MONTAGU, Charles (1661-1715), of Jermyn Street, Westminster, and Bushey Park, Hampton Court, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 16 Apr. 1661, 6th but 4th surv. s. of Hon. George Montagu† of Horton, Northants. by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Anthony Irby of Bestow, Lincs., and bro. of Christopher*, Edward†, Irby* and James I*. educ. Westminster 1675; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1679, fellow 1683–8, MA 1689, LL.D. 1705. m. 15 Feb. 1688, Anne (d. 1698), da. of Sir Christopher Yelverton, 1st Bt.†, of Easton Maudit, Northants. and wid. of Robert Montagu†, 3rd Earl of Manchester, s.p. cr. Baron Halifax 13 Dec. 1700, Earl of Halifax 19 Oct. 1714; KG 16 Oct. 1714.1
Clerk to PC Feb. 1689–Mar. 1692; ld. of Treasury Mar. 1692–May 1694, 1st ld. May 1697–Nov. 1699, Oct. 1714–d.; chancellor and under-treasurer of Exchequer Apr. 1694–May 1699, auditor Nov. 1699–Sept. 1714; PC 10 May 1694–Mar. 1702, 23 Sept. 1714–d; one of the lds. justices 1698, 1699, 1714; envoy to Hanover 1706; plenip. to the Hague 1710.
Commr. preventing export of wool 1689, appeals for prizes 1694, trade and plantations 1696, union with Scotland 1706; trustee, receiving loans to Emperor 1706.2
Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695–d.
FRS 1695, pres. 1695–8.
High steward, Cambridge Univ. 1697–d.; ranger, Bushey Park, Surr. 1709–d.; freeman, Maldon 1689, Portsmouth 1700; ld. lt. Surr. 1714–d.3
To his enemies Montagu was ‘a party-coloured, shallow, maggot-headed statesman’, with a ‘rapacious temper . . . coveting to gorge his coffers with the mammon of unrighteousness’; to his admirers he was ‘one of the greatest geniuses of his time’, and ‘one of our greatest orators’. Modern commentators are equally divided. Some see him as ‘the ablest parliamentary manager of his time’, ‘our first real Cabinet minister’, and a brilliant financier who delivered ‘what was probably the first Budget’, established the Bank of England and the national debt, and guided the nation through the coinage crisis of the mid-1690s. Others regard his character as fatally flawed by ‘a deep inferiority complex’ which rendered him ‘sinewless’ in middle age, and question his financial competence and sincerity. Surprisingly, this man of paradox, who stood at the centre of politics for over 20 years, has attracted no full-length biography since a eulogistic Life published shortly after his death. One reason for this neglect may be that, despite his pioneering interest in establishing a national library for the preservation of rare books and manuscripts, his own collections have not survived.4
The younger son of a younger son, Montagu started adult life, according to his critic Charles Davenant*, with £50 and hopes only of a small parsonage. A precocious talent for verse quickly marked him out for higher things, however. One composition written at the time of the Popish Plot, when he was still at school, not only showed the vehement anti-Catholicism that shaped his maturer views, but may also have sparked the beginning of his lifelong friendship with Sir John Somers*, who was himself writing on similar themes and lived at the Middle Temple where Montagu was lodging. At Cambridge Montagu excelled at poetry and oratory, and penned verses On the death of . . . Charles II, which described that king in un-Whiggish tones as ‘the best man that ever filled a throne’, an early indication of a willingness to fashion his tune to ambition. The panegyric was sufficient to attract the patronage of the 6th Earl of Dorset (Charles Sackville†) and Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Bt.*, so that ‘instead of sneaking into the Church, he resolved to fasten upon the state’ in order to make his fortune. The first step was to write in 1687 ‘the greatest share of’ a work parodying Dryden’s Hind and the Panther, in which a mouse that ‘fed on soft cheese’ was substituted for his adversary’s hind that ‘fed on lawns’. The witticism earned him the nickname of ‘mouse Montagu’, a pun on his own diminutive stature, and it was by this epithet that he was first introduced to King William. A self-effacing letter, written by his school-friend Matthew Prior*, admits that he himself had merely ‘held the pen to what Mr Montagu dictated’, but some have used the question of authorship to level the charge, repeatedly made throughout his life, that he was good ‘at usurping the merits of other men’s services, either in prose, verse or projects’. His enemies archly remarked that although his ‘pretence to wit is sometimes keen, ’tis . . . always borrowed’. But despite contemporary acclaim that in his poems ‘he knows how to soar to a pitch of transport and ecstasy whenever he pleases’, Montagu was shrewd enough to realize that he possessed no real poetical genius, and after achieving political office, he put down his own pen and set himself up as the patron of more gifted wits, such as Congreve, Pope and Swift. Prior, George Stepney (another schoolfriend) and Joseph Addison* were rewarded with diplomatic posts, and Montagu defended Richard Steele* from attacks made in Anne’s reign. Yet a number of criticisms emerge from the very men he encouraged. As Swift sourly remarked, his protégés often received nothing more tangible than ‘good words and good dinners’, while Pope complained that he ‘was rather a pretender to taste than really possessed of it’. Two of Montagu’s own letters give colour to these accusations. In one, he asks the Duke of Shrewsbury to buy ‘large’ pictures for him from the Continent ‘as most proper for furniture’; in another, he asks the Duchess of Marlborough to buy off Defoe, as though his patronage was meagre on its own and merely a form of insurance to deflect able pens from choosing him as their target.5
Whatever Montagu’s defects as a patron of the wits, he channelled his own skill with words from poetry to oratory, which laid the basis for his successful parliamentary career. Contemporaries referred to his ‘natural quickness, eloquence and good address’. In public his speeches were so powerful that ‘he could turn the House of Commons which way he pleased, and almost never missed the point he aimed at’. He boasted that he could wind men round his finger, and that there was nothing that he could not pass through the House. A spectacular example occurred in November 1695, when, in order to promote the treason trials bill, he
rose up to speak for it; and having begun his speech, seemed to be so surprised, that for a while he could not go on; but having recovered himself, took occasion, from his very surprise, to enforce the necessity of allowing counsel to those prisoners who were to appear before their judges, since he, who was not only innocent and unaccused, but one of their own Members, was so dashed when he was to speak before that wise and illustrious assembly.
