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431
CLARENDON, 1st EARL OF

between individuals were necessarily upheld. There can be little doubt that the principle followed was the only safe one in the prevailing confusion. Great injustice was indeed suffered by individuals, but the proper remedy of such injustice was the benevolence of the king, which there is too much reason to believe proved inadequate and partial. The settlement of the church lands which was directed by Clarendon presented equal difficulties and involved equal hardships. In settling Scotland Clarendon’s aim was to make that kingdom dependent upon England and to uphold the Cromwellian union. He proposed to establish a council at Whitehall to govern Scottish affairs, and showed great zeal in endeavouring to restore episcopacy through the medium of Archbishop Sharp. His influence, however, ended with the ascendancy of Lauderdale in 1663. He was, to some extent at least, responsible for the settlement in Ireland, but, while anxious for an establishment upon a solid Protestant basis, urged “temper and moderation and justice” in securing it. He supported Ormonde’s wise and enlightened Irish administration, and in particular opposed persistently the prohibition of the import of Irish cattle into England, incurring thereby great unpopularity. He showed great activity in the advancement of the colonies, to whom he allowed full freedom of religion. He was a member of the council for foreign plantations, and one of the eight lords proprietors of Carolina in 1663; and in 1664 sent a commission to settle disputes in New England. In the department of foreign affairs he had less influence. His policy was limited to the maintenance of peace “necessary for the reducing [the king’s] own dominions into that temper of subjection and obedience as they ought to be in.”[1] In 1664 he demanded, on behalf of Charles, French support, and a loan of £50,000 against disturbance at home, and thus initiated that ignominious system of pensions and dependence upon France which proved so injurious to English interests later. But he was the promoter neither of the sale of Dunkirk on the 27th of October 1662, the author of which seems to have been the earl of Sandwich,[2] nor of the Dutch War. He attached considerable value to the possession of the former, but when its sale was decided he conducted the negotiations and effected the bargain. He had zealously laboured for peace with Holland, and had concluded a treaty for the settlement of disputes on the 4th of September 1662. Commercial and naval jealousies, however, soon involved the two states in hostilities. Cape Corso and other Dutch possessions on the coast of Africa, and New Amsterdam in America, were seized by squadrons from the royal navy in 1664, and hostilities were declared on the 22nd of February 1665. Clarendon now gave his support to the war, asserted the extreme claims of the English crown over the British seas, and contemplated fresh cessions from the Dutch and an alliance with Sweden and Spain. According to his own account he initiated the policy of the Triple Alliance,[3] but it seems clear that his inclination towards France continued in spite of the intervention of the latter state in favour of Holland; and he took part in the negotiations for ending the war by an undertaking with Louis XIV. implying a neutrality, while the latter seized Flanders. The crisis in this feeble foreign policy and in the general official mismanagement was reached in June 1667, when the Dutch burnt several ships at Chatham and when “the roar of foreign guns were heard for the first and last time by the citizens of London.”[4]

The whole responsibility for the national calamity and disgrace, and for the ignominious peace which followed it, was unjustly thrown on the shoulders of Clarendon, though it must be admitted that the disjointed state of the administration and want of control over foreign policy were largely the causes of the disaster, and for these Clarendon’s influence and obstruction of official reforms were to some extent answerable. According to Sir William Coventry, whose opinion has weight and who acknowledges the chancellor’s fidelity to the king, while Clarendon “was so great at the council board and in the administration of matters, there was no room for anybody to propose any remedy to what was remiss . . . he managing all things with that greatness which will now be removed.”[5] He disapproved of the system of boards and committees instituted during the Commonwealth, as giving too much power to the parliament, and regarded the administration by the great officers of state, to the exclusion of pure men of business, as the only method compatible with the dignity and security of the monarchy. The lowering of the prestige of the privy council, and its subordination first to the parliament and afterwards to the military faction, he considered as one of the chief causes of the fall of Charles I. He aroused a strong feeling of hostility in the Commons by his opposition to the appropriation of supplies in 1665, and to the audit of the war accounts in 1666, as “an introduction to a commonwealth” and as “a new encroachment,” and by his high tone of prerogative and authority, while by his advice to Charles to prorogue parliament he incurred their resentment and gave colour to the accusation that he had advised the king to govern without parliaments. He was unpopular among all classes, among the royalists on account of the Act of Indemnity, among the Presbyterians because of the Act of Uniformity. It was said that he had invented the maxim “that the king should buy and reward his enemies and do little for his friends, because they are his already.”[6] Every kind of maladministration was currently ascribed to him, of designs to govern by a standing army, and of corruption. He was credited with having married Charles purposely to a barren queen in order to raise his own grandchildren to the throne, with having sold Dunkirk to France, and his magnificent house in St James’s was nicknamed “Dunkirk House,” while on the day of the Dutch attack on Chatham the mob set up a gibbet at his gate and broke his windows. He had always been exceedingly unpopular at court, and kept severely aloof from the revels and licence which reigned there. Evelyn names “the buffoons and the misses to whom he was an eyesore.”[7] He was intensely disliked by the royal mistresses, whose favour he did not condescend to seek, and whose presence and influence were often the subject of his reproaches.[8] A party of younger men of the king’s own age, more congenial to his temperament, and eager to drive the old chancellor from power and to succeed him in office, had for some time been endeavouring to undermine his influence by ridicule and intrigue. Surrounded by such general and violent animosity, Clarendon’s only hope could be in the support of the king. But the chancellor had early and accurately gauged the nature and extent of the king’s attachment to him, which proceeded neither from affection nor gratitude but “from his aversion to be troubled with the intricacies of his affairs,” and in 1661 he had resisted the importunities of Ormonde to resign the great seal for the lord treasurership with the rank of “first minister,” “a title newly translated out of French into English,” on account of the obloquy this position would incur and the further dependence which it entailed upon the inconstant king.[9] Charles, long weary of the old chancellor’s rebukes, was especially incensed at this time owing to his failure in securing Frances Stuart (la Belle Stuart) for his seraglio, a disappointment which he attributed to Clarendon, and was now alarmed by the hostility which his administration had excited. He did not scruple to sacrifice at once the old adherent of his house and fortunes. “The truth is,” he wrote Ormonde, “his behaviour and humour was grown so insupportable to myself and all the world else that I could no longer endure it, and it was impossible for me to live with it and do these things with the Parliament that must be done, or the government will be lost.”[10] By the direction of Charles, James advised Clarendon to resign before the meeting of parliament, but in an interview with the king on the 26th of August Clarendon refused to deliver up the seal unless dismissed, and urged him not to take a step ruinous to the interests both of the chancellor

  1. Continuation, 1170.
  2. Hist. MSS. Comm.: MSS. of F. W. Leyborne-Popham, 250.
  3. Continuation, 1066.
  4. Macaulay’s Hist. of England, i. 193.
  5. Pepys’s Diary, Sept. 2, 1667.
  6. Hist. MSS. Comm., 7th Rep. 162.
  7. Diary, iii. 95, 96.
  8. Lives from the Clarendon Gallery, by Lady Th. Lewis, i. 39; Burnet’s Hist. of his own Times, i. 209.
  9. Continuation, 88.
  10. Lister’s Life of Clarendon, ii. 416.