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letters was twofold. He wished not only to weaken Wal-
pole's position on the eve of the general election, but also to
heal the differences between the various sections of the
Opposition. Of these sections the Malcontent Whigs were
the most unmanageable. It was in order to unite these
Malcontent Whigs more firmly to the Tory and Jacobite
sections of the Opposition that Bolingbroke in these letters
vindicates the principles established at the Revolution
Settlement, inveighs against the party system with its party
prejudices, and contends that Walpole, to serve his own
personal ends, had revived bygone distinctions and obsolete
party divisions. To the nation he appealed on behalf of the
patriotic Opposition, which, he declared, was defending the
true principles of the Revolution.

The elections of 1734 were held amid the greatest excite-
ment. The Government had been guilty of many mistakes ;
it was notorious for its corruption ; it was in reality not
popular with the country at large. Though the Tories
were returned in many county constituencies, notably for
Gloucestershire which had been Whig since 1688, the over-
whelming borough interest of the Whigs secured for Wal-
pole a majority, though a diminished one. Thus the efforts
of Bolingbroke, Pulteney, and their followers were for the
time in vain. The violent attacks on, and the elaborate
indictments of Walpole's policy had failed for the time to
effect their object. A few years later, when the nation was
discontented and less prosperous, Bolingbroke's controversial


writings contributed in great measure to the overthow of the
Whig Minister. For the present the Opposition had to
acquiesce in the defeat of their great attempt to oust from
power the established Government. The returns had shown
that Walpole's influence in the country was still strong, and
the nation, as Bolingbroke said, preferred, like a patient, to
bear his *' constitutional malady than to undergo the remedies
prescribed by his physician." Walpole's majority was
certainly diminished, but only to a small extent, and five
years were yet to elapse before his Administration would be
seriously threatened.

The paper warfare, however, continued with the same

violence. On May the 25th, just after the elections, The

Craftsman attacked the various methods taken by the

favourites of power to secure their own election and that of

their creatures. The writer boasts that the counties have

gone against the Government, and that the Ministers owe

their majority to the little boroughs. He then attacks the

votes of Custom-house and Excise Officers, and hopes the

members of Parliament will not be the tools of a desperate

Minister. On June the ist The Craftsman alluded to Wal-

pole as a corrupt Minister, corrupting the people and thus

destroying the effects of a good Constitution. The writer

compares the state of England with that of the Roman

Empire under Tiberius, and regrets that George II. disdains

to use his power. Though, however, The Craftsman continued

to thunder against Walpole till 1737, Bohngbroke had for

some time ceased to take a leading part in its management.

In 1735 his political connection with Pulteney came to

an end, and he retired to France. The Opposition to

Walpole continued, but Bolingbroke no longer led it. With

his departure, the principles which had been the basis of

the Coalition disappeared, and the struggle deteriorated

into a mere contest between the Whigs out of office and

the Whigs in office.


In forming the celebrated Coalition of Malcontent Whigs,
Jacobites, and Tories, Bolingbroke had intended that it
should ostensibly support the Revolution principles against
a Minister who, he asserted, had frequently violated those
principles. A supreme Cabinet, the division of Parliament
into parties, the diminution of the King's power, the rise of
the modern First Minister, were all, in Bolingbroke's eyes,
dangerous innovations. He asserted that the Revolution
Settlement did not naturally lead to the impotence of the
King, nor to the development of Parliament from a con-
sulting, heterogeneous body, presided over by the King,
into a powerful administrative body which, under the leader-
ship of one man chosen by the majority, really governed.

