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concerned in the Declaration of Indulgence, and that his conduct on that occasion was not only unconstitutional, but quite inconsistent with the course which he afterwards took respecting the professors of the Catholic faith. What, then, is the defence 1 Even this—that he meant only to allure concealed Papists to avow themselves, and thus to become open manks for the vengeance of the public. As often as he is charged with one treason, his advocates vindicate him by confessing two. They had better leave him where they find him. For him there is no escape upwards. Every outlet by which he can creep out of his present position, is one which lets him down into a still lower and fouler depth of infamy. To whitewash an Ethiopian is a proverbially hopeless attempt; but to whitewash an Ethiopian by giving him a new coat of blacking, is an enterprise more extraordinary still. That in the course of Shaftesbury's unscrupulous and revengeful opposition to the court he rendered one or two most useful services to his country, we admit. And he is, we think, fairly entitled, if that be any glory, to have his name eternally associated with the Habeas Corpus Act, in the same way in which the name of Henry VIII. is associated with the reformation of the Church, and that of Jack Wilkes with the freedom of the press. While Shaftesbury was still living, his character was elaborately drawn by two of the greatest writers of the age, by Butler, with characteristic brilliancy of wit, by Dryden, with even more than characteristic energy and loftiness, by both with all the inspiration of hatred. The sparkling illustrations of Butler have been thrown into the shade by the brighter glory of that gorgeous satiric Muse, who comes sweeping by in sceptred pall, borrowed from her more august sisters. But the descriptions well deserve to be compared. The reader will at once perceive a considerable difference between Butler's
“politician, With more heads than a beast in vision,”
and the Ahithophel of Dryden. Butler dwells on Shaftesbury's unprincipled versatility; on his wonderful and almost instinctive skill in discerning the approach of a change of fortune; and in the dexterity with which he extricated himself from the snares in which he left his associates to perish.
** Our state-artificer foresaw
In Dryden's great portrait, on the contrary, violent passion, implacable revenge, boldness amounting to temerity, are the most striking features. Ahithophel is one of the “great wits to unadness near allied.” And again–
“A daring pilot in extremity,
The dates of the two poems will, we think, explain this discrepancy. The third part of Hudibras appeared in 1678, when the character of Shaftesbury had as yet but imperfectly developed itself. He had, indeed, been a traitor to every party in the state; but his treasons had hitherto prospered. Whether it were accident or sagacity, he had timed his desertions in such a manner that fortune seemed to go to and fro with him from side to side. The extent of his perfidy was known; but it was not till the Popish Plot furnished him with a machinery which seemed sufficiently powerful for all his purposes, that the audacity of his spirit and the fierceness of his malevolent passions became fully manifest. His subsequent conduct showed undoubtedly great ability, but not ability of the sort for which he had formerly been so eminent. He was now headstrong, sanguine, full of impetuous confidence in his own wisdom and his own good luck. He whose fame as a political tactician had hitherto rested chiefly on his skilful retreats, now set himself to break down all the bridges behind him. His plans were castles in the air:-his talk was rodomontade. He took no thought for the morrow;-he treated the court as if the king were already a prisoner in his hands;–he built on the favour of the multitude, as if that favour were not proverbially inconstant. The signs of the coming reaction were discerned by men of far less sagacity than his ; and scared from his side men more consistent than he had ever pretended to be. But on him they were lost. The counsel of Ahithophel,—that counsel which was as if a man had inquired of the oracle of God, was turned into foolishness. He who had become a byword for the certainty with which