George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax

George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax

Overview

George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax PC
Privy Council of England
The Privy Council of England, also known as His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England...

 (11 November 1633 – 5 April 1695) was an English statesman, writer, and politician.

He was born in Thornhill, West Yorkshire
Thornhill, West Yorkshire
Thornhill, is a village in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, England. Thornhill was absorbed into Dewsbury County Borough in 1910. It is located on a hill on the south side of the River Calder, and has extensive views of Dewsbury, Ossett and Wakefield...

 the great-grandson of Sir George Savile of Lupset and Thornhill (created baronet in 1611). He was the eldest son of Sir William Savile, 3rd baronet
Sir William Savile, 3rd Baronet
Sir William Savile, 3rd Baronet was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1640 and 1642. He fought on the Royalist side in the English Civil War and was killed in action....

, who distinguished himself in the civil war
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 in the royalist cause and who died in 1644, and of Anne Coventry, eldest daughter of Lord Keeper Coventry.
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Quotations

Our nature hardly allows us to have enough of anything without having too much.

On Gilbert Burnet|Dr. Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715), Bishop of Salisbury : as cited in The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors: 1639-1729 , ed. Charles Wells Moulton, H. Malkan (1910) p. 591

Every single Act either weakeneth or improveth our Credit with other Men ; and as an habit of being just to our Word will confirm, so an habit of too freely dispensing with it must necessarily destroy it.

The Anatomy of an Equivalent : from The Complete Works of George Savile, First Marquess of Halifax (1912), ed. Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, Clarendon Press p. 123

A Husband without Faults is a dangerous Observer.

In your Clothes avoid too much Gaudy ; do not value your self upon an Imbroidered Gown ; and remember, that a reasonable Word, or an obliging Look, will gain you more respect, than all your fine Trappings.

Remember that Children and Fools want every thing because they want Wit to distinguish: and therefore there is no stronger Evidence of a Crazy Understanding, than the making too large a Catalogue of things necessary, when in truth there are so very few things that have a right to be placed in it.

A Princely Mind will undo a private Family.

Love is a Passion that hath Friends in the Garrison.

The Triumph of Wit is to make your good Nature subdue your Censure; to be quick in seeing Faults, and slow in exposing them. You are to consider, that the invisible thing called a Good Name, is made up of the Breath of Numbers that speak well of you; so that if by a disobliging Word you silence the meanest, the Gale will be less strong which is to bear up your Esteem.

The sight of a drunkard is a better sermon against that vice than the best that was ever preached on that subject.

A very great Memory often forgetteth how much Time is lost by repeating things of no Use.

On Charles II of England|King Charles II’s memory.
Encyclopedia

George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax PC
Privy Council of England
The Privy Council of England, also known as His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England...

 (11 November 1633 – 5 April 1695) was an English statesman, writer, and politician.

Family and early life, 1633–1667


He was born in Thornhill, West Yorkshire
Thornhill, West Yorkshire
Thornhill, is a village in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, England. Thornhill was absorbed into Dewsbury County Borough in 1910. It is located on a hill on the south side of the River Calder, and has extensive views of Dewsbury, Ossett and Wakefield...

 the great-grandson of Sir George Savile of Lupset and Thornhill (created baronet in 1611). He was the eldest son of Sir William Savile, 3rd baronet
Sir William Savile, 3rd Baronet
Sir William Savile, 3rd Baronet was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1640 and 1642. He fought on the Royalist side in the English Civil War and was killed in action....

, who distinguished himself in the civil war
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 in the royalist cause and who died in 1644, and of Anne Coventry, eldest daughter of Lord Keeper Coventry. He was thus nephew of Sir William Coventry
William Coventry
-Early life and Civil War:William was the son of the lord keeper Thomas Coventry, 1st Baron Coventry, by his second wife Elizabeth Aldersley. Coventry matriculated at Queens College, Oxford, at the age of fourteen...

, who is said to have influenced his political opinions, and of Lord Shaftesbury, afterwards his most bitter opponent, and great-nephew of the Earl of Strafford
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford was an English statesman and a major figure in the period leading up to the English Civil War. He served in Parliament and was a supporter of King Charles I. From 1632 to 1639 he instituted a harsh rule as Lord Deputy of Ireland...

; by his marriage with the Lady Dorothy Spencer
Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax
Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax was the first wife of George Savile, 1st Viscount Halifax and the daughter of Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland...

