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John and two other Tory members.

This measure was framed in absolute accordance with the
opinions of the bulk of the Tory party. The Revolution of



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES 17



1688 had saved the Church from the dangers which threat-
ened her on the side of Rome. The Tories now regarded
her in equal danger from the Nonconformists, whose grow-
ing prosperity filled them with alarm. To prevent the intro-
duction of Nonconformists into offices of emolument and
dignity, and to check their influence on education, was the
object of the Bill against Occasional Conformity.

In his Letter to Sir William Wyndhani, St. John, while
allowing that the Bill was " necessary for our party interest,"
adds that it was

"Deemed neither unreasonable nor unjust. The good of society may
require that no person shall be deprived of the protection of the Govern-
ment on account of his opinions in religious matters ; but it does not follow
from hence that men ought to be trusted in any degree with the preserva-
tion of the Establishment who must, to be consistent with their principles,
endeavour the subversion of what is established."

The Bill, supported by the eloquence of St. John, was
carried in the Lower, but thrown out in the Upper House.
In a subsequent conference held in January, 1703, in the
Painted Chamber, between the Lords and the Commons,
St. John, as one of the managers for the Lower House,
defended the cause of intolerance. Having failed to con-
vince the Lords of the evils attendant on occasional Con-
formity, the Tories proceeded to attack Halifax, patron of
Addison and founder of the Bank of England, who was ob-
noxious to the Tories as a supporter of the " moneyed "
interest. Seven commissioners were appointed to examine
the public accounts, and among these seven was St. John.
The report of the Commissioners was followed by a direct
attack on Halifax ; he was voted guilty of gross mismanage-
ment, and only saved from prosecution at the hands of the
Attorney-General by the Lords, who absolved him. The
Tories in the Lower House, furious at the conduct of the
Lords, moved a strong representation to the Queen, and
brought forward the question of the resumption of King



l8 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE



William's grants of land, over which there had already been
much fierce controversy. They then introduced a Bill, dis-
qualifying placemen from sitting in Parliament. In the
debates over these measures St. John found in Robert
Walpole, who had already gained the ear of the House,
a powerful antagonist. So violent became the dissensions
between the two Houses that Anne brought the Session to
a close on the 27th of February. In the autumn of 1703
St. John strongly supported the second introduction of the
Occasional Conformity Bill, which again was thrown out by
the Lords, and about the same period he took a prominent
part in attacking the right of the Lords to examine accused
persons.

The condition of Scotland was very unsettled, and a plot
had been discovered which was thought to aim at the
restoration of the Stuarts. The Peers determined to examine
the accused persons themselves, and in so doing were op-
posed by the Tory minority in the Lords, supported by the
strong anti-Whig feeling in the Commons. It was deter-
mined to search the Lords' Journals on the subject, and
St. John, who was one of the members appointed for this
purpose, read to the House on the 20th of December the
results of the investigations. The Lords defended their
position with spirit. In the paper war which followed
between the two Houses, St. John played a considerable
part, though it would seem that the arguments of Somers,
who drew up the addresses of the Lords, were far superior
to those of the Commons. In the great struggle over the
case of Ashby vevstis White, St. John came prominently
forward in opposing the action of the Lords who supported
the legal rights of the electors. In his first reported speech,
made on the 26th of January, 1704, he declared that he could
not think that the liberties of the people would be safer in
any hands than those of the House of Commons, or that the
influence of the Crown would be stronger there than in the



EARLY PARLIAMENTARY SUCCESSES IQ

Courts below. Walpole took the opposite view in defence
of the electors, and made a powerful speech against the
doctrines brought forward by St. John. So fierce became
the contest between Lords and Commons, the former being
in harmony with public opinion, that Anne, who had vainly
in her Speech at the opening of the Session in November
recommended moderation, prorogued Parliament early in
April, 1704. So far St. John had identified himself with
the most violent section of the Tories, and had, mainly by
his oratorical powers, secured a position rarely attained by
a politician of the age of five-and-twenty. His genius and
ambition had already gained for him distinction in the
House of Commons. It remained to be seen if he possessed
those business qualities which go far to make a successful
Minister.



CHAPTER II

ST. JOHN SECRETARY-AT-WAR AND AFTER.

1 704- 1 710.

