Page images

or whether, by bestowing some offices on the Tories, he would make an effort at once to conciliate his opponents, and to retain in his own hands a substantial part of the direction of affairs. Every step in his policy, however, showed that he was resolved to adopt the former alternative, and the Tories soon learnt to realise the pathetic truth of the words which Bolingbroke wrote, on the occasion of his own contemptuous dismissal: 'The grief of my soul is this: I see plainly that the Tory party is gone.' Halifax appears to have urged the appointment of Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bromley, and some other Tories, to high office under the Crown ;' but Townshend and Cowper, with a zeal that was not purely disinterested, pressed upon the King the impossibility of distributing his favours equally between the parties, and, with the exception of Nottingham, who, during the latter days of Queen Anne, had completely identified himself with the Whigs, and who was for a short time President of the Council, all Tories were excluded from the management of affairs. It was urged that, in the very critical moment of accession, it was indispensable that the King should be served only by statesmen on whom he could perfectly rely; that the leaders of the Tory party had in the last reign been deeply implicated in Jacobite intrigues; that it was difficult or impossible to say how far Jacobitism had spread among them; that a division of offices would be sure to create jealousy and disloyalty in the weaker party, and to enfeeble, in a period of great danger, the policy of the Government; that, in the very probable event of the Pretender becoming Protestant, the House of Brunswick could count on no one but the most decided Whigs. On the other hand, it is certain that a very large part of the

1 Coxe's Life of Walpole, vol. i. p. 60 (ed. 1798). It appears that offices, but apparently sinecures, were offered to and refused by Hanmer and Bromley. See some interesting letters on this subject in Sir H. Bunbury's Life of Hanmer, pp. 53–56,66–61. Lord Anglesey, who, though a Tory, had followed Sir Thomas Hanmer in

opposing the Tory ministry, received a place in the Irish treasury.

Campbell's Chancellors, v. 293. It is said that, among his German advisers, Gortz recommended some favour to the Tories, but Bernsdorf was wholly in favour of the Whigs. See a letter of Horace Walpole in Coxe's Walpole, ii. 48.

Stuart sympathies of the Tories was simply due to a fear that the new Government would not recognise the legitimate claims of the party to a fair share of political power, and it is equally certain that the landed gentry and the clergy in England were strongly attached to that party and were bitterly exasperated by its proscription. It was not forgotten that the Act of Settlement, by virtue of which the King sat on the throne, was brought in by a Tory statesman, that the Peace of Utrecht, which was the great measure of the Tory ministry, contained a clause compelling the French sovereign to recognise the Protestant succession, and to expel the Pretender from France, and that one section of the party, under the guidance of Sir Thomas Hanmer, had never wavered in its attachment to the Act of Settlement. On the death of the Queen, they had all, at least passively, accepted the change of dynasty, and there is no reason to question the substantial truth of the assertion of Bolingbroke, that the proscription of the Tories by George I. for the first time made the party entirely Jacobite.' But, whatever may have been its effect on the stability of the dynasty, there can be no doubt of the effect of the Whig monopoly of office on the authority of the sovereign. He was no longer the moderating power, holding the balance in a heterogeneous and divided Cabinet, able to dismiss a statesman of one policy and to employ a statesman of another, and thus in a great measure to determine the tendency of the Government. He could govern only through a political body which, in its complete union and in its command of the majority in Parliament, was usually able, by the threat of joint resignation, which would

1 Letter to Windham. This is strongly corroborated by a letter of Iberville to the French King, written on Oct. 24, 1714 (N.S.). He says, ' Votre Majesté a vu par mes précédentes dépêches que plusieurs des Tories qu'on appelle rigides, c'est à dire zélés à l'outrance pour l'Eglise Anglicane et pour le gouvernement monarchique, sont devenus Jacobites, ne voyant d'autre moyen d'empescher

l'entière ruine de leur party que d'appeler le Prétendant; et que la guerre avec V. M. leur paroissoit absolument nécessaire pour y réussir. J'ai vu clairement que ce sentiment devenoit chaque jour plus commun parmy eux et qu'il y a toute apparence que les Tories modérés y entreront aussi par pur zèle de party mais avec plus de retenue.'-Bunbury's Life of Sir T. Hanmer, pp. 60-61.

make government impossible, to dictate its own terms. The peculiarity of his position added to his dependence. His throne was exceedingly insecure. He enjoyed no popularity, and he was almost wholly ignorant of the language, the customs, and the domestic policy of his people. His predecessors always presided at the deliberations of the Cabinet, but George I., on account of his ignorance of the language, was never present, and his example was in this respect followed by his successors,

