The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 4/Some Free Thoughts upon the Present State of Affairs
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1714.
ABOUT a month before the demise of queen Anne, the dean having laboured to reconcile the ministers to each other without success, retired to the house of a friend in Berkshire, and never saw them more. But during this retreat he wrote the following treatise, which he thought might be of some use even in that juncture, and sent it up to London to be printed; but, upon some difference in opinion between the author and the late lord Bolingbroke, the publication was delayed till the queen's death, and then he recalled his copy: it was afterwards placed in the hands of the late alderman Barber, from whom it was obtained to be printed. The ruin of the ministry, by this animosity among themselves, was long foreseen and foretold by Swift, and it appears by lord Bolingbroke's letter to sir William Wyndham, that in his heart he renounced his friendship for Oxford long before the conclusion of the peace, though it did not appear till afterwards. "The peace," says he, "which had been judged to be the only solid foundation whereupon we could erect a tory system, and yet when it was made we found ourselves at a stand; nay the very work, which ought to have been the basis of our strength, was in part demolished before our eyes, and we were stoned with the ruins of it." This event probably rendered the disunion of the ministry visible; some, principally endeavouring to secure themselves, some, still labouring to establish at all events the party they had espoused, which saw nothing but, "increase of mortification, and nearer approaches to ruin:" and it is not to be wondered at, that when this treatise was written, the dean's attempts to reconcile his friends were unsuccessful; for Bolingbroke declares, that he abhorred Oxford to such a degree, that he would rather have suffered banishment or death, than have taken measures in concert with him to have avoided either.
FREE THOUGHTS, ETC.
WHATEVER may be thought or practised by profound politicians, they will hardly be able to convince the reasonable part of mankind, that the most plain, short, easy, safe, and lawful way to any good end, is not more eligible, than one directly contrary to some or all of these qualities. I have been frequently assured by great ministers, that politicks were nothing but common sense; which, as it was the only true thing they spoke, so it was the only thing they could have wished I should not believe. God has given the bulk of mankind a capacity to understand reason, when it is fairly offered; and by reason they would easily be governed, if it were left to their choice. Those princes in all ages, who were most distinguished for their mysterious skill in government, found by the event, that they had ill consulted their own quiet, or the ease and happiness of their people; nor has posterity remembered them with honour: such as Lysander and Philip among the Greeks, Tiberius in Rome, Pope Alexander the Sixth and his son Cæsar Borgia, queen Catherine de Medicis, Philip the Second of Spain, with many others. Nor are examples less frequent of ministers, famed for men of great intrigue, whose politicks have produced little more than murmurings, factions, and discontents, which usually terminated in the disgrace and ruin of the authors.
I can recollect but three occasions in a state, where the talents of such men may be thought necessary; I mean in a state where the prince is obeyed and loved by his subjects: first, in the negotiation of ; secondly, in adjusting the interests of our own country, with those of the nations round us, watching the several motions of our neighbours and allies, and preserving a due balance among them: lastly, in the management of parties and factions at home. In the first of these cases I have often heard it observed, that plain good sense, and a firm adherence to the point, have proved more effectual than all those arts, which I remember a great foreign minister used in contempt to call the spirit of negotiating. In the second case, much wisdom, and a thorough knowledge in affairs both foreign and domestick, are certainly required: after which, I know no talents necessary beside method and skill in the common forms of business. In the last case, which is that of managing parties, there seems indeed to be more occasion for employing this gift of the lower politicks, whenever the tide runs high against the court and ministry; which seldom happens under any tolerable administration, while the true interest of the nation is pursued. But, here in England, (for I do not pretend to establish maxims of government in general) while the prince and ministry, the clergy, the majority of landed men, and the bulk of the people appear to have the same views and the same principles, it is not obvious to me, how those at the helm can have many opportunities of showing their skill in mystery and refinement, beside what themselves think fit to create.
I have been assured by men long practised in business, that the secrets of court are much fewer than we generally suppose; and I hold it for the greatest secret of court, that they are so: because the first springs of great events, like those of great rivers, are often so mean and so little, that in decency they ought to be hid: and therefore ministers are so wise to leave their proceedings to be accounted for by reasoners at a distance, who often mould them into systems, that do not only go down very well in the coffee-house, but are supplies for pamphlets in the present age, and may probably furnish materials for memoirs and histories in the next.
