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revived in 171 2 in the person of Henry St. John, the subject
of this memoir.

During the seventeenth century the younger line, which
held Lydiard Tregoze, was also winning renown. A turbu-
lent member of the family, Oliver St. John, distinguished
himself in the Irish wars of Elizabeth and of James I., was
appointed a Commissioner for the settlement of Ulster, and
ruled Ireland as Lord Deputy from 1614 to 1622, becoming
in 162 1 an Irish Peer with a title of Viscount Grandison.
In 1624 he was one of the Council of War in England, and



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES



in 1626 he was created an English Peer with the title of
Baron Tregoze, receiving grants of the manors of Battersea
and Wandsworth.

His great-nephew William, second Viscount Grandison,
is well known to readers of Clarendon. After fighting
gallantly for the king, he died in 1644 at Oxford of wounds
received at the siege of Bristol, and left the Battersea
estates to his uncle, Sir John St. John. Three of Sir John's
sons died for the Crown, and after the death of a grandson
the family estates reverted to a younger son of Sir John,
Walter, who married Joanna, daughter of Oliver St. John,
the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.

This Oliver, grandson of Thomas, a younger son of the
first Lord St. John of Bletso, had as a young lawyer shown
as early as 1629 a strong disposition to support the cause of
Parliament. He became famous in 1637 ^^ ^^^ defender of
John Hampden in the case of Ship Money. In the autumn
of 1640 he and Pym drew up the Petition of the Twelve
Peers for a Parliament, and, in spite of his appointment by
Charles to the post of Solicitor-General, remained true to his
principles, took a prominent part in attacking Strafford, and
supported all the violent measures of the Long Parliament.
In 1648 he w^as appointed Chief Justice of the Common
Pleas. He occupied an influential position during Crom-
well's Protectorate, and on Cromwell's death was named
one of the Council of State.

The marriage of his daughter Joanna to Sir Walter
St. John seemed destined to restore harmony in the family.
In the Manor House at Battersea the Lady Joanna's grand-
son, Henry St. John, was brought up. The memory of Sir
Walter and Lady Joanna lingered long in Battersea. By
the former the church was repaired and a free school
founded and endowed. In 1708 Sir Walter died, leaving
behind him a character for moderation, kindliness, and
public spirit. His wife, the patroness of celebrated



6 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

preachers like Simon Patrick, of learned theologians like
Dr. Manton, and of eccentric Nonconformists like Daniel
Burgess, seems to have been of a sterner type than her
husband. In her was exemplified the stern puritanical
spirit of the Parliamentary lawyer.

Under the care of these worthy people Henry St. John,
who was born in October, 1678, passed his early years. Of
his mother we know little. When he was but six years old
his father. Sir Henry St. John, who led an idle life of
pleasure, killed in a brawl Sir William Estcourt, pleaded
guilty, and with difficulty secured the king's pardon. He
seems to have been indifferent to politics, and took no part
in the party quarrels of Anne's reign. In the autumn of
1 710, just after the appointment of St. John to the post of
Secretary of State, at a most exciting epoch in English
history, Swift wrote to Stella that St. John's father " is a
man of pleasure, that walks the Mall, and frequents
St. James's Coffee House and the chocolate houses, and the
young son is principal Secretary of State." In 17 16, when
his brilliant son was an exile, he was created Baron St. John
of Battersea, and died in 1742, after a placid life extending
over ninety years. On the death of his first wife he had
married Angelica Magdalene, daughter of George Pillesary,
described as the Treasurer-General of the French Marines,
by whom he had three sons and one daughter. The eldest
son George acted as Secretary to the English pleni-
potentiaries at the Congress of Utrecht, and had the
honour of bringing over to England the final draft of the
Treaty. He died shortly afterwards, and his brother John
succeeded to his expectations. Frederick, the son of this
John, inherited in 1751 the honours which the author of the
Treaty of Utrecht had obtained, and became Viscount
Bolingbroke ; from him is descended the present Viscount.