This skill in turning awkward occasions to a surprising advantage was so characteristic that he was never more dangerous than when he seemed to have suffered a reverse. Yet, as his career progressed, his tone became increasingly hectoring – what Davenant slighted as ‘Billingsgate rhetoric’ – and he took on ‘too assuming an air’ that eventually undermined his superiority. Even so, when he moved up to the Lords, his ‘familiar style’ of speaking brought about a minor revolution in the debating techniques of the Upper House.6
Montagu took up arms at the Revolution, and entered Parliament at the Convention. In February 1689 he purchased the post of clerk to the Privy Council, possibly with the help of the Earl of Portland or the Marquess of Halifax (George Savile†). Although Montagu later appended his own ‘political maxims’ to those of Halifax, and in 1700 took his title ‘in grateful remembrance (as he pretended) of his benefactor’, he was no follower of the trimmer’s politics. In 1690 he was re-elected at Maldon, and classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), a label which he justified by acting as teller on 14 Apr. in favour of the recommittal of the naturalization bill. Ten days later he spoke in opposition to Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., whose constant critic he became, in favour of a general vote of thanks, which he believed would be ‘more for the King’s honour’ than a ‘particular instance’ of William’s care of the London lieutenancy. In the following session he set about demonstrating his concern for the defence of the Revolution, his commitment perhaps deepened as a result of having sifted through the correspondence of the Earl of Tyrconnel, seized after the battle of the Boyne. On 15 Dec. he acted as teller on a question about the amount of money to be extracted from the East India Company for the navy’s use, an action which neatly combined patriotism with that antipathy to the company which would shape some of his future actions. He also displayed concern for resolving election disputes in the Whigs’ favour, telling on 31 Oct. for Edward Brent at Sandwich, and on 2 Dec. against Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Bt.* Ironically, perhaps, in view of the public notice that his own wedding to the sexagenarian Countess of Manchester had attracted, he acted as a teller on 3 Dec. in a division on a clause of the bill for preventing clandestine marriages. In April 1691 Robert Harley* listed him as a Court supporter.7
Montagu must have quickly come to the conclusion that control of the nation’s revenue was the key to parliamentary power, since his ambition for a place in the Treasury soon became apparent. Without any strong political patron, however, he was unsuccessful in an attempt in June to become its secretary. Montagu, realizing that he could only rise through his own efforts in Parliament rather than by means of influence at court, therefore gave a dazzling display of his talents in the next session during which he concentrated on two issues. As in the preceding session, one of these concerned the navy, reflecting his friendship with Admiral Edward Russell*. On 7 Nov. 1691, when a debate on the war at sea began without the anticipated allegations against Russell, Montagu declared that it was not in the interest of the nation ‘to force miscarriages’ where none existed, and tried to shelve further inquiry. On the 14th, in the debate on the navy estimates, he spoke for including the cost of four new fourth-rate ships; and on the 19th duly supported the Court over a motion relating to the supply, but at the same time, encouraged the House to examine letters intercepted by Sir Ralph Delaval*, hoping this would embarrass both the latter and the secretary of state, Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), both of whom Russell disliked. When Delaval attempted to vindicate himself on 23 Nov. Montagu pointed out two areas in which the admiral had contradicted the testimony of Lord Danby (Peregrine Osborne†), though the attack came to nothing.8
Montagu’s second major concern during the third session, and the one that was to make his name as a parliamentary debater and manager, was the treason trials bill. Drafted to give all defendants a copy of their indictment and the right to be defended by counsel, as well as witnesses summoned by subpoena, it had been amended by the Upper House so that all peers were to be summoned to a treason trial of one of their fellows, where all were to have votes. On 11 Dec. Montagu, having ‘strongly opposed’ a clause that ‘levelled impeachments . . . with indictments’, was appointed to help draft the reasons for the Commons’ disagreement with the amendments, and on the 17th reported them, chairing the committee to manage the subsequent conference between the Houses. In the debate on 31 Dec. he made a powerful speech, telling MPs that the Upper House had ‘power over your estates by their pretended judicial power, over your tongues by their scandalum magnatum, and now you will give them further all you can possibly, and instead of a monarchy set up an aristocracy’. He acted as teller to insist on disagreeing with the Lords’ amendments, and was ordered to desire another conference. Although he reported on 5 Jan. 1692 that this had taken place, he desired time to ‘recollect the matter’, and a further meeting between the managers took place on 9 Jan. On 13 Jan. he delivered a more detailed, polished and eloquent report of the substance of the last two meetings. The Commons, he argued, ‘were desirous that all men should have a fair and equal way of making their defence’, but MPs ‘did not design to subvert the essence and constitution of the courts’; nor did they ‘intend to disable the crown in one of its most necessary prerogatives’, the power of the King to nominate a high steward, whose function was to call a competent number of peers to try the case. The amendments, which also ‘let in the lords spiritual to try and be tried as other peers who are noble by descent’, therefore amounted to ‘the alteration of the government of England’. The arguments employed reflect two of Montagu’s own guiding, and to some extent mutually inconsistent, political principles: outrage at the abuses committed by James II, and a strong belief in the King’s prerogative. Characteristically, he asserted his points with reasons that were forceful, lucid, erudite and logical. But although he had apparently bettered such skilled parliamentarians as Halifax, Nottingham, Monmouth and Rochester (Lawrence Hyde†), the Lords clung to their position, necessitating further conferences on 14 and 21 Jan. Despite compromising over the participation of the bishops in treason trials, the peers’ tenacity on the main point of the number and manner of lords to be summoned led to stalemate. On 25 Jan., largely on Montagu’s advice, the Commons resolved to stick to its position, and on the 27th he reported the results of yet another unsuccessful conference. The bill was allowed to fall in the Lords, though Montagu had ‘gained such applause’ among Members for his ‘art of speaking and perspicuity of judgment’ that ‘the King was apprized of it, by the means of the Earl of Dorset’.9
Montagu’s other activity in the 1691–2 session, particularly that relating to supply, suggests that attracting William’s attention was precisely his aim. On 30 Nov. 1691 he directed his attention to Irish affairs, favouring a conference with the Lords over their amendments to the bill for Irish oaths. The same day he spoke in the committee of supply, in defence of the pay allowed to army generals, which Paul Foley I and Sir Thomas Clarges had attacked as too high. On 2 Dec., however, he supported Clarges in opposing the proposal for the establishment of the East India Company’s stock (perhaps on the same grounds he used on 5 Jan. 1692 against the bill for the better regulation of the company of fishermen, namely that ‘it was an attempt to set up the greatest monopoly that could be’), and when the company refused to give security according to the terms set out by Seymour that day, Montagu backed a motion on 6 Feb. ‘that no person that hath sold out himself in the old company shall be concerned any way in the new’. Montagu again supported Clarges on 5 Dec. 1691 over the Irish oaths bill, successfully moving for an adjournment. He was a natural choice to act as a teller on 8 Dec. for the minority in favour of exempting the universities from paying excise, and on 22 Feb. 1692 in favour of a bill confirming his university’s charter. On 29 Dec. 1691 he spoke against Sir John Cutler’s* attempt to evade a Chancery decree by resuming the privilege as a Member which he had previously waived, and his knowledge of procedure was again evident on 20 Feb. when he was among the Members who drew attention to a bill carried to the Lords containing blanks and blots. Indeed, throughout his career Montagu displayed a formidable knowledge of parliamentary procedure, though on 29 Jan. he found himself the victim of the House’s rules when his request to be excused from acting as a manager of a conference with the Lords over a private estate bill was denied. He had argued that it ‘was against his own opinion’, but, as Narcissus Luttrell* recorded, it was ‘the duty of every Member to maintain and defend the resolutions of the House, though his own opinion was otherwise’.10
Preoccupied for much of December 1691 and January 1692 by conferences over the treason bill, he nevertheless found time to further measures for supply. On 19 Jan. he carried the House in his opinion that there should be no distinction in the poll bill ‘between all of the degree of a gentleman and under the degree of a peer’, and the next day attacked an attempt by Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., to link the tax to militia payments, wrong-footing him by arguing that this was ‘the most improper way of taxing of all others. Your bill is for a poll, and you are now going to rate land again when it lies already under so great a burden.’ The sting in the tail of this unlikely appeal from a courtier to Country sentiments was the suggestion that the rate for the poll tax should be 30s. a quarter, which Montagu had calculated would ‘raise a great sum’. Still wooing Country opinion by demonstrating a concern for fiscal regularity, he was named on 28 Jan. to the committee to prepare the reasons for a conference with the Lords over the bill reappointing commissioners for public accounts, and on 5 Feb., as so often this session, he urged the House to insist on disagreeing with the Lords’ amendments. The same day he spoke in favour of a clause in the Irish forfeitures bill, which he had unsuccessfully supported as a teller at the committee stage three days beforehand, and now claimed ‘would forever prevent a rebellion again in that kingdom’. The end of the session allowed full rein to his vehement anti-Jacobitism. On 20 Feb. some MPs cried out for him to take the chair of the committee of the whole on the bill to prevent correspondence with the King’s enemies, and although he was not chosen, he spoke, with his friend Somers, against a clause limiting prosecution to within six months of the time of the offence. On the 23rd he was again demonstrating his loyalty to the Revolution by demanding witnesses to corroborate William Fuller’s information about Jacobite intrigues.11
