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alliance, and to secure the co-operation of the Dutch. In
other words, he wished to form a united Germany, capable \
of resisting French aggression, by means of a revival of the '
Grand Alliance.

Bolingbroke had always allowed that, at the Peace of
1713, France was left too powerful. Though Carteret's
policy was in a manner to complete the work left unfinished
at Utrecht, the Tories had always consistently opposed the
system of Continental alliances, and Bolingbroke had ever
entertained feelings of hostility to the Hapsburgs. It was
natural that he should look with great aversion on a scheme
of policy which would lead to the extension of the Hapsburg

He was now anxious, if possible, to form a coalition of
the Pelhams and the Tories against Carteret. But the
principal supporters of his views had been removed from
the House of Commons. Wyndham had died in 1740 ;
Polwarth had, on the death of his father, become the third
Earl of Marchmont, and, not being an elected Scottish
Peer, had no seat in the House of Lords.


"What a star has our Minister," Bolingbroke had written
at the time, " Wyndham dead, Marchmont disabled ! the
loss of Marchmont and Wyndham to our country." In
June, 1743, he left England, and returned to France.

After a month at Argeville, where he heard the news of
the battle of Dettingen, won by his old friend Lord Stair,
he was ordered by his physicians to spend the month of
September at Aix-la-Chapelle on account of his gout and
rheumatism. From Aix-la-Chapelle he corresponded fre-
quently with Marchmont on the political outlook in England.
In October he returned to England, partly to place his
private affairs on a more satisfactory footing, partly to try
and bring about a coalition. Wilmington had died in July,
and Henry Pelham had become Prime Minister. There
was little chance of putting the scheme of a coalition into
execution, and Bolingbroke spent the remainder of 1743
and the early part of 1744 at Battersea with his friend
Marchmont. Once again, in June, 1744, he crossed the
Channel, but owing to the critical outlook on the Continent,
he speedily returned, and settled for the remainder of his
life in the old Manor House at Battersea. There he and
Lady Bolingbroke received many of the rising young poli-
ticians, who were delighted to listen to the conversation of
the statesman who had negotiated the Peace of Utrecht.
Thither came, in addition to Marchmont and old Lord Stair,
Lyttelton, Secretary to the Prince of Wales, Chesterfield,
Murray, the Solicitor-General, and William Pitt.

The political situation in the autumn of 1744 was full of
interest to Bolingbroke and his friends the " Boy Patriots,"
who had hitherto coalesced with no party. In June, 1744,
the relations between Carteret an I the Pelhams had become
very strained. A crisis was evidently at hand, and the
possibility of a Coalition Government was ever in Boling-
broke's mind. It was not, however, till November that
Carteret's removal from office was demanded by the Pelhams,


In spite of his vigorous intellect, his knowledge of European
politics, his steady purpose and his patriotism, Carteret
(since October, 1744, Lord Granville) was driven from active
political life by the great Revolution families, who had by
this time firmly riveted their yoke on the Crown. The
selfish and bureaucratic Whigs had trampled over the more
independent section of the party represented by Carteret.
One result of the struggle was the reconstitution of the
Ministry, and what was known as the " Broad Bottom Ad-
ministration " was formed, which included many of Boling-
broke's friends like Chesterfield. During 1745 the Pelhams
carried on the war with little success, while at home they
were regarded by the King with displeasure. In the autumn
of the year, in order to strengthen themselves, they proposed
to George that Pitt, who was exceedingly distasteful to him,
should be made Secretary-at-War. The King's refusal was
followed by the resignation of the Foreign Secretaries, New-
castle and Harrington, in February, 1746, in the midst of
the Jacobite rebellion. Then took place what is known as
the Three Days Revolution. George placed the Foreign
Department in the hands of Granville, and made Pulteney,
now Lord Bath, First Lord of the Treasury. They were
not supported by any Tories, nor did they receive any sym-
pathy in either House of Parliament. The remaining
Ministers resigned, and George was forced to yield. The
victory of the Pelhams was complete, and the Whig oligarchy
ruled supreme till the accession of George HL Bolingbroke
himself had the supreme satisfaction of seeing the failure of
both Bath and Granville, the former being First Lord for
one day, the latter Secretary of State for less than four days.
He had regarded the Jacobite movement of '45 with
indifference, and advised March mont to do the same. Like
the majority of the nation, he did not interest himself in
the slightest degree in the cause of Charles Edward or
of George H.