A gloomy picture has been drawn by some writers of the
early life of Henry St. John. He may have been for a time



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES 7

under the care of Daniel Burgess, who, though a Noncon-
formist, was far from being a sour fanatic. He himself tells
us that he was at times condemned to read the works of
Dr. Manton. In a letter to Pope he says :

'*It puts me in mind of a Puritanical parson, Dr. Manton, who, if I
mistake not— for I have never looked at the folio since I was a boy, and
condemned sometimes to read in it — made a liundred and nineteen sermons
on the cxix. psalm."

And, writing to Swift in 1 721, he threatens to make his
^next letter as long as one of Dr. Manton's, "who taught my
youth to yawn, and prepared me to be an High Churchman,
that I might never hear him read, nor read him more."

But beyond this fact all that is known of Sir Walter and
Lady Joanna would lead to the conclusion that the young
Henry's early years were passed under kind and thoughtful
guardianship. Of his schooldays at Eton little information
can be gleaned. Walpole was one of his schoolfellows, and
Horace Walpole, in his Memoirs of the Reign of George IL,
states that " they had set out as rivals at school." As Wal-
pole was two years St. John's senior, this statement must, in
the absence of other evidence, be received with caution.
After his schooldays at Eton, St. John, it is usually stated,
proceeded to Christ Church and remained there some years.
A few writers, in unhistorical flights of fancy, have ventured
to describe in some detail his life at college ; but of his
residence at Oxford there is no absolute proof. The tradi-
tion that he was at Christ Church is, however, strong, and
is repeated by almost all his biographers. In a letter
written from Windsor Castle to the Duke of Shrewsbury
on December the 3rd, 1713, Bolingbroke says: "As to
Dr. Freind, I have known him long, and cannot be without
some partiality for him, since he was of Christ Church." In
the autumn of 1702, on the occasion of the Queen's visit to
Oxford, many of the leading Tories were made honorary
Doctors. Among these was St. John, and he was then



8 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

entered on the books of Christ Church. It has been
suggested that, in consequence of this honour paid to him,
he was accustomed to call himself a Christ Church man
but that, as a matter of fact, he never had resided in Oxford.
Nevertheless, in the absence of positive evidence, it is still
possible that the tradition may be true, and that St. John
did study for a time at Oxford. In the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries students frequently worked in Oxford
without joining a college. Antony Wood states distinctly
that in his own day many who came to Oxford not intending
to graduate did not matriculate. Poor scholars would follow
this course to avoid expense, and a boy of good family like
St. John, who came to Oxford with his own tutor, or who
read with a tutor of some College, would not necessarily
matriculate or live in College. His name would therefore
not appear on the Buttery List. Sir Philip Sidney is always
said to have been at Christ Church, but his name is not to
be found in any of the books of the University or of Christ
Church. Sir Harry Vane studied in Oxford, but did not
matriculate ; Davenant the poet is said to have been of
Lincoln College, because his tutor was a Fellow of Lincoln.
There is, however, no evidence that he matriculated. It
may then be true that St. John came to Oxford, studied with
a Christ Church tutor, never lived within the walls of Christ
Church, and left Oxford without having matriculated. He
would be spoken of as being of Christ Church, and might
consider himself a Christ Church man.

There is little doubt that during these early years he
acquired a considerable knowledge of the Greek and Latin
languages, especially of the latter ; aided by an unusually
good memory and by remarkable powers of concentration,
he managed, in all probability before he was twenty years
of age, to make himself thoroughly conversant with most of
the best Latin authors. One of the most striking character-
istics of St. John is his readiness to turn from poUtics or



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES 9

pleasure to hard study. In 1708 he buried himself with his
books in the country. After the failure of 1 715 he left Paris
to study philosophy in the heart of France. In 1735, dis-
appointed with the course of his struggle against Walpole,
he again withdrew to France, where he wrote some of his
masterpieces.

In 1697 ^^ was in London, where for some months he led
a riotous life in imitation of his cousin, John Wilmot, Earl
of Rochester, who had lately died. His sympathy with
literature and literary men was even then evidenced by the
intimate relations he formed with Dryden. Prefixed to the
translation of Virgil, which appeared in July, 1697, was a
poetical composition in the shape of some verses of little
merit, bearing the signature " H. St. John." The existence
of the well-known legends that St. John received one morn-
ing from the hands of Dryden the manuscript of the Ode to
St. Cecilia's Day, and that on another day he was urged to
outstay Jacob Tonson, from whom the poet apprehended
some rudeness, seems to attest the truth of Pope's state-
ment that St. John was at this time Dryden's friend and
protector.

