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For Harley's fame it has been unfortunate that he should have had as colleague a man so unusual and so brilliant as Bolingbroke-one so much his opposite and so much more striking a personality. Yet in nearly every generation there have occurred similar instances of a close political alliance between men dissimilar in character, one of whom seems to serve as a foil for the meteoric brilliancy of the other; thus we couple the younger Pitt and Grenville, at a later period Canning and Liverpool. In the sketch of the leading politicians of England by Prince Eugene, to which we just now referred, there is to be found a portrait of St. John. “Secretary St. John,' he says, “(the bulldog of the party) is of a bold and daring • spirit, of an aspiring temper, of good parts enough, • acquired by the advantage of being concerned in business . more than his age allows of. This description, while it brings out some features of St. John's character, is somewhat limited; it omits to mention his gifts as an orator and a writer, his mental versatility and his social gaiety. In every one of these respects he was the exact opposite of his chief-a halting speaker, a parliamentary archæologist, a collector, and not a maker, of books. Quite without political brilliancy, and guided by what he gathered to be the current public opinion, as a public man he was the exact antithesis of his colleague. In his domestic life he was as quiet and irreproachable as St. John was wild and wicked. Politically St. John was without principles or scruples, while Harley was a consistent politician with fixed ideas of political conduct, who had the misfortune for a party leader to be more moderate in his views than most of his followers, and to be in sympathy with the guiding opinions of his opponents. Both from temperament and from a singularly accurate perception of the feeling of the country gathered not a little from the information collected by trustworthy subordinates,* he was always endeavouring to steer a course which would obtain for him the support of the moderate men of both parties and of the great bulk of the people who desired to live in peace and prosperity. A Whig by birth, he was always anxious never to press the Dissenters too hardly.
* 'I have, since I have served (you], as you know, established a general correspondence, and at some charge maintained it, by which I have a fixed intelligence (I may say) all over Britain.' De Foe to Harley, September 2, 1710. (Harley Papers, vol. ii. p. 587.)
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How difficult and often impossible such an ideal of political conduct was when reduced to action in such an age as that in which Harley chanced to live will presently be seen.
In the description of an interview with Pensionary Buys which Drummond sent to Harley on December 15, 1710, is very clearly stated what we may fairly take to be the new Prime Minister's policy, since, in speaking as Drummond describes himself as doing to the Dutch statesman, he was undoubtedly acting as Harley's mouthpiece :
To all this,' says Drummond, 'a much finer harangue than I can repeat, I answered, “Sir, I entreat you will consider on what Lord Albemarle has told you, that the gentlemen now employed by the Queen were as hearty for the Revolution as any in England, that they are firm Protestants, that they are men uninterested, that they have good land estates to lose which they cannot remove, as some new acquired sums of money can be,” that before Christmas old style he should be convinced that change of ministers had made no change of measures as to the common cause, unless it were in being more hearty and expeditious, more frugal of the nation's money, and more earnest for a speedy and reasonable peace; that I hope to be able soon to show him demonstrable proofs of their affection to this state and the carrying on of the common cause with more vigour than ever considering how long the war had lasted, and what a great share England had borne in the expense thereof. Therefore I hope, as your new Parliament is now sitting, you will soon send us over such hearty resolutions as shall rejoice the hearts of the people here, as shall convince them that the Queen has changed for the better, and as shall make ashamed all the disingenuous insinuators of mischief and villainy, who will fall into the traps they have prepared for others, and will be ashamed to own the party they have cried up, and be glad to shelter under the wings of those which they have upbraided and prosecuted.' (Harley Papers, vol. iii. p. 639.)
By a large body of Englishmen who have always existed midway between ardent politicians of either party Harley's position, in spite of his office, was still regarded as neutral with satisfaction. John Chamberlayne, writing from Westminster in 1711, says :
In the mean time I make bold to tell your Lordship how much I applaud her Majesty's wise choice of a first minister ; but I should be no less foolish than bold if I should offer this as my own private thoughts; no, my lord, 'tis the opinion of all the philosophers and unprejudiced men (who are a sort of squadron volante without doors, and who nullius jurant in verba magistri), which I am now going to lay before your Lordship; and their opinion is that while the Earl of Oxford and our new Lord Treasurer holds the scales of the contending parties, he will produce harmony out of discord, and so long our Church and nation will be in a safe and flourishing condition; and as this is their opinion, so is their prayer that the said Earl of Oxford may long hold the balance, and always have weight enough to make an equilibrium ; and then he may be able to stop that party tide, even with his thumb, which has hitherto borne down all the ministers before it.' (Harley Papers, vol. iii. p. 697.)