"I expect," he wrote to Marchmont, "no good news, and I am there-
fore contented to have none. I wait with much resignation to know to
what lion's paw we are to fall,"

His life, however, was drawing to a close, and old age, as
it crept on, brought with it the sad experiences which are
the lot of those who live long. In May, 1744, he had stood
by the deathbed of Pope; in October, 1745, the unhappy
Swift breathed his last in Ireland. Visitors ceased to come
as frequently as in former days, and Bolingbroke felt keenly
their absence. He was especially angry at not being
treated by Pitt with more deference. In July, 1746, he
wrote to Marchmont : —

"It is time I should retire for good and all from the world, and from the
very approaches to business, ne pecceui. I put it into prose, *■ ad extremuvi
ridendns .'' If I have showed too much zeal — for I own that this even in a
good cause may be pushed into some degree of ridicule — I can show as
much indifference ; and surely it is time for me to show the latter, since I
am come to the even of a tempestuous day, and see in the whole extent of
our horizon no signs that to-morrow will be fairer."

In spite of these assertions, he continued till his death to
watch with interest the war on the Continent. The Peace
of Aix-la-Chapelle, concluded in 1748, drew from him
Some Reflections on the Present State of the Nation. Though
unfinished, the Reflections are important as containing what
were probably his real views on the course of our foreign
poHcy from the accession of Anne. In them is seen clearly
his animosity towards the Hapsburgs. He declares that in
both the Spanish and Austrian Succession Wars the Court
of Vienna sacrificed nothing, but that our sacrifices were
enormous. Maria Theresa, he says —

" seemed to make war just as it suited her convenience, to save all the ex-
pense she could in the Netherlands, to plunder all she could in Italy, and
to make us pay the whole immense subsidies which we gave her for both."

After having blamed the part taken by England in " this
strange war," he draws an alarming picture of England's


condition, comparing it to the state of France under
Henry IV., at the time of the Peace of Vervins : —

' ' Are we not as near to bankruptcy as the French nation was at that
time, and much more so than they are at this time ? May not confusion
follow it here as well as there ? And, finally, may not the joint ambition of
two branches of Bourbon in some future conjunction produce effects as
fatal, and much more, to us, if we continue in our present state of impotence
till such a conjuncture happens, as was to be feared by France at the time
we speak of from the joint ambition of two branches of Austria ?"

The load of debt under which England then laboured
caused him much concern, and he feared that, " if we do
not pay our debts, we must sink under them." Though he
allows that trade gives us wealth, he cannot bring himself
to regard the merchant class with favour : " the landed
men are the true owners of our political vessels ; the
moneyed men as such are no more than passengers." The
gloomy views he took of the condition of England sound
curiously to those who remember that some twelve years
later, under the influence of Pitt, victories, which recalled
the triumphs of Marlborough, resulted in the foundation of
the British Empire.

In the same year, under the editorship of David Mallet,
the Under-Secretary to the Prince of Wales, and described
by Dr. Johnson as the only native of Scotland of whom
Scotchmen were not proud, Bolingbroke gave to the world
a volume containing the Spirit of Patriotism, the Idea of a
Patriot King, and the Account of the State of Parties at the
Accession of George I. In the preface appeared a violent
attack on Pope for having secretly had fifteen hundred
copies of the Patriot King printed from the manuscript lent
him by Bolingbroke, with the result that a portion of that
essay had already appeared in the pages of a magazine.
Pope's old literary ally, Warburton, defended with spirit
the memory of his dead friend. The public declared unmis-
takably for Warburton. Pope had certainly acted badly.


but he had been dead five years, and had written warmly
in praise of Bohngbroke in the Essay on Man. BoHngbroke
found that, as Chesterfield told him, he had succeeded in
uniting against himself Whigs, Tories, Trimmers, and
Jacobites. Mr. Stebbing, however, in his Essay on Henry y
St. John, thinks that Bolingbroke's rage is to be attributed
rather to Pope's choice of Warburton as his literary executor,
than to his discovery of Pope's breach of faith.

