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ART. I.-Memoirs of John Duke of Marlborough, with his Original Correspondence; collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and other authentic sources: illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans. By William Coxe, M. A. F. R. S. F. S. A. Archdeacon of Wilts. Second Edition. Six Volumes. 8vo.
T is related of Sir Robert Walpole, that when his son Horace one day took up an historical work to read aloud to him, he exclaimed, Oh, do not read history, for that I know must be false.' 'He,' says his biographer Mr. Coxe, who had fathomed the secrets of all the cabinets of Europe, must have considered history as a tissue of fables, and have smiled at the folly of those writers who affect to penetrate into state-affairs, and trace all the motives of action.' This is somewhat too serious a comment upon a peevish speech. Walpole himself would have acknowledged after dinner, or in a sunshiny morning, that the remark was more splenetic than just. He was too good a statesman not to perceive that it is only by the study of history statesmen can be formed, and that though the secrets of cabinets can be known to few, and are not always worth knowing,-the causes of the rise and progress and decline of nations-the virtues by which they have flourishedthe vices by which they have fallen-the spirit by which revolutions are brought about, and the march of human events in which what has been is perpetually recurring, are within the reach of the historian, and form the lessons by which alone the science of politics can be attained.Least of all men should Mr. Coxe have given his sanction to the remark, who, in his Memoirs of the two Walpoles, of the House of Austria, of the Spanish Bourbons, and more especially in the present work, has brought before the public so large a mass of authentic and original information.
The present work is chiefly derived from the most unquestionable documents-the papers at Blenheim. They consist of Marlborough's own letters, private, official, and diplomatic-a correspondence almost unparalleled for value, interest, and extent -of Godolphin's letters, which are equal in point of number and of interest-of numerous letters from the different sovereigns of Europe, and their chief ministers-of the papers which that extraordinary woman, Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, left behind VOL. XXIII. NO. 45—Q. R. her.
her, and of the Sunderland collection. From these, from various other manuscript collections which have been opened to Mr. Coxe, in the liberal spirit of the present age, (properly called liberal in this point,) and from the printed works, the author has produced the first full and satisfactory account of Marlborough, a name which must ever hold one of the first places in military history. And now that the character of this illustrious man is brought into open daylight, it is delightful to see, after all the calumnies which have been heaped upon him, how nearly it is without a spot.
The Churchill family, obviously as that name might seem to explain its English origin, is traced to the Courcils of Poitou, who came over with the Conqueror. John Churchill, the subject of this history, was born at Ash, in Devonshire, on the 24th of June, 1650. The father and grandfather had been conspicuous for. their loyalty in the civil wars, and of course suffered in their estates: that loyalty, however, led to the subsequent elevation of the family. The father, Sir Winston Churchill, was rewarded with certain offices under government; his daughter, Arabella, was appointed maid of honour to the Duchess of York; and John was made page of honour to the Duke. He had previously been placed at St. Paul's school, and it has been affirmed, that he acquired his first inclination for a military life from perusing a copy of Vegetius in the school library. At a review of the foot-guards, the Duke asked him what profession he preferred, and received the answer which he probably expected when he put the question at such a time; the boy fell on his knees, and asked for a pair of colours in one of those fine regiments. His first essay in arms was at Tangiers. His second campaign was in 1672, during the disgraceful alliance between England and France: he then served with the English auxiliaries under Monmouth in that army which Louis XIV. commanded nominally in person, but which was really directed by Turenne and Condé. In that campaign he attracted the notice of Turenne, and received the thanks of the King of France, at the head of the army. And continuing till 1677 to serve with the French in their war against the Emperor, he acquired under Turenne, and the other distinguished French generals of the age, that knowledge of the art of war which was afterwards so well and so worthily employed, in protecting Germany, and preserving Europe from the yoke of France.
His person was so remarkably fine, that Turenne distinguished him by the name of the handsome Englishman, and it is said that he did not escape from the vices which at that time disgraced the English court. In the twenty-eighth year of his age, however, he married Sarah Jennings, who was ten years younger than him
self: she was of a good family, had been placed in her twelfth year in the Duchess of York's household, and had there become the favourite companion and chosen friend of the Princess Anne. Her figure and countenance were commanding and animated, indicating at once the character of her mind; and licentious as were the manners of the sphere in which she moved, her own conduct was such as to obtain respect, while her person and talents were objects of admiration. The attachment which Colonel Churchill formed for this lady, redeemed him at once from all licentious courses; it was equally permanent and strong; and into whatever faults this celebrated woman may have been hurried by the vehemence of an ardent mind, certain it is that she possessed his full esteem and confidence, as well as his undivided love, and that she deserved to be the wife of Marlborough.
