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a confessor, Theodore as commonplace a young gentleman, Isabella and Matilda as commonplace a pair of young ladies, as are to be found in any of the thousand Italian castles in which condottieri have revelled, or in which imprisoned duchesses have pined. We cannot say that we much admire the big man whose sword is dug up in one quarter of the globe, whose helmet drops from the clouds in another, and who, after clattering and rustling for some days, ends by kicking the house down. But the story, whatever its value may be, never flags for a single moment. There are no digressions, or unseasonable descriptions, or long speeches. Every sentence carries the action forward. The excitement is constantly renewed. Absurd as is the machinery, and insipid as are the human actors, no reader probably ever thought the book dull.
The earlier letters contain the most lively and interesting account which we possess of that "great Walpolean battle," to use the words of Junius, which terminated in the retirement of Sir Robert. Horace Walpole entered the House of Commons just in time to witness the last desperate struggle which his father, surrounded by enemies and traitors, maintained, with a spirit as brave as that of the column at Fontenoy, first for victory, and then for honourable retreat. Horace was, of course, on the side of his family. Lord Dover seems to have been enthusiastic on the same side, and goes so far as to call Sir Robert "the glory of the Whigs."
Sir Robert deserved this high eulogium, we think, as little as he deserved the abusive epithets which have often been coupled with his name. A fair character of him still remains to be drawn; and, whenever it shall be drawn it will be equally unlike the portrait by Coxe and the portrait by Smollett.
Walpole's "Letters" are generally considered as his best performances, and we think with reason. His faults are far less offensive to us in his correspondence than in his books. He had, undoubtedly, great talents and great His wild, absurd, and ever-changing opinions virtues. He was not, indeed, like the leaders about men and things are easily pardoned in of the party which opposed his government, a familiar letters. His bitter, scoffing, depre- brilliant orator. He was not a profound schociating disposition, does not show itself in solar, like Carteret, or a wit and a fine gentleunmitigated a manner as in his "Memoirs." man, like Chesterfield. In all these respects, A writer of letters must be civil and friendly his deficiencies were remarkable. His literato his correspondent at least, if to no other per- ture consisted of a scrap or two of Horace, and an anecdote or two from the end of the He loved letter-writing, and had evidently Dictionary. His knowledge of history was so studied it as an art. It was, in truth, the very limited, that, in the great debate on the Excise kind of writing for such a man; for a man Bill, he was forced to ask Attorney-General very ambitious to rank among wits, yet ner-Yorke who Empson and Dudley were. vously afraid that, while obtaining the reputa- manners were a little too coarse and boistetion of a wit, he might lose caste as a gentle-rous even for the age of Westerns and Topman. There was nothing vulgar in writing a halls. When he ceased to talk of politics, he letter. Not even Ensign. Northerton, not even could talk of nothing but women; and he dithe captain described in Hamilton's Baron-lated on his favourite theme with a freedom and Walpole, though the author of many which shocked even that plain-spoken generaquartos, had some feelings in common with tion, and which was quite unsuited to his age those gallant officers-would have denied that and station. The noisy revelry of his summer a gentleman might sometimes correspond with festivities at Houghton gave much scandal to a friend. Whether Walpole bestowed much grave people, and annually drove his kinsman labour on the composition of his letters, it is and colleague, Lord Townshend, from the impossible to judge from internal evidence. neighbouring mansion of Rainham. There are passages which seem perfectly un- But, however ignorant he might be of gestudied. But the appearance of ease may be neral history and of general literature, he was the effect of labour. There are passages which better acquainted than any man of his day have a very artificial air. But they may have with what it concerned him most to know, been produced without effort by a mind of mankind, the English nation, the court, the which the natural ingenuity had been im- House of Commons, and his own office. Of proved into morbid quickness by constant ex-foreign affairs he knew little; but his judgment ercise. We are never sure that we see him was so good, that his little knowledge went as he was. We are never sure that what very far. He was an excellent parliamentary appears to be nature is not an effect of art. debater, an excellent parliamentary tactician, We are never sure that what appears to be art is not merely habit which has become second
excellent man of business. No man ever brought more industry or more method to the transacting of affairs. No minister in his time did so much; yet no minister had so much leisure.