, he was brother-in-law to Lord Sunderland
Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland
Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland KG, PC was an English statesman and nobleman.-Life:Born in Paris, son of Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland, Spencer inherited his father's peerage dignities at the age of three, becoming Baron Spencer of Wormleighton and Earl of Sunderland...

.

He was educated at Shrewsbury School
Shrewsbury School
Shrewsbury School is a co-educational independent school for pupils aged 13 to 18, founded by Royal Charter in 1552. The present campus to which the school moved in 1882 is located on the banks of the River Severn in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England...

 and entered public life with all the advantages of lineage, political connections, great wealth and estates, and uncommon abilities. He was elected member of the Convention Parliament for Pontefract
Pontefract (UK Parliament constituency)
Pontefract was an English parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Pontefract in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons briefly in the 13th century and again from 1621 until 1885, and one member from 1885 to 1974.-In the unreformed...

 in 1660, and this was his only appearance in the Lower House. The Duke of York
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 sought a peerage for him in 1665, but was successfully opposed by Clarendon
Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon
Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon was an English historian and statesman, and grandfather of two English monarchs, Mary II and Queen Anne.-Early life:...

, on the ground of his "ill-reputation amongst men of piety and religion." The chancellor’s real motives may have been Savile’s connection with Buckingham
George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham
George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, 20th Baron de Ros of Helmsley, KG, PC, FRS was an English statesman and poet.- Upbringing and education :...

 and Coventry. The honors were, however, only deferred for a short time and were obtained after the fall of Clarendon on 31 December 1667, when Savile was created Baron Savile of Eland and Viscount Halifax.

Halifax was twice married, first in 1656 to the Lady Dorothy Spencer
Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax
Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax was the first wife of George Savile, 1st Viscount Halifax and the daughter of Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland...

 — daughter of the Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland
Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland
Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland, 3rd Baron Spencer of Wormleighton , known as The Lord Spencer between 1636 and June 1643, was an English peer who fought and died in the English civil war on the side of the Cavaliers.Henry was born at Althorp to William Spencer, 2nd Baron Spencer and was...

 and of Dorothy Sidney
Dorothy Spencer, Countess of Sunderland
Dorothy Spencer, Countess of Sunderland was the wife of Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland and the daughter of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester....

, "Sacharissa" — who died in 1670, leaving a family; and secondly, in 1672, to Gertrude, daughter of William Pierrepont of Thoresby, who survived him, and by whom he had one daughter, Elizabeth, who seems to have inherited a considerable portion of her father’s intellectual abilities. On the death of his son William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax
William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax
William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax was the son of George Savile, 1st Viscount Halifax and Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax . He was educated in Geneva in 1677 and matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford in 1681, but did not take a degree. He travelled on the continent in 1684–1687,...

, in August 1700 without male issue, the peerage became extinct, and the baronetcy passed to the Saviles of Lupset, the whole male line of the Savile family ending in the person of Sir George Savile, 8th baronet, in 1784. Henry Savile, British envoy at Versailles
Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

, who died unmarried in 1687, was a younger brother of the first marquess. Halifax has been generally supposed to have been the father of the illegitimate Henry Carey
Henry Carey (writer)
Henry Carey was an English poet, dramatist and song-writer. He is remembered as an anti-Walpolean satirist and also as a patriot. Several of his melodies continue to be sung today, and he was widely praised in the generation after his death...

, the poet, but this is doubtful.

Children with Lady Dorothy Spencer
Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax
Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax was the first wife of George Savile, 1st Viscount Halifax and the daughter of Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland...

:
  • Lady Anne Savile b. 1663, d. c Jan 1689/90
  • William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax
    William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax
    William Savile, 2nd Marquess of Halifax was the son of George Savile, 1st Viscount Halifax and Dorothy Savile, Viscountess Halifax . He was educated in Geneva in 1677 and matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford in 1681, but did not take a degree. He travelled on the continent in 1684–1687,...

     b. 1665, d. 31 Aug 1700


Child with Gertrude Pierrepont:
  • Lady Elizabeth Savile d.c 7 Sep 1708

Member of Parliament, 1668–1680


He supported zealously the anti-French policy formulated in the Triple Alliance
Triple Alliance of 1668
The Triple Alliance of England, Sweden, and the United Provinces was formed to halt the expansion of Louis XIV's France in the War of Devolution. The alliance never engaged in combat against France, but it was enough of a threat to force Louis to halt his offensive and sign the Treaty of...

