terrible one. Thank God that it has ended thus." He
did not, however, think it prudent to try at that time the event
of another pitched field. He therefore suffered the French to
besiege and take Charleroy; and this was the only advantage which
they derived from the most sanguinary battle fought in Europe
during the seventeenth century.

The melancholy tidings of the defeat of Landen found England
agitated by tidings not less melancholy from a different quarter.
During many months the trade with the Mediterranean Sea had been
almost entirely interrupted by the war. There was no chance that
a merchantman from London or from Amsterdam would, if
unprotected, reach the Pillars of Hercules without being boarded
by a French privateer; and the protection of armed vessels was
not easily to be obtained. During the year 1691, great fleets,
richly laden for Spanish, Italian and Turkish markets, had been
gathering in the Thames and the Texel. In February 1693, near
four hundred ships were ready to start. The value of the cargoes
was estimated at several millions sterling. Those galleons which
had long been the wonder and envy of the world had never conveyed
so precious a freight from the West Indies to Seville. The
English government undertook, in concert with the Dutch
government, to escort the vessels which were laden with this
great mass of wealth. The French government was bent on
intercepting them.

The plan of the allies was that seventy ships of the line and
about thirty frigates and brigantines should assemble in the
Channel under the command of Killegrew and Delaval, the two new
Lords of the English Admiralty, and should convoy the Smyrna
fleet, as it was popularly called, beyond the limits within which
any danger could be apprehended from the Brest squadron. The
greater part of the armament might then return to guard the
Channel, while Rooke, with twenty sail, might accompany the
trading vessels and might protect them against the squadron which
lay at Toulon. The plan of the French government was that the
Brest squadron under Tourville and the Toulon squadron under
Estrees should meet in the neighbourhood of the Straits of
Gibraltar, and should there lie in wait for the booty.

Which plan was the better conceived may be doubted. Which was the
better executed is a question which admits of no doubt. The whole
French navy, whether in the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean, was
moved by one will. The navy of England and the navy of the United
Provinces were subject to different authorities; and, both in
England and in the United Provinces, the power was divided and
subdivided to such an extent that no single person was pressed by
a heavy responsibility. The spring came. The merchants loudly
complained that they had already lost more by delay than they
could hope to gain by the most successful voyage; and still the
ships of war were not half manned or half provisioned. The
Amsterdam squadron did not arrive on our coast till late in
April; the Zealand squadron not till the middle of May.453 It was
June before the immense fleet, near five hundred sail, lost sight
of the cliffs of England.

Tourville was already on the sea, and was steering southward. But
Killegrew and Delaval were so negligent or so unfortunate that
they had no intelligence of his movements. They at first took it
for granted that he was still lying in the port of Brest. Then
they heard a rumour that some shipping had been seen to the
northward; and they supposed that he was taking advantage of
their absence to threaten the coast of Devonshire. It never seems
to have occurred to them as possible that he might have effected
a junction with the Toulon squadron, and might be impatiently
waiting for his prey in the neighbourhood of Gibraltar. They
therefore, on the sixth of June, having convoyed the Smyrna fleet
about two hundred miles beyond Ushant, announced their intention
to part company with Rooke. Rooke expostulated, but to no
purpose. It was necessary for him to submit, and to proceed with
his twenty men of war to the Mediterranean, while his superiors,
with the rest of the armament, returned to the Channel.

It was by this time known in England that Tourville had stolen
out of Brest, and was hastening to join Estrees. The return of
Killegrew and Delaval therefore excited great alarm. A swift
sailing vessel was instantly despatched to warn Rooke of his
danger; but the warning never reached him. He ran before a fair
wind to Cape Saint Vincent; and there he learned that some French
ships were lying in the neighbouring Bay of Lagos. The first
information which he received led him to believe that they were
few in number; and so dexterously did they conceal their strength
that, till they were within half an hour's sail, he had no
suspicion that he was opposed to the whole maritime strength of a
great kingdom. To contend against fourfold odds would have been
madness. It was much that he was able to save his squadron from
titter destruction. He exerted all his skill. Two or three Dutch
men of war, which were in the rear, courageously sacrificed
themselves to save the fleet. With the rest of the armament, and
with about sixty merchant ships, Rooke got safe to Madeira and
thence to Cork. But more than three hundred of the vessels which
he had convoyed were scattered over the ocean. Some escaped to
Ireland; some to Corunna; some to Lisbon; some to Cadiz; some
were captured, and more destroyed. A few, which had taken shelter
under the rock of Gibraltar, and were pursued thither by the
enemy, were sunk when it was found that they could not be
defended. Others perished in the same manner under the batteries
of Malaga. The gain to the French seems not to have been great;
but the loss to England and Holland was immense.454

Never within the memory of man had there been in the City a day
of more gloom and agitation than that on which the news of the
encounter in the Bay of Lagos arrived. Many merchants, an
eyewitness said, went away from the Royal Exchange, as pale as if
they had received sentence of death. A deputation from the
merchants who had been sufferers by this great disaster went up
to the Queen with an address representing their grievances. They
were admitted to the Council Chamber, where she was seated at the
head of the Board. She directed Somers to reply to them in her
name; and he addressed to them a speech well calculated to soothe
their irritation. Her Majesty, he said, felt for them from her
heart; and she had already appointed a Committee of the Privy
Council to inquire into the cause of the late misfortune, and to
consider of the best means of preventing similar misfortunes in
time to come.455 This answer gave so much satisfaction that the
Lord Mayor soon came to the palace to thank the Queen for her
goodness, to assure her that, through all vicissitudes, London
would be true to her and her consort, and to inform her that,
severely as the late calamity had been felt by many great
commercial houses, the Common Council had unanimously resolved to
advance whatever might be necessary for the support of the

The ill humour which the public calamities naturally produced was
inflamed by every factious artifice. Never had the Jacobite
pamphleteers been so savagely scurrilous as during this
unfortunate summer. The police was consequently more active than
ever in seeking for the dens from which so much treason
proceeded. With great difficulty and after long search the most
important of all the unlicensed presses was discovered. This
press belonged to a Jacobite named William Anderton, whose
intrepidity and fanaticism marked him out as fit to be employed
on services from which prudent men and scrupulous men shrink.
During two years he had been watched by the agents of the
government; but where he exercised his craft was an impenetrable
mystery. At length he was tracked to a house near Saint James's
Street, where he was known by a feigned name, and where he passed
for a working jeweller. A messenger of the press went thither
with several assistants, and found Anderton's wife and mother
posted as sentinels at the door. The women knew the messenger,
rushed on him, tore his hair, and cried out "Thieves" and
"Murder." The alarm was thus given to Anderton. He concealed the
instruments of his calling, came forth with an assured air, and
bade defiance to the messenger, the Censor, the Secretary, and
Little Hooknose himself. After a struggle he was secured. His
room was searched; and at first sight no evidence of his guilt
appeared. But behind the bed was soon found a door which opened
into a dark closet. The closet contained a press, types and heaps
of newly printed papers. One of these papers, entitled Remarks on
the Present Confederacy and the Late Revolution, is perhaps the
most frantic of all the Jacobite libels. In this tract the Prince
of Orange is gravely accused of having ordered fifty of his
wounded English soldiers to be burned alive. The governing
principle of his whole conduct, it is said, is not vainglory, or
ambition, or avarice, but a deadly hatred of Englishmen and a
desire to make them miserable. The nation is vehemently adjured,
on peril of incurring the severest judgments, to rise up and free
itself from this plague, this curse, this tyrant, whose depravity
makes it difficult to believe that he can have been procreated by
a human pair. Many copies were also found of another paper,
somewhat less ferocious but perhaps more dangerous, entitled A
French Conquest neither desirable nor practicable. In this tract
also the people are exhorted to rise in insurrection. They are
assured that a great part of the army is with them. The forces of
the Prince of Orange will melt away; he will be glad to make his
escape; and a charitable hope is sneeringly expressed that it may
not be necessary to do him any harm beyond sending him back to
Loo, where he may live surrounded by luxuries for which the
English have paid dear.

The government, provoked and alarmed by the virulence of the
Jacobite pamphleteers, determined to make Anderton an example. He
was indicted for high treason, and brought to the bar of the Old
Bailey. Treby, now Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Powell,
who had honourably distinguished himself on the day of the trial
of the bishops, were on the Bench. It is unfortunate that no
detailed report of the evidence has come down to us, and that we
are forced to content ourselves with such fragments of
information as can be collected from the contradictory narratives
of writers evidently partial, intemperate and dishonest. The
indictment, however, is extant; and the overt acts which it
imputes to the prisoner undoubtedly amount to high treason.457 To
exhort the subjects of the realm to rise up and depose the King
by force, and to add to that exhortation the expression,
evidently ironical, of a hope that it may not be necessary to
inflict on him any evil worse than banishment, is surely an
offence which the least courtly lawyer will admit to be within
the scope of the statute of Edward the Third. On this point
indeed there seems to have been no dispute, either at the trial
or subsequently.

The prisoner denied that he had printed the libels. On this point
it seems reasonable that, since the evidence has not come down to
us, we should give credit to the judges and the jury who heard
what the witnesses had to say.

One argument with which Anderton had been furnished by his
advisers, and which, in the Jacobite pasquinades of that time, is
represented as unanswerable, was that, as the art of printing had
been unknown in the reign of Edward the Third, printing could not
be an overt act of treason under a statute of that reign. The
judges treated this argument very lightly; and they were surely
justified in so treating it. For it is an argument which would
lead to the conclusion that it could not be an overt act of
treason to behead a King with a guillotine or to shoot him with a
Minie rifle.

