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effect ; and the same question arises which Lord Macaulay and Mr. Morley have raised, as to the final act of the Walpolean drama—the war, namely, of 1739: ought he not to have resigned rather than acquiesce in a system of foreign policy which he believed to be disastrous, but which as long as he remained in office he was obliged to support in the House of Commons ? The answer is still the same. Walpole, say his apologists, had a mission: opinions may differ as to the merits of the supreme question then at issue. But Walpole had espoused one side of it with all the earnestness and vigour of which he was capable, and he had made up his mind that with this one great object he would allow nothing to interfere. Whatever was calculated to weaken the power and the influence necessary to he successful prosecution of it, must be carefully avoided. Whatever was calculated to secure and to cement that power and that influence, must be unshrinkingly adopted. If it was essential to his purpose to frame a kind of concordat with the King, by which the latter should be allowed to pursue his German policy at pleasure, it must be done.
• Tantæ molis erat Romanam condere gentem.' We need not on this occasion re-open the whole controversy between this country and Spain on the subject of the right of search. It is enough to say that by the Treaty of Utrecht the right of Spain to regulate her own commerce with her American and West Indian possessions had been fully recognized ; and that English commerce with Spanish America was limited to a single ship of 600 tons burden.* These treaty obligations were systematically neglected by the English, necessitating, of course, a strict exercise of the right of search by the Spaniards, in the course of which it was inevitable that collisions should occur, and violence of some kind be chargeable against both sides. The letter of the law, however, was clearly on the side of Spain, and Walpole did his best to bring the matter to a peaceful settlement. But one of those critical moments in the history of nations had now arisen, when the letter of the law no longer corresponds with facts, when treaty obligations have become an anachronism, and the stronger nation will no longer submit to the worn-out pretensions of the weaker. The question now was not really whether Jenkins had kept his ears or lost them, but whether Spain or England should be the leading Naval Power in the world. The quarrel was evidently one which would have to be
* Lecky, vol. i. p. 383.
fought out between the two competitors sooner or later, if not then; and when war became inevitable, it would have been better to put forth our full strength and show who was master,
Walpole can hardly be blamed for trying in the first instance to settle the question by diplomacy. But the Convention between the two countries in 1739, convened for that purpose,
and which was the cause of the celebrated Secession, proved a total failure. The reports brought home from the West Indies by the captains of English merchantmen, and other interested persons whose business it was to exaggerate their own losses and sufferings as much as possible, roused the English people to madness. Nobody stopped to inquire how far these alleged outrages were either true, credible, or even possible. Everything was swallowed in the heat of the moment. From one end of the kingdom to the other, nothing was heard of but the Spanish atrocities. They were turned to exactly the same use as the memorable • Bulgarian atrocities, and had about as much foundation in fact. But Walpole was cowed by the clamour. And then he split upon the rock which has wrecked other administrations besides his He fell into the error so common to all
Ministers when they find themselves engaged in war, of thinking that they save their consciences by taking only half measures. The disasters which marked the first year of the new may be compared with the history of the Crimean war; they were of course all fathered upon Walpole; and the infuriated public now clamoured for his blood.
In defence of Walpole's accession to the war, we have indicated in a general way what there is to be said. He sincerely believed that peace with France was absolutely essential to the security of the Protestant succession, and that if he kept the conduct of the Spanish war in his own hands, he should be better able than anybody else to prevent it from extending to France. None knew better than Walpole the wide extent of the Jacobite conspiracy by which the new dynasty was threatened. For the sake of peace with the one Power from which the Jacobites had anything to hope, no sacrifice, moral or material, was too great. The prejudice which Walpole raised against himself by other acts of his administration has indisposed the world to place this construction on his conduct ; nor do we ask our readers to believe that it covers the whole ground. Absolute singleness of purpose is very rare in the world; and it cannot be doubted that Walpole's zeal for the Hanoverian dynasty and Parliamentary government was largely blended with another very powerful sentiment, anxiety, namely, for himself.
It may be doubted, perhaps, after all whether the French alliance really was the true policy for this country, and whether the Hapsburgs were not likely to prove more useful friends tous than the Bourbons. France and Spain were now closely united, and both alike jealous of our naval and commercial empire. Between Austria and England no such jealousies could by any possibility arise. Austria was deeply interested in preserving the balance of power on the Continent. England was not less interested in preserving the balance of power on
Thus while England and the Spanish Bourbons were rivals on one element, Austria and the French Bourbons were rivals on another. It was only from the Bourbons that England had anything to fear in the shape of assistance to the Stuarts. It was only from the Bourbons that Austria had anything to fear for the security of her Belgian provinces. The two Powers had every reason for coalescing against a common enemy. This was the view of English interests adopted by Carteret, whom Mr. Morley, surely without adequate reflection on the real meaning of his policy, calls órash and unsound,' and 'a marvel of levity and temerity. It was very well for Bolingbroke to apply such epithets to a rival. He could remember what such an alliance had cost England in men and money thirty years before. His own hand had dissolved the Grand Alliance, because it was exceeding its prescribed limits, was being turned into the instrument of selfish personal ambitions, and was prolonging the war to effect the very object which it had been originally undertaken to defeat. Those who take this view of Bolingbroke's foreign policy from 1710 to 1713 are entitled, if they please, tocondemn Carteret ; but not those who think that the Whig policy was right, that the Grand Alliance, if begun for one object, might very well have been continued for another, and that the war should have been carried on till France was totally disabled. It was. with this end in view that Carteret sought to revive the Grand Alliance: he wished to take up the Whig policy where it was. dropped in 1711, and the main objection to it now was the same as it had been then, that we could not depend on our allies: that they took our money and did nothing in return, and used England merely as their tool. But there was nothing rash or unsound in Carteret's policy as such : and it is by no means certain that the opposite system was better suited to the interests of this country.