During the latter years of Charles II., Colonel Churchill was confidentially employed by the Duke of York, and he was one of the few persons who escaped with that prince from the miserable wreck of the Gloucester yacht in Yarmouth Roads. In 1683, he was created Baron Churchill of Aymouth in Scotland; and upon the marriage of the Princess Anne, his wife was, at the Princess's earnest desire, made lady of Her Royal Highness's bedchamber. Upon the accession of James, he was raised to the English peerage by the title of Baron Churchill of Sandridge, in the county of Hertford; and during Monmouth's insurrection, he was promoted to the rank of major-general. Churchill had saved Monmouth's life at the siege of Maestricht; and was now summoned to acknowledge him as king of England. By his dispositions, this unhappy and misguided man was compelled to risk an action; and by his vigilance the royal army was saved from a surprise. But his favour with James ceased after this time. Upon the great question by which the country was disturbed, his opinions were those of a wise and good man. He had considered the conduct of the whigs in Charles's reign toward the Duke of York, as disrespectful, unjust and unconstitutional. Though I have an aversion to popery,' he observed, yet am I no less averse to persecution for conscience sake. I deem it the highest act of injustice to set any one aside from his inheritance, upon bare suppositions of intentional evils, and when nothing that is actual appears to preclude him from the exercise of his just rights.' After the accession of James, however, he declared to Lord Galway, that if the king should attempt to change the religion and constitution of the country, he would quit his service. That intention. was unequivocally manifested; and Lord Churchill was among the first who made overtures to the Prince of Orange: but he discharged his duty as a faithful friend and subject by telling the
King what the feelings of the people were respecting his conduct, and warning him of the consequences which were likely to ensue.
At the Revolution, Lord Churchill was one of those peers who voted for a Regency. In such times the wisest statesman can rely little upon his own foresight, and must sometimes alter his course, as the physician is compelled, by the symptoms which he discovers to-day, to depart from the plan of treatment which he had yesterday prescribed. When there appeared no alternative but to recall James, or confer the crown on William, he absented himself from the discussion, and submitted, as was his duty, to the decision. On this occasion Lady Churchill used her influence with the Princess Anne, in persuading her to let her own succession be postponed in favour of her sister. Soon afterwards Lord Churchill was made Earl of Marlborough, a title which seems to have been chosen because of a family connection with the last earls of that name. He served during a short campaign in the Low Countries, under the Prince of Waldeck, who declared that in a single battle he manifested greater talents than generals of longer experience had shewn in many years. It is believed that he refused to serve in Ireland, when his former sovereign and benefactor was in that country; but as soon as James had retired to France, he offered his services to reduce Cork and Kinsale, and effected the object with such skill and celerity, that William said of him, he knew no man equally fit for command, who had served so few campaigns.
There is now proof before the public, that Marlborough was in correspondence at that time with the exiled King; had expressed contrition for the part which he had taken in the Revolution, engaged to make amends by his future conduct, and obtained a promise of pardon for himself, his lady, his friend Godolphin, and some others. Actions which cannot be justified may often be extenuated, if we give but a just consideration to the circumstances and the spirit of the times. In all great revolutions, the foundations not of government alone, but of morality also, are shaken. There is so much villainy and falsehood at the commencement, for they who aim at revolutionizing a country scruple at no arts, however base, and at no crimes, however atrocious, and so much wickedness of every kind in the progress, that from seeing right and wrong habitually confounded, men insensibly adapt their principles to the season, and self-preservation and selfadvancement become the only rule of conduct. This was exemplified in the state of England during the interval between the Restoration and Revolution; the standard of general morality was never at any other time so low. The persons who figured in public life had grown up in an age of anarchy, and there were few
among them who made any pretensions either to public or private virtue. Marlborough was far superior in both to his contemporaries, but he was yet young in state-affairs; and when a wellrooted attachment to the laws and religion of his country led him to concur in inviting over the Prince of Orange, the strong measure of deposing the sovereign was not contemplated by him, as the necessary, or even as the possible consequence. I do soTemnly protest," says his wife, in the account of her own conduct, speaking of William's accession, that if there be truth in any mortal, I was so very simple a creature, that I never once dreamt of his being King. I imagined that the Prince of Orange's sole design was to provide for the safety of his own country, by oblig ing King James to keep the laws of ours; and that he would go back as soon as he had made us all happy: that there was no sort of difficulty in the execution of this design; and that to do so much good, would be a greater pleasure to him than to be king of any country upon earth.' In saying this, the Duchess had no intention of offering any apology for herself, still less for her husband. Want of sincerity was not among her faults-for she was of a frank and honourable nature-and as it is certain that Marlborough reposed in her the most entire confidence, and even, on great political occasions, sometimes submitted his own better judgment to hers, it may fairly be presumed from this passage, that his views in inviting William went no farther than are there stated. The motives which may have induced him to correspond with the exiled King are briefly indicated by Mr. Coxe. He was personally attached to James-a prince who, with all his grievous faults, was not without some redeeming virtues. He was displeased by the measures of William in favour of the dissenters measures which he believed injurious to the welfare of that church, the preservation of which had been the immediate cause and object of the Revolution. Something too is ascribed to the cold and repulsive manners of the new King, and to his imprudent predilection for foreigners. But undoubtedly what chiefly influenced him, was a distrust of the stability of the new government, which made him provide means for his security in case of a restoration. So James himself understood it; they ⚫were to be pardoned and in security,' he says, in case the King returned, and yet suffer nothing in the interim, nor to give any other proofs of their sincerity than bare words and empty promises. This conduct cannot be justified; but it should be remembered, that on both sides Marlborough saw much to discontent him; and that though in certain states of public feeling, a desire of martyrdom is the strongest of all ambitions, and per