There was nothing in the old Whig traditions which
called upon Pulteney and his followers to reject Boling-
broke's view of Walpole's system of Government. There
was no reason why the Opposition should not be a " union
and coalition of parties meeting together on a national
bottom." But, though Bolingbroke had formed out of a
number of discontented sections, united merely by personal
dislike of Walpole and by a desire to avenge personal
grievances, a powerful Opposition with a valuable literary
organ and definite constitutional watchwords, he never
really secured the hearty support of the Malcontent Whigs.
They were delighted to make use of his intellectual abilities,
and of his extraordinary versatility ; they were perfectly
willing to accept his definition of Constitutional Govern-
ment; they even consented to unite with the Jacobite
section in attacking a common enemy ; but the ultimate
aim of their policy differed widely from that of Bolingbroke.
To Bolingbroke the opposition : —

" is not an opposition only to a bad administration of public affairs, but to
an administration that supports itself by means, establishes principles,
introduces customs, repugnant to the constitution of our Government and
destructive of all liberty." In his letter on the Spirit of Patriotism, which
he wrote to Lord Lyttelton, is the following sentence : " You owe to your


country, to your honour, to your security, to the present and to future ages,
that no endeavour of yours be wanting to repair the breach that is made,
and is increasing daily in the Constitution."

But Bolingbroke's efforts to raise the opposition to
Walpole into something higher than a mere struggle for
place ended in failure. He had appealed principally to
the large body of Malcontent Whigs. They had rebelled
against Walpole's personal authority, not against his
system of Government. They were willing to use any
weapons, any cries, to oust him from power, but they were
in complete sympathy with his scheme of party Govern-
ment. They had no reverence for the monarch, they
lacked the historical spirit, they dreaded all display of
Church feeling, they had no sympathy with popular
aspirations. The Whigs were ever the same. Exclusive,
and self-seeking, they were always ready to sacrifice all
principles of political morality to secure the possession
of power. In order to drive Walpole out of office,
Pulteney and his friends were willing to make use of
Bolingbroke's exertions, though they disagreed with his
principles, and even to make an alliance, essentially
immoral, with the Jacobites. So, in 1783, the Whigs,
under Fox, formed with North and the Tories the famous
Coalition Ministry, and were rewarded for their disregard
of political morality by practical exclusion from power for
nearly fifty years.

Bolingbroke had, it appears, taken the measure of his
Whig supporters before 1735. In 1733 he had written to
Pope : —

" Disarmed, gagged, and almost bound as I am, I shall continue in the
drudgery of public business only so long as the integrity and perseverance
of the men who, with none of my disadvantages, are co-operating with me,
make it reasonable to me to engage in it."

In 1734, the Malcontent Whigs had shown unmistakably
that they were strongly opposed to Bolingbroke's proposed


repeal of the Septennial Act. After the elections of that
year, Pulteney and many of the Whigs began to hope that
before long, either by making terms with Walpole or by
overthrowing him, they would find themselves in office. In
view of such a contingency, it would be well not to be
trammelled with an alliance with Bolingbroke and the
Tories, or indeed with the Jacobites. Accordingly, they
dropped the principles of Patriotism, and they broke off
their connection with Bolingbroke.

" While the Minister was not hard pushed," Bolingbroke wrote in 1736,
"nor the prospect of succeeding to him near, they appeared to have but
one end, the reformation of the Government. The destruction of the
Minister was pursued only as a preliminary, but of essential and indispen-
sable necessity to that end. But, when his destruction seemed to approach,
the object of his succession interposed to the sight of many, and the refor-
mation of the Government was no longer their point of view."

Various reasons combined to make Bolingbroke's retire-
ment to France advisable. It was probable that Walpole's
attack on him, during the debate, in 1734, on the repeal of
the Septennial Act, might lead to something more serious.
His own expenditure at Dawley had been very great,
and pecuniary difficulties rendered economy necessary.
Pulteney and his followers had thought that his '* name
and presence in England did hurt." Symptoms of a schism,
too, m the Opposition were becoming visible ; and it was
apparent that Pulteney was now considering the best
means of turning Walpole out without demanding any
change in his system. He would thus, (as, indeed, hap-
pened), in Bolingbroke's words, merely substitute one
faction for another. In a letter to Marchmont in 1746,
Bolingbroke said : " I did not leave England in '35 till
some schemes that were then on the loom, though they
never came into effect, made me one too many, even for my
intimate friends." Prudence, economy, and dignity com-
bined to brins^ about his Second Exile.


