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them from the authority of the Crown, the ascendancy of
the Church, and the exclusive policy of the Tory country

Such was the Whig plan of Government, ostensibly
designed to make the will of the nation, as expressed in
Parliament, supreme, but which, when put into execution,
developed many defects of a startling description, defects
which were boldly seized upon by a powerful Opposition
led by Bolingbroke and Pulteney. The advantages of
Parliamentary Government were not so obvious to men of
Walpole's day as they perhaps are to modern statesmen.
To secure the Ministry from defeat, Walpole, partly by
means of corruption, organized a powerful Whig majority.
His knowledge of the wants of the nation, and his usual
deference to public opinion enabled him to avoid the intro-
duction of unpopular measures. The result of his foresight
and clever management was that he remained in power for
twenty years, during which period he consolidated Parlia-
mentary Government, fixed it on party lines, and made the
Executive Government practically responsible to Parlia-
ment. But, even during his tenure of office, there were
signs that, though the Whig oligarchy governed with
remarkable party success and with benefit to the
" moneyed " class. Parliament was ceasing to represent the
nation, and was becoming an assembly of the nominees
of the great Whig families. The shameless system of
corruption, the absence of high qualities in Walpole him-
self, the personal hatred of the Minister by the great body
of Malcontent Whigs, his policy of repression, exclusion,
and proscription, the growing indignation at his peace-at-
any-price policy, the unpopularity of the Excise Scheme,
all contributed to weaken his position, and eventually


caused his fall. But, before he fell, he had succeeded in
establishing the Hanoverian dynasty firmly on the throne,
he had given the nation a long period of peace, during
which the material prosperity increased in a marvellous
degree, he had seen the final triumph of the Parliamentary
over the Monarchical system, and of the Revolution over
the policy which Bolingbroke attempted to carry out during
Queen Anne's last years.

Bolingbroke, it has been said, was under no obligation
to Walpole. It would be true to say he had every reason
to seize the first opportunity of revenging himself on a
Minister, who had withheld his readmission to Parliament,
and doomed him to lifelong exclusion from Parliamentary

His first step was characteristic. By the aid of the
Duchess of Kendal, he succeeded in obtaining an interview
with the King. The interview was a failure ; George at
that moment was not prepared to get rid of a Minister who
suited him in many ways in order to try constitutional
experiments under Bolingbroke's guidance. There was,
however, always the possibility, which Walpole himself
recognized, that the influence of the Duchess of Kendal
would prevail, and that Bolingbroke's star would again be
in the ascendant. Defeated in his first attempt to under-
mine the Minister, Bolingbroke turned to Leicester House,
where the Prince of Wales lived at open enmity with his
father. By means of Mrs. Howard, who afterwards became
Lady Suffolk, he hoped to ingratiate him.self at Leicester
House, and at once began to weave plans for the formation
of a " Patriotic " Ministry, with Chesterfield, who then
stood high in the favour of the Prince. Again he was
doomed to disappointment. George H. succeeded his
father in June, 1727, and Walpole retired in favour of Sir
Spencer Compton. But any hopes entertained by Boling-
broke were soon dispelled, and after an interval of a few


days, Walpole was again firmly established in power, and
Bolingbroke fell back on a scheme which he had already
evolved, and which, though eventually successful in over-
throwing Walpole, did not result in his own return to
Parliamentary life.

This scheme simply consisted of bringing together all the
men who, from various causes, either regarded Walpole
with hatred or disliked his policy from principle, and of
uniting these scattered elements into one body. Boling-
broke's rare abilities, his knowledge of the world and of
men rendered him peculiarly well fitted for this self-imposed
task, and between the years 1726 and 1735 he was largely
instrumental in forming that famous Opposition which,
after sixteen years of persistent party warfare, succeeded in
overthrowing the great Peace Minister. Walpole's jealousy
of any possible rival, his system of party exclusiveness, and
his government by patronage had alienated a large section
of the Whigs, which included in their ranks William and
Daniel Pulteney, and a few years later Carteret. Of these
men, William Pulteney was at that time the most dis-
tinguished. To the advantages of birth and wealth he had
united a remarkable acquaintance with ancient and modern
literature. He was an incisive writer of telling pamphlets ;
he was a brilliant debater. No such orator was seen in the
House of Commons between the fall of Bolingbroke and
the rise of Chatham. His brilliancy and versatility naturally
gave him the position of leader of the Malcontent Whigs.
And he had reasons for his discontent. Hitherto a consistent
Whig, he had retired with Walpole in 171 7, throwing
up a valuable appointment. When Walpole returned to
power, Pulteney, instead of receiving a seat in the Cabinet,
was given a post in the household, and was offered a
Peerage. It was not, however, till April, 1725, that
Pulteney found himself unable to support Walpole any
longer. From that moment he resolved to revenge himself


