The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 42


LONDON, FEB. 12, 1707-8.

HAVING written what I had of business about three posts ago (whereof I wait an answer), perhaps it may be some amusement to you for a few minutes to hear some particulars about the turns we have had at court. Yesterday the seals were taken from Mr. Harley, and sir Thomas Mansel gave up his staff. They went to Kensington together for that purpose, and came back immediately, and went together into the house of commons. Mr. St. John designs to lay down in a few days, as a friend of his told me, though he advised him to the contrary; and they talk that Mr. Bruges, and Mr. Cook the vice chamberlain, with some others, will do the like. Mr. Harley had been for some time, with the greatest art imaginable, carrying on an intrigue to alter the ministry, and began with no less an enterprise than that of removing the lord treasurer, and had nearly effected it, by the help of Mrs. Masham one of the queen's dressers, who was a great and growing favourite, of much industry and insinuation. It went so far, that the queen told Mr. St. John a week ago, that she was resolved to part with lord treasurer, and sent him with a letter to the duke of Marlborough, which she read to him, to that purpose; and she gave St. John leave to tell it about the town, which he did without any reserve; and Harley told a friend of mine a week ago, that he was never safer in favour or employment. On Sunday evening last, the lord treasurer and duke of Marlborough went out of the council; and Harley delivered a memorial to the queen, relating to the emperor and the war. Upon which the duke of Somerset rose, and said, if her majesty suffered that fellow (pointing to Harley) to treat affairs of the war without advice of the general, he could not serve her, and so left the council. The earl of Pembroke, though in milder words, spoke to the same purpose; so did most of the lords: and the next day the queen was prevailed upon to turn him out, though the seals were not delivered till yesterday. It was likewise said, that Mrs. Masham is forbid the court; but this I have no assurance of. Seven lords of the whig party are appointed to examine Gregg, who lies condemned in Newgate; and a certain lord of the council told me yesterday, that there are endeavours to bring in Harley as a party in that business, and to carry it as far as an impeachment. All this business has been much fomented by a lord whom Harley had been chiefly instrumental in impeaching some years ago. The secretary always dreaded him, and made all imaginable advances to be reconciled, but could never prevail; which made him say yesterday to some who told it to me, that he had laid his neck under their feet, and they trod upon it. I am just going this morning to visit that lord, who has a very free way of telling what he cares not who hears; and if I can learn any more particulars worth telling, you shall have them, I never in my life saw or heard such divisions and complications of parties as there have been for some time: you sometimes see the extremes of whig and tory driving on the same thing. I have heard the chief whigs blamed by their own party for want of moderation, and I know a whig lord in good employment who voted with the highest tories against the court, and the ministry, with whom he is nearly allied. My lord Peterborow's[1] affair is yet upon the anvil, and what they will beat it out to, no man can tell. It is said that Harley had laid a scheme for an entire new ministry, and the men are named to whom the several employments were to be given. And though his project has miscarried, it is reckoned the greatest piece of court skill that has been acted there many years. — I have heard nothing since morning, but that the attorney either has laid down, or will do it in a few days.

  1. See vol. XI, p. 21.