Such zealous commitment to the Court did not pass unnoticed, and in March 1692 Montagu was appointed as one of the Treasury commissioners, ironically at the same time as Seymour, who was later to become one of his principal opponents. Montagu was initially very cautious in office, willing to bide his time and take stock of the factions at court. In July Lord Sydney (Henry Sidney†) complained to the King that the Treasury lords ‘don’t care how anything goes’, and noted that Montagu ‘saith nothing’. But when Parliament reassembled in the autumn of 1692 Montagu was vociferous in the Court interest, and was classed as a placeman on lists compiled over the next three years. So much a courtier had he become that on 18 Nov. he acted as teller against the committal of the measure with which his name was most closely associated, the reintroduced treason trials bill, and, on 1 Dec., for a Court amendment to delay the bill’s implementation until the end of the war. In one sense, however, Montagu’s voice was a mixed blessing to the government, since he signalled early in the session his attachment to a faction of discontented Court Whigs. On 11 Nov. he spoke in the debate on the navy’s failures of the summer, acting largely in defence of Admiral Russell. Indeed, in order to forestall an attack on the latter, Montagu opposed an order to Russell to give the House an account of his actions, and successfully argued that ‘MPs should be far from casting any reflections . . . but should rather give thanks for that great service he did you in destroying so many and such great ships of the French your enemy – the greatest victory that was ever obtained at sea’. On 20 Dec. he spoke in favour of another resolution vindicating Russell, and tried thereafter to wreck a conference with the Lords over the investigation, thereby contributing to a procedural wrangle that threatened to disrupt the rest of the session. He also spoke on 14 Dec. in favour of the committal of the abjuration bill, designed by the Whig ministers to embarrass their Tory colleagues, declaring that he thought some of the objections to the bill were ‘a little improper’. He exacerbated party divisions further by opposing the bill for the relief of the London orphans, which was aimed at the Whig aldermanic bench: on 1 Mar., employing concern for correct procedure, to hamper the progress of the legislation, and on 4 Mar. arguing ‘that the way the bill goes is absolutely destructive of the government of the City’. Less partisan, but still awkward for the King, was the address on abuses and mismanagement of affairs in Ireland. Montagu was appointed on 24 Feb. to its drafting committee, though he could no doubt have justified his behaviour as stemming from a concern for the security of the King.12
These factional manoeuvres did not prevent Montagu from continuing to perform duties for the Court, which were necessary to show the value of the Whigs to the King, particularly in matters of supply and the armed forces, for which he himself assumed the role of Court manager, though more often as a debater than in committee. He spoke on 15 Nov. 1692 in support of Sir Robert Cotton’s motion to consider the King’s Speech first, rather than become sidetracked in examinations of accounts or alliances. During the ensuing debate in the committee of the whole on the 23rd, which centred on the army, Montagu spoke twice, once to desire that a question be put, ‘or else we shall never come to an end of the debate’, and again, in alliance with Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II, to oppose an amendment that would have snubbed the King by restricting his employment of foreigners as officers. Two days later he spoke for referring the estimate of the navy immediately to the committee of supply and, when the issue was raised there four days later, supported the inclusion of the cost of building new ships, denying that this constituted a precedent since Members ‘did the like in 1689’. On 2 Dec., in another committee of supply, Montagu tried to guide his colleagues into considering the estimate of the army, which he thought ‘the most proper at this time, [so] that you may have all your work before you and see what your whole charge amounts to’. The House followed his lead by examining the matter next day, when Montagu supported an attempt to have 54,000 men funded, rather than the meagre 20,000 which had been proposed. Finding the motion for the smaller number put first, he suggested an amendment to add the extra 34,000, and although he withdrew it after Thomas Wharton’s opposition, a resolution for the whole number was eventually agreed upon. On 6 Dec. Montagu was a teller for the Court against a proposal to reduce the salary of the secretary at war, and four days later moved for a committee of the whole to cast up the totals for the land forces. On 13 Dec. he supported the land tax, on the grounds that it would raise most money, especially in Middlesex which had escaped lightly under the monthly assessment. Two days later, Macaulay suggests, he proposed to the Commons a means to raise £1 million by way of a loan, a measure that is hailed as the origin of the national debt: each subscriber could choose between a straightforward annuity for life or one for 17 years at a reduced rate of interest, and the fund to pay the tontine was to be met by a new excise on beer and liquors, thereby establishing the principles of securing loans on good sources of credit, and a statutory promise on behalf of the government to pay interest on a long-term basis. As with many other financial expedients with which his name is associated, Montagu’s precise role is difficult to determine. It is significant, however, that he was not among the MPs to whom the bill was referred, and Luttrell’s parliamentary diary does not record any involvement, except for his joining with Paul Foley I on 16 Jan. 1693 to move that the committee considering the bill have power to change the fund from the hereditary excise on which it was based.13
On 9 Jan. 1693 Montagu was teller for the Court in a division on a clause in the land tax bill, and on the 17th showed his concern for traditional procedure by opposing the right of the Lords to alter a money bill, declaring somewhat melodramatically that if the peers’ amendments to the land tax bill had been allowed, ‘there had been an end of this House’, a principle he again defended on 13 Mar. The next month saw him active in the committee of ways and means. On 8 Feb. he showed his grasp of the details of revenue by warning of the uncertain returns from a tax on brandy, and on 13 Feb. backed Lowther’s motion to continue for two years the duties on East India goods, even though the full amount needed to meet the estimated expenditure had already been raised by other means. Indeed, when the committee’s report was debated on the 15th, he opposed its resolution that £500,000 could be raised on continued impositions, preferring that at least half this sum be levied on East India goods, and ten days later chaired the proceedings in which agreement was obtained to a resolution for duties of £200,000. On the 17th he and fellow placemen supported a clause in the bill of accounts to empower the commissioners to state the true debt owed to bankers as a result of the stop of the Exchequer in 1672. The proposal was defeated largely due to a speech by Clarges, though Montagu was able to turn the tables on the 20th, when he gleefully waved a copy of the Journals to show that Clarges had misremembered adding an appropriation clause to a supply bill in the second year of King William’s reign. On 23 Feb. he spoke in support of his Treasury colleague Seymour in an attempt to extend the customs revenue, but left him as the motion’s only supporter at a formal vote, after the extent of opposition had become clear.14
It was not just on money matters, however, that Montagu proved his usefulness. On 16 Jan. 1693 he joined with Somers to argue that ‘since the King’s prerogative was so highly concerned’ in relation to the report on the royal mines bill, his counsel should be heard. When the Speaker took notice that the bill had been irregularly drawn up, since it had been written on after its passage through committee, Montagu displayed his knowledge of parliamentary precedent by citing the case of William Prynne†, who had been called to the bar for just such an offence. On 23 Jan. he defended Bishop Burnet’s Pastoral Letter, saying that he saw ‘no ill in the book nor did he believe there was any bad design’, and acted as a teller against putting the question whether to have the publication burnt. On 7 Feb. he correctly predicted the King’s attitude to the triennial bill by supporting an amendment that would have removed the requirement for annual sessions:
I do agree Parliaments were anciently held annually – nay at fixed, stated times. But Parliaments then determined other sort[s] of affairs than now . . . then it was necessary for doing right and justice to sit annually, but not now.
Such pragmatism was later to earn him the label of a modern rather than a true Whig, though for the present these distinctions were not apparent. Indeed, he spoke on 14 Feb. in favour of the return for Essex of the ‘Old Whig’, John Lamotte Honywood*, helping to overturn the resolution of the elections committee. His final acts of service to the government in the session were as teller on 27 Feb. in favour of the committal of a bill indemnifying Privy Councillors for the arrests which had been ordered in the spring of 1692 as a result of fears of a French invasion; and on 6 Mar. to obtain the erasure of a clause in the bill to encourage privateers ‘because it would be destructive absolutely of the Turkey trade and others that are settled by charters’.15
Montagu had sufficiently distinguished himself in Parliament to be thought of as a possible secretary of state; but according to Lord Dartmouth, he may have burnt his boats at this time by reflecting
in a very rude manner upon Lord Sunderland before the King, at Cabinet, who was highly incensed at his behaviour, and ordered him to wait upon Lord Sunderland next day to ask his pardon; which he did, and with a very saucy air, told him the King had commanded him to ask his pardon, and therefore he did it . . .
Sunderland replied that he would not give it, and Montagu was forced to ‘ask it in a more respectful manner before he had it’. If the story is true, it is an early indication of the enmity between the two men that was to characterize their future relations. Moreover, he had still to prove his worth in financial management. The Earl of Sunderland, the King’s ‘undertaker’, was convinced that when MPs re-assembled, the Court, rather than the country gentlemen, should take the initiative in monetary proposals.16
The degree of Montagu’s activity in the session of 1693–4 is difficult to assess. Since he was always primarily a speaker, with relatively little inclination for committee work, the paucity of records of debates obscures the scope of his role. The notes made by Anchitell Grey* do not cover financial debates in anything like the detail of Luttrell. On 16 Nov., for example, Grey recorded the first half of a speech about the navy debt, tailing off with the comment that Montagu ‘went on upon that subject’. According to Grey, Montagu’s first contribution was on 13 Nov., during the debate on the King’s Speech, when he combined support for Foley’s attack on the Tory admirals’ failure to defend the Smyrna fleet, going so far as to say that he thought the nation had ‘been downright betrayed’, with a plea to consider supply before grievances:
I have observed that the English are contrary to all the world; they are frighted into their wits . . . [but] we must not expect another deliverer. I wish gentlemen would lay aside all little heats, and fooleries, and lay their hands to the great affair. If we do not suddenly provide for our safety, the enemy will be much forwarder than we . . . several things retard our proceedings – one is places . . . I wish all places were well filled, and that men would not thrust themselves into offices and never look after them . . . I move, for your reputation, that you will resolve to support the King and defend the government, and assist them in a parliamentary way for carrying on the war with France, and supporting the King.
