THE CAVENDISHES.—WHIG PERIOD.
THE second history of the Cavendishes, their career as a great Whig House, devoted to the cause which in those days re- presented freedom, the cause, that is, of aristocratic as opposed to regal government, commences before the death of the third Earl. He lived for years, as we have said, as a respectable nonentity, but his son, after receiving the usual education, and making the grand tour, married a daughter of the House of Ormond, served in a naval action, went in the suite of Mr. (afterwards the Duke of) Montagu to France, where he was nearly killed in an encoun- ter with three Of the French King's guards at the Opera House, was elected for Derbyshire, and threw himself warmly into the "country party," of which Lord Russell was the acknowledged head. By his determined conduct he greatly incensed the Court party, distinguishing himself particularly by his zeal for the Pro- testant religion and against Popery. In 1679 he was appointed with his friend Lord Russell one of the Privy Council, exerted him- self strenuously in support of the Exclusion Bill, and suffered from the reaction produced by that violent measure. Accordingly we find in the Gazette published at Whitehall, January 31, 1680, this curt notice :—" This evening the Lord Russell, the Lord Caven- dish, Sir Henry Capel, and Mr. Powle prayed the King to give them leave to retire from his Council Board. To which his Majesty was pleased to answer, ' With all my heart!" Lord Cavendish continued to attend all the consultations of Russell and his friends, till at length he objected to something brought for- ward as too dangerous, and absented himself thenceforth, though he kept up his political connection with the party. This probably saved his head when Russell and Sidney suffered, but he never flinched from their side, appearing at the trial as a witness in Lord Russell's favour, offering to change clothes with him and remain in prison in his stead, and attending him to the last with unswerving devotion and affection. In 1684 his father's death made him Earl of Devonshire, and from this time he assumed the leadership of the opposition in the Upper House. " He was well qualified to do so," says Macaulay. " In wealth and influence he was second to none of the English nobles ; and the general voice designated him as the finest gentleman of his time. His magnificence, his tastes, his talents, his classical learning, his high spirit, the grace and urbanity of his manners were admitted by his enemies. His eulogists, unhappily, could not pretend that his morals had escaped untainted from the widespread contagion of that age. Though an enemy of Popery and of arbitrary power, he had been averse to extreme courses, had been willing, when the Exclusion Bill was lost, to agree to a compromise, and had never been concerned in the illegal and imprudent schemes which had brought discredit on the Whig party." In the following year the Prince, whom he had endeavoured to exclude, succeeded as James IL, and a mischance befell the Earl which is differ- ently related by different writers. We will confine ourselves to Kennet's account, who affirms that a Colonel Culpeper was instigated to insult the Earl in the precincts of the Court. Devonshire, though a man of quick temper and proved courage, at first scornfully pardoned his antagonist, but after the defeat of Monmouth Culpeper was prevailed on to encounter the Earl again in the presence-chamber, and give him an insulting look. The proud Peer lost all patience, seized the bravo by the nose, led him out of the chamber, and then struck him with his cane. For this offence, a great one against etiquette, but against etiquette only, he was summoned to the King's Bench, vainly pleaded his privilege as a Peer, was fined 30,0001., and was committed to the King's Bench until the sum should be paid. The amount was probably more than one year's income, or equivalent to a fine at the present day of 150,000/. ; and the Earl, boiling with indignation, broke prison, and betook himself to Chatsworth. The Sheriff of Derbyshire was ordered to arrest him ; but by this time the Cavendishes had a hold on their tenantry other than that of money, and the Earl turned the tables by arresting the official, and keeping him in Chatsworth in honourable custody till he had made terms with the King. His mother offered James bonds for 60,0001., signed by Charles I. and II., for moneys received during their necessities from the third Earl; but the faithless tyrant cared as little for the honour of his house as for justice, repudiated the debts, and demanded a bond for the whole amount. It was given, and was found among James's papers after his flight and cancelled by William III., while the House of Lords reversed the sentence as contrary to Magna Charts. The Earl, during his seclusion from business, which lasted nearly four years, occupied himself with rebuilding Chatsworth, laying out the grounds afresh, and furnishing the house in a style which