Walpole knew, however, that an Austrian alliance, though it might hold the French armies in check upon the Rhine and the Meuse, and be an effectual bar to any French invason of England on a large scale, was incapable of preventing a Jacobite
descent upon the coast, backed up by French gold, arms, and ammunition, and perhaps a regiment or two of French infantry. This was the great danger against which he had to provide ; and the possibility of its being realized seems to have haunted him night and day. If all stories are true, he even endeavoured to secure himself by making friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, and opening communications with the Stuarts themselves. That something was told to James, as if it came from Walpole himself, seems certain. But it may either have been pure invention, or else the embellishment by some sanguine Jacobite of words uttered in private conversation, and never intended to go any further, signifying perhaps that, given such and such conditions, the Stuarts might have a chance of restoration. This is Mr. Morley's view. Lord Stanhope thinks that a direct overture was made, merely, however, for the sake of securing the Jacobite interest at the next general election. It does not seem to us that it is necessary to beat about the bush for an explanation of any correspondence which Walpole may have held with James. Whatever were the odds either for or against the return of the Stuarts in 1740, their chances were quite good enough to make it the part of a prudent man to be prepared for the
Prudence of this kind was very much in fashion with English statesmen during the first thirty years of the Georgian
And if Walpole really did what he was accused of doing, he would have been sinning in very good company. As the fact, if it was one, was not known till long afterwards, it had no effect on Walpole’s popularity at the time.
It remains only to notice the charge that for twenty years he had been plundering the nation, and appropriating large sums of public money to his own use. For the purpose of the present article, what we want to know is, not so much what Walpole did, as what he was actually believed to have done. And this is what he was believed to have done by ninety-nine men out of every hundred, from Cornwall to Caithness, who ever thought about politics at all.
"He was roundly and constantly charged with sustaining a lavish private expenditure by peculation from public funds.
The palace which he built for himself in Norfolk was matter for endless scandal. He planted gardens, people said, in places to which the very earth had to be transplanted in waggons. He set fountains flowing and cascades tumbling, where water was to be conveyed by long aqueducts and costly machines. He was a modern Sardanapalus, imitating the extravagance of Oriental monarchs at the expense of a free people, whom he was at once impoverishing and betraying. They described him as going down to his country seat loaded with
the spoils of an unfortunate nation. He had purchased most of the county of Norfolk, and held at least one-half of the stock of the Bank of England. It was plainly hinted that, in view of a possible impeachment at some future day, he had made himself safe by investing one hundred and fifty thousand pounds in jewels and plate as an easily portable form of wealth. He had also secretly despatched four hundred thousand pounds in & single year to bankers at Amsterdam, Vienna, and Genoa, to be ready for him in case of untoward accidents. ... For all this outlay his foes contended that the income of his estate and the known salary of his offices were inadequate. They assumed, therefore, that the requisite funds were acquired by the sale of honours, places, and pensions, and by the plunder of the secret service money.' (Morley, pp. 131-133.)
Whether Walpole was guilty of peculation or not it seems pretty clear that he was not driven to it by private necessities. The rental of the Houghton property was at least 60001. a year. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, First Lord of the Treasury, and the holder of a patent place in the Customs, he drew 9,4001. a year. His wife brought him a considerable fortune; he made something substantial by his South Sea speculations. His family cost him nothing, and he died 50,0001, in debt. We cannot put down his annual income at much less than 20,0001. ; and the half of this, if not less, would have amply sufficed for his ordinary expenditure. He spent 200,0001. on Houghton, and 14,0001. on his lodge in Richmond Park. His pictures cost him perhaps from 30,0001. to 40,0001. Thus we have in round numbers some 250,0001. to account for. Now a saving of 10,0001. a year for twenty years, and the 50,0001. which he owed at his death, would exactly amount to that sum; and though of course there can be nothing like exactness in calculations of this nature, the figures are sufficient to show us that Walpole could not have been under much temptation to help himself from the public chest for his own domestic expenditure. If he really transmitted 400,0001. to Continental bankers as a fund to fall back upon in case of the worst, that of course is another question. The defence will not reach as far as that. He could not honestly have come by such a sum. But there is no proof that he ever did anything of the kind. The vast sums spent on electioneering, and on the work of corruption in general, very likely did come out of the secret service money. That was part of the system. That nothing was discovered by the committee of secrecy Mr. Hallam thinks of no importance. • The obscurity natural to such transactions, and the guilty collusion of subordinate accomplices,' were quite enough to baffle inquiry. The four particular causes, therefore, of the hatred with