It was also urged in Anderton's favour,--and this was undoubtedly
an argument well entitled to consideration,--that a distinction
ought to be made between the author of a treasonable paper and
the man who merely printed it. The former could not pretend that
he had not understood the meaning of the words which he had
himself selected. But to the latter those words might convey no
idea whatever. The metaphors, the allusions, the sarcasms, might
be far beyond his comprehension; and, while his hands were busy
among the types, his thoughts might be wandering to things
altogether unconnected with the manuscript which was before him.
It is undoubtedly true that it may be no crime to print what it
would be a great crime to write. But this is evidently a matter
concerning which no general rule can be laid down. Whether
Anderton had, as a mere mechanic, contributed to spread a work
the tendency of which he did not suspect, or had knowingly lent
his help to raise a rebellion, was a question for the jury; and
the jury might reasonably infer from his change of his name, from
the secret manner in which he worked, from the strict watch kept
by his wife and mother, and from the fury with which, even in the
grasp of the messengers, he railed at the government, that he was
not the unconscious tool, but the intelligent and zealous
accomplice of traitors. The twelve, after passing a considerable
time in deliberation, informed the Court that one of them
entertained doubts. Those doubts were removed by the arguments of
Treby and Powell; and a verdict of Guilty was found.

The fate of the prisoner remained during sometime in suspense.
The Ministers hoped that he might be induced to save his own neck
at the expense of the necks of the pamphleteers who had employed
him. But his natural courage was kept up by spiritual stimulants
which the nonjuring divines well understood how to administer. He
suffered death with fortitude, and continued to revile the
government to the last. The Jacobites clamoured loudly against
the cruelty of the judges who had tried him and of the Queen who
had left him for execution, and, not very consistently,
represented him at once as a poor ignorant artisan who was not
aware of the nature and tendency of the act for which he
suffered, and as a martyr who had heroically laid down his life
for the banished King and the persecuted Church.458

The Ministers were much mistaken if they flattered themselves
that the fate of Anderton would deter others from imitating his
example. His execution produced several pamphlets scarcely less
virulent than those for which he had suffered. Collier, in what
he called Remarks on the London Gazette, exulted with cruel joy
over the carnage of Landen, and the vast destruction of English
property on the coast of Spain.459 Other writers did their best
to raise riots among the labouring people. For the doctrine of
the Jacobites was that disorder, in whatever place or in whatever
way it might begin, was likely to end in a Restoration. A phrase
which, without a commentary, may seem to be mere nonsense, but
which was really full of meaning, was often in their mouths at
this time, and was indeed a password by which the members of the
party recognised each other: "Box it about; it will come to my
father." The hidden sense of this gibberish was, "Throw the
country into confusion; it will be necessary at last to have
recourse to King James."460 Trade was not prosperous; and many
industrious men were out of work. Accordingly songs addressed to
the distressed classes were composed by the malecontent street
poets. Numerous copies of a ballad exhorting the weavers to rise
against the government were discovered in the house of that
Quaker who had printed James's Declaration.461 Every art was
used for the purpose of exciting discontent in a much more
formidable body of men, the sailors; and unhappily the vices of
the naval administration furnished the enemies of the State with
but too good a choice of inflammatory topics. Some seamen
deserted; some mutinied; then came executions; and then came more
ballads and broadsides representing those executions as barbarous
murders. Reports that the government had determined to defraud
its defenders of their hard earned pay were circulated with so
much effect that a great crowd of women from Wapping and
Rotherhithe besieged Whitehall, clamouring for what was due to
their husbands. Mary had the good sense and good nature to order
four of those importunate petitioners to be admitted into the
room where she was holding a Council. She heard their complaints,
and herself assured them that the rumour which had alarmed them
was unfounded.462 By this time Saint Bartholomew's day drew near;
and the great annual fair, the delight of idle apprentices and
the horror of Puritanical Aldermen, was opened in Smithfield with
the usual display of dwarfs, giants, and dancing dogs, the man
that ate fire, and the elephant that loaded and fired a musket.
But of all the shows none proved so attractive as a dramatic
performance which, in conception, though doubtless not in
execution, seems to have borne much resemblance to those immortal
masterpieces of humour in which Aristophanes held up Cleon and
Lamachus to derision. Two strollers personated Killegrew and
Delaval. The Admirals were represented as flying with their whole
fleet before a few French privateers, and taking shelter under
the grins of the Tower. The office of Chorus was performed by a
Jackpudding who expressed very freely his opinion of the naval
administration. Immense crowds flocked to see this strange farce.
The applauses were loud; the receipts were great; and the
mountebanks, who had at first ventured to attack only the unlucky
and unpopular Board of Admiralty, now, emboldened by impunity and
success, and probably prompted and rewarded by persons of much
higher station than their own, began to cast reflections on other
departments of the government. This attempt to revive the license
of the Attic Stage was soon brought to a close by the appearance
of a strong body of constables who carried off the actors to
prison.463 Meanwhile the streets of London were every night
strewn with seditious handbills. At all the taverns the zealots
of hereditary right were limping about with glasses of wine and
punch at their lips. This fashion had just come in; and the
uninitiated wondered much that so great a number of jolly
gentlemen should have suddenly become lame. But, those who were
in the secret knew that the word Limp was a consecrated word,
that every one of the four letters which composed it was the
initial of an august name, and that the loyal subject who limped
while he drank was taking off his bumper to Lewis, James, Mary,
and the Prince.464

It was not only in the capital that the Jacobites, at this time,
made a great display of their wit. They mustered strong at Bath,
where the Lord President Caermarthen was trying to recruit his
feeble health. Every evening they met, as they phrased it, to
serenade the Marquess. In other words they assembled under the
sick man's window, and there sang doggrel lampoons on him.465

It is remarkable that the Lord President, at the very time at
which he was insulted as a Williamite at Bath, was considered as
a stanch Jacobite at Saint Germains. How he came to be so
considered is a most perplexing question. Some writers are of
opinion that he, like Shrewsbury, Russell, Godolphin and
Marlborough, entered into engagements with one king while eating
the bread of the other. But this opinion does not rest on
sufficient proofs. About the treasons of Shrewsbury, of Russell,
of Godolphin and of Marlborough, we have a great mass of
evidence, derived from various sources, and extending
over several years. But all the information which we possess
about Caermarthen's dealings with James is contained in a single
short paper written by Melfort on the sixteenth of October 1693.
From that paper it is quite clear that some intelligence had
reached the banished King and his Ministers which led them to
regard Caermarthen as a friend. But there is no proof that they
ever so regarded him, either before that day or after that
day.466 On the whole, the most probable explanation of this
mystery seems to be that Caermarthen had been sounded by some
Jacobite emissary much less artful than himself, and had, for
the purpose of getting at the bottom of the new scheme of policy
devised by Middleton, pretended to be well disposed to the cause
of the banished King, that an exaggerated account of what had
passed had been sent to Saint Germains, and that there had been
much rejoicing there at a conversion which soon proved to have
been feigned. It seems strange that such a conversion should even
for a moment have been thought sincere. It was plainly
Caermarthen's interest to stand by the sovereigns in possession.
He was their chief minister. He could not hope to be the chief
minister of James. It can indeed hardly be supposed that the
political conduct of a cunning old man, insatiably ambitious and
covetous, was much influenced by personal partiality. But, if
there were any person to whom Caermarthen was partial, that
person was undoubtedly Mary. That he had seriously engaged in a
plot to depose her, at the risk of his head if he failed, and
with the certainty of losing immense power and wealth if he
succeeded, was a story too absurd for any credulity but the
credulity of exiles.

Caermarthen had indeed at that moment peculiarly strong reasons
for being satisfied with the place which he held in the counsels
of William and Mary. There is but too strong reason to believe
that he was then accumulating unlawful gain with a rapidity
unexampled even in his experience.

The contest between the two East India Companies was, during the
autumn of 1693, fiercer than ever. The House of Commons, finding
the Old Company obstinately averse to all compromise, had, a
little before the close of the late session, requested the King
to give the three years' warning prescribed by the Charter. Child
and his fellows now began to be seriously alarmed. They expected
every day to receive the dreaded notice. Nay, they were not sure
that their exclusive privilege might not be taken away without
any notice at all; for they found that they had, by inadvertently
omitting to pay the tax lately imposed on their stock at the
precise time fixed by law, forfeited their Charter; and, though
it would, in ordinary circumstances, have been thought cruel in
the government to take advantage of such a slip, the public was
not inclined to allow the Old Company any thing more than the
strict letter of the bond. Every thing was lost if the Charter
were not renewed before the meeting of Parliament. There can be
little doubt that the proceedings of the corporation were still
really directed by Child. But he had, it should seem, perceived
that his unpopularity had injuriously affected the interests
which were under his care, and therefore did not obtrude himself
on the public notice. His place was ostensibly filled by his near
kinsman Sir Thomas Cook, one of the greatest merchants of London,
and Member of Parliament for the borough of Colchester. The
Directors placed at Cook's absolute disposal all the immense
wealth which lay in their treasury; and in a short time near a
hundred thousand pounds were expended in corruption on a gigantic
scale. In what proportions this enormous sum was distributed
among the great men at Whitehall, and how much of it was
embezzled by intermediate agents, is still a mystery. We know
with certainty however that thousands went to Seymour and
thousands to Caermarthen.

The effect of these bribes was that the Attorney General received
orders to draw up a charter regranting the old privileges to the
old Company. No minister, however, could, after what had passed
in Parliament, venture to advise the Crown to renew the monopoly
without conditions. The Directors were sensible that they had no
choice, and reluctantly consented to accept the new Charter on
terms substantially the same with those which the House of
Commons had sanctioned.

