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Reign of Queen Anne page 4

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Addresses of congratulation on the brilliant success of the British arms under Marlborough were presented by both houses, which they said "retrieved" the ancient honour and glory of the English nation. This word "retrieved" roused all the spleen of the whigs, who knew that it was meant as a censure on them and king William, who they contended had maintained the honour of the English nation, by joining the great confederacy by which the security of the queen's throne at that moment was established, and by training our soldiers to their ancient pitch of discipline and valour. They moved that the word "maintained" should be substituted for "retrieved," but it was carried against them, amid the most unmeasured abuse of the memory of the late king, Marlborough being cried to the skies at his expense.

The tories next showed their strength in calling in question various elections of whig members, and carried the inquiry against them with the most open and impudent partiality. The borough of Hindon, near Salisbury, was declared guilty of bribery, and a bill introduced for its disfranchisement. Howe was declared duly elected for Gloucestershire, though the majority was clearly the other way. Sir John Packington exhibited a complaint against the bishop of Worcester and his son for having interfered to defeat his election, and the commons prayed the queen to remove the bishop from his office of lord almoner to her majesty, and that the attorney-general should prosecute the son; and though the lords, where a strong whig influence existed, sent up a counter-address, the queen expressed plainly her right to appoint or dismiss her own officers, and accordingly dismissed the bishop.

The commons then voted the supplies, and in practice justified the whigs, by being as lavish for the war as they had been. They voted forty thousand seamen, and the same number of land forces, to act along with the allies. They granted eight hundred and thirty-three thousand eight hundred and twenty-six pounds for their maintenance; three hundred and fifty thousand pounds for guards and garrisons; seventy thousand nine hundred and seventy-three pounds for ordnance; and fifty-one thousand eight hundred and forty-three pounds for subsidies to the allies, altogether one million three hundred and six thousand six hundred and forty-two pounds for the war alone, independent of the usual national expenses, and these soon required an increase. The news of the success of Vigo arriving, the queen and both houses went in procession to return thanks at St. Paul's, the duke of Ormonde was made lord-lieutenant of Ireland in place of Rochester, and Sir George Rooke was admitted a member of the privy council, though both these commanders were heaping the severest reproaches on each other, and demanding an inquiry. The lords took the side of the duke, the commons of Sir George, for the war betwixt the two houses was beginning to rage again as fiercely as in William's time. Vice-admiral Hopson was knighted and received a pension.

The queen demanded of the commons a further provision for her husband, the prince of Denmark, in case of her decease. Howe moved that one hundred thousand pounds a year should be settled on the prince in case he should be the survivor. No opposition was offered to the amount, but strenuous opposition to a clause in the bill exempting the prince from the provision in the act of settlement, which prevented any foreigner, even though naturalised, holding any employments under the crown; but the court was bent on carrying this, and did so.

Having secured her husband, Anne then sent a message to the commons to inform them that she had created the earl of Marlborough a duke for his eminent services, and praying them to settle five thousand pounds a year on him to enable him to maintain his new dignity. This was so glaring a case of favoritism, that the commons, with all their loyalty, expressed their decided disapprobation. The single campaign which Marlborough had made, though attended with a certain success, certainly entitled him to no such elevation. It was the influence of the Marlboroughs over the queen which was drawing from her everything they pleased; but the commons held the purse, and they made a strong remonstrance against the grant, declaring that Marlborough was already well paid for his services by the profitable employments conferred on him and his family. They upbraided the memory of king William for his extravagance towards his favourites, thus again hitting the whigs. The outcry was so great that the Marlboroughs declined what they saw no means of getting - the grant, and the queen intimated that fact to the house; but she immediately offered her favourites two thousand pounds a year out of her privy purse, which, with affected magnanimity, they also declined, hoping yet to obtain, at some more favourable crisis, the parliamentary grant; and, after that really happened, they then claimed the queen's offer too.

