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Life of Viscount Bolingbroke online

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No apology is needed for the reissue of a short Life of
Boliiigbvoke, which was published in The Statesmen Series
in 1889.

Since 1889 "^uch new light has been thrown on the
history of the period in which Bolingbroke lived, and conse-
quently it has become necessary to rewrite a considerable
portion of the original Life.

Bolingbroke was so closely connected with all the
political, literary, philosophical, and social movements of
his day, that the history of his career is to a great extent
that of the first half of the eighteenth century. It is, there-
fore, impossible within the small limits of this Prefatory
Note to do more than briefly indicate some of the principal
sources of information which have been consulted in re-
writing this volume :

Dr. Goldsmith's Z?/^' of Heni-y, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, in the 1809
edition of Bohngbroke's Works ; G. W. Cooke's Mevwirs of Lord Boling-
broke, 2 vols. ; Remusat's V Angleterre ati Dix-hnitienie Siecle ; T. Mac-
knight's Life of Lord Bolingbroke ; T. E. Kebbel's Essays npon History
ajid Politics ; J. Skelton's Essays in History and Biography ; R. Harrop"s
Bolingbroke, a Political Study and Criticism ; J. Churton CoUins's Boling-
broke, an Historical Study ; W. Stebbing's Verdicts of History Reviewed ;
Kussch, Peterborough ; Wilson, Life of Berwick ; Morley, Voltaire ; Craik,
Life of Swift ; Wyon, History of the Reign of Queen Anne, 2 vols. ; Coxe,
Life of Walpole and Life of Pelhain ; Ballantine, Carteret ; Leslie Stephen,
Pope ; Foss, Lives of the Judges ; Clarendon, History of the Great Rebel'ion ;
Gardiner, History of England ; Marshall's Genealogical Guide ; C. Grant



Robertson, England nnder the Hanoverians ; The Edinburgh Revietv,
vol. cxxv. ; Leadam, The Political History of England, 1702 to 1760;
The Dictionary of National Biography ; The Cambridge Modern History ;
Social England ; W. Sichel, Bolingbroke and His Times, 2 vols., 1901 ;
Yorke, Life of Lord Hardzvicke, 3 vols., 1913.

For those who desire to realize thoroughly the feelinp^s
and temper of the age, and Bolingbroke's relations to the
world of politics and literature, a perusal of the following
will be necessary :

Burnet, History of My Ozvn Time ; Letters and Despatches of the Dttke
of Marlborough, from 1701-1712. The Works and Correspondence of
Bolingbroke ; The Private Correspondence of the Duchess of Marlborotigh ;
Szviffs Co7-respondence, several of his works, and especially Yivi Jotirnal to
Stella ; The Memoirs of the Dtike of Bertvick ; The Memoirs oj De Torcy ;
The Lockhaj't Papers ; The Craftsman ; Pope's Coi'respondence with Swift
and Bolingbroke ; The Marchmont Papers ; Letters of Bolingbroke to
Madame de Ferriol and to the Abbt' Atari (published in 1808 by Grimoad) ;
The Sttiart Papers ; The Onslow Papers ; The Wentzvorth Papers ; Somers
Tracts ; Carlisle Papers ; Portland Papers ; Harley Papers.

Even those numbers of The Craftsman, which were not
written by Bolingbroke or Pulteney, are very well worth
perusal, and are calculated to enable us to realize fully the
nature of the questions which occupied the pubHc mind, as
well as the policy of the Opposition during a great portion
of Walpole's Ministry.

From the Very Rev. T. B. Strong, Dean of Christ
Church, I received much valuable help in Chapter X. In
fact, the latter portion of that chapter is to a very great
extent his work. To the courtesy of the Rev. Andrew
Clark, Fellow of Lincoln College, and editor of the Oxford
Matriculation Registers, I owe some very interesting facts
which tend to throw fresh light on the knotty question of
Bolingbroke's career at Oxford. To the late Mr. H. O.


Wakeman, Fellow of All Souls' College, I was indebted for
much invaluable criticism while writing the Life in 1889.
In preparing the present reissue of the volume, I have
receiv^ed considerable assistance from my colleague, Mr.
K. G. Felling, late Fellow of All Souls' College, and now
Student of Christ Church.

A. H.

August, 19 1 5.




1678- 1704.