It is probable that, two years earlier, such a compromise would
have quieted the feud which distracted the City. But a long
conflict, in which satire and calumny had not been spared, had
heated the minds of men. The cry of Dowgate against Leadenhall
Street was louder than ever. Caveats were entered; petitions were
signed; and in those petitions a doctrine which had hitherto been
studiously kept in the background was boldly affirmed. While it
was doubtful on which side the royal prerogative would be used,
that prerogative had not been questioned. But as soon as it
appeared that the Old Company was likely to obtain a regrant of
the monopoly under the Great Seal, the New Company began to
assert with vehemence that no monopoly could be created except by
Act of Parliament. The Privy Council, over which Caermarthen
presided, after hearing the matter fully argued by counsel on
both sides, decided in favour of the Old Company, and ordered the
Charter to be sealed.467

The autumn was by this time far advanced, and the armies in the
Netherlands had gone into quarters for the winter. On the last
day of October William landed in England. The Parliament was
about to meet; and he had every reason to expect a session even
more stormy than the last. The people were discontented, and not
without cause. The year had been every where disastrous to the
allies, not only on the sea and in the Low Countries, but also in
Servia, in Spain, in Italy, and in Germany. The Turks had
compelled the generals of the Empire to raise the siege of
Belgrade. A newly created Marshal of France, the Duke of
Noailles, had invaded Catalonia and taken the fortress of Rosas.
Another newly created Marshal, the skilful and valiant Catinat,
had descended from the Alps on Piedmont, and had, at Marsiglia,
gained a complete victory over the forces of the Duke of Savoy.
This battle is memorable as the first of a long series of battles
in which the Irish troops retrieved the honour lost by
misfortunes and misconduct in domestic war. Some of the exiles of
Limerick showed, on that day, under the standard of France, a
valour which distinguished them among many thousands of brave
men. It is remarkable that on the same day a battalion of the
persecuted and expatriated Huguenots stood firm amidst the
general disorder round the standard of Savoy, and fell fighting
desperately to the last.

The Duke of Lorges had marched into the Palatinate, already twice
devastated, and had found that Turenne and Duras had left him
something to destroy. Heidelberg, just beginning to rise again
from its ruins, was again sacked, the peaceable citizens
butchered, their wives and daughters foully outraged. The very
choirs of the churches were stained with blood; the pyxes and
crucifixes were torn from the altars; the tombs of the ancient
Electors were broken open; the corpses, stripped of their
cerecloths and ornaments, were dragged about the streets. The
skull of the father of the Duchess of Orleans was beaten to
fragments by the soldiers of a prince among the ladies of whose
splendid Court she held the foremost place.

And yet a discerning eye might have perceived that, unfortunate
as the confederates seemed to have been, the advantage had really
been on their side. The contest was quite as much a financial as
a military contest. The French King had, some months before, said
that the last piece of gold would carry the day; and he now
began painfully to feel the truth of the saying. England was
undoubtedly hard pressed by public burdens; but still she stood
up erect. France meanwhile was fast sinking. Her recent efforts
had been too much for her strength, and had left her spent and
unnerved. Never had her rulers shown more ingenuity in devising
taxes or more severity in exacting them; but by no ingenuity, by
no severity, was it possible to raise the sums necessary for
another such campaign as that of 1693. In England the harvest had
been abundant. In France the corn and the wine had again failed.
The people, as usual, railed at the government. The government,
with shameful ignorance or more shameful dishonesty, tried to
direct the public indignation against the dealers in grain.
Decrees appeared which seemed to have been elaborately framed for
the purpose of turning dearth into famine. The nation was assured
that there was no reason for uneasiness, that there was more than
a sufficient supply of food, and that the scarcity had been
produced by the villanous arts of misers, who locked up their
stores in the hope of making enormous gains. Commissioners were
appointed to inspect the granaries, and were empowered to send to
market all the corn that was not necessary for the consumption of
the proprietors. Such interference of course increased the
suffering which it was meant to relieve. But in the midst of the
general distress there was an artificial plenty in one favoured
spot. The most arbitrary prince must always stand in some awe of
an immense mass of human beings collected in the neighbourhood of
his own palace. Apprehensions similar to those which had induced
the Caesars to extort from Africa and Egypt the means of
pampering the rabble of Rome induced Lewis to aggravate the
misery of twenty provinces for the purpose of keeping one huge
city in good humour. He ordered bread to be distributed in all
the parishes of the capital at less than half the market price.
The English Jacobites were stupid enough to extol the wisdom and
humanity of this arrangement. The harvest, they said, had been
good in England and bad in France; and yet the loaf was cheaper
at Paris than in London; and the explanation was simple. The
French had a sovereign whose heart was French, and who watched
over his people with the solicitude of a father, while the
English were cursed with a Dutch tyrant, who sent their corn to
Holland. The truth was that a week of such fatherly government as
that of Lewis would have raised all England in arms from
Northumberland to Cornwall. That there might be abundance at
Paris, the people of Normandy and Anjou were stuffing themselves
with nettles. That there might be tranquillity at Paris, the
peasantry were fighting with the bargemen and the troops all
along the Loire and the Seine. Multitudes fled from those rural
districts where bread cost five sous a pound to the happy place
where bread was to be had for two sous a pound. It was necessary
to drive the famished crowds back by force from the barriers, and
to denounce the most terrible punishments against all who should
not go home and starve quietly.468

Lewis was sensible that the strength of France had been
overstrained by the exertions of the last campaign. Even if her
harvest and her vintage had been abundant, she would not have
been able to do in 1694 what she had done in 1693; and it was
utterly impossible that, in a season of extreme distress, she
should again send into the field armies superior in number on
every point to the armies of the coalition. New conquests were
not to be expected. It would be much if the harassed and
exhausted land, beset on all sides by enemies, should be able to
sustain a defensive war without any disaster. So able a
politician as the French King could not but feel that it would be
for his advantage to treat with the allies while they were still
awed by the remembrance of the gigantic efforts which his kingdom
had just made, and before the collapse which had followed those
efforts should become visible.

He had long been communicating through various channels with some
members of the confederacy, and trying to induce them to separate
themselves from the rest. But he had as yet made no overture
tending to a general pacification. For he knew that there could
be no general pacification unless he was prepared to abandon the
cause of James, and to acknowledge the Prince and Princess of
Orange as King and Queen of England. This was in truth the point
on which every thing turned. What should be done with those great
fortresses which Lewis had unjustly seized and annexed to his
empire in time of peace, Luxemburg which overawed the Moselle,
and Strasburg which domineered over the Upper Rhine; what should
be done with the places which he had recently won in open war,
Philipsburg, Mons and Namur, Huy and Charleroy; what barrier
should be given to the States General; on what terms Lorraine
should be restored to its hereditary Dukes; these were assuredly
not unimportant questions. But the all important question was
whether England was to be, as she had been under James, a
dependency of France, or, as she was under William and Mary, a
power of the first rank. If Lewis really wished for peace, he
must bring himself to recognise the Sovereigns whom he had so
often designated as usurpers. Could he bring himself to recognise
them? His superstition, his pride, his regard for the unhappy
exiles who were pining at Saint Germains, his personal dislike of
the indefatigable and unconquerable adversary who had been
constantly crossing his path during twenty years, were on one
side; his interests and those of his people were on the other. He
must have been sensible that it was not in his power to subjugate
the English, that he must at last leave them to choose their
government for themselves, and that what he must do at last it
would be best to do soon. Yet he could not at once make up his
mind to what was so disagreeable to him. He however opened a
negotiation with the States General through the intervention of
Sweden and Denmark, and sent a confidential emissary to confer in
secret at Brussels with Dykvelt, who possessed the entire
confidence of William. There was much discussion about matters of
secondary importance; but the great question remained unsettled.
The French agent used, in private conversation, expressions
plainly implying that the government which he represented was
prepared to recognise William and Mary; but no formal assurance
could be obtained from him. Just at the same time the King of
Denmark informed the allies that he was endeavouring to prevail
on France not to insist on the restoration of James as an
indispensable condition of peace, but did not say that his
endeavours had as yet been successful. Meanwhile Avaux, who was
now Ambassador at Stockholm, informed the King of Sweden, that,
as the dignity of all crowned heads had been outraged in the
person of James, the Most Christian King felt assured that not
only neutral powers, but even the Emperor, would try to find some
expedient which might remove so grave a cause of quarrel. The
expedient at which Avaux hinted doubtless was that James should
waive his rights, and that the Prince of Wales should be sent to
England, bred a Protestant, adopted by William and Mary, and
declared their heir. To such an arrangement William would
probably have had no personal objection. But we may be assured
that he never would have consented to make it a condition of
peace with France. Who should reign in England was a question to
be decided by England alone.469

It might well be suspected that a negotiation conducted in this
manner was merely meant to divide the confederates. William
understood the whole importance of the conjuncture. He had not,
it may be, the eye of a great captain for all the turns of a
battle. But he had, in the highest perfection, the eye of a great
statesman for all the turns of a war. That France had at length
made overtures to him was a sufficient proof that she felt
herself spent and sinking. That those overtures were made with
extreme reluctance and hesitation proved that she had not yet
come to a temper in which it was possible to have peace with her
on fair terms. He saw that the enemy was beginning to give
ground, and that this was the time to assume the offensive, to
push forward, to bring up every reserve. But whether the
opportunity should be seized or lost it did not belong to him to
decide. The King of France might levy troops and exact taxes
without any limit save that which the laws of nature impose on
despotism. But the King of England could do nothing without the
support of the House of Commons; and the House of Commons, though
it had hitherto supported him zealously and liberally, was not a
body on which he could rely. It had indeed got into a state which
perplexed and alarmed all the most sagacious politicians of that
age. There was something appalling in the union of such boundless
power and such boundless caprice. The fate of the whole civilised
world depended on the votes of the representatives of the English
people; and there was no public man who could venture to say with
confidence what those representatives might not be induced to
vote within twenty-four hours.470 William painfully felt that it
was scarcely possible for a prince dependent on an assembly so
violent at one time, so languid at another, to effect any thing
great. Indeed, though no sovereign did so much to secure and to
extend the power of the House of Commons, no sovereign loved the
House of Commons less. Nor is this strange; for he saw that House
at the very worst. He saw it when it had just acquired the power
and had not yet acquired the gravity of a senate. In his letters
to Heinsius he perpetually complains of the endless talking, the
factious squabbling, the inconstancy, the dilatoriness, of the
body which his situation made it necessary for him to treat with
deference. His complaints were by no means unfounded; but he had
not discovered either the cause or the cure of the evil.

The truth was that the change which the Revolution had made in
the situation of the House of Commons had made another change
necessary; and that other change had not yet taken place. There
was parliamentary government; but there was no Ministry; and,
without a Ministry, the working of a parliamentary government,
such as ours, must always be unsteady and unsafe.

