Saint-John, Henry

, lord viscount Bolingbroke, an eminent statesman and writer, was descended from an | ancient and noble family, and born, as all his biographers say, in 1672, but it appears by the register of Battersea parish that he was baptised Oct. 10, 1678. His father, sir Henry St. John, son of sir Walter St. John, died at Battersea, his family-seat, July 3, 1708, in his eighty- seventh year his mother was lady Mary, second daughter and coheiress of Robert Rich, earl of Warwick. He was bred up, with great care, under the inspection of his grandfather, as well as his father, who neglected no means to cultivate his mind. It was once noticed in parliament that he was educated in dissenting principles, and it is very certain that the first director of his studies was the famous Daniel Burgess, who, with all his oddities (See Burgess) was frequently employed as tutor to the sons of men of rank. Goldsmith seems desirous to impute Bolingbroke’s infidelity to this divine, and to his being obliged to read Manton’s Sermons on the 119th Psalm but such an opinion is as dangerous as it is absurd. From Burgess or Manton, he could have imbibed only a higher reverence for religion than was to be expected from a lively youth; and as to the disgust he felt, to which his biographer seems inclined to trace his infidelity, it is probable that a boy would not have entertained much less dislike to a voluminous history of England, if obliged to read it when he wished to be idle. But, whatever instruction he might receive from his first tutors, it is very certain, that he had a regular and liberal education. He was sent to Eton, where he had for his companion and rival sir Robert Waipole. “The parts of Mr. St. John,” says Coxe, “were more lively and brilliant, those of Walpole more steady and solid. Walpole was industrious and diligent, because his talents required application; St. John was negligent, because his quickness of apprehension rendered labour less necessary.” These characteristics prevailed in both throughout life. From Eton Mr. St. John was removed to Christ-church, Oxford, where he made a shining figure as a polite scholar, and when he left the university, he was considered as a youth highly accomplished for public life. His person was agreeable, and he had a dignity mixed with sweetness in his looks, and a manner very prepossessing, and, as some of his contemporaries said, irresistible. He had much acuteness, great judgment, and a prodigious memory. Whatever he read he retained so as to make it entirely his own; but in youth, he was not in general | much given either to reading or reflection. With great parts, he had, as it usually happens, great passions which hurried him into those indiscretions and follies that distinguish the libertine. He does not, however, appear to have been without his serious moments, nor always unwilling to listen to the voice of conscience. “There has been something always,” says he, “ready to whisper in my ear, while I ran the course of pleasure and of business, * Solve senescentem mature sanus equum;‘ < and while ’tis well, release thy aged horse.‘ But my genius, unlike the demon of Socrates, whispered so softly, that very often I heard him not, in the hurry of those passions with which I was transported. Some calmer hours there were in them I hearkened to him. Reflection had often its turn and the love of study and the desire of knowledge have never quite abandoned me. I am not, therefore, entirely unprepared for the life I will lead; and it is not without reason that I promise myself more satisfaction in the latter part of it than I ever knew in the former.

As these youthful extravagances involved him in discredit, his parents were very desirous to reclaim him. With this view, when in his twenty-second year, they married him to the daughter and coheiress of sir Henry Winchecomb of Bucklebury, in the county of Berks, bart.; and upon this marriage a large settlement was made, which proved very serviceable to him in his old age, though a great part of what his lady brought was taken from him, in consequence of his attainder. The union in other respects was not much to his liking. The same year he was elected for the borough of Wotton-Basset, and sat in the fifth parliament of king William, which met Feb. 10, 1700; and in which Robert Harley, esq. afterwards earl of Oxford, was chosen for the first time speaker. Of this short parliament, which ended June 24, 1701, the business was the impeachment of the king’s ministers, who were concerned in the conclusion of the two partition-treaties; and, Mr. St. John siding with the majority, who were then considered as tories, ought to be looked upon as commencing his political career in that character. He sat also in the next, which was the last parliament in the reign of William, and the first in that of Anne. He was charged, so early as 1710, with having voted this year against the succession in the House of Hanover; but this he has peremptorily denied, because in 1701 a bill was brought into | parliament, by sir Charles Hedges and himself, entitled tt A Bill ibr the farther security of his majesty’s person, and the succession of the crown in the Protestant line, and extinguishing the hopes of the pretended prince of Wales, and all other pretenders, and their open and secret abettors." In July 1702, upon the dissolution of the second parliament, the queen making a tour from Windsor to Bath, by way of Oxford, Mr. St. John attended her; and, at that university, with several persons of the highest distinction, had the degree of doctor of laws conferred upon him.

