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Reign of George I page 4

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But if the mob could not pull down any more chapels, or insult dissenters or whigs without danger, they took to the less manly amusement of insulting the king's mistresses. Unfortunately, George had brought with him several German ladies, who were as remarkable for ugliness and corpulence as Charles II.'s mistresses had been for beauty. In the eyes of an English mob, a king's mistress is a very sufferable personage if she is handsome; but it was regarded as a species of treason and an insult to the nation that king George should patronise ugly women. Accordingly, when they saw Madame Herrengard Melusina von Schulemberg, or the countess Platen, abroad, they pursued their carriages with howling and insults. They had the reputation of being very rapacious, and they saw that they were very corpulent and plain. One of these ladies in alarm put her head out of her carriage, and exclaimed, "Why do you abuse us, good people? We come for all your goods." To which a fellow bawled out, with an oath, "Yes, and for all our chattels too!" It was not till worse things than these insults had taken place, particularly in Staffordshire, which was long remarkable for its tory politics, that the riot act succeeded in securing peace.

During this year died two of the leading ministers, the lords Wharton and Halifax. Wharton was an able man, but of a most profligate character, and was succeeded by his son, still more able and still more abandoned. Halifax was a man of good talents, of literary taste, which he patronised in others. He was eloquent in parliament, a skilful financier, and an active man of business. His great faults were his excessive vanity and his ambition, which saw no post or prize too high for his imagined deserts. On the demise of Wharton the privy seal was put in commission; and the earl of Carlisle, a poor statesman and worse poet, was made first lord of the treasury; but he was soon found unequal to the office, and in October it was conferred on Walpole.

We come now to the rebellion of 1715. The succession of the house of Hanover had raised the pretender and his Jacobite faction in England to a pitch of excitement which made them ready to rush upon the most desperate measures. In England the destruction of the tory ministry, the welcome given to the new protestant king, and the vigour with which the whigs and all the supporters of the principles of the revolution had shown the majority which they were able to return to the new parliament, were all indications that the spirit of the nation was more firmly than ever rooted in protestantism and the love of constitutional liberty, and that any endeavours to overturn the new dynasty to succeed must be supported by an overwhelming power from without. But where was that power? France, the only country which took an immediate interest in the exiled family, and which sympathised with the hope of its restoration, both on account of natural affinity of religion and congenial principles of government, was exhausted by a long and latterly a disastrous war, and was bound by treaties with England, which she was in no condition to break with impunity. For the pretender to succeed, he must come supported by a great military force, by money and arms, which France could not furnish. It might, be said that England was just now destitute of any considerable army, such had been the precipitancy with which the Jacobite ministers had disbanded our veteran troops. There were said to be only about eight thousand soldiers in all England; that the public and the aristocracy were divided on the grand question of the reigning family, and that the highlands of Scotland were decidedly in favour of the Stuart. But the fact was, that the party, after all, of the pretender in any class of society in England was small. The body of the people were undoubtedly devoted to the protestant church and the protestant succession. It was well known, spite of all the endeavours to dress up the pretender in popular colours, that he was as weak in intellect, as bigoted in principle, and as arbitrary in politics as his father, James II., had been. He was by education and religion more a Frenchman than an Englishman. It was clear, therefore, that even the support of a strong force could only insure a hard and bloody struggle, with a very doubtful issue. Without such force the event was certain failure; yet, under such auspices, it was determined to try the venture.

Bolingbroke, on arriving in Paris, professed to be wholly an Englishman, exiled by circumstances, but yet resolved to stand by his country. It was, however, as his life had long been, a mere profession. Whilst exercising the high office of the administration of his country, he had been long zealously at work to betray her to all the old superstitions and despotisms from which it cost her so much blood, anxiety, and labour to free herself, and his pretences now were only dictated by his own selfish hopes that the exertions of his party might be able to open the way for his return. He wrote, therefore, to lord Stair, the English ambassador, to assure him that he would on no account enter into any engagements hostile to the reigning family; and he wrote to Stanhope to make the same assurances. Yet all the time he was in active correspondence with the pretender. He saw both him and the duke of Berwick, and gave them the greatest encouragement as to an invasion. He drew a flattering picture of the Jacobite interest in England, and the pretender in return created him an earl, which, as he observed, raised him a degree higher than his sister, queen Anne, had done, and at the same time held out the promise of still greater future rewards for his services. Yery soon after arrived the news of the bill of attainder, and Bolingbroke, seeing all hope closed of his return to England, at once threw off the mask, hastened to Com- mercy, in Lorraine, and publicly joined the pretender.

These proceedings confirm our view of the character of Bolingbroke, that he was a man of brilliant talents, but of no real sagacity. He was sparkling, shining, and imposing by his manners, but had no solidity or depth of judgment. He was at once ambitious and unprincipled, and being destitute of religious sentiment, was ready to adopt any cause which should make him a leader. But in adopting such cause, he betrayed the superficial character of his mind. A man of sound observation and masculine reason would have perceived at a glance that the whole scheme of an invasion of England at such a time and by such a party - opposed to that unequivocal spirit of the nation, which had put down king after king, changed the whole dynasty, faith, and constitution, so far as it regarded hereditary right, and had at this very crisis brought in another dynasty on its own avowed principles - was nothing less than insane. The view which he had now had of the hero whom he was to introduce to the British, ought to have opened his eyes, however firmly they had been closed before, and would have done so had he been a really great diplomatist. "The very first conversation I had with the chevalier," he says himself, "answered in no degree my expectations. He talked to me like a man who expected every moment to set out for England or Scotland, but did not very well know which." Bolingbroke saw that all was rashness, impatience, and want of preparation in the party 011 both sides of the channel. The Highlanders were all eagerness for the chevalier's arrival, lest he should land in England, and the English should snatch the glory of the restoration from them. From England came the letters of Ormonde, who was down in the west, and sent most glowing representations of the spirit of the people there; that out of every ten persons nine were against king George. That he had distributed money amongst the disbanded officers, to engage them in the cause of king James. But all these fine words terminated with the damping intelligence that nobody would stir until they saw the chevalier with a good army at his back. Such an army there was not the smallest hope of obtaining from France. All that Louis would or could do, without engaging in a new war with England, was to prevail on his grandson, Philip of Spain, to advance four hundred thousand crowns for the expedition, and besides this, the pretender had been able privately to borrow another hundred thousand, and purchase ten thousand stand of arms.