It is true indeed, that even those who are very near the court, and are supposed to have a large share in the management of publick matters, are apt to deduce wrong consequences, by reasoning upon the causes and motives of those actions, wherein themselves are employed. A great minister puts you a case, and asks your opinion, but conceals an essential circumstance, upon which the whole weight of the matter turns; then he despises your understanding for counselling him no better, and concludes he ought to trust entirely to his own wisdom. Thus he grows to abound in secrets and reserves, even toward those with whom he ought to act in the greatest confidence and concert: and thus the world is brought to judge, that whatever be the issue and event, it was all foreseen, contrived, and brought to pass by some masterstroke of his politicks.
I could produce innumerable instances, from my own memory and observation, of events imputed to the profound skill and address of a minister, which in reality were either the mere effects of negligence, weakness, humour, passion, or pride; or at best, but the natural course of things left to themselves.
During this very session of parliament, a most ingenious gentleman, who has much credit with those in power, would needs have it, that in the late dissensions at court, which grew too high to be any longer a secret, the whole matter was carried with the utmost dexterity on one side, and with manifest ill conduct on the other. To prove this he made use of the most plausible topicks, drawn from the nature and disposition of the several persons concerned, as well as of her majesty; all which he knows as much of as any man: and gave me a detail of the whole with such an appearance of probability, as committed to writing would pass for an admirable piece of secret history. Yet I am at the same time convinced by the strongest reasons, that the issue of those dissensions, as to the part they had in the court and the house of lords, was partly owing to very different causes, and partly to the situation of affairs, whence, in that conjuncture, they could not easily terminate otherwise than they did, whatever unhappy consequences they may have for the future.
In like manner I have heard a physician pronounce with great gravity, that he had cured so many patients of malignant fevers, and as many more of the smallpox; whereas in truth nine parts in ten of those who recovered, owed their lives to the strength of nature and a good constitution, while such a one happened to be their doctor.
But, while it is so difficult to learn the springs and motives of some facts, and so easy to forget the circumstances of others, it is no wonder they should be so grossly misrepresented to the publick by curious inquisitive heads, who proceed altogether upon conjectures, and in reasoning upon affairs of state, are sure to be mistaken by searching too deep. And as I have known this to be the frequent errour of many others, so I am sure it has been perpetually mine, whenever I have attempted to discover the causes of political events by refinement and conjecture; which I must acknowledge has very much abated my veneration for what they call arcana imperii; whereof I dare pronounce, that the fewer there are in any administration, it is just so much the better.
What I have hitherto said, has by no means been intended to detract from the qualities requisite in those, who are trusted with the administration of publick affairs; on the contrary, I know no station of life, where great abilities and virtues of all kinds are so highly necessary, and where the want of any is so quickly or universally felt. A great minister has no virtue, for which the publick may not be the better; nor any defect, by which the publick is not certainly a sufferer. I have known more than once or twice within four years past, an omission, in appearance very small, prove almost fatal to a whole scheme, and very hardly retrieved. It is not always sufficient for the person at the helm, that he is intrepid in his nature, free from any tincture of avarice or corruption, and that he has great natural and acquired abilities.
I never thought the reputation of much secrecy, was a character of any advantage to a minister, because it put all other men upon their guard to be as secret as he, and was consequently the occasion that persons and things were always misrepresented to him: because likewise, too great an affectation of secrecy, is usually thought to be attended with those little intrigues and refinements, which, among the vulgar, denominate a man a great politician; but among others, is apt, whether deservedly or not, to acquire the opinion of cunning: a talent, which differs as much from the true knowledge of government, as that of an attorney from an able lawyer. Neither indeed am I altogether convinced, that this habit of multiplying secrets, may not be carried on so far, as to stop that communication which is necessary, in some degree, among all who have any considerable part in the management of publick affairs: because I have observed the inconveniencies arising from a want of love between those who were to give directions, to have been of as ill consequence, as any that could happen from the discovery of secrets. I suppose, when a building is to be erected, the model may be the contrivance only of one head; and it is sufficient that the under-workmen be ordered to cut stones into certain shapes, and place them in certain positions: but the several master builders must have some general knowledge of the design, without which they can give no orders at all. And, indeed, I do not know a greater mark of an able minister, than that of rightly adapting the several faculties of men; nor is any thing more to be lamented, than the impracticableness of doing this in any great degree, under our present circumstances; while so many shut themselves out by adhering to a faction, and while the court is enslaved to the impatience of others, who desire to sell their vote or their interest, as dear as they can. But whether this has not been submitted to more than was necessary, whether it has not been dangerous in the example, and pernicious in the practice, I will leave to the inquiry of those who can better determine.
