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The death of William plaed on the throne an English princess, who at once secured, by the mere fact of her birth, the popularity which all the extraordinary abilities of the foreign ruler had never won for him. Anne was a well-intentioned but not over-wise woman, who, while holding high ideas of her own prerogative and thinking but meanly of party government, was by the irony of fortune always at the mercy either of court intrigue or of party faction. At her accession the former force predominated, and Sarah, Countess of Marlborough, whose influence over Anne was almost boundless, was able to place her great husband in supreme authority. The Earl of Marlborough, who was now made Captain-General of her Majesty’s forces, had been employed by William in high military commands during the first years of his reign, and in important diplomatic negotiations at its close. But, despite the recognition which his great qualities had already won for him, it was as much upon court intrigue as upon them that his power ultimately depended. Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark, was technically generalissimo of the forces and Lord High Admiral; but the supreme direction of military and foreign affairs really lay in the hands of the man who was to show that he could outmatch King Louis and his agents in diplomacy, and rival Prince Eugene in war.

Marlborough declared that he would not command the army until he saw Godolphin at the Treasury; and thus were associated the two men who were to form and to control a Ministry whose record is one of the most, glorious in English history. Neither of them escaped condemnation in his own day; but modern criticism has passed by the meanness of Godolphin to assail the glory of Marlborough. Yet an application of the same critical standards to both would place Marlborough on a far higher plane. The most shameful transaction of Marlborough’s public life is admittedly that concerned with his giving information to James about the dispatch of an English expedition to Brest (1694). But, inasmuch as a portion of the expedition started the day after the date of his letter, Marlborough may plausibly be assumed to have astutely communicated intelligence which he knew to be worthless. He may also have been aware that the whole plan had already been disclosed by Godolphin, and was known at Versailles at least three days before he began to write his own letter. The perfidy of Godolphin is enhanced by the fact that he was at this moment a Minister and favorite of William, while Marlborough, having been dismissed from all his offices, and imprisoned, had every reason for personal resentment. Hence in this transaction, always reckoned the most questionable of his acts, the guilt of Marlborough cannot be proved, while that of Godolphin is established in all particulars. In other respects Godolphin has a worse than doubtful record; before the Revolution he had been the Minister of James and the correspondent of William; after it he was the correspondent of James and the Minister of William. He had tried so often to balance between the two Kings and the two parties, that at length very few, except Marlborough himself, thoroughly believed or trusted him. Nevertheless, this insidious schemer was now to impair his private fortune in the public service, and to show financial talents, not indeed comparable to the bold genius and resource of Montagu, yet not unequal to the problems created by a gigantic debt and a great financial crisis.

Godolphin was a shrewd and plausible man of affairs; Marlborough possessed at once a finer character and a greater mind. Criticism has ceased to question the domestic virtues and the religious sincerity of Marlborough, but still assails his political character. Yet, under William, his secret correspondence with St Germain cannot be treated too seriously; under Anne, it was chiefly addressed to his nephew Berwick and is largely personal in character. When he does touch on politics, as in a letter of July 17,1708, he assures Berwick that he would serve the King (the “Old Pretender”) with all his heart, without prejudice to the interest of the (English) nation ; “mais qu’il faut toujours s’opposer à tout ce qui est de l’intérêt de la France.” That Power must in no way benefit from a Stewart Restoration. Subsequently (August 24, 1708) he airily explains that he will only be ready to act, “quand le Roi sera appelé par la nation.” It is obvious that Marlborough could, by advancing one or other of these saving-clauses, discountenance almost any Jacobite attempt. Hence he was, in all probability, merely deluding Berwick with polite expressions of regret and hope, which would doubtless have served as evidence of his loyalty to the Jacobite cause, had the “Pretender” ever obtained the throne. These intrigues seem therefore to be ignoble attempts to make the best of two political worlds, rather than acts of real treason to the de facto sovereign. No one desires to credit Marlborough with the political purity of a Chatham; but, by the standards of his own age, he must be held superior in political virtue to Godolphin, the two Sunderlands, Bolingbroke, or Russell.

The supreme gifts which never failed Marlborough in leading an army or in conducting a negotiation were not conspicuous in his management of party. Nor can the excuses be advanced that absence, lack of time, or the temper of his Duchess explain his failure; for the main principles upon which he proceeded were fundamentally unsuited to the Parliament of the day. The survival of the idea that the Ministers were the personal and individual servants of the sovereign, the lack of unity in the Ministry, the absence of sympathy between leaders and followers, made the art of government particularly difficult. But it had been evident, on the whole, under William that Parliament was most easily managed when party discipline was good, and when the Ministry was in political sympathy with the majority of the Commons. These lessons were now forgotten; the pursuit of a policy which was national and not partisan Suited alike Anne’s timid jealousy of her authority and Marlborough’s bold confidence in his own powers. Like William, Halifax and Harley, they believed in a national party, to be formed by the combination of moderate Whigs and Tories. Anne wished to avoid being the servant of a faction, Marlborough to hold his course along that central line which each party sometimes approached, but which neither rigidly pursued. Hence their policy was to balance between extremes, in order that, as violent politicians fell out, the nation might come by its own. But, however agreeable to Marlborough and to Anne, this idea was difficult to carry into effect.

