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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 12

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Meantime the changes made in the government offices betrayed the rising influence of Bolingbroke. The duke of Shrewsbury was made lord lieutenant of Ireland; the duke of Ormonde, a noted Jacobite, was appointed warden of the Qinque Ports and governor of Dover Castle, as if for the avowed purpose of facilitating the landing of the pretender; lord Lansdowne was made treasurer of the household; lord Dartmouth, privy seal; Mr. Bromley, the tory leader of the commons, joint secretary with Bolingbroke; Benson, chancellor of the exchequer, was created lord Bingley, and sent as ambassador to Spain; and Sir William Wyndham, till now a friend of Bolingbroke's, succeeded Benson as chancellor. Thus Bolingbroke was surrounded by his friends in office, and became more daring in his rivalry with Oxford and in his schemes to supplant the house of Hanover and introduce the pretender.

Whilst the English court was distracted by these dissensions, the emperor was endeavouring to carry on the war against France by himself. He trusted that the death of queen Anne would throw out the tories, and that the whigs coming in would again support his claims, or that the death of Louis himself might produce a change as favourable to him in France, he trusted to the military genius of prince Eugene to at least enable him to maintain the war till some such change took place. But he was deceived. The French, having him alone to deal with, made very light of it. They knew that he could neither bring into the field soldiers enough to cope with their arms, or find the means of maintaining them. They soon overpowered Eugene on the Rhine by numbers, and reduced Landau and Friburg. He was glad to make peace, and Eugene and Villars met at Rastaclt to concert terms. They did not succeed, and separated till February, but met again at the latter end of the month, and, on the 3rd of March, the treaty was signed. By this treaty the emperor retained Friburg, old Brisac, Kehl, and the forts in the Breisgau and Black Forest; but the king of France kept Landau, Strasburg, and all Alsace. The electors of Bavaria and Cologne were readmitted to their territories and dignities as princes of the empire. The emperor was put in possession of the Spanish Netherlands, and the king of Prussia was permitted to retain the high quarters of Guelders.

The peace with Spain was also ratified in London on the 1st of March. By this, Spain, so far as diplomatic contracts could effect it, was for ever separated from France. Philip acknowledged the protestant succession, and renounced the pretender. He confirmed the detestable Assiento, or exclusive privilege of the English supplying the Spanish West Indies and South American colonies with slaves, one- fourth of the profit of which the queen reserved to herself - a strange proof of the little idea of the infamy of this traffic which prevailed then in England, whilst so truly benevolent a woman could calmly appropriate money so earned to her own use. Gibraltar and Minorca were also confirmed to England, on condition that the Spanish inhabitants should enjoy their own property and their religion. There was a guarantee given by Philip for the pardon and security of Catalans. They were to be left in possession of their lives, estates, and honours,, with certain exceptions, and even these were at liberty to quit the country and remove to Italy with their effects. But the Catalans, who had taken up arms for Charles of Austria at our suggestion, were greatly incensed at the dishonourable manner in which we had abandoned them and the cause, and, putting no faith in the word of Philip, they still remained in arms, and soon found themselves overrun with French troops, which deluged the country with blood, and compelled them to submit. Amid all the disgraceful circumstances which attended the peace of Utrecht, none reflected more infamy on England than its treatment of the people of Catalonia.