During the ten years preceding 1735, his hfe in London
and at Dawley was calculated to add enormously to his
reputation as a Statesman and man of Letters. His
organization of the heterogeneous sections in one workable
Opposition, his writings in The Craftsman, The Dissertation
on Parties, and those three bitter invectives against Walpole,
known as The Occasional Writer, rendered the history of the
struggle peculiarly interesting. At Dawley he became the
centre of a group of writers, who were largely influenced by
his brilliant conversation. All this was now over, and
Dawley was put up for sale. In France, Bolingbroke
divided his time between his favourite residence at
Chanteloup, in Touraine, and his hunting-lodge at Argeville.
Here he wrote his letter On the Trne Use of Retirement and
Study, his letter On the Spirit of Patriotism, and began his
letters On the Study of History.

The first of these was addressed to Lord Bathurst and is
a short philosophical treatise after the manner of Seneca, in
which he lays down that each person should be guided solely
by his own reason. In this letter we see clearly the existence
of the sceptical spirit with which he became later so
thoroughly imbued.

The Letters on History, eight in number, were written for
the benefit of Lord Cornbury, and were begun in November,
1735. The first five letters advocate the philosophical study
of history, the object of which is, he declares, to improve
men in virtue and wisdom, and to make them better men
and better citizens. The credibility of early Greek history,
of Jewish history, and of Scriptural chronology is the subject
of a spirited attack, which is followed by eloquent and
interesting observations on the advantages of historical
study. In the last three letters is contained a sketch of
European history from the beginning of the sixteenth cen-
tury to the death of Anne, and an elaborate defence of his
own conduct in making the Treaty of Utrecht. In spite of


many inaccuracies, these letters bear remarkable testimony
to his mental activity and to his power of memory, being
written without books and with the aid of a few notes only.
Pope, on reading them, wrote to Swift (March 25, 1736): " I
have lately seen some writings of Lord B's since he went to
France. Nothing can depress his genius ; whatever befalls
him, he will still be the greatest man in the world, either in
his own time, or with posterity."

His essay on the Spirit of Patriotism, written in 1736,
shortly after his departure from England, is instinct with
rage and indignation at the failure of his own efforts, at the
power of the governing faction, at the low aims and aspira-
tions of a large portion of the people, at the conduct of the
Malcontent Whigs, and finally at the inactivity of many of
the Tories. The language throughout this very fine essay
is striking. He attacks Walpole with bitter direct-
ness : —


" There have been monsters in other ages, and other countries, as well as
ours. We will suppose a man impudent, rash, presumptuous, ungracious,
insolent, and profligate, in speculation as well as practice. He can bribe,
but he cannot seduce ; he can buy, but he cannot gain ; he can lie, but he
cannot deceive."

He then points out that Walpole's strength was derived
partly from corruption, partly from the steady policy of the
Whigs to enrich themselves while impoverishing the rest of
the nation, and : —

"by these and other means of establishing their dominion under the
Government, and with the favour of a family who were foreigners, and
therefore might believe that they were established on the throne by the
goodwill and strength of this party alone."

The Malcontent Whigs, the followers of Pulteney, receive
no mercy at his hands. Their patriotism was simulated,
their desire for liberty a pretence, they embraced it faintly,
they pursued it listlessly, " they are tired of it when they


have much to hope, and give it up when they have nothing
to fear." The members of his own party did not escape ;
he accuses them of continuing sour, sullen, and inactive.

"They waited," he says, " like the Jews, for a Messiah that may never
come. . . . While they waited, they were marked out like the Jews, a
distinct race, hewers of wood and drawers of water, scarce members of the
community, though born in the country."

He expresses great surprise that, after the excitement
connected with the Excise Scheme, the elections had not
gone against the Government. In Parliament the opponents
of the Scheme were, he says strenuously supported for a
time, but the indolence and inactivity of the members of
the Opposition w^as such that all the excitement calmed
down before the elections. Parliament itself, he continues,
has engrossed all the executive power, and the nation sub-
mits to a tyranny which it would never suffer from a king.
Bolingbroke despairs of the present generation. There are
some good men among them, but : —

" they have been clogged, or misled, or overborne by others ; and, seduced
by natural temper and inactivity, have taken to any excuse or yielded to
any pretence that favoured it."