on the Minister who had wronged him. In spite of his
lack of statesmanlike qualities, and his want of judgment
and of method, in spite of his restless and impetuous
character, William Pulteney became one of the most
prominent members of the Opposition to Walpole. His
brother Daniel, whose energy and debating powers were
also very considerable, brought to the assistance of the
opponents of Walpole very useful, business-like qualities,
and an animosity to the Whig Minister, which roused
all the activity of his nature. Personal dislike, then,
and resentment at real or supposed wrongs had caused
this revolt of the Malcontent Whigs. Opposed to the
Minister on almost every subject save that of the Succes-
sion was the large body of Constitutional or Hanoverian
Tories, led by Sir William Wyndham, an upright man,
with great oratorical gifts and a high reputation for states-
manship. About fifty Jacobites under Shippen were ready
to attack the Government on any subject, while the best
known literary names were also found ranged in antagonism
to the Minister. All the surviving members of the
Scriblerus Club sided with Bolingbroke, and were
reinforced by such men as Johnson and Fielding, Thomson
and Akenside.

During his tenure of office, from 1710 to 1714, Boling-
broke had displayed great presence of mind^ extraordinary
skill in unravelling the involved interests of the various
European Powers, and a firmness and determination which,
unfettered, would have saved the Tory party from their
overthrow on Anne's death. He now showed an unexpected
capacity for organization, and there is no doubt that it was
entirely to his genius, to his knowledge of political strategy,
to his vast intellectual abilities, that the three sections of
Jacobites, Hanoverian Tories, and Malcontent Whigs were
welded into that famous Coalition which, embracing as it
did, most of the political and literary talent of the day,



finally succeeded in overthrowing Walpole. In 1725
Bolingbroke and Pulteney agreed to unite. On December
the 5th, 1726, appeared the first number of The Craftsman,
with Caleb d'Anvers of Gray's Inn as nominal editor, but
which was really founded by Pulteney and was under his
and Bolingbroke's management. From December the 5th,
1726, to April the 17th, 1736, this weekly paper thundered
against Walpole.

In 1737 all the papers were published in a collected form
in fourteen volumes. Of these, Volumes I. to VII. deal
principally with England's connection with foreign countries
between 1726 and April, 1731, when that Second Treaty of
Vienna was signed, which weakened our close alliance with
France, reconciled France and Spain, and partly led to the
combined Bourbon attack, in 1733, upon the Emperor on
the Rhine and in Italy. Volumes VIII. to XIV. are mainly
concerned with the domestic Government of Walpole be-
tween May, 1 73 1, and April the 17th, 1736. This division
is by no means absolutely accurate, as domestic policy is
sometimes treated of in Vols. I. to VII., and foreign policy
is at times criticized in Vols. VIII. to XIV. The papers
usually attributed to Pulteney are marked C ; those written
by Bolingbroke are usually marked O. Of the latter the
most important are published in Bolingbroke's Collected
Works, and are fine specimens of the best political and con-
troversial writing of the day. Other contributors would
seem to have been Amherst, Arbuthnot, Swift, and probably
Pope. If we remember how at that time political influence
was confined to the classes who read good literature, we
shall not feel any surprise at the extraordinary influence
wielded by The Craftsman, and the importance attached even
by Walpole to its utterances.

The Conduct of the Allies had shown people the real mean-
ing of the Spanish Succession War in its later stages; The
Craftsman played an equally important part in pointing out


to the nation the fauhs of Walpole's administration, and in
forming a pubUc opinion hostile to that Minister.