 of January 1668. He was created a privy councillor
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 in 1672, and, while it is believed that he was ignorant of the secret clauses in the Treaty of Dover, was chosen envoy to negotiate terms of peace with Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 and the Dutch
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 at Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

. His mission was still further deprived of importance by Arlington
Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington
Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington KG, PC was an English statesman.- Background and early life :He was the son of Sir John Bennet of Dawley, Middlesex, and of Dorothy Crofts. He was the younger brother of John Bennet, 1st Baron Ossulston; his sister was Elizabeth Bennet who married Robert Kerr,...

 and Buckingham (who were in the king's counsels,) who anticipated his arrival and took the negotiations out of his hands. Though he signed the compact, Halifax claimed no share in the harsh terms imposed upon the Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, and henceforth became a bitter opponent of the policy of subservience to French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 interests and of the Roman Catholic claims.

Test Act and the Catholic Question, 1673–1678


He took an active part in Parliament's passage of the Test Act
Test Act
The Test Acts were a series of English penal laws that served as a religious test for public office and imposed various civil disabilities on Roman Catholics and Nonconformists...

 of 1673, and thereby forfeited his friendship with James. In 1674 he brought forward a motion for disarming "popish recusants," and supported one by Lord Carlisle
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle was an English politician and military leader.The first in the Howard line of earls, he was the son and heir of Sir William Howard, of Naworth in Cumberland, by Mary, daughter of William, Lord Eure, and great-grandson of Lord William Howard, "Belted Will" , the...

 for restricting the marriages in the royal family to Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

; but he opposed the bill introduced by Lord Danby
Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds
Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds, KG , English statesman , served in a variety of offices under Kings Charles II and William III of England.-Early life, 1632–1674:The son of Sir Edward Osborne, Bart., of Kiveton, Yorkshire, Thomas Osborne...

 in 1675, that imposed a test oath on officials and members of parliament, speaking "with that quickness, learning and elegance that are inseparable from all his discourses," and ridiculing the multiplication of oaths, since "no man would ever sleep with open doors. . . should all the town be sworn not to rob." He was now on bad terms with Danby, and a witty sally at that minister’s expense caused his dismissal from the council in January 1676. In 1678 he took an active part in the investigation of the "Popish Plot
Popish Plot
The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy concocted by Titus Oates that gripped England, Wales and Scotland in Anti-Catholic hysteria between 1678 and 1681. Oates alleged that there existed an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the execution of at...

," to which he appears to have given excessive credence, but opposed the bill that was passed on 30 October 1678, to exclude Roman Catholics from the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

.

Privy Councillor, 1679–1680


In 1679, after Danby's fall from grace, Halifax became a member of the newly constituted privy council. With Charles, who had at first "kicked at his appointment," he quickly became a favorite, his lively and "libertine" conversation being named by Bishop Gilbert Burnet
Gilbert Burnet
Gilbert Burnet was a Scottish theologian and historian, and Bishop of Salisbury. He was fluent in Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Burnet was respected as a cleric, a preacher, and an academic, as well as a writer and historian...

 as his chief attraction for the king. His dislike of the Duke of York and of the crypto-Catholic tendencies of the court did not induce him to support the rash attempt of Lord Shaftesbury to substitute the illegitimate Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch, KG, PC , was an English nobleman. Originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy, he was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter...

 for James in the succession. He feared Shaftesbury’s ascendancy in the national councils and foresaw nothing but civil war and confusion as a result of his scheme. He declared against the exclusion of James, was made an Earl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

 in 1679, and was one of the "Triumvirate" which now directed public affairs. He assisted in passing into law the Habeas Corpus Act
Habeas Corpus Act 1679
The Habeas Corpus Act 1679 is an Act of the Parliament of England passed during the reign of King Charles II by what became known as the Habeas Corpus Parliament to define and strengthen the ancient prerogative writ of habeas corpus, whereby persons unlawfully detained cannot be ordered to be...

. According to Sir William Temple he showed great severity in putting the laws against the Roman Catholics into force. In 1680 he voted against the execution of Lord Stafford.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1675.