It may be matter of no little admiration to consider, in some lights, the state of affairs among us for four years past. The queen, finding herself and the majority of her kingdom grown weary of the avarice and insolence, the mistaken politicks, and destructive principles of her former ministers, calls to the service of the publick another set of men who, by confession of their enemies, had equal abilities at least with their predecessors; whose interest made it necessary for them (although their inclinations had been otherwise) to act upon those maxims which were most agreeable to the constitution in church and state; whose birth and patrimonies gave them weight in the nation: and who (I speak of those who were to have the chief part in affairs) had long lived under the strictest bonds of friendship: with all these advantages, supported by a vast majority of the landed interest, and the inferiour clergy almost to a man, we have several times seen the present administration in the greatest distress, and very near the brink of ruin, together with the cause of the church and monarchy committed to their charge; neither does it appear to me at the minute I am now writing, that their power or duration are upon any tolerable foot of security: which I do not so much impute to the address and industry of their enemies, as to some failures among themselves, which I think have been full as visible in their causes, as their effects.
Nothing has given me greater indignation, than to behold a ministry, who came in with the advantages I have represented, acting ever since upon the defensive in the house of lords, with a majority on their side; and instead of calling others to account, as it was reasonably expected, mispending their time, and losing many opportunities of doing good, because a struggling faction kept them continually in play. This courage among the adversaries of the court, was inspired into them by various incidents, for every one of which I think the ministers, or, (if that was the case) the minister alone is to answer.
For, first, that race of politicians, who in the cant phrase are called the whimsicals, was never so numerous, or at least so active, as it has been since the great change at court; many of those who pretended wholly to be in with the principles upon which her majesty and her new servants proceeded, either absenting themselves with the utmost indifference, in those conjunctures whereon the whole cause depended, or siding directly with the enemy.
I very well remember, when this ministry was not above a year old, there was a little murmuring among such as are called the higher tories or churchmen, that quicker progress was not made in removing those of the discontented party out of employments. I remember likewise, the reasonings upon this matter were various, even among many who were allowed to know a good deal of the inside of the court; some supposed the queen was at first prevailed upon to make that great change, with no other view, than that of acting for the future upon a moderating scheme, in order to reconcile both parties; and I believe there might possibly have been some grounds for this supposition. Others conceived the employments were left undisposed of, in order to keep alive the hopes of many more impatient candidates, than ever could be gratified. This has since been looked on as a very high strain of politicks, and to have succeeded accordingly; because it is the opinion of many, that the numerous pretenders to places would never have been kept in order, if all expectation had been cut off. Others were yet more refined; and thought it neither wise nor safe wholly to extinguish all opposition from the other side; because, in the nature of things, it was absolutely necessary that there should be parties in an English parliament; and a faction already odious to the people, might be suffered to continue with less danger, than any new one that could arise. To confirm this it was said, that the majority in the house of commons was too great on the side of the high-church, and began to form themselves into a body (by the name of the October club) in order to put the ministry under subjection. Lastly, the danger of introducing too great a number of unexperienced men at once into office, was urged as an irrefragable reason for making changes by slow degrees. To discard an able officer from an employment, or part of a commission, where the revenue or trade were concerned, for no other reason but differing in some principles of government, might be of terrible consequence.