On all points of home and foreign policy Walpole found
himself attacked. In the First Vision of Caiiielick, written in
The Craftsman early in 1727, Bolingbroke, in a most excel-
lent specimen of satirical writing, attacks Walpole's tyranny,
corruption, and contempt for the Constitution. In a dream
which he dreamed in Bagdad, Walpole is represented as —

"a man dressed in a plain habit, with a purse of gold in his hand. He threw
himself forward into the room in a bluff, ruffianly manner, a smile or rather
a sneer sat on his countenance. His face was bronzed over with a glare of
confidence, an arch malignity leered in his eye. Nothing was so extra-
ordinary as the effect of this person's appearance. They no sooner saw him,
but they all turned their faces from the canopy, and fell prostrate before
him. He trod over their backs without any ceremony, and marched
directly up to the throne. He opened his purse of gold, which he took out
in handfuls, and scattered amongst the assembly. Whilst the greater part
were engaged in scrambling for these pieces, he seized, to my inexpressible
surprise, without the least fear, upon the sacred parchment itself. He
rumpled it rudely up and crammed it into his pocket. Some of the people
began to murmur ; he threw more gold, and they were pacified. No sooner
was the parchment taken, but in an instant I saw half the august assembly
in chains. Nothing was heard through the whole divan but the noise of
fetters and the clank of iron."

Bolingbroke then described how Walpole, as soon as his
purse was empty, lost all his influence, how the sacred
volume again assumed its place above the throne, how the
throne itself was lightened, how every chain fell off, and how
the heart of the king was glad within him.

In this paper Bolingbroke took up the position which he
afterwards developed — namely, that Walpole's system of
Government was really a violation of the Constitution, and
that the new power of Parliament bringing with it the loss
of freedom at elections, and a fresh form of bribery in the
shape of places and pensions, was a disastrous innovation.
This special danger he pointed out in his Three Letters on the
History of Athens, published in The Craftsman in 1732 and


designed to prove that corruption destroyed the Athenian
State. The example of Pericles is cited to show how the
overgrown power, ambition, and corruption of one man
brought ruin upon the most flourishing State in the universe.

In his Remarks on the History of England, written in The
Craftsman in 1730 and 1731, under the signature of Humph-
rey Oldcastle, he boldly attacked Walpole and his whole
system of Government. These letters are an attempt to
convey " satire under the form of analogue," and in them
Bolingbroke tries to make the history of past times the
counterpart of the present. Their popularity was due, not
only to the brilliant style in which they were written, but
also to the skill with which Walpole and his Government
were attacked. The characteristics of a bad Minister were
exemplified in the cases of de Vere, Suffolk, Wolsey, and
Buckingham. These letters are well worthy of perusal as
a remarkable indictment against Revolution principles as
developed by Walpole, and are written with a brilliancy and
eloquence rarely surpassed. In his concluding (the twenty-
fourth) letter Bolingbroke defends his own conduct against
the attacks of Ministerial writers. He declares that he
never projected nor procured the disgrace of Harley, that
he never joined the Jacobite cause till after his attainder,
and that, while grateful to George I., he was under no
obligation to Walpole.

Other writers in The Craftsman were hardly less vigorous.
In No. 51, which appeared on June the 24th, 1727, and
which is a good illustration of the kind of attack to which
Walpole was subjected, the marks of a bad Administration
were declared to be — first, the dread of examination and the
constant endeavour of men in power to keep their actions in
the dark ; secondly, the use of unwarrantable methods to in-
fluence the Members, or to impair the freedom of Senates or
of popular assemblies ; thirdly, the general encouragement
of luxury ; fourthly, pretended plots and rebellions ; fifthly,


forging or suborning evidence and packing juries ; sixthly,
the conferring of principal offices of State on members of
one family or tribe, and the lesser places on worthless
wretches and tools of known incapacity ; lastly, the en-
deavour of Ministers to thrust the odium of their unpopular
actions on their royal master.

Nor were the attacks on Walpole confined to prose. On
July the 2oth, 1728, appeared a sarcastic poem, entitled, The
Norfolk L anthorn, of which these verses are appended :

" In the county of Norfolk, that Paradise land,
Whose riches and power doth all Europe command.
There stands a great House (and long may it stand),
Which nobody can deny.

"And in this great House there is a great Hall,
So spacious it is, and so sumptuous withal,
It excells Master Wolsey's Hampton Court and Whitehall,
Which nobody can deny.