It is essential to our liberties that the House of Commons should
exercise a control over all the departments of the executive
administration. And yet it is evident that a crowd of five or six
hundred people, even if they were intellectually much above the
average of the members of the best Parliament, even if every one
of them were a Burleigh, or a Sully, would be unfit for executive
functions. It has been truly said that every large collection of
human beings, however well educated, has a strong tendency to
become a mob; and a country of which the Supreme Executive
Council is a mob is surely in a perilous situation.

Happily a way has been found out in which the House of Commons
can exercise a paramount influence over the executive government,
without assuming functions such as can never be well discharged
by a body so numerous and so variously composed. An institution
which did not exist in the times, of the Plantagenets, of the
Tudors or of the Stuarts, an institution not known to the law, an
institution not mentioned in any statute, an institution of which
such writers as De Lolme and Blackstone take no notice, began to
exist a few years after the Revolution, grew rapidly into
importance, became firmly established, and is now almost as
essential a part of our polity as the Parliament itself. This
institution is the Ministry.

The Ministry is, in fact, a committee of leading members of the
two Houses. It is nominated by the Crown; but it consists
exclusively of statesmen whose opinions on the pressing questions
of the time agree, in the main, with the opinions of the majority
of the House of Commons. Among the members of this committee are
distributed the great departments of the administration. Each
Minister conducts the ordinary business of his own office without
reference to his colleagues. But the most important business of
every office, and especially such business as is likely to be the
subject of discussion in Parliament, is brought under the
consideration of the whole Ministry. In Parliament the Ministers
are bound to act as one man on all questions relating to the
executive government. If one of them dissents from the rest on a
question too important to admit of compromise, it is his duty to
retire. While the Ministers retain the confidence of the
parliamentary majority, that majority supports them against
opposition, and rejects every motion which reflects on them or is
likely to embarrass them. If they forfeit that confidence, if the
parliamentary majority is dissatisfied with the way in which
patronage is distributed, with the way in which the prerogative
of mercy is used, with the conduct of foreign affairs, with the
conduct of a war, the remedy is simple. It is not necessary that
the Commons should take on themselves the business of
administration, that they should request the Crown to make this
man a bishop and that man a judge, to pardon one criminal and to
execute another, to negotiate a treaty on a particular basis or
to send an expedition to a particular place. They have merely to
declare that they have ceased to trust the Ministry, and to ask
for a Ministry which they can trust.

It is by means of Ministries thus constituted, and thus changed,
that the English government has long been conducted in general
conformity with the deliberate sense of the House of Commons, and
yet has been wonderfully free from the vices which are
characteristic of governments administered by large, tumultuous
and divided assemblies. A few distinguished persons, agreeing in
their general opinions, are the confidential advisers at once of
the Sovereign and of the Estates of the Realm. In the closet they
speak with the authority of men who stand high in the estimation
of the representatives of the people. In Parliament they speak
with the authority of men versed in great affairs and acquainted
with all the secrets of the State. Thus the Cabinet has something
of the popular character of a representative body; and the
representative body has something of the gravity of a cabinet.

Sometimes the state of parties is such that no set of men who can
be brought together possesses the full confidence and steady
support of a majority of the House of Commons. When this is the
case, there must be a weak Ministry; and there will probably be a
rapid succession of weak Ministries. At such times the House of
Commons never fails to get into a state which no person friendly
to representative government can contemplate without uneasiness,
into a state which may enable us to form some faint notion of the
state of that House during the earlier years of the reign of
William. The notion is indeed but faint; for the weakest Ministry
has great power as a regulator of parliamentary proceedings; and
in the earlier years of the reign of William there was no
Ministry at all.

No writer has yet attempted to trace the progress of this
institution, an institution indispensable to the harmonious
working of our other institutions. The first Ministry was the
work, partly of mere chance, and partly of wisdom, not however of
that highest wisdom which is conversant with great principles of
political philosophy, but of that lower wisdom which meets daily
exigencies by daily expedients. Neither William nor the most
enlightened of his advisers fully understood the nature and
importance of that noiseless revolution,--for it was no less,--
which began about the close of 1693, and was completed about the
close of 1696. But every body could perceive that, at the close
of 1693, the chief offices in the government were distributed not
unequally between the two great parties, that the men who held
those offices were perpetually caballing against each other,
haranguing against each other, moving votes of censure on each
other, exhibiting articles of impeachment against each other, and
that the temper of the House of Commons was wild, ungovernable
and uncertain. Everybody could perceive that at the close of
1696, all the principal servants of the Crown were Whigs, closely
bound together by public and private ties, and prompt to defend
one another against every attack, and that the majority of the
House of Commons was arrayed in good order under those leaders,
and had learned to move, like one man, at the word of command.
The history of the period of transition and of the steps by which
the change was effected is in a high degree curious and

The statesman who had the chief share in forming the first
English Ministry had once been but too well known, but had long
hidden himself from the public gaze, and had but recently emerged
from the obscurity in which it had been expected that he would
pass the remains of an ignominious and disastrous life. During
that period of general terror and confusion which followed the
flight of James, Sunderland had disappeared. It was high time;
for of all the agents of the fallen government he was, with the
single exception of Jeffreys, the most odious to the nation. Few
knew that Sunderland's voice had in secret been given against the
spoliation of Magdalene College and the prosecution of the
Bishops; but all knew that he had signed numerous instruments
dispensing with statutes, that he had sate in the High
Commission, that he had turned or pretended to turn Papist, that
he had, a few days after his apostasy, appeared in Westminster
Hall as a witness against the oppressed fathers of the Church. He
had indeed atoned for many crimes by one crime baser than all the
rest. As soon as he had reason to believe that the day of
deliverance and retribution was at hand, he had, by a most
dexterous and seasonable treason, earned his pardon. During the
three months which preceded the arrival of the Dutch armament in
Torbay, he had rendered to the cause of liberty and of the
Protestant religion services of which it is difficult to overrate
either the wickedness or the utility. To him chiefly it was owing
that, at the most critical moment in our history, a French army
was not menacing the Batavian frontier and a French fleet
hovering about the English coast. William could not, without
staining his own honour, refuse to protect one whom he had not
scrupled to employ. Yet it was no easy task even for William to
save that guilty head from the first outbreak of public fury. For
even those extreme politicians of both sides who agreed in
nothing else agreed in calling for vengeance on the renegade. The
Whigs hated him as the vilest of the slaves by whom the late
government had been served, and the Jacobites as the vilest of
the traitors by whom it had been overthrown. Had he remained in
England, he would probably have died by the hand of the
executioner, if indeed the executioner had not been anticipated
by the populace. But in Holland a political refugee, favoured by
the Stadtholder, might hope to live unmolested. To Holland
Sunderland fled, disguised, it is said, as a woman; and his wife
accompanied him. At Rotterdam, a town devoted to the House of
Orange, he thought himself secure. But the magistrates were not
in all the secrets of the Prince, and were assured by some busy
Englishmen that His Highness would be delighted to hear of the
arrest of the Popish dog, the Judas, whose appearance on Tower
Hill was impatiently expected by all London. Sunderland was
thrown into prison, and remained there till an order for his
release arrived from Whitehall. He then proceeded to Amsterdam,
and there changed his religion again. His second apostasy edified
his wife as much as his first apostasy had edified his master.
The Countess wrote to assure her pious friends in England that
her poor dear lord's heart had at last been really touched by
divine grace, and that, in spite of all her afflictions, she was
comforted by seeing him so true a convert. We may, however,
without any violation of Christian charity, suspect that he was
still the same false, callous, Sunderland who, a few months
before, had made Bonrepaux shudder by denying the existence of a
God, and had, at the same time, won the heart of James by
pretending to believe in transubstantiation. In a short time the
banished man put forth an apology for his conduct. This apology,
when examined, will be found to amount merely to a confession
that he had committed one series of crimes in order to gain
James's favour, and another series in order to avoid being
involved in James's ruin. The writer concluded by announcing his
intention to pass all the rest of his life in penitence and
prayer. He soon retired from Amsterdam to Utrecht, and at Utrecht
made himself conspicuous by his regular and devout attendance on
the ministrations of Huguenot preachers. If his letters and those
of his wife were to be trusted, he had done for ever with
ambition. He longed indeed to be permitted to return from exile,
not that he might again enjoy and dispense the favours of the
Crown, not that his antechambers might again be filled by the
daily swarm of suitors, but that he might see again the turf, the
trees and the family pictures of his country seat. His only wish
was to be suffered to end his troubled life at Althorpe; and he
would be content to forfeit his head if ever he went beyond the
palings of his park.471

While the House of Commons, which had been elected during the
vacancy of the throne, was busily engaged in the work of
proscription, he could not venture to show himself in England.
But when that assembly had ceased to exist, he thought himself
safe. He returned a few days after the Act of Grace had been laid
on the table of the Lords. From the benefit of that Act he was by
name excluded; but he well knew that he had now nothing to fear.
He went privately to Kensington, was admitted into the closet,
had an audience which lasted two hours, and then retired to his
country house.472

During many months be led a secluded life, and had no residence
in London. Once in the spring of 1692, to the great astonishment
of the public, he showed his face in the circle at Court, and was
graciously received.473 He seems to have been afraid that he
might, on his reappearance in Parliament, receive some marked
affront. He therefore, very prudently, stole down to Westminster,
in the dead time of the year, on a day to which the Houses stood
adjourned by the royal command, and on which they met merely for
the purpose of adjourning again. Sunderland had just time to
present himself, to take the oaths, to sign the declaration
against transubstantiation, and to resume his seat. None of the
few peers who were present had an opportunity of making any
remark.474 It was not till the year 1692 that he began to attend
regularly. He was silent; but silent he had always been in large
assemblies, even when he was at the zenith of power. His talents
were not those of a public speaker. The art in which he surpassed
all men was the art of whispering. His tact, his quick eye for
the foibles of individuals, his caressing manners, his power of
insinuation, and, above all, his apparent frankness, made him
irresistible in private conversation. By means of these qualities
he had governed James, and now aspired to govern William.