He consoles himself with the thoughts that the new
generation which is coming on the stage will show more
spirit and virtue, and that " we must want spirit as well as
virtue to perish." We must not, however, be led to suppose
that Bolingbroke's despair continued to depress him for any
length of time. In June, 1738, he returned to England,
where events had occurred which seemed likely to have im-
portant results. Queen Caroline was dead, and she had
been one of Walpole's strongest supporters. The health of
George II. was precarious ; a series of bad seasons, together
with a growing impatience at the peace policy of the
Government had shaken Walpole's popularity. Pulteney
and Carteret held aloof from Bolingbroke. They wished to
purify and strengthen the Whig party, while Shippen and



the Jacobites refused to give up the old-fashioned Toryism.
Neither Pulteney's Whig followers nor the ordinary Tory
country gentlemen would believe that party distinctions had
ceased ; only the Tories, under Wyndham and the " Boy
Patriots " in whose ranks were to be found Pitt and Lyttel-
ton, Chesterfield, and Polwarth, Cobham, and Grenville,
still believed in Bolingbroke's doctrines.

A centre was found for those who desired the abolition
of party distinctions at Norfolk House in the person of
Frederick, Prince of Wales. Round him gathered all
Bolingbroke's followers. Frederick had already been struck
by Bolingbroke's conversational powers. In order to estab-
lish himself still further in the favour of the Prince, whom
he now regarded as the hope of the Opposition, and to
detach him from the influence of those Whigs who followed
Pulteney and Carteret, Bolingbroke wrote his Idea of a Patriot
King. Before he again left England, in the spring of 1739,
he had done much to pave the way for success in the future.
The affair of Jenkins' ear had roused the nation, which was
now clamouring for war. It was evident that Walpole's
fall was not far distant. To Bolingbroke the times were of
the profoundest interest ; his hopes seemed likely to be fol-
lowed by the accession of "a coalition of parties meeting on
a national bottom." Though in France, he kept up close
relations with the Opposition. In 1739, in consequence of
the Convention of the Pardo with Spain, the Secession from
the House of Commons took place, rendered famous on
account of the eloquence of Wyndham's farewell speech,
written, it was said, by Bolingbroke. That statesman, how-
ever, had disapproved of the Secession in the first instance,
as Walpole was left at liberty to pursue his own measures.
Secessions have never been successful in English history.
Public opinion declared as strongly against this as it did
against the Whig Secession during the American struggle
for Independence. On October the 4th, 1739, war was de-


clared against Spain, and the Opposition again appeared in
their places.

In 1740, the death of Sir WilUam Wyndham, the skilful
leader of the Tories, was a great blow to the Opposition,
from which, in fact, it did not recover during Bolingbroke's
life. " He was," as Lyttelton said in a letter to Bolingbroke,
" the centre of union of the best men of all parties." As long
as he was in Parliament, he was able to keep the Tories and
Malcontent Whigs in some sort of order. Ever since 1735,
there had been daily increasing signs that the Coalition
was about to break up, Wyndham's presence alone pre-
vented the carelessness, inactivity, and languor of the
great part of the Opposition from ruining the attempts that
were being made to effect a reformation of the Government.
Lyttelton thought that, if the Prince of Wales could keep
the Hanoverian Tories united under him with the uncorrupt
part of the Whigs, the Coalition might be saved from im-
pending destruction, and its objects steadily, regularly, and
warmly pursued. To expect that Frederick, Prince of
Wales, could play any such part was of course out of the
question. And the disastrous effect of the death of Wynd-
ham was at once seen. In the very moment of victory, the
various sections of that Coalition, which had been formed
with such labour by Bolingbroke, showed signs of revolt.
The schism among the Malcontent Whigs, in 1735, had
filled him with despair ; the conduct of the Tory and
Jacobite sections, in 1741, elicited from him a burst of
indignation. On February the 13th, Sandys had moved in
an address to the King the dismissal of Walpole. Some of
the Tories voted against the motion, and among them was
Bolingbroke's friend, Lord Cornbury ; some did not vote at
all, and v/ith them was Shippen, with thirty-four Jacobites.
" The conduct of the Tories," wrote Bolingbroke to March-
mont, " is silly, infamous, and void of any colour of excuse."
He was particularly angry with the honest, incorruptible