excited the envy of foreign magnates. As the tendency of the King's Government, however, became more evident, he secretly plunged into politics once more, and opened a correspondence with the Hague, strenuously urging the Prince of Orange to interpose . On the first alarm of the preparations in Holland, James summoned the Earl to Court, but he excused himself, and when his cousin, the Duke of Newcastle, visited him and talked much of the danger of revolution, he answered only in general terms. The instant the Duke had disappeared he held a meeting with his old enemy the Earl of Danby, for whose impeachment he had voted, and after a full reconciliation and avowals of past indiscretion, they concerted measures with Lord Delamere, Sir Scroop Howe, and others of the greatest influence, to raise Derbyshire on behalf of the Prince. The smaller gentry, however, were horribly afraid of another " Bloody Assize," and when the Deliverer's fleet was driven back by the storm there was danger lest the Earl himself should be seized and retained in arrest. He himself, however, never lost heart, and the moment the Prince arrived, placed himself at the head of his tenantry—an act which, had James succeeded, would have cost him his life and lands—and read to the corporation of Derby the Prince's first declaration. The town refused to move, and the Earl, with his force swelling at every step, marched to Nottingham, where he issued a declaration of the views and desires of his party, and where he was joined by the Princess Anne. He escorted her with his whole force to Oxford, and thence repaired to Sion House, where he was welcomed by William as one of his steadiest friends. In the Convention Parliament he was the most conspicuous sup- porter of extreme Whig ideas, and it was at his house that the Lords assembled to devise some compromise between the claims of William and Mary. It is to him, too, that the sentence which, for the first time in our history, assigned the supreme power in the State to the House of Commons, is ascribed. The Tory Lords wished to proceed to business on the 25th January, but Devonshire proposed and carried a delay till the 29th, "by which time," he said, " we may have some lights from below which may be useful for our guidance," a pregnant remark for which he was severely censured. On the accession of the new sovereign he was made Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, and sworn of the Privy Coun- cil, in which capacity he is recorded to have refused an enor- mous bribe. In January, 1691, he attended William to the Hague, distinguishing himself as usual by the magnifi- cence of his life ; but he resented keenly William's leaning towards the Tories. He could not comprehend that the Prince had become King of England, not of the Whigs, and expressed himself so bitterly that Macaulay thinks his language gave rise to what Lord Preston stated on his trial—that Wil- liam Penn had told him that Devonshire was in communication with the Court of St. Germain's. No one, however, credited the assertion ; and when Preston was proceeding to repeat this part of his accusation in the King's presence, William stopped him, saying to Carmarthen, " My lord, we have had enough of ,this." In 1694 William showed his sense of the Earl's services by creating him Marquis of Hartington and Duke of Devonshire, on the same day that the Earl of Bedford was raised to a similar dignity. In 1695, the Queen being dead, Devonshire was appointed one of the Lords' Justices during the absence of William, and, in that capacity, received the confessions of Sir John Fenwick, implicating Shrewsbury, Godolphin, and Marlborough, and trans- mitted them direct to the King, without showing them to his col- leagues—a proceeding which the accused Ministers much resented, but William, probably, much appreciated. On the bill of attainder against Sir John, however, Devonshire, at the head of a small sec- tion of the Whigs, while supporting the earlier stages of the bill, to intimidate, as he said, the prisoner into further revelations, refused to support the third reading unless the prisoner's life were guaranteed, and his sentence commuted to perpetual banishment, declaring his dislike of bills of attainder. He strongly opposed, however, the "Re- sumption Bill " for royal grants in Ireland, and continued in the King's favour to the last, being one of those present at his death. Queen Anne continued him in the office of Lord Steward, and he consistently supported the measures of the Whig party, the war with France, &c., and was appointed one of the English Commissioners to settle the union with Scotland. He died on the 18th of August, 1707, at Devonshire House, Piccadilly, in the sixty-seventh year of his age, leaving one of the few unblemished memories of that period of political demoralization. He was the flower of his race, the one member of the House to whom it had been given to stake lands and life on a side which, though that of an order, was also that of the people.