However, it is certain that none of these excuses were able to pass among men, who argued only from the principles of general reason. For first, they looked upon all schemes of comprehension, to be as visionary and impossible in the state, as in the church. Secondly, while the spirit raised by the trial of Dr. Sacheverell continued in motion, men were not so keen upon coming in themselves, as to see their enemies out, and deprived of all assistance to do mischief: and it is urged farther, that this general ambition of hunting after places, grew chiefly from seeing them so long undisposed of, and from too general an encouragement by promises to all, who were thought capable of doing either good or hurt. Thirdly, the fear of creating another party, in case the present faction were wholly subdued, was, in the opinion of plain men, and in regard to the situation of our affairs, too great a sacrifice of the nation's safety to the genius of politicks; considering how much was to be done, and how little time might probably be allowed. Besides, the division of a house of commons into court and country parties, which was the evil they seemed to apprehend, could never be dangerous to a good ministry, who had the true interest and constitution of their country at heart: as for the apprehension of too great a majority in the house of commons, it appeared to be so vain, that upon some points of importance the court was hardly able to procure one. And the October club, which appeared so formidable at first to some politicians, proved in the sequel to be the chief support of those who suspected them. It was likewise very well known that the greatest part of those men, whom the former ministry left in possession of employments, were loudly charged with insufficiency or corruption, over and above their obnoxious tenets in religion and government; so that it would have been a matter of some difficulty to make a worse choice: beside that the plea for keeping men of factious principles in employment upon the score of their abilities, was thought to be extended a little too far, and construed to take in all employments whatsoever, although many of them required no more abilities than would serve to qualify a gentleman-usher at court: so that this last excuse for the very slow steps made in disarming the adversaries of the crown, was allowed indeed to have more plausibility, but less truth, than any of the former.
I do not here pretend to condemn the counsels or actions of the present ministry: their safety and interest are visibly united with those of the publick, they are persons of unquestionable abilities, altogether unsuspected of avarice or corruption, and have the advantage to be farther recommended by the dread and hatred of the opposite faction. However, it is manifest that the zeal of their friends has been cooling toward them for above two years past: they have been frequently deserted or distressed upon the most pressing occasions, and very near giving up in despair: their characters have been often treated with the utmost barbarity and injustice, in both houses, by scurrilous and enraged orators; while their nearest friends, and even those who must have a share in their disgrace, never offered a word in their vindication.
When I examine with myself what occasions the ministry may have given for this coldness, inconstancy, and discontent among their friends, I at the same time recollect the various conjectures, reasonings, and suspicions, which have run so freely for three years past, concerning the designs of the court: I do not only mean such conjectures, as are born in a coffeehouse, or invented by the malice of a party; but also the conclusions (however mistaken) of wise and good men, whose quality and station fitted them to understand the reason of publick proceedings, and in whose power it lay to recommend or disgrace an administration to the people. I must therefore take the boldness to assert, that all these discontents, how ruinous soever they may prove in the consequences, have most unnecessarily arisen from the want of a due communication and concert. Every man must have a light sufficient for the length of the way he is appointed to go: there is a degree of confidence due to all stations: and a petty constable will neither act cheerfully nor wisely, without that share of it which properly belongs to him: although the main spring of a watch be out of sight, there is an intermediate communication between it and the smallest wheel, or else no useful motion could be performed. This reserved mysterious way of acting, upon points, where there appeared not the least occasion for it, and toward persons, who, at least in right of their posts, expected a more open treatment, was imputed to some hidden design, which every man conjectured to be the very thing he was most afraid of. Those who professed the height of what is called the church principle, suspected, that a comprehension was intended, wherein the moderate men on both sides might be equally employed. Others went farther, and dreaded such a comprehension, as directly tending to bring the old exploded principles and persons once more into play. Again, some affected to be uneasy about the succession, and seemed to think there was a view of introducing that person, whatever he is, who pretends to claim the crown by inheritance. Others, especially of late, surmised on the contrary, that the demands of the house of Hanover were industriously fomented by some in power, without the privity of the —— or ——. Now, althouph these accusations were too inconsistent to be all of them true, yet they were maliciously suffered to pass, and thereby took off much of that popularity, of which those at the helm stood in need, to support them under the difficulties of a long perplexing negotiation, a daily addition of publick debts, and an exhausted treasury.
But the effects of this mystical manner of proceeding did not end here: for, the late dissensions between the great men at court (which have been, for some time past, the publick entertainment of every coffeehouse) are said to have arisen from the same fountain; while, on one side very great reserve, and certainly very great resentment on the other, if we may believe general report (for I pretend to know no farther) have inflamed animosities to such a height, as to make all reconcilement impracticable. Supposing this to be true, it may serve for a great lesson of humiliation to mankind, to behold the habits and passions of men, otherwise highly accomplished, triumphing over interest, friendship, honour, and their own personal safety, as well as that of their country, and probably of a most gracious princess, who has entrusted it to them. A ship's crew quarrelling in a storm, or while their enemies are within gunshot, is but a faint idea of this fatal infatuation: of which, although it be hard to say enough, some people may think perhaps I have already said too much.