Shippen, who seems to have disliked the Coalition against
Walpole, to whom he was under an obligation. Boling-
broke goes on to regret the death of Wyndham : —

" He did not expect any more than I have long done to render this
generation of Tories of much good use to this country. . . . But still, if
he had lived, he would have hindered these stranger creatures — I can hardly
call them men — from doing all the mischief they have lately done, and will,
perhaps, continue to do."

The failure of the different sections of the Opposition to act
together thus gave Walpole one more year of power, and
made it evident to Bolingbroke that his grand idea of a
fusion between the Malcontent Whigs, the Tories, and the
Jacobites into one ' national party ' in opposition to ' the
gang ' was impossible.

In February, 1742, Walpole fell, and in April, Boling-
broke's father, the old Lord St. John, died. On Boling-
broke's arrival in London from France, he found that all
his hopes of a Coalition Ministry were dashed to the ground.
The spirit of exclusiveness and selfishness lay heavy on
the Whigs, and Pulteney and Carteret, acting as Boling-
broke had foreseen, completely threw over their Tory allies,
and made a compromise with the subordinate members of
Walpole's Ministry.

"I am sorry," Bolingbroke had written to Marchmont on April 6th,
1742, " to find that the forebodings of my mind are likely to be verified. I
apprehend all that I see happen. How could I not ? Long before I left
Britain it was plain that some persons meant that the Opposition should
serve as their scaffolding, nothing else ; and whenever they had a glimpse
of hope that they might rise to power without it, they showed the greatest
readiness to demolish it. Nothing, therefore, has happened which was
not foreseen."

He might have watched events with more equanimity
had he been able to dip into the future, and see how Pul-
teney's triumph was to be followed almost immediately by
the collapse of his influence.




Plis 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
weariness of the world — Some Reflections on the Pi'esent State of the
Nation — His attack on Pope — Defence of Pope by Warburton — Death
of Lady Bolingbroke — Bolingbroke's last days — His death.

In August, 1742, Bolingbroke returned to Argeville, having
had a narrow escape of capture by three Spanish privateers
at anchor near Calais. In order to pursue his studies, free
from interruption, he had fitted a small pavilion in the
garden of the abbey of Sens. It was at this time that he
wrote many of the works for which he is so famous.

At the beginning of 1743, he was again in England, and
stayed partly at his house at Battersea, then inhabited by
Lord Marchmont, partly with Pope at Twickenham. He
threw himself with all his old keenness into the plans of
the Opposition. Lord Wilmington was nominally Prime
Minister, but Carteret was virtually head of the Govern-
ment. On questions of home and foreign policy, Carteret
and Bolingbroke were diametrically opposed. Carteret had
always, even when leading the Opposition to Walpole in
the House of Lords, confessed to Bolingbroke that he in-
tended to carry on the old system, though Bolingbroke



afterwards bitterly complained of his having abandoned,
when in office, the principles he held when in Opposition.

"The principles of the late Opposition," he had written to Polwarth,
" were the principles of very few of the opposers ; and your I^ordship and
I, and some few, very few besides, were the bubbles of men whose advan-
tage lies in having worse hearts ; for I am not humble enough to allow
them better heads."

Carteret's foreign policy was designated by Bolingbroke
as madness. Our war with Spain had broken out in 1739.
The Emperor, Charles VI., died in 1740, and the invasion
of Silesia took place, followed by the invasion of the
Austrian dominions by the French, in the interests of
Bavaria. Carteret's policy was to reconcile Frederick the
Great and Maria Theresa, to withdraw the Elector of
Bavaria (the Emperor, Charles VII.) from the French

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Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 13 of 20)