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SIR GEORGE SAVILE,
MARQUIS OF HALIFAX.*
THIS nobleman was the eldest son of Sir William Savile, Baronet, of an ancient Yorkshire family. By the date of his return from his travels it is conjectured, that he was born about the year 1630. Of the early part of his life, however, all we know is, that he was extremely active in effecting the restoration of Charles II. : that, soon after that era, he discovered eminent political talents; and that, in consideration of his own and his father's loyalty, he was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Savile of Eland and Viscount Halifax, in 1672;. and the same year visited Holland as Joint Commissioner with the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Arlington, to negotiate a peace between France and the States General, in which from the envy of his collegues he met with great opposition.
In 1675, a bill was brought into the House of Peers, by which the members of the legislature and
* AUTHORITIES. Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors, and British Biography.
all public functionaries were required to swear, that • it was not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever forcibly to resist the King;' that “they abhorred the traitorous position of taking up arms against his person, or against those commissioned by him ;' and that
they would not at any time endeavour the alteration of the Protestant Religion, or of the established government either in Church or State. But this iniquitous measure, by which it was intended to exclude from parliament and public employment all who were not friends of passive obedience and nonresistance, encountered vigorous opposition; and Lord Halifax, among others, zealously exerted himself against it.
In 1676, through the interest of the Lord Treasurer Danby, he was removed from the Council Board. Upon a change in the ministry however, in 1679, he was re-appointed to it. The same year, in the consultations upon the Exclusion-bill, though be resisted the measure itself, he recommended such limitations of James' authority in the event of his accesion to the throne, as should disable him from doing mischief; transferring from his hands to those of the two Houses of parliament all power in ecclesiastical matters, in disposing of the public money, and in making peace and war; and proposing that “the parliament in being at the King's death should continue without a new summons, and assume the administration:' limitations, as it was contended by some of Halifax's friends, so advantageous to public liberty, that a patriot might almost be tempted to wish for a Popish Sovereign, in order to have them realised. Upon these suggestions, a schism occurred in the new
Council; the Earl of Shaftesbury warmly opposing them, while Essex and Sunderland were equally strenuous in their favour,
When the bill was brought into the Upper House, Lord Halifax appeared with great resolution at the head of the debates against it; and “on this occasion,” as we are informed by Mr. Hume, “ displayed an extent of capacity and a force of eloquence, which had never been surpassed in that assembly.” His exertions, indeed, were so signal, that the Commons soon afterward addressed the King to remove him from his councils and presence for ever.' But he prevailed upon his Majesty to adopt the very dif- . ferent measure of dissolving the parliament. In 1679, he was created Earl of Halifax. His royal master deferring however to call a new parliament, notwithstanding his promise, he is said to have fallen şick through vexation of mind; and he expostulated severely with those who were sent to him upon the occasion, refusing both the Secretaryship of State, and the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland.
A parliament being summoned in 1680, his Lordship, still in opposition to the Exclusion-bill, gained signal reputation by his management of the debates. The Lower House carried up a new address for his removal. Upon the rejection of the bill by the Lords, he proceeded to press them, though without success, on the subject of limitations; and began with moving, that the Duke of York might be obliged to live five hundred miles out of England during the existing reign.'
In August 1683, he was created Marquis of Hali. fax, soon afterward made Lord Privy Seal, and upon
the accession of the new Sovereign, President of the Council. But on refusing his consent to the repeal of the tests, he was told by James, that though he could never forget his past services, since he would not comply in that point, he was resolved to have all of a piece ;' and dismissed from his employ. ments,
He was subsequently consulted by Mr, Sidney, whether he would advise the Prince of Orange's coming over: but as the matter was opened to him with great caution, he did not encourage any farther communication. He deemed the attempt, indeed, con . nected as it was with numerous contingencies, impracticable. Upon William's arrival, he was sent, with the Earls of Rochester and Godolphin, to treat with his Highness.
Of the assembly of the Lords, which met upon James' withdrawing himself the first time from Whitehall, Halifax was appointed President; and on his Majesty's return from Feversham, he was despatched with the Earls of Shrewsbury and Delamer by the Prince of Orange, with a message directing him to retire to some place in the country. In the Convention-Parliament he was chosen Speaker of the Upper House, and strenuously supported the motion of the vacancy of the throne, and the conjunctive sove, reignty of William and Mary, upon whose accession he was again made Lord Privy Seal.
But in the session of 1689, he quitted the interest of the court, and became a zealous opposer of all it's measures till his death, which happened in April, 1695. When he saw his dissolution, from the gangrene of a long-neglected rupture, inevitably approaching, he evinced a philosophical firmness of
mind with much contrition for the errors of his past life, and professed himself a sincere believer in the truth and partaker in the hopes of the Gospel.
He was a man of fine genius, considerable learning, and great eloquence; celebrated for his wit, but censured occasionally for his imprudent exertion of it. The liveliness of his imagination, indeed, it has been affirmed, sometimes got the better of his judgement; for he would never lose his jest, though it spoiled his argument, in the gravest debate. He was, also, charged with being unsteady in his principles. Hume, speaking of him, says; “ This man, who possessed the finest genius and most extensive capacity of all employed in public affairs during the reign of Charles II., affected a species of neutrality between the parties, and was esteemed the head of that small body known by the denomination of • Trimmers. This conduct, which is much more natural to men of integrity than of ambition, could not however procure him the former character; and he was always with reason regarded as an intriguer, rather than a patriot.” His private character appears to have been amiable: he was punctual in his payments, and just and honourable in all his transactions. He was succeeded in his honours and estates by his son William: who dying without male-issue in 1700, the dignity became extinct in his family, and the title of Baron Halifax
* He was the patron of the Rev. W. Mompesson, Rector of Eyam in Derbyshire, who so nobly tended his flock during the plague in 1666. That clergyman's Letter to Sir George, on losing his wife by it's ravages (which with two others, simple and interesting ones, is preserved in Miss Seward's Corre. spondence) proves that the patroniser and the patronised were quite worthy of each other.