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Namur, was obliged to depart, although he had been graciously received at court. The pacific minister had an argument for the king and queen, which sounds like insular selfishness, but which insular common sense will always applaud : “ There are fisty thousand men slain this year in Europe, and not one Englishman.” Under the mediation of England and Holland, peace was concluded in 1735. By this pacification, France added Lorraine to her territory. This acquisition, it has been argued even of late years, “disturbed the balance of Europe to a degree that Europe never has recovered.” We are told that “as a general question, it cannot be doubted that Austria is a natural ally of England, becau: e France has been, and always must be, the most formidable enemy to both." *
The repeal of the Septennial Act was the great domestic question of this Session. The party that advocated a return to triennial parliaments would possess the superior popularity in the coming elections. No doubt many who now opposed the government upon this measure would be open to the charge of inconsistency; for “Whig patriots,” especially Pulteney, had supported the Septennial Act of 1716. Bolingbroke, the arch enemy of Wal. pole, was at hand to combat every scruple of conscience, and induce the listeners to his sophistries to beliere that political tergiversation was a virtue. The prime minister must be struck down, and for that purpose any weapon was lawsul. In the debate upon this constitutional question, sir William Wyndham, the great Tory chief, made an attack upon Walpole, which Walpole treated as the inspiration of Bolingbroke. Over the parliamentary bitterness of adverse factions oblivion mercifully spreads her veil in most cases. But in this case, the portrait of Walpole drawn by Wyndham, and the portrait of Bolingbroke drawn by Walpole, are master-pieces of invective, which take us into the very heart of those days when the right honourable member in the blue ribbon had to endure the taunts of his adversaries with rare equanimity, or to turn upon them like a noble animal at bay, as he did upon this memorable occasion.
There has been a call of the House. The debate has been proceeding during several hours. Sir William Barnard, the Whig member for London, has spoken for the repeal with that strong sense which Walpole always acknowledged as more difficult for him to answer than the declamation of Pulteney, Lyttelton, or Pitt. Sir William Wyndham rises in reply to sir William Yonge. He goes through all the arguments against the Septennial Act with the adroitness of a ready debater. At the close of his speech he rises
• Mr. Croker. Note on Lord Hervey, vol. i. p. 375.
WYNDHAM'S CHARACTER OF WALPOLE.
to a height of eloquence which scarcely belongs to his parliamentary character: “We have been told, sir, in this House, that no faith is to be given to prophecies, therefore I shall not pretend to prophesy; but I may suppose a case, which, though it has not yet happened, may possibly happen. Let us then suppose, sir, a man abandoned to all notions of virtue or honour, of no great family, and of but a mean fortune, raised to be chief minister of state by the concurrence of many whimsical events ; afraid or unwilling to trust any but creatures of his own making, and most of them equally abandoned to all notions of virtue or honour; ignorant of the true history of his country, and consulting nothing but that of enriching and aggrandizing himself and his favourites; in foreign affairs, trusting none but those whose education makes it impossible for them to have such knowledge or such qualifications as can either be of service to their country, or give any weight or credit to their negotiations. Let us suppose the true interest of the nation, by such means, neglected or misunderstood ; her honour and credit lost; her trade insulted; her merchants plundered; and her sailors murdered; and all these things overlooked, only for fear his administration should be endangered. Suppose him, next possessed of great wealth, the plunder of the nation, with a parliament of his own choosing, most of their seats purchased, and their votes bought at the expense of the public treasure. In such a parliament, let us suppose attempts made to inquire into his conduct, or to relieve the nation from the distress he has brought upon it; and when lights proper for attaining those ends are called for. not perhaps for the information of the particular gentlemen who call for them, but because nothing can be done in a parliamentary way, till tliese things be in a proper way laid before parliament; suppose these lights refused, these reasonable requests rejected, by a corrupt majority of his creatures, whom he retains in daily pay, or engages in his particular interest, by granting them those posts and places which ought never to be given to any but for the good of the public. Upon this scandalous victory, let us suppose this chief minister pluming himself in defiances, because he finds he has got a parliament, like a packed jury, ready to acquit him at all adventures. Let us further suppose him arrived to that degree of insolence and arrogance, as to domineer over all the men of ancient families, all the men of sense, figure, or fortune in the nation, and, as he has no virtue of his own, ridiculing it in others, and endeavouring to destroy or corrupt it in all. I am still not prophesying, sir, I am only supposing; and the case I am going to suppose I hope never will happen. But with such a minister and such a par
liament, let us suppose a prince upon the throne, either for want of true information, or for some other reason, ignorant and unacquainted with the inclinations and the interest of his people ; weak, and hurried away by unbounded ambition and insatiable avarice. This case, sir, has never yet happened in this nation. I hope, I say, it will never exist. But as it is possible it may, could there any greater curse happen to a nation, than such a prince on the throne, advised, and solely advised, by such a minister, and that minister supported by such a parliament.”
