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the same fierceness of zeal and fury of contention are to be traced throughout this altercation, in which Atterbury espoused the side of the high ecclesiastics, and was rewarded for his labours by the thanks of the lower house of Convocation, and a degree of Doctor in Divinity from the University of Oxford.
Atterbury was an invincible Tory, and as such came in for no stinted share of the wealth and promotions, by which that party in politics were favoured during the reign of Queen Anne. After being first confirmed in his appointment of Chaplain in Ordinary, other preferments quickly took place, and in the following order :--he was made Dean of Carlisle in 1704; a Canon in the Cathedral of Exeter, during the year 1707; and in 1709, in consequence of the assiduous enthusiasm with which he continued to cultivate the oratory of the pulpit, enjoyed the honour of being nominated preacher at the Roll's Chapel. But no avocation was sufficiently comprehensive to divert bis avidity for controversies, and he engaged during the course of the same year in a fresh disquisition with Hoadley, concerning the doctrine of passive obedience. An active part in the defence of Sacheverell, and the duties of Prolocutor to the lower house of Convocation next occupied a portion of his time; and he also found leisure to compose a pamphlet entitled a “ Representation of the present state of Religion," which, though considered too violent for presentation to the Queen, was notwithstanding dispersed without a name into private circulation. The fortune of advancement now ran on to its climax; in 1712 he became Dean of Christ's Church, Oxford; and in 1713, at the recommendation of the Earl of Oxford, attained his highest dignity, the Bishopric of Rochester, to which was superadded a no less valuable promotion, in the Deanery of Westminster.
Such was the rank of Atterbury in the year 1714, when the death of Anne not only put a period to all further prospects of ambition, but in its consequences unhinged the prosperity he had hitherto deserved. The new monarch was no sooner seated on the throne, than a report was circulated affirming that, upon the queen’s death, Atterbury had waited upon the lords Bolingbroke and Harcourt, and had urged to them an instantaneous proclamation of the Pretender, boldly offering to head the procession in his lawn slecves. This story was promptly whispered to the ears of George, and it was not likely that one who joined a sound spirit for hating with the sullenness of a German, would be at any great trouble to disguise his feelings. Accordingly, the king soon evinced a marked dislike to the bishop, and the latter acknowledged the manifestation by every means of opposition to the Government within his power. He harangued upon every occasion against the Ministry with vehemence ; set his name to every protest against their acts in the House of Lords; and upon the explosion of the Scotch rebellion in 1715, stamped a seal upon the character of his disaffection, by refusing to concur in the loyal address of the bishops. Oil could not have burned with greater avidity than the inflammable temper of Atterbury now raged in hostility. In the rancour of resentment, he even suspended a curate at Gravesend, for allowing the use of his church to one of the chaplains to the Dutch troops, who had been brought over to assist in quelling the tumult of treason. The feelings which led to this conduct, in the natural routine of things soon spirited excesses of a more dangerous nature; so that after being for a time suspected of too much favour for the dethroned family, the bishop was at length arrested upon a charge of conspiracy, and after an examination before the Council, committed to the Tower. This occurred in the month of August, 1722: after the lapse of a fortnight he took advantage of the sessions at the Old Bailey to submit a motion to the judges in the commission, which was founded on the affidavit of his daughter, Mrs. Morice, and upon the plea of bad health, prayed for one of three things--a speedy trial, leave to put in bail, or an immediate discharge. The application was over-ruled, and he was left without any immediate prospect of relief until the next meeting of parliament.
This latter event took place on the ninth day of the October following, and the public business was opened by a speech from the King in person, which mainly consisted of a peremptory denunciation of the conspiracy, coupled with an expatiatory eulogy upon the integrity of the existing Government, and a bitter invective against the implacable madness of the disaffected. Although among the people some sympathies had been expressed, and among the clergy a strong indignation had been vented at the moment of the bishop's confinement; and although prayers had been offered up for his health in almost all the churches in the metropolis, still this decision of the Ministry seemed to augur but ill for his cause. A plan of the conspiracy was forth with laid before the House of Commons, by the particulars of which it was made to appear, that an invasion of the kingdom under the Duke of Ormond had been designed; that a popish pretender was to have been forced on the throne; that the plot had been defeated by the vigilance of the Ministry; but that, notwithstanding, many agents had since then been employed to corrupt and seduce the army and navy; and finally, that the Dukes of Norfolk and Ormond, the Earl of Orrery, Lords North and Grey, and the Bishop of Rochester, appeared by several letters and circumstances, to be concerned in the conspiracy. In the month of March, a bill of pains and penalties was introduced into the House of Commons, against which Atterbury declined to offer any opposition, importing in a letter to the Speaker, that conscious of innocence he would content himself with one defence, and that before the house of which he had the honour to be a member. Towards the close of April, the bill was sent up to the Lords, and, before them, the business assumed more of the form of a trial. In the lower House the Tories had declined voting, but in the upper one, the party vehemently contested the accusation. The main point was supported by the evidence of some clerks in the Post Office, who, though unacquainted with the bishop's writing, yet swore to a similarity of penmanship under his name for four successive months. The opposition to the bill was signalised by a great display of argument and eloquence, and was closed by a defence from Atterbury, in which he unequivocally denied the identity of the writing, and fully maintained the reputation of his character by the firmness with which he behaved, and the acute ability with which he spoke. But the ministerial majority was in no degree shaken by these circumstances; the bill passed into law, and he was deprived of all offices and benefits, and condemned to perpetual exile, with a provision of death in case he infringed upon the sentence-which latter penalty was extended to all who should correspond with or abet him; while no subject was permitted to visit him, without an express authority under the sign manual.