Henry St. John's birth — Position of Louis XIV,, 1678 — State of Politics
in England— The Manor House at Battersea — St. John's ancestors —
Importance of the St. John family during the Great Rebellion — His
Father — His early life at Battersea — Eton — Was he at Christ Church ?
— His grand tour and residence at Paris — His marriage and entry into
Parliament — His appearance and eloquence — Party struggles in 1 701
and 1702 — The Protestant Succession and the balance of power in
Europe — St. John takes a prominent position in the House of Commons
- — Impeachment of the Whig Ministers — The Kentish Petition —
Louis XIV. 's recognition of th^e Pretender — Excitement in England —
Death of William III. — Declaration of War — St. John is made an
Honorary Doctor at Oxford— Comparison of the views of the Whigs
and Tories — The extreme Tories gradually cease to support the war —
Godolphin and Marlborough look to the moderate Tories — Occasional
Conformity Bill — Ashby versus White — Relations between the Lords
and the Commons strained — St. John's violent conduct — Parliament
prorogued, April, 1704 ....... page I



The extreme Tories leave the Government — Harley, St. John, and other
moderate Tories are given places — Brilliant successes abroad — St. John's
close relations with Marlborough — Elections of 1705 — Whigs have
majority in Parliament — Marlborough and Godolphin adopt Whig view
of England's foreign policy — Harley intrigues against the Ministers —
St. John's attitude — The Gregg scandal — Resignation of Harley, St.
John, Harcourt, and Mansell, 1708 — Ministry becomes entirely Whig



— Failure of Jacobite rising in Scotland — St. John's reasons for his
retirement — His life at Bucklersbury — Negotiations at the Hague, 1709
— The Battle of Malplaquet — The Barrier Treaty — The negotiations at
Gertruydenberg, 17 10 — The Sacheverell incident — Reasons of weak-
ness of Whig Ministry: its fall, 17 10 — Tory Ministry: St. John
Secretary of State />ao-e 20




Party spirit runs high — St. John's elevation to the post of Secretary of
State — Feelings of the Tory party — The elections of 17 10 — Tory foreign
policy — Peace necessary — Difficulties in the way of peace — The
Examiner — Number Ten— Employment of Swift— Violence of the Tory
squires — The October Club — Discontent at Harley's indecision —
Guiscard's attack on Harley — Its effect — Harley becomes Earl of Oxford
— Growing rivalry between Oxford and St. John — England's relations
to the Allies considered — Negotiations opened with France — Death of
Jcseph I., April, 171 1 — Failure of St. John's expedition to North
America — Arrival of Mesnager — Preliminary articles signed in Sep-
temljer — Discovery by the Allies of England's intention to make peace
— General excitement — St. John's measures — Publication of The Con-
duct of the A//u's— The famous debate in the House of Lords — Defeat
of the Government — Dismissal of Marlborough — Creation of Tory
Peers — St. John continues his "strong remedies" — Opening of con-
ferences at Utrecht, January 29, 1 7 1 2 — Protracted character of the nego-
tiations — St. John raised to the Peerage — Visits Paris and sees
Louis XIV. — Charges against Bolingbroke — Shrewsbury sent to Paris,
January, 17 1 3, to hasten the negotiations — Bolingbroke's ultimatum —
The treaties signed — Criticism of the Peace of Utrecht, of the means by
whicli it was brought about, and of its terms — The greatness of Boling-
broke's work — He anticipated the policy of Chatham — Place occupied
in English and French history by the Peace of Utrecht . pa^e 41




Possibility of a Stuart Restoration — Bolingbroke's real policy — Reasons for
the belief that he was a Jacobite — Opinion of Mr. Wyon — State of
politics on conclusion of Peace of Utrecht — Tiie Jacobites, the llano-


verian Tories, the Neutrals — Reconstruction of the Ministry — The
" Crisis" — Unpopularity of Harley's trimming policy — The Tories rally
round Bolinghroke — His extreme measures— Activity of the Whigs —
Attempt to bring the Electoral Prince into England — Rage of the
Queen — Reward offered for apprehension of the Pretender — End of the
Session, July 9 — -Approach of the Crisis — Dismissal of Oxford, July 27
— The Treasury to be put in Commission — Difficulty in choosing Com-
missioners — Illness of the Queen — Shrewsbury appointed Treasurer —
Death of Anne — Ruin of Bolingbroke's plans — His failure due to various
causes — Policy and position of Shrewsbury — A consideration of Boling-
broke's policy at the end of Anne"s reign — Vigour of Whigs . /(ig^ 77



