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all that the universities of Saxony and Holland had produced on the most intricate questions of public law. Harte, in the preface to the second edition of his History of Gustavus Adolphus, bears a remarkable testimony to the extent and accuracy of Lord Carteret's knowledge. “It was my good fortune or prudence to keep the main body of my army (or in other words my matters of fact) safe and entire. The late Earl of Granville was pleased to declare himself of this opinion ; especially when he found that I had made Chemnitius one of my principal guides; for his Lordship was apprehensive I might not have seen that valuable and authentic book, which is extremely
I thought myself happy to have contented his Lordship even in the lowest degree: for he understood the German and Swedish histories to the highest perfection.”
With all this learning, Carteret was far from being a pedant. His was not one of those cold spirits of which the fire is put out by the fuel. In council, in debate, in society, he was all life and energy. His measures were strong, prompt, and daring, his oratory animated and glowing. His spirits were constantly high. No misfortune, public or private, could depress him. He was at once the most unlucky and the happiest public man of his time.
He had been Secretary of State in Walpole's administration, and had acquired considerable influence over the mind of George the First. The other Ministers could speak no German. The King could speak no English. All the communication that Walpole held with his master was in very bad Latin. Carteret dismayed his colleagues by the volubility with which he addressed his Majesty in German. They listened with envy and terror to the mysterious gutturals which might possibly convey suggestions very little in unison with their wishes.
Walpole was not a man to endure such a colleague as Carteret. The King was induced to give up his favourite. Carteret joined the opposition, and signalised himself at the head of that party till, after the retirement of his old rival, he again became Secretary of State.
During some months he was chief Minister, indeed sole Minister. He gained the confidence and regard of George the Second. He was at the same time in high favour with the Prince of Wales. As a debater in the House of Lords, he had no equal among his colleagues. Among his opponents, Chesterfield alone could be considered as his match. Confident in his talents and in the royal favour, he neglected all those means by which the power of Walpole had been created and maintained. His head was full of treaties and expeditions, of schemes for supporting the Queen of Hungary and for humbling the House of Bourbon. He contemptuously abandoned to others all the drudgery, and, with the drudgery, all the fruits of corruption. The patronage of the Church and of the Bar he left to the Pelhams as a trifle unworthy of his
One of the judges, Chief Justice Willes, if we remember rightly, went to him to beg some ecclesiastical preferment for a friend. Carteret said, that he was too much occupied with continental politics to think about the disposal of places and benefices. “ You may rely on it, then," said the Chief Justice, " that people who want places and benefices will go to those who have more leisure.” The prediction was accomplished. It would have been a busy time indeed in which the Pelhams had wanted leisure for jobbing; and to the Pelhams the whole cry of placehunters and pension-hunters resorted. The parliamentary influence of the two brothers became stronger every day, till at length they were at the head of a decided majority in the House of Commons. Their
rival, meanwhile, conscious of his powers, sanguine in his hopes, and proud of the storm which he had conjured up on the Continent, would brook neither superior nor equal. “ His rants,” says Horace Walpole, “ are amazing; so are his parts and his spirits.” He encountered the opposition of his colleagues, not with the fierce haughtiness of the first Pitt, or the cold unbending arrogance of the second, but with a gay vehemence, a good-humoured imperiousness, that bore every thing down before it. The period of his ascendency was known by the name of the “Drunken Administration ;” and the expression was not altogether figurative. His habits were extremely convivial; and champagne probably lent its aid to keep him in that state of joyous excitement in which his life was passed.
That a rash and impetuous man of genius like Carteret should not have been able to maintain his ground in Parliament against the crafty and selfish Pelhams is not strange. But it is less easy to understand why he should have been generally unpopular throughout the country. His brilliant talents, his bold and open temper, ought, it should seem, to have made him a favourite with the public. But the people had been bitterly disappointed; and he had to face the first burst of their rage. His close connexion with Pulteney, now the most detested man in the nation, was an unfortunate circumstance. He had, indeed, only three partisans, Pulteney, the King, and the Prince of Wales, a most singular assemblage.
He was driven from his office. He shortly after made a bold, indeed a desperate, attempt to recover power. The attempt failed. From that time he relinquished all ambitious hopes, and retired laughing to his books and his bottle. No statesman ever enjoyed success with so exquisite a relish, or submitted to defeat with so genuine and unforced a cheerfulness. Ill as he had been used, he did not seem, says Horace Walpole, to have any resentment, or indeed any feeling except thirst.
These letters contain many good stories, some of them no doubt grossly exaggerated, about Lord Carteret; how, in the height of his greatness, he fell in love at first sight on a birthday with Lady Sophia Fermor, the handsome daughter of Lord Pomfret; how he plagued the Cabinet every day with reading to them her ladyship's letters; how strangely he brought home his bride ; what fine jewels he gave her; how he fondled her at Ranelagh ; and what queen-like state she kept in Arlington Street. Horace Walpole has spoken less bitterly of Carteret than of any public man of that time, Fox, perhaps, excepted; and this is the more remarkable, because Carteret was one of the most inveterate enemies of Sir Robert. In the Memoirs, Horace Walpole, after passing in review all the great men whom England had produced within his memory, concludes by saying, that in genius none of them equalled Lord Granville. Smollett, in Humphrey Clinker, pronounces a similar judgment in coarser language. “Since Granville was turned out, there has been no minister in this nation worth the meal that whitened his periwig."
Carteret fell; and the reign of the Pelhams commenced. It was Carteret's misfortune to be raised to power when the public mind was still smarting from recent disappointment. The nation had been duped, and was eager for revenge. A victim was necessary, and on such occasions the victims of popular rage are selected like the victim of Jephthah. The first person who comes in the way is made the sacrifice. The wrath of the people had now spent itself; and the unnatural excitement was succeeded by an unnatural calm. To an irrational eagerness for something new, succeeded an equally irrational disposition to acquiesce
in every thing established. A few months back the people had been disposed to impute every crime to men in power, and to lend a ready ear to the high professions of men in opposition. They were now disposed to surrender themselves implicitly to the management of Ministers, and to look with suspicion and contempt on all who pretended to public spirit. The name of patriot had become a by-word of derision. Horace Walpole scarcely exaggerated when he said that, in those times, the most popular declaration which a candidate could make on the hustings was that he had never been and never would be a patriot. At this conjuncture took place the rebellion of the Highland clans. The alarm produced by that event quieted the strife of internal factions. The suppression of the insurrection crushed for ever the spirit of the Jacobite party. Room was made in the Government for a few Tories. Peace was patched up with France and Spain. Death removed the Prince of Wales, who had contrived to keep together a small portion of that formidable opposition of which he had been the leader in the time of Sir Robert Walpole. Almost every man of weight in the House of Commons was officially connected with the Government. The even tenor of the session of Parliament was ruffled only by an occasional harangue from Lord Egmont on the army estimates. For the first time since the accession of the Stuarts there was no opposition. This singular good fortune, denied to the ablest statesmen, to Salisbury, to Strafford, to Clarendon, to Somers, to Walpole, had been reserved for the Pelhams.
Henry Pelham, it is true, was by no means a contemptible person. His understanding was that of Walpole on a somewhat smaller scale. Though not a brilliant orator, he was, like his master, a good debater, a good parliamentary tactician, a good man