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the Government, and St. John was made Secretary of State. In this capacity it was his lot to carry on the negotiations for peace with France; and he may be regarded as the chief agent in effecting the Treaty of Utrecht.
In 1712 he was raised to the peerage by the title of Viscount Bolingbroke; and soon afterwards he visited France on a special mission, to conduct certain details connected with the negotiations for peace. Here he seems to have fallen under suspicions of a leaning to Jacobitism; and on his return to England the French correspondence was put into other hands. This tended to excite, or rather perhaps to aggravate, the feelings of jealousy which he entertained towards Harley, Earl of Oxford, the Lord Treasurer; and he began secretly to intrigue against Harley, and to struggle for the foremost position in the Government. Oxford, indeed, soon lost credit with the Queen; and Bolingbroke saw the honours which he coveted just within his grasp, when the death of Anne overthrew all his hopes, and prepared the way for his subsequent downfal and disgrace. He had previously made himself, by some features of his policy, obnoxious to the House of Hanover; and it is probable that he had entertained the project of bringing about the restoration of the Stuarts. At all events, on the accession of George I. he found himself regarded with special disfavour; and becoming alarmed at the prospect of affairs, he unwisely withdrew to France, and thus seemed to admit the truth of some of the suspicions entertained respecting him. A secret committee was in consequence appointed ; its report was drawn up by Walpole; and on the statements contained in it Bolingbroke was impeached and attainted. He presently justified these proceedings by accepting the office of Secretary of State to the Pretender. From this office, however, he was ere long dismissed in a very summary way, and with every possible affront; and from that time forth he ceased to have any syinpathy for the House of Stuart. For nearly ten years he lived the life of an exile, making his home on a small estate which he purchased near Orleans in France. In 1723 he was pardoned, and allowed to return to England; but his attainder was never completely reversed, and he never recovered the right to take his seat in the House of Lords. The remainder of his life was therefore spent in retirement. He resided for some years at Dawley, near Uxbridge, and was in almost daily intercourse with Pope, who was living at Twickenham. Though debarred from parliamentary life, he took a keen interest in politics, and co-operated with the Opposition against Sir Robert Walpole, powerfully aiding the cause by his contributions to The Craftsman. After his father's death he removed to the family seat at Battersea, where he died in 1751, at the age of seventy-three.
Although Bolingbroke is undoubtedly entitled to rank amongst English classical writers, yet he owes that position rather to the style than to the matter of his works. His Philosophical Essays are the most elaborate of his compositions, and were those to which he probably looked for posthumous fame. His admirers, indeed, affected to believe that he was destined to be known as the author of a system of philosophy which should supersede the orthodox theology of the Church and the recognised ethics of the schools. The theology of Bolingbroke is, in point of fact, pure Deism, He is a strong maintainer of the sufficiency of natural religion, Of Judaism he speaks with contempt; and though he does not explicitly and directly deny the truth of Christianity, yet his whole system is an attack upon it, and the logical conclusion from all his reasoning is that Christianity cannot be true,
His ethical philosophy is a kind of Epicurean fatalism. Man is the creature of circumstances. Self is, and must be, the central principle of action. All things are bound together by the chain of a moral necessity. The tendency to naturalism and fatalism which has been detected in Pope's well known and brilliant “Essay on Man" must be traced to the intervention of Bolingbroke. It was he who contributed the philosophical principles which his friend distilled into such polished and melodious verse. Pope, indeed, was no unbeliever, and was far from seeing the drift of those principles with which Bolingbroke supplied him; and Johnson tells us that the latter was accustomed, amongst those who enjoyed his confidence, to ridicule Pope, “as having adopted and advanced principles of which he did not perceive the consequence, and as blindly propagating opinions contrary to his own.”
But whatever be the errors of Boling broke's philosophy, it has done the world very little harm, His Essays were, on their first publication, vehemently con. demned, and then very speedily disregarded and forgotten. There is, indeed, nothing in them that is original or profound. We may find there eloquent declamation, lively imagery, forcible description, and pointed and felicitous turns of thought, but nothing to mark the great reasoner and thinker-nothi that entitles the author to a place amongst the masters of any school of philosophy.
Among the other writings of Boling broke must be mentioned his Letters on History, his Reflections on Exile, his essay on The Idea of a Patriot King, and his tracts on The Spirit of Patriotism and The State of Parties.