The Trimmer, 1680–1682


Halifax's whole policy had been successfully directed towards uniting all parties with the object of frustrating Shaftesbury’s plans. He opened communications with the Prince of Orange
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

, and the king's illness called for summoning James from Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

. Monmouth was compelled to retire to Holland, and Shaftesbury was dismissed. On the other hand, while Halifax was so far successful, James was given an opportunity of establishing a new influence at the court. It was with great difficulty that his retirement to Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 was at last effected; the ministers lost the confidence and support of the "country party," and Halifax, fatigued and ill, at the close of this year, retired to his family home at Rufford Abbey
Rufford Abbey
Rufford Abbey is an estate in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England. It was originally a Cistercian abbey. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century it became a country house...

. He returned in September 1680 on the occasion of the introduction of the Exclusion Bill
Exclusion Bill
The Exclusion Crisis ran from 1678 through 1681 in the reign of Charles II of England. The Exclusion Bill sought to exclude the king's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he was Roman Catholic...

 in the Lords. The debate that followed, one of the most famous in the annals of parliament, became a duel of oratory between Halifax and his uncle Shaftesbury, the finest two speakers of the day, watched by the Lords, the Commons at the bar, and the king, who was present. It lasted seven hours. Halifax spoke sixteen times, and at last, regardless of the menaces of the more violent supporters of the bill, who closed round him, vanquished his opponent. The rejection of the bill by a majority of 33 was attributed by all parties entirely to the eloquence of Halifax. His conduct transformed the allegiance to him of the Whigs
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

 into bitter hostility, the Commons immediately petitioning the king to remove him from his councils for ever, while any favor which he might have regained with James was forfeited by his subsequent approval of the regency scheme.

He retired to Rufford again in January 1681, but was present at the Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 parliament, and in May returned suddenly to public life and held for a year the chief control of affairs. Shaftesbury's arrest on 2 July was attributed to his influence, but in general, during the period of Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 reaction, he seems to have urged a policy of conciliation and moderation to the king. He opposed James’s return from Scotland and, about this time (September), made a characteristic but futile attempt to persuade the Duke to attend the services of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and thus to end all difficulties. He renewed relations with the Prince of Orange, who in July paid a visit to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 to seek support against the French designs upon Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

. The influence of Halifax procured for the Dutch a formal assurance from Charles of his support; but the king informed the French ambassador that he had no intention of fulfilling his engagements, and made another secret treaty with Louis. In 1682, Halifax opposed James’s prosecution of the Earl of Argyll
Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll
Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll was a Scottish peer.He was born in 1629 in Dalkeith, Scotland, the son of Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll....

, arousing further hostility in the duke, while the same year he was challenged to a duel by Monmouth, who attributed to him his disgrace.

Withdrawal from politics, 1682–1689


His short tenure of power ended with the return of James in May. Outwardly he still retained the king’s favour and was advanced to a marquessate in August and to the office of Lord Privy Seal
Lord Privy Seal
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

 in October. Being still a member of the administration, he must share responsibility for the attack now made upon the municipal franchises, especially as the new charters passed his office. In January 1684 he was one of the commissioners "who supervise all things concerning the city and have turned out those persons who are whiggishly inclined." He made honorable but vain endeavours to save Algernon Sidney and Lord Russell
William Russell, Lord Russell
William Russell, Lord Russell was an English politician. He was a leading member of the Country Party, forerunners of the Whigs, who opposed the succession of James II during the reign of Charles II, ultimately resulting in his execution for treason.-Early life and marriage:Russell was the third...

. "My Lord Halifax," declared Tillotson
John Tillotson
John Tillotson was an Archbishop of Canterbury .-Curate and rector:Tillotson was the son of a Puritan clothier at Haughend, Sowerby, Yorkshire. He entered as a pensioner of Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 1647, graduated in 1650 and was made fellow of his college in 1651...

 in his evidence before the later inquiry, "showed a very compassionate concern for my Lord Russell and all the readiness to serve them that could be wished." The Rye House Plot
Rye House Plot
The Rye House Plot of 1683 was a plan to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother James, Duke of York. Historians vary in their assessment of the degree to which details of the conspiracy were finalized....

, in which it was sought to implicate them, was a disastrous blow to his policy, and in order to counteract its consequences he entered into somewhat perilous negotiations with Monmouth, and endeavoured to effect his reconciliation with the king. On 12 February 1684, he procured the release of his old antagonist, Lord Danby. Shortly afterwards his influence at the court revived. Charles was no longer in receipt of his French pension and was beginning to tire of James and Rochester
Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester
Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester KG PC was an English statesman and writer. He was originally a supporter of James II but later supported the Glorious Revolution in 1688.-Early life:...