Since this unhappy incident, the desertion of friends, and loss of reputation have been so great, that I do not see how the ministers could have continued many weeks in their stations, if their opposers of all kinds had agreed about the methods by which they should be ruined: and their preservation hitherto seems to resemble his, who had two poisons given him together of contrary operations.
It may seem very impertinent in one of my level, to point out to those, who sit at the helm, what course they ought to steer. I know enough of courts to be sensible, how mean an opinion great ministers have of most men's understandings; to a degree, that in any other science, would be called the grossest pedantry. However, unless I offer my sentiments in this point, all I have hitherto said, will be to no purpose.
The general wishes and desires of a people, are perhaps more obvious to other men, than to ministers of state. There are two points of the highest importance, wherein a very great majority of the kingdom appear perfectly hearty and unanimous. First, that the church of England should be preserved entire in all her rights, powers and privileges; all doctrines relating to government discouraged, which she condemns; all schisms, sects and heresies discountenanced, and kept under due subjection, as far as consists with the lenity of our constitution; her open enemies (among whom I include at least dissenters of all denominations) not trusted with the smallest degree of civil or military power; and her secret adversaries, under the names of whigs, low church, republicans, moderation-men, and the like, receive no marks of favour from the crown, but what they should deserve by a sincere reformation.
Had this point been steadily pursued in all its parts, for three years past, and asserted as the avowed resolution of the court, there must probably have been an end of faction, which has been able, ever since, with so much vigour to disturb and insult the administration. I know very well, that some refiners pretend to argue for the usefulness of parties in such a government as ours: I have said something of this already, and have heard a great many idle wise topicks upon the subject. But I shall not argue that matter at present: I suppose, if a man think it necessary to play with a serpent, he will choose one of a kind that is least mischievous; otherwise, although it appears to be crushed, it may have life enough to sting him to death. So, I think it is not safe tampering with the present faction, at least in this juncture: first, because their principles and practices have been already very dangerous to the constitution in church and state: secondly, because they are highly irritated with the loss of their power, full of venom and vengeance, and prepared to execute every thing that rage or malice can suggest: but principally, because they have prevailed, by misrepresentations, and other artifices, to make the successor look upon them as the only persons he can trust: upon which account they cannot be too soon, or too much disabled: neither will England ever be safe from the attempts of this wicked confederacy, until their strength and interests shall be so far reduced, that for the future it shall not be in the power of the crown, although in conjunction with any rich and factious, body of men, to choose an ill majority in the house of commons.
One step very necessary to this great work will be, to regulate the army, and chiefly those troops which, in their turns, have the care of her majesty's person; who are most of them fitter to guard a prince under a high court of justice, than seated on the throne. The peculiar hand of Providence has hitherto preserved her majesty, encompassed, whether sleeping or travelling, by her enemies: but since religion teaches us, that Providence ought not to be tempted, it is ill venturing to trust that precious life any longer to those, who, by their publick behaviour and discourse, discover their impatience to see it at an end; that they may have liberty to be the instruments of glutting at once the revenge of their patrons and their own. It should be well remembered, what a satisfaction these gentlemen (after the example of their betters) were so sanguine to express upon the queen's last illness at Windsor, and what threatenings they used of refusing to obey their general, in case that illness had proved fatal. Nor do I think it a want of charity to suspect, that in such an evil day, an enraged faction would be highly pleased with the power of the sword, and with great connivance leave it so long unsheathed, until they were got rid of their most formidable adversaries. In the mean time it must be a very melancholy prospect, that whenever it shall please God to visit us with this calamity, those who are paid to be defenders of the civil power, will stand ready for any acts of violence, that a junto composed of the greatest enemies to the constitution, shall think fit to enjoin them.
The other point of great importance is, the security of the protestant succession in the house of Hanover: not from any partiality to that illustrious house, farther than as it has had the honour to mingle with the blood royal of England, and is the nearest branch of our regal line reformed from popery. This point has one advantage over the former, that both parties profess to desire the same blessing for posterity, but differ about the means of securing it. Whence it has come to pass, that the protestant succession, in appearance the desire of the whole nation, has proved the greatest topick of slander, jealousy, suspicion and discontent.