A consideration of the circumstances of the time seems to show that two methods of government were possible—personal government by the sovereign, and party government, depending in the main upon a Ministry agreeable to a majority in the Commons, a type similar but not coincident with that in practice in England today. The sovereign possessed immense indirect power, since at least one hundred members of the Commons depended absolutely on the Crown for the enjoyment of places and sinecures. Any member who held such office and proved recalcitrant could be dismissed at once by the sovereign. If the two parties were evenly balanced, or if the Commons were broken up into a number of groups or small parties, the Crown held the balance and had the casting- vote in all affairs of importance. It was by thus playing off one group against another in a divided House of Commons that George III after­wards broke the tyranny of parties, and became King in fact as well as name. But Anne had not equal advantages; owing to her sex she could not personally direct affairs, or administer patronage in minute detail; again, she had not to contend with a group-system, but with a system of two parties, divided from one another by great principles, and tolerably homogeneous in their respective composition. It would have been difficult, in her day, for even the most careful parliamentary tactician to break loose from party ties, and to avoid strengthening one party at the expense of the other. Though the experience of William’s reign was unfavorable to this system, it was none the less steadfastly pursued, if not always realized, by both Marlborough and Godolphin. William had already shown that a balancing policy was all but impossible; Marlborough, Godolphin, and Harley, illustrated the same lesson at a later date and on a larger scale. Their comparative failure, as contrasted with the temporary success of Bolingbroke and the long ascendancy of Walpole, seems to point the moral. Bolingbroke and Walpole introduced the system of unsparingly enforcing party discipline, and carried their principles so far as to deprive political opponents of military commissions and commands. Their proceedings were founded on the principle that lukewarm supporters or deserters should receive no quarter The great soldier who governed Anne confined his military discipline to the battlefield, only to discover that his gentler parliamentary methods were unsuited to the temper of the Commons, the violence of party spirit, and the general character of the age. It was only the steadfast support of his sovereign, the disunion of his opponents at home, and his dazzling triumphs abroad, that secured Marlborough so long from the disastrous effects of a policy, which was in its very nature one of tacks and shifts, of balances and adjustments, of expediency and opportunism.

At first the political heavens were unclouded. A Tory majority had voted for the war, a Whig majority had confirmed their decision. The moment was therefore as favorable to the balancing policy as it ever could be. Marlborough and Godolphin, though Tories in name, were moderate in both principle and action. Marlborough had always aimed at having no enemies; Godolphin had for long been the only Tory in a Whig Ministry under William, and, though a strong Churchman, had befriended Dissenters. Hence, though the Ministry was at first composed mainly of Tories, Marlborough and Godolphin refused to dis­miss all Whigs from the higher offices, or to purge the departments of Whig clerks and tide-waiters, as the ultra-Tories suggested. The feelings of patriotism stimulated by the accession of a Queen who declared her heart to be entirely English, and by the successes of an English general, rendered all opposition for a time ineffective. After the moderate success of the campaign of 1702, Parliament passed a vote that “the wonderful progress of your Majesty’s arms, under the conduct of the Earl of Marlborough, has signally retrieved the ancient honor and glory of the English nation.” Carried away by insular patriotism, the majority of the Commons thus levelled an undeserved insult at the fame of their late ruler. Marlborough almost immediately afterwards received a dukedom and a pension of £5000 for life. Many people held him to be very well paid for his services; but when this national investment produced its dividends in Blenheim and Ramillies, the carping voices were hushed. English pride swelled high when a hundred French flags were borne through the streets of London to celebrate a victory as renowned as that of Agincourt, For some years after Blenheim the War, was genuinely national and popular; and debates in Parliament were mainly concerned with maladministration in the army or navy, with quarrels between the two Houses, or disputes about Occasional Conformity. Only one solid measure affecting internal politics (save the most important Act of Union elsewhere described) was passed. Parliament repealed two futile clauses in the Act of Settlement—one excluding all place-holders and pensioners under the Crown from sitting in the Commons, and the other forcing all Privy Councillors to sign the measures they advised and approved. Had the first remained law, the Commons would have become merely a house of critics; had the second gone unrepealed, the development of the most subtle and illusive of modem constitutional forms, the Cabinet, would have been indefinitely retarded. Apart from these wise measures, which attracted little at­tention, the subjects of debate in the Commons were the prey of faction. On but a single object, though that was the most important of all—the prosecution of the war was there genuine national agreement between 1702 and 1708.