To govern William, indeed, was not easy. But Sunderland succeeded
in obtaining such a measure of favour and influence as excited
much surprise and some indignation. In truth, scarcely any mind
was strong enough to resist the witchery of his talk and of his
manners. Every man is prone to believe in the gratitude and
attachment even of the most worthless persons on whom he has
conferred great benefits. It can therefore hardly be thought
strange that the most skilful of all flatterers should have been
heard with favour, when he, with every outward sign of strong
emotion, implored permission to dedicate all his faculties to the
service of the generous protector to whom he owed property,
liberty, life. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that the
King was deceived. He may have thought, with good reason, that,
though little confidence could be placed in Sunderland's
professions, much confidence might be placed in Sunderland's
situation; and the truth is that Sunderland proved, on the whole,
a more faithful servant than a much less depraved man might have
been. He did indeed make, in profound secresy, some timid
overtures towards a reconciliation with James. But it may be
confidently affirmed that, even had those overtures been
graciously received,--and they appear to have been received very
ungraciously,--the twice turned renegade would never have
rendered any real service to the Jacobite cause. He well knew
that he had done that which at Saint Germains must be regarded as
inexpiable. It was not merely that he had been treacherous and
ungrateful. Marlborough had been as treacherous and ungrateful;
and Marlborough had been pardoned. But Marlborough had not been
guilty of the impious hypocrisy of counterfeiting the signs of
conversion. Marlborough had not pretended to be convinced by the
arguments of the Jesuits, to be touched by divine grace, to pine
for union with the only true Church. Marlborough had not, when
Popery was in the ascendant, crossed himself, shrived himself,
done penance, taken the communion in one kind, and, as soon as a
turn of fortune came, apostatized back again, and proclaimed to
all the world that, when he knelt at the confessional and
received the host, he was merely laughing at the King and the
priests. The crime of Sunderland was one which could never be
forgiven by James; and a crime which could never be forgiven by
James was, in some sense, a recommendation to William. The Court,
nay, the Council, was full of men who might hope to prosper if
the banished King were restored. But Sunderland had left himself
no retreat. He had broken down all the bridges behind him. He had
been so false to one side that he must of necessity be true to
the other. That he was in the main true to the government which
now protected him there is no reason to doubt; and, being true,
he could not but be useful. He was, in some respects, eminently
qualified to be at that time an adviser of the Crown. He had
exactly the talents and the knowledge which William wanted. The
two together would have made up a consummate statesman. The
master was capable of forming and executing large designs, but
was negligent of those small arts in which the servant excelled.
The master saw farther off than other men; but what was near no
man saw so clearly as the servant. The master, though profoundly
versed in the politics of the great community of nations, never
thoroughly understood the politics of his own kingdom. The
servant was perfectly well informed as to the temper and the
organization of the English factions, and as to the strong and
weak parts of the character of every Englishman of note.

Early in 1693, it was rumoured that Sunderland was consulted on
all important questions relating to the internal administration
of the realm; and the rumour became stronger when it was known
that he had come up to London in the autumn before the meeting of
Parliament and that he had taken a large mansion near Whitehall.
The coffeehouse politicians were confident that he was about to
hold some high office. As yet, however, he had the wisdom to be
content with the reality of power, and to leave the show to

His opinion was that, as long as the King tried to balance the
two great parties against each other, and to divide his favour
equally between them, both would think themselves ill used, and
neither would lend to the government that hearty and steady
support which was now greatly needed. His Majesty must make up
his mind to give a marked preference to one or the other; and
there were three weighty reasons for giving the preference to the

In the first place, the Whigs were on principle attached to the
reigning dynasty. In their view the Revolution had been, not
merely necessary, not merely justifiable, but happy and glorious.
It had been the triumph of their political theory. When they swore
allegiance to William, they swore without scruple or reservation;
and they were so far from having any doubt about his title that
they thought it the best of all titles. The Tories, on the other
hand, very generally disapproved of that vote of the Convention
which had placed him on the throne. Some of them were at heart
Jacobites, and had taken the oath of allegiance to him only that
they might be able to injure him. Others, though they thought it
their duty to obey him as King in fact, denied that he was King by
right, and, if they were loyal to him, were loyal without
enthusiasm. There could, therefore, be little doubt on which of
the two parties it would be safer for him to rely.

In the second place, as to the particular matter on which his
heart was at present set, the Whigs were, as a body, prepared to
support him strenuously, and the Tories were, as a body, inclined
to thwart him. The minds of men were at this time much occupied
by the question, in what way the war ought to be carried on. To
that question the two parties returned very different answers. An
opinion had during many months been growing among the Tories that
the policy of England ought to be strictly insular; that she
ought to leave the defence of Flanders and the Rhine to the
States General, the House of Austria and the Princes of the
Empire; that she ought to carry on hostilities with vigour by
sea, but to keep up only such an army as might, with the help of
the militia, be sufficient to repel an invasion. It was plain
that, if this system were adopted, there might be an immediate
reduction of the taxes which pressed most heavily on the nation.
But the Whigs maintained that this relief would be dearly
purchased. Many thousands of brave English soldiers were now in
Flanders. Yet the allies had not been able to prevent the French
from taking Mons in 1691, Namur in 1692, Charleroy in 1693. If
the English troops were withdrawn, it was certain that Ostend,
Ghent, Liege, Brussels would fall. The German Princes would
hasten to make peace, each for himself. The Spanish Netherlands
would probably be annexed to the French monarchy. The United
Provinces would be again in as great peril as in 1672, and would
accept whatever terms Lewis might be pleased to dictate. In a few
months, he would be at liberty to put forth his whole strength
against our island. Then would come a struggle for life and
death. It might well be hoped that we should be able to defend
our soil even against such a general and such an army as had won
the battle of Landen. But the fight must be long and hard. How
many fertile counties would be turned into deserts, how many
flourishing towns would be laid in ashes, before the invaders
were destroyed or driven out! One triumphant campaign in Kent and
Middlesex would do more to impoverish the nation than ten
disastrous campaigns in Brabant. It is remarkable that this
dispute between the two great factions was, during seventy years,
regularly revived as often as our country was at war with France.
That England ought never to attempt great military operations on
the Continent continued to be a fundamental article of the creed
of the Tories till the French Revolution produced a complete
change in their feelings.476 As the chief object of William was
to open the campaign of 1694 in Flanders with an immense display
of force, it was sufficiently clear to whom he must look for

In the third place, the Whigs were the stronger party in
Parliament. The general election of 1690, indeed, had not been
favourable to them. They had been, for a time, a minority; but
they had ever since been constantly gaining ground; they were now
in number a full half of the Lower House; and their effective
strength was more than proportioned to their number; for in
energy, alertness and discipline, they were decidedly superior to
their opponents. Their organization was not indeed so perfect as
it afterwards became; but they had already begun to look for
guidance to a small knot of distinguished men, which was long
afterwards widely known by the name of the junto. There is,
perhaps, no parallel in history, ancient or modern, to the
authority exercised by this council, during twenty troubled
years, over the Whig body. The men who acquired that authority in
the days of William and Mary continued to possess it, without
interruption, in office and out of office, till George the First
was on the throne.

One of these men was Russell. Of his shameful dealings with the
Court of Saint Germains we possess proofs which leave no room for
doubt. But no such proofs were laid before the world till he had
been many years dead. If rumours of his guilt got abroad, they
were vague and improbable; they rested on no evidence; they could
be traced to no trustworthy author; and they might well be
regarded by his contemporaries as Jacobite calumnies. What was
quite certain was that he sprang from an illustrious house, which
had done and suffered great things for liberty and for the
Protestant religion, that he had signed the invitation of the
thirtieth of June, that he had landed with the Deliverer at
Torbay, that he had in Parliament, on all occasions, spoken and
voted as a zealous Whig, that he had won a great victory, that he
had saved his country from an invasion, and that, since he had
left the Admiralty, every thing had gone wrong. We cannot
therefore wonder that his influence over his party should have
been considerable.

But the greatest man among the members of the junto, and, in some
respects, the greatest man of that age, was the Lord Keeper
Somers. He was equally eminent as a jurist and as a politician,
as an orator and as a writer. His speeches have perished; but his
State papers remain, and are models of terse, luminous, and
dignified eloquence. He had left a great reputation in the House
of Commons, where he had, during four years, been always heard
with delight; and the Whig members still looked up to him as
their leader, and still held their meetings under his roof. In
the great place to which he had recently been promoted, he had so
borne himself that, after a very few months, even faction and
envy had ceased to murmur at his elevation. In truth, he united
all the qualities of a great judge, an intellect comprehensive,
quick and acute, diligence, integrity, patience, suavity. In
council, the calm wisdom which he possessed in a measure rarely
found among men of parts so quick and of opinions so decided as
his, acquired for him the authority of an oracle. The superiority
of his powers appeared not less clearly in private circles. The
charm of his conversation was heightened by the frankness with
which he poured out his thoughts.477 His good temper and his good
breeding never failed. His gesture, his look, his tones were
expressive of benevolence. His humanity was the more remarkable,
because he had received from nature a body such as is generally
found united with a peevish and irritable mind. His life was one
long malady; his nerves were weak; his complexion was livid; his
face was prematurely wrinkled. Yet his enemies could not pretend
that he had ever once, during a long and troubled public life,
been goaded, even by sudden provocation, into vehemence
inconsistent with the mild dignity of his character. All that was
left to them was to assert that his disposition was very far from
being so gentle as the world believed, that he was really prone
to the angry passions, and that sometimes, while his voice was
soft, and his words kind and courteous, his delicate frame was
almost convulsed by suppressed emotion. It will perhaps be
thought that this reproach is the highest of all eulogies.

