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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 13


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These were hard blows, and they were followed up by lord Finch, son of the tory lord Nottingham, from gratitude to Steele, who had defended, the reputation of his sister, lady Charlotte Finch, in the "Guardian." Lord Finch justified Steele's abuse of the peace of Utrecht. "We may," he said, speaking of that peace, "if we please, give it fine epithets, but epithets do not change the nature of things. We may, if we please, call it honourable, but I am sure it is accounted scandalous in Holland, Germany, Portugal, and over all Europe, except France and Spain. We may call it advantageous, but all the trading part of the nation find it to be otherwise; and if it be really advantageous, it must be so to the ministry that made it." Sir William Wyndham denied that it was advantageous to ministers. " Then," retorted Finch, "it is plain that it is advantageous to no one but our late enemies." Nothing, however, could shield Steele, as Swift's being anonymous had shielded him. Steele was pronounced by the votes of a majority of two hundred and forty-five to one hundred and fifty-two, to be guilty of a scandalous libel, and was expelled the house. During the debate Addison had sate by the side of Steele, and, though he was no orator to champion him in person, had suggested continual telling arguments.

The war of faction still went on furiously. In the lords there was a violent debate on an address recommended by Wharton, Cowper, Halifax, and others, on the old subject of removing the pretender from Lorraine; and they went so far as to recommend that a reward should be offered to any person who should bring the pretender, dead or alive, to her majesty. This was so atrocious, considering the relation of the pretender to the queen, that it was negatived, and another clause, substituting a reward for bringing him to justice should he attempt to land in Great Britain or Ireland. Though in the commons as well as in the lords it was decided that the protestant succession was in no danger, an address insisting on the removal of the pretender from Lorraine was carried. Anne received these addresses in anything but a gratified humour. She observed in reply, that "it really would be a strengthening to the succession of the house of Hanover if an end were put to these groundless fears and jealousies which had been so industriously promoted. I do not," she said, "at this time see any necessity for such a proclamation. Whenever I judge it necessary, I shall give my orders to have it issued."

The whigs were as active to bring over the electoral prince of Hanover as they were to drive the pretender farther off. With the prince in England, a great party would be gathered about him; and all those who did not pay court to him and promote the interests of his house would be marked men in the next reign. Nothing could be more hateful than such a movement to both the queen and her ministers. Anne had a perfect horror of the house of Hanover; and of the ministers, Bolingbroke, at least, was staking his whole future on paving the way of the pretender to the throne. When the whigs, therefore, instigated baron Schutz, the Hanoverian envoy, to apply to the lord chancellor Harcourt for a writ of summons for the electoral prince, who had been created a British peer by the title of the duke of Cambridge, the chancellor was thrown into the greatest embarrassment. He pleaded that he must first consult the queen, who, on her part, was seized with equal consternation. The court was equally afraid of granting the writ and of refusing it. If it granted it, the prince would soon be in England, and the queen would see her courtiers running to salute the rising sun; the Jacobites, with Bolingbroke at their head, would commit suicide on their own plans now in active agitation for bringing in the pretender. If they refused it, it would rouse the whole whig party, and the cry would spread like lightning through the nation that the protestant succession was betrayed. Schutz Was consulted by the leading whigs, Devonshire, Somerset, Nottingham, Somers, Argyll, Cowper, Halifax, Wharton, and Townshend, to press the chancellor for the writ. He did so, and was answered that the writ was ready sealed, and was lying for him whenever he chose to call for it; but at the same time he was informed that her majesty was greatly incensed at the manner in which the writ had been asked for; that she conceived that it should have first been 'mentioned to her, and that she would have given the necessary orders. But every one knew that it was not the manner, but the fact of desiring the delivery of the writ which was the offence.

The earl of Oxford - who had enough to do to support himself against the united influence of Bolingbroke and lady Masham, both of them bent on bringing in the pretender, and therefore of getting Oxford out - wrote to the court of Hanover, making the most solemn assurances of his zeal for the house of Hanover, reminding the elector that he had the chief hand in settling the succession in that fine, and should continue firm to it to the last; that the queen had given to both the house of Hanover and to the English nation such repeated proofs of her attachment to the protestant succession, that the nation wholly relied upon it. And he then went on to assert what he knew was most false - that lady Masham was as entirely for their succession as he was. As for Oxford himself, it was known that he was constantly vacillating from one side to the other. He was for the strongest side if he could know which it was, and would at this moment, no doubt, have joined the whigs and Hanoverian tories - a section of the tories which had long been for that house - but that he was aware that Bolingbroke and lady Masham could immediately bring to light his correspondence and tamperings with the court of St. Germains. He could not go completely over to the pretender's cause like Bolingbroke, because he had not the courage and decision, and because he knew that now Bolingbroke and lady Masham had far outbid him. He was, therefore, compelled to play a shuffling game to hold office as long as he could cling to it, and watch for some lucky opportunity to extricate himself, if possible, from the miserable and degrading dilemma into which his want of high principle or ordinary courage had led him. But as for lady Masham, whom he now represented to be so stanch for the house of Hanover, in order to allay the fears of that house, he knew that she was out and out for the pretender, and deep in all Bolingbroke's plans.

Schutz, encouraged by the whigs, still pressed for the writ, but did not obtain it till after several days of shuffling and hiding by the lord chancellor. Meantime, it was resolved to send lord Paget to Hanover, to remove from that court any jealousies created by the evident reluctance to grant the writ, and at the same time to represent the impolicy of the electoral prince coming to England under the present excitement of party. Oxford declared in his letters that he wished, least of all things, to see the prince only the prince of a party in England, and that he was sure that any kindness shown by the electoral house in sparing the queen's feelings, which were agitated by the violent contentions, would have the greatest effect in binding her to their cause - as if the cause of the succession at this time depended in any degree on the favour or disfavour of the queen, and not on the most solemn acts of parliament, and the strong protestant feeling of the nation.

