Cooper, Anthony Ashley

, earl of Shaftesbury, an eminent statesman of very dubious character, was son of sir John Cooper, of llockborn in the county of Southampton, bart. by Anne, daughter of sir Anthony Ashley of Winborne St. Giles in the county of Dorset, bart. where he was born July 22, 1621. Being a boy of uncommon parts, he was sent to Oxford at the age of fifteen, and admitted a gentleman commoner of Exeter college, under Dr. John Prideaux, the rector of it. He is said to have studied hard there for about two years; and then removed to Lincoln’s inn, where he applied himself with great vigour to the law, and especially that part of it which related to the constitution of the kingdom. He was elected for Tewksbury in Gloucestershire, in the parliament which met at Westminster, April 13, 1640, but was soon dissolved. He seems to have been well affected to the king’s service at the beginning of the civil war: for he repaired to the king at Oxford, offered his assistance, and projected a scheme, not for subduing or conquering his country, but for reducing such as had either deserted or mistaken their duty | to his majesty’s obedience. He was afterwards invited to Oxford by a letter from his majesty; but, perceiving that he was not in confidence, that ins behaviour was disliked, and his person in danger, he retired into the parliament quarters, and soon after went up to London, where he was well received by that party “to which,” says Clarendon, “he gave himself up body and soul.” He accepted a commission from the parliament and, raising forces, took Wareham by storm, October 1644, and soon after reduced all the adjacent parts of Dorsetshire. This, and some other actions of the same nature, induced the above-mentioned historian to say that he “became an implacable enemy to the royal family.” The next year he was sheriff of Wiltshire, in 1651 he was of the committee of twenty, appointed to consider of ways and means for reforming the law. He was also one of the members of the convention that met after Cromwell had turned out the long parliament. He was again a member of parliament in 1654, and one of the principal persons who signed that famous protestation, charging the protector with tyranny and arbitrary government; and he always opposed the illegal measures of that usurper to the utmost. When the protector Richard was deposed, and the Rump came again into power, they nominated sir Anthony one of their council of state, and a commissioner for managing the army. He was at that very time engaged in a secret correspondence with the friends of Charles II. and greatiy instrumental in promoting his restoration; which brought him into peril of his life with the powers then in being. He was returned a member for Dorsetshire, in that which was called the healing parliament, which sat in April 1660; and a resolution being taken to restore the constitution, he was named one of the twelve members of the house of commons to carry their invitation to the king. It was in performing this service that he had the misfortune to be overturned in a carriage upon a Dutch road, by which he received a dangerous wound between the ribs, which ulcerated many years after, and was opened when he was chancellor.

Upon the king’s coming over he was sworn of his majesty’s most honourable privy-council. He was also one of the commissioners for the trial of the regicides; and though the Oxford historian is very severe on him on this occasion, yet his advocates are very desirous of proving that he was not any way concerned in betraying or shedding the blood | of his sovereign. By letters patent, dated April 20, 1661, he was created barou Ashley of Winborne St. Giles; soon after made chancellor and nnder-treasurer of the exchequer, and then one of the lords commissioners for executing the office of high-treasurer. He was afterwards made lord lieutenant of the county of Dorset; and, April 23, 1672, created baron Cooper of Pawlet in the county of Somerset, and earl of Shaftesbury. November 4 following, he was raised to the post of lord high chancellor of England. He shone particularly in his speeches in parliament; and, if we judge only from those which he made upon swearing in the treasurer Clifford, his successor sir Thomas Osborne, and baron Thurland, we must conclude him to have been a very accomplished orator. The short time he was at the helm was a season of storms and tempests; and it is but doing him justice to say that they could not either affright or distract him. November 9, 1673, he resigned the great seal under very singular circumstances. Soon after the breaking up of the parliament, as Echard relates, the earl was sent for on Sunday morning to court; as was also sir Heneage Finch, attorney-general, to whom the seals were promised. As soon as the earl came he retired with the king into the closet, while the prevailing party waited in triumph to see him return without the purse. His lordship being alone with the king, said, “Sir, I know you intend to give the seals to the attorney-general, but 1 am sure your majesty never intended to dismiss me with contempt.” The king, who could not do an ill-natured thing, replied, “Gods fish, my lord, I will not do it with any circumstance that may look like an affront.” “Then, sir,” said the earl, “I desire your majesty will permit me to carry the seals before you to chapel, and send for them afterwards from my house.” To this his majesty readily consented; and the earl entertained the king with news and diverting stories till the very minute he was to go to chapel, purposely to amuse the courtiers and his successor, who he believed was upon the rack for fear he should prevail upon the king to change his mind. The king and the earl came out of the closet talking together and smiling, and went together to chapel, which greatly surprised, them all: and some ran immediately to tell the duke of York, that all his measures were broken. After sermon the earl went home with the seals, | and that evening the king gave them to the attorneygeneral.