Such being the case, the chief internal interest centres in the obscure ministerial negotiations and in the dark intrigues of palace and closet. Here the first event of prime significance was the resignation of Nottingham. As a leader of the High Churchmen, less bitter and partisan than Rochester, who had resigned in 1703, he commanded great respect, and his fall was connected with: their cause. One of the measures, most constantly urged by them, was the Occasional Conformity Bill, intended to prevent Dissenters evading the Test Act and thus securing to them­selves civil rights. In 1703 the measure, which had passed the Commons, was thrown out by the Lords. Accordingly in 1704 Nottingham instigated the Commons to “tack” it to the Land Tax Bill, in order to force the Lords to pass it. A Commons majority Voted against the “tack”; whereupon Marlborough announced that he would give no quarter to the supporters of the tack. On May 18, 1704, therefore, Nottingham and two other Tory Ministers were forced to resign. Their places were filled by Robert Harley, at this moment Speaker of the Commons, who became Secretary of State, and Hairy St John, who was made Secretary at War. The latter was a young man, supposed to be a moderate Tory, whose parliamentary talents were already giving him a personal influence in the Commons which no man had equalled since the days of Pym. Harley was a veteran intriguer, of much the same kind of placable temperament and political moderation as Godolphin. Neither he nor Marlborough realized that the two politicians, whom they now admitted to the Ministry, were to be the chief instruments of its downfall. 

The Ministry, which had at first been almost wholly Tory, was now turning into a coalition between moderate Tories and moderate Whigs. The Queen, whose natural inclination, tempered by a desire for her own independence, was for Toryism and the Church, began to scent danger. When the Great Seal fell vacant in 1705, she wrote an “apprehensive” letter to Godolphin, suggesting a moderate Tory for the post. “The Whigs have had so many favors showed them of late, chat I fear a very few more will put me insensibly into their power.. .but I hope in God you will never think that reasonable.” Godolphin’s reply to this appeal to “keep me out of the power of the merciless men of both parties” was to give the Great Seal to Cowper, an excellent lawyer, but also an excellent Whig. The drift was now unmistakable; and the general election of 1705 made the Whig majority more pronounced. Then a more decisive step was taken, to which even Marlborough’s incomparable powers of persuasion nearly failed to reconcile Anne. The third Earl of Sunderland, Marlborough’s son-in-law, but a violent and bitter Whig, replaced the Tory Sir Charles Hedges as Secretary of State (December 3, 1706). To this step Anne most reluctantly consented, expressing her alarm lest she should lay a lasting foundation for faction and become rather a slave than a queen. No sooner had Sunderland been installed than his influence on Godolphin became apparent; and the moderate Tories in the Lower House were deprived of places or threatened with the loss of sinecures.

At the beginning of 1707 a counter-influence to that of Godolphin and Sunderland began to be exercised by Harley. He was able to enwrap his political convictions and even his actions in a veil of mystery which few ever penetrated, and behind it to carry on various subterranean intrigues. , Through his relative Mrs Masham, a Woman of the Bedchamber, he contrived secret interviews with Anne, at which no doubt the Queen lamented the growing unkindness of the Duchess of Marlborough, the violence and bad manners of Sunderland,, and the danger of falling into the power of the Whigs. The result seems to have been that the Queen, in league with Harley, often successfully opposed the measures of Godolphin. At first Harley covered up his traces by professions of the deepest humility and loyalty to Godolphin. But he at length showed his hand by intriguing against the Union with Scotland—that measure which Godolphin had done so much to secure. After his return to England during the winter months of 1707 Marlborough induced Godolphin to take resolute measures. At the last moment they were greatly aided by the discovery that one Greg, Harley’s clerk, had engaged in treasonable correspondence with France, a fact which naturally, though it seems unjustly, .attached suspicion to Harley himself. On January 16, 1708, Greg was convicted of high treason, and on February 11 Marlborough obtained the dismissal of Harley. St John also left the Ministry, the Whig Robert Walpole took his place as Secretary at War, while Somers entered, the Cabinet, and was eventually made Lord President of the Council. Thus the Ministry, with the exception of Marlborough and Godolphin, was now entirely Whig in character. The Whig party though now triumphant was not so well organized as when the famous “Junto” had directed its affairs under, William. The electioneering campaigns of Wharton had been to some extent curtailed by his elevation to the peerage. The Earl of Halifax (Montagu) was a melancholy and disappointed man, who exercised but little influence on politics. Somers, who- had managed political combinations with the dexterity of an art and the precision of a science, was broken in health and prematurely old. His advice still shaped the political strategy of the Whigs, but their tactics were entrusted to other hands. Stanhope was soldier and diplomatist rather than politician; Sunderland damaged rather than aided the Whig cause by the violence of his partisanship; But two younger men, Townshend and Walpole, were beginning-to rise in influence. The sturdy honesty of the one and the shrewd common sense of the other were soon to make them the real leaders of the Whig party.

As if by an irony of fate, just when the Ministry, which had first been formed mainly of Tories, and then been a mosaic of moderates, had at last become pure Whig, it began to collapse. Events had forced the balancers to govern on purely party lines, and when they at last pursued the right plan, they found that it was too late. The Ministry was weakened in various ways during 1709. Sunderland sometimes diverted himself by praising republicanism, for which he had an academic enthusiasm, in the presence of the Queen; the conduct of Duchess Sarah towards Anne passed from mere rudeness to open flouting. Even Marlborough made one of the few diplomatic mistakes of his life, and pressed Anne to make him Captain-General for life, a request which she very properly refused. Though ambition contributed to the making of this demand, it was probably also due to a reasonable desire to be secured from party dissensions in the management of the war and in its final settlement. But no proposal could have aroused more suspicion, and the exaggerated terror then felt by ’all Englishmen for established militarism in any form made many cry out that Marl­borough was Cromwell in disguise. This circumstance, together with the slaughter at Malplaquiet (unjustly regarded as a Pyrrhic victory), the swelling expenses, and the tedious prolongation of the war, pro­duced a growing dissatisfaction with the Whigs. A further cause was weakening them. Harley—the mole of contemporary politics—had continued his burrowings, and was gradually undermining the Ministers in the favor of the Queen. Under his influence and that of Mrs Masham, the Queen interfered, took her own line decisively both in politics and in patronage, and assigned bishoprics, sinecures, regiments and com­missions, often without reference or in contravention of the wishes of Marlborough or Godolphin. At this crisis royal disfavor and a growing parliamentary opposition were suddenly and dramatically assisted by the one other thing necessary to complete the downfall of the Whigs—an overwhelming outburst of popular disapproval.