In the autumn of 1697 ^® ^^^^ England for a Continental
tour of two years. A portion of the time was spent in Italy,
but it is probable that he lived the greater part of 1698 and
1699 in Paris, where Lord Jersey, the English Ambassador
and a descendant of Viscount Grandison, introduced him to
Parisian life and society. There he met Matthew Prior,
then Secretary to the Embassy, who was destined to play
an important part under St. John in bringing about the
Peace of Utrecht. The thorough mastery of the French
tongue which St. John acquired during his stay in Paris
proved a most invaluable accomplishment during the years
he was Secretary of State.

At the beginning of 1700 he returned to England, where
he wrote an ode entitled Almahide, which, like his earlier



10 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

efforts, shows that poetry was not his province. His wild
and reckless life alarmed his relatives, who seemed conscious
that the turbulent and unrestrained vigour of their young
kinsman might be utilized. It was hoped that marriage and
a seat in Parliament would steady him and turn his atten-
tion to politics, then passing through an intensely interesting
and exciting phase, worthy of the intellect, energy, and
ambition of St. John. At the end of 1700 he married
Frances Winchescombe, daughter and one of the coheiresses
of Sir Henry Winchescombe, a well-to-do baronet living in
Berkshire, and a descendant of Jack of Newbury, so famous
in the reign of Henry VHI.

The lady brought St. John considerable wealth, and on
the death of her father succeeded to an estate near Reading.
Swift, who was much attached to her, tells us how devoted
she was to her husband in 171 1, though there is no doubt
that the harmony of their married life was at times broken
by quarrels, which, about the year 171 3, appear to have
become serious. Still she seems to have loved him faith-
fully, and after his fall she wrote to Swift that she became
furious, if they mentioned her "dear lord without respect."
When St. John fled from England in 1715 she did not follow
him, and died in 171 8, leaving him nothing.

In the Parliament which met on February the 6th, 1701,
St. John sat for Wootton Bassett, a family borough in
Wiltshire. He at once attached himself to the Tory party,
and more particularly to Harley, who was leader of the
Tories and Speaker of the House of Commons. Rarely
has a Parliament met at a more exciting political ciisis;
rarely has political opinion swayed backwards and forwards
more violently, than during the four years succeeding the
Peace of Ryswick. Into the vortex of the struggling
parties. St. John now plunged, and at once became pro-
minent, acting as a rule with the extreme section of High
Churchmen led by Bromley. Nature had supplied him



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES II



with many advantages. Tall and graceful in his person,
his features were elevated, handsome, and refined. His
eyes were eager and piercing, his nose aquiline, his forehead
lofty, his hair dark brown, his smile sweet and winning.
With his commanding presence and his very considerable
oratorical powers, St. John was calculated to impress the
assembly of which he was now a member. He soon estab-
lished a reputation as a skilful Parliamentary debater among
the Tory mediocrities who surrounded him. With his
felicity of expression and his mastery of sarcasm, he com-
bined a tremendous capacity for invective. To his oratory
alone he owed his early advancement. Such a power had
not been seen on the side of the Tory squires in the House
of Commons for many a long day, and as he assailed
Somers, Wharton, and Halifax with all his passionate and
often ironical eloquence, it is no wonder that he at once
secured the admiration and support of the "Young England"
Tories. Seldom has a young statesman of St. John's ability
found, on entering Parliament, such excellent opportunities
for at once taking a leading position.

The whole history of England from February, 1701, to
the death of William HI. in March, 1702, illustrates what
he says in one place, " That we run into extremes always."
In 1697 the nation was as anxious to get out of the war as
it had been in 1689 to get into it, and, although the great
question of the Spanish Succession still awaited solution, it
seemed as though England had decided to interfere no more
in Continental affairs. Hence many soldiers and sailors
were disbanded, the Dutch guards were dismissed, the
Partition Treaties were censured, and Philip was recognized
by William as King of Spain. Even Louis' acceptance of
the will of Charles II,, his seizure of the Barrier Towns,
and his threatening attitude towards English commerce pro-
voked little alarm. Had he satisfied England in matters of
trade and had he kept the terms of the Peace of Ryswick,



