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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded)


Marlborough unpopular - Inquiry into the Conduct of the War in Spain- Censure on those who invited the poor Palatines into England - Harley stabbed at the Council Board by Guiscard - Harley created Earl of Oxford - Death of the Emperor Joseph - Marlborough surprises the French Lines - Reduces Bouchain - The Duke of Argyll sent to command in Spain - King Charles elected Emperor - Expedition to Canada - Insolence of the Jacobites in Scotland - Overtures for Peace - Prior sent to Fontainebleau - Mesnager arrives privately in England - The Negotiation fails - Bill against Occasional Conformity passes - Marlborough dismissed from all his Employments - Twelve New Peers created - Prince Eugene visits England - Walpole expelled the House of Commons - Votes against Marlborough - Resolutions against the Barrier Treaty - Acts against Presbyterianism in Scotland - Conferences opened at Utrecht - Death of the Dauphin and his Son - Duke of Ormonde appointed to the Command in Flanders - Queen demands that Philip of Spain shall renounce the Crown of France - He consents - Duke of Ormonde unsuccessful in Flanders - The Allied Troops refuse to march with him - Allies defeated at Denain - The Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mohun killed in a Duel - Marlborough retires to the Continent - The Dutch sign the Barrier Treaty - Peace with France signed at Utrecht - The Scottish Lords move for the Dissolution of the Union - Violence of Parties - New Parliament - Treaties- betwixt the Emperor and France, and betwixt England and Spain - The Commons pray the Queen to set a Price on the Head of the Pretender - Death of the Princess Sophia - A Bill against the Growth of Schism - The Treasurer disgraced - Precautions for the Security of the Kingdom - Death of Anne.
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The tories being now in power, there was an entire revolution of opinion and of measures. Everything which had been applauded and encouraged under the whigs was now to be decried; everything which had been kept down was to be set on high. The war, which had humbled Louis XIV. and defended the protestant interests abroad, was now - not on that account, but merely because it reflected glory on the whigs - to be denounced and deprecated. He who had won bo many victories over the proud, grasping, and persecuting French monarch, was to be systematically maligned. The crime of the country was, that nothing was judged on the basis of true policy and true morality, but as it had been approved and promoted by one party or the other. There was much to blame in the policy of England mixing itself up in the continental wars, but, having done it, and having won great credit by our conduct of it, it was a base principle in the tories now to attempt to destroy that national glory, merely because it had been achieved by the whigs. Marlborough might justly be accused of many grave faults, of much avarice, much embezzlement, much desire to continue the war for his own gain and reputation when opportunities presented of putting a fair end to it; but Marlborough had, with all these faults, displayed the abilities of a great general, and by his victories wonderfully exalted the fame of England for martial bravery. He had humbled the proudest and most aggressive monarch of Europe, the perpetual disturber of its quiet, the wholesale and implacable persecutor of protestantism, and it now required only a little persistence in the course so long pursued to force from him everything for which we had fought. But the tories could never forgive the whigs for having originated and conducted this war, which, however expensive and destructive of human life, was eminently successful in its great object - the humiliation and enfeebling of the tyrant Louis; nor Marlborough for having, by going over to the whigs, conveyed all this glory to them. Everything now was to be, therefore, reversed, whatever the consequences to the fame or interests of England, in order to abase the whigs; and Marlborough was to be systematically humbled and mortified as their military representative.

When he, therefore, arrived during the Christmas holidays, it was to a most cold reception. There were no longer popular acclamations, and lords and commons hurrying to offer him thanks and eulogies for his eminent services. The public mind had been carefully indoctrinated on this head, and the great commander landed in a most expressive silence. He waited, as was his duty, on the queen, was admitted to about half an hour's audience, and the next morning attended a meeting of the privy council. But both in the presence and the council chamber reigned the same ominous and freezing silence. The queen plainly told him that he was now no longer to expect the thanks of parliament as formerly; and she added that, notwithstanding, she trusted he would act in harmony with her ministers. Marlborough showed no outward signs of resentment. He was anxious still to continue the command of the army, and to put the finish to his successes by compelling a satisfactory peace from Louis, now reduced to the most terrible straits.

On the 2nd of January, 1711, the queen announced to parliament the disasters in Spain, the surrender of our army under general Stanhope, and the necessity of raising fresh troops to continue the struggle. This was a fine opportunity for breaking loose on the whig ministry, who bad led us into the war in Spain. It was contended that we never ought to have undertaken a war in the interior of that country. From Spain the discussion spread over the whole theatre of the war; and Marlborough, who had been for years so extravagantly eulogised, was now as extravagantly attacked in both houses. He was accused of all sorts of faults and crimes; his very generalship and even his personal courage were denied. These detractions resounded through both houses of parliament, and were diffused over the whole nation by tory attacks in the public journals and in pamphlets. Swift, who was now become the literary tool of Harley and St. John, and whose abilities were only excelled by his savage and unprincipled calumnies, spared neither Marlborough nor his wife in the " Examiner." "My lord treasurer," says the duchess, "has thought fit to order the 'Examiner' to represent me in print as a pickpocket all over England; and for that honest service, and some others, her majesty has lately made him a dean."