I have been so curious to ask several acquaintances among the opposite party, whether they, or their leaders, did really suspect there had been ever any design in the ministry to weaken the succession in favour of the Pretender, or of any other person whatsoever. Some of them freely answered in the negative: others were of the same opinion, but added, they did not know what might be done in time, and upon farther provocations: others again seemed to believe the affirmative, but could never produce any plausible grounds for their belief. I have likewise been assured by a person of some consequence, that during a very near and constant familiarity with the great men at court for four years past, he never could observe, even in those hours of conversation where there is usually least restraint, that one word ever passed among them to show a dislike to the present settlement; although they would sometimes lament, that the false representations of theirs, and the kingdom's enemies, had made some impressions in the mind of the successor. As to my own circle of acquaintance, I can safely affirm, that excepting those who are nonjurors by profession, I have not met with above two persons who appeared to have any scruples concerning the present limitation of the crown. I therefore think it may very impartially be pronounced, that the number of those, who wish to see the son of the abdicated prince upon the throne, is altogether inconsiderable. And farther, I believe it will be found, that there are none who so much dread any attempt he shall make for the recovery of his imagined rights, as the Roman Catholicks of England; who love their freedom and properties too well to desire his entrance by a French army, and a field of blood; who must continue upon the same foot, if he changes his religion, and must expect to be the first and greatest sufferers, if he should happen to fail.
As to the person of this nominal prince, he lies under all manner of disadvantages: the vulgar imagine him to have been a child imposed upon the nation by the fraudulent zeal of his parents, and their bigotted counsellors; who took special care, against all the rules of common policy, to educate him in their hateful superstition, sucked in with his milk, and confirmed in his manhood, too strongly to be now shaken by Mr. Lesley; and a counterfeit conversion will be too gross to pass upon the kingdom, after what we have seen and suffered from the like practice in his father. He is likewise said to be of weak intellectuals, and an unsound constitution: he was treated contemptibly enough by the young princes of France, even during the war; is now wholly neglected by that crown, and driven to live in exile upon a small exhibition: he is utterly unknown in England, which he left in the cradle: his father's friends are most of them dead, the rest antiquated or poor. Six and twenty years have almost past since the revolution, and the bulk of those who are now most in action either at court, in parliament, or publick offices, were then boys at school or the universities, and look upon that great change to have happened during a period of time for which they are not accountable. The logick of the highest tories is now, that this was the establishment they found, as soon as they arrived at a capacity of judging; that they had no hand in turning out the late king, and therefore had no crime to answer for, if it were any: that the inheritance to the crown is fixed in pursuance of laws made ever since their remembrance, by which all papists are excluded, and they have no other rule to go by: that they will no more dispute king William the Third's title, than king William the First's; since they must have recourse to history for both: that they have been instructed in the doctrines of passive obedience, non-resistance, and hereditary rights and find them all necessary for preserving the present establishment in church and state, and for continuing the succession in the house of Hanover, and must in their own opinion renounce all those doctrines by setting up any other title to the crown. This, I say, seems to be the political creed of all the high principled men I have for some time met with of forty years old and under; which although I do not pretend to justify in every part, yet I am sure it sets the protestant succession upon a much firmer foundation, than all the indigested schemes of those who profess to act upon what they call revolution principles.
Neither should it perhaps be soon forgotten, that during the greatest licentiousness of the press, while the sacred character of the queen was every day insulted in factious papers and ballads, not the least reflecting insinuation ever appeared against the Hanover family, whatever occasion was offered to intemperate pens, by the rashness or indiscretion of one or two ministers from thence.
From ail these considerations I must therefore lay it down as an uncontestable truth, that the succession to these kingdoms in the illustrious house of Hanover, is as firmly secured as the nature of the thing can possibly admit, by the oaths of all those who are entrusted with any office, by the very principles of those who are termed the high church, by the general inclinations of the people, by the insignificancy of that person who claims it from inheritance, and the little assistance he can expect either from princes abroad, or adherents at home.