1704-14] Literature, the Press and politics.


To understand and gauge aright, the strength of the torrent which was now to sweep the Whigs away in disaster, it is necessary to distinguish the currents composing it. Some we already know—vague unrest; popular dissatisfaction; the censorious spirit; which carps, at great men and great deeds without understanding the immediate difficulties of the one or the ultimate benefits of the other. Two, other causes are however apparent. One is the assistance derived from the unparalleled activity of the Press and the perfect literary precision with which every grievance was expressed by public writers. The other is a deeper and more real motive—the dissatisfaction of the Church with the existing Ministry, and the violence of religious, bigotry evoked by the trial of Sacheverell. The freedom of the Press and of public discussion was not indeed new; but under the reign of Anne their influence and importance in public affairs were developed to an astonishing degree. The first daily paper appeared under Anne; the weeklies quadrupled in quantity; the pamphlets were legion. Addison wrote (October 12,1710) “there is scarce a single head that does not teem with politics,” and the number of distinguished literary men who wrote about them at this time has never been surpassed and probably never equalled. Literary success was a sure passport to political advancement, as Locke, Somers, Prior, Steele, Swift and Addison all showed in different ways. The connection of literature with politics was never at any time so close. Somers was the friend and patron of Addison, Montagu of Steele, St John of Prior and Pope, Harley of Swift and Defoe. Of the literary pamphleteers Defoe was the most versatile, the most prolific and the most popular and as such was employed by Harley on behalf of the Government so early as 1706. In his Review (1704-13) and Mercator (1713) and in innumerable pamphlets he gave a powerful, though in some measure independent, support to each successive Ministry. The exquisite urbanity of Addison supplemented the rugged vigor of Defoe in pamphlets of easy and graceful advocacy, and, at the beginning of 1709, the literary honors still rested with the Whigs. But all the impressions produced in their favor by a score of brilliant pamphlets were destroyed at a blow by a single sermon, and literature in the persons of Addison and Defoe was vanquished by religion in the shape of Dr Sacheverell.

The age of Anne is frequently regarded as one in which little or no religious feeling prevailed either within or without the Established Church. The fierce enthusiasms associated with the names of Laud,; Cartwright, and Knox, were indeed no more. But, while the religious movements of the new age were affected by political movements and degraded by sectarian intolerance, energy and enthusiasm of a nobler kind, were not wanting. The reign witnessed a tightening of discipline among the parochial clergy, an immense growth in charity schools and in church building in London, and an early though imperfect development of important, missionary enterprise. The clergy themselves were divided into Latitudinarians and High Churchmen. The former, who were mainly Whigs, held most of the bishoprics; the latter, who were almost exclusively Tory, composed the vast majority of the clergy as a whole. It is not surprising that, under these circumstances the two Houses of Convocation should have wrangled even more fiercely than the two Houses of Parliament. So embittered, indeed, did their disputes become that, in 1717, Convocation was prorogued for a period of almost a century and a half. The attitude' of the Whig Bishops was however less odious to their clergy than that of the Whig political leaders, for the former were at least not so often suspected of easy tolerance towards Dissent and cold indifference to the Establishment. The influence of the Established clergy at elections was especially noticeable, for the sermon was at once a more popular, a more important, and a more widely diffused vehicle of propaganda than any pamphlet or news-sheet could be. When the High Church clergy proceeded to inflame the minds of their parishioners against the Whigs, their influence penetrated to villages reached by no literature save the monthly news-letter, and to men who could not read Defoe and would not have understood Addison. All these elements of unrest were focused into one by an explosive sermon delivered in St Paul’s on the appropriate date of November 5, 1709.