After he had thus quitted the court, he continued to make a great figure in parliament: his abilities enabled him to shine, and he was not of a nature to rest. In 1675, the treasurer, Danby, introduced the test-bill into the house of lords, which was vigorously opposed by the earl of Shaftesbury; who, if we may believe Burnet, distinguished himself more in this session than ever he had done before. This dispute occasioned a prorogation; and there ensued a recess of fifteen months. When the parliament met again, Feb. 16, 1677, the duke of Buckingham argued, that it ought to be considered as dissolved: the earl of Shaftesbury was of the same opinion, and maintained it with so much warmth, that, together with the duke before mentioned, the earl of Salisbury, and the lord Wharton, he was sent to the Tower, where he continued thirteen, mouths, though the other lords, upon their submission, were immediately discharged. When he was set at liberty he conducted the opposition to the earl of Danby‘ s administration with such vigour and dexterity, that it was found impossible to do any thing effectually in parliament, without changing the system which then prevailed. The king, who desired nothing so much as to be easy, resolved to make a change; dismissed all the privy-council at once, and formed a new one. This was declared April 21, 1679; and at the same time the earl of Shaftesbury was appointed lord president. He did not hold this employment longer than October the fifth following. He had drawn upon himself the implacable hatred of the duke of York, by steadily promoting, if not originally inventing, the project of an exclusion bill: and therefore the duke’s party was constantly at work against him. Upon the king’s summoning a parliament to meet at Oxford, March 21, 1681, he joined with several lords in a petition to prevent its meeting there, which, however, failed of success. He was present at that parliament, and strenuously supported the exclusion bill: but the duke soon contrived to make him feel the weight of his resentment. For his lordship was apprehended for high treason, July 2, 1681; and, after being examined by his majesty in council, was committed to the Tower, where he remained upwards of four months. He was at length tried, acquitted, and discharged; yet did not think | himself safe, as his enemies were now in the zenith of their power. He thought it high time therefore to seek for some place of retirement, where, being out of their reach, he might wear out the small remainder of his life in peace. It was with this view, November 1682, he embarked for Holland; and arriving safely at Amsterdam, after a dangerous voyage, he took a house there, proposing to live in a manner suitable to his quality. He was visited by persons of the first distinction, and treated with all the deference and respect he could desire. But being soon seized by his old distemper, the gout, it immediately flew into his stomach, and became mortal, so that he expired Jan. 22, 1683, in his 62d year. His body was transported to England, and interred with his ancestors at Winbprne; and in 1732, a noble monument, with a large inscription, was erected by Anthony earl of Shaftesbury, his great grandson.

It was perhaps lord Shaftesbury’s misfortune, that those who were angry with him, have transmitted to posterity the history of the times in which he lived, and of that government in which he had so large a share. Marchmont Needham published a severe pamphlet against him, entitled “A packet of advices and animadversions, sent from London to the men of Shaftesbury, which is of use for all his majesty’s subjects in the three kingdoms,” Lond. 1676; and much of it is transferred verbatim into the account given of him by the Oxford historian. He was also represented as having had the vanity to expect to be chosen king of Poland; and this made way for calling him count Tapsky, alluding to the tap, which had been applied upon the breaking out of the ulcer between his ribs, when he was chancellor. It was also a standing jest with the lower form of wits, to style him Shiftsbury instead of Shaftesbury, The author who relates this, tells us also, that when he was chancellor, one sir Paul Neal watered his mares with rhenish and sugar: that is, entertained his mistresses. In his female connections he was very licentious; and it is recorded, that Charles II. who would both take liberties and bear them, once said to the earl at court, in a vein of raillery and good humour, and in reference only to his amours, “I believe, Shaftesbury, thou art the wickedest fellow in my dominions:” to which, with a low bow and very grave face, the earl replied, “May it please your | majesty, of a subject I believe I am;” at which the merry monarch laughed heartily.

His character in the Biog. Britannica is one continued panegyric, from which more recent and impartial writers have made many and heavy deductions, particularly Macpherson and Dalrymple. Referring to these authorities for a character which, involved as it is in the history of the times, might form a volume, we shall conclude this article with some information respecting the various attempts to produce a life of him. The earl himself had written a history of his own times, which, when he was obliged to flee to Holland, he entrusted to the care of Mr. Locke. Unfortunately for the public, when Algernon Sidney was put to death, on a charge of’ treason grounded upon papers found in his closet, Mr. Locke, intimidated with the apprehension of a like prosecution, committed lord Shaftesbury’s manuscript to the flames. The professed design of the work was to display to the world the principles and motives by which his enemies had been actuated, and to give a true and impartial account of his own conduct. It began with the reformation, and traced the course of events down to the civil war, with a view of pointing out the defects of the constitution, and of stating what ought farther to be done, in order to strengthen and confirm the liberties of the people. It is understood that the earl was particularly excellent in his characters, some of which, in loose papers, are still in the possession of the family. The largest fragment now remaining is in the early part of the work, where the author has drawn the characters of the principal gentlemen who flourished in the county of Dorset, at the time in which he arrived to man’s estate. From this fragment, a curious extract, giving an account of the hon. William Hastings, of Woodlands in Dorsetshire, was published in the Connoisseur. It affords a striking example of lord Shaftesbury’s talent in characteristic composition; and Mr. Walpole, who in no other respect has spoken favourably of his lordship, has observed, that it is a curious and well-drawn portrait of our ancient English gentry.