The most accomplished men of those times have told us that there
was scarcely any subject on which Somers was not competent to
instruct and to delight. He had never travelled; and, in that
age, an Englishman who had not travelled was generally thought
incompetent to give an opinion on works of art. But connoisseurs
familiar with the masterpieces of the Vatican and of the
Florentine gallery allowed that the taste of Somers in painting
and sculpture was exquisite. Philology was one of his favourite
pursuits. He had traversed the whole vast range of polite
literature, ancient and modern. He was at once a munificent and
severely judicious patron of genius and learning. Locke owed
opulence to Somers. By Somers Addison was drawn forth from a cell
in a college. In distant countries the name of Somers was
mentioned with respect and gratitude by great scholars and poets
who had never seen his face. He was the benefactor of Leclerc. He
was the friend of Filicaja. Neither political nor religious
differences prevented him from extending his powerful protection
to merit. Hickes, the fiercest and most intolerant of all the
nonjurors, obtained, by the influence of Somers, permission to
study Teutonic antiquities in freedom and safety. Vertue, a
strict Roman Catholic, was raised by the discriminating and
liberal patronage of Somers from poverty and obscurity to the
first rank among the engravers of the age.

The generosity with which Somers treated his opponents was the
more honourable to him because he was no waverer in politics.
From the beginning to the end of his public life he was a steady
Whig. His voice was indeed always raised, when his party was
dominant in the State, against violent and vindictive counsels;
but he never forsook his friends, even when their perverse
neglect of his advice had brought them to the verge of ruin.

His powers of mind and his acquirements were not denied, even by
his detractors. The most acrimonious Tories were forced to admit,
with an ungracious snarl, which increased the value of their
praise, that he had all the intellectual qualities of a great
man, and that in him alone, among his contemporaries, brilliant
eloquence and wit were to be found associated with the quiet and
steady prudence which ensures success in life. It is a remarkable
fact, that, in the foulest of all the many libels that were
published against him, he was slandered under the name of Cicero.
As his abilities could not be questioned, he was charged with
irreligion and immorality. That he was heterodox all the country
vicars and foxhunting squires firmly believed; but as to the
nature and extent of his heterodoxy there were many different
opinions. He seems to have been a Low Churchman of the school of
Tillotson, whom he always loved and honoured; and he was, like
Tillotson, called by bigots a Presbyterian, an Arian, a Socinian,
a Deist, and an Atheist.

The private life of this great statesman and magistrate was
malignantly scrutinised; and tales were told about his
libertinism which went on growing till they became too absurd for
the credulity even of party spirit. At last, long after he had
been condemned to flannel and chicken broth, a wretched
courtesan, who had probably never seen him except in the stage
box at the theatre, when she was following her vocation below in
a mask, published a lampoon in which she described him as the
master of a haram more costly than the Great Turk's. There is,
however, reason to believe that there was a small nucleus of
truth round which this great mass of fiction gathered, and that
the wisdom and selfcommand which Somers never wanted in the
senate, on the judgment seat, at the council board, or in the
society of wits, scholars and philosophers, were not always proof
against female attractions.478

Another director of the Whig party was Charles Montague. He was
often, when he had risen to power, honours and riches, called an
upstart by those who envied his success. That they should have
called him so may seem strange; for few of the statesmen of his
time could show such a pedigree as his. He sprang from a family
as old as the Conquest; he was in the succession to an earldom,
and was, by the paternal side, cousin of three earls. But he was
the younger son of a younger brother; and that phrase had, ever
since the time of Shakspeare and Raleigh, and perhaps before
their time, been proverbially used to designate a person so poor
as to be broken to the most abject servitude or ready for the
most desperate adventure.

Charles Montague was early destined for the Church, was entered
on the foundation of Westminster, and, after distinguishing
himself there by skill in Latin versification, was sent up to
Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge the philosophy of Des
Cartes was still dominant in the schools. But a few select
spirits had separated from the crowd, and formed a fit audience
round a far greater teacher.479 Conspicuous among the youths of
high promise who were proud to sit at the feet of Newton was the
quick and versatile Montague. Under such guidance the young
student made considerable proficiency in the severe sciences; but
poetry was his favourite pursuit; and when the University invited
her sons to celebrate royal marriages and funerals, he was
generally allowed to have surpassed his competitors. His fame
travelled to London; he was thought a clever lad by the wits who
met at Will's, and the lively parody which he wrote, in concert
with his friend and fellow student Prior, on Dryden's Hind and
Panther, was received with great applause.

At this time all Montague's wishes pointed towards the Church. At
a later period, when he was a peer with twelve thousand a year,
when his villa on the Thames was regarded as the most delightful
of all suburban retreats, when he was said to revel in Tokay from
the Imperial cellar, and in soups made out of birds' nests
brought from the Indian Ocean, and costing three guineas a piece,
his enemies were fond of reminding him that there had been a time
when he had eked out by his wits an income of barely fifty
pounds, when he had been happy with a trencher of mutton chops
and a flagon of ale from the College buttery, and when a tithe
pig was the rarest luxury for which he had dared to hope. The
Revolution came, and changed his whole scheme of life. He
obtained, by the influence of Dorset, who took a peculiar
pleasure in befriending young men of promise, a seat in the House
of Commons. Still, during a few months, the needy scholar
hesitated between politics and divinity. But it soon became clear
that, in the new order of things, parliamentary ability must
fetch a higher price than any other kind of ability; and he felt
that in parliamentary ability he had no superior. He was in the
very situation for which he was peculiarly fitted by nature; and
during some years his life was a series of triumphs.

Of him, as of several of his contemporaries, especially of
Mulgrave and of Sprat, it may be said that his fame has suffered
from the folly of those editors who, down to our own time, have
persisted in reprinting his rhymes among the works of the British
poets. There is not a year in which hundreds of verses as good as
any that he ever wrote are not sent in for the Newdigate prize at
Oxford and for the Chancellor's medal at Cambridge. His mind had
indeed great quickness and vigour, but not that kind of quickness
and vigour which produces great dramas or odes; and it is most
unjust to him that his loan of Honour and his Epistle on the
Battle of the Boyne should be placed side by side with Comus and
Alexander's Feast. Other eminent statesmen and orators, Walpole,
Pulteney, Chatham, Fox, wrote poetry not better than his. But
fortunately for them, their metrical compositions were never
thought worthy to be admitted into any collection of our national

It has long been usual to represent the imagination under the
figure of a wing, and to call the successful exertions of the
imagination flights. One poet is the eagle; another is the swan;
a third modestly compares himself to the bee. But none of these
types would have suited Montague. His genius may be compared to
that pinion which, though it is too weak to lift the ostrich into
the air, enables her, while she remains on the earth, to outrun
hound, horse and dromedary. If the man who possesses this kind of
genius attempts to ascend the heaven of invention, his awkward
and unsuccessful efforts expose him to derision. But if he will
be content to stay in the terrestrial region of business, he will
find that the faculties which would not enable him to soar into a
higher sphere will enable him to distance all his competitors in
the lower. As a poet Montague could never have risen above the
crowd. But in the House of Commons, now fast becoming supreme in
the State, and extending its control over one executive
department after another, the young adventurer soon obtained a
place very different from the place which he occupies among men
of letters. At thirty, he would gladly have given all his chances
in life for a comfortable vicarage and a chaplain's scarf. At
thirty-seven, he was First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of
the Exchequer and a Regent of the kingdom; and this elevation he
owed not at all to favour, but solely to the unquestionable
superiority of his talents for administration and debate.

The extraordinary ability with which, at the beginning of the
year 1692, he managed the conference on the Bill for regulating
Trials in cases of Treason, placed him at once in the first rank
of parliamentary orators. On that occasion he was opposed to a
crowd of veteran senators renowned for their eloquence, Halifax,
Rochester, Nottingham, Mulgrave, and proved himself a match for
them all. He was speedily seated at the Board of Treasury; and
there the clearheaded and experienced Godolphin soon found that
his young colleague was his master. When Somers had quitted the
House of Commons, Montague had no rival there. Sir Thomas
Littleton, once distinguished as the ablest debater and man of
business among the Whig members, was content to serve under his
junior. To this day we may discern in many parts of our financial
and commercial system the marks of the vigorous intellect and
daring spirit of Montague. His bitterest enemies were unable to
deny that some of the expedients which he had proposed had proved
highly beneficial to the nation. But it was said that these
expedients were not devised by himself. He was represented, in a
hundred pamphlets, as the daw in borrowed plumes. He had taken,
it was affirmed, the hint of every one of his great plans from
the writings or the conversation of some ingenious speculator.
This reproach was, in truth, no reproach. We can scarcely expect
to find in the same human being the talents which are necessary
for the making of new discoveries in political science, and the
talents which obtain the assent of divided and tumultuous
assemblies to great practical reforms. To be at once an Adam
Smith and a Pitt is scarcely possible. It is surely praise enough
for a busy politician that he knows how to use the theories of
others, that he discerns, among the schemes of innumerable
projectors, the precise scheme which is wanted and which is
practicable, that he shapes it to suit pressing circumstances and
popular humours, that he proposes it just when it is most likely
to be favourably received, that he triumphantly defends it
against all objectors, and that he carries it into execution with
prudence and energy; and to this praise no English statesman has
a fairer claim than Montague.

It is a remarkable proof of his selfknowledge that, from the
moment at which he began to distinguish himself in public life,
he ceased to be a versifier. It does not appear that, after he
became a Lord of the Treasury, he ever wrote a couplet, with the
exception of a few well turned lines inscribed on a set of
toasting glasses which were sacred to the most renowned Whig
beauties of his time. He wisely determined to derive from the
poetry of others a glory which he never would have derived from
his own. As a patron of genius and learning he ranks with his two
illustrious friends, Dorset and Somers. His munificence fully
equalled theirs; and, though he was inferior to them in delicacy
of taste, he succeeded in associating his name inseparably with
some names which will last as long as our language.

Yet it must be acknowledged that Montague, with admirable parts
and with many claims on the gratitude of his country, had great
faults, and unhappily faults not of the noblest kind. His head
was not strong enough to bear without giddiness the speed of his
ascent and the height of his position. He became offensively
arrogant and vain. He was too often cold to his old friends, and
ostentatious in displaying his new riches. Above all, he was
insatiably greedy of praise, and liked it best when it was of the
coarsest and rankest quality. But, in 1693, these faults were
less offensive than they became a few years later.