. The latter, instead of becoming lord treasurer, was, according to the epigram of Halifax which has become proverbial, "kicked upstairs," to the office of Lord President of the Council
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

. Halifax now worked to establish better relations between Charles and the Prince of Orange and opposed the abrogation of the recusancy laws. In a debate in the cabinet of November 1684, on the question of the grant of a fresh constitution to the New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 colonies, he urged with great warmth "that there could be no doubt whatever but that the same laws which are in force in England should also be established in a country inhabited by Englishmen and that an absolute government is neither so happy nor so safe as that which is tempered by laws and which sets bounds to the authority of the prince," and declared that he could not "live under a king who should have it in his power to take, whenever he thought proper, the money he has in his pocket." The opinions thus expressed were opposed by all the other ministers and highly censured by Louis XIV, James and Judge George Jeffreys
George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys
George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC , also known as "The Hanging Judge", was an English judge. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor .- Early years and education :Jeffreys was born at the family estate of Acton Hall, near Wrexham,...

.

Opposition to James II, 1685–1688



At James's accession, Halifax was deprived of much of his power and relegated to the presidency of the council. He showed no compliance with James’s preferences. He was opposed to the parliamentary grant to the king of a revenue for life; he promoted the treaty of alliance with the Dutch in August 1685; and he expostulated with the king on the subject of the illegal commissions in the army given to Roman Catholics. Finally, on his firm refusal to support the repeal of the Test and Habeas Corpus Acts, he was dismissed, and his name was struck out of the list of the privy council. He corresponded with the Prince of Orange, conferred with Dykveldt, the latter’s envoy, but held aloof from plans which aimed at the prince’s personal interference in English affairs. In 1687 he published the famous Letter to a Dissenter, in which he warns the Nonconformists
English Dissenters
English Dissenters were Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.They originally agitated for a wide reaching Protestant Reformation of the Established Church, and triumphed briefly under Oliver Cromwell....

 against being beguiled by the "Indulgence" into joining the court party, sets in a clear light the fatal results of such a step, and reminds them that under their next sovereign their grievances would in all probability be satisfied by the law. The tract was influential and widely read. 20,000 copies were circulated through the kingdom, and a great party was convinced of the wisdom of remaining faithful to the national traditions and liberties. He took the popular side on the occasion of the trial of the Seven Bishops
Seven Bishops
thumb|200px|A portrait of the Seven Bishops.The Seven Bishops of the Church of England were those imprisoned and tried for seditious libel over their opposition to the second Declaration of Indulgence issued by James II in 1688...

 in June 1688, visited them in the Tower
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, and led the cheers with which the verdict of "not guilty" was received in court; but the same month he refrained from signing the Invitation to William
Invitation to William
The Invitation to William was a letter sent by seven notable Englishmen, later named the Immortal Seven, to William III, Prince of Orange, received by him on 30 June 1688...

, and publicly repudiated any share in the prince’s plans. On the contrary he attended the court and refused any credence to the report that the king's newborn son, James, Prince of Wales
James Francis Edward Stuart
James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales was the son of the deposed James II of England...

, was supposititious.

The Revolution of 1688


After William's landing in southwest England
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

, Halifax was present at the council called by James on 27 November. He urged the king to grant large concessions. He accepted the mission with Nottingham
Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham
Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham, 7th Earl of Winchilsea PC , was an English Tory statesman during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.-Early life:...

 and Godolphin
Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin
Sir Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, KG, PC was a leading English politician of the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

 to treat with William at Hungerford
Hungerford
Hungerford is a market town and civil parish in Berkshire, England, 9 miles west of Newbury. It covers an area of and, according to the 2001 census, has a population of 5,559 .- Geography :...

, and succeeded in obtaining moderate terms from the prince. The negotiations, however, were abortive, for James had resolved on flight. In the crisis that ensued, when the country was left without a government, Halifax took the lead. He presided over the council of Lords which assembled and took immediate measures to maintain public order. On the return of James to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on 16 December, after his capture at Faversham
Faversham
Faversham is a market town and civil parish in the Swale borough of Kent, England. The parish of Faversham grew up around an ancient sea port on Faversham Creek and was the birthplace of the explosives industry in England.-History:...