His Letters on History is a work of some pretension. There is considerable display of learning and definite views of historical criticism. The author's professed aim is to show “the true use of history-how it may serve to make us better and wiser; and what method is to be pursued in the study of it for attain, ing these great ends.” He takes, as it were, for his text the well-known apho. rism of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, that "history is philosophy teaching by examples ;” and on this he eularges and declaims. The concluding letters consider the question as to what portion of modern history is most useful as an instrument of political education, and contain a sketch of the history of Europe from the middle of the seventeenth century. This sketch is perhaps the ablest
part of the work, and exhibits all Bolingbroke's power as a practical statesman and politician. Of his other works we need not say much. The most carefully written is The Idea of a Patriot King; but the idea which it embodies is an imaginary and impossible one. Boling broke describes his Patriot King as one who has received a special education for his position. He represents him as recognising the fact that kings exist for the people, and not the people for kings; as governing always on constitutional principles; as purging his court of all flatterers and favourites; as repudiating all mere party politics, and recognising no political party in the State. But while he contends for limited as opposed to absolute monarchy, the writer exhibits his ideal sovereign as one who is virtually a wise, just, and estimable autocrat. Nothing is said about the action of a parliament, or about all those springs of government which are essential parts of a mixed monarchy. On the whole, the writings of Bolingbroke may be described as superficial and common-place in thought; often hasty and ill-considered in the arguments and views propounded; but ingenious and pointed in expression, containing many happy and striking illustrations, and marked by great rhetorical force and splendour of diction. The style is, indeed, pre-eminently that of an orator; and its characteristics are, in many respects, that of spoken rather than of written language. At the same time, it is by no means, as a rule, careless or inaccurate. Though easy and flowing, it is also polished, well-balanced, and antithetical. The reputation of Boling broke as an orator was in his own day very great. None of his speeches have been preserved; but Mr. Pitt is reported to have named a speech of Bolingbroke's as one of the lost literary treasures which he would most desire to recover. Certainly the written compositions of Bolingbroke should be studied, for their style, by those who are training themselves for public speaking. We may add, in conclusion, that they deserve to receive some attention from all who wish fully to understand the resources and flexibility of the English language, and to learn how a gentleman and a man of the world should express himself,
LETTERS ON HISTORY.
LETTER II.-CONCERNING THE TRUE USE AND ADVANTAGES
Let me say something of history in general, before I descend into the consideration of particular parts of it, or of the various methods of study, or of the different views of those that apply themselves to it, as I had begun to do in my former letter,
The love of history seems inseparable from human nature, because it seems inseparable from self-love. The same principle in this instance carries us forward and backward, to future and to past ages. We imagine that the things which affect us, must affect posterity : this sentiment runs through mankind, from Cæsar down to 1the parish clerk in Pope's Miscellany. We are fond of preserving, as far as it is in our frail power, the memory of our own adventures, of those of our own time, and of those that preceded it. Rude heaps of stones have been raised, and ruder hymns have been composed, for this purpose, by nations who had not yet the use of arts and letters. To go no farther back, the triumphs of Odin were celebrated in Runic songs, and the feats of our British ancestors were recorded in those of their bards. The savages of America have the same custom at this day; and long historical ballads of their huntings and their wars are sung at all their festivals. There is no need of saying how this passion grows among civilized nations, in
proportion to the means of gratifying it; but let us observe that the same principle of nature directs us as strongly, and more generally as well as more early, to indulge our own curiosity instead of preparing to gratify that of others. The child hearkens with delight to the tales of his nurse: he learns to read, and he devours with eagerness fabulous legends and novels : in riper years he applies himself to history, or to that which he takes for history, to authorized romance: and even in age, the desire of knowing what has happened to other men yields to the desire alone of relating what has happened to ourselves. Thus history, true or false, speaks to our passions always. 2 What pity is it, my lord, that even the best should speak to our understandings so seldom! That it does so, we have none to blame but ourselves. Nature has done her part. She has opened this study to every man who can read and think: and what she has made the most agreeable, reason can make the most useful, application of our minds. But if we consult our reason, we shall be far from following the examples of our fellow-creatures in this as in most other cases, who are so proud of being rational. We shall neither read to soothe our indolence, nor to gratify our vanity: as
little shall we content ourselves to drudge like grammarians and critics, that others may be able to study with greater ease and profit, like philosophers and statesmen; as little shall we affect the slender merit of becoming great scholars at the expense of groping all our lives in the dark mazes of antiquity. All these mistake the true drift of study, and the true use of history. Nature gave us curiosity to excite the industry of our minds; but she never intended it should be made the principal, much less the sole, object of their application. The true and proper object of this application is a constant improvement in private and in public virtue. An application to any study that tends neither directly nor indirectly to make us better men and better citizens, is at best but a specious and ingenious sort of idleness, to use an expression of Tillotson : and the knowledge we acquire by it is a creditable kind of ignorance, nothing
This creditable kind of ignorance is, in my opinion, the whole benefit which the generality of men, even of the most learned, reap from the study of history: and yet the study of history seems to me, of all other, the most proper to train us up to private and public virtue.
Your lordship may very well be ready by this time, and after so much bold censure on my part, to ask me, What then is the true use of history? in what respects it may serve to make us better and wiser ? and what method is to be pursued, in the study of it, for attaining these great ends? I will answer you by quoting what I have read somewhere or other in Dionysius Halicarnassus. I think that history is philosophy teaching by examples. We need but to cast our eyes on the world, and we shall see the daily force of example: we need but to turn them inward, and we shall soon discover why example has this force. 3“ Pauci prudentia," says Tacitus, “honesta ab deterioribus, utilia ab noxiis discernunt: plures aliorum eventis docentur.” Such is the imperfection of human understanding, such the frail temper of our minds, that abstract or general propositions, though ever so true, appear obscure or doubtful to us very often, till they are explained by examples ; and that the wisest lessons in favour of virtųe go but a little way to convince the judgment, and