The extreme Tories leave the Government — Harley, St. John, and other
moderate Tories are given places — Brilliant successes abroad — St.
John's close relations with Marlborough — Elections of 1705 ; Whigs
have majority in Parliament — Marlborough and Godolphin adopt Whig
view of England's foreign policy — Harley intrigues against the Ministers
— St. John's attitude — The Gregg scandal — Resignation of Harley,
St. John, Harcourt, and Mansell, 1708 — Ministry becomes entirely
Whig — Failure of Jacobite rising in Scotland — St. John's reasons for
his retirement — His life at Bucklersbury — Negotiations at the Hague,
1709 — Tlie Battle of Malplaquet — The Barrier Treaty — The Negotia-
tions at Gertruydenberg, 17 10 — The Sacheverell incident — Reasons of
weakness of Whig Ministry: its fall, 1710 — Tory Ministry: St. John
Secretary of State.

The year 1704 was to see a great change in the fortunes
of St. John. The war was popular and righteous, and
received the support, not only of the Whigs, but also of the
moderate Tories, in whose ranks Marlborough and Godolphin
could still be numbered. But the extreme or High Tories
disliked it from the first. Though they had agreed to sup-
port the war, they desired to settle, in accordance with their
own views, England's relations to the Allies and the manner
in which the war should be carried on. They considered
England's insular position rendered her incapable of posing
on the Continent as a military power. Her strength lay on
the sea. Her navy should therefore be made efficient ; her
maritime supremacy should be firmly established, and the
French ports, commerce, and colonies should be vigorously
attacked. Under certain circumstances our Allies might be
subsidized, and, should the necessity arise of sending an

20



ST. JOHN SECRETARY -AT 'WAR AND AFTER 2E

armed force to help them in Europe, the scene of our opera-
tions should be in Spain, where a victory would rally the
population to our side. One is irresistibly reminded of the
general features of England's foreign policy followed by
Pitt and his successors between 1793 and 181 5.

Hatred of standing armies, opposition to a policy of active
intervention on the Continent, dislike of a close alliance
with the Germans and Dutch, remained throughout the war
the sentiments of the extreme Tories. It was impossible,
as the war grew fiercer, and military operations more ex-
tended, for them to work, like the Whigs, cordially with
Marlborough and Godolphin, who were convinced that
Louis would overrun Germany, conquer Holland, and
restore the Pretender, if England stood aside and did not
vigorously assist her Allies, especially in the Netherlands.
It is thus easy to understand how it came about that the
history of the reign to 1708 is the history of the gradual
drifting of power to the side of the Whigs, whose views on
foreign policy and on the proper conduct of the war coin-
cided with those of Godolphin and Marlborough. Their
Tory associations, and the Queen's well-known views, how-
ever, prevented these Ministers from throwing in their lot
with the Whigs as soon as a breach with the extreme Tories
became inevitable. They preferred to attempt to carry on the
Government by the aid of the more moderate members of the
Tory party. The first sign of the approaching split in the Tory
party appeared in February, 1703, when Ormonde was ap-
pointed to succeed Rochester as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.

Early in 1704 Jersey and Seymour, both violent Tories,
were deprived of their offices. Nottingham, who had taken
up a position of rivalry to Godolphin, urged in vain the
dismissal of the Dukes of Devonshire and Somerset from
the Privy Council. Finding his influence gone, he resigned
in May, and his resignation was accepted. Blaithwayte, the
Secretary-at-War, followed. Their places were filled for



22 HENRY ST. jfOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

the most part by moderate Tories ; Jersey and Seymour
were succeeded by Kent and Mansell, the former a moderate
Whig ; Harley, who had suggested most of the changes in
the Government, succeeded Nottingham as Secretary of
State for the Southern Department of Foreign Affairs, and
to St. John was given the control of the War Office with
the title of Secretary-at-War and of the Marines.

Until 1706 the Government was not strongly partisan.
It was based on the principle that the Sovereign had the
right to choose the Ministers. Queen Anne, Marlborough,
and Harley all desired that, though the Tory element should
be supreme, members of both parties should be included in
each administration, and, although circumstances combined
to force Marlborough and Godolphin in 1708, St. John
during the last years of Anne's reign, and the ministers
of George I. and George II. to discard this doctrine, it by
no means completely died out of English political life. In
the middle of the eighteenth century, the degeneration of
party into faction led the elder Pitt to attempt to form a
Ministry of the ablest men of all parties, while the circum-
stances of his day and the security of his title enabled
George III. at many important crises both to choose and
to dismiss his Ministers at his own caprice.

