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repeal of the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts, though he had himself denounced those Acts as more like laws of Julian the Apostate than of a Christian Legislature. He was sincerely tolerant in his disposition, and probably did as much for the benefit of the Dissenters as could have been done without producing a violent and dangerous reaction of opinion; but he took no measure to lighten the burden of the Irish penal code, and he had no scruple in availing himself of the strong feeling against the English Catholics and Non-jurors to raise 100,000l. by a special tax upon their estates, or in promising the Dissenters that he would obtain the repeal of the Test Act, when he had no serious intention of doing so. He warned the country faithfully against the South Sea Scheme, but when his warning was disregarded he proceeded to speculate skilfully and successfully in it himself. He laboured long and earnestly to prevent the Spanish war, which he knew to be eminently impolitic; but when the clamours of his opponents had made it inevitable he determined that he would still remain at the helm, and he accordingly declared it himself. He governed the country mildly and wisely, but he was resolved at all hazards to secure for himself a complete monopoly of power; he steadily opposed the reconciliation of the Tories with the Hanoverian dynasty,' lest it should impair his ascendency, surrounded himself with colleagues whose faculties rarely rose above the tamest mediocrity, drove from power every man of real talent who might possibly become his rival, and especially repelled young men of promise, character, and ambition, whom a provident statesman, desirous of perpetuating his policy beyond his lifetime, would especially seek to attract.

The scandal and also the evil effects of his political vices were greatly increased by that total want of decorum which Burke has justly noted as the weakest point of his character. In this respect his public and private life resembled one another. That he lived for many years in open adultery, and indulged to excess in the

See the striking remarks of Speaker Onslow on Walpole's settled 'plan of having everybody to be

deemed a Jacobite who was not a professed and known Whig.'-Coxe's Walpole, ii. 554-557.

pleasures of the table, were facts which in the early part of they eighteenth century were in themselves not likely to excite much attention; but his boisterous revelries at Houghton exceeded even the ordinary licence of the country squires of his time, and the gross sensuality of his conversation was conspicuous in one of the coarsest periods of English history. When he did not talk of business, it was said, he talked of women; politics and obscenity were his tastes. There seldom was a Court less addicted to prudery than that of George II., but even its tolerance was somewhat strained by a minister who jested with the Queen upon the infidelity of her husband, who advised her on one occasion to bring to Court a beautiful but silly woman as a'safe fool' for the King to fall in love with, who, on the death of the Queen, urged her daughters to summon without delay the two mistresses of the King in order to distract the mind of their father; who at the same time avowed, with a brutal frankness, as the scheme of his future policy, that though he had been for the wife against the mistress, he would be henceforth for the mistress against the daughters. In society he had the weakness of wishing to be thought a man of gallantry and fashion, and his awkward addresses, rendered the more ludicrous by al singularly corpulent and ungraceful person, as well as the extreme coarseness into which he usually glided when speaking to and of women, drew down upon him much ridicule and some contempt. His estimate of political integrity was very similar to his estimate of female virtue. He governed by means of an assembly which was saturated with corruption, and he fully acquiesced in its conditions and resisted every attempt to improve it. He appears to have cordially accepted the maxim that government must be carried on by corruption or by force, and he deliberately made the former the basis of his rule. He bribed George II. by obtaining for him a civil list exceeding by more than 100,000l. a year that of his father. He bribed the Queen by securing for her a jointure of 100,000l. a year, when his rival, Sir Spencer Compton, could only venture to promise


1 Memoirs of Lord Hervey.

60,000l. He bribed the Dissenting ministers to silence by the Regium Donum for the benefit of their widows. He employed the vast patronage of the Crown uniformly and steadily with the single view of sustaining his political position, and there can be no doubt that a large proportion of the immense expenditure of secret service money during his administration was devoted to the direct purchase of Members of Parliament.

