Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
76
SALISBURY 1st EARL OF

one among several causes, including his own occasional ill-health, which after 1895 made him leave as much as possible of the work of political leadership to his principal colleagues-Mr Arthur Balfour more than once acting as foreign secretary for several weeks While his uncle stayed abroad. But for some years it was felt that his attempt to be both prime minister and foreign secretary was a mistake; and after the election of 1900 Salisbury handed over the seals of the foreign office to Lord Lansdowne, remaining himself at the head of the government as lord privy seal. In 1902, upon the conclusion of peace in South Africa, he felt that the time had come to retire from office altogether; and on the 11th of July his resignation was accepted by the king, and he was succeeded as prime minister by Mr Arthur Balfour.

From this moment he remained in the political background, and his ill-health gradually increased. He died at Hatfield on the 22nd of August 1903, and was succeeded in the marques sate by his eldest son Lord Cranborne (b. 1861), who entered the house of commons for the Darwen division of Lancashire (188 5-1892) and since 1893 had been member for Rochester. The new marquess had been under-secretary for foreign affairs since 1900, and in October 1903 he became lord privy seal in Mr Balfour's ministry. Of the other four sons, Lord Hugh Cecil (b. 1869) became a prominent figure in parliament as Conservative member for Greenwich (189 5-1906), first as an ardent and eloquent High Churchman in connexion with the debates on education, &c., and then as one of the leaders of the Free-Trade Unionists opposing Mr Chamberlain; and his elder brother Lord Robert Cecil (b. 1864), who had at first devoted himself to the bar and become a K.C., entered parliament in 1906 for Marylebone, holding views in sympathy with those of Lord Hugh, who had been defeated through the opposition of a Tariff Reform Unionist in a triangular contest at Greenwich, which gave the victory to the Radical candidate. In the elections of January 1910 Lord Robert Cecil resigned his candidature for Marylebone, owing to the strong opposition of the Tariff Reformers, which threatened to divide the party and lose the seat; he stood for Blackburn as a Unionist Free Trader and was defeated. On the other hand Lord Hugh Cecil was returned for Oxford University in place of the Rt. Hon. j. G. Talbot. Lord Hugh's candidature, which was announced in 1909 simultaneously with the resignation of the sitting member, was opposed by many who disagreed with his fiscal views and his attitude on Church questions; but it was found that he had the support of the great majority of the electors, and he was ultimately returned unopposed.

(H. Ch.)


SALISBURY, ROBERT CECIL, 1st Earl of (c. 1565-1612), English lord treasurer, the exact year of whose birth is unrecorded, was the youngest son of William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley, and of his second wife Mildred, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, of Gidea Hall in Essex. He was educated in his father's house and at Cambridge University. In 1584 he was sent to France, and was returned the same year to parliament, and again in 1586, as member for Westminster. In 1588 he accompanied Lord Derby in his mission to the Netherlands to negotiate peace with Spain, and sat in the parliament of 1 588, and in the assemblies of 1 SQ 3, 1597 and 1601 for Hertfordshire. About 1 589 he appears to have entered upon the duties of secretary of state, though he did not receive the official appointment till 1596. On the zoth of May 1 591 he was knighted, and in August sworn of the privy council. In 1597 he was made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and in 1598 dispatched on a mission to Henry IV. of France, to prevent the impending alliance between that country and Spain. The next year he succeeded his father as master of the court of wards. On Lord Burghley's death on the 4th of August both Essex and Bacon desired to succeed him in the supreme direction of affairs, but the queen preferred the son of her last great minister. On Essex's disgrace, consequent on his sudden and unauthorized abandonment of his command in Ireland, Cecil's conduct was worthy of high praise. “ By employing his credit with Her Majesty in behalf of the Earl, ” wrote John Petit (June 14, 1600), “ he has gained great credit to himself both at home and abroad.” At this period began Cecil's secret correspondence with James in Scotland. Hitherto Cecil's enemies had persuaded James that the secretary was unfavourable to his claims to the English throne. An understanding was now effected by which Cecil was able to assure James of his succession, ensure his own power and predominance in the new reign against Sir Walter Raleigh and other competitors, and secure the tranquillity of the last years of Elizabeth, the conditions demanded by him being that all attempts of James to obtain parliamentary recognition of his title should cease, that an absolute respect should be paid to the queen's feelings, and that the communications should remain a profound secret. Writing later in the reign of James, Cecil says: “ If Her Majesty had known all I did, how well these (? she) should have known the innocence and constancy of my present faith, yet her age and orbity, joined to the jealousy of her sex, might have moved her to think ill of that which helped to preserve her.”[1]

Such was the nature of these secret communications, Which, while they aimed at securing for Cecil a fresh lease of power in the new reign, conferred undoubted advantages on the country. Owing to Cecil's action, on the death of Elizabeth on the 24th of March 1603, James was proclaimed king, and took possession of the throne without opposition. Cecil was continued in his office, was created Baron Cecil of Essendon in Rutlandshire on the 13th of May, Viscount Cranborne on the zoth of August 1604, and earl of Salisbury on the 4th of May 1605. He was elected chancellor of the University of Cambridge in February 1601, and obtained the Garter in May 1606. Meanwhile Cecil's success had completed the discontent of Raleigh, who, exasperated at his dismissal from the captaincy of the guard, became involved whether innocently or not is uncertain-in the treasonable conspiracy known as the “Bye Plot.” Cecil took a leading part in his trial in July 1603, and, though probably convinced of his guilt, endeavoured to ensure him a fair trial and rebuked the attorney-general, Sir Edward Coke, for his harshness towards the prisoner. On the 6th of May 1608 the office of lord treasurer was added to Salisbury's other appointments, and the whole conduct of public affairs was placed solely in his hands. His real policy is not always easy to distinguish, for the king constantly interfered, and Cecil, far from holding any absolute or continuous control, was often not even an adviser but merely a follower, simulating, approval of schemes opposed to his real judgment. In foreign affairs his aim was to preserve the balance of power between France and Spain, and to secure the independence of the Netherlands from either state. He also hoped, like his father, to make England the head of the Protestant alliance abroad; and his last energies were expended in effecting the marriage in 1612 of the princess Elizabeth, James's daughter, with the Elector Palatine. He was in favour of peace, preoccupied with the state of the finances at home and the decreasing revenue, and, though sharing Raleigh's dislike of Spain, was instrumental in making the treaty with that power in 1604. In June 1607 he promised the support of the government to the merchants who complained of Spanish ill-usage, but declared that the commons must not meddle with questions of peace and war. In 1611 he disapproved of the proposed marriage between the prince of Wales and the Infanta. His bias against Spain and his fidelity to the national interests render, therefore, his acceptance of a pension from Spain a surprising incident in his career. At the conclusion of the peace in 1604 the sum Cecil received was £1000, which was raised the following year to £1500; while in 1609 he demanded an augmentation and to be paid for each piece of information separately. If, as has been stated,[2] he received a pension also from France, it is not improbable that, like his contemporary Bacon, who accepted presents from suitors on both sides and still gave an independent decree, Cecil may have maintained a freedom from corrupting inhuences, while his acceptance of money as the price of information concerning the intentions of the government may have formed

  1. Correspondence of King James VI. of Scotland with Sir R. Cecil, ed. by J. Bruce (Camden Soc., 1861), p. xl.
  2. Gardiner, History of England, i. 214.