Such fine speaking laid the ground for Russell to urge the consideration of supply for the fleet, which was duly voted on the 19th after Montagu had three days earlier slighted the report on naval expenditure drawn up by the commissioners for public accounts and claimed that the cause of the financial difficulties was that ‘the first year of all, a great debt was left upon the navy’. He also helped Russell attack the conduct of Admiral Henry Killigrew* and Admiral Sir Ralph Delaval*. On 21 Nov. he pressed for the reading of Rutter’s damaging information that the admirals had been warned of the presence of the French fleet, and the next day called for the admirals to give an account of themselves. Speaking in the debate after their examination, he attacked their attempt to blame the Whig victualling commissioners for failing to supply adequate provisions. On the 24th he exchanged ‘hot words’ with Sir John Thompson, 1st Bt., over estimates for the fleet, and three days later, when the debate was resumed, pursued the point again, securing a resolution that vindicated the victuallers and hence condemned the Admiralty. Montagu’s partisan tactics seem, nevertheless, to have disgusted even his friend Hon. Henry Boyle*, with whom he had spent part of the summer.17
As in the previous session, however, Montagu’s participation in factional rivalries at Court did not stop him performing on its behalf over less personally charged issues. On 28 Nov. 1693 he spoke against the engrossed triennial bill on the grounds that ‘to determine to meet actually when there be occasion or not, I think not proper’. Although defeated in the Commons, the Lords introduced a measure identical to the bill vetoed by William in March, and on 18 Dec. Montagu not only courageously defended the King’s unpopular decision, but also attacked the ambiguous clause suggested by the Earl of Devonshire (William Cavendish†), whereby a session was deemed to be ‘holden’ even if it did not pass any formal resolution. Opposing the bill’s provision for annual sessions, he remarked that ‘the King refused this act once, and it is not for the crown to give reasons for it. To have a Parliament annual, it will be too great a burden to the people, and too great a retrenchment to the crown.’ Parting company with other ministerial Whigs like Sir John Trenchard and Wharton, who held less exalted views of the royal prerogative, Montagu even employed the language of pre-Revolution Tories to condemn the measure as ‘setting up a senate of Venice’. During December he appears to have restricted his output strictly to Treasury concerns: on the 7th defending the Exchequer from any involvement in the controversy over grants to Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*), on the 11th trying to direct the debate on supply away from what he called the ‘collateral question’ of the Hanoverian troops, and on the 22nd presenting an answer from his department to the commissioners of public accounts. His uncharacteristic reticence suggests that he had caught wind of William’s dissatisfaction with the disloyalty of some courtiers, and saw that strong support for official measures could earn him preferment. Thus, although continuing his involvement in the inquiry into the previous summer’s maritime fiasco, acting as a manager of a conference with the Lords on 3 Jan. and reporting the next day, he now sought to deflect the attack from the Lords on Secretary Trenchard and managed another conference with the Upper House on the 16th, thereby defending both his Whig colleagues and the Court as a whole. After William vetoed the place bill Montagu opposed calls for a prorogation to allow its reintroduction, and put himself forward on the 26th as the champion of the King’s rights:
I shall always be for the liberties of the people, and for the prerogative of the crown. If the crown hath a negative voice, then why not exercised on this bill, as well as any other? . . . this is for altering your constitution, not to allow the King a negative voice.
Although the House refused to listen, he was included in the committee to draw up a protesting representation to William, and evidently succeeded in moderating the section which demanded that the King find an expedient to enact the substance of the bill, since the next day he was one of those requested to revise the document’s conclusion, so that it asked William not to listen to ‘the secret advices of particular persons’.18
For the rest of the session Montagu’s measurable activity in the Commons declined sharply, although on 7 Feb. 1694 he acted as teller against the return of a Tory for Somers’ old seat at Worcester, and again ten days later on a motion to adjourn. There is a significant lack of evidence to associate him with the project for which he is most remembered, the creation of the Bank of England. Indeed, apart from acting on 23 Feb. as a teller for agreeing with the committee on ways and means on how to raise money for the armed forces, and on 12 Apr. reporting the Court gains on the election to the commission of public accounts, little survives to show the degree of his involvement in financial matters during this session. Certainly the Bank was not his brainchild. Historians have claimed that his opinion was sought, that he took the scheme to the Privy Council in 1693, that it was debated in Cabinet, and that his parliamentary skill was necessary for its passage through the House, but the evidence for such assertions is unclear. The fact that Montagu was later a strong supporter of the Bank’s interests tells us nothing about his role in its inception. Positive evidence that he supported the scheme is, first, that he contributed £2,000 to the Bank’s initial subscription, enough to qualify him as a director, though he did not take an active part in its management, and second, that at the beginning of May he was made a Privy Councillor and chancellor of the Exchequer. On the other hand, a number of other prominent MPs had also subscribed and become directors, and Montagu’s appointment to high office may not primarily have been a reward for the Bank legislation. An alternative explanation is that Richard Hampden I* needed to be replaced after his stroke, and Montagu’s friendship with Russell, who was simultaneously reappointed as first lord of the Admiralty, as well as his performances over the place and triennial bills, may have been more important qualifications. The success of the Bank was in any case not evident until June, when the £1,200,000 loan was rapidly taken up, and it is conceivable that Montagu merely took credit for it retrospectively, as he was so often accused of doing in other matters.19
The ‘maxims of state’, which Montagu wrote in 1694 as a continuation of Halifax’s observations, argue that ‘a prince is sure to be best served by those that have most hopes from him’, and in an unwritten maxim dating from about this time, he told the King directly ‘to have all the money for the service of a year, to be raised within that year’. He seems to have been determined to illustrate these ideas by his activity in the new session. The new triennial bill included provision for dissolution by November 1695, and Montagu once more argued the King’s position that a longer time-span was required, since to change a loyal Parliament in time of war would be both hazardous and disheartening to England’s allies. On 26 Jan. 1695 he joined Wharton as a teller for the Court on the omission of the word ‘heirs’ from the place bill. But there were also signs that his meteoric rise to high office had gone to his head. He had, as one historian has observed, all the ambition of a man who had inherited name and position without the wealth necessary to support them, and his ‘maxims’ had attacked the trimming inclinations of the King, revealing his early commitment to a Whig domination of politics. With Trenchard and Shrewsbury ill, and Russell absent in the Mediterranean, Montagu sensed that control of the Commons as well as the Treasury was within his grasp. He had at first tried to negotiate his supremacy, meeting with Shrewsbury and Rochester the previous summer, and offering to secure a peerage for Sunderland’s crony, Henry Guy*, if he would leave the Treasury.20
When softer methods failed, however, Montagu turned to more Machiavellian ones. Again the lack of recorded debates makes it difficult to follow Montagu’s activity in great detail, but it is hard not to see his hand in much of the factional jockeying that took place in the House after the death of Queen Mary. Seymour later perceived ‘a formed design begun and carried on by Mr Montagu and Mr Wharton, by menacing and threatening some, and encouraging others with rewards and places’, to gain control. Guy, dismissed from his office as a result of charges of corruption, also believed Montagu to have been behind the attack which wrecked his patron Sunderland’s plans. Guy had been betrayed by the Speaker, Sir John Trevor*. Having previously assured the latter of ‘a perfect friendship’, Montagu then turned on his informer. On 12 Mar. Trevor was censured for accepting bribes, and four days later was expelled the House. Montagu was now in a tricky situation. Having sided with the Country Whigs to attack the financial irregularities of his rivals, he found that the investigations had increased the credit of the Country party leader, Paul Foley I, who was elected to the vacant Speakership. The chancellor, who was appointed on 15 Mar. to the committee responsible for drawing up the official account of the Speaker’s election, may have indulged in more empty promises over the contest, for Foley was not to forgive him for having ‘downright played him a trick or two’. Nevertheless, the choice of the commissioners of accounts, reported by Montagu on 21 Mar., may have convinced him that if unable to beat the Country Whigs he had to use them in order to attack his erstwhile colleague Seymour, and the Duke of Leeds (the former Lord Carmarthen), whose place in the administration was incompatible with Montagu’s views and ambitions. Thus on 23 Apr. Montagu came an equal fourth in the ballot for the committee to examine Sir Thomas Cooke*, whose bribery to obtain a new charter for the East India Company implicated Seymour and led to the downfall of Leeds. On 2 May Montagu was named a manager of the conference with the Lords about the bill for Cooke’s imprisonment, which he then reported, and the following day was again sent to the Upper House to desire a meeting about the impeachment of Leeds, the articles of which he had helped prepare.21
A rumour in early May 1695 that Montagu would be made a peer, together with a satire which claimed that as a result of carousing with ‘underling Members . . . he governs the House’, possibly a reference to his membership of the Rose Club, shows the impact he had made on Parliament; but the extent of his power at Court remained very uncertain. Having never courted the King, he may well have realized how vulnerable this made him to William’s whims, since by the end of the month he ‘declared a very great anger that [the King] hath broken his promise with him in somewhat . . . he is in a great rage about it, and it appears in several of his discourses of public matters’. Although the issue which had angered him is unknown, the feeling may have been mutual, since Foley thought his ‘insolence’ had ‘made more uneasiness to several things than would otherwise have been’ in Parliament. When Guy met Foley to patch up differences between the Court and Country wings of the Whigs, as part of Sunderland’s efforts to reconstruct the ministry in a way that would have minimized Montagu’s influence, he reported that Foley had such ‘a wonderful aversion’ to the chancellor that ‘he neither can nor will communicate with him’. Montagu was in great danger of isolation. Another of Sunderland’s creatures, William Palmes*, insinuated to Somers that the ‘sole occasion’ of divisions among the Whigs
was [Mr Montagu], who neither did understand himself, nor would receive advice from others; that [Montagu] could not be in the same post as before; if he were all would be wrong; but must have some others joined if not superior to him in ordering affairs in [Parliament]; that both [Whig] and [Tory parties] do generally condemn and laugh at [Montagu].