During these transactions the activity of the pretender and his agents was encouraged by the growing influence of Bolingbroke in the English court. Bolingbroke proposed to Oxford that they should pay the dowry of the pretender's mother, the widow of James II.; but to this Oxford objected, saying, that the widow of James had not contented herself with the title of queen-dowager of England, but had assumed that of queen-mother, which, observed Oxford, could not be lawfully admitted after the attainder of her son. This strengthened the hands of Bolingbroke with lady Masham, who was violently in favour of the pretender, which was the same as doing it with the queen. Lady Masham's disgust with Oxford was wonderfully increased. In writing to Mesnager she did not hesitate to say that, if the court of St. Germains trusted to Oxford, they would be deceived; that he was famous for loving a secret, and making intricacies where there needed none, and no less renowned for causing everything of such a nature to miscarry. The pretender, having every day increased encouragement from lady Masham and Bolingbroke, demanded of the emperor of Germany one of his nieces in marriage, and it was reported that the emperor was agreeable to it, and ready to espouse his cause. It was well known that distinct propositions had been made to the pretender through the duke of Berwick, at the instance of lady Masham, before her breach with Oxford, by which his restoration on the demise of Anne was agreed to on condition that he should guarantee the security of the church and constitution of England, and that not even his mother should be admitted to the knowledge of this agreement. At the last point, however, Oxford failed to conclude this secret treaty. The duke of Berwick, in his memoirs, says that, in consequence of this conduct of Oxford's, the friends of the pretender turned their attention to other parties about the court - to lord Ormonde, the duke of Buckingham, and many other persons. Buckingham - who was married to the lady Catherine Darnley, a daughter of James II. by Catherine Sedley, and was, therefore, brother- in-law to the pretender - wrote the earl of Middleton, the pretender's minister, how earnestly he desired to see the king back on the English throne; that nothing but his religion stood in the way; that this was the only thing which prevented the queen acknowledging him; and he strongly urged him to follow the example of Henry IV. of France, who gave up the protestant religion when he saw that he could not securely hold the crown without doing so. But the pretender was, much to his credit - being firmly persuaded of the truth of his religion - much too honest to renounce it, even for the crown of such a kingdom as Great Britain; and he argued that the English people ought to see in his sincerity a guarantee for his faithful dealing with them in all other matters. But, unfortunately, the example of his father had barred the way to any such plea. No man was more positive in the adherence to his religion, or in his sacrifices on its account; but no man had at the same time so thoroughly demonstrated that he had no such honourable feeling as to breaking his word where any political matter was concerned.

In the midst of these secret correspondences the queen was seized at Windsor with a serious illness, and considering the general state of her health, it was most threatening. The hopes of the Jacobites rose wonderfully; the funds went rapidly down; there was a great run upon the bank, and the directors were filled with consternation by a report of an armament being ready in the ports of France to bring over the pretender at the first news of the queen's decease. They sent to the lord treasurer to inform him of the danger which menaced the public credit. The whole of London was in excitement, from a report that the queen was actually dead. The whigs did not conceal their joy, but were hurrying to and fro, and meeting in large numbers at the earl of Wharton's. The lord treasurer, to keep down the public alarm, remained in town, and contented himself with sending expresses to obtain constant news of the queen's state, for his hurrying to Windsor would have had an inconceivable effect. He, therefore, let himself be seen publicly where he could be questioned regarding the condition of the queen, and gave assurances that she was better. To allay the public panic, Anne was induced to sign a letter prepared for her, announcing to Sir Samuel Stancer, the lord mayor, that she was now recovering, and would be in town and open parliament on the 16th of February. This news being confirmed, those who had been too hasty in pulling off their masks, found some awkwardness in fitting them on again. The press was active. Steele published a pamphlet called the u Crisis," in advocacy of the revolution, and on the danger of a popish succession, whilst on the other hand came out a reply, supposed to be written by Swift, not without a few touches from Bolingbroke; it was styled, "The Public Spirit of the Whigs," and was distinguished by all the savage sarcasm and scurrility of the authors. The Scotch peers were shamefully attacked in it. The queen's recovery, and the perception that the French armament was a fiction, quieted the storm and again restored the funds.

The parliament was punctually opened on the 16th of February, 1714, by the queen, as she had promised at Windsor, though she was obliged to be carried there; for during this autumn she had been obliged, by her gout and obesity, to be raised into her chamber by pullies, and so let down again, like Henry VIII. After congratulating the two houses on the peace with Spain, she turned to the subject of the press, and the rumours spread by it regarding the danger of the protestant succession. " I wish," she said, " that effectual care had been taken, as I have often desired, to suppress those seditious papers and factious rumours, by which designing men have been able to sink credit, and the innocent have suffered. There are some also arrived to that pitch of malice, as to insinuate that the protestant succession in the house of Hanover is in danger under my government. Those who go about thus to distract the minds of men with imaginary dangers, can only mean to disturb the present tranquillity, and to bring real mischief upon us. After all I have done to secure our religion and your liberties, and to transmit both safe to posterity, I cannot mention these proceedings without some degree of warmth; and I must hope that you all agree with me, that attempts to weaken my authority, or to render the possession of my crown uneasy to me, can never be proper means to strengthen the protestant succession."

