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corruption,* expelled the House, and committed to the Tower.
Being considered as a martyr to the Whig cause, he was visited during his confinement by several persons of high distinction, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Godolphin, Sunderland, Somers, and Pulteney; and his apartment, frequently, exhibited the appearance of a crowded levee. His leisure he employed in writing, if not an unanswerable, an unanswered vindication of his conduct, which he published with the title of The Case of Mr. Walpole, in a Letter from a Tory Member of Parliament to his Friend in the Country.'t He obtained his release in July; and, as he was still incapacitated from sitting in the House, he served his party by maintaining union among them, and directing their councils. He, also, employed his pen in their behalf, joining with Steele in writing several political pamphlets. Parliament was dissolved in 1713; and while the new elections were depending, it was thought by Somers and other Whig leaders, that a history of the preceding
* The successive divisions upon the motions for omitting the words' notorious corruption,' for condemning him, for com mitting him to the Tower, and for expelling him in a parliament, upon other subjects sufficiently obsequious) were, 155 to 207, 205 to 148, 168 to 156, and 170 to 148 respectively. The motion of censure against the Duke of Marlborough was carried by a much greater majority, 270 to 165.
† His imprisonment has been called the prelude to his rise; and Lord Lansdowne, who was afterward consigned to the same apartment, subjoined to the name of Walpole on the window the following lines :
. Good unexpected, evil unforeseen,
Assembly, and an exposure of the measures of the Tory ministry, would be advantageous to their cause. Walpole was urged to undertake this task, and the pamphlet which he produced on the occasion, entitled “ A Short History of the Parliament, with the motto, Venalis Populus, venalis Curia Patrum,* was conceived in a strain of censure deemed so hazardous, that the printing was carried on in his own house. In the new parliament, which met in February, 1714, he warmly opposed the peace, the founding of the South Sea Company, the commercial treaty with France, and the Schism-Bill; and he took a distinguished part in opposition to the Queen's administration. Among other measures, when Steele was prosecuted in the House for two of his pamphlets (The Crisis,' and the Englishman') he made an able, though ineffectual, speech in his favour.t During the critical state of affairs at the close of the reign, he was one of those who displayed the greatest zeal for the Protestant succession in the House of Hanover, and who either felt or feigned an alarm for the danger to which it was exposed. The death of Queen Anne in August, 1714, and the tranquil accession of George I., put an end to these apprehensions and entirely changed the state of domestic politics.
A new ministry, formed principally upon the suggestions of Townshend and Walpole, and consisting of course almost entirely of Whigs, was now ar
* To this was prefixed by Pulteney (at that time his coadjutor, but afterward his bitter opponent) a dedication in a strain of irony and humour peculiarly his own, alluding to the Earl of Oxford.
+ Beside this speech, he likewise at Addison's request suggested another upon the same subject, delivered by Steele in his own defence.
ranged; and the latter received the reward of his. services in the lucrative places of Paymaster of the Forces and of Chelsea Hospital, which repaired his shattered fortune.
He was, now, chosen Chairman of the Committee of Secrecy appointed to investigate the conduct of the ministry, which had brought a reproach upon the nation by their dishonourable conclusion of an expensive and successful war. In this business he actively engaged, and upon a report drawn up under his superintendence, the House of Commons ordered Prior and Harley into custody. He, likewise, impeached the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, who foreseeing the storm had fled into France.*
During the immediately ensuing Rebellion, he displayed so much vigour in the support of government,t that he was raised during that year to the important posts of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, vacant by the death of
* Not one member spoke in his defence, upon his impeachment; and, when his flight was reported to the House, the bill of attainder against him passed without a dissenting voice.
+ Much severity, it has been alleged, was shown by government upon this occasion : and yet for an extensive rebellion in favour of an expelled Prince asserting the principle of hereditary right, and supported by all the Roman Catholics and the principal Tories against a foreign though a legitimate Sove. reign, only three Lords were beheaded on Tower Hill; and, of great numbers found guilty of high treason in Lancashire and London, not more than two and twenty were hanged in the North, and four in the metropolis. These executions some writers, adopting a peevish expression of Lord Somers, have magnified into proscriptions equal to those of Marius and Sylla! Borrowing the elegant, though inapplicable, metaphor of Bolingbroke, they asserted, that the violence of the Whigs dyed the royal ermines in blood!'
the Earl of Halifax, and the removal of the Earl of Carlisle his immediate successor. A dangerous illness, which soon followed, prevented his supporting in parliament the famous Septennial Bill, which however was planned with his full concurrence, and ever afterward received his cordial support; whence his memory must share in either the merit or the disgrace of that measure, accordingly as it is deemed an expedient demanded by the circumstances of the times, or a flagitious violation of principle which no circumstances could justify.
In April 1717, his Majesty sent a message to the House, demanding an extraordinary supply, in order to enable him to secure his kingdoms against the designs of Charles XII. This occasioned a warm debate, in which the friends of the cabinet were divided, some of the minister's immediate dependents voting against the motion. Mr. Walpole himself remained silent; but finding it carried by the inconsiderable majority of four votes, and his friend and brother-in-law Lord Townshend having been dismissed from the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland for his opposition to it, he the next day waited upon the King, and to the great regret of his royal master resigned his employments. His example was followed by the Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Pulteney, and all the principal Whigs in office. On the very day of his resignation, however, he brought into the Lower House the Sinking Fund Bill.
He made a declaration, indeed, of having no intention to embarrass the affairs of government, but to this he did not think it necessary to adhere; never scrupling to join the Tories in opposing measures, of which, as a minister, he would certainly have been the advocate. Although this inconsistency did no honour to his principles, yet his abilities and experience still gave him considerable influence in parliament; and the rejection in the House of Commons of the noted Peerage-Bill, in 1719, was principally attributed to a speech which he made on the occasion.* He
* Upon this occasion he forsook his usual mode of debating, which was seldom indebted to metaphorical ornament, and with great animation began his speech by the following classical allusion :
Among the Romans, the Temple of Fame was placed behind the Temple of Virtue, to denote that there was no coming to the Temple of Fame, but through that of Virtue. But if this bill is passed into a law, one of the most powerful incentives to virtue will be taken away; since there will be no arriving at honour, but through the winding-sheet of an old decrepit Lord, or the grave of an extinct noble family: a policy very different from that glorious and enlightened nation, who made it their pride to hold out to the world illustrious examples of merited elevation,
• Patere honoris scirent ut cunctis viam." It is very far from my thoughts to depreciate the advantages, or detract from the respect due to illustrious birth ; for though the philosopher may say with the poet,
* Et genus et proavos, et quæ non fecimus ipsi,
Vix ea nostra voco; yet the claim derived from that advantage, though fortuitous, is so generally and justly conceded, that every endeavour to subvert the principle would merit contempt and abhorrence. But, though illustrious birth forms one undisputed title to pre-eminence and superior consideration, yet surely it ought not to be the only one. The origin of high titles was derived from the will of the Sovereign to reward signal services or conspicuous merit by a recompence which, surviving to posterity, should display in all ages the virtues of the receiver and the gratitude of the donor. Is merit then so rarely discernible, or is gratitude so small a virtue in our days, that the one may be supposed to be it's own reward, and the other limited to a barren display