In the reconstitution of the Government in 1704 Harley
took a leading part. By birth he was connected with the
Nonconformists, and had supported the Revolution. After
the Peace of Ryswick he became the leader of the Tories,
more by accident than by conviction. Ambitious, and not
over-scrupulous, he had no sympathy with their High
Church or monarchical views. While, like Burke, anxious
to see all royal influence upon the House of Commons
abolished, his great aim was to secure the independence of
the House of ministerial control. Hence he was strongly
opposed to party government with its Cabinet system, and
desired to restore the old authority of the Privy Council.



ST. JOHN SECRETARY-AT-WAR AND AFTER 23

Consequently he was always involved in plots and intrigues
against the existing Government, even though he might be a
member of the Ministry itself.

He was, moreover, trusted by moderate men of all parties.
He had a great reputation for wisdom. He had consider-
able knowledge of individuals. He was a most successful
party manager. His views were not extreme. To Marl-
borough such a man as Harley was invaluable.

The appointment of St. John, then only twenty-six years
old, was more startling. A great European war was raging,
and no one could say what the result would be. Blenheim
had not yet been won ; Marlborough was hampered at every
turn by the Allies. At home the Government was face to
face with a powerful and angry Opposition. The appoint-
ment of so young a man as St. John was a dangerous
experiment, especially as he had till lately been regarded as
a violent Tory. His biographers ask if his appointment
was due to his own abilities, to the influence of Harley, or
to the favour of Marlborough. His abilities had been
amply proved ; he had been a close friend and ally of Harley
since he first entered Parliament. But it was mainly to
the favour of Marlborough that his appointment was due.
There seems little doubt that St. John was well known to>
if not a particular favourite of Marlborough. In Letter VH.
on The Study and Love of History St. John speaks of Marl,
borough as " that great man, whose faults I knew, whose
virtues I admired, and whose memory, as the greatest
general and as the greatest Minister that our country or
perhaps any other has produced, I honour " Marlborough
himself wrote to Godolphin in July, 1704, in the following
terms : " 1 am glad that you are pleased with St. John's
diligence; I am confident that he will never deceive you."
In later days St. John himself declared that he was indebted
neither to Harley nor Marlborough for his appointment, but
to the position he had already gained in Parliament. But,



24 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

whether appointed by interest or merit, he well justified the
confidence reposed in him. Though he had hitherto placed
his rare oratorical powers at the service of the extreme
members of his party, his ambition prevailed over his early
political connections, and for four years he acted loyally
with the moderate Tories.

From 1704 to 1708, during a period of extraordinary
anxiety abroad and of constant and ever-increasing party
struggles at home, St. John proved himself possessed of an
amount of ability, energy, and calm foresight which marked
him out as a leader of men. His first two years of office
were rendered famous by reason of a series of marvellous
successes abroad. Blenheim, won in August, 1704, saved
the Empire and Vienna from French invasion, and placed
Bavaria in subjection to the Emperor. Ramillies, fought in
May, 1706, secured a barrier for the Dutch against French
aggression. The battle of Turin, won by Eugene in Sep-
tember of the same year, saved Savoy, and enabled the
Imperial troops to occupy North Italy and Naples. Por-
tugal had joined the Allies as early as 1703 ; Gibraltar had
been captured in 1704. In the autumn of 1705 the Arch-
duke Charles had been proclaimed, and accepted as king by
a large portion of the Spanish nation. It seemed in 1706
that the neck of the Spanish difficulty was broken. In
addition to these disasters to the French cause, the wretched
condition of the French finances, Louis' unfortunate choice
of generals, and the still smouldering discontent in the
Cevennes, all told in favour of the Allies. During these
years St. John was in constant correspondence with Marl-
borough, writing an enthusiastic letter after Blenheim, sym-
pathizing with him over the tiresome conduct of our German
and Dutch Allies in 1705, when their dilatoriness prevented
the achievement of any marked success in the Netherlands,
and congratulating him later on the famous victory of
Ramillies. " France and faction," he wrote, " are the only



ST. JOHN SECRETARY-AT-WAR AND AFTER 25

enemies England has to fear, and your grace will conquer
both ; at least, while you beat the French, you give a
strength to the Government which the other dares not
contend with."