Persevering steadily in the same tory-connections, to which he adhered against the whig principles of his family, his father and grandfather being both of that party, he gained such an influence in the house, that on April 10, 1704, he was appointed secretary of war, and of the marines. As this post required a constant correspondence with the duke of Marlborough, it appears to have been the principal foundation of the rumours raised many years after, that he was in a particular manner attached to the duke. It is certain, that he knew his worth, and was a sincere admirer of him but he always denied any particular connection nor was he ever charged by the duke or duchess with ingratitude or breach of engagement to them. In all political measures, Mr. St. John acted with Mr. Harley: and, therefore, when this minister was removed from the seals in 1707, Mr. St. John chose to follow his fortune, and the next day resigned his place. He was not returned in the subsequent parliament; but, upon the dissolution of it in 1710, Harley being made chancellor and tinder-treasurer of the Exchequer, the post of secretary of state was given to St. John. About the same time he wrote the famous “Letter to the Examiner,” to be found among the first of those papers: it was then universally ascribed to him, and gave no inconsiderable proofs of his abilities as a writer; for in this single shost paper are comprehended the outlines of that design on which Swift employed himself for near a twelvemonth.

Upon the calling of a new parliament in November, he was chosen knight of the shire for the county of Berks, and also burgess for Wotton-Basset; but made his election for the former. He appeared now upon a scene of action, which called forth all his abilities. He sustained almost the whole weight of the business of the peace of Utrecht, | which however he was not supposed to negotiate to the advantage of his country: and therefore had an ample share of the censure bestowed on that treaty ever since. The real state of the case is, that “the two parties,” as he himself owns, “were become factions in the strict sense of the word.” He was of that which prevailed for peace, against those who delighted in war for this was the language of the times and, a peace being resolved on by the English ministers at all risks, it is no wonder if it was made with less advantage to the nation. He owns this, yet justifies the peace in general: “Though it was a duty,” says he, “that we owed to our country, to deliver her from the necessity of bearing any longer so unequal a part in so unnecessary a war, yet was there some degree of merit in performing it. I think so strongly in this manner, I am so incorrigible, that, if I could be placed in the same circumstances again, I woflld take the same resolution, and act the same part. Age and experience might enable me to act with more ability and greater skill; but all I have suffered since the death of the queen should not hinder me from acting. Notwithstanding this, I shall not be surprised if you think that the peace of Utrecht was not answerable to the success of the war, nor to the efforts made in it. I think so myself; and have always owned, even when it was making and made, that I thought so. Since we had committed a successful folly, we ought to have reaped more advantage from it than we did.

In July 1712, he was created baron St. John of LediardTregoze in Wiltshire, and viscount Bolingbroke; and was also, the same year, appointed lord-lieutenant of the county of Essex. But these honours not coming up to the measure of his ambition, he meditated supplanting Harley, flow earl of Oxford, who had offended him, even in the matter of the peerage. Paulet St. John, the last earl of Bolingbroke, died the 5th of October preceding his creation and the earldom became extinct by his decease, and this honour had been promised to him but, his presence in the House of Commons being so necessary at that time, Harley prevailed upon him to remain ther<5 during that session; with an assurance, that his rank should be preserved for him. But, when he expected the old title should have been renewed in his favour, he received only that of viscount; which he resented as an intended affront on the part of Harley, who had got an earldom for himself. “I | continued,” says Bolingbroke, “in the House of Commons during that important session which preceded the peace; and which, by the spirit shewn through the whole course of it, and by the resolutions taken in it, rendered the conclusion of the treaties practicable. After this, I was dragged into the House of Lords in such a manner as to make my promotion a punishment, not a reward; and was there left to defend the treaties alone. It would not have been hard,” continues he, “to have forced the earl of Oxford to use me better. His good intentions began to be very much doubted of: the truth is, no opinion of his sincerity had ever taken root in the party; and, which was worse for a man in his station, the opinion of his capacity began to fall apace. 1 began in my heart to renounce the friendship which, till that time, 1 had preserved inviolable for Oxford. I was not aware of all his treachery, nor of the base and little means which he employed then, and continued to employ afterwards, to ruin me in the opinion of the queen, and every where else. I saw, however, that he had nofriencUhip for any body; and that, with respect to me, instead of having the ability to render that merit, which I endeavoured to acquire, an addition of strength to himself, it became the object of his jealousy, and a reason for undermining me.” There was also another transaction, which passed not long after lord Bolingbroke’s being raised to the peerage, and which aggravated his animosity to that minister. In a few weeks after his return from France, her majesty bestowed the vacant ribbons of the order of the garter upon the dukes Hamilton, Beaufort, and Kent, and the earls Powlet, Oxford, and Strafford. Bolingbroke thought himself here again ill used, having an ambition, as the minister well knew, to receive such an instance as this was of his mistress’s grace and favour. Indignant at all these circumstances, we are told that Bolingbroke, when the treasurer’s staff was taken from Oxford, expressed his joy by entertaining that very day, July 7, 1714, at dinner, the generals Stanhope, Cadogan, and Palmer, sir William Wyndham. Mr. Craggs, and other gentlemen. Oxford said upon his going out, that “some of them would smart for it;” and Bolingbroke was far from being insensible of the danger to which he stood exposed yet he was not without hopes still of securing himself, by making his court to the whigs and it is certain, that a little before this he had proposed to bring | iri a bill to the House of Lords, to make it treason to enlist soldiers for the Pretender, which was passed into an act. Soon, however, after the accession of king George I. in