With coarse but powerful eloquence, Sacheverell railed violently at the Ministry, sounded the war-cry of “the Church in danger,” denounced the toleration allowed by law as unreasonable, and appeared to assert uncompromisingly the old Church and Tory doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience. It is possible, though not certain, that the Whigs would not have interfered but for the last assertion. Violence or scurrility in the pulpit was one thing, but to deny the right of resistance was quite another. By this means the whole Revolution Settlement could be attacked and undermined, at a moment which was particularly dangerous: The supporters of legitimacy had increased since the death of William; and Anne, as herself a Stewart, was paradoxically though intelligibly regarded by many Jacobites as the rightful heir of her father. But this inconsistency did not in their eyes exclude her brother from the throne, or prevent them from refusing to think of the Hanoverian Successor. Sacheverell’s denial of the right of Resistance appeared to support these views, to assert the doctrines of heredity in their most rigid form, and thus imperil the Protestant Succession. This was the real offence that induced the Whigs to proceed to an impeachment, which began early in 1710. The Whigs had a difficult task before them, for they had to admit that resistance to Government was lawful and that it had been practised in 1688, and on the legal side their difficulties in proving these propositions were naturally immense. Sacheverell’s advocates wittily requested their assailants to produce the Original Contract and to point out their doctrines in Magna Carta. They knew as well as the Whigs that, in point of fact, Locke had really rested his justification for resistance on “the appeal to Heaven,” and had made it exceptional and, in a sense, ultra leges. They made one mistake in quoting the Revolution of 1688 as an example of “non-resistance”; on the plea that, as Parliament had acquiesced in all William had done, the “supreme power” had not been resisted. This was wretched sophistry, but it was only one logical fallacy against several. . But the Whigs had superiority in force as well as in fallacy; for the larger number of the Peers were of their party. None the less, they were so shaken by the popular clamour that a nominal sentence was only passed by a small majority. Sacheverell—who had posed as the martyr of the Church—was released amid the wildest acclamations. His portrait was seen in dozens of coffee-houses; scurrilous lampoons in his favor and against the Ministry were sold by every hawker in the street. Mobs marched about shouting and rejoicing, even following Queen Anne in her chair to express a hope that she was in favor of Dr Sacheverell.

Anne’s conduct soon proved that she had determined to punish the Whigs for daring to meddle with the Church, even when attacked in the questionable shape of Sacheverell. In April, 1710, Shrewsbury, once a Whig but now a moderate, who had voted for Sacheverell’s acquittal, was made Lord Chamberlain. Then, to the consternation of all, Sunderland was dismissed (June 14,1710). It was in vain that deputations of bankers and merchants from the City w£ .ted on Anne to implore her not to dismiss the Whigs, in vain that even the Electoral Prince of Hanover remonstrated. On August 8, the Queen sent to Godolphin bidding him yield up his Treasurer’s staff. Cowper, Somers, Walpole and other leading Whigs soon followed him into retirement. Harley, who had advised these steps, became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and formed a Ministry of Tories, in which St John was naturally included. Parliament was dissolved on September 26, 1710, and at the general election a strong Church and Tory majority was returned. So overwhelming was the victory that even Harley was induced to act with unusual vigor and severity. Before the assembling of the new Parliament (November 25, 1710) hardly a Whig retained even a minor post in the Administration; no change of Ministry had ever been so sudden or complete. But St John —the right hand of Harley—was not content with the superiority of Tories in the Church, Commons, or Cabinet. He turned to literature as a fresh region to conquer. Defoe, the first of journalists, changed opinions as the Queen changed Ministers, and St John started a weekly paper, the Exammer, to uphold his own views. It was in vain that Addison countered by some vigorous articles in the Whig Examiner; it ran only for five numbers (October). In November Swift began to contribute to the Tory Examiner- his matchless ease and vigor soon overpowered the grace of Addison, and to St John’s delight the Tories were able to assert and maintain their supremacy even in the realms of literature.


Harley's “Plan.”—His character and aims. [1710-1


On October 30, 1710, Harley submitted to the Queen a “Plan for conducting the Business of the Public.” “In all places," he declared, “‘the Faction’ (i.e. the Whigs); have been for many years possessed of the power;” Yet the “true strength and inclination of the people” was obviously Tory, and the High Church majority of the clergy had long been coerced by a minority in high places. The Bench and the Bar were also full of Whigs, and means must be taken to let them know the power of the Crown. All difficulties with the majority of the Commons would vanish, so soon as the wishes of the “ Queen, who is the centre of power and union,” were known. In other words, places were to depend on services to the Ministry in which the Queen placed complete confidence. Lastly, with regard to the navy and army, the officers were to be made dependent on the Crown. The Queen was recommended to institute as a standing order that tenure of command for general officers, “Flags,” and captains was only to be annual, and to be arranged every year by the sovereign, who was not to allow anyone to “dispose regiments but herself.” Thus the spoils-system was to be introduced nakedly and shamelessly into every department of State, under the pretence of securing the authority of the Queen. Indeed, in the flush bf his election victory, Harley recommended measures drastic enough to rejoice the heart of St John himself. But, at the very moment when he was concocting this plan, he was secretly corresponding with Somers and Halifax, requesting them to join the! Ministry, and assuring them that “a Whig game was intended at bottom.” To the last he balanced and intrigued alike with Whigs, Low Churchmen, and Dissenters. His deal of government really resembled that of Marlborough, and aimed at the moderation of extremes and the formation of a party of the centre. But party passions ran too high for reconciliations even of moderate men, and the time for mixed Ministries of this type had gone by. Had Harley really’ adhered to his “plan” his party would very possibly have avoided much of the disaster in which he was now to involve it.

