« PreviousContinue »
A VINDICATION OF HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN
FROM THE CHARGE OF FAVORING NONE BUT TORIES, HIGH
CHURCHMEN, AND JACOBITES, 1730.
Lord Carteret, who headed a party against the influence of Walpole, held the
situation of lord-lieutenant in Ireland, under very precarious circumstances.
In order to treat this important subject with the greatest fairness and impartiality, perhaps it may be convenient to give some account of his excellency; in whose life and character there are certain particulars which might give a very just suspicion of some truth in the accusation he lies under.
He is descended from two noble, ancient, and most loyal families, the Carterets and the Granvilles ; too much distinguished, I confess, for what they acted and what they suffered, in defending the former constitution in church and state, under king Charles the martyr: I mean that very prince, on account of whose martyrdom a form of prayer, with fasting, was enjoined by act of parliament to be used on the 30th day of January every year, to implore the mercies of God, that the guilt of that sacred and innocent blood might not be visited on us or our posterity; as we may read at large in our common prayer books; which day has been solemnly kept, even within the memory
His excellency, the present lord, was educated in the university of Oxford, [in Christ-Church college ;] from whence, with a singularity scarce to be justified, he carried away more Greek, Latin, and Philosophy, than properly became a person of his rank; indeed much more of each than most of those who are forced to live by their learning, will be at the unnecessary pains to load their heads with.
This was the rock he split on, upon his first appearance in the world and having just got clear of his guardians. For as soon as he came to town some bishops and clergymen, and other persons most eminent for learning and parts, got him among them; from whom, although he was fortunately dragged by a lady and the court, yet he could never wipe off the stain, nor wash out the tincture of his university acquirements and dispositions.
To this another misfortune was added, that it pleased God to endow him with great natural talents, memory, judgment, compre
hension, eloquence, and wit; and to finish the work, all these were fortified, even in his youth, with the advantages received by such employments as are best fitted both to exercise and polish the gifts of nature and education,--having been ambassador in several courts, when his age would hardly allow him to take a degree; and made principal secretary of state at a period when, according to custom, he ought to have been busied in losing his money at a chocolatehouse, or in other amusements equally laudable and epidemic among persons of honor.
I cannot omit another weak side in his excellency. For it is known and can be proved upon him, that Greek and Latin books might be found every day in his dressing-room, if it were carefully searched; and there is reason to suspect that some of the said books have been privately conveyed to him by Tory hands. I am likewise assured that he has been taken in the very fact of reading the said books, even in the midst of a session, to the great neglect of public affairs.
I own there may be some grounds for this charge, because I have it from good hands that when his excellency is at dinner with one or two scholars at his elbows, he grows a most insupportable and unintelligible companion to all the fine gentlemen round the table.
I cannot deny that his excellency lies under another very great disadvantage; for with all the accomplishments above mentioned, adding that of a most comely and graceful person, and during the prime of youth, spirits, and vigor, he has in a most unexemplary manner led a regular domestic life; discovers a great esteem and friendship and love for his lady, as well as true affection for his children; and when he is disposed to admit an entertaining evening companion, he does not always enough reflect whether the person may possibly in former days have lain under the imputation of a Tory; nor at such times do the natural or affected fears of popery and the pretender make any part of the conversation ; I presume because neither Homer, Plato, Aristotle, nor Cicero, have made any mention of them.
These I freely acknowledge to be his excellency's failings; yet I think it is agreed by philosophers and divines, that some allowance ought to be given to human infirmity and to the prejudices of a wrong education.
I am well aware how much my sentiments differ from the orthodox opinions of one or two principal patriots, at the head of whom I name with honor Pistorides; for these have decided the matter
directly against me, by declaring that no person who was ever known to lie under the suspicion of one single Tory principle, or who had been once seen at a great man's levee in the worst of times, should be allowed to come within the verge of the castle; much less to bow in the antechamber, appear at the assemblies, or dance at a birthnight. However, I dare assert that this maxim has been often controlled; and that on the contrary a considerable number of early penitents have been received into grace who are now an ornament, happiness, and support to the nation.
Neither do I find any murmuring on some other points of greater importance, where this favorite maxim is not so strictly observed.
To instance only in one. I have not heard that any care has hitherto been taken to discover whether Madame Violante be a Whig or Tory in her principles; or even that she has ever been offered the oaths to government; on the contrary, I am told that she openly professes herself to be a highflyer; and it is not improbable, by her outlandish name, she may also be a papist in her heart; yet we see this illustrious and dangerous female openly caressed by principal persons of both parties, who contribute to support her in a splendid manner, without the least apprehensions from a grand jury, or even from squire Hartley Hutcheson himself, that zealous prosecutor of hawkers and libels: and as Hobbes wisely observes, so much money being equivalent to so much power,
deserve considering, with what safety such an instrument of power ought to be trusted in the hands of an alien, who has not given any legal security for her good affection to the government.