he foresaw, and the suppleness with which he evaded danger, now, when beset on every side with snares and death, seemed to be smitten with a blindness as strange as his former clearsightedness; and turning neither to the right nor to the left, strode straight on with desperate hardihood to his doom. Therefore, after having early acquired, and long preserved, the reputation of infallible wisdom and invariable success, he lived to see a mighty ruin wrought by his own ungovernable passions;–to see the great party which he had led, vanquished, and scattered, and trampled down;–to see all his own devilish enginery of lying witnesses, partial. sheriffs, packed juries, unjust judges, bloodthirsty mobs, ready to be employed against himself and his most devoted followers;–to fly from that proud city whose favour had almost raised him to be Mayor of the Palace;— to hide himself in squalid retreats; to cover his gray head with ignominious disguises;— and he died in hopeless exile, sheltered by a state which he had cruelly injured and insulted, from the vengeance of a mastel whose favour he had purchased by one series of crimes, and forfeited by another. Halifax had, in common with Shaftesbury, and with almost all the politicians of that age, a very loose morality where the public were concerned; but in his case the prevailing insection was modified by a very peculiar constitution both of heart and head;—by a temper singularly free from gall, and by a refining and skeptical understanding. He changed his course as often as Shaftesbury; but he did not change it to the same extent, or in the same direction. Shaftesbury was the very reverse of a trimmer. His disposition led him generally to do his utmost to exalt the side which was up, and to depress the side which was down. His transitions were from extreme to extreme. While he stayed with a party, he went all lengths for it:—when he quitted it, he went all lengths against it. Halifax was emphatically a trimmer-a trimmer both by intellect and by constitution. The name was fixed on him by his contemporaries; and he was so far from being ashamed of it that he assumed it as a badge of honour. He passed from faction to faction. But instead of adopting and inflaming the passions of those whom he joined, he tried to diffuse among them something of the spirit of those whom he had just left. While he acted with the Opposition, he was suspected of being a spy of the court; and when he had joined the court, all the Tories were dismayed by his republican doctrines. He wanted neither arguments nor eloquence to exhibit what was commonly regarded as his wavering policy in the fairest light. He trimmed, he said, as the temperate zone :rims between intolerable heat and intolerable cold -as a good government trims between despotism and anarchy—as a pure church trims between the errors of the Papists and those of the Anabaptists. Nor was this defence by any means without weight; for though there is abundant proof that his integrity was not of strength to withstand the temptations by which his cupidity and vanity were sometimes assailed, yet his dislike of extremes, and a forgiving and compassionate temper which seems to have been natural to him, preserved him from all participation in the worst crimes of his time. If both parties accused him of deserting them, both were compelled to admit
* It has never, we believe, been remarked, that two of the most striking lines in the description of Ahithophel are borrowed, and from a most obscure quarter. ln Knolles' History of the Turks, printed more than sixty years before the appearance of Absalom and Ahlthophel, are the following verses, under a portrait of the Sultan Mustapha I.:
“Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not stand, And leaves for Fortune's ice Vertue's firme land.”
Dryden's words are—
“But wild Ambition loves to slide, not stand,
The circumstance is the more remarkable, because Dryden has really no couplet more intensely Drydenian, both in thought and expression, than this, of which the whole thought, and alumost the whole expression, are stolen.
As we are on this subject, we cannot refrahn srom observing that Mr. Courtenay has done Dryden injustire, by inadvertently attributing to him some feeble lunes which are in Tate's part of Absalom and Ahithopliel.