He was a good-natured man, who had for thirty years seen nothing but the worst parts of human nature in other men. He was familiar with the malice of kind people, and the perfidy of honourable people. Proud men had licked the dust before him Patriots had begged him to come up to the price of their puffed and advertised integrity. He said, anter his T
In wit and animation the present collection is not superior to those which have preceded it. But it has one great advantage over them all. It forms a connected whole-a regular journal of what appeared to Walpole the most important transactions of the last twenty years of George the Second's reign. It contains much new information concerning the history of that time, the portion of English history of which cominon readers know the least.
fall, that it was a dangerous thing to be a minister; that there were few minds which would not be injured by the constant spectacle of meanness and depravity. To his honour, it must be confessed, that few minds have come out of such a trial so little damaged in the most important parts. He retired, after more than twenty years of power, with a temper not soured, with a heart not hardened, with simple tastes, with frank manners, and with a capacity for friendship. No stain of treachery, of ingratitude, or of cruelty rests on his memory. Factious hatred, while flinging on his name every other foul aspersion, was compelled to own that he was not a man of blood. This would scarcely seem a high eulogium on a statesman of our times. It was then a rare and honourable distinction. The contest of parties in England had long been carried on with a ferocity unworthy of a civilized people. Sir Robert Walpole was the minister who gave to our government that character of lenity which it has since generally preserved. It was perfectly known to him that many of his opponents had dealings with the Pretender. The lives of some were at his mercy. He wanted neither Whig nor Tory precedents for using his advantage unsparingly. But, with a clemency to which posterity has never done justice, he suffered himself to be thwarted, vilified, and at last overthrown, by a party which included many men whose necks were in his power.
That he practised corruption on a large scale is, we think, indisputable. But whether he deserved all the invectives which have been uttered against him on that account, may be questioned. No man ought to be severely censured for not being beyond his age in virtue. To buy the votes of constituents is as immoral as to buy the votes of representatives. The candidate who gives five guineas to the freeman is as culpable as the man who gives three hundred guineas to the member. Yet we know that, in our own time, no man is thought wicked or dishonourable, no man is cut, no man is black-balled, because, under the old system of election, he was returned, in the only way in which he could be returned, for East Retford, for Liverpool, or for Stafford. Walpole governed by corruption, because, in his time, it was impossible to govern otherwise. Corruption was unnecessary to the Tudors for their Parliaments were feeble. The publicity which has of late years been given to parliamentary proceedings has raised the standard of morality among public men. The power of public opinion is so great, that, ever. before the reform of the representation, a faint suspicion that a minister had given pecuniary gratifications to members of Parliament in return for their votes, would have been enough to ruin him. But, during the century which followed the restoration, the House of Commons was in that situation in which assemblies must be managed by corruption, or cannot be managed at all. It was not held in awe, as in the sixteenth century, by the throne. It was not held in awe, as In the nineteenth century, by the opinion of the
people. Its constitution was oligarchical. Its deliberations were secret. Its power in the state was immense. The government had every conceivable motive to offer bribes. Many of the members, if they were not men of strict honour and probity, had no conceivable motive to refuse what the government offered. In the reign of Charles the Second, accordingly, the practice of buying votes in the House of Commons was commenced by the daring Clifford, and carried to a great extent by the crafty and shameless Danby. The Revolution, great and manifold as were the blessings of which it was directly or remotely the cause, at first aggra vated this evil. The importance of the House of Commons was now greater than ever. The prerogatives of the crown were more strictly limited than ever, and those associations in which, more than in its legal prerogatives, its power had consisted, were completely broken. No prince was ever in so helpless, so distressing a situation as William the Third. The party which defended his title was, on general grounds, disposed to curtail his prerogative. The party which was, on general grounds, friendly to the prerogative, was adverse to his title. There was no quarter in which both his office and his person could find favour. But while the influence of the House of Commons in the government was becoming paramount, the influence of the people over the House of Commons was declining. It mattered little in the time of Charles the First, whether that House were or were not chosen by the people, it was certain to act for the people; because it would have been at the mercy of the court, but for the support of the people. Now that the