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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/302

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Osborne
Osborne
296


post jointly on Osborne and Sir Thomas Lyttelton (Pepys, Diary, iv. 41). On 5 Nov. the two new treasurers kissed the king's hand, and Charles genially expressed his confidence that he would be safe in their hands. On the same day Pepys saw Osborne for the first time, and noted that he was 'a comely' gentleman ' (ib. iv. 47). In September 1671 Osborne quarrelled with his coadjutor on some official detail. The matter was brought to the notice of the council. Lyttelton was dismissed, and Osborne was reappointed sole treasurer of the navy (Hatton Correspondence, ii. 61-71). On 2 Feb. 1673 he was created Viscount Osborne of Dunblane in the Scottish peerage, and on 3 May 1673 he became a privy councillor. But a greater dignity was in store for him. Next month Clifford, the lord treasurer and chief of the Cabal ministry, was forced to resign. Buckingham pointed to Osborne as his successor, and the suggestion was adopted by the king. Accordingly, on 19 June 1673, Osborne became lord high treasurer of England and chief minister of Charles II. On 16 Aug. he was made Baron Osborne of Kiveton and Viscount Latimer of Danby in the English peerage, whereupon he resigned his Scottish title to his son Peregrine, he selected the title of Lord Latimer on account of his mother's dosoont from John Neville, fourth lord Latimer, who died in 1577. 'There was some grumbling at his choice amongst the ducal Family of Northumberland,' whose subordinate honours included the same title (Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson, pp. 63, 157). On 17 June 1674 he was promoted to an Earldom, naming himself Earl of Danby, after the estate of Danby (in Cleveland) which was formerly a possession of the baronial family of Latimer, and had already given a title to his granduncle, Henry Danvers (Ord, Cleveland, p. 330). In the same year he was made lord lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire and a Scottish privy councillor. In 1()77 he was created K. G. Soon after receiving the treasurer's office, he acquired Wimbledon House, Surrey, of George, lord Digby, and spent all his leisure there, living in considerable state.

For the live years from 1673 to the end of 1678, during which Danhy remained lord treasurer, the government of the country lay mainly in his hands. Accepting without question the standard of morals recognised by all contemporary politicians, he endeavoured to keep the House of Commons in subjection by a liberal administration bribes. But according to Burnet, he unwisely confined his gifts of corruption to the less prominent members of parliament. He certainly gathered about him men of small capacity, and lived in a jealous fear that if he extended his patronage to persons of genuine ability, they might depress his influence by 'gaining too much credit with the king.' With Lauderdale, almost alone among the eminent politicians of the day, did he maintain confidential relations, and he apparently made it his ambition to emulate Lauderdale's despotic methods of rule (Lauderdale Correspondence, iii. 126; cf. Dialogue between Lauderdale and Danby, 1680? in Roxhurghe Ballads, iv. 91). At the same time he endeavoured to improve his own financial prospects by none too scrupulous methods. He was not a rich man. In 1669 it was said that he had less than 1,200l. a year, and that his debts exceeded 10,000l. (Pepys). He was obviously in embarrassed circumstances on becoming treasurer. According to Reresby, he made a corrupt bargain with Buckingham by which he undertook to pay his predecessor, Clifford, half his salary. Another authority states that he was to give Clifford 4,000l. a year (Letters to Williamson, p. 48). His wife was reported to encourage him in his love of money, and soon drove, with 'his participation and concurrence,' a private trade in offices, after the manner of Elizabeth, duchess of Lauderdale [see Murray, Elizabeth] (Rekesby ; Henry Sidney's Diary, ed. Blencowe, i. 6; Marvell, Works, ed. Aitken, vol. ii.)

But although 'greedy of wealth and honours, corrupt himself, and a corrupter of others,' Danby did not wholly lack political principle. He took for granted, like all the old cavaliers, that the country demanded an absolute monarch. But as a zealous protestant, he declined all conciliatory relations with the church of Home; nor was he less anxious to counteract the aggrandisement of France, and secure for England an influential place in the councils of Europe. He wished, too, to maintain the country's financial credit, and to pay public creditors with regularity. Somewhat similar aims had been expressed in a book called 'The present Interest of England Stated' (1672), and another anonymous pamphleteer had thereupon issued 'A Letter to Sir Thomas Osborn . . . upon the reading of [that book].' Osborne was there credited with an anxiety to render English trade more extensive than that of any other nation.

As the minister of Charles II, Danby could not act with a free hand, and much diplomacy on his part was needed to give effect to any of his views. One of his first efforts at domestic legislation met with egregious defeat.