Failure of the Schemes of Oxford and Bolingbroke — Accession of George I.
— Attitude of the Council of Regency towards Bolingbroke — His re-
moval from his Secretaryship — Seizure of the papers of Strafford and
Prior — Hostile attitude of Ministers — Alarm of Bolingbroke — His flight
a fatal mistake — His attainder— He enters the service of the Pretender —
He acts loyally in the Jacobite cause — His amusing description of James'
Council — ^James' character — Arrival of Ormonde in Paris — Death of
Louis XIV. — Failure of Jacobite rising of 17 15 — Causes of the failure —
Bolingbroke's dismissal from James' service — Berwick's testimony to his
ability — Bolingbroke attempts to secure the reversal of his attainder —
His letter to Wyndham — His second marriage — Life at La Source —
Letters to M. de Pouilly — Voltaire s visit to La Source — His pardon
passes the Great Seal, 1723 — Bolingbroke visits England — Fails to
conciliate Walpole — Aids Townshend and Walpole in their diplomatic
struggle against Carteret — Renewed endeavours to secure reversal of his
attainder — Their success, 1725 — His return to England . pa^e 98



Bolingbroke settles at Dawley — State of politics on his return — Strong
position of Walpole and Townshend — Character of Walpole's policy —
The Whig plan of Government — Its good and bad points — Bolingbroke


fails to undermine Walpole's influence with George I. — He joins
Pulteney in the management of T/ie Crafts))ian — Character of Pulteney
and of his brother — The various sections which opposed Walpole — •
Bolingbroke unites them into a powerful (Opposition — The Craftsman —
Bolingbroke's first contribution to The Craftsinaji — His Letters on the
History of Athens — His Remarks on the History of England — No. 51 —
The Norfolk Lanthorti — Attacks on Walpole's foreign policy — The
danger to Gibraltar — The Defences of Dunkirk — The Treaties of
Seville and of Vienna — The Occasional Writer — The Excise Scheme —
Popular clamour — The Scheme withdrawn — Bolingbroke's attitude
towards it — His Dissertation on Parties — The Election of 1734 — Whig
majority — Bolingbroke's political connection with Pulteney ends — He
leaves England, 1735 — His objects in forming the Opposition to
Walpole — His comparative failure — Attitude of the Malcontent Whigs
towards him after 1735 — Reasons of Bolingbroke's retirement to France
— The T7'ne Use of Retirenunt and Study — Letters on History — The
Spirit of L^atriotisni — His return to England in 1738 — Norfolk House
and Frederic, Prince of Wales — Bolingbroke writes \)\% Ldea of a Patriot
King — Growing unpopularity of Walpole — Secession of Tories from the
House of Commons — Death of Wyndham, 1740 — Conduct of Tories
and Jacobites, 1 741 — Fall of Walpole, 1742 — Death of Bolingbroke's
father — Whigs continue in power under Wilmington — Bolingbroke and
the Tories "dished" by the Whigs — Bolingbroke declares he had long
ago estimated his Whig allies at their true value . . . page 122

bolingbroke's later years.


His return to Argeville — His pavilion— Again in England — Politics in 1743
— Wilmington Prime Minister — Influence of Carteret — Carteret's
foreign policy — Bolingbroke's opposition to him — Return to Argeville —
Battle of Dettingen — At Aix-la-Chapelle — In England — The Manor
House at Battersea becomes a political centre — Opposition of the
Pelhams to Carteret — Fall of Carteret — Pelham's War Administration
not successful — The Jacobite Rebellion — The Three Days' Revolution —
Defeat of the King — Bolingbroke and the Rebellion of '45 — His weari-
ness of the world — Some Reflections on the Present State of the Nation
— His attack on Pope — Defence of Pope by Warburton — Death of Lady
Bolingbroke — Bolingbroke's last days — His death . . page 149




Always struggling against an adverse fate — The death of Anne — The fall
of Walpole — His failure to secure the reversal of his attainder — His
transcendent abilities — His writings — Illustrations — His correspondence
— Eloquence — His general intellectual qualities — His power of applica-
tion — Views taken by Lecky and Mr. Harrop of his character — His
faults — The child of his age — His enormous personal influence — Love of
hunting — His horses and dogs — His life at Bucklersbury, Ashdown Park,
La Source, Dawley, Chanteloup — The last years of his life at Battersea —
His influence over young statesmen — His European position P<^g^ 1 57



