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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

Shippen was nothing of a statesman


Shippen,

the leader of the Jacobites--"honest Shippen," as Pope calls him--we have often met already. He was a straightforward, unselfish man, absolutely given up to his principles and his party. He was well read and had written clever pamphlets and telling satirical verses. His speeches, or such reports of them as can be got at, are full of striking passages and impressive phrases; they are speeches which even now one cannot read without interest. But it would seem that Shippen often marred the effect of his ideas and his language by a rapid, careless, and imperfect delivery. He appears to have been one of the men who wanted nothing but a clear {290} articulation and effective utterance to be great Parliamentary debaters, and whom that single want condemned to comparative failure. Those who remember the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis, or, indeed, those who have heard the best speeches of Lord Sherbrooke, when he was Mr. Robert Lowe, can probably form a good idea of what Shippen was as a Parliamentary debater. Shippen was nothing of a statesman, and his occasional eccentricities of manner and conduct prevented him from obtaining all the influence which would otherwise have been fairly due to his talents and his political and personal integrity.

[Sidenote: 1729--The Hessians]

Pulteney's party had in Parliament the frequent, indeed for a time the habitual, assistance of Wyndham and of Shippen. Outside Parliament

Bolingbroke intrigued, wrote, and worked with the indomitable energy and restless craving for activity and excitement which, despite all his professions of love for philosophic quiet, had been his life-long characteristic. The _Craftsman_ was stimulated and guided much more directly by his inspiration than even by that of Pulteney. The _Craftsman_ kept showering out articles, letters, verses, epigrams, all intended to damage the ministry, and more especially to destroy the reputation of Walpole. All was fish that came into the _Craftsman's_ net. Every step taken by the Government, no matter what it might be, was made an occasion for ridicule, denunciation, and personal abuse. Not the slightest scruple was shown in the management of the _Craftsman_. If the policy of the Government seemed to tend towards a Continental war, the _Craftsman_ cried out for peace, and vituperated the minister who dared to think of involving England in the trumpery quarrels of foreign States. Walpole, however, we need hardly say, made it a set purpose of his administration to maintain peace on the Continent; and as soon as the patriots began to find out in each particular instance that his policy was still the same, they turned round and shrieked against the minister whose feebleness and cowardice were laying England at the feet of foreign alliances and Continental {291} despots. Walpole worked in cordial alliance with the French Government, the principal member of which was now Cardinal Fleury. It became the object of the _Craftsman_ to hold Walpole up to contempt and derision, as the dupe of a French cardinal and the sycophant of a French Court. The example of the _Craftsman_ was speedily followed by pamphleteers, caricaturists, satirists, and even ballad-mongers without end. London and the provinces were flooded with such literature. Walpole was described as "Sir Blue String," the blue string being a cheap satirical allusion to the blue ribbon which was supposed to adorn him as Knight of the Garter. He was styled Sir Robert Brass, Sir Robert Lynn, more often simple "Robin" or plain "Bob." He was pictured as a systematic promoter of public corruption, as one who fattened on the taxation wrung from the miserable English taxpayer. His personal character, his domestic life, his household expenses, the habits of his wife, his own social and other enjoyments, were coarsely criticised and lampooned. The _Craftsman_ and its imitators attacked not only Walpole himself, but Walpole's friends. The political satire of that day was as indiscriminate as it was unsparing. It was enough to be a political or even a personal friend of Walpole to become the object of the _Craftsman's_ fierce blows. Pulteney did not even scruple to betray the confidence of private conversation, and to disclose the words which, in some unguarded moments of former friendship, Walpole had spoken of George the Second when George was Prince of Wales.


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