1714, the seals were taken from him, and all the papers in his office secured. During the short session of parliament at this juncture, he applied himself with his usual industry and vigour to keep up the spirits of the friends to the late administration, without omitting any proper occasion of testifying his respect and duty to his majesty, by assisting in settling the civil list, and other necessary points. But, when after the meeting of the new parliament, his danger became more imminent, he withdrew privately to France, in March 1715. It is said, by the continuator of Rapin’s history, that his heart began to fail him as soon as he heard that Prior was landed at Dover, aud had promised to reveal all he knew. Accordingly that evening his lordship, who had the night before appeared at the play-house in Drury-lane, and bespoke another play for the next night, and subscribed to a new opera that was to be acted some time after, went off to Dover in disguise, as a servant to Le Vigne, one of the French king’s messengers. His lordship, however, ahiays affirmed that he took this step upon certain and repeated informations, that a resolution was taken, by the men in power, not only to prosecute, but to pursue him to the scaffold.

Upon his arrival at Paris, he received an invitation from the Pretender, then at Barr, to engage in his service: which he at first absolutely refused, and thought it wiser to make the best application, that his present circumstances would admit, to prevent the progress of his prosecution in England. While this was in doubt, he retired into Dauphine“, where he continued till the beginning of July; and then, upon receiving unfavourable news from some of iiis party in England, he complied with a second invitation from the Pretender; and, taking the seals of the secretary’s office at Commercy, set out with them for Paris, and arrived thither the latter end of the same month, in order to procure from that court the necessary succours for his new master’s intended invasion of England. The vote for impeaching him of high treason had passed in the House of Commons the June preceding; and six articles were brought into the house, and read by Walpole, August 4, 1715, which were in substance as follows: 1.” That whereas he had assured the ministers of the States General, | by order from her majesty in 1711, that she would make no peace but in concert with them; yet he sent Mr. Prior to France, that same year, with proposals for a treaty of peace with that monarch, without the consent of the allies.“2.” That he advised and promoted the making of a separate treaty or convention, with France, which was signed in September.“3.” That he disclosed to M. Mesnager, the French minister at London, this convention, which was the preliminary instruction to her majesty’s plenipotentiaries at Utrecht, in October.“4.” That her majesty’s final instructions to her said plenipotentiaries were disclosed by him to the abbot Gualtier, an emissary of France.“5.” That he disclosed to the French the manner how Tournay in Flanders might be gained by them.“6.” That he advised and promoted the yielding up of Spain and the West-Indies to the duke of Anjou, then an enemy to her majesty." These articles were sent up to the Lords in August; in consequence of which, he stood attainted of high-treason, September the 10th of the same year.