, Halifax repaired to William’s camp and henceforth attached himself unremittingly to his cause. On the 17th he carried with Lords Delamere
Henry Booth, 1st Earl of Warrington
Henry Booth, 1st Earl of Warrington was a Member of Parliament, Privy Councillor, Protestant protagonist in the Revolution of 1688, Mayor of Chester and author.-Life:...

 and Shrewsbury
Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury
Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury, KG, PC was an English statesman. Born to Roman Catholic parents, he remained in that faith until 1679 when—during the time of the Popish Plot and following the advice of the divine John Tillotson—he converted to the Church of England...

 a message from William to the king advising his departure from London, and, after the king’s second flight, directed the proceedings of the executive. On the meeting of the convention on 22 January 1689, he was formally elected speaker of the House of Lords. He voted against the motion for a regency, which was only defeated by two votes. The moderate and comprehensive character of the settlement at the revolution plainly shows his guiding hand, and it was finally through his persuasion that the Lords yielded to the Commons and agreed to the compromise whereby William and Mary
Mary II of England
Mary II was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband and first cousin, William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of...

 were declared joint sovereigns. On 13 February, in the Banqueting House at Whitehall
Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire...

, he tendered the crown to them in the name of the nation, and conducted the proclamation of their accession in the city.

Return to power, 1689–1695



At the opening of the new reign Halifax had considerable influence, was made Lord Privy Seal
Lord Privy Seal
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

, while Danby his rival was obliged to content himself with the presidency of the council, and controlled the appointments to the new cabinet which were made on a “trimming” or comprehensive basis. His views on religious toleration were as wide as those of the new king. He championed the claims of the Nonconformists as against the High Church party, and he was bitterly disappointed at the miscarriage of the Comprehension Bill. He thoroughly approved also at first of William’s foreign policy; but, having excited the hostility of both the Whig and Tory parties, he now became exposed to a series of attacks in parliament which finally drove him from power. He was severely censured for the disorder in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, and an attempt was made to impeach him for his conduct with regard to the sentences on the Whig leaders. The inquiry resulted in his favor; but notwithstanding, and in spite of the king’s continued support, he determined to retire. He had already resigned the speakership of the House of Lords, and he now (8 February 1690) quit his place in the cabinet. He still nominally retained his seat in the privy council, but in parliament he became a bitter critic of the administration; and the rivalry of Halifax (the Black Marquess) with Danby, now Marquess of Carmarthen (the White Marquess) threw the former at this time into determined opposition. He disapproved of William’s total absorption in European politics, and his open partiality for his countrymen. In January 1691, Halifax had an interview with Henry Bulkeley
Henry Bulkeley
Henry Bulkeley was an English courtier and politician.Henry Bulkeley was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge and admitted at Gray's Inn in 1654...

, the Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 agent, and is said to have promised "to do everything that lay in his power to serve the icing." This was probably merely a measure of precaution, for he had no serious Jacobite leanings. He entered bail for Lord Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince of Mindelheim, KG, PC , was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs through the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

, accused of complicity in a Jacobite plot in May 1692, and in June, during the absence of the king from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, his name was struck off the privy council.

Halifax spoke in favor of the Triennial Bill
Triennial Acts
The Triennial Act 1641 was an Act passed on 15 February 1641, by the English Long Parliament, during the reign of King Charles I. The act requires that Parliament meet for at least a fifty-day session once every three years. It was intended to prevent kings from ruling without Parliament, as...

 (12 January 1693) which passed the legislature but was vetoed by William, suggested a proviso in the Licensing Act of 1692, which restricted its operation to anonymous works, and approved the Place Bill (1694). He opposed, probably on account of the large sums he had engaged in the traffic of annuities, the establishment of the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

 in 1694. Early in 1695 he delivered a strong attack on the administration in the House of Lords, and, after a short illness arising from a neglected complaint, he died on 5 April at the age of sixty-one. He was buried in Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

’s chapel in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

.