court was at the mercy of the House of Commons, that large body of members who were not returned by popular election had nobody to please but themselves. Even those who were returned by popular election did not live, as now, under a constant sense of responsibility. The constituents were not, as now, daily apprized of the votes and speeches of their representatives. The privileges which had, in old times, been indispensably necessary to the security and efficiency of Parliaments, were now superfluous. But they were still carefully maintained; by honest legislators, from superstitious veneration; by dishonest legislators, for their own selfish ends. They had been a useful defence to the Commons during a long and doubtful conflict with powerful sovereigns. They were now no longer necessary for that purpose; and they became a defence to the members against their constituents. That secresy which had been absolutely necessary in times when the Privy Council was in the habit of sending the leaders of opposition to the Tower, was preserved in times when a vote of the House of Commons was sufficient to hurl the most powerful minister from his post.
The government could not go on unless the Parliament could be kept in order. And how was the Parliament to be kept in order? Three hundred years ago it would have been enough for a statesman to have the support of ine crown. It would now, we hope and believe, be enough for him to enjoy the confidence
and approbation of the great body of the middle class. A hundred years ago it would not nave been enough to have both crown and people on his side. The Parliament had shaken off the control of the royal prerogative. It had not yet fallen under the control of public opinion. A large proportion of the members had absolutely no motive to support any administration except their own interest, and in the lowest sense of the word. Under these circumstances, the country could be governed only by corruption. Bolingbroke, who was the ablest and the most vehement of those who raised the cry of corruption, had no better remedy to propose than that the royal prerogative should be strengthened. The remedy would no doubt have been efficient. The only question is, whether it would not have been worse than the disease. The fault was in the constitution of the legislature; and to blame those ministers who managed the legislature in the only way in which it could be managed, is gross injustice. They submitted to extortion because they could not help themselves. We might as well accuse the poor Lowland farmers who paid "black mail" to Rob Roy, of corrupting the virtue of the Highlanders, as Sir Robert Walpole of corrupting the virtue of Parliament. His crime was merely this; that he employed his money more dexterously, and got more support in return for it, than any of those who preceded or followed him.
He was himself incorruptible by money. His dominant passion was the love of power; and the heaviest charge which can be brought against him is, that to this passion he never scrupled to sacrifice the interests of his country.
One of the maxims which, as his son tells us, he was most in the habit of repeating was, quieta non movere. It was indeed the maxim by which he generally regulated his public conduct. It is the maxim of a man more solicitous to hold power long than to use it well. It is remarkable that, though he was at the head of affairs during more than twenty years, not one great measure, not one important change for the better or for the worse in any part of our institutions, marks the period of his supremacy. Nor was this because he did not clearly see that many changes were very desirable. He had been brought up in the school of toleration at the feet of Somers and of Burnet. He disliked the shameful laws against Dissenters. But he never could be induced to bring forward a proposition for repealing them. The sufferers represented to him the injustice with which they were treated, boasted of their firm attachment to the house of Brunswick and to the Whig party, and reminded him of his own repeated declarations of good-will to their cause. He listened, assented, promised, and did nothing. At length the question was brought forward by others; and the minister, after a hesitating and evasive speech, voted against it. The truth was, that he remembered to the latest day of his life that terrible explosion of highchurch feeling which the foolish prosecution of a foolish parson had occasioned in the days of Queen Anne. If the Dissenters had been
turbulent, he would probably have relieved them; but while he apprehended no danger from them, he would not run the slightest risk for their sake. He acted in the same manner with respect to other questions. He knew the state of the Scotch Highlands. He was constantly predicting another insurrection in that part of the empire. Yet during his long tenure of power, he never attempted to perform what was then the most obvious and pressing duty of a British statesman-to break the power of the chiefs, and to establish the authority of law through the farthest corners of the island. Nobody knew better than he that, if this were not done, great mischiefs would follow. But the Highlands were tolerably quiet at this time He was content to meet daily emergencies by daily expedients; and he left the rest to his successors. They had to conquer the High lands in the midst of a war with France and Spain, because he had not regulated the Highlands in a time of profound peace.