I confess there is one evil which I could wish our friends would think proper to redress. There are many Whigs in this kingdom of the old-fashioned stamp, of whom we might make very good use. They bear the same loyalty with us to the Hanoverian family, in the person of king George II.; the same abhorrence of the pretender, with the consequences of popery and slavery; and the same indulgence to tender consciences : but having nothing to ask for themselves, and therefore the more leisure to think for the public, they are often apt to entertain fears and melancholy prospects concerning the state of their country, the decay of trade, the want of money, the miserable condition of the people, with other topics of the like nature; all which do equally concern both Whig and Tory; who, if they have anything to lose, must be equally sufferers. Perhaps one or two of these melancholy gentlemen will sometimes venture
· A famous Italian rope-dancer.
to publish their thoughts in print: now, I can by no means approre our usual custom of cursing and railing at this species of thinkers, under the names of Tories, jacobites, papists, libellers, rebels, and the like.
This was the utter ruin of that poor hungry, bustling, wellmeaning mortal Pistorides, who lies equally under the contempt of both parties; with no other difference than a mixture of pity on one side and of aversion on the other.
How has he been pelted, pestered, and pounded, by one single wag, who promises never to forsake him, living or dead !
I was much pleased with the humor of a surgeon in this town, who having in his own apprehension received some great injustice from the earl of Galway, and despairing of revenge as well as relief, declared to all his friends that he had set apart one hundred guineas to purchase the earl's carcass from the sexton, whenever it should die, to make a skeleton of the bones, stuff the hide, and show them for threepence; and thus get vengeance for the injuries he had suffered by its owner.
Of the like spirit too often is that implacable race of wits, against whom there is no defence but innocence and philosophy, neither of which is likely to be at hand; and, therefore, the wounded have nowhere to fly for a cure but to downright stupidity, a crazed head, or a profligate contempt of guilt and shame.
I am therefore sorry for that other miserable creature Traulus; lord Allen, who, although of somewhat a different species, yet seems very far to outdo even the genius of Pistorides, in that miscarrying talent of railing, without consistency or discretion, against the most innocent persons, according to the present situation of his gall and spleen. I do not blame an honest gentleman for the bitterest invectives against one to whom he professes the greatest friendship, provided he acts in the dark so as not to be discovered : but in the midst of caresses, visits, and invitations, to run into the streets or to as public a place, and without the least pretended incitement sputter out the basest and falsest accusations, then to wipe his mouth, come up smiling to his friend, shake him by the hand, and tell him in a whisper it was all for his service. This proceeding, I am bold to think, a great failure in prudence; and I am afraid lest such a practitioner with a body so open, so foul, and so full of sores, may fall under the resentment of an incensed political surgeon, who is not in much renown for his mercy upon great provocations; who without waiting for his death, will flay and dissect him alive; and
to the view of mankind lay open all the disordered cells of his brain, the venom of his tongue, the corruption of his heart, and spots and flatuses of his spleen: and all this for threepence. [Poem of Traulus.]
In such a case, what a scene would be laid open! and to drop my metaphor, what a character of our mistaken friend might an angry enemy draw and expose! particularising that unnatural conjunction of vices and follies, so inconsistent with each other in the same breast: furious and fawning, scurrilous and flattering, cowardly and provoking, insolent and abject; most profligately false, with the strongest professions of sincerity; positive and variable, tyrannical and slavish.
I apprehend, that if all this should be set out to the world by an angry Whig of the old stamp, the unavoidable consequence must be, a confinement of our friend for some months more to his garret; and thereby depriving the public for so long a time and in so important a juncture, of his useful talents in their service, while he is fed like a wild beast through a hole; but I hope with a special regard to the quantity and quality of his nourishment.
In vain would his excusers endeavor to palliate his enormities, by imputing them to madness; because it is well known that madness only operates by inflaming and enlarging the good or evil dispositions of the mind. For the curators of Bedlam assure us that some lunatics are persons of honor, truth, benevolence, and many other virtues, which appear in their highest ravings, although after a wild incoherent manner; while others, on the contrary, discover in every word and action the utmost baseness and depravity of human minds; which infallibly they possessed in the same degree, although perhaps under a better regulation, before their entrance into that academy.
But it may be objected, that there is an argument of much force to excuse the overflowings of that zeal which our friend shows or means for our cause. And it must be confessed that the easy and smooth fluency of his elocution, bestowed on him by nature and cultivated by continual practice, added to the comeliness of his person, the harmony of his voice, the gracefulness of his manner, and the decency of his dress, are temptations too strong for such a genius to resist, upon any public occasion of making them appear with universal applause. And if good men are sometimes accused of loving their jest better than their friend, surely to gain the reputation of the first orator in the kingdom, no man of spirit would sorunle to lose all the friends he had in the world.