In May, 1711, Harley assumed the office of Lord High Treasurer, and received the title of Earl of Oxford. The qualities, which had served him so well up till now, were not, however, sufficient to make him a great Minister. His enigmatic manner, his tolerance and moder­ation, the cautious* balancing habit of his mind would have in any case caused him to incur the charge of duplicity; but his policy and actions show that the accusation was not always unjust. With him was associated as Secretary of State St John, a man of brilliant genius, who . swayed the Commons at his will by the dazzling eloquence and passion of his oratory. Restlessly ambitious, ardent and resolute in temperament, impatient of control, St John was a complete and para­doxical contrast to his colleague. But for the present they were agreed in their policy, and on the expediency of securing favorable terms of peace as soon as possible. The first difficulty was Marlborough, who, though not a Whig, had chosen and supported the last Ministry. In the field his services were regarded as indispensable; but it was soon found that old party connections still influenced him. In the spring of 1711, Harley began secretly negotiating with the French without informing Marlborough. When the Duke discovered this, he revenged himself by negotiations with the Whigs, as to which he was equally silent. The upshot was a most discreditable transaction by which he and his Whig allies purchased the support of Nottingham and other bigoted Tories. With the support of the Whigs; Nottingham amended the address approving the Preliminaries of peace, by adding a clause that no peace would be safe or honorable, which left Spain and the Indies in the hands of the House of Bourbon (December 17, 1711). The Duke of Marlborough, as he rose to support this amendment, bowed to the Queen who was sitting in the Gallery, and his speech aimed as obviously at convincing her as at influencing his brother-peers. The amendment, which he had instigated, was carried. His move was in direct defiance of the ministerial policy, as was proved by its rejection in the Commons by a majority of over a hundred. Nottingham now claimed the price of his support, which was the passing of the Occasional Conformity Bill by the Whig Lords, who had repeatedly rejected it in the past. Though the measure bore hardly on Nonconformists whom it deprived of civic rights, and though the Whigs were famed for their tolerance, Notting­ham held them to their promise and passed the Bill. Oxford had deeply resented Marlborough’s action with regard to the peace, and, being tolerant towards Dissenters, was still more angry at his acquiescence in this second shameless political job. Marlborough was not only supporting the Whigs, but was inducing Tories to join in his defection and trying to catch the ear of the Queen. Only resolute measures could avert disaster. The first move was to hurry on the publication of a report charging Marlborough with financial malversations. The second was to dismiss the great Duke from all his offices (December 31, 1711). The third was a coup d’état, which intimidated the Lords into passing the peace clauses, by the creation of twelve new peers in a single day (January 1, 1712). This measure went very near to revolution, and it eventually formed one of the counts on which Oxford was impeached.

That the charges of peculation against Marlborough were flimsy and unjust and that he was ill-rewarded by the existing Ministry for his matchless services is clear. It must also be remembered that Swift had attacked Marlborough in his pamphlets, with the hardly disguised approval of Oxford. None the less it appears certain that, on an immediate though not on an ultimate issue, the Duke was opposing the peace. It is true that, in supporting the amendment, he was only making good the promise openly made by St John and Oxford to the Dutch, that the House of Bourbon should not retain both Spain arid the Indies. But neither Treasurer nor Secretary would consider it the duty of their colleague to remind them of their broken pledge. Hence Marlborough’s dismissal though attended by discreditable circumstances, was by no means unjustifiable. The field was now clear for the conclusion of that peace, over the details of which divergence first appeared between Oxford and St John. In these negotiations they have both been suspected of intrigues with James Edward, the “Old Pretender,’’ and each subsequently brought that charge against the other. But the terms of his letters to them both upon May 3, 17,14, seem to show that no written communications could have passed between him and either of them. About verbal communications there will always be mystery, dispute, and perhaps genuine misunderstanding. Oxford; with his accustomed dissimulation, probably held out hopes to the Pretender, with the object of inducing him to influence the Jacobite Peers at home to accept the peace. But, while it was characteristic of Oxford to be entangled in an intrigue without ever committing himself, the same cannot be said of St John. It is upon the conclusion which can be formed as to his real designs, that the whole internal history of the last years of the reign turns. If, at the beginning of 1714, Anne and Bolingbroke were really intriguing for a Stewart Restoration, the quarrel with Oxford and Bolingbroke’s short-lived triumph are easily explained. Oxford was not. the man to move without a distinct parliamentary majority in his favor; and the Parliament of 1714, though divided, appeal’s to have been on the whole opposed to the Pretender, at least so long as he remained Catholic. Bolingbroke was of a different mould; he scorned to follow, aspired to lead, and knew well enough that a vigorous minority, hallooed on by one who shows them game, can educate a supine or wavering majority. Hence, while Oxford hung back, Bolingbroke pushed on, induced Anne to dismiss his rival, and was preparing a coup de main on behalf of the Stewart, when Anne’s death intervened. On these assumptions, everything becomes clear; on any other, the historian ,is lost in the labyrinths of doubt.