that they had great obligations to his humaniVol. III.-47
ty; and that, though an uncertain friend, he was a placable enemy. He voted in favour of Lord Strafford, the victim of the Whigs. He did his utmost to save Lord Russell, the victim of the Tories. And on the whole, we are inclined to think that his public life, though far indeed from faultless, has as few great stains as that of any politician who took an active part in affairs during the troubled and disastrous period of ten years which elapsed between the fall of Lord Danby and the Revolution. His mind was much less turned to particular observations, and much more to general speculation, than that of Shaftesbury. Shastesbury knew the king, the Council, the Parliament, the city, better than Halifax; but Halifax would have written a far better treatise on political science than Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury shone more in consultation, and Halifax in controversy:-Shaftesbury was more fertile in expedients, and Halifax in arguments. Nothing that remains from the pen of Shaftesbury will bear a comparison with the political tracts of Halifax. Indeed, very little of the prose of that age is so well worth reading as the “Character of a Trimmer,” and the “Anatomy of an Equivalent.” What particularly strikes us in those works, is the writer's passion for generalization. He was treating of the most exciting subjects in the most agitated times—he was himself placed in the very thick of the civil conflict:—yet there is no acrimony, nothing inflammatory, nothing personal. He preserves an air of cold superiority, a certain philosophical serenity, which is perfectly marvellous, he treats every question as an abstract question,-begins with the widest propositions —argues those propositions on general grounds —and often, when he has brought out his theorem, leaves the reader to make the application, without adding an allusion to particular men or to passing events. This speculative turn of mind rendered him a bad adviser in cases which required celerity. He brought forward, with wonderful readiness and copiousness, arguments, replies to those arguments, rejoinders to those replies, general maxims of policy, and analogous cases from history. But Shaftesbury was the man for a prompt decision. Of the parliamentary eloquence of these celebrated rivals, we can judge only by report; and so judging, we should be inclined to think that, though Shastesbury was a distinguished speaker, the superiority belonged to Halifax. Indeed the readiness of Halifax in debate, the extent of his knowledge, the ingenuity of his reasoning, the liveliness of his expression, and the silver clearness and sweetness of his voice, seem to have made the strongest impression on his contemporaries. By Dryden he is described as “Of piercing wit and pregnant thought, Endued by nature and by learning taught To move assemblies.” His oratory is utterly and irretrievably lost to us, like that of Somers, of Bolingbroke, of Charles Townshend—of many others who were accustomed to rise amidst the breathless expectation of senates, and to sit down amidst reiterated bursts of applause. But old men who lived to admire the eloquence of Pulteney in its meridian, and that of Pitt in its splendid dawn, still murmured that they had heard nothing like the great speeches of Lord Halifax on the Exclusion Bill. The power of Shastesbury over large masses was unrivalled. Halifax was disqualified by his whole character, moral and intellectual, for the part of a demagogue. It was in small circles, and, above all, in the House of Lords, that his ascendency was felt. Shaftesbury seems to have troubled himself very little about theories of government. Halifax was, in speculation, a strong republican, and did not conceal it. He often made hereditary monarchy and aristocracy the subjects of his keen pleasantry, while he was fighting the battles of the court, and obtaining for himself step after step in the peerage. In this way he attempted to gratify at once his intellectual vanity and his more vulgar ambition. He shaped his life according to the opinion of the multitude, and indemnified himself by talking according to his own. His colloquial powers were great; his perceptions of the ridiculous exquisitely fine; and he seems to have had the rare art of preserving the reputation of good-breeding and good-nature, while habitually indulging his trong propensity to mockery. Temple wished to put Halifax into the new Council, and to leave out Shaftesbury. The king objected strongly to Halifax, to whom he had taken a great dislike, which is not accounted for, and which did not last long. Temple replied that Halifax was a man eminent both by his station and by his abilities, and would, if excluded, do every thing against the new arrangement, that could be done by eloquence, sarcasm, and intrigue. All who were consulted were of the same mind; and the king yielded, but not till Temple had almost gone on his knees. The point was no sooner settled than his majesty declared that he would have Shaftesbury too. Temple again had recourse to entreaties and expostulation. Charles told him that the enmity of Shaftesbury would be at least as formidable as that of Halifax; and this was true: but Temple might have replied that by giving power to Halifax they gained a friend, and that by giving power to Shaftesbury they only strengthened an enemy. It was vain to argue and protest. The king only