The brilliant successes abroad seem rather to have
intensified than assuaged party conflict at home. It is
interesting to mark how the responsibilities of office had
changed St. John. From a reckless Tory advocate he had
become a moderate, statesmanlike man of business.

In the autumn of 1704 the Tories, never enthusiastic
about the war, insisted on coupling with the address of
congratulation to ^larlborouofh for the victory of Blenheim
congratulations to Rooke, the Tory Admiral, on a drawn
battle in the Mediterranean. The more reckless of the
Tories then resolved to force the Bill against Occasional
Conformity through the House of Lords by tacking it to
the Land Tax Bill. In the majority which defeated a
motion to that effect St. John's name was found. In the
spring of 1705 Parliament was dissolved. The Tories had
lost the popularity they enjoyed at the beginning of the
reign. Their arbitrary policy towards the Aylesbury voters,
which threatened, a few weeks before the dissolution of
Parliament, to result in another deadlock between the two
Houses, their factious conduct, their jealousy of Marl-
borough, and their well-known dislike of the war, all tended
to throw public feeling on the side of the Whigs. The
question before the country was that of foreign policy.
And the nation had to decide between an insular and a
cosmopolitan policy. The Tory cry, that the Church was
in Danger, was of no avail, and in the new Parliament
which met in October the \\'higs had a majority in both
Houses, and a Whig Speaker, Smiith, was elected in place
of Harley. Anne had already been prevailed upon by
Godolphin and the IMarlboroughs to dismiss Wright, the
Lord Keeper, an old High Church Tory lawyer, and to



26 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

appoint in his place William Cowper, the most graceful
Whig orator in the House of Commons.

St. John had been again returned for Wootton Bassett,
and till his resignation in 1708 saw the Tory party commit
blunder after blunder, and the Ministry forced to rely more
and more on the Whigs for support.

Anne was alienated from the Tories by the proposal of
the Tory Peers that the presumptive heir should be invited
to reside in England, — a mistake of which the Whigs
cleverly took advantage. When Parliament met in De-
cember, 1706, the Whigs were stronger than ever. With
Godolphin and Marlborough they had come to a fairly
definite understanding. In 1707, in spite of the opposition
of Rochester, Nottingham, and other extreme Tories, they
carried, with the concurrence of the greater part of the
moderate Tories, the Union with Scotland, thus defending
the Parliamentary Settlement from a danger at home which
had begun to be serious. Every fresh success abroad, too,
strengthened the Whig party. The war was their war.
Each new victory was their victory. And after Ramillies
it became evident that it was impossible for the war still to
be carried on by Tories. A few weeks after that battle
Louis had opened negotiations for peace. By the terms of
the Grand Alliance it had been stipulated that the kingdoms
of France and Spain should never he united or governed by the
same person, that the Dominions and commerce of the Dutch
should be secured, and that a reasonable satisfaction should be
given to the Emperor and the English King. But Louis' pro-
posals were similar to the terms of the Second Partition
Treaty, which had been so unpopular in England. He
offered a compromise, according to which Philip was to
have Naples, Sicily, and Milan. This compromise, which
was in many ways unsatisfactory, was rejected by Marl-
borough and the Emperor.

In Letter VIII. on The Study of History, St. John writes



ST. JOHN SECRETARY-AT-WAR AND AFTER 27

as follows : " It will not, because it cannot, be denied that
all the ends of the Grand ALiance might have been obtained
by a peace in 1706." He then proceeds to show that France,
defeated abroad, was exhausted by the burdens of the war,
that the charge of the war to England and Holland was
increasing annually, and that a peace in 1706 would have
been glorious and satisfactory. This was the view taken by
the Tories, and henceforward they strenuously opposed the
continuance of the war. The views of the Whigs were
clearly shown in a celebrated Resolution which passed both
Houses of Parliament in December, 1707, that no peace
*^can be safe or honourable for her Majesty and her allies if Spain
and the Spanish West Indies be suffered to continue in the power of
the House of Bourbon.'" The objects of the war were no longer
those expressed in the terms of the Grand Alliance. The
Whigs had adopted a distinctly new policy, which aimed at
the continuance of the war till France was reduced to the
position of a second-rate power.

