LORD WOLSELEY'S " MARLBOROUGH." *- BISHOP MOBEBLY, comparing the respective influence or Bishop Ken and of Marlborough, once said : " If any man should attempt to gauge the influence—the real lasting in- fluence—of these two men, the real, essential, enduring power, the true weight on man, on his liberty, on his heart, on his prospects, on his real self, which, think you, has most truly' inherited this earth in power, the author of the Morning and Evening Hymns, or the conqueror of Blenheim P He whose simple words and few, not in themselves particularly able or particularly beautiful, whose simple words make, and have made, and no doubt will make, sweet Christian music in' the hearts of millions who have never heard his name ; or he whose station, ability, and success blazed before the world's eyes for a few years, and, their effects swept away after a time, then disappeared absolutely and for, ever."t That there is a considerable element of truth in these words can hardly be doubted. It is a kind of truth with which Bishop Moberly's sympathies are naturally stronger than Lord Wolseley's. Ken's influence has been felt in our time in other ways than through the morning and evening hymns. Nevertheless, when the assertion is made that Marlborough's deeds blazed before the world for a few% years, and that their effects have entirely disappeared, a difficult question is raised even if we merely consider the great campaigns against France. Who shall say what might have been the after history of the world, and its effect " OD man, on his liberty, on his heart, on his prospects, on his real self," if that attempted destruction of the German Empire by the very able Generals of Louis XIV., which was frustrated by the battle of Blenheim, had actually succeeded ? If the liberties of Europe bad been crashed under such a despotism as that of Louis XIV., it is scarcely possible, at all events, but that much in the course of the subsequent history of Europe would have been very different from what it has been.. This is true if we only contemplate the effect of Marlborough's work after he had become the dreaded enemy of France. It is, however, the chief purpose of the two volumes at present published of Lord Wolseley's Life of the great soldier, to put in a claim for Marlborough as the most efficient agent in events which have been perhaps of even greater influence upon man in all respects than those victories which broke the power of France at a time when her armies seemed to be almost irresist- ible, events which were in fact the essential preliminary to the victories themselves. So much discussion has taken place in regard to Marlborough's personal behaviour to James II., that it may be doubted whether the point which it is Lord Wolseley's object to urge in regard to his share in the Revolu- tion of 1688, has received adequate attention. Showing, by a more complete account of the Sedgemoor campaign than has hitherto been given us, that after it Lord Churchill, as he then • The Life of John Churchill. Dub of Marlborough ; to the Accession of Queen Anne. By General Viscount Wolseley, K.P. 2 vols. London : Richard Bentley and Son. 1894. t Sermons on the Beatitudes, quoted by Dean Pluraptre is his Life of Sem Vol. II., p. 273.
was, stood out as incomparably the most influential man in the English army, Lord Wolseley maintains that the Revolution could not possibly have succeeded, and would not have been attempted, without the co-operation of Churchill. If that be so, then, apart from all question of the correctness of his conduct, it can hardly be said that the effects of his deeds have disappeared "absolutely and for ever." What would have been the fate of England if James had succeeded, as with such an army as he had gathered, and with the assistance of Tyrconnel, it is by no means inconceivable that he might have succeeded, with the help of a man of such genius as Churchill, in suppressing all attempts at revolt against his tyranny P He was himself such an utterly rash and foolish man, that it is hardly possible to believe that he could have effected his purpose in the long-run, unless he had allowed himself to be guided by more skilful counsels.
But if Churchill had been ready to make himself the tool of such a master, for such a purpose, it is difficult, considering the state of the Kingdom at the time, not to think that he might have achieved his ends. James was much more nearly possessed of the physical force which made a despot of Henry VIII. than ever was Charles I. He had an available
army of 40,000 men. William could not land more than 12,000. His purse was full. He was a good economist and had his services in good order. It is not, therefore, quite fair, because the influence upon history of such men as Marlborough, is lost in the stream of events which has followed, and is not perpetually bubbling up into evidence, as must necessarily be the case with such a subtle force as that of Ken, to make a comparison, in which we quietly accept tl e advantages we have gained by the achieve- ments of the past, and ignore their effect upon us and upon the leaders of human thought. Here, as always,— "Young children gather as their own The harvest that the dead have sown,
The dead forgotten or unknown."