Close connection between politics and literature — Its results — Defoe —
Importance of political writings — Addison — ^John Philips — Boling-
broke's literary friends — Pope — Parnell — Arbuthnot — Prior — Gay —
Swift — Society of Brothers — Eff"ect of Anne's death — Bolingbroke at
Dawley — Pope at Twickenham — Meeting of the survivors of the Scrib-
lerus Club — The correspondence of Bolingbroke, Pope, and Swift —
Influence of — Bolingbroke on Pope — The Essay on JMan — The Moral
Essays — Satires and Epistles of Horace imitated — Devotion of Pope to
Bolingbroke — Influence of Pope on Bolingbroke — Voltaire's relations
with Bolingbroke — They meet first at La Source — Voltaire's exile —
Comes to England — Studies English literature — Influence of Boling-
broke on Voltaire's Lettres stir les Anglais — Voltaire's philosophical
views — Extent of the influence of Bolingbroke's deistical opinions on
Voltaire — Bolingbroke's literary tastes and literary friendships page 172




Note on his political writings — Charge of inconsistency — His political aims
in Anne's reign — His short period of Jacobitism — His political theories
when opposing Walpole — The Dissertation on Parties — His recon-
struction of Toryism — The Patriot King — Its effect on the policy of
George III. and on the future of Toryism — Bolingbroke a democratic


Tory — Lord Beaconsfield's opinion as to the value of his services to the
Tory party — Bolingbroke's philosophical and religious opinions — His
writings — Their uncritical and unhistorical character — Opinion of
Lechler— The principles of the Deistic writers well illustrated from
Bolingbroke's writings — Contempt for all dogmatic theologians — Impor-
tance of reason — Memory — Influence of the rationalistic point of view
upon psychology — Bolingbroke's treatment of ethics and theology — His
political theory ........ J>a^e i88



Bolingbroke seldom judged fairly — Why this is so — Hatred of Wliigs —
Attacks on his private life — Severe criticism of his public career — The
Treaty of Utrecht a great work, and carried out by the Whigs — Walpole's
appreciation of Bolingbroke's foreign policy — The questions of England's
non-intervention on the Continent, of the importance of the navy, of the
value of the Colonies treated of by Bolingbroke — Carries out Cromwell's
policy — Unfair attitude of Johnson and Burke — The real value of
Bolingbroke's writings — Popular view of his character — Its absurdity —
Summary of his work — The interest still taken in his life — His claim
to the title of " Great " ....... page 2.0^

INDEX .......... page 217





Henry St. John's birth — Position of Louis XIV., i678^State of Politics
in England — The Manor House at Battersea — St. John's ancestors —
Importance of the St. John Family during the Great Rebellion — His
father — His early life at Battersea — Eton — Was he at Christ Church ? —
His grand tour and residence at Paris — His marriage and entry into
Parliament — His appearance and eloquence — Party struggles in 1 701
and 1702 — The Protestant Succession and the balance of power in
Europe — St. John takes a prominent position in the House of Commons
— Impeachment of the Whig Ministers — The Kentish Petition —
Louis XIV. 's recognition of the Pretender — Excitement in England —
Death of William III. — Declaration of War — St. John is made an
Honorary Doctor at Oxford — Comparison of the views of the Whigs
and Tories— The extreme Tories gradually cease to support the war —
Godolphin and Marlborough look to the moderate Tories — Occa-
sional Conformity Bill — Ashby versus White — Relations between the
Lords and the Commons strained^St. John's violent conduct —
Parliament prorogued, April, 1704.

Henry St. John was born at Battersea in October, 1678,
and was baptized on the tenth of that month. The year of
his birth augured a stormy future. In August, the Peace
of Nimeguen had been signed, and Louis XIV. had reached
the height of his power. During the next ten years, by his


aggr'essi'v^ and ambitious policy, he endangered the balance
of strength in Europe. St. John was destined to assist
Marlborough in carrying out the operations employed so
successfully to reduce the pretensions of the Bourbons, and
to lower the pride of Louis XIV. He was destined in 171 2
to be received in France as the pacificator of Europe, as the
statesman who would enable an exhausted country to make
an honourable peace. That peace itself proved to be both
the greatest monument of his fame and one of the principal
reasons of his exile.