Sometimes, in spite of all his caution, he found that measures, which he had hoped to carry through quietly, had caused great agita tion. When this was the case, he generally modified or withdrew them. It was thus that he cancelled Wood's patent in compliance with the absurd outcry of the Irish. It was thus that he frittered away the Porteous Bill to nothing, for fear of exasperating the Scotch. It was thus that he abandoned the Excise Bili, as soon as he found that it was offensive to all the great towns of England. The language which he held about that measure in a subsequent session is eminently characteristic. Pulteney had insinuated that the scheme would be again brought forward. "As to the wicked scheme," said Walpole, "as the gentleman is pleased to call it, which he would persuade gentlemen is not yet laid aside, I, for my part, assure this House, I am not so mad as ever again to engage in any thing that looks like an excise; though, in my private opinion, I still think it was a scheme that would have tended very much to the interest of the nation."
The conduct of Walpole with regard to the Spanish War is the great blemish of his public life. Archdeacon Coxe imagined that he had discovered one grand principle of action to which the whole public conduct of his hero ought to be referred. “Did the administration of Walpole," says the biographer, "present any uniform principle which may be traced in every part, and which gave combination and consistency to the whole? Yes, and that principle was, THE LOVE OF PEACE." It would be difficult, we think, to bestow a higher eulogium on any statesman. But the eulogium is far too high for the merits of Walpole. The great ruling principle of his public conduct was indeed a love of peace, but not in the sense in which Archdeacon Coxe uses the phrase. The peace which Walpole sought was not the peace of the country, but the peace of his own administration. During the greater part of his public life, indeed, the two objects were inse parably connected. At length he was reduced to the necessity of choosing between them-of plunging the state into hostilities for which
there was no just ground, and by which nothing was to be got; or of facing a violent opposition in the country, in Parliament, and even in the royal closet. No person was more thoroughly convinced than he of the absurdity of the cry against Spain. But his darling power was at stake, and his choice was soon made. He preferred an unjust war to a stormy session. It is impossible to say of a ininister who acted thus, that the love of peace was the one grand principle to which all his conduct is to be referred. The governing principle of his conduct was neither love of peace nor love of war, but love of power.
father, who had charged with Rupert at Mars ton, who had held out the old manor-house against Fairfax, and who, after the king's re turn, had been set down for a Knight of the Royal Oak, flew to that section of the opposi tion which, under pretence of assailing the existing administration, was in truth assailing the reigning dynasty. The young republican, fresh from his Livy and his Lucan, and flowirg with admiration of Hampden, of Russell, and of Sydney, hastened with equal eagerness to those benches from which eloquent voices thundered nightly against the tyranny and perfidy of courts. So many young politicians were caught by these declarations, that Sir Ro bert, in one of his best speeches, observed, that the opposition against him consisted of three bodies-the Tories, the discontented Whigs, who were known by the name of the patriots, and the boys. In fact, every young man of warm temper and lively imagination, whatever his political bias might be, was drawn into the party adverse to the government; and some of the most distinguished among themPitt, for example, among public men, and Johnson, among men of letters—afterwards openly acknowledged their mistake.
The aspect of the opposition, even while it was still a minority in the House of Commons, was very imposing. Among those who, in Parliament or out of Parliament, assailed the administration of Walpole, were Bolingbroke, Carteret, Chesterfield, Argyle, Pulteney, Wyndham, Doddington, Pitt, Lyttleton, Barnard, Pope, Swift,Gay, Arbuthnot, Fielding, Johnson, Thomson, Akenside, Glover.