With such prospects, the commonly-reputed sagacious statesman, Bolingbroke, first engaged himself in the rash enterprise by accepting the office of secretary of state to the so-called James III., and he proceeded to Paris, as the best centre where to operate for its success. The state of things which he found there amongst his new associates ought to have startled him out of his infatuation. "I find," he says, in a letter to Sir William Wyndham of July 23rd, " a multitude of people at work, and every one doing what seemed good in his own eyes; no subordination, no order, no concert. The Jacobites had wrought one another up to look on the success of the present designs as infallible.

Care and hops sate on every busy Irish face. Those who could write and read had letters to show, and those who had not yet arrived to this pitch of erudition, had their secrets to whisper. No sex was excluded from this ministry." And all this under the vigilant eyes of lord Stair, the English ambassador. One of the busiest of the busy in this shabby and incautious crew was a Mrs. Olivia Trant, a woman of what lord Byron calls uneasy virtue, and very uneasy politics.

Whilst Bolingbroke was contemplating this promising preparation for the invasion of Great Britain, he received a memorial signed by Ormonde, the earl of Mar, lord Lansdowne, and other Jacobite leaders, which again strongly urged the necessity of the pretender bringing over a strong force; but if that was impracticable, that he should not come without twenty thousand stand of arms, a train of artillery, five hundred officers, and a considerable sum of money. That in that case he should not attempt to land till September, old style, when the parliament would be prorogued, and all the influential Jacobite members and ministers would be in their respective counties.

Bolingbroke, who was now in close intercourse with De Torcy, the French minister, laid this memorial before him. Both he and the duke of Berwick contended that nothing could be so certain as the enterprise, were it supported by France. De Torcy replied that so completely was France engaged by its treaty, and its then circumstances, not to furnish any such assistance in the shape of soldiers, that he would not even undertake to name the matter to his master; but that the French court would not be averse to granting secret supplies, and that Louis had already allowed a small armament to be fitted out at Havre, partly at the expense of the government, but under a fictitious name.

This was not very encouraging, and should have induced Bolingbroke to endeavour to check the impatience of the Scots, and urge on a more thorough organisation of the malcontent party in England; but at this moment came another warning of the perilous nature of the few props upon which he madly leaned. The duke of Ormonde had assured him that he would stand his ground to the last; would remain at Richmond, or if compelled by danger of arrest, would go down to the western counties, and put that quarter of the kingdom, on which he most relied, into a condition for rising at the earliest warning. That he had concerted measures for seizing Bristol, Plymouth, and Exeter, and had assigned stations to a great number of disbanded officers in his pay, and even provided relays of horses. On the heels of these energetic assurances, however, Ormonde himself appeared in Paris a helpless fugitive, having found it prudent, to avoid a lodgment in the Tower in order to his trial, to make a hasty escape.

But a more disastrous event was soon added - the death of the old despot, Louis XIV. This monarch, the most applauded of his time, whom his sycophantic courtiers and poets had exalted to the rank of a god - as Racine in his triumphal ode on the taking of Namur –

"C'est Jupiter en personne,
Ou c'est le vanqueur de Mons;"

this king, who had set out to put down all protestantism, and ruin and subjugate all protestant countries; who, hounded on by Jesuits, mistresses, and servile ministers, imagined that he could dominate over all Europe; who had perpetrated the most diabolical barbarities in the countries that he invaded, and on his own unhappy protestant subjects - had gone down to the grave amid the just judgments of Providence. He had seen his victories all reversed, his own country entered by the once-distressed foreigners whom he had invaded, his capital in- danger, and only saved from seizure and a probable sacking by the Jacobite ministers of England. He had been so reduced by his wars and reverses that he had been compelled to strip his palaces of any valuables that he could turn into money, to tear away and melt down the very gold which embossed his shaken throne. He had seen all around him gloomy looks, heard the silence of contempt, or the murmur of a ruined people, and died with the sense of having sought a criminal glory and received a well-deserved humiliation. He had besides laid the foundation, in his attack on the thrones of other monarchs, of the destruction of his own dynasty, of monarchy itself in France. This disturber of Europe and scourge of France died on the 1st of September; and Bolingbroke, writing to Wyndham, said - "He was the best friend the chevalier had; and when I engaged in this business my principal dependence was on his personal character. All I had to negotiate by myself first, and in conjunction with the duke of Ormonde afterwards, languished with the king. My hopes sunk as he declined, and died when he expired."

Louis was succeeded for the time by the duke of Orleans as regent, who had other views, and was surrounded by other influences than the old king. He had secured the regency in opposition to Madame Maintenon and the royal bastards. He changed all the ministers, and was not inclined to risk his government by making enemies of the English abroad, having sufficient of these at home. He had been for some time cultivating the good offices of the present English government, which had offered to assist him with troops and money, if necessary, to secure the regency. He had seen a good deal of the new secretary of state, Stanley, in Spain, and still maintained a correspondence with him. Lord Stair, therefore, was placed in a more influential position with the regent, and the pretender and his ministers were but coldly looked on.

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