The indomitable duchess was not to be thus libelled without having her "last word;" and it is amusing to see how she defends herself by showing that, in nine years, she had saved the country ninety thousand pounds alone in the queen's clothes! She showed that queen Mary, Anne's immediate predecessor and sister, had expended from eleven thousand pounds to twelve thousand pounds a year in dress; but that she had for nine years dressed the queen for thirty - two thousand pounds, or for considerably less than four thousand pounds a year. The duke saw that though it was desirous that he should keep his command if possible, it was time for the duchess to resign her offices. Every day some fresh insult was offered to Marlborough as a great whig commander, and it was good policy to withdraw both himself and his impetuous duchess from notice. As if to outrage, in the most flagrant manner, Marlborough's ideas of military fitness, the same incompetent Jack Hill, the brother of Mrs. Masham, was appointed commander of an expedition for the arduous service of the conquest of Canada. The queen had repeatedly insisted to Marlborough that the duchess should deliver up the gold keys, the token of her offices of groom of the stole and mistress of the robes; but that resolute woman refused to comply. Marlborough, unable to obtain the keys, endeavoured to mollify the queen's anger at the delay, by praying her patience, representing himself as "the meanest of her majesty's instruments - a mere worm - her majesty's humblest creature;" that he was neither covetous nor ambitious, at which avowal, the queen told her tory minister, that if she could have turned round, she should have laughed; and that "he was worn out with age, fatigues, and misfortunes." This pathetic appeal, however, did not decrease the queen's impatience, and Marlborough imperatively demanded the keys from his wife. For some time she vehemently refused to part with them, but after a violent and stormy altercation, according to Cunningham, she finished by flinging them at his head. The duke snatched them up and hurried to the palace with them, where, says the same authority, the queen received them with far greater pleasure than if he had brought her the spoils of the army; at which, he says, "the duchess flew about the town in a rage, and with eyes and words full of vengeance."

There was no doubt that great was the queen's exultation at thus being at length liberated from the heavy and imperious yoke of the Marlboroughs. People who had absented themselves from court for years, now presented themselves there to pay their respects, and amongst them, the duke of Beaufort congratulated Anne that he could now salute his queen in reality. The duchess's places were immediately given to the duchess of Somerset and Mrs. Masham. The tory raid against the whigs was pursued with unpausing ardour. An inquiry was set on foot in the lords into the conduct of the war in Spain. The earl of Peterborough's turn was now come. He was examined before a committee, and imputed the mismanagement of the war in Spain to Galway and general Stanhope. Galway madean able defence, but the house, notwithstanding, passed a resolution that lord Peterborough had most honourably distinguished himself by his able counsels and active services in Spain, and that Galway, lord Tyrawley, and general Stanhope had been very culpable in advising an offensive war in Spain, which had caused all our misfortunes, and especially the battle of Almanza. But in blaming the generals they blamed also the ministers who sanctioned the war, and then so badly supported it. The failure of the attempt in Toulon was attributed to the same cause. Thanks were voted to lord Peterborough, and in rendering them it was not forgotten to make some caustic criticisms on Marlborough. To increase the power of the tory landlords in the house of commons, and diminish that of the whig supporters in the boroughs, an act was introduced, and the commons were weak enough to pass it, making it necessary that every candidate for parliament in the counties should possess six hundred a year in real property, and for a borough seat three hundred; and this law has lasted to our time, and only been recently repealed.

In spite, however, of the triumphant position of the tories, Harley found his individual position far from enviable. His caution made him inimical to the more violent tories, who were impatient to exercise their power without restraint; and his colleague St. John, at once ambitious and unprincipled, artfully availed himself to undermine the man by whom he had risen. But an incident occurred to excite a fresh interest in Harley, and give a new accession to his power. Amongst the horde of foreigners, Germans, Italians, French, and Poles, who contrived to draw English money by acting as spies on their own governments, and very frequently on the English one too, was the so-called marquis of Guiscard. This man had been in the receipt of five hundred pounds a year. He had obtained the salary, it is said, through St. John, being a devoted companion of that accomplished scoundrel in his dissipations. Harley doubted the value of his services, and reduced the pension to four hundred pounds a year; and St. John is also said to have Buffered him to endure the curtailment without much remonstrance, and then, to avoid Guiscard's importunities, refused to see him. Guiscard immediately offered his Bervices to the French government as a spy on the English court, through a letter to one Moreau, a banker of Taris. The letter was intercepted, and Guiscard arrested. On being brought before the privy council he desired to speak in private to St. John, whom, it is suspected, he intended to assassinate, but St. John refused his demand. He then exclaimed, "That is hard! not one word!" and suddenly stepping up to Harley, he cried, "Have at thee, then!" and stabbed him with his penknife. The knife, striking against the breastbone, broke near the handle; but the excited foreigner struck him again with such force that Harley fell to the ground covered with blood.