His eldest son William, the second Duke, was not a man of any great political weight beyond the influence attaching to his position as the head of a great Whig house. This secured him on three several occasions the office of Lord President of the Council, and he was more than once appointed a Lord Justice during King George's absence in Germany. He attached himself in politics more especially to Townshend and Walpole, in opposition to Stan- hope and Sunderland, and died in June, 1729, having married Lady Rachel Russell, daughter of his father's friend, Lord William Russell. His eldest son by her, William, the third Duke, like his father and grandfather, acted as Lord Steward of the Household. He was four times one of the Lords Justices, during the King's absence from England, and in 1787 was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, in which office he continued for seven years. His talents, though not brilliant, were respectable and solid. Sir Robert Walpole, to whom he was consistently attached throughout life, even said of him that on a subject that required mature delibera- tion he would prefer his opinion to that of any other person ; and Horace Walpole, calling on him one day at Devonshire House, and finding him from home, left the following epigram on his table :—
"Ut dominos domue est ; non extra hilts columnis
Marmoreis splendet ; quod tenet intus habet," which may be translated
"Like host like house; without no pillared show
Of marble shines; within their wealth they stow."
In his administration of Ireland he only followed the instruc-
tions of Walpole, without leaving any mark of- personal character- on the Government ; but he has the merit of at least once intimidating into submission Dean Swift, who had had the cathedral bells muffled lest they should ring a peal in honour of his arrival. After the fall of Walpole, disgusted with the
character of the Duke of Newcastle, and the timidity of his brother, Mr. Pelham, the Duke, in 1749, resigned his post of Lord
Steward (to which he had been re-appointed on his return from Ireland, with a seat in the Cabinet), and retired to Chatsworth, where he died, December 5th, 1755. His eldest son and successor William, fourth Duke of Devonshire, had filled several public offices during his father's lifetime. He had sat for Derbyshire in the Commons, and had been called up to the House of Peers in the barony of 1605. He was Master of the Horse, in 1751 ; one of the Privy Council and a Lord of Regency in 1752. In January, 1754, he was made Governor of the county of Cork ; in the February of the following year Lord High Treasurer of that kingdom, in room of the last Earl of Burlington. These two offices he retained all his life. In March, 1755, he was made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, in which post he continued till November, 1756, when he was made First Lord of the Treasury. This last appointment ensued on the resignation of the Duke of Newcastle, the elder Pitt becoming Secretary of State. Up to that time Devonshire's connection had been with Fox—of course, the elder Fox. Lord Stanhope says of him, " This nobleman was, like his father, naturally averse to public business, but, like his father also, was highly esteemed by all parties for probity and truth. Dr. Johnson, for example, though opposed to the Duke in politics, bears a strong testimony to his character:—' He was not a man of superior abilities; but strictly faithful to his word. If, for instance, he had promised you an acorn, and none had grown in that year in his woods, he would not have been contented with that excuse, he would have sent to Denmark for it." Devonshire continued to hold this office after Pitt's resignation down to June, 1757, when Newcastle and Pitt forced their way into power again. With the new reign, new influences, and, indeed, a new policy, came into play, and the Duke, whom the Princess-Dowager sarcasti- cally called the " Prince of the Whigs," was naturally an object of intense dislike to the Earl of Bute and the King, who was striving to break the power of the great Whig connection. In October, 1762, a crisis occurred. 'The Duke of Newcastle, driven from power, intrigued with the great Whigs, and persuaded two of them. —Devonshire and Rockingham—to resign their places in the Household. A few days afterwards, the King in Council called for the Council-book, and ordered the Duke of Devonshire's name to be struck from the list. Soon after Newcastle, Grafton, and Rockingham having been dismissed from the Lord-Lieutenan- cies of their counties for censuring the terms of the peace, Devon- shire, whose dismissal also had been designed, but averted by Fox, threw up his commission voluntarily. After this, though in the prime of life, his health gave way; he sought relief at Spa, in Ger- many, but on October 2nd, 1764, a renewed attack of palsy carried him off at the latter place, at the age of forty-four. Lord Stanhope, observing on the great loss sustained by the Whig party in his death, says that " it is not easy to discriminate between his cha- racter and his father's, whom he seemed to have succeeded in princi- ples and disposition as much as in title and estates." Had he sur- vived a little longer he might have assumed again high place on the return of Pitt to power, and have proved an ally in Pitt's real policy—that of pursuing liberal measures by the aid of the great aristocratic faction.