" To adorn this great Room both by day and by night,
And convince all the world that the deeds of Sir Knight
Stand in need of no darkness, there hangs a great Light,
Which nobody can deny."

While The Craftsman poured in invective after invective
on all points of Walpole's domestic policy, on the Septennial
Act, standing armies, loss of liberty at elections, absolute
Ministers, and favourites, the foreign policy of the Govern-
ment did not escape. In consequence of a very ill-advised
letter which George I. had some years previously sent to
the King of Spam, it was believed that the Ministers in-
tended to restore Gibraltar to Spain. A storm of indigna-
tion was provoked, and a complete renunciation by Spain of
any claim to Gibraltar was demanded. In March, April,
and May of 1727, this question was taken up in some very
forcible papers which appeared in The Craftsman. England,
it was asserted, had obtained Gibraltar in open war, and its
cession by the Treaty of Utrecht had been again confirmed
by the Quadruple Alliance. Any promise of restitution was


only a Ministerial promise, and therefore not binding. Be-
sides, it was the only valuable benefit we gained by the
Spanish Succession War. Its importance to English trade
was immense. On its possession depended our Italian and
Turkish trade, and by means of it we were enabled to check
the Algerine pirates and to compete with the French trade
from Marseilles. Then, again, it had a great military value.
The connection between the French and Spanish ports
could be checked, the power of the French fleet was prac-
tically destroyed, and the trade between Cadiz and the West
Indies was commanded. Therefore, concluded The Crafts-
man, the possession of Gibraltar is important, from a political
no less than from a military point of view.

No one at the present day will deny the justice of these
criticisms. But there was little proof that Walpole ever
intended to give up Gibraltar, though there is evidence that
both George I. and George II. were not unwilling to con-
sider the question of its restitution. Less justifiable was
another well-known attack on the Whig conduct of foreign
affairs. A capital subject for invective was found in the
non-fulfilment of the terms of the Peace of Utrecht with
regard to the demolition of the harbour of Dunkirk, and
numerous papers were written in 7'he Craftsman on this
matter between 1727 and 1731. In July, 1728, it even went
so far as to assert that " even the restitution of Gibraltar
would be of much less fatal consequence on Great Britain
than the reparation of Dunkirk." It must not, however, be
supposed that the Government did not resent the criticisms
which were levelled at its policy by The Craftsman. In
February, 1729, Sir Philip Yorke, the Attorney-General,
who had joined the Ministry in 1724 and was always on
good terms with Bolingbroke, on behalf of the Government,
failed in a prosecution for libel against Francklin, the
printer and publisher, with the result that a ballad, inscribed
to Pulteney and styled l/ie Honest Jury, or Caleb Triumphant,


appeared and acquired great popularity. However, on the ap-
pearance on January the 2nd, 1 731, of a Letter from the Hagne^
ascribed to Bolingbroke and accusing the Ministers of per-
fidy towards their Allies, the Government won, and Francklin
was fined and imprisoned.^ On October the 14th, 1731, ap-
peared a New Court Ballad, of which the third verse runs as
follows :

" About Dunkirk and Gib
Some tongues run very glib
And offer us to lay a round sum, sum, sum,
That Spain means this or that
And France, the Lord knows what :
But still shall old Caleb be dumb, dumb, dumb."

In fact, all through the ten years in which The Craftsman
appeared, numerous attacks were made on Walpole's Peace
Policy, on the Porto Bello Expedition, and on the Treaty
of Hanover, on the Minister's alienation from the Austrians
by the Treaty of Seville in 1729, when Spain, disgusted at
the evident faithlessness of the Emperor, Charles VI., in
the matter of the Italian Duchies, found her best policy in
alliance with England and France. Walpole's conclusion
of the Second Treaty of Vienna in 1731 with Spain and
Austria was also attacked, by which Treaty Charles VI.,
yielding to the bribe of the English guarantee of the Prag-
matic Sanction, agreed to withdraw all opposition to the
claims of Spain on the Duchies ; and finally his disregard
of the growing power of the Bourbons, and his consequent
neglect of the pressing needs of the mercantile interest was
severely criticized. It was with reference to the danger to
Europe from Bourbon aggrandizement, that in March and
April, 1736, appeared four letters, attributed to Bolingbroke,
in which the preliminaries of the final Peace of Vienna were
forcibly censured. The cession of Lorraine and Bar to

^ Life and Correspondence of Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardzuicke, Lord
High Chancellor of Englajid, by Philip Yorke. Vol. I., pp, 82-86. Cam-
bridge : at the University Press, 191 3.