The praise to which he is fairly entitled is this, that he understood the true interest of his country better than any of his contemporaries, and that he pursued that interest whenever it was not incompatible with the interest of his own intense and grasping ambition. It was only in matters of public moment that he shrunk from agitation, and had recourse to compromise. In his contest for personal influence there was no timidity, nor flinching. He would have all or none. Every member of the government who would not submit to his ascendency was turned out or forced to resign. Liberal of every thing else, he was avaricious of nothing but power. Cautious everywhere else, when power was at stake, he had all the boldness of Wolsey or Chatham. He might easily have secured his authority if he could have been induced to divide it with others. But he would not part with one fragment of it to purchase defenders for all the rest. The effect of this policy was, that he had able enemies and feeble allies. His most distinguished coadjutors left him one by one, and joined the ranks of the opposition. He faced the increasing array of his enemies with unbroken spirit, and thought it far better that they should inveigh against his power than that they should share it. The opposition was in every sense formida-portant measure, without producing an immeble. At its head were two royal personages, diate schism in their party. It was with very the exiled head of the house of Stuart, the great difficulty that the Whigs in opposition disgraced heir of the house of Brunswick. had been induced to give a sullen and silent One set of members received directions from vote for the repeal of the Septennial Act. The Avignon. Another set held their consultations Tories, on the other hand, could not be induced and banquets at Norfolk House. The majority to support Pulteney's motion for an addition to of the landed gentry, the majority of the paro- the income of Prince Frederic. The two parchial clergy, one of the universities, and a ties had cordially joined in calling out for a strong party in the city of London, and in the war with Spain: but they had now their war. other great towns, were decidedly averse to Hatred of Walpole was almost the only feeling the government. Of the men of letters, some which was common to them. On this one were exasperated by the neglect with which the point, therefore, they concentrated their whole minister treated them-a neglect which was the strength. With gross ignorance, or gross dismore remarkable, because his predecessors, honesty, they represented the minister as the both Whig and Tory, had paid court, with main grievance of the state. His dismissal, emulous munificence, to the wits and the his punishment, would prove the certain cure poets; others were honestly inflamed by party for all the evils which the nation suffered. zeal; almost all lent their aid to the opposition. What was to be done after his fall, how mis. In truth, all that was alluring to ardent and government was to be prevented in future, imaginative minds was on that side:-old asso- were questions to which there were as many ciations, new visions of political improvement, answers as there were noisy and ill-informed high-flown theories of loyalty, high-flown theo- members of the opposition. The only cry in ries of liberty, the enthusiasm of the Cavalier, which all could join was, "Down with Wal. the enthusiasm of the Roundhead. The Tory pole!" So much did they narrow the disputed gentleman, fed in the common-rooms of Oxford grounds, so purely personal did they make the with the doctrines of Filmer and Sacheverell, question, that they threw out friendly hints to and proud of the exploits of his great-grand- the other members of the administration, and
The circumstance that the opposition was divided into two parties, diametrically opposed to each other in political opinions, was long the safety of Walpole. It was at last his ruin. The leaders of the minority knew that it would be difficult for them to bring forward any im
If the fate of Walpole's colleagues had been inseparably bound up with his, he probably would, even after the unfavourable elections of 1741, have been able to weather the storm. But as soon as it was understood that the attack was directed against him alone, and that, if he were sacrificed, his associates might expect advantageous and honourable terms, the ministerial ranks began to waver, and the murmur of sauve qui peut was heard. That Walpole had foul play is almost certain but to what extent it is difficult to say. Lord Islay was suspected; the Duke of Newcastle something more than suspected. It would have been strange, indeed, if his grace had been idle when treason was hatching.
declared that they refused quarter to the prime | Walpole was to be the beginning of a political minister alone. His tools might keep their millennium; and every enthusiast had figured heads, their fortunes, even their places, if only to himself that millennium according to the the great father of corruption were given up to fashion of his own wishes. The republican the just vengeance of the nation. expected that the power of the crown would be reduced to a mere shadow; the high Tory that the Stuarts would be restored; the mode. rate Tory that the golden days which the church and the landed interest had enjoyed during the last years of Queen Anne, would immediately return. It would have been im possible to satisfy everybody. The conquerors satisfied nobody.