laughed and jested at Temple's anger; and Shaftesbury was not only sworn of the Council, but appointed Lord President. Temple was so bitterly mortified by this step, that he had at one time resolved to have nothing to do with the new administration ; and seriously thought of disqualifying himself from sitting in the Council by omitting to take the sacrament. But the urgency of Lady Temple and Lady Giffard induced him to abandon that intention. The Council was organized on the 21st of April, 1679; and on the very next day one of the fundamental principles on which it had heen constructed was violated. A secret committee, or, in the modern phrase, a cabinet of nine members was formed. But as this committee included Shaftesbury and Monmouth, it contained within itself the elements of as much faction as would have sufficed to impede
all business. Accordingly, there soon arose a small interior cabinet, consisting of Essex, Sunderland, Halifax, and Temple. For a time perfect harmony and confidence subsisted between the four. But the meetings of the thirty were stormy. Sharp retorts passed between Shaftesbury and Halifax, who led the opposite parties. In the Council, Halifax generally had the advantage. But it soon became apparent that Shaftesbury still had at his back the majority of the House of Commons. The discontents, which the change of ministry had for a moment quieted, broke forth again with redoubled violence; and the only effect which the late measures appeared to have produced was, that the Lord President, with all the dignity and authority belonging to his high place, stood at the head of the Opposition. The impeachment of Lord Danby was eagerly prosecuted. The Commons were determined to exclude the Duke of York from the throne. All offers of compromise were rejected. It must not be forgotten, however, that in the midst of the confusion, one inestimable law, the only benefit which England has derived from the troubles of that period, but a benefit which may well be set off against a great mass of evil,-the Habeas Corpus Act, was pushed through the Houses, and received the royal assent. The king, finding the Parliament as troublesome as ever, determined to prorogue it; and he did so without even mentioning his intention to the Council by whose advice he had pledged himself, only a month before, to conduct the government. The councillors were generally dissatisfied, and Shaftesbury swore with great vehemence that if he could find out who the secret advisers were he would have their heads. The Parliament rose: London was deserted; and Temple retired to his villa, whence, on council days, he went to Hampden Court. The post of Secretary was again and again pressed on him by his master, and by his three colleagues of the inner cabinet. Halifax, in particular, threatened laughingly to burn down the house at Sheen. But Temple was immovable. His short experience of English politics had disgusted him; and he felt himself so much oppressed by the responsibility under which he at present lay, that he had no inclination to add to the load. When the term fixed for the prorogation had nearly expired, it became necessary to consider what course should be taken. The king and his four confidential advisers thought that a new Parliament might be more manageable, and could not possibly be more resractory than that which they now had, and they therefore determined on a dissolution. But when the question was proposed at Council, the majority, jealous, it should seem, of the small directing knot, and unwilling to bear the unpopularity of the measures of government while excluded from all power, joined Shaftesbury, and the members of the cabinet were left alone in the minority. The king, however, had made up his mind, and ordered the Parliament to be instantly dissolved. Temple's Council was now nothing more than an ordinary Privy Council, if indeed it were not something less; and though Temple threw the blame of this on the king, on Lord Shaftesbury, on everybody but himself, it is evident that the failure of his plan is to be traced to its own inherent defects. His Council was too large to transact business which required expedition, secrecy, and cordial cooperation. A cabinet was therefore formed within the Council. The cabinet and the majority of the Council differed; and, as was to be expected, the cabinet carried their point. Four votes outweighed six-and-twenty. This being the case, the meetings of the thirty were not only useless, but positively obnoxious. At the ensuing election, Temple was chosen for the University of Cambridge. The only objection that was made to him by the members of that learned body was, that in his little work on Holland he had expressed great approbation of the tolerant policy of the States; and this blemish, however serious, was overlooked in consideration of his high reputation, and of the strong recommendations with which he was furnished by the court. During the summer he remained at Sheen, and amused himself with rearing melons; leaving to the three other members of the inner cabinet the whole direction of public affairs. Some unexplained cause began, about this time, to alienate them from him. They do not apar to have been made angry by any part of is conduct, or to have disliked him personally. But they had, we suspect, taken the measure of his mind, and satisfied themselves that he was not a man for that troubled time, and that he would be a mere encumbrance