France, and of the Tuscan ports to any member of the
Bourbon House was, the writer contended, strongly to be
deprecated. The French would thus secure a connection
with Naples and an opening into the middle of Italy, the
growth of Savoy would be checked, and England's trade
endangered. This protest was unavailing ; England had
remained at peace during the Polish Succession War
(1733-38), and by the Final Treaty of Vienna in 1738
France secured Lorraine and Bar, Don Carlos obtained
Naples, Sicily, and the Tuscan ports, and Austria, England's
old ally, though she obtained Parma and Piacenza, came
out of the struggle considerably weakened.

Till 1735 Bolingbroke never relaxed his efforts. He
directed from outside all Wyndham's eloquent onslaughts
in the House of Commons, and settled on the policy to be
followed by the Parliamentary Opposition. He had violently
attacked Walpole, not only in The Craftsman, but also in
three papers, known as The Occasional Writer, which appeared
independently of The Craftsman, and which are remarkable
for their violence, even in days when acrimonious and per-
sonal attacks were of common occurrence. At length the
Opposition were convinced that, in the unpopularity of
Walpole's Excise Scheme, they had found certain means of
overthrowing the Ministry. The Craftsman became the more
violent, as it was thought that Walpole's power was shaken.
In No. 348 it inveighed against " the oppressions, insolences,
and unjustifiable partialities of the Commissioners of Excise."
It pointed out that the Excise system in Holland and
Venice was less oppressive than it would be in England,
while in No. 353 it compared the situation to that of 1627,
when it asserted that there was a design on foot for en-
slaving the nation by means of Excises and a standing
army. On this occasion The Craftsman, representing the
ignorance of the mass of Englishmen in matters of political
economy, found that its views received very considerable


support. The members of the Government were not united
on the question, and it was clear that the stabiHty of the
Ministry would be endangered if the scheme was persevered
with. Walpole bowed before the storm, withdrew the
Excise Bill, and then took decided measures against his dis-
affected followers. Chesterfield, Stair, Cobham, and others
were at once dismissed from their respective posts, and
joined the ranks of the Opposition. On April the 28th, 1733,
No. 356 of The Craftsman expressed the satisfaction of the
Opposition at the withdrawal of the Excise Bill. "We
have seen an insolent domineering Minister reduced, after all
his defiances, to the wretched necessity of recanting his
abusive reflections and giving up his infamous projects."

This victory over Walpole, however, hardly redounds to
the credit of Bolingbroke. He had been forced in 1713, in
deference to the ignorant prejudices of his age, to withdraw
his great Commercial Treaty with France. We find him
now, instead of sympathizing with Walpole's enlightened
economical views, opposing the Excise Bill, not, it is true,
on economic, but on political, grounds. In spite of some
economic advantages which, he allowed, would attend the
measure, he advocated uncompromising opposition, on the
ground that the scheme was a mere electioneering stratagem
on the part of Walpole, who saw in the extension of the
Excise system fresh opportunities for increasing the number
of Whig revenue officers, placemen, and election agents.
Hence, he argued, the liberties of the nation, which were
already endangered by Walpole's tenure of office, would be
still more imperilled were the Excise Bill to become law.

It was now hoped that at the ensuing elections the voters
would testify their sense of the conduct of the Whig Minister,
and reject his candidates at the polling booths. Bolingbroke,
therefore, redoubled his attacks on Walpole. In the autumn
of 1733 he began in the pages of The Craftsman a series of
nineteen letters entitled a Dissertation on Parties. These


letters, which when published in a collected form were
dedicated to Walpole, contained an elaborate attack on
that Minister's administration, and, written between
October, 1733, and December, 1734, had by 1737 passed
through two editions. The Dissertation on Parties remains
the most complete indictment against Walpole's policy as
well as one of the most brilliant of the political pamphlets
of the eighteenth century. Bolingbroke's object in these

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Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 12 of 20)