Page images
PDF
EPUB

consorts had, however, disregarded his signals to attack; and, night coming on, he could only keep one of the enemy in sight. He came up with her about ten o'clock, and his own vessel

, the Expedition, being now assisted by the Kingston and Portland, the enemy's ship, which carried fifty guns, was compelled to surrender. Meantime, the galleons had dispersed and escaped.

Admiral Wager's conduct, respecting the ship which he had captured in the engagement, gained him universal esteem. At that time, there were no regulations as to the distribution of prize-money ; but, whenever a vessel was captured, it fell a prey to a general pillage. To remedy this evil, an act of parliament was passed, in 1707, regulating the future allotment of prize-money, but this not being known to Wager or his crew, they had proceeded on the old principle in making the division. But upon receiving intelligence of the new law, Wager ordered his captain to deliver up, for fair distribution, all the silver and valuable effects he had seized for his own and the admiral's use. Wager, shortly afterwards, received, by a vessel from England, a commission as rear-admiral of the blue; and, on the 2d of December, 1708, was made rear-admiral of the white. He remained until 1709 in the West Indies, where the ships under his command were very successful in capturing prizes. On his return to England, he was immediately made rear-admiral of the red; and, on the 8th of December, receive ed the honour of knighthood.

During the remainder of the reign of Queen Anne, he does not appear to have been employed in actual service; but, shortly after the accession of George I., he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, and, nearly at the same time, comptroller of the navy. On the 16th of June, 1716, he was made vice-admiral of the blue ; on the 1st of February ensuing, vice-admiral of the white ; and, on the 15th of March, vice-admiral of the red. In 1718, he was appointed a lord of the admiralty, on which occasion he resigned the comptroller. ship of the navy.

Betwixt the years 1718 and 1730, Sir Charles performed a variety of services for his country, which our limits will not permit us to detail. In July, 1731, he was made admiral of the blue ; and, about the same time, had the command of a large armament, with which he set sail, for the purpose of seeing carried into execution the particulars of a treaty entered into at Vienna. The object of his mission being accomplished, he returned to England, where he arrived on the 10th of December, and never afterwards assumed any naval command.

On the 21st of June, 1733, Sir Charles Wager was nominated first lord of the admiralty ; in January following, he was made admiral of the white; and having, on the 19th of March, 1741, quitted the admiralty board, he was, in the month of December, appointed treasurer of the navy. This station he held until his death, which took place on the 24th of May, 1743, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. A splendid monument was erected to his memory in Westminster-abbey.

Sir Charles Wager was a good naval officer, and remarkable for coolness in the midst of danger and difficulty. While he was at the head of the admiralty, an expedition, conducted by Captain Middleton, was sent out for the discovery of a passage to the South seas by the north-west part of Hudson's bay; and Commodore Anson perform

ed his celebrated voyage round the world, the original idea of which is said to have been formed and matured by Sir Charles himself.

Marshal wade.

BORN A. D. 1673.-DIED A. D. 1748.

GEORGE Wade was born in the year 1673. He entered the army in 1690, and became a major-general in 1709. On being placed at the head of the ordnance department in Scotland, he conferred a singular benefit on that kingdom by employing the military in cutting roads and otherwise improving the means of communication in the Highlands. In this undertaking he displayed considerable skill and great perseverance; and being aided by the resident gentry, as well as supported by the government, after ten years of the most strenuous and persevering efforts he succeeded in throwing open a great part of the northern portion of Scotland to ready and easy access from the Lowlands. The consequences were of incalculable benefit to the Highlanders themselves, as well as to the country at large. Wade set about making his roads in the true military style of his great predecessors in the art,—the Roman legionaries. In Chambers's amusing • Book of Scotland' one of Wade's roads is described as presenting only four deviations from a direct line in the long distance of sixteen miles, and these were all occasioned by the necessity of carrying the work across rivers. Wade, says Chambers, seems to have communicated his own stiff, erect, and formal character to his roads, but above all to this particular one, which is as straight as his person, as undeviating as his mind, and as indifferent to steep braes as he himself was to difficulties in the execution of his duty.”

In 1715, the marshal was returned to parliament for the borough of Hindon. In 1722, he was elected for Bath, and continued to represent that city until his death, which occurred in 1748.

