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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

Bolingbroke sought out Marlborough


There

seems good reason to believe that the Duke of {104} Marlborough, by a master-stroke of treachery, avenged himself on Bolingbroke at this crisis in Bolingbroke's fortunes, and decided the flight to Paris. Bolingbroke sought out Marlborough, and appealing to the memories of their old friendship, begged for advice and assistance. Marlborough professed the utmost concern for Bolingbroke, and gave him to understand that it was agreed upon between the Ministers of the Crown and the Dutch Government that Bolingbroke was to be brought to the scaffold. Marlborough pretended to have certain knowledge of this, and he told Bolingbroke that his only chance was in flight. Bolingbroke fled, and thereby seemed to admit in advance all the accusations of his enemies and to abandon his friends to their mercy. One of Bolingbroke's biographers appears to consider that on the whole this was well done by Marlborough, and that it was only a fair retaliation on Bolingbroke. In any case, it is clear that Bolingbroke acted in strict consistency with the principles on which he had moulded his public and private life; he consulted for himself first of all. It may have been necessary for his own safety that he should fly from the threatening storm, It is certain that he had bitter and unrelenting enemies. These would not have spared him if they could have made out a case against him. No one but Bolingbroke himself could know to the full how much of a case there was against him. But his flight, if
it saved himself, might have been fatal to those who were in league with him for the return of the Stuarts. If he had stood firm, it is probable that his enemies would not have been able to prevail any further against him than they were able to prevail in his absence against Harley, whom his flight so seriously compromised. Nobody needs to be told that the one last hope for conspirators whose plans are being discovered is for all in the plot to stand together or all to fly together. Bolingbroke does not seem to have given his associates any chance of considering the position and making up their minds.

[Sidenote: 1715--The Committee of Secrecy]

A committee of secrecy was struck. It was composed {105} of twenty-one members, and the hearts of Bolingbroke's friends may well have sunk within them as they studied the names upon its roll. Many of its members were conscientious Whigs--Whigs of conviction, eaten up with the zeal of their house, like James Stanhope himself, and Spencer Cowper and Lord Coningsby and young Lord Finch and Pulteney, now in his period of full devotion to Walpole. There were Whig lawyers, like Lechmere; there were steady, obtuse Whigs, like Edward Wortley Montagu, husband of the brilliant and beautiful woman whom Pope first loved and then hated. There was Aislabie, then Treasurer of the Navy, afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came to disgrace at the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, and who would at any time have elected to go with the strongest, and loved to tread the path lighted


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