"Trimmer"


Halifax's influence, both as orator and as writer, on the public opinion of his day was probably unrivalled. His intellectual powers, his high character, his urbanity, vivacity and satirical humour made a great impression on his contemporaries, and many of his witty sayings have been recorded. Maintaining throughout his career a detachment from party, he never acted permanently or continuously with either of the two great factions, and exasperated both in turn by deserting their cause at the moment when their hopes seemed on the point of realization. To them he appeared weak, inconstant, untrustworthy. But the principle which chiefly influenced his political action, that of compromise, differed essentially from those of both parties, and his attitude with regard to the Whigs or Tories was thus by necessity continually changing. Thus the regency scheme, which Halifax had supported while Charles still reigned, was opposed by him with perfect consistency at the revolution. He readily accepted for himself the character of a "trimmer," desiring, he said, to keep the boat steady, while others attempted to weigh it down perilously on one side or the other; and he concluded his tract with these assertions: that our climate is a Trimmer between that part of the world where men are roasted and the other where they are frozen; that our Church is a Trimmer between the frenzy of fanatic visions and the lethargic ignorance of Popish dreams; that our laws are Trimmers between the excesses of unbounded power and the extravagance of liberty not enough restrained; that true virtue hath ever been thought a Trimmer, and to have its dwelling in the middle between two extremes; that even God Almighty Himself is divided between His two great attributes, His Mercy and His Justice. In such company, our Trimmer is not ashamed of his name. . . .

Intellectual


Halifax believed that reading, writing and arithmetic should be taught to all and at the expense of the state. His opinions again on the constitutional relations of the colonies to the mother country, already cited, were completely opposed to those of his own period. For that view of his character which while allowing him the merit of a brilliant political theorist denies him the qualities of a man of action and of a practical politician, there is no solid basis. The truth is that while his political ideas are founded upon great moral or philosophical generalizations, often vividly recalling and sometimes anticipating the broad conceptions of Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

, they are at the same time imbued with precisely those practical qualities which have ever been characteristic of English statesmenship, and were always capable of application to actual conditions. He had no taste for abstract political dogma, but seemed to venture no further than to think that "men should live in some competent state of freedom," and that the limited monarchical and aristocratic government was the best adapted for his country.

"Circumstances," he wrote in the Rough Draft of a New Model at Sea, "must come in and are to be made a part of the matter of which we are to judge; positive decisions are always dangerous, more especially in politics." Nor was he the mere literary student buried in books and in contemplative ease. He had none of the "indecisiveness which commonly renders literary men of no use in the world." The constant tendency of his mind towards antithesis and the balancing of opinions did not lead to paralysis in time of action — he did not shrink from responsibility, nor show on any occasion lack of courage. At various times of crisis he proved himself a great leader. He returned to public life to defeat the Exclusion Bill
Exclusion Bill
The Exclusion Crisis ran from 1678 through 1681 in the reign of Charles II of England. The Exclusion Bill sought to exclude the king's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he was Roman Catholic...

. At the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

 Halifax seized the reins of government and maintained public security. His subsequent failure in collaborating with William is disappointing, but the cause has not received sufficient attention. Party government had come to the birth during the struggles over the Exclusion Bill, and there had been unconsciously introduced into politics a novel element of which the nature and importance were not understood or suspected. Halifax had consistently ignored and neglected party; and it now had its revenge. Detested by the Whigs and by the Tories alike, and defended by neither, the favor alone of the king and his own transcendent abilities proved insufficient to withstand the constant and violent attacks made upon him in parliament, and he yielded to the superior force. He seems indeed himself to have been at last convinced of the necessity in English political life of party government, for though in his cautions to electors he warns them against men "tied to a party," yet in his last words he declares: If there are two parties a man ought to adhere to that which he disliked least though in the whole he doth not approve it; for whilst he doth not list himself in one or the other party, he is looked upon as such a straggler that he is fallen upon by both. . . . Happy those that are convinced so as to be of the general opinions.

Character


The private character of Lord Halifax was in harmony with his public career. He was by no means the "voluptuary" described by Macaulay. He was on the contrary free from self-indulgence; his manner of life was decent and frugal, and his dress proverbially simple. He was an affectionate father and husband. "His heart," says Burnet, "was much set on raising his family" — his last concern even while on his deathbed was the remarriage of his son Lord Eland to perpetuate his name; and this is probably the cause of his acceptance of so many titles for which he himself affected a philosophical indifference. He showed throughout his career an honourable independence. In a period when even great men stooped to accept bribes, Halifax was known to be incorruptible; at a time when animosities were especially bitter, he was too great a man to harbour resentments. "Not only from policy," says John Reresby
John Reresby
Sir John Reresby, 2nd Baronet was a 17th-century English politician and diarist.-Early life:Reresby was born at Thrybergh, Yorkshire in 1634, the eldest son of Sir John Reresby. His mother, Frances, was daughter of Edmund Yarburgh of Snaith Hall, Yorkshire...