Pelham has spoken against the motion, and Pulteney has argued briefly and feebly for it. The Speaker, Onslow, calls upon sir Robert Walpole. All eyes turn eagerly to look upon the man who calmly rises, to say that he did not intend to trouble the House in this debate, but as pictures of imaginary persons had been drawn, he hoped he might be allowed to draw a picture in his turn: “Now, sir, let me too suppose, and the House being cleared, I am sure that no one that hears me can come within the description of the person I am to suppose. Let us suppose in this, or in some other unfortunate country, an anti-minister, who thinks himself a person of so great and extensive parts, and of so many eminent qualifications, that he looks upon himself as the only person in the kingdom capable to conduct the public affairs of the nation; and therefore christening every other gentleman who has the honour to be employed in the administration by the name of Blunderer. Sup pose this fine gentleman, lucky enough to have gained over to his party some persons really of fine parts, of ancient families, and of great fortunes, and others of desperate views, arising from disappointed and malicious hearts; all these gentlemen, with respect to their political behaviour, moved by him, and by him solely; all they say, either in private or public, being only a repetition of the words he has put into their mouths, and a spitting out of that venom which he has infused into them; and yet we may suppose this leader not really liked by any, even of those who so blindly follow him, and hated by all the rest of mankind. We will suppose this anti-minister to be in a country where he really ought not to be, and where he could not have been but by an effect of too much goodness and mercy ; yet endeavouring, with all his might and with all his art, to destroy the fountain from whence that mercy flowed. In that country suppose him continually contracting friendships and familiarities with the ambassadors of those princes who at the time happen to be most at enmity with his own; and if at any time it should happen to be for the interest of any of those foreign ministers to have a secret divulged to them, which might be highly pre
BOLINGBROKE QUITS ENGLAND.
judicial to his native country, as well as to all his friends; suppose this foreign minister applying to him, and he answering, “I will get it you ; tell me but what you want, I will endeavour to procure it for you.' Upon this he puts a speech or two in the mouths of some of his creatures, or some of his new converts. What he wants is moved for in parliament, and when so very reasonable a request as this is refused, suppose him and his creatures and tools, by his advice, spreading the alarm over the whole nation, and crying out, 'Gentlemen, our country is at present involved in many
dane gerous difficulties, all of which we would have extricated you from, but a wicked minister and a corrupt majority refused us the proper materials.' And upon this “scandalous victory,' this minister became so insolent as “to plume himself in defiances !' further suppose this anti-minister to have travelled, and at every court where he was, thinking himself the greatest minister, and making it his trade to betray the secrets of every court where he had before been ; void of all faith or honour, and betraying every master he ever served. I could carry my suppositions a great deal farther, and I may say I mean no person now in being; but if we can suppose such a one, can there be imagined a greater disgrace to human nature than such a wretch as this ? "
The Session was closed on the 16th of April, and on the 18th the Parliament was dissolved. The boldness with which Walpole had stood up against attack had produced a sensible effect upon his adversaries. To Walole's philippic against Bolingbroke has been attributed the resolution of that most able but dangerous'man to leave England and English politics. This view is perhaps overstrained. But he was a disappointed intriguer. He retired to France. “My part is over," he said, “and he who remains on the stage after his part is over deserves to be hissed off.”
New Parliament of 1735.—Peace of Vienna.—The Gin-Act. — The Porteous Riots.-
Parliamentary proceedings on these Riots.-Unpopularity of the king.–Marriage of the prince of Wales.-Royal animosities.—Birth of a princess.-Illness of queen Caroline. -Death of queen Caroline.
The first Session of the new Parliament, which met in January, 1735, was prolonged only till May. The king announced his determination to visit his dominions in Germany, and the queen was appointed regent. George was sorely tempted to engage in the war by an offer of the command of the imperial army on the Rhine. Walpole had foreseen such a possible flattery of the king's military ambition ; and had prepared him to say, that he could not appear at the head of an army as king of England, and not have an Englishman to fight under him.* The summer passed without any important military operations. On the 22nd of October the king returned from Hanover-according to lord Hervey in very bad temper, and dissatisfied with everything English. His majesty had left a lady in Hanover, Madame Walmoden, to whom he wrote by every post. Soon after his return the preliminaries of a general peace were signed at Vienna. Europe would be at rest again for
“The happy turn which the affairs of Europe had taken” was announced at the opening of Parliament in January, 1736. The tranquillity of England and Scotland was seriously disturbed in this season of foreign pacification.
On the 20th of February a Petition against the excessive use of spirituous liquors was presented to the House of Commons from the Justices of Peace for Middlesex. The drinking of Geneva, it was alleged, had excessively increased amongst the people of inferior rank; the constant and excessive use of distilled spirituous liquors had already destroyed thousands, and rendered great numbers of others unfit for labour, debauching their morals, and driving them into every vice. Upon the motion of sir Joseph Jekyll, it was proposed to lay a tax of twenty shillings a gallon upon gin, and to require that every retailer should take out an annual licence costing £50. Walpole gave no distinct support to this measure, nor
• Lord Hervey, vol. č. p. 7.