We have no reverence for the memory of those who were then called the patriots. We are for the principles of good government against Walpole; and for Walpole against the opposition. It was most desirable that a purer system should be introduced; but if the old system was to be retained, no man was so fit as Walpole to be at the head of affairs. There were frightful abuses in the government, abuses more than sufficient to justify a strong opposition; but the party opposed to Walpole, while they stimulated the popular fury to the highest point, were at no pains to direct it aright. Indeed, they studiously misdirected it. They misrepresented the evil. They prescribed inefficient and pernicicus remedies. They held up a single man as the sole cause of all the vices of a bad system, which had been in full operation before his entrance into public life, and which continued to be in full operation when some of these very bawlers had succeeded to his power. They thwarted his best measures. They drove him into an unjustifiable war against his will. Constantly Every thing was in confusion. It has been talking in magnificent language about tyranny, said that the confusion was produced by the corruption, wicked ministers, servile courtiers, dexterous policy of Walpole; and undoubtedly, the liberties of Englishmen, the Great Charter, he did his best to sow dissensions amongst his the rights for which our fathers bled-Timo triumphant enemies. But there was little for leon, Brutus, Hampden, Sydney - they had him to do. Victory had completely dissolved absolutely nothing to propose which would the hollow truce which the two sections of the have been an improvement on our institutions. opposition had but imperfectly observed, even Instead of directing the public mind to definite while the event of the contest was still doubt-reforms, which might have completed the ful. A thousand questions were opened in a work of the Revolution, which might have moment. A thousand conflicting claims were brought the legislature into harmony with the preferred. It was impossible to follow any nation, and which might have prevented the line of policy, which would not have been of- crown from doing by influence what it could fensive to a large portion of the successful no longer do by prerogative, they excited a party. It was impossible to find places for a vague craving for change, by which they protenth part of those who thought that they had fited for a single moment, and of which, as a right to be considered. While the parlia- they well deserved, they were soon the victims. mentary leaders were preaching patience and confidence, while their followers were clamoring for reward, a still louder voice was heard from without-the terrible cry of a people angry, they hardly knew with whom, and impatient, they hardly knew for what. The day of retribution had arrived. The opposition reaped what they had sown: inflamed with haired and cupidity, despairing of success by any ordinary mode of political warfare, and blind to consequences which, though remote, were certain, they had conjured up a devil which they could not lay. They had made the public mind drunk with calumny and declamation. They had raised expectations which it was impossible to satisfy. The downfall of
Among the reforms which the state then required, there were two of paramount importance, two which would alone have remedied almost every abuse, and without which all other remedies would have been unavailing-the publicity of parliamentary proceed. ings, and the abolition of the rotten boroughs. Neither of these was thought of. It seems to us clear, that if these were not adopted, ali other measures would have been illusory. Some of the patriots suggested changes which would, beyond all doubt, have increased the existing evils a hundred fold. These men wished to transfer the disposal of employ ments, and the command of the army, from the crown to the Parliament; and this on the
“Che Gan fu traditor prima che nato." name," said Sir Robert, "is perfidy."
Never was a battle more manfully fought cut than the last struggle of the old statesman. His clear judgment, his long experience, and his fearless spirit, enabled him to maintain a defensive war through half a session. To the last his heart never failed him; and, when at length he yielded, he yielded, not to the threats of his enemies, but to the entreaties of his dispirited and refractory followers. When he could no longer retain his power, he compounded for honour and security, and retired to his garden and his paintings, leaving to those who had overthrown him-shame, discord, and