On March the i8th, 1751, Lady Bolingbroke died, after a
long illness. To Bolingbroke the loss of his wife, to whom
he was greatly attached and whose companionship had been
a solace to him in his ever-increasing infirmities, was very
severe. She had mingled in the society of Louis XIV. 's
court, and seems to have been a very pleasant, intelligent
Frenchwoman, with all the grace and savoiv faive of the
Faubourg St. Germain. On her death her relatives dis-
puted the validity of her marriage, and claimed her property.
After a long lawsuit the Parliament of Paris reversed the
decision of the Lower Court, which had been given in
favour of the relatives. All Paris was delighted at the
result, and the President of the Grande Chambre expressed
sentiments of admiration for the late distinguished states-
man ; for Bolingbroke had died a few weeks before the

In the autumn of 1750 he had made his will. In August,
1 75 1, he wrote from Battersea to his half-sister, Lady
Luxborough, to urge her to come to him, as he was too ill
to leave his home, and offering to send a coach and horses
to bring her to him. Unfortunately, Lady Luxborough
was herself " a prisoner in the sick-room at the time." Early
in December, 1751, he became convinced his end was near,
and took leave of Chesterfield with the words : — " God, who
placed me here, will do what He pleases with me hereafter ;
and He knows best what to do. May He bless you." A
fcA^ days later, on December the 12th, after a short period


of severe suffering, overcome with the consciousness of con-
tinued failure ever since the conclusion of the Peace of
Utrecht, but instinct to the last with energy, Henry St. John,
a man endowed with the most varied and glorious gifts,
passed away. Six days later he was buried in the same
vault as his second wife in Battersea Church.

The St. Johns were a long-lived race. Sir Walter had
died at the ripe age of eighty-seven ; Lord St. John lived
till he was over ninety, and Bolingbroke had, when he died,
passed his seventy-third birthday. Born during the reign
of Charles II., a Member of Parliament in the reign of
William III., and living into the second half of the
eighteenth century, it may well be said of him that " he
seems to link together the twilight age of the Stuarts and
the grey dawn of visibly modern times."



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 Mr. 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.

There is something inexpressibly sad in contemplating
Bolingbroke's career. It would appear as though he was
always struggling against an adverse fate. All through his
life he was busy conceiving and attempting to carry out the
most brilliant tours de force ; and just when he seemed on
the verge of success, at the very moment of triumph, his
schemes, like a house built with a pack of cards, were
dashed to the ground, and the whole work of reconstruction
had to be recommenced. On two celebrated occasions,
when the cup of victory was at his lips, Fortune had inter-
posed and condemned him, like Tantalus, to forbear. In
1 714 he had only wanted six weeks more, six short weeks,
in order to place the Tory party on a firm foundation, from
which it would have commanded the whole position and
dictated its own terms. All the struggles, the diplomacy,
the risks, the fears of those fateful four years had been
faced with one end in view. He had, like a traveller on a
■dark night in a strange country, fixed his eyes on a distant
light, and had made up his mind that his safety lay in reach-
ing that light, no matter what obstacles crossed his path. A



war, the objects of which had been popular, was raging ;
negotiations for peace were at once set on foot. Unless,
however, the mercantile class was satisfied, the blood of the
Ministers would be demanded ; terms were forced from
Louis which satisfied the whole trading interest. At home
the Tories were furious at the absence of attacks on the
Nonconformists ; Bolingbroke gave them the Schism Act.
Oxford wavered and vacillated ; Bolingbroke seized the
leadership of the party some months before the Prime
Minister resigned. We know the result.