Long ago Gay pointed a moral in his story of the hare with many friends, “Her care was never to offend.' In public life such a purpose is impossible of fulfilment; it not only makes enemies, it causes friends to be lukewarm and suspicious. But in times such as those in which Harley rose to power, this idea which had such a mastery over him was certain to result in disaster. No two courses could more certainly lead to political destruction than to coquette with the Jacobites and to consult with the Whigs. From the very beginning of his official life he received the advice of Halifax, a Whig who had preceded him in office and who was destined to be one of the leaders of that administration which after the accession of George I. actually impeached him. Thus in 1711 we read this very confidential communication from Halifax, one among many :
· 1711, December 6.- If I had been so happy to think of any expedient to prevent the straits we are falling into I would have offered my thoughts to your Lord-hip, being determined to serve you in everything consistent with my judgement and my honour, and since you seem to be desirous of it, I will rather offer at something, though it may be very wrong, than not act as a friend. You know best your own calculation, but according to mine there will be a majority in our House against the terms of peace offered by France. If that be so, why should Lord Treasurer struggle and labour that point? He has been willing to hearken to proposals of peace, he has communicated them to the Allies, invited them to meet and consider of the terms, gone hand in hand with Holland in the steps that have been made; if their Lordships think the nation in a condition to insist on higher demands, and that their resolutions will obtain them, he wishes it as much as anybody. If you thought it not improper to turn the debate in this manner, you would remove the difficulties from yourself, leave room for reasonable measures, and throw the blame of extravagant ones on others. I am sensible of the presumption and folly of this, but you have drawn it on yourself, and you will excuse the excess of my zeal to help you off in a difficult affair, and pray let my folly go no further, and burn this paper.' (Harley Papers, vol. iii. p. 125.) But for the moment the impossibility of conciliating two factions which were violently opposed was not so obvious, because there was a definite practical object to be attained, in the accomplishing of which Harley had the support of the majority of the nation. This was the conclusion of
peace. Yet here, again, Harley was unfortunate. Neither by knowledge nor by disposition was he capable of guiding St. John. Not only as one of the Secretaries of State was the conduct of negotiations necessarily largely entrusted to him, but the importance and the conspicuousness of the task made it very congenial. For the time being it absorbed all St. John's powers. In his famous letter to Sir William Windham he says: “The thread of the negotiations, which • could not stand still a moment without going back, was in 'my hands.
'I wrote Mr. Secretary St. John,' says Drummond to Harley on May 29, 1711, "last post, a long account of the conference I had, and having read to the Pensionary some passages of Mr. St. John's letters to me, he asked me very earnestly, “Do you now never get any letters from Mr. Harley? Cannot you prevail on, or encourage, him to write plainly to you his own opinion of and thoughts of our present circumstances ?” My answer was that Mr. Secretary's sentiments were certainly the Queen's and Mr. Harley's, and that Mr. Harley had so much other business on his hands-viz, the whole care and management of the finances and the entire direction of the House of Commonsto go on in measures and consent to effectual methods for carrying on the common cause, and the long, expensive, and destructive war, that we may the sooner arrive at a so much longed-for peace. To this he replied, “I wish he would resolve to write plain, and I should give you plain answers."' (Harley Papers, vol. ii. p. 691)
Yet before negotiations began, Harley had by a mere accident been personally and extraordinarily strengthened. He was the least sensational of men, but the attempt on his life by Guiscard in March 1711 gave him for the time an immense emotional popularity, of which a politician more alive to the value of popular support would not have been slow to avail himself. Addresses and letters of congratulation on his escape and his recovery from the wound poured in to him from all parts of the country, and to the influence arising from his mastery of parliamentary details was now added a personal sympathy, capable of being skilfully turned to political purposes. “I hear,' writes one of Harley's daughters to her aunt Abigail Harley describing his reception by the House of Commons, 'the Speaker made a very fine
speech, my father was received in a very extraordinary 'manner, there was not one in the House but what took 'occasion to make their compliments to him, and crowded * about him. The House was very full. I hear the speech . is to be printed.'* But a month afterwards Harley left
* Harley Papers, vol. ii. p. 680.
the Commons, of which he was an admirable leader, and where by moderation and by a rare chance he had now 80 unrivalled a position for a seat in the House of Lords where the absence of the greater qualities of a statesman lessened his political power. His conduct seems to imply a desire to obtain a dignity and an ease of life, rather than to gratify mere love of power. He shrewdly took advantage of his good fortune to secure for himself a high place in the peerage-a place which be probably foresaw he might not again be sure of attaining.
The main object of Harley's policy, as has already been pointed out, was to end the war. No one perceived the general desire of the English people * for peace with France, more and more feeling as they were the burdens and distresses of the never-ending European campaigns than Harley. No one saw more accurately than he that the High Church movement was one of those evanescent and striking expressions of popular feeling, the importance of which it is easy to overrate. All religious conflicts evoke passion in a high degree, and priestly enthusiasm can always raise some following. But that these movements are not necessarily lasting or deep the fleeting popularity of Sacheverell shows. To some extent the populace joined in the movement which this shallow priest fanned into flame, because it was the easiest and most ready means of showing their present discontent and their objection to the ininistry which happened to be in power. To use a popular phrase, “any stick is
good enough to beat a dog with.' The mob which shouted for Sacheverell cared little that the Church of England should be pulchra, suavis, et decora.' Blinded by their desire for the supremacy of the Church, Atterbury and the divines who followed him imagined that the people were in favour of the divine right of kings, a doctrine which, as has been well said, was in itself a condemnation of the Revolution. The rapidity of the change of popular feeling on the death of the Queen shows how little real support the High
* This desire existed also in the army. In October 1711 Lord Orkney wrote:
The news of what is transacting about peace in England is in everybody's mouth, and I am persuaded is heartily wished to succeed by most of the army of all nations, though I am convinced by some it is very much otherwise. I wish with all my heart your Lordship may succeed in all your endeavours . ... (Harley Papers, vol. ii. p. 95.)