Godolphin, Sidney

, earl of Godolphin, and lord high treasurer of England, descended from a very ancient family in Cornwall, was the third son of Francis Godolphin, K. B. by Dorothy, second daughter of sir Henry Berkley, of Yarlington in Somersetshire. He had great natural abilities, was liberally educated, and inheriting the unshaken loyalty of his family, entered early into the service of Charles II. who after his restoration made him one of the grooms of his bed-chamber. In 1663, when attending his majesty to the university of Oxford, he had the degree of M. A. conferred upon him. In 1678, he was twice sent envoy to Holland, upon affairs of the greatest importance; and the next year was made one of the commissioners of the treasury, which trust he discharged with integrity, and being considered as a man of great abilities, was sworn of the privy council. In 1680 he openly declared for the bill of exclusion of the duke of York; and in the debate | in council, whether the duke should return to Scotland before the parliament met, he joined in the advice for his going away; and though the rest of the council were of the contrary opinion, yet the king acquiesced in his and lord Sunderland’s reasons. In April 1664 he was appointed one of the secretaries of state, which he soon resigned for the office of first commissioner of the treasury, and was created baron Godolphin of Rialton in Cornwall. He had hitherto sat in the house of commons as representative for Helston and for St. Mawe’s.

On the accession of James II. he was appointed lord chamberlain to the queen, and on the removal of the earl of Rochester, was again made one of the commissioners of the treasury. On the landing of the prince of Orange, he was one of the commissioners sent by king James to treat with that prince, which employment he discharged with great address and prudence. In the debate concerning the vacancy of the throne, after the abdication of king James, his lordship, out of a regard to the succession, voted for a regency; yet when king William was advanced to the throne, his majesty appointed him one of the lords commissioners of the treasury, and a privy-councillor, and in 1690 he was appointed first lord of the treasury. In 1695, he was one of the seven lords justices for the administration of the government, during the king’s absence, as he was likewise the year following, and again in 1701, when he was restored to the place of first commissioner of the treasury, from which he had been removed in 1697. On the accession of queen Anne, he was constituted lord high treasurer, which post he had long refused to accept, till the earl of Marlboro ugh pressed him in so positive a manner, that he declared, he could not go to the continent to command the armies, unless the treasury was put into his hands; for then he was sure that remittances would be punctually made to him. Under his lordship’s administration of this high office, the public credit was raised, the war carried on with success, and the nation satisfied with his prudent management. He omitted nothing that could engage theteubject to bear the burthen of the war with chearfulness; and it was owing to his advice, that the queen contributed one hundred thousand pounds out of her civil list towards it. He was also one of those faithful and able counsellors, who advised her majesty to declare in council against the selling of offices and places in her | household and family, as highly dishonourable to herself, prejudicial to her service, and a discouragement to virtue and true merit, which alone ought and should recommend persons to her royal approbation. And so true a friend was his lordship to the established church, that considering how meanly great numbers of the clergy were provided for, he prevailed upon her majesty to settle her revenue of the first-fruits and tenths for the augmentation of the small vicarages. In July 1704 he was made knight of the garter; and in December 1706, advanced to the dignity of earl of Godolphin and viscount Rialton. But notwithstanding all his great services to the public, on the 8th of August 1710, he was removed from his post of lord high treasurer.

He died at St. Alban’s of the stone, on the 15th of September 1712, and was interred in Westminster-abbey. By his lady, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Blague, esq. he had issue Francis, second earl of Godolphin, on whose death the title became extinct.

Bishop Burnet says, “that he was the silentest and mojdestest man, who was perhaps ever bred in a court. He had a clear apprehension, and dispatched business with great method, and with so much temper, that he had no personal enemies. But his silence begot a jealousy, which hung long upon him. His notions were for the court; but his incorrupt and sincere way of managing the concerns of the treasury created in all people a very high esteem for him. He had true principles of religion and virtue, and never heaped up wealth. So that, all things being laid together, he was one of the worthiest and wisest men, who was employed in that age.” In another place the same historian observes, “that he was a man of the clearest head, the calmest temper, and the most incorrupt of all the ministers he had ever known; and that after having been thirty years in the treasury, and during nine of those lord treasurer, as he was never once suspected of corruption, ur of suffering his servants to grow rich under Jiim, so in all that time his estate was not increased by him to the value of four thousand pounds.” It is also said, that he had a penetrating contemplative genius, a slow, but unerring apprehension, and an exquisite judgment, with few words, though always to the purpose. He was temperate in his diet. His superior wisdom and spirit made han despise the low arts of vain-glorious courtiers; for he | never kept suitors unprofitably in suspense, nor promised any thing, that he was not resolved to perform; but as he accounted dissimulation the worst of lying, so on the other hand his denials were softened by frankness and condescension to those whom he could not gratify. His great abilities and consummate experience qualified him for a prime minister; and his exact knowledge of all the branches of the revenue particularly fitted him for the management of the treasury. He was thrifty without the least tincture of avarice, being. as good an ceconomist of the public wealth, as he was of his private fortune. He had a clear conception of the whole government, both in church and state; and perfectly knew the temper, genius, and disposition of the English nation. And though his stern gravity appeared a little ungracious, yet his steady and impartial justice recommended him to the esteem of almost every person; so that no man, in so many different public stations, and so great a variety of business, ever had more friends, or fewer enemies. Dean Swift’s character of him is not so favourable, and in our references may be found many other opposite opinions of his merit and abilities. He had a brother of some poetical talent, noticed by Mr. Ellis. 1


Birch’s Lives. Rapin’s England, Continuation. Swift’s Works; see Index. Coxe’s Life of Walpole. Eilis’s Specimens.