Indeed, Foley thought that ‘by a little pains’ the Whigs could be brought to desert Montagu and Wharton altogether. Worse still, Shrewsbury, who represented one of Montagu’s principal avenues to royal favour, was losing ground to Sunderland. Perhaps to buttress Shrewsbury’s ever-shaky resolve, the chancellor was observed at the end of June to be dogging his patron ‘with all imaginable assiduity’, and sent ‘every post or other opportunity’ to the absent Russell. As extra insurance Montagu hastily opened a correspondence with William’s favourite, Portland, in which he played on the crucial importance of the Bank, and hence his own financial expertise, to the nation’s fortunes. But he committed the faux pas of criticizing the King’s ‘fumblingly’ conducted military campaign, to Foley of all people, thereby ensuring that his words would reach Portland. It was even suspected that, increasingly panic-stricken, Montagu and Wharton were trying to reassure the Tories ‘that if they will follow their advice, they shall find many things they desire to have effect’.22
Matters came to a head in late July and early August, when Montagu and Wharton declared that Sunderland ‘must not be in the [King’s] business, and that they can do it better without him, both with [the King] and [the Whig party]’. This flagrant bid for power failed. Sunderland was reconciled with Shrewsbury and Somers, but told Portland that the rebellious duo ‘must be forced’ by the King to bend to his wishes. In a showdown with them, he extracted from the chancellor professions of loyalty ‘so much as to protest he thinks they should be undone without’ him, though Sunderland could not stomach Montagu’s abject and insincere promise to be governed by him,
which I could not hear but put an end to by telling him I was far from pretending to govern any body but that I thought the King ought to govern his servants when he desired nothing but what was reasonable and for the public good. We parted the best of friends.
Realizing that ambition had rendered him ridiculous, Montagu now courted Sunderland’s favour, following him to his seat ‘in the same humour’, and even cozening Henry Guy into believing that it was he who had brought Montagu ‘to good resolutions’. In fact, his experience probably only sharpened his grudge against Sunderland, while differences with Foley, who promised nothing more than to ‘live civilly’ with him, had merely been papered over rather than resolved.23
One of the issues over which Montagu and Wharton had struck an independent line had been the dissolution of Parliament. They had wanted the current Parliament to continue, ‘thinking they shall have less power in a new one’, but the capitulation to Sunderland ensured their agreement on an election in the summer of 1695. Montagu was ‘courted to serve for Westminster’ in alliance with his Treasury colleague Sir Stephen Fox*. As a lampoon noted, Leeds supported their opponent Sir Walter Clarges, 1st Bt.*, partly on the personal grounds that the chancellor had kept ‘such a pother in bawling for justice from one house to another’ over the Duke’s impeachment. But all the roast beef that Leeds was alleged to have provided for voters could not match the support the courtiers enjoyed from Princess Anne, and from the dukes of Bedford (Sir William Russell†) and Newcastle (John Holles†). After his success at the poll, Montagu was carried on the shoulders of the multitude from the hustings to his office at Whitehall, though the contest had been much more difficult than perhaps he had hoped.
The state of the nation’s coin, which since 1672 had been clipped to about two-thirds of its original value and lost about £2 million of silver, increasingly demanded the chancellor’s attention in 1695. Montagu has traditionally been accorded a major role in the great recoinage undertaken in 1695–6, working alongside Somers and John Locke. However, evidence from Locke’s sometimes cryptic correspondence with his parliamentary friends has suggested to some historians an alternative account, in which Montagu appears at odds not only with the philosopher, but also with Lord Somers, and resorting to underhand means to get his own way. This revision centres on the identification of the chancellor as ‘the monkey’, a nickname originating in an incident described to Locke by a member of his ‘college’, who complained that it was impossible to ‘make those that are chiefly concerned, to take any care’ in the matter of the coinage:
one gentleman that you know tossing up his nose and saying (when he was pressed to consider it) that when he thought of this matter he was like a monkey thrown into the water which always claps his paws or hands to his eyes and sinks to the bottom, which we take to be no unapt simile and became the poet well.
The suggestion, made by several modern commentators, that the chancellor was the ‘monkey’, has some superficial plausibility. A satirist referred to ‘statesman Montagu, with face like a baboon, and air of pride’. There is an alternative candidate, however, in Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), who, like Montagu, was small in stature and a minor poet, and, as lord treasurer, was ‘chiefly concerned’ in the recoinage. Very little is known of Godolphin’s activity at this time, or indeed of Montagu’s, but the following evidence suggests that the lord treasurer rather than the chancellor was the monkey playing tricks with government policy. This would also explain much about the future rivalry between the men.24
In April 1694 Montagu, in conjunction with Locke’s friend Edward Clarke I*, had helped prepare an address to the King about the need to recoin halfpences and farthings, and on 8 Jan. 1695 he had been appointed to a committee to receive proposals for dealing with clipping, which recommended not only that the laws against clipping be enforced, but also that coins should be reminted at their present weight, though at a value increased by about 9 per cent, thereby effectively proposing a devaluation. It has been suggested that Montagu had established this committee, and that its resolutions reflected his point of view, even though it had been chaired by Francis Scobell*, a Tory who had opposed the establishment of the Bank. Locke published his Short Observations in February in order to influence the committee’s decisions, and successfully forestalled the adoption of the resolutions. Montagu, perhaps already convinced of the need to reform the coinage, held himself aloof from the second-reading committee of 3 Apr. 1695 on a compensatory bill to prevent counterfeiting and clipping, a last-ditch attempt to avert the need to recoin. It was the failure of this bill to prevent wholesale clipping of the silver currency, and the accompanying rise in the value of gold guineas by almost a third between January and June 1695, that forced the matter back on to the political agenda. In September 1695 William Lowndes* submitted a report refuting Locke, and in favour of a devaluation of about 20 per cent, an increase made necessary by the inflation in the price of unclipped silver. It has been suggested that Lowndes may have been acting on Montagu’s instructions, since his report was published in November with official Treasury backing, and the scheme based on the 14 proposals was resubmitted to the lords justices; yet equally these arguments may reveal the hand of Godolphin, himself a lord justice at this time. The other lords, moreover, decided on a consultation of experts, including Locke, Sir Christopher Wren* and Isaac Newton*. Somers urged Locke to finish the manifesto of his views, and may have brought the King into thinking along Locke’s lines, an important factor since William’s personal intervention was to ensure the defeat of the devaluation proposals. Both Wren and Newton, the latter of whom was Montagu’s close friend at Cambridge, pressed for devaluation; but at a Council meeting on 30 Oct., attended by the chancellor, Lowndes was ordered to draw up proposals based on Locke’s report. Locke now sought the comptrollership of the Mint from Somers, while Newton looked to Montagu for the post, though it is difficult to know whether this represented a significant rivalry between the ministers. According to his biographer, Montagu and ‘his fast friend’ Somers persuaded the King to refer to the coinage issue in his opening speech to the new Parliament, rather than act by proclamation. In fact Somers had initially favoured dealing with the crisis by royal prerogative, but Montagu’s lobbying of Shrewsbury had paid off, for during the debate in Council less than a fortnight before Parliament’s scheduled opening, the Duke was one of the most powerful voices in favour of involving MPs. Only on 13 Nov. did Somers admit the need to put the measure before Parliament. The difference between the ministers thus seems largely to have been one of tactics, not principle.25
Although agreement was reached on a gradual recall of different species of coin with funding to supply the cost of the mint, the central issue of whether or not the new money should have the same value as the old was to resurface in the coming session. According to Davenant, MPs assembled well disposed to tackle the matter,
but when they saw how ill the managers were furnished with any regular schemes to mend it, when they perceived upon the debates that the business was not thoroughly understood, and had not been at all digested before by those in whose province it lay properly, and when they saw the ministers themselves divided in every point relating to it, [they became] ‘wholly passive’.
