Walpole, Sir Robert

, earl of Orford, grandson of sir Edward Walpole, K. B. and third son of Robert Waipole, M. P. for Castle-Rising, in Norfolk, was born at Houghton, in Norfolk, Aug. 26, 1676. He received the first rudiments of learning at a private seminary at Massingham, in Norfolk, and completed his education on the foundation at Eton, Walpole was naturally indolent, and disliked application, but the emulation of a public seminary, the alternate menaces and praises of his master, Mr. Newborough, the maxim repeatedly inculcated by his father, that he was a younger brother, and that his future fortune in life depended solely upon his own exertions, overcame the original inertness of his disposition. Before he quitted Eton, he had so considerably improved himself in classical literature, as to bear the character of an excellent scholar. In April 1696 he was admitted a scholar of King’s college, Cambridge. On the death of his elder surviving brother in 1698, becoming heir to the paternal estate, he resigned his scholarship. Singular as it may appear, he had been designed for the church; but on his destination being altered by the death of his brother, he no longer continued to prosecute his studies with a view to a liberal profession. His father, indeed, appears to have been in a great measure the cause of this dereliction of his studies, for he took him from the university to his seat at Houghton, where his mornings being engaged in farming, | or in the sports of the field, and his evenings in convivial society, he had no leisure, and soon lost the inclination, for literary pursuits. In July 1700, he married Catherine, daughter of sir John Shorter, lord mayor of London, and his father dying, he inherited the family estate of somewhat more than 2000l. a year.

He was now elected member for Castle-Rising, and sat for that borough in the two short parliaments which were assembled in the last two years of the reign of king William, and soon became an active member for the whig party. In 1702 he was chosen member of parliament for King’s- Lynn, and represented that borough in several succeeding parliaments. In 1705 he was nominated one of the council to prince George of Denmark, as lord high admiral of England; in 1708 he was appointed secretary at war; and, in 1709, treasurer of the navy. In 1710 he was one of the managers of the trial of Sacheverel, but when the whig-ministry was dismissed he was removed from all his posts, and held no place afterwards during queen Anne’s reign. In 1711 he was voted by the House of Commons guilty of a high breach of trust and notorious corruption in his office of secretary at war; and it was resolved that he should be committed to the Tower, and ex- ­pelled the House. Upon a candid review of this affair, there does not appear sufficient proof to justify the severity used towards him; and perhaps his attachment to the Marlborough ministry, and his great influence in the House, owing to his popular eloquence, were the true causes of his censure and imprisonment, as they had been before of his advancement. All the whigs, however, on this occasion, considered him as a kind of martyr in their cause. The borough of Lynn re-elected him in 1714, and, though, the House declared the election void, yet they persisted in the choice, and he took a decided part against the queen’s tory-ministry. In the well-known debate relating to Steele for publishing the “Crisis,” he greatly distinguished himself in behalf of liberty, and added to the popularity he had before acquired. The schism-bill likewise soon after gave him a fine opportunity of exerting his eloquence, and of appearing in the character of the champion of civil and religious liberty. On the death of the queen a revolution of politics took place, and the whig-party prevailed both at court and in the senate. Walpole had before recoinmended himself to the house of Hanover, by | his zeal for its cause when the Commons considered the state of the nation with regard to the protestant succession: and he had now the honour to procure the assurance of the House to the new king (which attended the address of condolence and congratulation), “That the Commons would make good all parliamentary funds.” It is therefore not surprising that his promotion soon took place after the king’s arrival; and that in a few days he was appointed receiver and paymaster general of all the guards and garrisons, and of all other the land forces in Gveat Britain, paymaster of the royal hospital at Chelsea, and likewise a privy counsellor. On the opening of a new parliament, a committee of secrecy vtfas chosen to inquire into the conduct of the late ministry, of which Walpole was appointed chairman; and, hy his management, articles of impeachment were read against the earl of Oxford, lord Bolingbroke, the duke of Ormond, and the earl of Stratford. The eminent service he was thought to have done the nation, and the crown, by the vigorous prosecution of those ministers who were deemed the chief instruments of the peace, was soon rewarded by the extraordinary promotions of first commissioner of the treasury, and chancellor and undertreasurer of the exchequer,