The events of the autumn of 1678 in England were no
less destined to colour his whole future. The discovery of
the so-called Popish Plot in August caused the wildest
excitement. The impeachment of Danby, and the dissolu-
tion of the Long Parliament of the Restoration were
followed, in 1679, by that endeavour to exclude the Duke
of York from the Crown, which led to the formation of the
Whig and Tory parties. The whole history of Bolingbroke's
life, from his entry into Parliament in 1701 to his death in
1 75 1, is, without any exaggeration, the history of the Tory
party, of its triumph in 17 10, of its failure in 1 714, of its
long years in the cold shade of Opposition, and finally of its

His birth took place in the old Manor House, which was
pleasantly situated near the Thames. '' The family seat,"
wrote Hughson in 1808, in his Circuit oj London, "was
a venerable structure, which contained forty rooms on a
floor. A large portion of the house was pulled down in
1778. The part left standing forms a dwelling-house : one
of the parlours fronting the Thames is lined with cedar,
beautifully inlaid, and was the favourite study of Pope, the
scene of many a literary conversation between him and his
friend Bolingbroke."

In this family mansion resided his grand-parents. Sir
Walter St. John and Lady Joanna, with whom lived their


son Henry St. John and his wife the Lady Mary, second
daughter and joint heiress of the Earl of Warwick. On
his mother's side the future Viscount Bohngbroke could
claim descent from the great family of D'Eu, distinguished
in Normandy before the invasion of England by William
the Conqueror. On his father's side he sprang from a race
no less ancient or renowned. William St. John is said to
have held an important post at the battle of Hastings, and
one of his sons added to the wealth no less than to the glory
of the name of St. John by his prowess in the wars against
the Welsh. He was possessed of the Manor of Stanton St.
John in Oxfordshire, and gave the site of the Convent at
Godstow. His great-granddaughter and heiress, Mabel,
married Adam de Port, the Lord of Basing in Hampshire,
a member of an old English family illustrious in pre-Norman
times. The son of this marriage, William, took, in the
reign of John, his mother's name, and styled himself William
de St. John, Lord of Basing, and son and heir of Adam de

During the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries
the family became prominent. In Henry HI.'s reign, John
St. John, who held the barony of Stanton, was appointed an
itinerant justice for Oxfordshire, and his son Roger was
killed at the battle of Evesham. Under Henry V. Sir John
St. John was Mayor of Bordeaux. In the reign of Henry VI.
Oliver St. John married Lady Margaret Beauchamp, sister
of Lord Beauchamp, and acquired the lordships of Bletso
and of Lydiard Tregoze. On the death of her husband.
Lady Margaret married the Duke of Somerset, and their
daughter, by her union with Edmund Tudor, Earl of Rich-
mond, became the mother of Henry VH. The east window
in Battersea Church, containing portraits of Henry VII.,
his grandmother Margaret Beauchamp, and Queen Eliza-
beth, still commemorates the alliance of the St. Johns with
the Tudors. After the reign of Elizabeth, the two main


branches into which the family was then divided, became
very prominent in pubHc Hfe. Oliver St. John, Lord of
Bletso, son of the first Lord St. John of Bletso, who was
created a baron in 1559, was as Lord-Lieutenant of Bed-
fordshire warned in 161 4 on account of his coolness with
regard to the benevolence which James L was attempting to
levy in the counties. His son Oliver was created by James
in 1624 the first Earl of Bolingbroke, and, during his life-
time, Charles L elevated his son to the House of Lords as
St. John of Bletso. In spite of these marks of royal favour,
the Earl showed a " mutinous disposition." In 1626, when
Charles attempted to raise a forced loan, fifteen or sixteen
of the Peers, among whom was Bolingbroke, refused to
lend; and later both father and son espoused heartily the
Parliamentary cause, the Earl being one of the Peers who
were " all of the Presbyterian dye." During the Civil War
the Earl acted as a commissioner of the Admiralty, and,
after figuring as a member of the Assembly of Divines and
as a Joint Commissioner of the Great Seal, died in 1646.

His son was killed at Edgehill, leaving two sons, each of
whom succeeded in turn to the family honours. The elder,
who married a daughter of the Duke of Newcastle, died in
1689, and the younger in 171 1. Both seem to have taken
considerable part in the ordinary county business of Bed-
fordshire. The peerage, which became extinct in 171 1, was

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Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 1 of 20)