In this manner, by the force of events, much more than by any express restrictive legislation, a profound change had passed over the position of the monarchy in England. The chief power fell into the hands of the Whig statesmen. Nottingham, who was the only partial exception, having exerted himself in favour of clemency towards the noblemen who were condemned during the rebellion, was dismissed in the beginning of 1716, and the triumphant party made it their main task to consolidate their ascendancy. They did this chiefly in two ways. They steadily laboured to identify the Tory party with Jacobitism, and thus to persuade both the sovereign and the people that a Tory Government meant a subversion of the dynasty. As there was absolutely no enthusiasm for the reigning sovereign, the prospect might not in itself appear very alarming, but it was clearly understood that the downfall of the dynasty meant civil war, revolution, and perhaps national bankruptcy. They also began systematically to build up a vast system of parliamentary influence. The wealth of the great Whig houses, the multitude of small and venal boroughs, the increase of Government patronage, and the Septennial Act, which, by prolonging the duration of Parliament, made it more than ever amenable to ministerial influence, enabled them to carry out their policy with a singular completeness.

The condition of European politics greatly assisted them. The chief external danger to the dynasty lay in the hostility of France, but this hostility was now for a long period removed.

See, on this dismissal, Robert Walpole to Horace Walpole, March 6, 171516.-Coxe's Walpole, ii. 51.

The Regent from the first had leaned somewhat towards the English alliance, and after the suppression of the rebellion of 1715 he took decided steps in this direction. He had, indeed, the strongest personal interest in doing so. The young prince, who was his ward, and who was the undoubted heir to the throne, was so weak and sickly that his death might at any time be expected. In that case the crown, according to the provisions of the Peace of Utrecht, devolved upon the Regent, but it was extremely probable that Philip of Spain would claim it, in spite of the act by which he had renounced his title. The succession of the Regent would then be in the utmost danger. It was possible that Philip, inspired by the daring genius of Alberoni, who was now rising rapidly to ascendancy in his councils, would endeavour to unite under one sceptre the dominions both of France and of Spain. In that case a European war was inevitable, but it would be a war in which the whole national sentiment of France would be opposed to the Regent, who was personally unpopular, and who would be an obstacle to the most cherished dream of French ambition. It was possible also, and perhaps more probable, that Philip would endeavour merely to exchange the throne of Spain for that of France. If he abdicated in favour of a prince who was acceptable to the Powers who had been allied in the last war, the great object of the Whig party in the reign of Anne would be realised; and it was therefore by no means improbable that the allied Powers would favour his attempt. If England could be induced unequivocally to guarantee the succession of the House of Orleans, if the Whig Government of George I. would in this respect at least cordially adopt the policy of the Tory ministry which negotiated the Peace of Utrecht, it was clear that the prospects of the Regent would be immensely improved. On the other hand, the reasons inducing the English Government to seek a French alliance were at least equally strong. France could do more than all other Powers combined to shake the dynasty, and as long as the Jacobite party could look forward to her support it would never cease to be powerful. Besides this, an English

giarantee might so strengthen the House of Orleans as to prevent another European war, and avert the danger of the union of the two crowns. Hanoverian polities had also begun to colour all English negotiations, and a great coldness which had sprung up between the Emperor and the Hanoverian Government, on account of the claims of the latter to Bremen and Verden, helped to incline George towards a French rather than an Austrian alliance. There was also a dangerous question pending between England and France, which it might be possible amicably to arrange. The Peace of Utrecht had stipulated that the harbour of Dunkirk should be destroyed, and the injury that had been done to British commerce by the privateers which issued from that harbour was so great that scarcely any provision in the treaty was equally popular. It had been in a great degree fulfilled, but the French had proceeded to nullify it by constructing a new canal on the same coast at Mardyke. The destruction of this incipient harbour became in consequence one of the strongest desires of the English.

These various considerations drew together the Powers which had so long been deadly enemies. The negotiation was chiefly conducted at Hanover by Stanhope on the side of England, and by Dubois on that of France, and it resulted in a treaty which gave an entirely new turn to the foreign policy of England. By this treaty the Regent agreed to break altogether with the Pretender, to compel him to reside beyond the Alps, and to destroy the new port at Mardyke, while both Powers confirmed and guaranteed the Peace of Utrecht and particularly the order of the succession to the crowns of England and France which it established. Thus, by a singular vicissitude of politics, it was the Whig party which was now the most anxious to ally itself with France in the interest of that Protestant succession which Lewis XIV. had so bitterly opposed. The States-General somewhat reluctantly acceded to the treaty, which was finally concluded in January 1716-17.

It would be difficult to overrate the value of this alliance to the new dynasty and to the Whig party. It paralysed the efforts

« PreviousContinue »