But there was great justification for the Whig view of
the danger of permitting the monarchies of France and
Spain to be controlled by Bourbons. The fear inspired by
Louis XIV. was general, and it was held by Whigs and
Tories alike that the King of France must be forced to give
up Spain. It was honestly believed, by men as cool and
sagacious as Marlborough, that the safety and liberties of
Europe would be in immediate danger if Spain and the
West Indies were left to the House of Bourbon. The
course of events proved conclusively, not only that the
Whig fears were chimerical, but that it was impossible to
wrest Spain from Philip. The new policy on which
England entered in the autumn of 1707 was none the less
in harmony with the prevailing ideas of by far the larger
portion of the nation.

In his later writings St. John complains bitterly of the
Whig change of plan.



28 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

"The war was wise and just before the change, because necessary to
maintain that equality among the Powers of Europe on which the public
peace and common prosperity depends." And, he continues, the war was
" unwise and unjust after the change."

At the time, however, St. John made no opposition to the
Resolution. As Secretary-at-War he was occupied with
the affairs of the English in Spain. In April, 1707, the
Allies had suffered an overwhelming defeat at Almanza.
It was clear that the Dutch thought only of acquiring towns
in the Netherlands, and that the Emperor was indifferent to
Spanish affairs so long as he secured his Italian conquests.

If the war was to be continued in Spain, England would
have to bear the whole expense. It is obvious that, through
the clear cut division between Whigs and Tories on the
question of the continuance of the war, the retention of
office by St. John was becoming difficult. The Ministry
was now almost entirely Whig, the objects of the war had
changed, and the Tories, convinced that the victories of
Marlborough, Eugene, and Peterborough had satisfied the
ends of the war, opposed its continuance. St. John could
not possibly have remained much longer a Tory member of
a Whig Ministry. Events, perhaps fortunately, came to
his aid and forced him to retire from office.

For some time past Godolphin had been compelled, owing
to his compact with the Whigs, to solicit from Anne places
of emolument that fell vacant for members of that party.
Anne resented this interference, and allowed herself to be
influenced by Harley and Abigail Hill in making appoint-
ments. In supporting the Queen in her resentment against
her leading advisers, Harley was only following his usual
course of policy. The elections of 1705 had increased the
hopes of the Whigs, and it became obvious that they now
aimed at securing an undivided supremacy in the Govern-
ment. Besides, the clauses in the Act of Settlement which
he had introduced, in order to revive the power of the Privy
Council as a check on the Cabinet system and on the



ST. JOHN SECRETARY-AT-WAR AND AFTER 2g

Executive Power, had been repealed. He saw too that
Marlborough must perforce look more and more to the
Whigs for support in his war policy. Nothing remained,
then, but to bring about a rearrangement of the administra-
tion, in which a more perfect balance of antagonistic
interests should be maintained

Harley's intrigues were perfectly justifiable. The Govern-
ment of 1704 was a Coalition Government, and was recog-
nized as such by both Harley and Marlborough. But from
1706 Marlborough and Godolphin aided the Whigs in their
efforts to form a Government almost entirely Whig.

Thus, during a great struggle abroad, when union was of
the utmost consequence, the Ministry found itself weakened
by the existence of intrigues within its own ranks. As early
as the autumn of 1706, keen observers like the Duchess of
Marlborough not only knew of the intrigues of Harley and
Mrs. Masham, but began to suspect that St. John was also
implicated. In October, Godolphin wrote to Marlborough
that the Duchess had told him " that Mr. Harley, Mr. St.
John, and one or two more of your particular friends were
underhand endeavouring to bring all the difficulties they
could think of upon the public business in the next session."
But Godolphin and Marlborough, by acting in contravention
of that arrangement, by which the moderate Tories had
taken office in 1704, had no reason to be surprised if
attempts were made to turn the tables on them. Their
position between the High Tories and the advancing Whigs
was certainly a difficult one, but Harley's conduct was as


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Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 3 of 20)