12 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

Philip would have quietly secured the Spanish empire with-
out opposition from England. But Louis' recognition of
the Pretender, in a moment of ill-advised chivalry, provoked
the most violent excitement in England, and led directly to
the War of the Spanish Succession. St. John himself con-
fessed at a later time that " his notions of the situation of
Europe on that extraordinary crisis " were extremely imper-
fect, and that he saw the true interests of his country in a
half-light. And he allowed that he could not see what " King
William could do in such circumstances as he found himself
in after thirty years' struggle except what he did."

In St. John's first Parliament the two most important
questions were the Protestant Succession, and the mainten-
ance of the balance of power in Europe. On these two
questions the policy of the Whig party, in whose ranks the
young Walpole found himself, was absolutely clear. To
prevent at all hazards the return of the Stuarts, to form and
uphold a league of European nations which should guarantee
the Parliamentary settlement and curb the power of France
— was a policy which had the advantage of being intelligible.
On the question of settling the Crown in the succession of
the House of Hanover the nation was firm, and the Tories,
in spite of the evident reluctance of many of their number,
were compelled to frame that great constitutional measure
—the Act of Settlement. In his account of The State of
Parties at the Accession of Kiiig George I. St. John says with
reference to this measure : " The Tories voted for it then ;
yet were they not thought, nor did they affect as the others
did, to be thought extremely fond of it." And he allows in
the same place, that at that time the Whigs acted like the
national party. It was in connection with this measure
that St. John first came prominently into notice. In spite
of his youth he was appointed with the Secretary of State,
Sir Charles Hedges, to prepare and bring in the Bill for
The Further Security of the Protestant Succession.



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES 13



On the question of the balance of power, the nation was
at that moment indifferent, and St. John, after supporting
with all his eloquence the views of Harley on the Succession
question, attacked with great vehemence the Whig Peers
who were held by the Tories to be responsible for the
Partition Treaties. Somers, Portland, Halifax, and Orford
were, in April, 1701, successively impeached, and only
escaped from the violence of the " Young England " Tories
by the firm attitude of the House of Lords. St. John's in-
temperate attitude at that time was brought up against him
at a later period when he was complaining of the intolerance
of the Whig majority. When the Kentish Petition was
presented, he defended the privileges of the House of Com-
mons, which he considered were attacked. St. John him-
self in later times excused his attitude towards the Partition
Treaties on the score of youth and inexperience. The same
excuse must serve to explain his fierce attacks on the
Petitioners. The factious and intemperate conduct of the
Commons in these matters led William to prorogue Parlia-
ment in June, and to dissolve it in November. Before the
new Parliament met, party struggles had been forced to
yield to grave European questions. The violent enthusiasm
which, in consequence of Louis' recognition of the Preten-
der, was in the autumn of 1701 awakened for the Protestant
succession, and for a European coalition against France,
carried all before it, and the nation declared unmistakably
for war. St. John was again returned for Wootton Bassett
in the new Parliament which was summoned for December
the 30th, 1701. Harley was again elected Speaker, his
nomination being seconded by St. John.

In this Parliament, though the Whigs had carried most
of the counties and the large towns, parties were pretty
evenly balanced. William's stirring speech produced a con-
siderable effect, the Treaties which constituted the Grand
Alliance were accepted, and supplies were voted. The



14 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

Tory party yielded still further to the popular excitement,
and passed measures directly aimed at the House of Stuart
and its partisans. The Pretender was attainted of High
Treason, and an Abjuration Bill was carried, which com-
pelled all office-holders to acknowledge William HI. as the
rightful and lawful King, and stigmatized as high treason
any attempt to hinder the next heir according to the Act of
Settlement from succeeding to the Crown. A considerable
portion of the Tory party were opposed to this Bill, and it
was only carried by a majority of a single vote. St. John
sided, during the debate on this measure, with the party
hostile to the Bill. On March the 8th, William HI. breathed
his last. On May the 15th, war was declared in London, at
Vienna, and at the Hague, and Marlborough was made
Captain General of the Queen's forces by land and sea.
Parliament was dissolved in July, and St. John was a third
time elected for Wootton Bassett.