In two years time a misunderstanding appeared amongst his majesty’s servants; and it became evident that the interest of secretary Stanhope and his adherents began to outweigh that of the exchequer, and that Wai pole’s power was visibly on the decline. King George had purchased of the king of Denmark the duchies of Bremen and Verden, which his Danish majesty had gained by conquest from Charles XII. of Sweden. The Swedish hero, enraged to see his dominions publicly set to sale, conceived a resentment against the purchaser, and formed a design to gratify his revenge on the electorate of Hanover. Upon a message sent to the House of Commons by the king, secretary Stanhope moved fora supply, to enable his majesty to concert such measures with foreign princes and states as might prevent any change or apprehensions from the designs of Sweden for the future. This occasioned a warm debate, in which it was remarkable that Walpole kept a profound silence. The country-party insisted that such a proceeding was contrary to the act of settlement. They insinuated that the peace of the empire was only a pretence, but that the security of the new acquisitions was the real object of | this unprecedented supply; and they took occasion to observe too, that his majesty’s own ministers seemed to be divided. But Walpole thought proper, on this surmise, to speak in favour of the supply, which was carried by a majority of four voices only. In a day or two he resigned all his places to the king; and, if the true cause of his defection from the court had been his disapprobation of the measures then pursuing, his conduct would have been considered in this instance as noble and praiseworthy. But they who consider the intrigues of party, and that he spoke in favour of these measures, will find little room to suppose that his resignation proceeded from any attachment to liberty or love of his country. He resigned most probably with a view to be restored with greater plenitude of power; and the number of his friends, who accompanied him in his resignation, prove it to have been a mere factious movement. On the day of his resignation he brought in the famous sinking-fund bill: he presented it as a country-gentleman; and said he hoped it would not fare the worse for having two fathers; and that his successor (Mr. Stanhope) would bring it to perfection. His calling himself the father of a project, which has since been so often employed to other purposes than were at first declared, gave his enemies frequent opportunity for satire and ridicule; and it has been sarcastically observed, that the father of this fund appeared in a very bad light when viewed in the capacity of a nurse. In the course of the debates on this bill, a warm contest arose between Walpole and Stanhope on some severe reflections thrown upon him, the former lost his usual serenity of temper, and replied with great warmth and impetuosity. The acrimony on both sides produced unbecoming expressions, the betraying of private conversation, and the revealing a piece of secret history, viz. “the scandalous practice of selling places and reversions.” A member said on the occasion, “I am sorry to see these two great men fall foul of one another however, in my opinion, we must still look on them as patriots and fathers of their country and, since they have by mischance discovered their nakedness, we ought, according to the custom of the East, to cover it, by turning our backs upon them.

In the next session of parliament Walpole opposed the ministry in every thing; and even Wyndham or Shippen did not exceed him in patriotism. Upon a motion in the | House for continuing the army, he made a speech of above an hour long, and displayed the danger of a standing army in a free country, with all the powers of eloquence. Early in 1720 the rigour of the patriot began to soften, and the complaisance of the courtier to appear; and he was again appointed paymaster of the forces, and several of his friends were found soon after in the list of promotions. No doubt now remained of his entire conversion to courtmeasures; for, before the end of the year, we find him pleading as strongly for the forces required by the waroffice as he had before declaimed against them, even though at this time the same pretences for keeping them on foot did not exist.

It was not long before he acquired full ministerial power, being appointed first lord commissioner of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer; and, when the king went abroad in 1723, he was nominated one of the lords justices for the administration of government, and was sworn sole secretary of state. About this time he received another distinguished mark of the royal favour; his eldest son, then on his travels, being created a peer, by the title of Baron Walpole of Walpole. In 1725 he was made knight of the bath; and, the year after, knight of the garter. Into any detail of the measures of his administration, during the Jong time he remained prime or rather sole minister, it would be impossible to enter in a work like this. They are indeed so closely involved in the history of the nation and of Europe, as to belong almost entirely to that department. His merit has been often canvassed with all the severity of critical inquiry and it is difficult to discern the truth through the exaggerations and misrepresentations of party. But this difficulty has been lately removed in a very great measure by Mr. Coxe’s elaborate “Memoirs of sir Robert Walpole,” a work admirably calculated to abate the credulity of the public in the accounts of party-writers. Although sir Robert had been called “the father of corruption” (which, however, he was not, but certainly a great improver of it), and is said to have boasted that he knew every man’s price *, yet, in 1742, the opposition

* This accusation reminds us of reported, that " all men have their

another against the late Mr. Burke, price j" but speaking of a particular

who is represented as having called number of his opponents, he said " All

the people “the swinish multitude,” those men have their price," and in the

when he spoke only of a particular event many of them justified his obclass, as a swinish multitude. Sir Ko- servation. -Coxe’t Memoirs, p. 757,

bert Walpole did not say, as usually 4to edit. | prevailed, and he was not any longer able to carry a majority in the House of Commons. He now resigned all his places, and fled for shelter behind the throne. But there is so little appearance of his credit receiving any diminution that he was soon after created earl of Orford, and most of his friends and dependants continued in their places. The king too granted him a pension of 40QO/. in consideration of his long and faithful services.

The remainder of his life he spent in tranquillity and retirement, and died, 1745, in his seventy- first year. Whatever objections his ministerial conduct may be liable to, yet in his private character he is universally allowed to have had amiable and benevolent qualities. That he was a tender parent, a kind master, a beneficent patron, a firm friend, an agreeable companion, are points that have been seldom disputed; and Pope, who was no friend to courts and courtiers, has paid him, gratis, a handsomer compliment on the last of these heads than all this liberality could ever purchase. In answer to his friend, who persuades him to go and see sir Robert, he says,

Seen him I have, but in his happier hour Of social pleasure, ill exchang‘d for pow’r; Seen him, uncumber’d with the venal tribe, Smile without art, and win without a bribe.