It is all very well for us to boast, as Tennyson puts it, that,— " Pricked by the Papal spur, we reared,
We flung the burden of the second James."
But the plain fact of the matter is that, though the whole country was undoubtedly most anxious to get rid of him, the " burden" was " flung " by the handful of noblemen who plotted with William for his overthrow. None of them were very scrupulous as to the means they used for that end, and it is tolerably safe to say that the particular infamy which has attached to the action of Churchill, on the ground that James had been his benefactor, is due chiefly to the hatred of the Jacobites because they knew that Marlborough was the most important agent in the whole transaction. What is cer- tain is, that had Marlborough chosen the line of preferring to
serve his master rather than the interests of his country at that time, his name would have been handed down to history, branded in blacker colours than any that his worst enemies have been able to stamp on it. There is every reason to think, as Lord Wolseley has taken pains to show, that Churchill really believed that he was sacrificing his interests to his duty in deciding to join William Lord Wolseley has apparently also established the case which he endeavours to make out; that, anxious as Churchill was to assist William in putting a stop to James's attempt to introduce Popery, he made no secret of his unwillingness to act in any way personally against his old master. Thus he seems to have abstained from voting in the House of Lords on the question of William's assumption of the Crown, and, if Lord Wolseley be right, it was by his own wish that he was not employed in Ireland as long as James was personally fighting in that country. Indeed, there are indications throughout, long before his treasonable correspondence with James began, of his having a kind of double allegiance ; towards William as the only possible ruler of England, and towards James as
his old master,—a master whom he could not wish to see in actual possession of power in England, but towards whom he
had by no means abandoned a certain feeling of personal loyalty.
To some extent the way in which this double feeling permeates Marlborough's correspondence and his recorded speeches, both during the beginning of the revolutionary period, and after William's accession, explains, though it does not justify, his expressions of wishes for William's success at a later period, when he had declared to James that he had fully returned to his old loyalty to him. Lord Wolseley, however, in regard to the correspondence with James, abandons all attempt to defend it, believing it to be merely designed to impose upon James, and solely written for the purpose of securing his own safety in the event of a counter-revolution. He has no other plea to offer in mitigation of the charge, than that it was the almost universal practice of all the statesmen round William, so that there is no excuse for singling out Marlborough as below the standard of his time in that matter. William was more afraid of him than of any one else, and therefore, when the danger became imminent, made an example of him by depriving him of all his offices, and ultimately sending him to the Tower.
The most serious charge of all against Marlborough is that of his having given the first notice to James of the English attack upon Brest. Lord Macaulay has increased the gravity of the charge by alleging that Marlborough's motive was a wish to get rid of his only dangerous rival as an English soldier, General Tollemache. Lord Wolseley has used largely a study of the subject, made in a volume called Paradoxes and Puzzles, in which the evidence has been very skilfully dealt with. He has, however, added some information from other sources, and has, on the whole, cleared up the facts admirably. Lord Wolseley has shown conclusively that full information in relation to the operation had been received by Louis XIV. from three weeks to a month before Marlborough's letter reached Versailles, and that Marlborough's only knowledge about the expedition was obtained from Godolphin, whom Marlborough knew to be in secret correspondence with St. Germaine. The inference is that Marlborough was well aware that he was only conveying information which had already reached the French King from a source more authentic than that of a discarded servant of William's. For these reasons Lord Wolseley maintains that the only possible explanation is that Marlborough's motive in this case, as in the others, was to make James believe in his unscrupulous loyalty to him (James). Had the destruc- tion of Tollemache been his object, he set about it in a very clumsy fashion, which was very unlike him. For, knowing that James would get the news in ample time, it would for that purpose have been better for him himself not to have appeared in the matter. The only motive which could make him anxious to be known as the informant, was that of gaining James's confidence. At best, it must be admitted that the defence does not put Marlborough's doings in a pleasant light; nor does Lord Wolseley attempt to defend them. It does relieve Marlborough from what would be, for him, the far graver charge that he had designed to ruin an English expedition, and by his treachery to sacrifice the lives of English sailors and soldiers.