With Russell, Somers and Montague, was closely connected, during
a quarter of a century a fourth Whig, who in character bore
little resemblance to any of them. This was Thomas Wharton,
eldest son of Philip Lord Wharton. Thomas Wharton has been
repeatedly mentioned in the course of this narrative. But it is
now time to describe him more fully. He was in his forty-seventh
year, but was still a young man in constitution, in appearance
and in manners. Those who hated him most heartily,--and no man
was hated more heartily,--admitted that his natural parts were
excellent, and that he was equally qualified for debate and for
action. The history of his mind deserves notice; for it was the
history of many thousands of minds. His rank and abilities made
him so conspicuous that in him we are able to trace distinctly
the origin and progress of a moral taint which was epidemic among
his contemporaries.

He was born in the days of the Covenant, and was the heir of a
covenanted house. His father was renowned as a distributor of
Calvinistic tracts, and a patron of Calvinistic divines. The
boy's first years were past amidst Geneva bands, heads of lank
hair, upturned eyes, nasal psalmody, and sermons three hours
long. Plays and poems, hunting and dancing, were proscribed by
the austere discipline of his saintly family. The fruits of this
education became visible, when, from the sullen mansion of
Puritan parents, the hotblooded, quickwitted young patrician
emerged into the gay and voluptuous London of the Restoration.
The most dissolute cavaliers stood aghast at the dissoluteness of
the emancipated precisian. He early acquired and retained to the
last the reputation of being the greatest rake in England. Of
wine indeed he never became the slave; and he used it chiefly for
the purpose of making himself the master of his associates. But
to the end of his long life the wives and daughters of his
nearest friends were not safe from his licentious plots. The
ribaldry of his conversation moved astonishment even in that age.
To the religion of his country he offered, in the mere wantonness
of impiety, insults too foul to be described. His mendacity and
his effrontery passed into proverbs. Of all the liars of his time
he was the most deliberate, the most inventive and the most
circumstantial. What shame meant he did not seem to understand.
No reproaches, even when pointed and barbed with the sharpest
wit, appeared to give him pain. Great satirists, animated by a
deadly personal aversion, exhausted all their strength in attacks
upon him. They assailed him with keen invective; they assailed
him with still keener irony; but they found that neither
invective nor irony could move him to any thing but an unforced
smile and a goodhumoured curse; and they at length threw down the
lash, acknowledging that it was impossible to make him feel.
That, with such vices, he should have played a great part in
life, should have carried numerous elections against the most
formidable opposition by his personal popularity, should have had
a large following in Parliament, should have risen to the highest
offices of the State, seems extraordinary. But he lived in times
when faction was almost a madness; and he possessed in an eminent
degree the qualities of the leader of a faction. There was a
single tie which he respected. The falsest of mankind in all
relations but one, he was the truest of Whigs. The religious
tenets of his family he had early renounced with contempt; but to
the politics of his family he stedfastly adhered through all the
temptations and dangers of half a century. In small things and in
great his devotion to his party constantly appeared. He had the
finest stud in England; and his delight was to win plates from
Tories. Sometimes when, in a distant county, it was fully
expected that the horse of a High Church squire would be first on
the course, down came, on the very eve of the race, Wharton's
Careless, who had ceased to run at Newmarket merely for want of
competitors, or Wharton's Gelding, for whom Lewis the Fourteenth
had in vain offered a thousand pistoles. A man whose mere sport
was of this description was not likely to be easily beaten in any
serious contest. Such a master of the whole art of electioneering
England had never seen. Buckinghamshire was his own especial
province; and there he ruled without a rival. But he extended his
care over the Whig interest in Yorkshire, Cumberland,
Westmoreland, Wiltshire. Sometimes twenty, sometimes thirty,
members of Parliament were named by him. As a canvasser he was
irresistible. He never forgot a face that he had once seen. Nay,
in the towns in which he wished to establish an interest, he
remembered, not only the voters, but their families. His
opponents were confounded by the strength of his memory and the
affability of his deportment, and owned, that it was impossible
to contend against a great man who called the shoemaker by his
Christian name, who was sure that the butcher's daughter must be
growing a fine girl, and who was anxious to know whether the
blacksmith's youngest boy was breeched. By such arts as these he
made himself so popular that his journeys to the Buckinghamshire
Quarter Sessions resembled royal progresses. The bells of every
parish through which he passed were rung, and flowers were
strewed along the road. It was commonly believed that, in the
course of his life, he expended on his parliamentary interest not
less than eighty thousand pounds, a sum which, when compared with
the value of estates, must be considered as equivalent to more
than three hundred thousand pounds in our time.

But the chief service which Wharton rendered to the Whig party
was that of bringing in recruits from the young aristocracy. He
was quite as dexterous a canvasser among the embroidered coats at
the Saint James's Coffeehouse as among the leathern aprons at
Wycombe and Aylesbury. He had his eye on every boy of quality who
came of age; and it was not easy for such a boy to resist the
arts of a noble, eloquent and wealthy flatterer, who united
juvenile vivacity to profound art and long experience of the gay
world. It mattered not what the novice preferred, gallantry or
field sports, the dicebox or the bottle. Wharton soon found out
the master passion, offered sympathy, advice and assistance, and,
while seeming to be only the minister of his disciple's
pleasures, made sure of his disciple's vote.

The party to whose interests Wharton, with such spirit and
constancy, devoted his time, his fortune, his talents, his very
vices, judged him, as was natural, far too leniently. He was
widely known by the very undeserved appellation of Honest Tom.
Some pious men, Burnet, for example, and Addison, averted their
eyes from the scandal which he gave, and spoke of him, not indeed
with esteem, yet with goodwill. A most ingenious and accomplished
Whig, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, author of the
Characteristics, described Wharton as the most mysterious of
human beings, as a strange compound of best and worst, of private
depravity and public virtue, and owned himself unable to
understand how a man utterly without principle in every thing but
politics should in politics be as true as steel. But that which,
in the judgment of one faction, more than half redeemed all
Wharton's faults, seemed to the other faction to aggravate them
all. The opinion which the Tories entertained of him is expressed
in a single line written after his death by the ablest man of
that party; "He was the most universal villain that ever I
knew."480 Wharton's political adversaries thirsted for his blood,
and repeatedly tried to shed it. Had he not been a man of
imperturbable temper, dauntless courage and consummate skill in
fence, his life would have been a short one. But neither anger
nor danger ever deprived him of his presence of mind; he was an
incomparable swordsman; and he had a peculiar way of disarming
opponents which moved the envy of all the duellists of his time.
His friends said that he had never given a challenge, that he had
never refused one, that he had never taken a life, and yet that
he had never fought without having his antagonist's life at his

The four men who have been described resembled each other so
little that it may be thought strange that they should ever have
been able to act in concert. They did, however, act in the
closest concert during many years. They more than once rose and
more than once fell together. But their union lasted till it was
dissolved by death. Little as some of them may have deserved
esteem, none of them can be accused of having been false to his
brethren of the Junto.

While the great body of the Whigs was, under these able chiefs,
arraying itself in order resembling that of a regular army, the
Tories were in a state of an ill drilled and ill officered
militia. They were numerous; and they were zealous; but they can
hardly be said to have had, at this time, any chief in the House
of Commons. The name of Seymour had once been great among them,
and had not quite lost its influence. But, since he had been at
the Board of Treasury, he had disgusted them by vehemently
defending all that he had himself, when out of place, vehemently
attacked. They had once looked up to the Speaker, Trevor; but his
greediness, impudence and venality were now so notorious that all
respectable gentlemen, of all shades of opinion, were ashamed to
see him in the chair. Of the old Tory members Sir Christopher
Musgrave alone had much weight. Indeed the real leaders of the
party were two or three men bred in principles diametrically
opposed to Toryism, men who had carried Whiggism to the verge of
republicanism, and who had been considered not merely as Low
Churchmen, but as more than half Presbyterians. Of these men the
most eminent were two great Herefordshire squires, Robert Harley
and Paul Foley.

The space which Robert Harley fills in the history of three
reigns, his elevation, his fall, the influence which, at a great
crisis, he exercised on the politics of all Europe, the close
intimacy in which he lived with some of the greatest wits and
poets of his time, and the frequent recurrence of his name in the
works of Swift, Pope, Arbuthnot, and Prior, must always make him
an object of interest. Yet the man himself was of all men the
least interesting. There is indeed a whimsical contrast between
the very ordinary qualities of his mind and the very
extraordinary vicissitudes of his fortune.

He was the heir of a Puritan family. His father, Sir Edward
Harley, had been conspicuous among the patriots of the Long
parliament, had commanded a regiment under Essex, had, after the
Restoration, been an active opponent of the Court, had supported
the Exclusion Bill, had harboured dissenting preachers, had
frequented meetinghouses, and had made himself so obnoxious to
the ruling powers that at the time of the Western Insurrection,
he had been placed under arrest, and his house had been searched
for arms. When the Dutch army was marching from Torbay towards
London, he and his eldest son Robert declared for the Prince of
Orange and a free Parliament, raised a large body of horse, took
possession of Worcester, and evinced their zeal against Popery by
publicly breaking to pieces, in the High Street of that city, a
piece of sculpture which to rigid precisians seemed idolatrous.
Soon after the Convention became a Parliament, Robert Harley was
sent up to Westminster as member for a Cornish borough. His
conduct was such as might have been expected from his birth and
education. He was a Whig, and indeed an intolerant and vindictive
Whig. Nothing would satisfy him but a general proscription of the
Tories. His name appears in the list of those members who voted
for the Sacheverell clause; and, at the general election which
took place in the spring of 1690, the party which he had
persecuted made great exertions to keep him out of the House of
Commons. A cry was raised that the Harleys were mortal enemies of
the Church; and this cry produced so much effect that it was with
difficulty that any of them could obtain a seat. Such was the
commencement of the public life of a man whose name, a quarter of
a century later, was inseparably coupled with the High Church in
the acclamations of Jacobite mobs.482

Soon, however, it began to be observed that in every division
Harley was in the company of those gentlemen who held his
political opinions in abhorrence; nor was this strange; for he
affected the character of a Whig of the old pattern; and before
the Revolution it had always been supposed that a Whig was a
person who watched with jealousy every exertion of the
prerogative, who was slow to loose the strings of the public
purse, and who was extreme to mark the faults of the ministers of
the Crown. Such a Whig Harley still professed to be. He did not
admit that the recent change of dynasty had made any change in
the duties of a representative of the people. The new government
ought to be observed as suspiciously, checked as severely, and
supplied as sparingly as the old one. Acting on these principles
he necessarily found himself acting with men whose principles
were diametrically opposed to his. He liked to thwart the King;
they liked to thwart the usurper; the consequence was that,
whenever there was an opportunity of thwarting William, the
Roundhead stayed in the House or went into the lobby in company
with the whole crowd of Cavaliers.