In the mean time, his new engagements with the Pretender were so unsuccessful as to bring on him a similar disgrace; for the year 1715 was scarcely expired, when the seals and papers of his new secretary’s office were demanded, and given up; and this was soon followed by an accusation branched into seven articles, in which he was impeached of treachery, incapacity, and neglect. Thus discarded, he turned his thoughts once more to a reconciliation with his country, and in a short time, by that characteristic activity with which he prosecuted all his designs, he procured, through the mediation of the earl of Stair, then the British ambassador at the French court, a promise of pardon, upon certain conditions, from the king, who, in July 1716, created his father baron of Battersea and viscount St. John. In the mean time these vicissitudes had thrown him into a state of reflection; and this produced, by way of relief, a “Consolatio Philosophica,” which he wrote the same year, under the title of “Reflections upon Exile.” In this piece he has drawn the picture of his own exile; which, being represented as a violence, proceeding solely from the malice of his persecutors, to one who had served his country with ability and integrity, is by the magic of his pen converted not only into a tolerable, but what appears to be an honourable, station. He had also this year written several letters, in answer to the charge brought against him by the Pretender and his adherents, | which were printed at London in 1735, 8vo, together with answers to them by Mr. James Murray, afterwards made earl of Dunbar by the Pretender; but, being then immediately suppressed, are reprinted in “Tindal’s Continuation of Rapin’s History of England” The following year, he drew up a vindication of his whole conduct with respect to the tories, in the form of a letter to sir William Wyndham, which was printed in 1753, 8vo. It is written with the utmost elegance and address, and abounds with interesting and entertaining anecdote’s.

His first lauy being dead, he espoused about this time, 1716, a second of great merit and accomplishments, niece to madam de Maintenon, and widow of the marquis de Villette; with whom he had a very large fortune, encumbered, however, with a long and troublesome law-suit. In. the company and conversation of this lady, be passed his time in France, sometimes in the country, and sometimes at the capital, till 1723; when the king was pleased to grant him a full and free pardon. Upon the first nonce of this favour, the expectation of which had been the governing principle of his political conduct for several years, he returned to his native country. It is observable, that bishop Atterbury was banished at this very juncture; and happening, on his being set ashore at Calais, to hear that lord Bolingbroke was there, he said, “Then I am exchanged” His lordship having obtained, about two years after his return, ao act of parliament to restore him to his family-intjeriiancr, and to enable him to possess any purchase he should make, chose a seat of lord Tankerville, at Dawley near L’xbriJge Hi Middlesex; where he settled with his lady, and gratified his taste by improving it into a most elegant villa. Here he amused himself with rural employ ments, and with corresponding and conversing with Pope, Swift, and other friends but was by no means satisfied within for he was yet no more than a mere titular lord, and stood excluded from a seat in the House of Peers. Inflamed with this taint that yet remained in his blood, he entered again, in 172^, upon the public sta^e; and, disavowing all obligations to the minister Walpole, to whose secret enmity he iiMpuied his not having received the full effects of the royal merty intended, he embarked in the opposition, and distinguished himself by a multitude of pieces, written during me short remainder of that reign, and for some years under the following, with great boldness against the measures that were then pursued. Besides his papers | in the “Craftsman,” which were the most popular in that celebrated collection, he published several pamphlets, which were afterwards reprinted in the second edition of his “Political Tracts,” and in the authorized edition of his works.

Having carried on his part of the siege against the minister with inimitable spirit for ten years, he laid down his pen, owing to a disagreement with his principal coadjutors; and, in 1735, retired to France, with a full resolution never to engage more in public business. Swift, who knew that this retreat was the effect of disdain, vexation, and disappointment, that his lordship’s passions ran high, and that his attainder’ unreversed still tingled in his veins, concluded him certainly gone once more to the Pretender, as his enemies gave out; but he was rebuked for this by Pope, who assured him, that it was absolutely untrue in every circumstance, that he had fixed in a very agreeable retirement near Fontainbleau, and made it his whole business vacare liter is. He had now passed the 60th year of his age; and through a greater variety of scenes, both of pleasure and business, than any of his contemporaries. He had gone as far towards reinstating himself in the full possession of his former honours as great parts and great application could go; and seemed at last to think, that the door was finally shut against him. He had not been long in his retreat, when he began p a course of “Letters on the study and use of History,” for the use of lord Cornbury, to whom they are addressed. They were published in 1752; and, though they are drawn up, as all his works are, in an elegant and masterly style, and abound with just reflections, yet, on account of some freedoms taken with ecclesiastical history, they exposed him to much censure. Subjoined to these letters are, his piece “upon Exile,” and a letter to lord Bathurston the true use of study and Retirement.

