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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 100/169 -

nothing relative to the English constitution before Queen Elizabeth, and had selected her most arbitrary acts to countenance those of the Stuarts: and even hers he misrepresented; for her worst deeds were levelled against the nobility, those of the Stuarts against the people. Hers, consequently, were rather an obligation to the people; for the most heinous part of despotism is, that it produces a thousand despots instead of one. Muley Moloch cannot lop off many heads with his own hands; at least, he takes those in his way. those of his courtiers; but his bashaws and viceroys spread destruction every where. The flimsy, ignorant, blundering manner in which Hume executed the reigns preceding Henry the Seventh, is a proof how little he had examined the history of our constitution.

I could say much, much more, Sir, in commendation of your work, were I not apprehensive of being biassed by the subject. Still, that it would not be from flattery, I wilt prove, by taking the liberty of making two objections; and they are only to the last page but one. Perhaps you will think that my first objection does show that I am too much biassed. I own I am sorry to see my father compared to Sylla. The latter was a sanguinary usurper, a monster; the former, the mildest, most forgiving, best-natured of men, and a legal minister. Nor, I fear, will the only light in which you compare them, Stand The test. Sylla resigned his power voluntarily, insolently: perhaps timidly. as he might think he had a better chance of dying in his bed, if he retreated, than by continuing to rule by force. My father did not retire by his own option. He had lost the majority of the House of Commons. Sylla, you say, Sir, retired unimpeached; it is true, but covered with blood. My father was not impeached, in our strict sense, Of the word; but, to my great joy, he was in effect. A secret committee, a worse inquisition than a jury, was named; not to try him, but to sift his life for crimes: and Out Of Such a jury, chosen in the dark, and not one of whom he might challenge, he had some determined enemies, many opponents, and but two he could suppose his friends. And what was the consequence ? A man charged with every state crime almost, for twenty years, was proved to have done--what? Paid some writers much more than they deserved, for having defended him against ten thousand and ten 'thousand libels, (some of which had been written by his inquisitors,) all which libels were confessed to have been lies by his inquisitors themselves; for they could not produce a shadow of one of the crimes with which they had charged him! I must own, ,Sir, I think that Sylla and my father ought to be set in opposition rather than paralleled.

My other objection is still more serious: and if I am so happy as to convince you, I shall hope that you will alter the paragraph; as it seems to impute something to Sir Robert, of which he was not only most innocent, but of which if he had been guilty, I should think him extremely so, for he would have been very ungrateful. You say he had not the comfort to see that he had established his own family by any thing which he received from the gratitude of that Hanover family, or from the gratitude of that country, which he had saved and served! Good Sir, what does this sentence seem to imply, but that either Sir Robert himself, or his family, thought or think, that the Kings George . and II. or England, were ungrateful in not rewarding his services? Defend him and us from such a charge! He nor we ever had such a thought. Was it not rewarding him to make him prime minister, and maintain and support him against his enemies for twenty years together? Did not George I. make his eldest son a peer, and give to the father and son a valuable patent place in the custom-house for three lives? Did not George II. give my elder brother the auditor's place, and to my brother and me other rich places for our lives; for, though in the gift of the first lord of the treasury, do we not owe them to the King who made him so? Did not the late King make my father an earl, and dismiss him with a pension of 4000 pounds a-year for his life? Could he or we not think these ample rewards? What rapacious sordid wretches must he and we have been, and be, could we entertain such an idea? As far have we all been from thinking him neglected by his country. Did not his country see and know these rewards? and could it think these rewards inadequate? Besides, Sir, great as I hold my father's services, they were solid and silent, not ostensible. They were of a kind to which I hold your justification a more suitable reward than pecuniary recompenses. To have fixed the house of Hanover on the throne, to have maintained this country in peace and affluence for twenty years, with the other services you record, Sir, were actions, the `eclat of which must be illustrated by time and reflection; and whose splendour has been brought forwarder than I wish it had, by comparison with a period very dissimilar! If Sir Robert had not the comfort of leaving his family in affluence, it was not imputable to his King or his country. Perhaps I am proud that he did not. He died forty thousand pounds in debt. That was the wealth of a man that had been taxed as the plunderer of his country! Yet, with all my adoration of my father, I am just enough to own that it was his own fault if he died so poor. He had made Houghton much too magnificent for the moderate estate which he left to support it; and, as he never --I repeat it with truth, never--got any money but in the South Sea and while he was paymaster. his fondness for his paternal seat, and his boundless generosity, were too expensive for his fortune. I will mention one instance, which will show how little he was disposed to turn the favour of the crown to his own profit. He laid out fourteen thousand pounds of his own money on Richmond New Park. I could produce other reasons too why Sir Robert's family were not in so comfortable a situation, as the world, deluded by misrepresentation, might expect to see them at his death. My eldest brother had been a very bad economist during his father's life, and died himself fifty thousand pounds in debt, or more; so that to this day neither Sir Edward nor I have received the five thousand pounds apiece which Sir Robert left us as our fortunes. I do not love to charge the dead; therefore will only say, that Lady Orford (reckoned a vast fortune, which till she died she never proved,) wasted vast sums; nor did my brother or father ever receive but the twenty thousand pounds which she brought at first,'and which were spent on the wedding and christening; I mean, including her jewels.