Wade has been accused of cowardice by some, and of military incapacity by others, on account of his conduct during the rebellion of 1745. He was placed at the head of a body of troops destined to act against the rebels, but lingered inactively at Newcastle, when, as it is alleged, he ought to have been marching into the north. There is no proof, however, that the marshal was at all deficient in courage ; on the contrary, on more than one occasion he gave eminent proofs of his being possessed of a high degree both of honour and animal courage; and it does not appear that his conduct in 1745 ever drew down upon him the censure of the government; he died a privy-councillor, and in possession of his full military rank.

Lord Fiscount Bolingbroke.

BORN A. D. 1678.-DIED A. D. 1751.

HENRY St John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke and Baron St John of Lidvard Tregoze, was born about the year 1678. Common fame has placed his birth at an earlier period; and if we are to rely on the testimony of his tomb-stone, 1672 must be assigned as the year in which he was born; but he himself expressly says in a letter to Sir W. Wyndham, which bears the date of New Year's day, 1738, “ nine months hence I shall be threescore;" and, therefore, we must conclude the year first mentioned to be the correct one. It avails not to speak of the antiquity, wealth, or distinction of the lordly line from which he sprang:

“ Not all that heralds rake from coffin'd clay,

Or poets tell in honey'd lines of rhyme,

Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.” It is, however, interesting to know that the branch of the St John's, from which he was immediately descended, was distinguished by its attachment to popular rights, and that several of his relations died con. fessors in the eminent cause of England's liberties. He himself was bred up

with great care by his grandfather, Sir Henry St John, at his family seat of Battersea. As his grandmother was a decided puritan, and entertained in her house that celebrated nonconformist, Daniel Bur. gess, it is natural to conclude that St John was educated in dissenting principles; and indeed he himself informs us in his letter to Pope, printed at the end of the celebrated epistle to Sir W. Wyndbam, “ that he was obliged, while yet a boy, to read over the commentaries of Dr Manton, whose pride it was to have made a hundred and nineteen sermons on the hundred and nineteenth Psalm." At a proper age he was sent to Eton, where a rivalship commenced between him and the famous Sir Robert Walpole, which, in after life, ripened into the bitterest enmity, and terminated only with the grave. From Eton he removed to Christ church, Oxford, where be contrived effectually to purge himself from any taint of puritanism which in his early education he might have contracted. He left the university with the reputation of possessing brilliant talents; and as his personal appearance was of almost unequalled beauty, combining grace with a dignity that seemed born for command, while his manners were so fascinating that they alone would have won his way to the hearts of men, and his conversation was adorned by the most sparkling wit, and a profusion of illustrations furnished by his boundless memory, high expectations were entertained of his future success in life: but to great parts he added great passions, and his outset in life was signalized by a career of profligacy and debauchery, which excited the wonder of an age nowise remarkable for its morality. Ever anxious to be foremost in the pursuit which engaged his attention at the time, he probably derived as much satisfaction from the notoriety of keeping Miss Guisley, the most expensive prostitute in the kingdom, and of being able to drink a greater quantity of wine at a sitting than any other man of fashion, as he subsequently did from his fame as a politician. His parents, in order to reclaim him, caused him to be married to the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Winchescomb,

,-a lady with whom he received a handsome jointure; but it does not appear that the remedy was successful, for after living together some time, they parted by mutual agreement, he complaining of the obstinacy of her temper, and she bitterly accusing him of the most shameless infidelity. In the year 1700—the same year in which he was married-he was chosen to represent the borough of Wootton-Basset, in the parliament of which Robert Harley was for the first time chosen speaker. Whatever may have been St John's other faults, desertion of his party cannot be charged upon him, for on this his first introduction to public life, he openly joined the tories, either because he perceived them to be the dominant faction, or through the influence of Marlborough, who had already taken notice of him as a young man of rising talent. He sat for the same place in the next parliament, which was the last of William and the first of Anne, and is said to have voted against the bill for settling the succession to the crown. There has been no little discussion of the truth of this charge, which he himself repeatedly denies in the most indignant terms; but the fact appears to be, that although he might not vote against the principle of the bill, he did vote against a most important and essential provision of it, that by which it was declared to be high treason to obstruct the accession of the house of Hanover. He appears rapidly to have risen into notice as a man of invincible energy and singular talent; for, in 1704, he, along with Harley, to whom he had closely attached himself, was brought into office by Marlborough and Godolphin as secretary at war and of the marines. Though he was at this time, and indeed as long as he continued in office, an ardent votary of wine and women, he made himself extremely active in the house of conimons, and impressed on all men, by his readiness both to speak and to act, a high respect for his talent and enterprize. Though sprung from a whig family, he was himself a decided tory, and as such, was closely leagued with Harley in all political measures. So intimate was the alliance between them, that when, in 1707, Harley was dismissed from office, in consequence of the discovery of his intrigues, St John chose to follow his fortunes