To make all sure, Oxford had already hastened his brother Thomas Harley over to Hanover, and he now instructed him to use all his influence in preventing the coming over of the prince. But Schutz wrote as strongly, warning the court to be on their guard against Harley, and by all means to send the prince over, as that was the only thing, according to the whole whig party, which could secure the house of Hanover against the designs of the pretender's friends. Lord Townshend also wrote in confirmation of Schutz's advice. He congratulated the court of Hanover on having ordered Schutz to take bolder and more active measures; that their friends in England had thought them too easy in their policy, and thus allowed the pretender's partisans too great advantages; that their show of activity had encouraged their own friends, and had been unmistakably well received by the public. "Monsieur Schutz," he says, "will acquaint you with the consternation our ministers were under upon this occasion, and the fright the chancellor was in lest it should be thought he had denied the writ. They were so sensible that this step, if it be followed by the immediate coming of the prince, will so effectually ruin their designs, and tend so directly to the securing the succession from all future danger, that you may depend upon their making use of all arts and contrivances imaginable to prevent his coming. Neither threats nor flattery will be spared. They are so intent and so bent upon prevailing with you to stop the prince, that they will not rely upon Mr. Harley's dexterity, but have determined to send you my lord Paget. You must, therefore, be prepared to be very vigorously attacked by way of message. They see the spirit of the people here seems so high in your favour, that they have no hopes of bringing either them or parliament up to anything that may discourage the prince's coming. They are, therefore, forced to turn all their views towards you, and are reduced to the miserable necessity of trying whether they can persuade your court to betray itself."

But every engine of the English court was put in motion to prevent the coming of the electoral prince. Oxford had an interview with Schutz, in which he repeated that it was his making the application for the writ to the chancellor instead of the queen that had done all the mischief; that her majesty, had it not been for this untoward incident, would have invited the prince to come over and spend the summer in England - forgetting, as Schutz observed, that the minute before he had assured him that the queen was too much afraid of seeing any of that family here. He advised Schutz - who could not be convinced that he had done anything irregular in his application, quoting numerous proofs to show that it was the accustomed mode of applying for writs - to avoid appearing again at court; but Schutz, not appearing disposed to follow that advice, immediately received a positive order to the same effect from the queen through another channel. Schutz, therefore, lost no time in returning to Hanover to justify himself. At the same time lord Strafford was instructed to write from the Hague, blaming the conduct of Schutz in applying for the writ in the manner he did, as disrespectful to the queen; for, though strictly legal for an absent peer to make such application, the etiquette was that he should defer it till he could do it personally. Strafford ridiculed the idea of any movement being afoot in favour of the pretender, and observed that, as to sending him out of the duke of Lorraine's territory, it was not practicable, because the French king maintained that he had fulfilled the treaty, Lorraine not being any part of France. On the other hand, there were striking signs that the cause of Hanover was in the ascendant. Men who watched the course of events decided accordingly. Marlborough, who so lately had been making court to the pretender, now wrote from Antwerp, urging the house of Hanover to send over the prince without delay to England; that the state of the queen's health made prompt action necessary; and that the presence of the prince in London would secure the succession without risk, without expense, and without war, and was the likeliest measure of inducing France to abandon her design of assisting the pretender. Lord Townshend announced that many tories were coming over, in expectation that the prince was about to arrive, and that not only the lord treasurer, but both parties would be obliged to pay court to him. Many other whigs wrote in the same tone, and amongst them the archbishop of York sent the warmest expressions of attachment. As if some intimations of the archbishop's correspondence had got wind, the queen sent for him a few days after he had sent off his letter, and made the strongest protestations of her attachment to the protestant succession, both from conscience and affection for the church. But Kreyenburg, the Hanoverian secretary, who had remained after the departure of Schutz, informed his court that the archbishop was by no means convinced, seeing much around him to the contrary.

The real fact was, that exertions equally strenuous were all this time being made on the part of the pretender. As the state of Anne's health became more and more precarious, both parties increased their efforts to secure their ground, and there was a most active and incessant struggle going on round the throne to enable the head of either party to step into it the moment it became vacant. It was considered essential for the claimant to be on the spot, and, therefore, every means was used to induce the queen to admit the pretender as well as a member of the electoral house to court. Yes, it was seriously agitated to obtain her consent to the coming over of the pretender. It was a scheme of the duke of Berwick, which he communicated to Oxford through the abba Gualtier, that the queen should be induced to consent to do her brother justice; that he should go to St. James's, and that on the understanding that he consented to allow liberty of the subject and of religion, the queen should pass such acts as were necessary for the public security on these heads, and then should suddenly introduce him in full parliament, saying, "My lords and gentlemen, here is the true prince, ready to promise you himself religiously to keep all I have engaged for him, and to swear to the observance of it. I require you, therefore, instantly to repeal all the acts passed against him, and acknowledge him immediately as my heir and your future sovereign, that he may owe you some good will for your concurrence with me in that which your conscience, your duty, and your honour should already have prompted you to."

"An unexpected step of this sort," argued the brave but romantic Berwick, "would have so astonished the factious and delighted the well-affected, that there would not certainly have been the least opposition. There is no reason to doubt but that everything would have been immediately executed agreeably to the queen's command; for no person would have doubted but that the queen had taken her measures in anxious obedience; so that on one hand the fear of punishment, and on the other the hope of taking advantage of a new change, would have determined the parliament immediately to restore all things to their natural order, according to the fundamental laws of the kingdom."

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Pictures for The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 13

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