However, since the virulent opposers of the queen and her administration, have so far prevailed by their emissaries at the court of Hanover, and by their practices upon one or two ignorant, unmannerly messengers from thence, as to make the elector desire some farther security, and send over a memorial here to that end: the great question is, how to give reasonable satisfaction to his highness, and (what is infinitely of greater consequence) at the same time consult the honour and safety of the queen, whose quiet possession is of much more consequence to us of the present age, than his reversion. The substance of his memorial, if I retain it right, is, to desire that some one of his family might live in England, with such a maintenance as is usual to those of the royal blood, and that certain titles should be conferred upon the rest, according to ancient custom. The memorial does not specify which of the family should be invited to reside here; and if it had, I believe however, her majesty would have looked upon it as a circumstance left to her own choice.
But, as all this is most manifestly unnecessary in itself, and only in compliance with the mistaken doubts of a presumptive heir; so the nation would (to speak in the language of Mr. Steele) expect, that her majesty should be made perfectly easy from that side for the future; no more to be alarmed with apprehensions of visits, or demands of writs, where she has not thought fit to give any invitation. The nation would likewise expect, that there should be an end of all private commerce between that court, and the leaders of a party here; and that his electoral highness should declare himself entirely satisfied with all her majesty's proceedings, her treaties of peace and commerce, her alliances abroad, her choice of ministers at home, and particularly in her most gracious condescensions to his request: that he would upon all proper occasions, and in the most publick manner, discover his utter dislike of factious persons and principles, but especially of that party, which, under the pretence or shelter of his protection, has so long disquieted the kingdom: and lastly, that he would acknowledge the goodness of the queen, and justice of the nation, in so fully securing the succession to his family.
It is indeed a problem which I could never comprehend, why the court of Hanover, who have all along thought themselves so perfectly secure in the affections, the principles, and the professions of the low church party, should not have endeavoured, according to the usual politicks of princes, to gain over those who were represented as their enemies; since these supposed enemies had made so many advances, were in possession of all the power, had framed the very settlement to which that illustrious family owes its claim; had all of them abjured the pretender; were now employed in the great offices of state, and composed a majority in both houses of parliament. Not to mention, that the queen herself, with the bulk of the landed gentry and commonalty throughout the kingdom, were of the number. This, one would think, might be a strength sufficient not only to obstruct, but to bestow a succession: and since the presumed heir could not but be perfectly secure of the other party, whose greatest avowed grievance was the pretended danger of his future rights; it must therefore surely have been worth his while, to have made at least one step toward cultivating a fair correspondence with the power in possession. Neither could those, who are called his friends, have blamed him, or with the least decency enter into any engagements for defeating his title.
But why might not the reasons of this proceeding in the elector, be directly contrary to what is commonly imagined? Methinks I could endeavour to believe, that his highness is thoroughly acquainted with both parties; is convinced, that no true member of the church of England can easily be shaken in his principles of loyalty, or forget the obligation of an oath, by any provocation. That these are therefore the people he intends to rely upon, and keeps only fair with the others, from a true notion he has of their doctrines, which prompt them to forget their duty upon every motive of interest or ambition. If this conjecture be right, his highness cannot sure but entertain a very high esteem of such ministers, who continue to act under the dread and appearance of a successor's utmost displeasure, and the threats of an enraged faction, whom he is supposed alone to favour, and to be guided entirely in his judgment of British affairs, and persons, by their opinions.
But to return from this digression: the presence of that infant prince among us, could not, I think, in any sort be inconsistent with the safety of the queen; he would be in no danger of being corrupted in his principles, or exposed in his person by vicious companions; he could be at the head of no factious clubs and cabals, nor be attended by a hired rabble, which his flatterers might represent as popularity. He would have none of that impatience which the frailty of human nature gives to expecting heirs. There would be no pretence for men to make their court, by affecting German modes and refinements in dress or behaviour: nor would there be any occasion of insinuadng to him, how much more his levee was frequented, than the antechamber of St. James's. Add to all this, the advantages of being educated in our religion, laws, language, manners, nature of government, each so very different from those he would leave behind. By which likewise he might be highly useful to his father, if that prince should happen to survive her majesty.
The late king William, who after his marriage with the lady Mary of England, could have no probable expectation of the crown, and very little even of being a queen's husband (the duke of York having a young wife) was no stranger to our language or manners;, and went often to the chapel of his princess; which I observe the rather, because I could heartily wish the like disposition were in another court, and because it may be disagreeable to a prince to take up new doctrines on a sudden, or speak to his subjects by an interpreter.