St. John, seeing Harley fall, exclaimed, "The villain has killed Mr. Harley!" drew his sword, and ran him through. The whole council was up and in confusion. All drew their swords and surrounded the murderous prisoner. He was wounded in various places, and knocked down by blows from the hands of others. The doorkeepers and messengers rushed in at the noise, and Guiscard was dragged to prison. He was accused of having had a design of assassinating the duke of Marlborough, and even the queen; but there is no sufficient evidence of either of these intentions, for he had had an interview with the queen the evening before, pressing for the augmentation of his salary, and nobody, according to lord Dartmouth, in the outer room but Mrs. Fielding, or within call but Mrs. Kirk, who was commonly asleep. He was visited in Newgate by the members of the council, on the plea that he had something to reveal; but he seems to have only made half revelations, pointing at St. John, and then stopping. He died in Newgate of his wounds; and such was the curiosity of the populace to see his body, that the turnkey kept it in pickle, and made a good sum by showing him for several days.

Such is the version of this remarkable occurrence, as it figures in most of our English histories; but it is probablo that it is much coloured and misrepresented by party influences. Guiscard, as he is called by our historians, but Labourlie, as he is better known to those of France, was a gentleman of ancient family of the district of Rouergue, bordering on the Cevennes. His father was second tutor to Louis XIV. His eldest brother, the marquis de Guiscard, was ambassador to Charles XII. of Sweden, and attended him in his wars. Labourlie de Guiscard, the person who stabbed Harley, lived at the ancient castle of Vareilles, betwixt Rhodez and Millan, in Languedoc. He was, therefore, in the very centre of the revolted districts of Languedoc and the Cevennes; and, though a catholic, he intensely sympathised with the oppressed protestants. He headed various expeditions in their favour, and was compelled to quit France; still, as we have seen, he headed the refugee French who fought at Almanza. His business in England was to incite the English government to send a powerful force to assist the protestant insurgents of the Cevennes; and the true story probably is, that the whigs had greatly encouraged him in the hope that this should be done; they were always talking of it. When they went out of office, he would naturally seek to interest Harley, St. John and the tories in his favourite project. Probably they had at first listened to it; but, as soon as they were determined to make peace at all costs, they were glad to be rid of Iiis importunities; whereupon disappointed and embittered by his disappointment, his warm southern blood excited him to the frantic deed which he attempted. Labourlie de Guiscard was generous, enthusiastic on behalf of his oppressed country, and had ruined himself in its cause; but there is nothing in the French authorities to bear out the stigma fixed on him by our historians, that he was a low debauchee. To have been seen in company with Harley and St. John was enough, however, to have made him suspected of similar habits.

Harley's wound was not serious, but it served to make a political hero and martyr of him; Guiscard being represented as a papist, and instigated from France to destroy this champion of England and the church. On his first appearance in the house of commons he was congratulated on his happy escape in a most eulogistic speech by the speaker v and an act was passed, making it felony without benefit of clergy to attempt the life of a privy councillor. The earl of Rochester dying at this juncture, left Harley entirely at the head of the cabinet, and he was immediately raised to the peerage, first as baron Wigmore, and then as earl of Oxford and Mortimer. He was, moreover, appointed lord treasurer, much to his own gratification and glory, but little to the furtherance of the national business, for he was naturally inert and indecisive, whilst all around him was a scandalous scene of corruption, bribery, intrigue, and neglect.

The commons, however, were, during this time, busied in making a show of patriotism; but, in reality, they were seeking only to damage the whigs. They appointed a committee to examine all the grants made by king William, to estimate their value, and to take some measures regarding them; but the lords threw this out. They then began an examination of the public accounts, in order to charge the mal administrations on lord Godolphin. They asserted that above five-and-thirty millions of money granted by parliament remained unaccounted for, though a considerable sum of this extended to the reigns of Charles II, and James II; but Mr. Bridges, the paymaster, soon showed that all except three millions had been accounted for. They next inquired into the debts of the navy, which exceeded five millions; and these, with other debts, amounting to about nine millions and a half, were funded, bearing interest at six per cent. They also inaugurated a company called the South Sea Company, with a delusive privilege of trading to the coasts of Peru, the members of which were holders of navy bills, debentures, and other public securities. Having thus laid the foundation of the great South Sea bubble which exploded so ruinously nine years afterwards, and voted six millions and a half for the continuation of the war, though they had so severely censured the whigs for their extravagance, parliament was prorogued on the 12th of June.

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