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out effort that he could despise all attempts to make him deviate into a contrary conduct, or renounce for the sake of what, at best, would to him have appeared a criminal ambition, his darling views of private happiness. Brilliant, indeed, and powerful as were his talents for the business of the state, and his consequent reputation, so wedded was he to the philosophy and moderation of private life, accompanied with the elegance of a highly cultivated mind, that our wonder is, that, with such a decided bias, he could have ever suffered himself to engage as he did in such momentous labours, successful as they were, in the public service.
This was the real virtue of the man; nor can I do better for his memory, in winding up this part of his character, than by transcribing what was so feelingly said of it by another statesman, who in this, at least, so resembled him, that in reading it we cannot help thinking he glanced (without intending it) at himself. “ When he had reason,” says Mr. Fox, “to think that his services could no longer be useful to his country, he withdrew wholly from public business, and resolutely adhered to the preference of philosophical retirement, which in his circumstances was just, in spite of every temptation which occurred to bring him back to the more active scene. mainder of his life he seems to have employed in the most noble contemplations, and the most elegant amusements; every enjoyment heightened, no doubt, by reflecting on the honourable part he had acted in public affairs, and without any regret on his own
account (whatever he might feel for his country) at having been driven from them." *
What I have called his decided bias may be not unpleasingly collected from the well-known passage between him and his master, who seemed to have known him well; and who, having sent for him from negotiating the Peace of Nimeguen, in order to make him secretary of state, and finding him rather absent in his answers, exclaimed: “Go, get ye gone to Shene; we shall have no good of you
have been there."
His disinclination to the secretaryship was as extraordinary as determined ; since it could not, as in the few other instances of a refusal of preferment that occur in the history of man, have proceeded either from want of abilities or want of disposition. On the contrary, above twenty years of most active administration of very high charges had shown his admirabie fitness to fill the public eye, and obtain the public esteem. It was simply owing, therefore, to the moderation of his wishes, and his preference of the studious hours, the elegancies of cultivated leisure, and the enjoyments of a life of nature and philosophy, to the hubbub and distractions of a struggle for power, and the envy and corruption that belong to it. So deeply did he feel this as adverse to his happiness, and so much more attractive was his garden than a court (though his figure in the last was equal to that of the best), that no man ever sought office with more ingenuity or perseverance than he displayed to avoid it. This was, not merely that he was not fitted for the secretary's place by habit or disposition, but that he disapproved the dishonest policy proposed to be pursued; that of assuming the existence of a plot which neither his colleagues nor himself credited, in order, by humouring the people, to confirm their own power. His friends told him, “ that the Parliament and nation were so generally and strongly possessed with it, that it must of necessity be pursued as if it were true, whether it was so or not ; and that, without the king's uniting with his people upon this point, he would never grow either into ease at home, or consideration abroad.”
* Fox's James II.
His account of his conduct upon this does him honour. “ Upon three days' thought,” says he, “ of this whole affair, I concluded it a scene unfit for such actors as I knew myself to be, and resolved to avoid the secretary's place, or any other public employment at home, my character abroad still continuing. This I acquainted my nearest friends with, ordered the money to be returned which had been provided by them, and fell into consultations how I might get off this point, without anything that might appear undutiful or ungrateful to his Majesty." *
One of these consultations marks at least his sincerity in his resolution ; for, there being a new Parliament, “I ordered,” says he,“ my pretensions so as they came to fail. But when the Parliament was chosen, and I not of the House, I represented to his Majesty how unfit it was to have a Parliament meet without his having one secretary in the House of Commons.” *
* Works, folio, i. 332.
The stratagem succeeded, and he escaped the secretaryship.
After this he had the honour to propose and accomplish that famous, though unsuccessful, plan for a strong and honest government, the Council of Thirty, half to be composed of the great officers of state, half of men of the greatest personal consequence, and therefore, as was erroneously supposed, the freest from party ambition. This, as might be foreseen by persons even as little corrupted by intrigue and selfinterest as himself, almost instantly failed, through the jealousy, machinations, and treachery of those in whom he most confided. And this gave him such a disgust (the disgust of a virtuous mind) at any attempt to improve the current of affairs influenced by such incendiaries as Shaftesbury, and such devotees of private ambition as Essex and Halifax t, that from this time he resolved (and kept his word) to withdraw from all public employments, and devote himself in earnest to the sweets of that philosophic contemplative life for which by disposition and education he was so well fitted. Thus he who, in the course of his able fulfilment of the most important public duties, had acquired the praise of all Europe, and the friend
* Works, folio, i. 332.
† The scheme of the Council failed chiefly through the intrigues of Essex to get back to the government of Ireland: yet Essex was a patriot, engaged in treason for the good of the state.
ship of its most illustrious characters (among thein De Witt and King William), retired for ever into the bosom of a happy contentment, which he ennobled by his pursuits in it, as much as his abilities and good principles had illustrated his more public and imposing
His language on adopting this determination, firm, unaffected, and, from his after conduct, sincere, far removed from petulance, and still farther from mortification, evinces a mind “superior," as Hume observed, “ to the tricks of vulgar ambition,” certainly to that ambition which we have been investigating. Nor can I do better, in closing this account, than to do it in his own words.
“Therefore, upon the whole, I took that firm resolution in the end of the year 1680, never to charge myself more with any public employments; but, retiring wholly to a private life, in that posture take my fortune with my country, whatever it should prove.
“Besides all these public circumstances, I considered myself in my own humour, temper, and disposition, which a man may disguise to others very hardly, but cannot to himself. I had learned, by living long in courts and public affairs, that I was fit to live no longer in either. I found the arts of a court were contrary to the frankness and openness of my nature, and the constraints of public business too great for the liberty of my humour and my life. I knew very well the arts of a court are, to talk the present language, to serve the present turn, and to follow the