An illnatured or inquisitive man may still, perhaps, desire to press the question farther, by asking, what is to be done, in case it should so happen, that this malevolent working party at home, has credit enough with the court of Hanover, to continue the suspicion, jealousy, and uneasiness there, against the queen and her ministry; to make such demands be still insisted on, as are by no means thought proper to be complied with; and in the mean time to stand at arm's length with her majesty, and in close conjunction with those who oppose her.
I take the answer to be easy: in all contests, the safest way is to put those we dispute with, as much in the wrong as we can. When her majesty shall have offered such, or the like concessions, as I have abovementioned, in order to remove those scruples artificially raised in the mind of the expectant heir, and to divide him from that faction by which he is supposed to have been misled; she has done as much as any prince can do, and more than any other would probably do in her case; and will be justified before God and man, whatever be the event. The equitable part of those, who now side against the court, will probably be more temperate; and if a due dispatch be made in placing the civil and military power in the hands of such as wish well to the constitution, it cannot be any way for the quiet or interest of a successor to gratify so small a faction, as will probably then remain, at the expense of a much more numerous and considerable part of his subjects. Neither do I see how the principles of such a party, either in religion or government, will prove very agreeable, because I think Luther and Calvin seem to have differed as much as any two among the reformers: and because a German prince will probably be suspicious of those, who think they can never depress the prerogative enough.
But supposing, once for all, as far as possible, that the elector should utterly refuse to be upon any terms of confidence with the present ministry, and all others of their principles, as enemies to him and the succession; nor easy with the queen herself, but upon such conditions as will not be thought consistent with her safety and honour; and continue to place all his hopes and trust in the discontented party: I think it were humbly to be wished, that whenever the succession shall take place, the alterations intended by the new prince, should be made by himself, and not by his deputies: because I am of opinion, that the clause empowering the successor to appoint a latent, unlimited number, additional to the seven regents named in the act, went upon a supposition, that the secret committee would be of such, whose enmity and contrary principles disposed them to confound the rest. King William, whose title was much more controverted than that of her majesty's successor can ever probably be, did, for several years, leave the administration of the kingdom in the hands of lords justices, during the height of a war, and while the abdicated prince himself was frequently attempting an invasion: whence one might imagine, that the regents appointed by parliament upon the demise of the crown, would be able to keep the peace during an absence of a few weeks without any colleagues. However, I am pretty confident that the only reason, why a power was given of choosing dormant viceroys, was to take away all pretence of a necessity to invite over any of the family here, during her majesty's life. So that I do not well apprehend what arguments the elector can use to insist upon both.
To conclude; the only way of securing the constitution in church and state, and consequently this very protestant succession itself, will be by lessening the power of our domestick adversaries as much as can possibly consist with the lenity of our government; and if this be not speedily done, it will be easy to point where the nation is to fix the blame: for we are well assured, that since the account her majesty received of the cabals, the triumphs, the insolent behaviour of the whole faction, during her late illness at Windsor, she has been as willing to see them deprived of all power to do mischief, as any of her most zealous and loyal subjects can desire.
- This expression, ' famed for men of deep intrigue,' is very inaccurate; it should be — 'famed for being men,' &c. — Or, 'famed as men of deep intrigue.'
- It should be — 'so wise as to leave,' &c.
- Whimsicals, were tories who had been eager for the conclusion of the peace till the treaties were perfected, then they could come up to no direct approbation; in the clamour raised about the danger of the succession, they joined the whigs, and declared directly against their party, and affected in most other points a most glorious neutrality. See Bolin. Lett. to Wynd. p. 48, 49.
As party-man, who leaves the rest,
Is call'd but whimsical at best.
Prior, Alma, iii. 125.
- Lord Oxford's reserve was the cause of Bolingbroke's resentment.
- It should be — 'so curious as to ask.'
- Baron Schutz, envoy extraordinary from the elector of Hanover, demanded a writ for the electoral prince to sit in the house of peers as duke of Cambridge, and it was expected that his highness would have made a visit to the court of London.
- The infant prince was the son of the electoral prince of Hanover, who might be chosen to reside here in consequence of the memorial.