« PreviousContinue »
the country, and the opposition loudly joined in their cry for war, Walpole—whose great, but too little commended, merit was the desire of peace-resisted hostilities, and attempted negotiations which failed. With a divided cabinet be at last consented to a war, which simply kept him in place. All allow that at that period he would have spared his fame by resigning. On the 15th of February, 1741, Sandys prefaced with a long and plausible speech, a motion for an address to remove the minister. All the power of both sides was employed in the debate. The motion was lost by a large majority, but it effectually shook the ininister's stability. With all the influence of the crown and of his own wealth, both of which he unbesitatingly used, the next elections were unfavourable. Questions, as to controverted elections, which were then not of law but of party, were decided in favour of the opposition. On the 9th of February, 1742, he was created earl of Orford, and on the Ilth he resigned. On the motion of Lord Limerick, a secret committee was appointed to examine into the last ten years of his ministry. He was accused of having made use of the secret service-money in influencing elections. The persons through whose hands the money passed refused to answer questions, and a bill of indemnity was thrown out in the lords, so that the accusation must be considered as 'not proved.' He was accused of influencing the elections by the patronage of government, and certain distinct acts were adduced, which his biographer has been pleased to term " petty abuses of power." He was accused of having enriched himself at the public expense. His biographer maintains, and his son solemnly assures us," that the vast sums he spent were derived entirely from his paternal estate, his salary as paymaster, and a fortunate speculation in the South sea funds, The accusations against him were pursued no farther than an inquiry. Sir Robert was privately consulted by the king for some time after his resignation, and he had influence sufficient to perplex the new ministers, and to baffle bis ancient enemy Pulteney. But he gradually ceased to be useful even for such services as these. His resignation was not the retirement of the high-minded statesman, who would not yield to his opponents; he stuck to office until his hands lost their hold with feebleness. The consciousness of fallen greatness, and the loss of his long-accustomed labours, preyed upon his mind, and disease made ravages on his body. When the cares of Europe were upon his shoulders he slept soundly; but now he was watchful and restless. In his letters to Sir Horace Mann, his son frequently paints a melancholy picture of his state. “ I cannot say I think he will preserve his life long, as he has laid aside all exercise, which has been of such vast service to him. He talked the other day of shutting himself up in the farthest wing of Houghton. I said, my dear lord, you will be at a distance from all the family there; he replied,
so much the better. Speaking of Smitsart, the Dutch general, who said he was too old to be hanged;' this reply,' he continues, told to my father yesterday; ay, said he, so I thought I was; but I may live to be mistaken.'"15
Sir Robert Walpole died on the 18th of March, 1745, in the 69th year of his age. The character of his administration cannot be better or more briefly told than in the words of Hume :-“ His ministry has
16 Vol ii. pp. 14, 18.
** Nichol's Literary Anecdotes.
been more advantageous for his family than to the public,-better for this
age than for posterity,and more pernicious for bad precedents than real grievances.
James, Duke of Ormond.
BORN A. D. 1665.-DIED A. D. 1745.
James, son of Thomas, earl of Ossory, and grandson of James, twelfth earl and first duke of Ormond, was born on the 29th of April, 1665. He succeeded to the dukedom on the death of his grandfather, in 1688. He was actively concerned in bringing about the Revolution, and fought with great gallantry at the battle of the Boyne. He subsequently obtained the command of a body of troops, destined to secure the quiet of Dublin; and, during the campaign of 1693, he served as one of the king's aides-de-camp at the battle of Landen, where he was severely wounded. He had now become a great favourite with William III., whose confidence he enjoyed during the remainder of that monarch's life.
On the accession of Queen Anne, he lost none of his influence at court. In 1702 he was appointed, jointly with Admiral Rooke, to the command of the forces sent out against Cadiz and Vigo. His conduct in this expedition won for him the thanks of both houses of parliament, and rendered him for a time much more popular than his colleague in command. In 1703 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Hav. ing adopted the views of his predecessor, his measures soon rendered him generally unpopular in that country. The Irish parliament, with which he was on very bad terms, severely annoyed him, by ordering an inspection of the public accounts ;- “ for,” says Burnet, though he was generous, and above all sordid practices himself, yet, being a man of pleasure, he was much in the power of those who acted under him, and whose integrity was not so clear.”
In 1705 he is said to have fomented the divisions between the protestants and catholics, and to have rendered himself deservedly obnoxious to both parties. During the latter part of his vicegerency, which continued until 1711, he appears to have not only favoured the high church party, but to have laid himself open to a suspicion of encouraging the adherents of James Frederick. At the termination of his vicegerency-in which, notwithstanding the general obnoxious character of his measures, he had displayed some redeeming good qualities, that rendered him occasionally, or rather locally popular--he joined in the parliamentary clamour against the duke of Marlborough. He was soon afterwards appointed commander-in-chief of all the forces in Great Britain; and, in April, 1712, was sent out to succeed the hero of Blenheim, as captain-general of the army in Flanders. His conduct in this coinmand was singularly unprincipled. He received positive orders from the queen not to hazard a battle, yet he assured the Dutch authorities that it was his intention to prosecute the war with all the vig. our in his power; but, on a favourabie opportunity to attack the enemy
16 Character of Sir Robert Walpole, vol. iii. p. 30.