, and gave in his resignation on the day following. He was not elected to the parliament which met in 1708, but employed the two years of his retirement in hard study, and he subsequently declared this to have been the most serviceable part of his life. It cannot now be known what share he took in the series of dirty, but well-contrived intrigues, which ended in the expulsion of an administration, that possessed the entire confidence of the moneyed interest and of the allies,—that was upheld by men of no common talent, deeply versed in the management of business, and that had won for the country immortal laurels in a popu

It is idle to consider the trial of Sacheverell as any thing but a subordinate cause of the overthrow of Godolphin's administration, though it is certainly true that that misjudged proceeding hastened its downfall. As Bolingbroke said, " The whigs took it into their heads to roast a parson, and they did roast him; but their zeal tempted them to make the fire so hot that they scorched themselves.” The true causes are to be found in the heavy expenses of the war, and in the Jacobite inclinations of the queen. On the change of power St John was made secretary of state, Harley being chancellor and under-treasurer of the exchequer. To support the new ministry, the famous periodical was set up, entitled “The Examiner, of which the first twelve papers were written by St John, Atterbury, Prior, and others of eminent talent. One of these papers was written by St John with such consummate ability, that it has since acquired a separate reputation, as Mr St John's letter to the Examiner. In the new parliament he sat for Berkshire, and if at any, it was at this period of his life that his love of power and prominence was gratified. To him was intrusted the chief support of the ministry in the lower house; and of a surety, large as was the majority which he could command, it required all his keen sarcasm and brilliant rhetoric to withstand the small but formidable mass of the opposition. To him is to be ascribed the credit or discredit of managing the treaty of Utrecht; and however much we may blame the terms of this celebrated peace,—the desertion of our allies,—the base cringing to France,—and the ignominious surrender of our just claims,' we cannot refuse to admire the energy and tact displayed by St John in carrying it through. Feebly backed by that solemn trifler, Harley,—opposed with the utmost vehemence by an opposition of extraordinary talent, and deriving incalculable advantages from a minute acquaintance with business, having to counteract the unceasing hostility of our numerous and powerful allies,—to animate with his own spirit the flagging zeal of the supporters of government-and, in addition to all this, being unable to rest securely on the promises of the French king, who again and again destroyed all the negotiations by the ever-increasing arrogance of his demands—St John, nevertheless, surmounted every difficulty, and by dint of unremitting application and singular address, at length carried the measure into execution. His spirit seemed to rise higher as difficulties and dangers increased upon him, and where other men would have been baffled by the prospect, he only nerved his arm to grapple with them more vigorously. Conscious as he must have been that he was the chief support of the ministry, it was not unnatural that his aspiring mind should be chagrined at beholding the most prominent place in the eyes of men, filled by one for whom he now began to entertain a thorough contempt; and his chagrin was increased in 1712 by his being raised to the peerage with the title of Viscount only, while that of Earl had been given to Harley, and by his having been omitted in a recent distribution of sis vacant ribands of the order of the Garter. But besides this, there were other causes of a public nature. Bolingbroke detested Harley's trimming policy, and was constantly urging him to adopt high tory measures, and to clear the cabinet of every man favourable to the Revolution. He was also much more deeply implicated than the treasurer in the infamous correspondence which the Memoires de Berwic' satisfactorily show them both to have carried on with the Stuart family. The differences between the two ministers gradually increased to such a height, that it became evident the present cabinet could not long hold together; and as Bolingbroke, besides contriving to win the favour of the queen's minion, Mrs Masham, was a much more decided Jacobite than his colleague, Anne determined to sacrifice the lord-treasurer. Before the explosion took place, however, Bolingbroke exhibited his attachment to the principles of his family, and his fond remembrances of the lessons and companions of his boyhood, by introducing into the house of lords, in a pompous speech, the memorably-infamous bill, “ to prevent the growth of schism,” by which dissenters were forbidden to instruct their

lar war.

St John himself confesses that England might have obtained more advantageous ' It is a curious proof of Bolingbroke's love for truth, that, in his letter to Wyndham, he solemnly denies having ever corresponded with the court at St Germains previous 10 his impeachment.

1

Whoever will read the Memoirs of Marshal Berwick, will find ample reason for disbelieving his lordship.

terms.

« PreviousContinue »