During the recess, Queen Anne, on her way from Wind-
sor to Bath, stopped at Oxford, and that loyal University
marked the occasion by conferring Academical honours on
leading members of the Tory party. St. John, together
with Bromley and Sir Simon Harcourt, were made honorary
Doctors, and, in addition, St. John was entered on the books
of Christ Church. These marks of distinction seem to show
that already St. John had won a reputation remarkable in so
youthful a politician.

In October Anne's first Parliament met. For the third
time Harley was elected Speaker, and the Tories were in
overwhelming strength. They came up to Parliament "in
full fury," says Burnet, " against the memory of the late
king, and against those who had been employed by him."
Most of the ministerial changes made since William's death
had been in favour of the Tories. Halifax and Somers
were no longer Privy Councillors ; Hedges and Nottingham,
both Tories, were made Secretaries of State ; the Lord



rlL



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES 15

High Treasurership was placed in the hands of the Tory
Godolphin, while such pronounced Tories as Dartmouth and
Harcourt were chosen Privy Councillors. Thus was laid
the foundation of the famous Godolphin Administration,
which, after adding a brilliant page to English history, came
to a sudden end in 1710. In spite of the moderation of
Godolphin and Marlborough, it became at once evident that
Parliamentary history had entered upon a stormy period.
Till the reconstruction of the Ministry in 1704, the influence
of the extreme Tories was in the ascendant, and for two
years the relations between the two Houses were more
strained than at any previous or subsequent epoch. In the
House of Lords the majority, though not large, was decidedly
Whig, and under able leaders often proved a serious obstacle
to St. John and his supporters. The Whigs were firmly
attached to the principles of the Revolution and to the Pro-
testant succession. They were vehemently opposed to
France, and regarded the annihilation of Louis XIV. 's
power as essential for the independence of England. By an
extended system of foreign alliances they hoped to protect
the Parliamentary Settlement. The bond which united the
Whigs wsis political rather than religious.

In the House of Commons probably three-fourths of the
members were Tories. The great aim of the Tories was to
undo the effects of the Revolution, and to restablish the pre-
dominance of the Church and the landed interest in the
government. A hatred of standing armies, a contempt for
the new "moneyed" class, the conviction that England
should wage war upon the sea alone, indiscriminating
attachment to the Church and an undying hatred of Noncon-
formists — such were the recognized Tory principles. Various
views were held as to the royal succession. Probably only
a small number were at any time sincere Jacobites. The
bond which united the mass of Tories was always religious
rather than political, and the cry of *' the Church in Danger "



l6 HENRY ST, JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE



invariably united the party. While the Tories reflected the
views of the Church and the landed interest, the Whigs re-
flected the sentiments of the middle class, of the merchants,
and of the Nonconformists. The Tory party was not, how-
ever, united. Already it tended to fall into two divisions of
extreme and moderate Tories. Rochester, Jersey, Normanby,
and Nottingham in the Lords, Hedges and Seymour in the
Commons represented the former section ; Harley, Harcourt,
and, later, St. John, were the most prominent of the moderate
Tories. The peculiar position in which the Tory party
found itself on Anne's accession could hardly fail to be the
cause of serious disagreement between the two Tory
sections. The war was essentially a Whig war : yet the
Tories had entered upon it, and, like Walpole in 1739, were
carrying on a war opposed to their convictions. They could
not deny that the war in its inception was necessary, but
they viewed with dislike the obvious results of war, — the
augmented taxes, the standing army, the increased influence
of contractors, jobbers, and fundholders. Rochester had
opposed even the declaration of war on the ground that
neither England's commerce nor her security were threatened,
and had suggested that the share of England in the war
should be confined to the sending of troops to the aid of the
Dutch, and perhaps to some pecuniary aid to the Allies. It
was evident that Godolphin and Marlborough could not hope
to carry on the war successfully while such views were held
by members of the Government. They soon saw that their
true policy was to look to the moderate Tories for support.
But these rocks ahead were hardly foreseen in 1702. At
that time the Tories were apparently a united body, engaged
in a great struggle with the Whigs over the Occasional Con-
formity Bill, the introduction of which was entrusted to St.


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Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 2 of 20)