Again, when after his return from exile he threw himself
into the struggle against Walpole, with what hopes did he
enter on the campaign ! Towards the end of George I.'s
reign he had his well-known interview with the King, and
Walpole's fall seemed a not impossible event. But the
King died soon afterwards, and the accession of George II.
offered no hopes to the fallen Statesman of a return to office*
He therefore redoubled his attacks upon Walpole. The
difficulties in the way of forming a powerful Opposition to
the Minister appeared insuperable, but he overcame them.
The Jacobites and the Whigs agreed apparently to sink
their differences, and to ignore the fact that their principles
were diametrically opposed. With infinite labour, extend-
ing over some nine years, he had welded together, out of
the heterogeneous atoms of Whigs, Tories, Jacobites, and
literary men, a well-compacted Opposition, united in fierce
hostility to the great Whig Minister. In 1733 the hitherto
impregnable position seemed likely to be taken by storm,
and in 1734 the hopes of the assailants were high. The
next year Bolingbroke was in France trying to find in his
books consolation for the baseness of his allies. But his
efforts had not been in vain. He had shattered the wall,
and in 1742 his former friends and allies entered into the
city and enjoyed the fruits of his now famous exertions.
The friendship of the Whigs was more fatal to the Tories in


the eighteenth century than their hostihty. Timeo Danaos
et dona ferentes might well have been on Bolingbroke's lips
in 1742.

And, if the life of Bolingbroke be examined more closely,
disappointment will be seen ever dogging his steps. He
hoped, by means of an interview with George I., to effect
the fall of Walpole. He had the interview, and though it
had no immediate result there is no doubt that as long as
George I. lived Bolingbroke's hopes of a complete restora-
tion were not unfounded.

The death of George I., however, like the death of Queen
Anne was a fatal blow to Bolingbroke's expectations. The
accession of George H. brought with it no realization of the
hopes of the Opposition. In his private aims, too, Boling-
broke encountered failure. He was till the day of his death
bent on reviving in himself the Earldom granted to a
member of the family by James I., and which had become
extinct in 171 1. On finding that only the lower step in the
Peerage had been given him in 171 2 he wrote to Strafford
in great anger. " I own to you that I felt more indignation
than ever I had done." He continued throughout his life
to pursue the visionary Earldom, and expected to receive it
when Frederick, Prince of Wales, became King. But
Frederick died in March, 1751, and Bolingbroke never
secured the Earldom.

If it be remembered that most of his days were spent in
Opposition, the loss to the nation seems immense. One
feels that the times were indeed " out of joint " when, by a
series of accidents and by a system of party Government,
England was deprived during the greater part of his life of
the services of one of her ablest sons. And of his transcen-
dent ability there is no question. His " genius and daring,"
]\Ir. Lecky writes, " were incontestable." In brilliancy and
impetuosity he had no equal. His style, though at times
diffuse and declamatory, is usually brilliant and spirited.


Chesterfield declared that until he had read the Letters on
Patriotism and The Patriot King, he " did not know all the
extent and powers of the English language." No more
striking passages in his works can be found than his famous
dissertation on eloquence and his delineation of Demos-
thenes and Cicero in the pages of the essay on the Spirit of
Patriotism. The following extracts will probably be read
with interest : —

" Eloquence has charms to lead mankind, and gives a nobler superiority
than power, that every dunce may use, or fraud, that every knave may
employ. But eloquence must flow, like a stream that is fed by an abundant
spring, and not spout forth a little frothy water on some gaudy day, and
remain dry the rest of the year. The famous orators of Greece and Rome
were the statesmen and ministers of those commonwealths. The nature of
their governments, and the humour of those ages, made elaborate orations
necessary. They harangued oftener than they debated ; and the ai's dicendi
required more study and more exercise of mind and of body too, among
them, than are necessary among us. But, as much pains as they took in
learning how to conduct the stream of eloquence, they took more to enlarge
the fountain from which it flowed. Hear Demosthenes, hear Cicero
thunder against Philip, Catiline, and Antony. I choose the example of the
first rather than that of Pericles, whom he imitated, or of Phocion, whom
he opposed, or of any other considerable personage in Greece ; and the
example of Cicero rather than that of Crassus, or of Hortensius, or of any
other of the great men of Rome, because the eloquence of these two has
been so celebrated, that we are accustomed to look upon them almost as
mere orators. They were orators indeed, and no man who has a soul can
read their orations, after the revolution of so many ages, after the extinction
of the governments, and of the people for whom they were composed, with-
out feeling, at this hour, the passions they were designed to move, and the
spirit they were designed to raise" {Works, vol. iv., pp. 214, 215).