Upon the death of his father, who lived to be extremely old, he settled at Battersea, the ancient seat of the family, where he passed the remainder of his life. His age, his genius, perfected by long experience and much reflection, gave him a superiority over most of his contemporaries, which his works have not altogether preserved. Pope and Swift, however, were among his most ardent admirers; and it is well known, that the former received from him the materials for his “Essay on Man.” Yet, even in this | retirement, he did not neglect the consideration of public affairs; for, after the conclusion of the war in 1747, upon measures being taken which did not agree with his notions of political prudence, he began “Some Reflections on the present state of the nation, principally with regard to her taxes and debts, and on the causes and consequences of them:” but he did not finish them. In 1749, came out his “Letters on the spirit of Patriotism, on the idea of a Patriot King, and on the state of parties at the accession of king George I:” with a preface in which Pope’s conduct, with regard to that piece, is represented as an inexcusable act of treachery to him. Of this subject we have already taken sufficient notice in our accounts of Mallet and Pope, Bolingbroke was now approaching his end. For some time a cancerous humour in his face had made considerable progress, and he was persuaded to apply an empirical remedy, which exposed him to the most excruciating tortures. Lord Chesterfield saw him, for the last time, the day before these tortures be^an. Bolingbroke, when they parted, embraced his old friend with tenderness, and said “God, who placed me here, will do what he pleases with me hereafter, and he knows best what to do. May he bless you” About a fortnight after he died, at his house at Battersea, Nov. 15, 1751, nearU eighty years old, if the date usually assigned to his birth be correct. His corpse was interred with tiiose of his ancestors in that church, where there is a marble monument erected to his memory.

His lordship’s estate and honours descended to his nephew; the care and profits of his manuscripts he left to Mallet, who published them, together with his works already printed, in 1754, 5 vls. 4to. They may be divided into, political anil philosophical w-jrks: the former of which have been mentioned already, and consist of “Letters upon History,” “Letter to Wyndham,” “Letters on Patriotism,” and papers in the “Craiisman;” which had been separately printed in 3 vols. 8vo, under the title of “Dissertation upon Parties,” “Remarks on the History of England,” and “Political Tracts.” His philosophical works consist of, “The substance of some letters written originally in French about 1720 to Mr. de Pouilly letter occasioned by one of abp. Tillotson’s sermons and letters or essays addressed to Alexander Pope, esq.” As Mallet had published an 8vo edition of the “Letters on History,” and the “Letter to Wyndham,” before the 4to edition of the works | came out, he afterwards published separately the philosophical writings, 5 vols. 8vo. These essays, addressed to Pope, on philosophy and religion, contain many things which deny or ridicule the great truths of revelation; and, on this account, not only exposed the deceased author to the just animadversions of several writers, but occasioned also a presentment of his works by the grand jury of Westminster; but the saie of them was very slow, and of late years they are perhaps still less consulted. An edition, however, was published in 1809, in 8 vols. 8vo, with many additions, from subsequent authorities, to the life of Bolingbroke, which was written by Dr. Goldsmith. Some time before this, a valuable collection of lord Bolingbroke’s political correspondence was published in 4to, and 4 vols. 8vo, by the rev. Gilbert Parke, which contains much information respecting the memorable peace of Utrecht. His character has been drawn by various able pens, by Chesterfield, Mrs. Cot.kburn, Ruffhead (under the guidance of Warburton), lord Walpole, Horace Walpole, lord Orrery, &c. c. and although they differ in some points, coincide in proving that lord Bolingbroke was considered by all as a politician of an important class; that those who have been at most pains to dt fame him as an enemy, would have been very desirous to secure him as a friend, and that they uiay be credited in every thing sooner than in their affecting to undervalue his talents. Ambition and immorality constitute the great objections to his public and private character. His infidt- 1 principles were not much known before his death, except to his friends. Like Chesterfield and Hume, he left something behind him worse than he had produced in his life-time, and subjected himself to accusations to which he could no longer reply. In his character since, he has suffered equally by the just resentment of piety, and by the unforgiving prejudices of party; and an impartial history of his Conduct and opinions is perhaps yet a desideratum. 1


Life by Goldsmith, in edit. 1809.—Biog. Brit.—Swift’s Works.—Pope’s Works by Bowler.—Oxe’s Walpole.—Lysons’s Environs, vol. I.—Royal and Noble Authors by Park.—Chesterfield’s Memoirs and Letters.—Leland’s Deistical Writers.—Warburton’s Letters to Hurd, &c. &c.