But the opposition of the tories, whom Marlborough had been serving with all his influence in parliament, completely alienated him from that party, and he went over to the whigs. Lady Marlborough claims ov her own account much merit for this conversion, both for herself and her husband. She says she had herself been long liberally inclined, and had been for some time endeavouring to raise the whigs in the queen's estimation. 141 had no motive," she says, u oŁ private interest to bias me towards the whigs. Everybody must see that, had I consulted that oracle about the choice of a party, it would certainly have directed me to go with the stream of my mistress's inclinations and prejudices. This would have been the surest way to secure my favour with her. Nor had I any particular obligations to the whigs that should bend me to their side rather than to the other. On the contrary, they had treated me very hardly, and I had reason to look upon them as my personal enemies, at the same time that I saw the tories ready to compliment me and to pay me court."

But lady Marlborough, any more than her husband, was not one to be satisfied with empty compliments; she would have substantial benefits. These the tories had now refused, and resentment dictated the determination to secede from them, and to draw the queen from them, as they, in fact, succeeded in doing. What galled Marlborough as much as anything was that he had been in the house of lords strongly supporting one of the most illiberal attempts of the tories, that of destroying the effect of the act of toleration. One of the very best things that the whigs had ever done was the establishment of this act. It had freed the dissenters from their persecutions and annoyances. They were still, it is true, excluded by the test and corporation acts from all offices under government or in corporations unless they could take the oath of the queen's supremacy, and the sacrament according to the ritual of the church of England; but now the tories would have this exclusion extended to all persons whatever, and have the severest penalties enacted for any breach of it. The queen and the tories regarded the church as entitled to confer all favours, and they were determined to give it a power by which all corporations and elections should be thrown into the hands of the government. For this purpose Mr. Bromley, Mr. Annesley, and Mr. St. John, who had been a dissenter himself, but had no religion at all, brought in what they called an "occasional conformity bill." They complained that dissenters and other disaffected persons took the necessary oaths, and often went again to the dissenting meetings; that this was a gross piece of hypocrisy, and left the church exposed to much danger from them. They proposed, therefore, to insist that all who had taken the sacrament and test for offices of trust, or for the magistracy of corporations, and afterwards went to any meeting of the dissenters, should forfeit their employments, pay a fine of one hundred pounds, and five pounds for every day that they continued to hold their office after having been at a dissenters' meeting, as well as be disabled from holding any other employment till after a year's conformity. The bill was carried in the tory commons by an overwhelming majority, but it was as strongly opposed in the lords, where the whigs were not disposed to pull down the greatest trophy of their legislation. The bishops generally voted against the bill, and Burnet was extremely active against it. None of these men saw the monstrosity of the test and corporation acts, which compelled all to take the sacrament, whether they opposed it in that form. or not, and thus shut out the honest and pious, and let in those who had neither honesty nor religion. But they saw that it would again let loose all the detestable race of spies and informers from which the country was now happily free, and would, in reality, only injure instead of benefiting the church, by making her an object of general hatred. The tories themselves affected great veneration for the toleration act, whilst they would thus have stifled all toleration.

The queen and the whole court exerted themselves to force the bill through the upper house, as they had done that for the prince's salary. Marlborough argued vehemently for it, but the whig lords hit upon a way of defeating it by seeming to comply. They agreed to its passing on condition that all who took the test, and then went to conventicles, should simply be deprived of their employments and be fined twenty pounds. They knew that the commons would not allow the slightest interference of the lords with the money part of the bill, and this proved to be the case. The lords searched their rolls, and showed numerous cases in which they had altered fines, but the commons refused to admit any such power. A conference in the Painted Chamber was held, but with a like result, and, after long contention, the bill was, happily for the nation, let fall.

A bill was next brought in to allow another year of grace to all who had not taken the oath abjuring the pretended prince of Wales. The tories contended that all the Jacobite party had now come over to the queen; but it was shown on the other side that this was but a specious deception; that the agents of St. Germains were in as full activity as ever; were constantly coming and going; and whilst they appeared to favour the queen, it was only to get as strong a party as possible into the house, eventually to abolish both the abjuration and the protestant succession bill; that to this end they now advised all persons to take the abjuration bill, and to be able to get into parliament or power. The bill was carried in the commons, but the lords again tacked two clauses to it; one declaring it high treason to endeavour to alter the succession as settled in the princess Sophia., and the other to impose the oath on the Irish. These were not money clauses; whoever refused them must appear disinclined to the protestant succession. The commons were completely entrapped, and, to the surprise of everybody, they accepted the clauses, and thus the bill, which was originally favourable to the Jacobites, became much more rigid against them.