Bolingbroke had been active enough in prosecuting the press because it was dangerous to the designs which he was cherishing, notwithstanding the affected warmth which he and Oxford had put into the queen's mouth. They had taxed the penny sheets and pamphlets which agitated these questions; but this, according to Swift, had only done their own side mischief. The additional halfpenny had discouraged the tory publications, but not the whig; "a proof," Bays lord John Russell in his "History of Europe," "of the superior wealth, popularity, or wit of the opposition." Bolingbroke had, further, arrested eleven printers and publishers in one day. But now the war was opened in parliament, lord Wharton in the house of peers called for the prosecution of "The Public Spirit of the Whigs," and the printer and publisher were brought to the bar. These were John Morphew, the publisher, and one John Bache, the printer. But lord Wharton, who was aiming at higher quarry, said, "We have nothing to do with the printer and publisher, but it highly concerns the honour of this august assembly to find out the villain who is the author of that false and scandalous libel, that justice may be done to the Scottish nation." Oxford denied all knowledge of the author, yet, on retiring from the debate, he inclosed one hundred pounds to Swift, and promised to do more. Lord Wharton then turned upon the printer, whom he had first affected to disregard, and demanded that he should be closely examined; but the next day the earl of Mar, one of the secretaries of state, declared that her majesty had ordered his prosecution. This was to screen him from the parliamentary inquiry. On this, the next day, the Scottish peers, headed by the duke of Argyll, presented an address to the queen demanding satisfaction, and, in compliance with their request, a reward of three hundred pounds was offered for the discovery of the author.

Here the matter dropped, for Swift was too well screened by his patrons, who had lately rewarded him by church preferment, but not to the extent to which they wished. They requested the queen to confer on him the vacant see of Hereford, and it was only his own malicious deeds which prevented his receiving it. The queen expressed her compliance; but the moment was now come when the maligned duchess of Somerset was to take vengeance for his infamous libel on her, called "The Windsor Prophecy," in which he did more than ridicule her red hair - he accused her of murdering her husband. The queen, on consulting the archbishop of York as to nominating Swift to Hereford, that prelate, duly primed by the duchess, startled Anne by asking whether her majesty had not better ascertain whether Dr. Swift was a Christian before she made him a bishop? The queen, in alarm, demanded what he meant; and the archbishop pulled out Swift's "Tale of a Tub," and pointed out the coarse and ribald attacks which the author had made on all forms of religion, not sparing the church to which he belonged. The queen read these profane gibes with horror; and the hope of a mitre vanished for ever from the polemic divine. When the duchess saw the effect, she clenched it by stepping forward, and, falling on her knees, presented to her the " Windsor Prophecy," imploring her royal mistress " not to prefer to the sacred office of a bishop of souls a man capable of disseminating such false witness against an innocent lady." The affair was decided. Lady Masham, who was present, hurried to Swift with the recital of all that had passed, and he poured out his venomous revenge in fresh calumnies in vain. Yet, after all, though disappointed in making their libellous scribe a bishop, Oxford and Bolingbroke succeeded in procuring for him the deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin, to which the queen, though he was no Christian in her opinion, was willing to banish him.

The attempt of the whigs in the lords to unearth the new vituperative dean, though it had failed, stimulated the tories in the commons to retaliation. Richard Steele, author of the "Tatler," an eloquent and able writer, had not sought to screen himself from the responsibility of the honest truths in the " Crisis," as Swift had screened himself from the consequences of his untruths, and a whole host of tories assailed him in the commons, of which he was a member. Amongst these were Thomas Harley, the brother of Oxford, Foley, the auditor, a relative of Oxford's, and Sir William Wyndham, the chancellor of the exchequer. They flattered themselves with an easy triumph over him, for Steele, though popular as a writer, was new to the house of commons, and had broken down in his first essay at speaking there; but he now astonished them by the vigour, wit, and sarcasm of his defence. He was ably supported, too, by Robert Walpole, who had again obtained a seat in this new parliament. He asked why the author was answerable in parliament for a book written in his private capacity? If he were amenable to the law, why was he not left to the law V Why was parliament, which used to be the scourge of evil ministers, now converted into a scourge for the subject? " From what fatality," he said, " does it arise, that what is written in favour of the protestant succession, and what was countenanced by the late ministry, is deemed a libel by the present administration? General invectives in the pulpit against any particular sin have never been deemed a reflection on individuals, unless the darling sin of those individuals happens to be the vice against which the preacher inveighs. It becomes then a fair inference, from the irritability and resentment of the present administration against its defender, that their darling sin is to obstruct and prevent the protestant succession."

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