Davenant’s memory needs to be treated cautiously, for he was a vigorous opponent of the whole idea of recoinage at that time, and was a personal enemy of Montagu. Indeed, much of the early work of the session was uncontroversial, at least as far as the ministry was concerned. On 5 Dec. he was a manager for a conference with the Lords about the coin. In debate he refuted the arguments used by Harley and others against recoining during war-time, asserting that it would be worse to do nothing, and that the purchase of English silver by Dutch gold presaged a long-term crisis: ‘this disease would every day take deeper root, infect the very vitals of the nation and, if not remedied, would soon become incurable’. ‘Such was the weight of Mr Montagu’s argument’ that he secured a majority of 60 in favour of recoinage. Although Montagu seems to have opposed, or simply not supported, Clarke’s motion on 29 Nov. that clipped money pass by weight, Montagu’s biographer argued that, on the question of how to recoin, he favoured the Lockean position of preserving the old standard, and that, against opposition from Harley who was jealous of his ‘growing interest’, Montagu carried the point that the coin needed to be reminted, being granted leave to bring in a bill to that effect,
with a clause of loan to be inserted in it, in favour of such as would advance money on the credit of the Exchequer in general, transferable to such funds as should be settled by Parliament, towards the making good the deficiencies of the clipped money,
for which £1,200,000 was to be raised by a tax on windows. Montagu was indeed the first-named on 12 Dec. to committees to draw up an address to the King which embodied resolutions for a recoinage on the old standard, and to prepare such a bill; he reported from the address committee two days later, and on 17 Dec. relayed the King’s approval and reported the bill. Three days later he took the chair of the committee of the whole to consider it, and again took the chair the next day and on the 23rd, when the committee was given power to consider the clause for the loan. The following day he once more reported from the committee of the whole, and on the 27th carried the bill to the Lords.26
It has been suggested that Montagu promoted the passage of a bill he did not support as part of the price of reconciliation with his ministerial colleagues, though the need for any explanation is removed if, as seems likely, he supported the legislation in the first place. But if his sincerity is not at issue, his foresight is, because the bill did not provide for counterfeit coin, and the proclamation of 19 Dec. 1695, by which clipped crowns and half-crowns ceased to be legal tender for anything but tax payments after 1 Jan. 1691, was also ill thought-out, giving too little time for the money to be collected and replaced. One, admittedly hostile, account claimed that the time scale was ‘done, as is said, by the advice of Mr Montagu, contrary to that of the major part of the council’. If so, he must be blamed for a miscalculation that cut trade dead, the very ill effect the measure sought to avoid. Even so, there might have been no legislation at all without him, for the bill was heavily amended by the Lords, leading to an inevitable clash with the Commons who resented interference with a money measure. He managed a conference on 3 Jan., the substance of which he reported four days later. The stalemate between the Houses forced the Lower to resolve on 9 Jan. to bring in a new bill, which the chancellor was again ordered to introduce. The claim that the new draft, which he presented on 13 Jan., was ‘little different from the other, but in the words of the title, which the chancellor had artfully contrived’, hides the fact that it extended the deadlines for the circulation of clipped coins and defined the position of counterfeit coin in relation to compensation.27
On 15 Jan. Montagu took the chair of the committee of the whole House to discuss the coinage bill, which was ordered to be engrossed the next day, and which he carried up to the Lords on the 17th. The difficulties over the recoinage bills were compounded by cack-handed treatment of the related matter of the creation of a Board of Trade, which was seen as part of the solution to the fiscal crisis. Whig ministerialists had been ambushed by an attempt to create a parliamentary rather than a royally appointed commission, and on 31 Jan. Montagu supported Wharton’s proposal that the appointees take an abjuration oath, which was designed to wreck the project. Although he picked up Robert Price’s loose comment that it was unreasonable to expect men to take oaths ‘upon moot points’, ‘saying that made King William’s right to the crown only a moot point’, the resolution for an oath was nevertheless rejected, leaving the King angry at the disobedience of placemen whom his ministers had failed to bring into line. On 3 Feb. Montagu and fellow Treasury manager Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt.*, were said to have ‘become very contemptible; at Kensington neglected, [and] despised in the House’. It is perhaps significant that the proposed parliamentary Board of Trade had not even included the chancellor as one of its members, and even the warrant for the establishment of the board in April only included him ‘for the time being’.28
It has been claimed that Montagu did not give up trying to secure devaluation, but the evidence, though fragmentary, suggests that this interpretation is also inaccurate. The security of guineas had pushed their value to astronomic heights, and a petition from a number of merchants on 13 Feb. 1696 complained that trade was at a standstill, implying that the gold rates needed to be reduced in order to bring the new silver money faster into circulation. A haphazard series of votes between 15 Feb. and 26 Mar. reduced the value to 22s., but it has been proposed that Montagu was, initially at least, behind covert attempts to support a higher rate, which would have achieved an effective devaluation. Certainly, an attempt on 21 Jan. to take up the question of fixing the price of guineas was defeated because of the lack of ministerial support; but the subsequent evidence for his underhand opposition to the official Court line nevertheless relies again on the ascription of the nickname ‘the monkey’ in Locke’s correspondence. Edward Clarke, who was one of the principal actors in the recoinage drama, thought the narrowness of the majority on 15 Feb. to reduce the rate was ‘chiefly owing to the monkey and some of his brethren, who have still strong inclinations to alter the standard, and raise the silver to the present imaginary value of gold’, to which, he added ironically, ‘you may be satisfied they are as wise and as honest as ever’. But although Locke believed in the theory that gold ought to be allowed to find its market level, he thought that once intervention was decided on, gold should have a low value, and backed Clarke’s attempts to reduce it. The college was nevertheless suspicious that ‘the monkey’ was up to his tricks again. On 28 Feb. Locke informed them that Archbishop Tenison had received ‘a paper which aimed to show that raising denomination of the coin would be advantageous’ which he thought came ‘from the monkey’, and on 10 Mar. Clarke and John Freke* replied that when guineas were reduced on the Exchange ‘the chief lord of the Treasury’s name [Godolphin] was made use of to raise their price’; ‘everybody in the Treasury now disowns’ the intention to keep the price of guineas high, and Freke thought the ‘monkey will do no hurt for the future and has now taken his paws from his eyes and sees that his leader was going to sink him, but we have reason to think he keeps his nature’. If ‘the monkey’ was not Montagu but Godolphin, then the King had sided with the chancellor against the lord treasurer.29
Certainly a number of observers believed that Montagu headed the recoinage measures, including the reduction in the price of guineas. According to one tract (later burnt after a parliamentary investigation in which Montagu himself took part), the chancellor ‘had eminently a share in these things, who delivered this as his maxim, that he had rather do wrong than do nothing’. Its author, Grascome, listed him as a supporter of the Court in the vote on guineas. But although Grascome’s version is easily dismissed as biased, some well-informed contemporaries, such as the assay master of the Mint, also believed Montagu to have been especially active in trying to reduce the price of guineas. Further evidence is offered by Montagu’s own castigation of the supporters of the land bank, who included Godolphin, for trying to keep a high rate of guineas: ‘one great reason of keeping up the gold’, he wrote at the end of May, ‘was the expectation of an advantage from the establishment of this bank’. Indeed, the land bank’s rival and Montagu’s allies, the Bank of England, strongly supported the fall in the value of gold.30
The proposals to establish the rival bank now gave the Treasury more headaches. Although Montagu presented an account on 14 Feb. of the duties on salt and on tonnage, the funding proposals put before the House were not to the ministerialists’ liking. The offer of the Bank of England to supply was rejected, and a national land bank approved; a plan to issue Exchequer bills had to be tacked on to the end of the latter, a move often credited to the chancellor, though Montagu’s role remains difficult to pinpoint. Indeed, the Journals give the impression that as the session progressed he turned away from troublesome national monetary problems to a more manageable, local, financial crisis in his new constituency of Westminster, successfully piloting a bill to restore solvency to its large parish. The attempt on the King’s life allowed the ministry to exploit the tide of loyalty and the discomfiture of the Tories. Montagu assisted on 24 Feb. in managing the conference with the Lords after the announcement of the plot, and five days later took the chair of the committee of the whole to discuss the sitting of Parliament in case William died. He reported from that committee on 2 Mar., and the following day carried the resulting bill up to the Lords. The same day he was first-named to a second-reading committee for the Quakers’ affirmation bill, the timing of which was probably influenced by the promotion of the Association, which he immediately signed.