What with many people, however, weighs most heavily against Marlborough, is the fact that he left behind him a fortune of some £700,000. The suspicion that he had some dealings with his contractors, which enabled him to accumu- late so vast a sum, was felt strongly by his contemporaries, and has been repeated again and again. To deal directly with this charge would be beyond the scope of the present volumes. But Lord Wolseley does so far look forward into the after time as to point out, as Mr. Leslie Stephen has also
done in his admirable article in the Dictionary of National Biography, that Marlborough's accusers were most anxious to
have established the case against him, and that, being in
possession of power, while he was disgraced and had many enemies, they completely failed to do so. In presence of Lady Marlborough's challenge, put forward during her life- time, they failed to produce a single witness who could say that he had paid a bribe to her or to her husband. The habit of miserly economy, which had become unquestionably engrained in him from his earliest youth, would, if we may trust many analogies in our own day, be sufficient to account for the fact that, receiving an income as he did for fully ten years of at least £60,000, and being, as Lord Wolseley has shown that he was, very successful in his in- vestments, he accumulated this sum. Most of the great fortunes that have been made in our own time have been made by men who did not spend. Marlborough certainly made a great coup during one of the manias of his time, and for his shares in the Hudson Bay Company was receiving from 10 to 50 per cent., according to the statement of Sir Donald Smith, the present Governor. Although the period of-Marlborough's life with which-these volumes deal, does not include any of the time of his greater military services, Lord Wolseley has considerable scope in -them for throwing light upon military operations which had been somewhat obscure. Both in regard to the Monmouth Rebellion and the expedition for the capture of Cork and Kinsale, he has closely studied the ground and local traditions on the spot, so that, applying his military knowledge to these campaigns, he has made the account of them much more lively and intelligible than any we have hitherto had. Simi- larly, he has worked out with great care his record of Marlborough's early services under Turenne, and the dis- tinguished part which he played in the expedition ender Waldeck in Flanders. Altogether, he has done much to clear up many obscure points in the life of one of the most important characters in English History. He has made it possible to believe in Marlborough as a living man, yielding often to the same temptations as most of his leading contem- poraries, daring a period when it was peculiarly difficult to be in high public office and to run straight ; tempted especially by his own marvellous faculty for subtle negotiation or intrigue ; but for all that, not incapable of choosing what seemed to him to be the path of duty rather than of interest. Re has shown that the "cold heart" which has been freely attributed to Marlborough is quite incompatible with what we know of his love for his wife, for his children, for animals, with his loathing of enmity, and with his whole character. His cool head and his acceptance of the standard of political morality around him are sufficient to account for his worst actions. The reproaches of his contemporaries are for the most part very much like those of the Yankee sharpers for the "Heathen Chinee " who outwitted them. Lastly, for better or worse, the part that he played in history was a great one. Though he sinned much, many a one who has avoided his offences has owed to him the liberty which has made virtue easy. To bring out the facts about such a man, covered as as he has been by the abuse of centuries, was worth doing, and, though it is not difficult to see in certain parts that the book has, as Lord Wolseley pleads, been written in the odd moments of a busy life, it has been well done, at the expense of vast labour, and with indefatigable re- search. In the course of his work, Lord Wolseley has given us some very vigorous and lively historical portraits. Of these, not to mention Marlborough or Sarah, those of Louis XIV. and William III. seem to us the best. He does full justice to William, but does not merely idealise him as Macaulay has done. We have also some very trenchant general criticisms of the military mistakes of former days, the edge of which is obviously intended to turn towards those of our own times. The very beautiful illustrations are pro- duced by the Goupilgravnre process, and are certainly very successful. The book in its general get-up does great credit to the publishers, though in some pages of it we are reminded of a complaint once made by Julius Hare that the printers thad "thrown a shower of commas over his work."