The year 1703 was opened in the house of commons by a fresh onslaught on the whigs, which brought all the old conflict betwixt the houses into play again, The committee for the examination of the public accounts accused lord Ranelagh, paymaster-general of the forces, and lord Charles Halifax, auditor of the exchequer, with embezzlement and breach of trust. The embezzlement was attributed principally to the earl of Ranelagh, who was accused of appropriating millions, but the committee could only really prove against him hundreds. They expelled him, however, from their house, of which he was a member, and he thereupon resigned his post, which was divided betwixt Howe and another. The commons prayed the queen to dismiss lord Halifax, and to order his prosecution by the attorney - general, with which she promised to comply. The lords then took up the defence of their brother peer, appointed a committee to examine the charges of the commission of accounts against him, acquitted Halifax, ascribed the national debt to deficiency of funds, and addressed the queen on the subject. After this they printed their address, with vouchers for every particular. This raised a fierce debate in the commons. They denied the right of the lords to take cognisance of anything based on money matters; the lords insisted on their right to vindicate the character of a member of their order. To put an end to the conflict, the queen sent a message to the lords, desiring them to dispatch what business they had in hand, and as they still continued to repel the attacks of the commons, she sent the lord keeper on the 27th of February to prorogue parliament.

The tories in the commons, finding so strong a whig opposition in the lords, and perceiving that the whigs had won much popularity during this session by their defence of liberal measures, besought the queen to create four new peers in the tory interest, with which she also complied, and accordingly John Granville was created baron Granville of Petheridge, in the county of Devon; Heneage Finch, baron of Guernsey, in the county of Southampton: Sir John Leveson Gower, baron Gower of Sittenham, in Yorkshire; and Francis Seymour Conway, youngest son of Sir Edward Seymour, baron Conway of Ragley, in Warwickshire. To prevent this extraordinary movement of the commons appearing a party proceeding, John Harvey, a whig, was made baron Harvey of Ickworth, in Suffolk, and the marquis of Normanby was created duke of Buckinghamshire, Notwithstanding, Burnet says the proceeding caused much animadversion, "as it was an encroachment on one of the tenderest points of the prerogative to make motives for creating peers in the house of commons." Harvey's peerage, lady Marlborough tells us, was purely a job of her own.

Lord Rochester was now entirely removed from the queen's councils. His near relationship to the queen, and his being accounted the champion of the church, made him presume in the council, where he was blustering and overbearing. He was disappointed in not being placed at the head of the treasury, and quarrelled continually with Lord Godolphin. He had now voted against Marlborough's grant of five thousand pounds a year, and thus incurred the mortal hatred of the all-powerful lady Marlborough. It was clear that Rochester must give way, or the council must be rent by continual feuds. He was opposed to the war - another cause of hostility from the Marlboroughs, to whom it was money, fame, and everything. He received such intimations from the queen as caused him to retire into the country in disgust. As he refused all summonses to attend the council, her majesty ordered him to proceed to his government in Ireland, where his presence was greatly needed. He replied with great insolence that he would not go to Ireland, and the post of lord-lieutenant, as we have seen, was conferred on the duke of Ormonde. Still refusing to attend the council, the queen ordered that he should no more be summoned, and thus terminated Anne's connection with her relatives by the mother's side. The elder brother of Rochester, lord Clarendon, had been excluded the court for refusing the abjuration of the pretended prince of Wales, and his son, lord Cornbury, little better than an idiot, was sent to govern the North American colonies, that he might be out of the way, a system of colonial management by which these colonies were at length entirely estranged. Rochester survived this disgrace but a very few weeks.

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