The theory which assumes that Bolingbroke was committed to the cause of the Stewart is, however, confronted with two difficulties. In the first place, d’Iberville, of the French embassy, who carried on most of the Jacobite intrigues, wrote to Torcy on May 19,1714, that Bolingbroke would not support the Pretender, unless he changed his religion to that of the Church of England. Even so late as July 21, Bolingbroke was still holding this language to Tories in England. As it was known that these were terms which the Pretender would not consider, it seems to follow that Bolingbroke was not absolutely committed. In the second place, Bolingbroke certainly contemplated a Hanoverian succession as a possibility, while at the same time he was strongly of opinion that England would not long submit to be governed by a German. Thus he had not found the real key to the situation—the intense hatred of the Hanoverian party towards him; and the fact suggests that his policy in 1714 was not a desperate attempt to bring in the Stewart. His stern proscription of opponents, his feverish race for supremacy, may be explained on the ground that he knew Anne’s health to be failing, and that he desired to be in supreme power before her death. Once in the seat of acknowledged authority, Bolingbroke might be able to dictate terms to the Hanoverian Prince who came to assume the Crown. Even so late as August 16,1714, Bolingbroke still hoped to regain his power through his influence with his party. It is thus possible that, though deep in Jacobite plots, he was not absolutely given over to them, and that his immediate object in 1714 was not the grandiose scheme of restoring the “Pretender,” but the far humbler one of overthrowing Oxford.

It must, indeed, have been maddening to St John to find that his official chief, though: approving of strict party-discipline in principle, refused to practise it. With the insight of real genius, St John perceived that the day of half-measures was over, and that the political campaign must be waged on very different lines from the sort of civil war comprehensible by Oxford. There can be little doubt that he read the situation aright, and that the increase of party-discipline was the only way of strengthening the Ministry. But, for the moment, St John still went too fast. The High Church clergy disapproved of his morals, and the Tory squires were suspicious of his orthodoxy. Few of them, indeed, understood Oxford, but still fewer trusted St John; and they followed the one in hope till forced to resort to the other in necessity. For a time, Anne’s great affection for Oxford, and his personal popularity, rendered vain all the efforts of his more brilliant rival to overthrow him. But, gradually, St John’s extraordinary talents, his ascendancy in the Commons, the ingenuity, allied though it was to rashness and duplicity, with which he negotiated, made him the foremost man in England. In July, 1712, after piloting the most important parts of the treaty through the Commons, he was created a peer—with the title of Viscount Bolingbroke. The eagerness with which he seized on the distinction, is an illustration of his impetuous character. Bolingbroke was soon to find, like Chatham and Brougham in after days, that the oratory which had been irresistible in the Commons was merely impressive in the Lords, and that the parliamentary leader who takes to himself a coronet barters power for dignity.

Immediately after receiving his peerage Bolingbroke proceeded in person to France to conclude his negotiations. On his return (September) he was brought into closer relations with Anne, whom he seems to have captivated by his personal charm. His position was still insecure, the peace was in some respects unpopular, and important commercial clauses, which would have resulted in a freer trade with France, were defeated in Parliament, possibly with the connivance of Oxford. During the spring of 1713, Bolingbroke addressed to his colleague a series of passionate appeals, bidding him in turn make a push for government; separate the chaff from the wheat; and get on the box and use the whip.

He had indeed good reason for remonstrance; for, in 1713 and up to the very moment of his fall in 1714, Oxford was proposing coalitions to Halifax and Somers. The Tory Moderates now began to distrust the mysterious Oxford, and to prefer the. resolute, even if unscrupulous, Bolingbroke. Their opinions must have been confirmed by the general election, which went disastrously for the Government. The Whigs came back in a slight majority in England; Addison had gained some support to the Whig cause by the stately declamations on liberty in his tragedy of Cato, produced in April, 1713. Though the Government’s supporters in Scotland turned the scale against the Whigs, a large number of them were Jacobites in name and fact. The danger was accordingly extreme; for, not only could the Ministry plausibly and popularly be accused of trafficking with the Pretender abroad, but they might really be forced into considerable concessions to the Jacobites at home. Now, if ever, the safety of the party lay in Bolingbroke’s policy of “Thorough,” in the rigid enforcement of party-discipline, and in the filling-up of official posts—both civil and military—with men absolutely devoted to the Ministry.

The Whig leaders now entered into those closer and more secret negotiations with the Elector of Hanover, of which more will be said in a later volume. The irrevocable alliance between the Whigs and the Hanoverians must from this point onwards be regarded as a most important factor in the political situation. At the opening of Parliament, in 1714, the Whigs raised the cry of Jacobitism with considerable effect. On the Queen’s birthday (February 6) the London mob burnt effigies of the Pretender, the Devil, and the Pope. Steele was expelled from the House of Commons for a pamphlet written in abuse of the Ministry; but in the debate he and Walpole made speeches which were vastly applauded. The Whigs were indeed gaining so much in popular opinion that Bolingbroke was at last able to enforce the execution of Oxford’s “plan,” though its author still shrank from drastic measures. Most of the important military commands were taken from their holders and given to stout Tories or to Jacobites. Other changes were effected elsewhere, especially among supporters who were vacillating or lukewarm. All these circumstances occasioned much bitterness, and the invective and violence not only of the press, but even of Parliament, transcended all bounds. Finally, a motion was brought forward demanding a writ for the Electoral Prince to come over and sit in the House of Peers as Duke of Cambridge. This was passed, thanks to Whig support, and led to a heated correspondence between Anne, the Electress and her grandson. Bolingbroke’s counter-stroke to this attempt to embarrass Queen and Ministry was an attempt to harass Whigs and Dissenters. The Schism Act (May 6,1714) forbade anyone to keep a public or private school unless he Were a member of the Church of England and licensed by the Bishops. It was partly a cruel and reactionary measure aimed at the Whigs, through the Dissenters, and partly a desperate bid for a whole-hearted support from the High Churchmen. That Bolingbroke, with his religious scepticism, should have proposed a statute at once so bigoted and so intolerably harsh shows to what lengths of unscrupulousness he could proceed.