His eldest son and successor, William, fifth Duke, was then only sixteen years of age, and " at no time did he study State affairs. But the importance of the House of Caven- dish was, in great measure, upheld by the late Duke's bro- thers. Lord John especially, the youngest of all, was well read, held in just esteem for his truth and honour, and resolute in his views, though shy and bashful in his manner. 'Under the appearance of virgin modesty,' says Horace Walpole, he had a confidence in himself that nothing could equal." "In reality, however," con- tinues Lord Stanhope, " his abilities were only moderate, nor yet did he bring to public life any very steady application." Burke, notwithstanding his eulogies of him after his death, during his life- time writes in a much more subdued tone respecting him, and in a letter expresses a wish that Lord John could be induced to show "a degree of regular attendance on business." " Lord John ought to be allowed a certain decent and reasonable portion of fox- hunting ; but anything more is intolerable." Lord John was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1782 and again in 1783, and died unmarried in December, 1796. His elder brother, Lord George Cavendish, who died two years before him, also unmarried, brought to the Cavendish property an accession—the Holker estate, in North Lancash ire, left him by Sir James Lowther, of Whitehaven, in 1753. We may also mention here that the Cavendishes have added to their influence in this part of the kingdom by purchasing the estates of the old family of Curwen, in the western part of the ad- jacent county of Cumberland—estates the Curwenshad received, we believe, during the great distribution of the abbey lands, and which, had they been retained, would have made them by this time Peers, and enabled them, perhaps, to win their brave but hopeless fight of two centuries with the Lowthers.
We are approaching the present day. The fifth Duke was chiefly remarkable as the husband of Georgians, daughter of John Earl Spencer, the beautiful Duchess who won the vote of a West- minster butcher for her friend Fox with a kiss. This Duke had inherited the title of Lord Clifford of Lanesborough from his mother, heiress of Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington and Cork, and in 1831 he obtained for his younger brother, George Caven- dish, his maternal grandfather's title of Burlington. His grand- son is Duke of Devonshire, the sixth Duke, son of the fifth, dying unmarried. This Duke—William Spencer—was remark- able for his marvellous taste in horticulture, which he grati- fied with the assistance of Sir Joseph Paxton, whom he picked up as an under-gardener at Kew, till Chatsworth and Chiswick became the noted centres of all that was novel and magnificent in his favourite pursuit. A true Cavendish in every instinct, magnificent, accomplished, and dissolute, he was pursued through life by a story which asserted that he was a changeling, bound by a family compact not to marry. He did not marry, and he did dip the estates ; but in those two facts lay the only evidence in support of a charge probably based on the tale of some discarded waiting-maid. There is scarcely a noble in Eng- land whose title is not assailed by some such rumour, though it more generally takes the form of a secret or Scotch marriage, made bysome half-forgotten ancestor. The present Duke—also a William—has taken little part in public life, though the conjoined weahh of the Devonshire and Burlington titles gives him enormous influ- ence; but his heir, the Marquis of Hartington, has devoted himself to politics, and bids fair, with the assistance of a brother who is just coming forward, and from whom the advanced Whigs hope much, to revive the political influence of the House of Cavendish. Their further rise will be watched without annoyance, for though founded by a sequestrator, made by a marrying widow, and dis- tinguished throughout their history by a personal character which is that rather of Continental than of English noblesse, they have deservedwell of their country. Therewas no English royalist like the chief of the younger branch, no Whig who dared or suffered more than the head of the elder race, who made of a family of courtiers a steadily liberal House. Their use in politics has been that of men ready to lead forlorn hopes, and as magnates they, at least, teach the middle class that there are modes of life more brilliant and many coloured, if not more virtuous, than the steady pursuit of bourgeois respectability. For four hundred years the Cavendishes have been gentlemen.