The latter part of his description of the secret of Cicero's
oratorical success is particularly striking : —

" His eloquence in private causes gave him first credit at Rome ; but it
was this knowledge, this experience, and the continued habits of business
that supported his reputation, enabled him to do so much service to his
country, and gave force and authority to his eloquence. To little purpose
would he have attacked Catiline with all the vehemence that indignation,
and even fear, added to eloquence, if he had trusted to this weapon alone.


This weapon alone would have secured neither him nor the Senate from
the poniard of that assassin. He would have had no occasion to boast that
he had driven this infamous citizen out of the walls of Rome, ' abiit, ex-
cessit, evasit, erupit,' if he had not made it beforehand impossible for him
to continue any longer in them. As little occasion would he have had to
assume the honour of defeating, without any tumult or any disorder, the
designs of those who conspired to murder the Roman people, to destroy the
Roman empire, and to extinguish the Roman name ; if he had not united,
by skill and management in the common cause of their country, orders of
men the most averse to each other, if he had not watched all the machina-
tions of the conspirators in silence, and prepared a strength sufficient to
resist them, at Rome and in the provinces, before he opened this scene of
villainy to the Senate and the people. In a word, if he had not made much
more use of political prudence, that is, of the knowledge of mankind, and
of the arts of government, which study and experience give, than of all the
powers of his eloquence" (vol. iv. , pp. 218, 219).

His correspondence with his intimate friends, such as
Pope and Swift, is as a rule dehghtful, though often marred
by an affectation of distaste for the world. His Political
Correspondence contains the letters of a man of business.
They go straight to the point, and are admirably clear and

"Were Lord Bolingbroke to write to an emperor or to a statesman,"
Pope remarked, "he would fix on that point which was the most material,
would place it in the strongest and finest light, and manage it so as to
make it most serviceable for his purpose."

In wit and eloquence he is far superior to any of his
contemporaries. Of his conversational powers Chesterfield
speaks highly : —

" His manner of speaking in private conversation is just as elegant as his
writings. Whatever subject he either speaks or writes upon, he adorns it
with the most splendid eloquence ; not a studied or laboured eloquence, but
such a flowing happiness of diction, which (from care, perhaps, at first) is
become so habitual to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if
taken down in writing, would bear the press, without the least correction,
either as to method or to style."

And the same writer's testimony to his eloquence is inter-
esting as coming from a hostile witness : —



"I am old enough to have heard him speak in Parliament, and I re-
member that, though prejudiced against him by party, I felt all the force
and charms of his eloquence. Like Belial in Milton,

' He made the worst appear the better cause.'

All the internal and external advantages and talents of an oratoT are un-
doubtedly his ; figure, voice, elocution, knowledge, and, above all, the purest
and most florid diction, with the justest metaphors and happiest images, had
raised him to the post of Secretary-at-War, at four-and-twenty years old."

Lord Brougham's opinion was that " if Bolingbroke
spoke as he wrote, he must have been the greatest of
modern orators, as far as composition goes."

Though, unfortunately, owing to the imperfections of the
Parliamentary History for Queen Anne's reign, none of his
speeches have come down to us, we can get some idea of
his eloquence from the following passage from the Disserta-
tion of Parties :

" If King Charles had found the nation plunged in corruption, the people
choosing their representatives for money, without any other regard, and
these representatives of the people, as well as the nobility, reduced by
luxury to beg the unhallowed alms of a Court, or to receive, like miserable
hirelings, the wages of iniquity from a minister — if he had found the

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Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 14 of 20)