« PreviousContinue »
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE.*
THIS eminent statesman, descended from a younger branch of the Temples of Temple Hall, Leicestershire, was grandson of Sir William Temple (Secretary to the unfortunate Earl of Essex, and subsequently Provost of Trinity College, Dublin) and son of Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland in the reign of Charles I., by Mary, sister of Dr. Henry Hammond. He was born in London, in the year 1628.
From his youth he discovered a singularly penetrating genius, and a remarkable thirst after knowledge, which his father anxiously cultivated by a liberal education. At eight years of age, he was sent to school at Penshurst in Kent, under the care of his uncle Dr. Hammond, then minister of that parish. Thence, at ten, he was transferred to the tuition of Mr. Leigh of Bishop Stortford; and, at seventeen, he was placed at Emanuel College, Cambridge, under Dr. Ralph Cudworth, author of The Intellectual System.
* AUTHORITIES. Boyer's Memoirs of the Life and Negotiations of Sir William Temple ; Temple's Life, prefixed to his Works ; and Birch's Lives of Illustrious Persons.
There he distinguished himself by the improvements which he made in various parts of learning; having, in addition to the ancient tongues, rendered himself perfect master of the French and the Spanish. So that, upon leaving college, he had largely qualified himself for the employments of public life.
At nineteen, he set off on his travels into France: on his way through the Isle of Wight, he met the lady who subsequently became his wife, Mrs. Dorothy Osborn; accompanied her and her brother to France; and having passed two years in that country, returned home by Holland, Flanders, and Germany.
During the Usurpation he led a private life with his wife, father, two brothers, and a sister in Ireland; spending his time chiefly in his closet in the investigations of history and philosophy, and refusing all public appointments till the Restoration, when he was chosen member of the Convention in Ireland, as he was likewise in the subsequent parliament for the county of Carlow. In 1662, he was appointed one of the Commissioners from the Irish parliament to the King
Thenceforward, for twenty years, he continued to act as a Councillor of State. This period, comprehending the interval from his thirty fourth to his fifty fourth year, he deemed the period most fit to be dedicated to the service of his country; the rest being, as he observed, too much taken up previously with pleasure, and afterward with ease.
To give a particular account of his labours at home and abroad, would lead us into a tedious detail of the foreign transactions of the reign of Charles II. We shall, therefore, only notice the most material negoVOL. IV,
tiations, which he had a principal share in conducting, Of these the first, which was set on foot to induce the Bishop of Munster to enter into the Dutch war as an ally to the English Monarch, he concluded with more expedition than his Court had anticipated; though the preliminaries had been previously settled by a correspondence between that Prelate and the Earl of Arlington, Secretary of State. It was managed indeed with such address, that the Bishop was in the field at the head of his troops, before the other powers of Europe had any suspicion of the measure. Upon this occasion, Mr. Temple travelled in disguise, and suffered some hardships; and, on the conclusion of the treaty, a resident's commission was forwarded to him at Brussels with a patent of baronetcy.
The following year, he sent for his family from England: but, before their arrival, he found himself obliged to set out a second time for Munster, to prevent the Bishop (in resentment of the non-payment of his subsidy) from making peace with the Dutch. Having arranged this matter to the satisfaction of both Courts, he returned to Brussels, whence at the latter end of the year he accompanied his sister on a visit to Holland, incognito. While he was at the Hague, he made a private visit to the celebrated Pensionary De Witt,* which laid the foundation of his future
* “ The catastrophe of De Witt (observes Mr. Fox) the wisest, best, and most truly patriotic minister that ever appeared upon the public stage, as it was an act of the most crying injustice and ingratitude, so likewise is it the most disencouraging example that history affords to the lovers of liberty. If Aristides was banished, he was also recalled : if Dion was repaid for his services to the Syracusans by ingratitude, that ingratitude was more than once repented of: if Sidney and Russell died upon the scaffold, they had not the cruel mortification of falling by the
intimacy with that truly illustrious patriot, and occasioned his being employed to sound him on the subject of the Triple Alliance meditated by England, Holland, and Sweden against the growing power of France. This, the only grand political manœuvre in the reign of Charles II., reflects the highest honour upon the abilities of Sir William Temple.
Five days after his recall from Brussels, he was sent to the Hague, with the character of Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the States General. Upon his arrival, the conferences commenced; and, in five days more, the League was completed. As a distinguished tribute to his celerity, De Witt himself could not help complimenting him on having thus speedily influenced the States to a resolution upon a matter of the highest importance, and involving the greatest expense in which they had ever engaged; adding, “That, now it was done, it looked like a miracle.
On the conclusion of the treaty, a letter despatched by De Witt to the Earl of Arlington, and a second by the States General to the King of Great Britain, from the panegyrics which they contain are entitled to our notice. The former says, “ As it was impossible to send a minister of greater capacity, or
hands of the people : ample justice was done to their memory, and the very sound of their names is still animating to every Englishman attached to their glorious cause. But with De Witt fell, also, his cause and his party; and although a name so respected by all who revere virtue and wisdom when employed in their noblest sphere, the political service of the public, must undoubtedly be doubly dear to his countrymen, yet I do not know that even to this day any public honours have been paid by them to his memory."
more proper for the temper or genius of this nation, than Sir William Temple; so, I believe, no other person either will or can more equitably judge of the, disposition wherein he has found the States, to answer the good intentions of the King of Great Britain.” In the other his Majesty is informed, “ As it is a thing without example, that in so few days three such important treaties have been concluded, so we can say that the address, the vigilance, and the sin. cerity of Sir William Temple are also without example. If your Majesty continues to make use of such ministers, the knot will grow too fast ever to be untied.” And yet Temple himself, with no less wit than modesty, gave a different turn to the circumstance, in a letter to M. Gourville; saying, “ They will needs have me pass here for one of great abilities, for having finished and signed in five days a treaty of such importance to Christendom: but I will tell you the secret of it. To draw things out of their centre requires labour, and address to put them in motion; but to make them return thither, nature helps so far, that there needs no more than just to set them a-going.”
Soon after the ratification of the treaty, he returned to Brussels; and a negotiation being speedily set on foot for a peace between France and Spain, he received orders from his Court to repair to the Congress appointed for that purpose at Aix la Cha
* The most ample account of the progress of this memorable negotiation is to be found in a letter from Sir William to the Earl of Arlington, dated from the Hague on the day it was concluded, Jan. 24, 1668; for which the reader is referred to his State Papers, in his • Works.'