For all the advantages to be gained out of the Assassination Plot, the session had revealed Montagu’s precarious position in the Commons and at court, particularly after Wharton’s accession to the peerage in February 1696, though he was strong enough to secure in April Newton’s appointment as master of the Mint. The rift with Sunderland and the Country Whigs had widened after the latter’s support for the land bank, but Montagu was now bent on an audacious policy to ditch both that scheme and its backers, even though to do so risked starving the army of supply. On 26 May, with his colleague John Smith I*, he laid before the lords justices the proposals for the new bank, but his lack of enthusiasm was clear enough in the letters he wrote to the King, via William Blathwayt*: ‘our great affair of the land bank is now come to some issue, and such a one as I am afraid will justify all I have said or thought of that project . . . having given so much opposition to it in the House of Commons.’ Montagu asserted that ‘we are brought by these gentlemen to the greatest difficulties and straights that any government was in, [and] whether they will help us out of them, or whether we can rescue ourselves is what I very much doubt’. The land bank had destroyed government credit, he claimed, and it was with glee that he reported on 5 June that, although the subscription had begun,
hitherto nobody has writ one shilling, and in all probability this project is at an end . . . and to show the King that these gentlemen have failed him, there is yet some hopes, and that the Bank of England is still devoted to him under all the discouragements they have met with, they do by this post give Mr [Richard] Hill* [the army paymaster] credit for one million of florins.
The insinuation that the King should have listened to his chancellor from the start, and should now be grateful for rescuing him from disaster, is unmistakable.31
Although Montagu’s jubilation proved premature, the failure of the land bank to meet the 24 June deadline for its subscription allowed the Exchequer to issue its own interest-bearing bills in order to ease the lack of hard currency by means of paper money. Although his biographer claimed that the scheme was ‘owing to the prudence and industry’ of the chancellor, Montagu’s role was more of manager than originator, for again the project was not of his own devising. As early as January 1692 he had heard the kernel of the idea discussed in the House by Thomas Neale*, and the scheme has alternatively been attributed to the cashier of the customs, Mordecai Abbott, and to the unknown author of a tract published in 1691. Another pamphlet published in 1695 had also suggested a system of ‘tickets payable with interest, upon a certain fund to be settled for that purpose’. Yet at least Montagu had had the skill to pick out the project from the many proposals that were sent to him, and to throw his weight behind it; and there are signs that he had embraced the idea well before most of his contemporaries. During a debate on 18 Dec. 1694 he had approved a proposal made by Nicholas Barbon* to raise £2 million at 6 per cent interest, but went further and ‘would have current bills upon this fund in the nature of the Bank, which he said might likewise remedy some inconveniences new found in the present Bank’.32
Whatever his exact role in their formulation, the bills were soon referred to as ‘Montagu’s notes’. On 23 June 1696 the chancellor informed Blathwayt that
we are now come to the experiment of our Exchequer bills . . . and we must set our shoulders to it to make them pass; ’tis a terrible prospect and I have yet no comfort, nor hopes of being successful . . . but however we will not lie down, but struggle as long as we are able, in order to which I have drawn a proposal and a scheme how to set up the credit of the Exchequer.
In fact this may have been a reference to ‘Mr Eyles’s project to give a currency to Exchequer bills by a subscription, the subscriber to . . . be obliged to take bills in his way of dealing’, which Montagu explained to the lords justices on 14 July. The chancellor also had assistance with the scheme at a provincial level, from (Sir) Joseph Tiley*, Sir William Blackett, 1st Bt.*, Robert Yate* and Thomas Blofield*. The chancellor gambled his political future on his ability to supply the troops without the land bankers, and was thus shocked when, before it could be put into effect, the project of the Exchequer bills was almost strangled at birth by a new proposal from the promoters of the land bank ‘which has put us back a fortnight’. Montagu was probably right to suspect political motives as the explanation ‘how this proposition came to be timed as to start up just when our own designs were going to be put in execution’. Foley and others of the Country party had a longstanding hatred of him, and the Tories were also keen to exploit the government’s difficulties and to attack the Whig financiers of the Bank. Sir Thomas Cooke* and Sir Joseph Herne*, who headed the land bank delegation, may also have harboured grievances against Montagu for his animosity towards the East India Company, and for his part in the investigation into their bribery. The battle of the banks was fought out in the next few weeks, not without cost to Montagu, who was blamed ‘at court as well as country’ for not accepting the land bank money ‘when he did not know where to have it anywhere else’, and leaving ‘the army to starve in Flanders’. Indeed, he was well aware in his letters to Blathwayt of the need to represent the matter to the King in its right light:
I am very sensible that in our present circumstances no man can avoid reflections that is concerned in money matters, and it is very probable that those who have been the occasions of our misfortunes, and brought us to the brink of ruin, will be very industrious and busy to direct that anger and indignation which is due to them on those who have endeavoured to prevent those steps which have led us to destruction. This was ever the way of the world, and I am sure it will be so in this case, for I believe there never was any transaction in any place or in any age wherein there was more artifice and less sincerity showed than has appeared in this affair of the land bank. But I hope our master will make just reflections upon the whole, and he will discern the authors of his disappointments.
While the chancellor continued to insist that ‘we can now only live from hand to mouth’, William despatched Portland to find out for himself who was to blame, and to mediate with the land bankers, who refused to deal directly with the Treasury, ‘for they said they had been ill used by them’. Foley and his associates offered £200,000, and the Speaker exulted in the belief that ‘he should get the better of his enemy Charles and the Bank of England’; but the chancellor outwitted him. As Francis Gwyn* reported,
Charles Montagu and his emissaries have very cunningly divided the party [against them], proffered greater advantages underhand (frighted Harry Guy and [Charles] Duncombe*, who were zealous promoters of this against Montagu’s) and in short with all this turned my Lord Portland’s head.
Despite the shortage of money, the Treasury ‘cut the grass under’ the feet of the land bankers by ‘engaging the Jews’ to make a loan. Portland went away satisfied that the chancellor and his department had ‘acted very wisely’, leaving Foley and Harley in despair at what their enemies could make of the fiasco. In contrast, Montagu gloated that his friends at the Bank would offer a desperately needed £200,000, enough to take the army to its winter quarters, and made sure that Blathwayt knew whom to thank, assuring him that ‘unless I had taken particular care and pains in it we should not have obtained it’.33
Montagu was now talked of as the future lord treasurer, and in the Commons was the ministry’s principal manager. The new session was to prove the most successful of his career, in which he was extolled as ‘the leading genius of his time . . . in so much that the King was not more esteemed the saviour of the nation, than he of the government’, though the historian Ralph wondered whether ‘in the extraordinary provisions of this session there might be as least as much cunning and job-work, as wisdom and uprightness’.34
Although Montagu’s personal credit was never higher, his success was overshadowed at a party level by the accusations of Jacobitism which Sir John Fenwick† levelled at Shrewsbury and Russell, and one of the first priorities of the session was to defuse these charges. Under-Secretary James Vernon I* found the chancellor ‘scandalized’ at Sir John’s confession, and Montagu played an active role in formulating the ministry’s response. On 6 Nov. 1696 he pushed ‘resolutely’ in the House for Fenwick’s prosecution, and ‘did great right’ to Russell, Shrewsbury and Marlborough (John Churchill†), showing Members ‘how improbable this fiction was’ by ‘throwing out some words about the attainder which they would gladly have avoided’, thereby forcing an acceptance of the milder but important resolution declaring Fenwick’s paper to be scandalous. Four days later he ‘fell upon’ Seymour’s insinuation that Russell and Marlborough had turned on governments which they had once served, and was the key manager who marshalled forces in favour of Fenwick’s attainder, cutting through all attempts to delay its passage by frequently intervening to guide the course of debates. At the bill’s second and third readings he skilfully fixed Fenwick’s attainder as a test of loyalty to William and his government, but in doing so abandoned earlier convictions and bent Revolution principles for party purposes. ‘Though there are not two witnesses’, he now argued in contrast to his earlier stance,
yet upon what appears in proof, I am convinced that he is guilty . . . I may affirm, that there never was any government in which there was not a power lodged somewhere to be exerted upon extraordinary occasions, beyond the legal way of prosecutions.
He instanced the transfer of the crown in 1689 as just such an occasion:
Was it by the forms of common justice below that you declared the throne to be vacant, and King William to be lawful King? Is it upon the ordinary rules of Westminster Hall that his title does depend? No, it depends upon this maxim, that the Parliament of England are entrusted for the whole, and may constitute a government for the preservation of the whole. And upon the same right principle that I gave my vote to declare him rightful and lawful King, by the same principle I declare his enemies to be traitors.35
The fire he directed against Fenwick did not sap his energy for financial matters. It was, as usual, on matters of supply that he really led the House. On 20 Oct. he was appointed to the committee to draft the Address, and the words which he penned and reported on the 23rd have been acclaimed as a paragon of parliamentary eloquence. The commitment to provide sufficient money for the successful conclusion of the war gave further weight to a resolution which he had secured on the first day of the session to make good the deficiencies in funds since the Revolution. This vote, given the severe shortage of money at that time,
seemed impracticable; [and] the enemies of the government made themselves merry with it . . . nay, many, even fast friends and of unshaken affection to the government, imagined that our senators, by this, rather expressed their zeal and willingness, than their ability.