I beg pardon, Sir, for this tedious detail, which is minutely, perhaps too minutely, true; but, when I took the liberty of contesting any part of a work which I admire so much, I owed it to you and to myself to assign my reasons. I trust they will satisfy you; and, if they do, I am sure you will alter a paragraph against which it is the duty of the family to exclaim. Dear as my father's memory is to my soul, I can never subscribe to the position that he was unrewarded by the house of Hanover.

(510) The Governor's "Character of Sir Robert Walpole." It will be found among the original papers in COXe's Life of Sir Robert.-E.

Letter 268 To Governor Pownall. Berkeley Square, Nov. 7, 1783. (page 339)

You must allow me, Sir, to repeat my thanks for the second copy of your tract on my father, and for your great condescension in altering the two passages to which I presumed to object; and which are not only more consonant to exactness, but, I hope, no disparagement to the piece. To me they are quite satisfactory. And it is a comfort to me too, that what I begged to have changed was not any reflection prejudicial to his memory; but, in the first point, a parallel not entirely similar in circumstances; and, in the other, a sort of censure on 'others to which I could not subscribe. With all my veneration for my father's memory, I should not remonstrate against just censure on him. Happily, to do justice to him, most iniquitous calumnies ought to be removed; and then there would remain virtues and merits enough, far to outweigh human errors, from which the best of men, like him, cannot be exempt. Let his enemies, ay and his friends, be compared with him, and then justice would be done! Your essay, Sir, will, I hope, some time or other, clear the way to his vindication. It points out the true way of examining his character; and is itself, as far as it goes, unanswerable. As such, what an obligation it must be to, Sir, etc.

Letter 269To The Earl Of Strafford. Berkeley Square, Nov. 10, 1783. (page 339)

If I consulted my reputation as 'a writer, which your lordship's partiality is so kind as to allot me, I should wait a few days till my granary is fuller of stock, which probably it would be by the end of next week; but, in truth, I had rather be a grateful, and consequently a punctual correspondent, than an ingenious one; as I value the honour of your lordship's friendship more than such tinsel bits of fame as can fall to my share, and of which I am particularly sick at present, as the Public Advertiser dressed me out t'other day with a heap of that dross which he had pillaged from some other strolling playwrights, who I did not desire should be plundered for me.

Indeed, when the Parliament does meet, I doubt, nay hope, it will make less sensation than usual. The orators of Dublin have brought the flowers of Billingsgate to so high perfection, that ours comparatively will have no more scent than a dead dandelion. If your lordship has not seen the speeches of Mr. Flood and Mr. Grattan,(511) you may perhaps still think that our oyster-women can be more abusive than members of parliament. Since I began my letter, I hear that the meeting of the delegates from the Volunteers is adjourned to the first of February.(512) This seems a very favourable circumstance. I don't like a reformation begun by a Popish army! Indeed, I did hope that peace would bring us peace, at least not more than the discords incidental to a free ,government: but we seem not to have attained that era yet! I hope it will arrive, though I may not see it. I shall not easily believe that any radical alteration of a constitution that preserved us so long, and carried us to so great a height, will recover our affairs. There is a wide difference between correcting abuses and removing landmarks. Nobody disliked more than I the strides that were attempted towards increasing the prerogative; but as the excellence of our constitution, above all others, consists in the balance established between the three powers of King, Lords, and Commons, I wish to see that equilibrium preserved. No single man, nor any private junta, has a right to dictate laws to all three. In Ireland, truly,' a still worse spirit I apprehend to be at bottom; in short, it is frenzy or folly to suppose that an army composed of three parts of Catholics can be intended for any good purposes.

These are my sentiments, my dear lord, and, you know, very disinterested. For myself, I have nothing to wish but ease and tranquillity for the rest of my time. I have no enmities to avenge. I do hope the present administration will last, as I believe there are more honest men in it than in any set that

Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 100/169

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