One of the most dramatic scenes in English history was about to be enacted. For two years, or thereabouts, Oxford and Bolingbroke had been counter-working each other, and their contention now came to a sudden and startling climax. The heat of parties was so great, the political atmosphere so electric, that the moderate balancing policy of Oxford was clearly out of place. His failure was so obvious, his divergence from his colleagues so hopeless, that, though Anne declined to accept his resignation in June, all knew his fall to be only a question of time. When at length the Queen sent to him for the White Staff, Bolingbroke must for one brief moment have tasted the joys of realized ambition. But never was triumph so short, never was schemer so soon disillusioned. On July 27,1714, Oxford was dismissed, on the 29th the Queen fell ill. All was at once in confusion, and Bolingbroke’s schemes turned into unsubstantial shadows. Bolingbroke afterwards boasted that, but for the Queen’s illness, his plans were so well laid, that within six weeks everything would have been within his grasp. This is by no means clear; for the inscrutable and enigmatic Shrewsbury was playing a crafty game. He had been ambassador at Versailles (October, 1712), had but just resigned the Lord-Lieutenancy in Ireland, and was still Lord Chamberlain. He had since 1710 been deeply in the confidence of Anne, and had acquired much influence in the Ministry by mediating between Oxford and Bolingbroke, while his popularity was so great in the country that he was called “the king of hearts”. He had never been committed to the Pretender, so far as Bolingbroke, or even as Oxford. His recent absence in Ireland made it clear that he could not have designed the Schism Act, to which he was believed to be strongly opposed. All this tends to show that he had a party in the Ministry, and to suggest that, even without the sudden catastrophe, Bolingbroke’s aims might have been defeated.

On July 27, immediately after Oxford’s dismissal, a Council met at Whitehall to discuss the formation of a commission for the Treasury. They were unable to agree, and the meeting was adjourned. It appears that Bolingbroke had designed Wyndham as First Lord of the Treasury, and meant to fill up the other posts with his own nominees. His projects , were opposed by the Shrewsbury section of the Ministry, for the Lord Chamberlain, who had refused to be First Lord of the Treasury in 1710, now perhaps coveted that or even a higher office. It is significant that disputes too serious for adjustment had already broken out in the Council. On July 29, as was seen, Anne fell ill; on the 30th the Duchess of Ormond sent alarming news to the Council. The Privy Council, which was sitting at Whitehall, adjourned to Kensington to discuss the situation. Upon this meeting the Dukes of Argyll and Somerset are supposed to have broken, though unsummoned. But Argyll had attended Council as recently as May, 1714, and Somerset, whose Duchess was at the bedside of Anne, may have received a summons at her suggestion. Whatever be the explanation, the Privy Council Register shows that they did attend, though it does not show that their presence caused the scale to turn against Bolingbroke. The opposition to him had already been considerable, and he was now confronted by the new and alarming danger arising from the Queen’s illness. At the decisive Council this bold schemer appears to have lost his nerve and given way; at any rate the Shrewsbury faction triumphed. The story of the meeting, which has been adorned with the most legendary incidents, is best told in the brief entry in the Privy Council Register (July 30). Their Lordships met in the Council Chamber and, considering the present exigency of affairs, were unanimously of an opinion to move the Queen that she would constitute the Duke of Shrewsbury Lord Treasurer. A deputation waited on the Queen to take her pleasure in the matter, and returned with a command that the Duke should wait upon her. Shrewsbury went to her bedside, and the dying Queen gave him the White Staff, bidding him, with an unwonted flash of regal dignity, use it for the good of her country. For the last time in English history, and from the last Stewart sovereign a subject received the staff and office of Lord High Treasurer. Probably with the view of marking her complete confidence, Anne refused to accept the Duke’s proffered resignation of the Chamberlaincy; and he returned to the Council with the Chamberlain’s wand in one hand and the Treasurer’s staff in the other. Shrewsbury resumed his seat at the Board; and the Council drew up schemes for the defence of the kingdom and for the securing of the Succession under his guidance. On July 31 the Council was increased in numbers from 25 to 38 by the arrival of Whig Lords. On the next day Shrewsbury informed five other Lords of the Council at Kensington that “Her Majesty Queen Anne departed this Life at her Palace at Kensington at half an hour after seven this Morning”; upon which news they adjourned to St James’. There a Privy Council, to the number of 43, assembled; at which Bothmer, the Hanoverian Envoy, was present, and where the Commission of Regency was read. On the steps of Whitehall the heralds blew their trumpets announcing the accession of His Gracious Majesty King George the First. On August 10, news came to the Elector of Hanover sitting in his garden in the Orangerie, at Herrenhausen, that he had inherited three Crowns.