About the end of queen Anne’s reign, and the beginning of George the First, he wrote the following pamphlets. 1. “The Sovereign’s Answer to the Gloucestershire Address.” The sovereign meant Charles duke of Somerset, so nick-named by the whigs. 2. “Answer to the Representation of the House of Lords on the state of the Navy,1709. 3. “The Debts of the Nation stated and considered, in four papers,1710; the third and fourth, Mr. Coxe thinks, were not his. 4. “The Thirty-five millions accounted for,1710. 5. “A Letter from a foreign Minister in England to Monsieur Pettecum,1710. This likewise Mr. Coxe doubts, but thinks he might have written an answer to it, as it was a vindication of the tories, 6. “Four Letters to a friend in Scotland upon Sacheverell’s Trial;” falsely attributed in the ‘’General Dictionary“to Mr. Ma>nwariiig. 7. ‘< A short History of the Parliament.Ims an account of the last Session of the queen, 8. “The South Sea Scheme considered.” 9. “A pamphlet against the Peerage-Bill,1719. 10. “The Report of the Secret Committee, June 9th; 1715.” 11. “The | Thoughts of a Member of the Lower-house, in relation to a project for restraining and limiting the power of the Crown in the future creation of peers,” 1719. 12. “The Report of the Secret Committee, June 9, 17 15.” 13. “A private Letter from General Churchill after Lord Orford’s retirement,” which has been considered as indicating a love of retirement, and contempt of grandeur; but it wilj. probably appear to be rather an affectation of contentment with a situation which he could no longer change. Amidst all his knowledge, he had laid up very little for the purposes of retirement.

Mr. Coxe has also enriched the historical library with memoirs of Horatio Lord Walpole, brother to sir Robert, first earl of Orford. Horatio was born in 1678, and came early into public life. In 1706 he accompanied general Stanhope to Barcelona, as private secretary, and in 1707 was appointed secretary to Henry Boyle, esq. then chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1708, he went as secretary of an embassy to the emperor of Germany, and was present in the same capacity at the congress of Gertruydenberg in 1709. On sir Robert’s being nominated first lord of the treasury in 1715, he was made secretary to that board. In 1716 he was sent as envoy to the Hague; and in 1717 succeeded to the office of surveyor and auditor-general of all his majesty’s revenues in America, ’in consequence of a reversionary grant obtained some time before. In 1720 he was appointed secretary to the duke of Grafton, when lord-lieutenant of Ireland. In 1723 he commenced his. embassy at Paris, where he resided till 1727 as ambassador. In 1.730 he was made cofferer of his majesty’s housebold. In 1733 he was sent plenipotentiary to the Statesgeneral; in 1741 was appointed a teller of the exchequer^ and in 1756 was created a peer of England, by the title of lord Walpole of Wolterton. His lordship died Feb. 5, 1757.

By Mr. Coxe’s memoirs, lord Walpole is placed in a far more important point of view than he had heretofore ob-r tained, and it appears that no one could be more intrusted with the secret springs of ministerial action; but ne partook of the obloquy which followed his brother, and has consequently been misrepresented by those compilers of history who depend for their information on party pamphlets. Lord Hardwicke said of him, that “he negociate’d with firmness and address j and with the love of peace, | which was the system of his brother, he never lost sight of that great object, keeping up the sources of national strength and wealth, He was a great master of the commercial and political interests of this country, and deservedly raised to the peerage.” Mr. Coxe adds, that his moral conduct was irreproachable; that he was sincere in his belief of Christianity, and zealous and constant in performing the duties of religion and that he maintained an unimpeachable character for truth and integrity, as well in his public as in his private capacity.

He wrote many political pieces, “with knowledge, but in a bad style,” as his nephew says, “yet better than his speeches.” Among these are, 1. “The case of the Hes^ sian troops in the pay of Great Britain,” Lond. 1730. 2. “The Interest of Great Britain steadily pursued, in answer to a pamphlet, entitled” The case of the Hanover forces, impartially and freely examined, Part I.“1743. This” Case“was written by lord Chesterfield and Mr. Waller. 3.” A Letter to a certain distinguished patriot and applauded orator, on the publication of his celebrated speech on the Seaford petition, in the Magazines,“&c. 1748. 4.” Complaints of the Manufacturers, relating to the abuses in marking the sheep, &c.“1752. 5.” Answer to the latter part of lord Bolingbroke’s Letters on the study of history," printed in 1763. Some other pamphlets are attributed to lord Walpole in our authority, but rather on doubtful evidence. 1

1

Coxe’s Memoirs of Walpole. Park’s edition of the Royal and Nobje Authors,