Soon Harley acquired the authority of a leader among those with
whom, notwithstanding wide differences of opinion, he ordinarily
voted. His influence in Parliament was indeed altogether out of
proportion to his abilities. His intellect was both small and
slow. He was unable to take a large view of any subject. He never
acquired the art of expressing himself in public with fluency and
perspicuity. To the end of his life he remained a tedious,
hesitating and confused speaker.483

He had none of the external graces of an orator. His countenance
was heavy, his figure mean and somewhat deformed, and his
gestures uncouth. Yet he was heard with respect. For, such as his
mind was, it had been assiduously cultivated. His youth had been
studious; and to the last he continued to love books and the
society of men of genius and learning. Indeed he aspired to the
character of a wit and a poet, and occasionally employed hours
which should have been very differently spent in composing verses
more execrable than the bellman's.484 His time however was not
always so absurdly wasted. He had that sort of industry and that
sort of exactness which would have made him a respectable
antiquary or King at Arms. His taste led him to plod among old
records; and in that age it was only by plodding among old
records that any man could obtain an accurate and extensive
knowledge of the law of Parliament. Having few rivals in this
laborious and unattractive pursuit, he soon began to be regarded
as an oracle on questions of form and privilege. His moral
character added not a little to his influence. He had indeed
great vices; but they were not of a scandalous kind. He was not
to be corrupted by money. His private life was regular. No
illicit amour was imputed to him even by satirists. Gambling he
held in aversion; and it was said that he never passed White's,
then the favourite haunt of noble sharpers and dupes, without an
exclamation of anger. His practice of flustering himself daily
with claret was hardly considered as a fault by his
contemporaries. His knowledge, his gravity and his independent
position gained for him the ear of the House; and even his bad
speaking was, in some sense, an advantage to him. For people are
very loth to admit that the same man can unite very different
kinds of excellence. It is soothing to envy to believe that what
is splendid cannot be solid, that what is clear cannot be
profound. Very slowly was the public brought to acknowledge that
Mansfield was a great jurist, and that Burke was a great master
of political science. Montague was a brilliant rhetorician, and,
therefore, though he had ten times Harley's capacity for the
driest parts of business, was represented by detractors as a
superficial, prating pretender. But from the absence of show in
Harley's discourses many people inferred that there must be much
substance; and he was pronounced to be a deep read, deep thinking
gentleman, not a fine talker, but fitter to direct affairs of
state than all the fine talkers in the world. This character he
long supported with that cunning which is frequently found in
company with ambitious and unquiet mediocrity. He constantly had,
even with his best friends, an air of mystery and reserve which
seemed to indicate that he knew some momentous secret, and that
his mind was labouring with some vast design. In this way he got
and long kept a high reputation for wisdom. It was not till that
reputation had made him an Earl, a Knight of the Garter, Lord
High Treasurer of England, and master of the fate of Europe, that
his admirers began to find out that he was really a dull
puzzleheaded man.485

Soon after the general election of 1690, Harley, generally voting
with the Tories, began to turn Tory. The change was so gradual as
to be almost imperceptible; but was not the less real. He early
began to hold the Tory doctrine that England ought to confine
herself to a maritime war. He early felt the true Tory antipathy
to Dutchmen and to moneyed men. The antipathy to Dissenters,
which was necessary to the completeness of the character, came
much later. At length the transformation was complete; and the
old haunter of conventicles became an intolerant High Churchman.
Yet to the last the traces of his early breeding would now and
then show themselves; and, while he acted after the fashion of
Laud, he sometimes wrote in the style of Praise God Barebones.486

Of Paul Foley we know comparatively little. His history, up to a
certain point, greatly resembles that of Harley: but he appears
to have been superior to Harley both in parts and in elevation of
character. He was the son of Thomas Foley, a new man, but a. man
of great merit, who, having begun life with nothing, had created
a noble estate by ironworks, and who was renowned for his
spotless integrity and his munificent charity. The Foleys were,
like their neighbours the Harleys, Whigs and Puritans. Thomas
Foley lived on terms of close intimacy with Baxter, in whose
writings he is mentioned with warm eulogy. The opinions and the
attachments of Paul Foley were at first those of his family. But
be, like Harley, became, merely from the vehemence of his
Whiggism, an ally of the Tories, and might, perhaps, like Harley,
have been completely metamorphosed into a Tory, if the process of
transmutation had not been interrupted by death. Foley's
abilities were highly respectable, and had been improved by
education. He was so wealthy that it was unnecessary for him to
follow the law as a profession; but he had studied it carefully
as a science. His morals were without stain; and the greatest
fault which could be imputed to him was that he paraded his
independence and disinterestedness too ostentatiously, and was so
much afraid of being thought to fawn that he was always growling.

Another convert ought to be mentioned. Howe, lately the most
virulent of the Whigs, had been, by the loss of his place, turned
into one of the most virulent of the Tories. The deserter brought
to the party which he had joined no weight of character, no
capacity or semblance of capacity for great affairs, but much
parliamentary ability of a low kind, much spite and much
impudence. No speaker of that time seems to have had, in such
large measure, both the power and the inclination to give pain.

The assistance of these men was most welcome to the Tory party;
but it was impossible that they could, as yet, exercise over that
party the entire authority of leaders. For they still called
themselves Whigs, and generally vindicated their Tory votes by
arguments grounded on Whig principles.487

From this view of the state of parties in the House of Commons,
it seems clear that Sunderland had good reason for recommending
that the administration should be entrusted to the Whigs. The
King, however, hesitated long before he could bring himself to
quit that neutral position which he had long occupied between the
contending parties. If one of those parties was disposed to
question his title, the other was on principle hostile to his
prerogative. He still remembered with bitterness the unreasonable
and vindictive conduct of the Convention Parliament at the close
of 1689 and the beginning of 1690; and he shrank from the thought
of being entirely in the hands of the men who had obstructed the
Bill of Indemnity, who had voted for the Sacheverell clause, who
had tried to prevent him from taking the command of his army in
Ireland, and who had called him an ungrateful tyrant merely
because he would not be their slave and their hangman. He had
once, by a bold and unexpected effort, freed himself from their
yoke; and he was not inclined to put it on his neck again. He
personally disliked Wharton and Russell. He thought highly of the
capacity of Caermarthen, of the integrity of Nottingham, of the
diligence and financial skill of Godolphin. It was only by slow
degrees that the arguments of Sunderland, backed by the force of
circumstances, overcame all objections.

On the seventh of November 1693 the Parliament met; and the
conflict of parties instantly began. William from the throne
pressed on the Houses the necessity of making a great exertion to
arrest the progress of France on the Continent. During the last
campaign, he said, she had, on every point, had a superiority of
force; and it had therefore been found impossible to cope with
her. His allies had promised to increase their armies; and he
trusted that the Commons would enable him to do the same.488

The Commons at their next sitting took the King's speech into
consideration. The miscarriage of the Smyrna fleet was the chief
subject of discussion. The cry for inquiry was universal: but it
was evident that the two parties raised that cry for very
different reasons. Montague spoke the sense of the Whigs. He
declared that the disasters of the summer could not, in his
opinion, be explained by the ignorance and imbecility of those who
had charge of the naval administration. There must have been
treason. It was impossible to believe that Lewis, when he sent his
Brest squadron to the Straits of Gibraltar, and left the whole
coast of his kingdom from Dunkirk to Bayonne unprotected, had
trusted merely to chance. He must have been well assured that his
fleet would meet with a vast booty under a feeble convoy. As there
had been treachery in some quarters, there had been incapacity in
others. The State was ill served. And then the orator pronounced a
warm panegyric on his friend Somers. "Would that all men in power
would follow the example of my Lord Keeper! If all patronage were
bestowed as judiciously and disinterestedly as his, we should not
see the public offices filled with men who draw salaries and
perform no duties." It was moved and carried unanimously, that the
Commons would support their Majesties, and would forthwith proceed
to investigate the cause of the disaster in the Bay of Lagos.489
The Lords of the Admiralty were directed to produce a great mass
of documentary evidence. The King sent down copies of the
examinations taken before the Committee of Council which Mary had
appointed to inquire into the grievances of the Turkey merchants.
The Turkey merchants themselves were called in and interrogated.
Rooke, though too ill to stand or speak, was brought in a chair to
the bar, and there delivered in a narrative of his proceedings.
The Whigs soon thought that sufficient ground had been laid for a
vote condemning the naval administration, and moved a resolution
attributing the miscarriage of the Smyrna fleet to notorious and
treacherous mismanagement. That there had been mismanagement could
not be disputed; but that there had been foul play had certainly
not been proved. The Tories proposed that the word "treacherous"
should be omitted. A division took place; and the Whigs carried
their point by a hundred and forty votes to a hundred and three.
Wharton was a teller for the majority.490

It was now decided that there had been treason, but not who was
the traitor. Several keen debates followed. The Whigs tried to
throw the blame on Killegrew and Delaval, who were Tories; the

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