to them : living themselves for ambition, they despised his love of ease. Accustomed to deep stakes in the game of political hazard, they despised his piddling play. They looked on his cautious measures with the sort of scorn with which the gamblers at the ordinary, in Sir Walter Scott's novel, regarded Nigel's practice of never touching a card but when he was certain to win. He soon found that he was left out of their secrets. The king had, about this time, a dangerous attack of illness. The Duke of York, on receiving the news, returned from Holland. The sudden appearance of the detested Popish successor excited anxiety throughout the country. Temple was greatly amazed and disturbed. He hastened up to London and visited Essex, who professed to be astonished and mortified, but could not disguise a sneering smile. Temple then saw Halifax, who talked to him much about the pleasures of the country, the anxieties of office, and the vanity of all human things, but carefully avoided politics, and when the duke's return was mentioned, only sighed, shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and lified up his eyes and hands. In a short time Temple found that his two friends had been quizzing him; and that they had themselves sent for the duke in order that his Royal Highness might, if the king should die, be on the spot to frustrate the designs of Monmouth. He was soon convinced, by a still stronger roof, that though he had not exactly offended is master, or his colleagues, in the cabinet, he had ceased to enjoy their confidenec. The result of the general election had been
decidedly unfavourable to the government; and Shaftesbury impatiently expected the day when the Houses were to meet. The king, guided by the advice of the inner cabinet, determined on a step of the highest importance. He told the Council that he had resolved to prorogue the new Parliament for a year, and requested them not to object; for he had, he said, considered the subject fully, and had made up his mind. All who were not in the secret were thunderstruck—Temple as much as any. Several members rose and entreated to be heard against the prorogation. But the king silenced them, and declared that his resolution was unalterable. Temple, greatly hurt at the manner in which both himself and the Council had been treated, spoke with great spirit. He would not, he said, disobey the king by objecting to a measure on which his majesty was determined to hear no argument; but he would most earnestly entreat his majesty, if the present Council was incompetent to advise him, to dissolve it and select another; for it was absurd to have councillors who did not counsel, and who were summoned only to be silent witnesses of the acts of others. The king listened courteously. But the members of the cabinet resented this reproof highly ; and from that day Temple was almost as much estranged from them as from Shaftesbury. He wished to retire altogether from business. But just at this time, Lord Russell, Lord Cavendish, and some other councillors of the popular party, waited on the king in a body, declared their strong disapprobation of his measures, and requested to be excused from attending any more at Council. Temple feared that if, at this moment, he also were to withdraw, he might be supposed to act in concert with those decided opponents of the court, and to have determined on taking a course hostile to the government. He therefore continued to go occasionally to the board, but he had no longer any real share in the direction of public affairs. At length the long term of the prorogation expired. In October, 1680, the Houses met; and the great question of the Exclusion was revived. Few parliamentary contests in our history appear to have called forth a greater display of talent; none certainly ever called forth more violent passions. The whole nation was convulsed by party spirit. The gentlemen of every county, the traders of every town, the boys at every public school, were divided into exclusionists and abhorrers. The book-stalls were covered with tracts on the sacredness of hereditary right, on the omnipotence of Parliament, on the dangers of a disputed succession, and on the dangers of a Popish reign. It was in the midst of this ferment that Temple took his seat, for the first time, in the House of Commons. The occasion was a very great one. His talents, his long experience of affairs, his un spotted public character, the high posts which he had filled, seemed to mark him out as a man on whom much would depend. He acted like himsels. He saw that, if he supported the Ex clusion, he made the king and the heir-pre sumptive his enemies; and that, if he opposed it, he made himself an object of hatred to the unscrupulous and turbulent Shaftesbury. He neither supported nor opposed it. He quietly absented himself from the House. Nay, he took care, he tells us, never to discuss the question in any society whatever. Lawrence Hyde, afterwards Earl of Rochester, asked him why he did not attend in his place. Temple replied that he acted according to Solomon's advice, neither to oppose the mighty, nor go about to stop the current of a river. The advice, whatever its value may be, is not to be found either in the canonical or apocryphal writings ascribed to Solomon. But Temple was much in the habit of talking about books which he had never read; and one of those books, we are afraid, was his Bible. Hyde answered, “You are a wise