For the loss which was occasioned by Mr. Locke’s timidity or prudence, he was solicitous to make some degree of reparation. Accordingly, he formed an intention of writing, at large, the history of his noble friend; and if he had accomplished his intention, his work would undoubtedly | have been a very valuable present to the public. But there was another biographer, who wrote a life of the earl, soon after his decease. This was Thomas Stringer, esq. of Ivy church, near Salisbury, a gentleman of great integrity and excellent character; who had held, we believe, under his lordship, when high-chancellor of England, the office of clerk of the presentations; and who was much esteemed by some of the principal persons of the age. With Mr. Locke in particular, he maintained an intimate friendship to the time of his death, which happened in 1702. Mr. Stringer’s account has been the ground-work on which the narrative intended for the public eye, by the noble family, has been built. It contained a valuable history of the earl’s life; but was probably much inferior in composition to what Mr. Locke’s would have been; and indeed, in its original form, it was too imperfect for publication. Sometime about the year 1732, this manuscript, together with the rest of the Shaftesbury papers, was put into the hands of Mr. Benjamin Marty n, a gentleman who was then known in the literary world, in consequence of having written a tragedy, entitled “Timoleoh,” which had been acted with success at the theatre royal in Drury-lane. Mr. Martyn made Mr. Stringer’s manuscript the basis of his own work, which he enriched with such speeches of the earl as are yet remaining, and with several particulars drawn from some loose papers left by his lordship. He availed himself, likewise, of other means of information, which more recent publications had afforded; and prefixed to the whole an introduction of considerable length, wherein he passed very high encomiums on our great statesman, and strengthened them by the testimonies of Mr. Locke and Mons. Le Clerc. He added, also, strictures on L' Estrange, sir William Temple, bishop Burnet, and others, who had written to his lordship’s disadvantage. One anecdote, which we well remember, it cannot but be agreeable to the public and to the noble family to see related. It is well known with what severity the earl of Shaftesbury’s character is treated by Dryden, in his Absalom and Achitophel. Nevertheless, soon after that fine satire appeared, his lordship having the nomination of a scholar, as governor of the Charter-house, gave it to one of the poet’s sons, without any solicitation on the part of the father, or of any other person. This act of generosity had such an effect upon IXryden, that, to testify his gratitude, he added, in | the second edition of the poem, the four following lines, in celebration of the earl’s conduct as lord chancellor.

In Israel’s court ne‘er sat an Abethdin With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean, Unbrib’cl, unsought, the wretched to redress, Swift of dispatch, and easy of access.

Notwithstanding the pains that had been taken by Mr. Marty n, the late earl of Shaftesbury did not think the work sufficiently finished for publication; and, therefore, somewhat more than twenty years ago, he put it into the hands of his friend Dr. Gregory Sharpe, master of the temple. All, however, that Dr. Sharpe performed, was to recommend it to the care of a gentleman, who examined Mr. Martyn’s manuscript with attention, pointed out its errors, made references, and suggested a number of instances in which it might be improved, but did not proceed much farther in the undertaking. At length, the work was consigned to another person, who spent considerable labour upon it, enlarged it by a variety of additions, and had it in contemplation to avail himself of every degree of information which might render it a correct history of the time, as well as a narrative of the life of lord Shaftesbury. The reasons (not unfriendly on either side) which prevented the person now mentioned from completing his design, and occasioned him to return the papers to the noble family, are not of sufficient consequence to be here, related. Whether the work is likely soon to appear, it is not in our power to ascertain.

On this account, written by Dr. Kippis for the last edition of the Biog. Britannica, it is necessary to remark, that Mr. Malone, in his Life of Dryden, has amply refuted the story of the Charter-house. With respect to Mr. Martyn’s work, it is more necessary to remark that the last person, called here another person, to whom the revisal of it was consigned, and who received 500l. for his trouble, was Dr. Kippis himself, but it seems difficult to explain what he means, by adding “Whether the work is likely soon to appear, it is not in our power to ascertain.” The volume of the Biographia in which this article occurs was published in 1789; and six years afterwards, in 1795, Dr. Kippis died. At the sale of his library, a quarto volume of a Life of Lord Shaftesbury, evidently the one alluded to, was pur* chased by the late duke of Grafton, and must consequently have been printed some time between 1789 and 1795, | most probably privately, as no other copy, to the best of our recollection, has since been exposed to sale. 1

1

Biog. Brit. Park’s edition of Lord Orford’s Royal and Noble Authors. * Stward’s Anecdotes, vol. II. Wood’s Athenae, vol. II. &c. &c.