Atterbury left England for France in the month of June 1723, and, after a sojourn at Brussels, fixed his residence, and spent the remainder of his life at Paris. There he professed a resignation to his fate, and an abnegation of worldly cares, the sincerity of which was doubted while yet he lived, and disproved after his death, when a series of letters, written about the year 1725, to foment an insurrection in the Highlands, were published at Edinburg ;-productions, the authenticity of which, it is to be remarked, has never been called in question. These were the importunities of a waning ambition, and were, in some measure, honourably softened by efficient study and literary correspondence. His favourite daughter, Mrs. Morice, the sole companion of his banishment, (for he lost his wise the year before his imprisonment), expired in his arms in 1729, and his strength underwent a severe shock at the event. He recovered a becoming degree of composure, however, and conducted himself in peaceful reputability until the month of February 1731, when a violent fit of illness put a period to his degradation. The interest of his friends was powerfully exerted to obtain some distinction for his remains, and they succeeded so far as to procure a private interment of the body in Westminster Abbey
Upon the character of Bishop Atterbury, no disquisition need be required from his biographer, inasmuch as the whole tenor of his life incontestably shows that he was one of those proud and daring mortals, whom the Mahometan alone can desire to see invested with the exemplary offices of religion. Ever restless in zeal, and climbing in ambition, he had as little charity for an opponent in controversy, as for a foe in politics. But if his resentment was fierce, it must also be stated that his attachment was strong; and therefore however deep the censure of his enemies, it is met by as high praises from his friends, who were chosen from among the most gifted rank of his day. His address was commanding, his management dextrous, and his duplicity fine; he always professed nobly, but occasionally designed badly, and by consequence his reputation often exceeded his merits.
With regard to his impeachment, two points seem to be now established beyond dispute; the first, that he certainly vas culpably leagued against the existing Government; and the second, that the proceedings against him were arbitrary and unconstitutional in the extreme. This statement may at a first reflection appear rather inconsistent and inconsequential; but the facts are these : the sources of our conviction of his guilt are of posthumous origin, while the grounds upon which he was condemned were little better than obnoxiousness and hearsay. As to his literary pretensions, they were, undoubtedly respectable: his mind was talented, and his education polished. The celebrity which his friends deservedly possessed, reflected some rays of greater brightness upon his name than his own deserts could have distinctly elicited, but time always softens such a light, and Bishop Atterbury is now to be chiefly respected as an engaging preacher, and an elegant letter-writer. In criticism, he was oftener tasteful than correct; and in controversy, oftener pointed than profound; in both, consequently, he has so many superiors, that his essays in those branches of knowledge must, at this period, be considered rather as resources of popularity than means of fame. To one matter more it may be proper to allude, and to that, only because it has been noticed by former biographers. Pope asserts that, at one period of his life, Atterbury was sceptical in that belief of which he was so laborious an advocate, but that he was afterwards confirmed in its principles, and derived his only consolation from them in adversity. His pathetic gift of a bible to Pope, upon the occasion of their parting at the Tower, is well known, and supplies a satisfactory proof of a matured attachment to its doctrines. Less judicious writers have affected to question the solidity of his Protestantism, because he conspired to restore a Catholic family; but there is no force in the remark, and it may be further affirmed, that it were well for mankind if no connexion whatever were admitted between politics and religion, for in nine cases out of ten the one debauches the other. This sketch of the life of Atterbury affords some reasons for their disunion; for, had that prelate confined his abilities to the concerns of his ministry, or rather had he not been mixed up by its very duties with secular interests, the benefit rendered by him to his profession and his country, would have been influential and uncontaminated, whereas, in the alloy of two conflicting pursuits, he can only be ranked as an eminent man, with many detractions from purity.