, "but from his disposition I never saw any man more ready to forgive than himself."

Few were insensible to his personal charm and gaiety. He excelled especially in quick repartée, in "exquisite nonsense," and in spontaneous humor. When quite a young man, just entering upon political life, Evelyn
John Evelyn
John Evelyn was an English writer, gardener and diarist.Evelyn's diaries or Memoirs are largely contemporaneous with those of the other noted diarist of the time, Samuel Pepys, and cast considerable light on the art, culture and politics of the time John Evelyn (31 October 1620 – 27 February...

 described him as "a witty gentleman, if not a little too prompt and daring." The latter characteristic was not moderated by time but persisted throughout his life. He was incapable of controlling his spirit of raillery, from jests on Siamese missionaries to sarcasm
Sarcasm
Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.” Though irony and understatement is usually the immediate context, most authorities distinguish sarcasm from irony; however, others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony or employs...

s at the expense of the heir to the throne and the ridicule of hereditary monarchy. His brilliant paradoxes, his pungent and often profane epigrams were received by graver persons as his real opinions and as evidence of atheism. The latter charge he repudiated, assuring Burnet that he was "a Christian in submission," but that he could not digest iron like an ostrich nor swallow all that the divines sought to impose upon the world.

The Viking Book of Aphorisms, edited by W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

 and Louis Kronenberger
Louis Kronenberger
Louis Kronenberger was an American critic and author. He was a novelist and biographer, and wrote extensively on drama and the 18th century.-Biography:He studied at the University of Cincinnati from 1921...

, contains more entries by Halifax (60) than by any other English language author except Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

.

Writings


Halifax's speeches have not been preserved, and his political writings on this account have all the greater value. The Character of a Trimmer (1684 or 1685) was his most ambitious production, written seemingly as advice to the king and as a manifesto of his own opinions. In it he discusses the political problems of the time and their solution on broad principles. He supports the Test Act and, while opposing the Indulgence, is not hostile to the repeal of the penal laws against the Roman Catholics by parliament. Turning to foreign affairs he contemplates with consternation the growing power of France and the humiliation of England, exclaiming indignantly at the sight of the "Roses blasted and discoloured while lilies triumph and grow insolent upon the comparison." The whole is a masterly and comprehensive summary of the actual political situation and its exigencies; while, when he treats such themes as liberty, or discusses the balance to be maintained between freedom and government in the constitution, he rises to the political idealism of Bolingbroke and Burke. The Character of King Charles II, to be compared with his earlier sketch of the king in the Character of a Trimmer, is perhaps from the literary point of view the most admirable of his writings. The famous Letter to a Dissenter (1687) was thought by Sir James Mackintosh
James Mackintosh
Sir James Mackintosh was a Scottish jurist, politician and historian. His studies and sympathies embraced many interests. He was trained as a doctor and barrister, and worked also as a journalist, judge, administrator, professor, philosopher and politician.-Early life:Mackintosh was born at...

 to be unrivalled as a political pamphlet. The Lady’s New Year’s Gift: or Advice to a Daughter, refers to his daughter Elizabeth, afterwards mother of the celebrated 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield PC KG was a British statesman and man of letters.A Whig, Lord Stanhope, as he was known until his father's death in 1726, was born in London. After being educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he went on the Grand Tour of the continent...

 (1688). In The Anatomy of an Equivalent (1688) he treats with keen wit and power of analysis the proposal to grant a "perpetual edict" in favor of the Established Church in return for the repeal of the test and penal laws. Maxims of State appeared about 1692. The Rough Draft of a New Model at Sea (c. 1694), though apparently only a fragment, is one of the most interesting and characteristic of his writings. He discusses the naval establishment, not from the naval point of view alone, but from the general aspect of the constitution of which it is a detail, and is thus led to consider the nature of the constitution itself, and to show that it is not an artificial structure but a growth and product of the natural character. His works are edited by Mark N. Brown, The Works of George Savile Marquis of Halifax, 3 vols., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989. A paperback collection was edited by J. P. Kenyon for the "Pelican Classics" series in 1969, but it is now out of print.