and a quiet man.” And this might be true. But surely such wise and quiet men have no call to be members of Parliament in critical times. A single session was quite enough for Temple. When the Parliament was dissolved, and another summoned at Oxford, he obtained an audience of the king, and begged to know whether his majesty wished him to continue in Parliament. Charles, who had a singularly quick eye for the weaknesses of all who came near him, had no doubt seen through and through Temple, and rated the parliamentary support of so cool and guarded a friend at its proper value. He answered good-naturedly, but we suspect a little contemptuously, “I doubt, as things stand, your coming into the House will not do much good. I think you may as well let it alone.” Sir William accordingly informed his constituents that he should not again apply for their suffrages; and set off for Sheen, resolving never again to meddle with public affairs. He soon found that the king was displeased with him. Charles, indeed, in his usual easy way, protested that he was not angry, not at all. But in a few days he struck Temple's name out of the list of privy councillors. Why this was done Temple declares himself unable to comprehend. But surely it hardly required his long and extensive converse with the world to teach him that there are conjunctures when men think that all who are not with them are against them,--that there are conjunctures when a lukewarm friend, who will not put himself the least out of his way, who will make no exertion, who will run no risk, is more distasteful than an enemy. Charles had hoped that the fair character of Temple would add credit to an unpopular and suspected government. But his majesty soon found that this fair character resembled pieces of furniture which we have seen in the drawing-rooms of very precise old iadies, which are a great deal too white to be used. This exceeding niceness was altogether out of season. Neither party wanted a man who was afraid of taking a part, of incurring abuse, of making enemies. There were probably many good and moderate men who would have hailed the appearance of a respectable mediator. But Temple was not a mediator. He was merely a neutral. At last, however, he had escaped from public life, and found himself at liberty to follow his favourite pursuits. His fortune was easy.
He had about fifteen hundred a year, besides the Mastership of the Rolls in Ireland; an office in which he had succeeded his father, and which was then a mere sinecure for life, requiring no residence. His reputation both as a negotiator and a writer stood high. He resolved to be safe, to enjoy himself, and to let the world take its course; and he kept his resolution. Darker times followed. The Oxford Parliament was dissolved. The Tories were triumphant. A terrible vengeance was inflicted on the chiefs of the Opposition. Temple learned in his retreat the disastrous fate of several of his old colleagues in Council. Shaftesbury fled to Holland. Russell died on the scaffold. Essex added a yet sadder and more fearful story to the bloody chronicles of the Tower. Monmouth clung in agonies of supplication round the knees of the stern uncle whom he had wronged, and tasted a bitterness worse than that of death, —the bitterness of knowing that he had humbled himself in vain. A tyrant trampled on the liberties and religion of the realm. The national spirit swelled high under the oppression. Disaffection spread even to the strongholds of loyalty, to the cloisters of Westminster, to the schools of Oxford, to the guardroom of the household troops, to the very hearth and bedchamber of the sovereign. But the troubles which agitated the whole society did not reach the quiet orangery in which Temple loitered away several years without once seeing the smoke of London. He now and then appeared in the circle at Richmond or Windsor. But the only expressions which he is recorded to have used during those perilous times, were that he would be a good subject, but that he had done with politics. The Revolution came. Temple remained strictly neutral during the short struggle; and then transferred to the new settlement the same languid sort of loyalty which he had felt for his former masters. He paid court to William at Windsor, and William dined with him at Sheen. But in spite of the most pressing solicitations, he refused to become Secretary of State. The refusal evidently proceeded only from his dislike of trouble and danger; and not, as some of his admirers would have us believe, from any scruple of conscience or honour. For he consented that his son should take the office of Secretary at War under the new sovereigns. That unfortunate young man destroyed himself within a week after his appointment, from vexation at finding that his advice had led the king into some improper steps with regard to Ireland. He seems to have inherited his father's extreme sensibility to failure; without that singular prudence which kept his father out of all situations in which any serious failure was to be apprehended. The blow fell heavy on the family. They retired in deep dejection to Moor Park, which they now preferred to Sheen, on account of the greater distance from London. In that spot," then very secluded, Temple passed the remainder
* Mr. Courtenay (vol. ii. p. 160) confounds Moor Park in Surrey, where Temple resided, with the Moor Park in Hertfordshire, which he praises in the essay on Gar. dening.