It is necessary to speak with much caution on this matter, remembering that no statesman can emancipate himself from the conditions of his time, and that a great injustice is done when the politician of one age is measured by the standard of another. Bribery, whether at elections or in Parliament, was no new thing. The systematic corruption of Members of Parliament is said to have begun under Charles II., in whose reign it was practised to the largest extent. It was continued under his successor, and the number of scandals rather increased than diminished after the Revolution. Sir J. Trevor-a Speaker of the House of Commons--had been voted guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour for receiving a bribe of 1,000 guineas from the City of London. A Secretary of the Treasury-Mr. Guy --had been sent to the Tower for taking a bribe to induce him to pay the arrears due to a regiment. Lord Ranelagh, a Paymaster of the Forces, had been expelled for defalcations in his office. In order to facilitate the passing of the South Sea Bill, it was proved that large amounts of fictitious stock had been created, distributed among, and accepted by, ministers of the Crown. Aislabie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was expelled, sent to the Tower, and fined. The younger Craggs, who was Secretary of State, probably only escaped by a timely death. His father, the Postmaster-General, avoided inquiry by suicide, and grave suspicion rested upon Charles Stanhope, the Secretary of the Treasury, and upon Sunderland, the Prime Minister. When such instances could be cited from among the leaders of politics, it is not surprising that among the undistinguished Members corruption was notorious. In 1698, a system of fraudulent endorsement of Exchequer bills with a view to defraud the

revenue was discovered, and two Members of Parliament were sent to the Tower and expelled for being guilty of it. The expulsion of Hungerford for receiving a small sum for expediting a private Bill through Parliament, of the two Shepherds for bribery at elections, of Sir R. Sutton for having through carelessness become director of a swindling company, of Ridge for the non-observance of a contract, of Colonel Cardonell for accepting an illegal though customary gratuity, of Walpole himself for alleged dishonesty about a contract, were probably inspired chiefly or solely by factious motives, but there can at least be no reasonable doubt that parliamentary corruption does not date from the ministry of Walpole. Nor was he the first to practise largely corruption at elections. Burnet assures us that at the elections of 1701, when William was still on the throne, ' a most scandalous practice was brought in of buying votes with so little decency that the electors engaged themselves by subscription to choose a blank person before they were trusted with the name of their candidate.' I have cited in the last chapter the explicit testimony of Davenant to the magnitude of the evil in his day, and the writings of Defoe contain ample proof of its inveteracy and of its progress. In a pamphlet published in 1701, he tells us that there was a regular set of stock-jobbers in the City who made it their business to buy and sell seats in Parliament, that the market price was 1,000 guineas, and that Parliament was thus in a fair way of coming under the management of a few individuals. In 1705, after adverting to some Acts which had been passed against bribery, he adds emphatically, 'Never was treating, bribery, buying of voices, freedoms and freeholds, and all the corrupt practices in the world so open and barefaced as since these severe laws were enacted.'4

In 1708

1 Townsend's Hist. of the House passage, as well as some others which

of Commons, ch. iv., v.

2 Burnet's Own Times, ii. 258-259.

• From The Freeholder's Plea against Stock-jobbing Elections of Parliament.'-Wilson's Life of Defoe, i. 340-341. Mr. Hallam must have somewhat strangely overlooked this

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I have cited in the last chapter, when he speaks of the purchase of seats of Parliament as first observed in the elections of 1747 and 1754.-Const. Hist. iii. 302.

'Review. See Wilson, ii. 362.

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he declared that, having been present at many elections, he had arrived at the conclusion that it is not an impossible thing to debauch this nation into a choice of thieves, knaves, devils, anything, comparatively speaking, by the power of various intoxications.' The evil showed no sign of diminution. In 1716 we find bitter complaints in Parliament itself of the rapidly increasing expense of elections, and the Earl of Dorset spoke of it as a notorious fact that a great number of persons have no other livelihood than by being employed in bribing corporations."


And if corruption did not begin with Walpole, it is equally certain that it did not end with him. His expenditure of secret service money, large as it was, never equalled in an equal space of time the expenditure of Bute; and it is to Bute, and not to Walpole, that we owe the most gigantic and most wasteful of all the forms of bribery, the custom of issuing loans on terms extravagantly advantageous to the lender, and distributing the shares among the supporters of the administration. The downfall of Walpole can scarcely be said to have produced even a temporary cessation of corruption. In 1754, Sir J. Barnard, with a view to the approaching elections, actually moved the repeal of the oath against bribery, in the interest of public morals, on the ground that it was merely the occasion of general perjury. In the same year Fox declined to accept from Newcastle the lead of the House of Commons, unless he received information about the disposition of the secret service money, because, as he said, ' if he was kept in ignorance of that, he should not know how to talk to Members of Parliament, when some might have received gratifications, others not.'5 Very few statesmen of the eighteenth century had less natural tendency to corruption than George Grenville. His private character was unimpeachable. His alteration of the mode of trying contested elections was a great step towards the purification of Parliament, and the expenditure of secret service money

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