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the occasion-“Sire, I have brought a MOUSE to wait upon your Majesty.” To which the King answered with promptitude“ Then you do well to put me in the way of making a man of him ;" and immediately gave the fabulist a pension of 5001. a year.
In the year 1691 he took his seat for the first time in the House of Commons, and henceforward his conduct belongs more to the general entertainment of history, than the particular interest of these pages. For the scope of our plan, ample though it be, chiefly regards a notice of those men who were supereminent in their stations, or professions; and above all that portion of their lives by which they mainly earned their elevation. Now the political exertions of Charles, Earl of Halifax, had nothing in them to raise him above the level of most statesmen. In this capacity he will be found to have possessed those qualities without whịch no man can succeed in the career: prompt, active, and discerning; for the age in which he figured a very skilful financier; powerful in strengthening the pretensions of his own party, and pointed in discomfiting the measures of his opponents ; he was caressed when in office, and respected when out of it. The first question which he conspicuously advocated was that just and liberal one which proposed to extend to prisoners arraigned for high treason the benefit of counsel. The measure was carried with a very good grace, considering the circumstances of the period; and the discussion was marked by a very happy turn, in which Montague exemplified its propriety. In the midst of a very able speech in favour of the enactment, he became suddenly confused -lost the connexion of his ideas, and was for some moments unable to proceed. Recovering his self-possession, however, he very naturally observed, “ that he stood before them a convincing proof how reasonable it was to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of justice, when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could disconcert one of their own body."
After this period, he rose with great rapidity in honours, confidence, and office. First, he was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Treasury, next introduced to the Privy Council, and afterwards, in 1694, appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this trust he did himself much honour, and rendered the state
some particular services; first, by the attention he gave to the state of the currency, which, greatly worn and infamously clipped, had for a long time been reduced to an ebb of depreciation most prejudicial to commerce, and ruinous to public credit. This he called in with address, and again issued with great dispatch, in a better form; so that a new coin of standard value was in full circulation, within two years after the commencement of a reformation in its form and quantity. In 1696, he enjoyed great praise for having projected the general fund, a financial scheme, which, though it must cede in ingenuity to the expedients of modern times, was in his day deservedly well thought of, for it raised the character of the national credit in a very effective manner. These measures, and an inquiry he subsequently moved into the grants made of crown-lands in Ireland, were so highly appreciated by the Parliament and the people, that a vote passed the Commons, declaring, that Charles Montague, Esq. had deserved his Majesty's favour. So signal a confirmation of the deserts of his political services naturally led to still higher rewards. Thus we find him progressively first Commissioner of the Treasury in 1698; auditor of the Exchequer during the year after; and in the next year again, created Lord Halifax.
Fortune, however, is seldom constant, and popularity never consistent. The House of Commons, who had actually fathered his greatness, became dissatisfied with the creature of their own acclamations, when they saw it firmly elevated, and impeached his services; but the Lords, with more sense, refused to countenance an inquiry which arose out of clamour, and was never strengthened by facts. It is to this course of political eminence more than to any superiority in his compositions, that we are chiefly to ascribe the literary reputation of Lord Halifax. Unquestionably, he was less great as a poet, than as the patron of poets; and the charm of his celebrity in this capacity is to be traced to his own generosity, and the gratitude of his brothers on the lyre. Unlike many others who have advanced in life to a rank superior to that they started from, or originally studied to acquire, he always cherished a regard for his early pursuits; and as he was ever sensible of the difficulties and poverty that generally cloud its sunshine, and repress the ripening of its fruits; so he was never remiss in lightening the one, and assisting
the other : such generosity certainly may be allowed to extenuate flattery. Addison, Prior, Smith, Thomson, Tickell, and many others, too numerous to remember or particularize, were his intimate associates, even when most exalted, and were all complimented by him, advanced in place, or rewarded with money, as their wants or their wishes required. At no period in our history were literary men so much honoured, and their lucubrations so well recompensed, as immediately about the reign of William III.; and the praise of this discernment is to be given, above all others, to the Earl of Halifax. Not only the readiest, but the surest road to reputation at that period, was to dedicate to him ; it was in fact the passport of authority to public regard and private fortune. Hence it has been recorded without exaggeration, that Halifax lived upon dedications, and it is pleasing to be able to add, as was also admitted after his death, that no one encomiast went away disappointed and unrecompensed.
The accession of Queen Anne threw all those who had supported King William and a foreign influence back into the shade of privacy, and with them Halifax also was forced to retire. But though unemployed, he was not idle; and though not preferred, far from unimportant. The former opposition to his success now revived with a new flame, and the Commons again tendered articles of impeachment against him upon the old grounds; but for their old reasons the Lords also rejected them again He next appeared before the public at the head of the boisterous inquiry into the danger of the Church, but soon turned his mind to a more important concern. The political union between England and Scotland, which was consummated during this reign, was not only carried into effect under the direction of Lord Halifax, but is said to have been devised by his ingenuity.
The tide of fortune was now about to flow into its former bed, and he stood forward among the first who floated upon the stream. He led the party who passed the act for securing the protestant succession in the House of Hanover; and when the Court was obliged to confer the order of the Garter upon the elector, he was chosen as the ambassador who should invest it. Upon his return he was forward in obtaining the writ which summoned the elector to sit in Parliament as Duke of Cambridge; and when, soon after, his grace was invited to the
crown, Halifax received the full measure of royal favour. The order of the Garter which he had already presented to the new sovereign, the sovereign himself now returned to him, and with it added the patent of an earldom. He was immediately restored to his former power, by being reinstated in the Treasury as First Commissioner, and securing to his nephew the reversion of that more profitable post, the auditorship of the Exchequer. Higher he could not reasonably have expected to be raised: in place there was no one superior to him ; and as for honours, when heaped together at once, they fail in respectability. What additions, either of desert or distinction, time would have led' to, it is vain to conjecture, for he was spared for what be possessed but a short time. An inflammation seized on his lungs, and put a period to his life, on the 19th of May, 1715: but the gratitude of praise did not cease with the power of reward, and Halifax was lamented after his death by almost all who had eulogised him during life.
The following is the inscription upon his monument :
H. S. E.
In Agro Northantoniensi filius,
Ut inter nostratium primos
Tum Poetas, tum Oratores,
Pari tamen cum laude floreret;
Ex Academiæ Umbraculis
In publicum prodiret,
Mox & Præsidium.
In Consilio providentia
Ubi laborantibus Fisci rebus
Valori pristino restituit ;
Et tantæ molis opus
Et aggrederetur et absolveret,
Novis Titulis auxit:
Omni mente incumberet,
Medios inter conatus (Proh lubricam rerum humanarum sortem) Cum bonorum omnium luctu
Ætatis Suæ LIV.