The chancellor immediately set about proving the doubters wrong. He had four principal schemes in mind. The first showed how closely he now identified his and the government’s fortunes with those of the Bank. When the ministry’s critics, wishing to turn attention away from Fenwick, proposed that the Bank be made to submit its books for scrutiny, a motion designed to reveal the precarious position of the institution ‘which was then ready to sink’, Montagu was provoked into a blistering counter-attack on the motion, arguing, as L’Hermitage reported, that ‘il y avoit plus de justice de remercier la banque des services qu’elle a rendues à l’estat’ and
si on avoit à faire porter des livres à quelqu’un ce devoit estre plustost aux orfèvres qui ont fait tout ce qu’ils ont peu pour nuire à l’estat, et qu’il y avoit autant de raison d’y obliger les marchands que la banque; et la chose là-dessus fut rejettée.
He had good reason for trying to restore the Bank’s credit, apart from gratitude for its help in the summer. On what can be described as his own initiative, for which he drew up detailed proposals, he planned to enlarge its capital to £10 million by a new subscription, extend its charter for another ten years and grant a monopoly; in return, the Bank was to supply £500,000 for the next year, and to be cajoled into accepting £800,000 of largely worthless government tallies. He presented the idea to the House on 24 Nov., after announcing the failure of the land bank, and immediately provoked denunciations from Foley, and set the coffee-houses buzzing. Far from being the incompetent and underhand financier who was unable to follow the superior thought of Locke and his allies, as some have implied, Montagu was in fact proposing something which John Freke, a member of Locke’s ‘college’, admitted
nobody can comprehend but himself. But the directors and others that are concerned in the Bank and everybody else that I talk with apprehend the consequences to the public and to the Bank that are quite contrary to what he professes to aim at. However, he is very confident in his scheme, and, tho’ he had never discoursed any of the Bank about it, did (as I have told you) some days since open it to the House. And last night he went to the directors of the Bank to propose it to them. Whether he satisfied them and brought them to an approbation of his project either by his reasons or his threats (for no doubt he would threaten them as he did in the House if they would not comply) I know not.
This letter is highly revealing, showing Montagu as no mere tool of the City financiers, but a minister with an adventurous and projecting mind. He understood finance well enough to bamboozle other experts, and a surviving draft of the proposal indicates a sure grasp of detail. The fact that he had invited Clarke to go to the City with him undermines attempts to portray Montagu as seriously at odds with Locke’s circle over money matters. What is more, after hard bargaining with the Bank’s directors, the scheme was enacted largely as Montagu had planned, and raised the value of the Bank’s notes.36
Montagu probably used his trip into the City to further a second scheme to cure the government’s liquidity problem, which was to secure a loan from London’s common council. At the end of November 1696 Somers and Montagu had publicly proposed the loan, and on 4 Dec. the latter had proposed to Members
that they would consent that in the loan which the City is making money might be taken at 5s.8d. an ounce and guineas at a proportionable rate, and said on those terms the whole £200,000 would be advanced, but the House being ready to rise when this motion was made they would not consider it saying ’twas of too great weight to be moved so late in the day, and then he said he would move it again another time.
On 8 Dec. he again moved for the encouragement of the loan by offering a premium of 10 per cent on all milled money, ‘but he did not insist upon a vote of the House, desiring only a tacit approbation, and so they came to no question upon it’.37
On 1 Dec. 1696 Montagu had outlined the deficiency of funds since the Revolution, which amounted to over £5 million, and four days later was appointed to the committee to consider how to make good this amount. Montagu intended to use one of the props of the defunct land bank, the customs revenue, and when Thomas Pelham I* opposed the ‘charging the customs’, pointed out that it was ‘but what others would have proposed, meaning the Speaker’s scheme’. The next day, however, he moved to secure Treasury cohesion by treating Pelham’s discordant views ‘with more softness’, and trumped Harley’s protestations that Foley’s expedient had applied to something different, by saying that ‘he had the project in his hand’. A general fund, later known as the ‘Great Mortgage’, was established ‘to pay principal and interest upon every one of the deficient funds, in proportion to the sum of which they were deficient’, in strict order, and Treasury officials were made personally liable if they abused their positions. His biographer suggests that it was the chancellor who had given ‘life to the whole design, and projected and invigorated the most happy methods that brought it to a happy effect’.38
The fourth expedient to remedy the money crisis was a second issue of Exchequer bills. Although only £134,000 worth of bills had been taken up by September 1696, Montagu was undeterred by their modest success and now proposed to facilitate their circulation by a contract scheme. A draft in his handwriting outlined a system of trustees who ‘shall promise and engage that they will freely accept Exchequer bills in all payments due to them’. Many such trustees were political allies, such as Sir Gilbert Heathcote,* George Dodington* and Sir William Ashurst*. On 20 Jan. 1697 the bills became legal tender, and the contract scheme was incorporated into the Act for making good the deficiencies, which passed the House on 26 Mar. Between April 1697 and February 1698 £2,700,000 of bills were issued, thereby laying a good foundation ‘for paper money to supply the place of the silver coin; for . . . a great many of these notes were only for five or ten pounds, which answered the necessity of commerce among the meaner people, for the common conveniences of life’. By allowing them to be used to pay any tax except the land tax, the bills soon acquired credit equal to that of real money. On the other hand, they were a victim of their own success because their interest-bearing nature encouraged hoarding, which meant that they never evolved into a state-issued paper currency. Critics also claimed that the trustees of circulation reaped more than the 10 per cent allowed by the Act, and that since the Treasury officials were also subscribers to the fund they acted in their own self-interest.39
The success of the session encouraged rumours that Montagu would be made a Scottish peer or a lord justice, but, after Godolphin’s resignation the previous autumn, the chancellor had probably set his sights on becoming lord treasurer. As a step towards this goal he displaced Sir Stephen Fox as first lord of the Treasury, though not without a struggle, for the King initially made ‘some objections’ to the promotion, further confirmation of the cool relationship that always existed between them. Ironically, however, his position at this zenith of his fortunes was not as strong as it appeared to be. A satire on Montagu’s speech to the King before the King’s departure for the Continent described a state with ‘credit exhausted, and no pounds remain’. The severity of the financial crisis, which had helped contribute to the unanimity of the previous session and which had given him an opportunity the previous summer to outsmart his opponents, now closed in on him. He had used the crisis to achieve a position of dominance, but this position of sole responsibility meant tackling almost unsurmountable problems, while having to accept responsibility for any failure. At a personal level it was also inevitable that as the sole director of government financial policy he should attract criticism that he could no longer deflect by attacking others. Moreover, it was immediately apparent that he would have to expend a large amount of energy in finding ways out of the acute shortage of money. When he proposed to pay for the victualling of the navy by tallies, he had the unpleasant shock of finding its creditors unwilling to accept them, forcing him to part with part of the year’s funds to buy time for repayments. Worse still, the Exchequer bills, the hoped-for solution to the cash problems which had been caused by recoinage, ran into severe difficulties. In a desperate tone that contrasts with the assured calm of the previous year, he told Blathwayt that the bills ‘do as well as could be expected from so new a thing, under a great opposition, but we are almost at the end of our tether in them, and how we shall find remittances on any other fund is yet to be tried’. By the beginning of June the hard-hit Exchequer was grubbing around for money:
We have very few Exchequer bills remaining for the forces . . . We have I hope provided for the whole of the victualling and Ordnance, and if we can find some wages for seamen the state of the navy will be in a much better condition than anybody imagined, but the provision for the army is deplorable.
There were so many pressing demands, the chancellor lamented, that it was not surprising that ‘we should fail in obeying some of them’.40
By the middle of June 1697 prospects were still bleak, but were brightening: ‘our credit is mending hard, the Exchequer bills rise in their value and the Bank subscriptions advance, and if we have no ill accidents we may live till winter’. A second issue of Exchequer bills was made, but was hampered by the second official launch of Thomas Neale’s lottery scheme, which the chancellor complained ‘nobody does or will understand’. It cost him ‘many a thought’ to contrive a way of raising a mere £50,000 to send abroad to pay the army, and just when he thought that it was possible to ‘set up paper credit as high as ever’, he found ‘old artifices’ wrecking the bills ‘and endeavouring to confound all’. By the end of July only £350,000 of the Exchequer bills had been subscribed, and Montagu blamed ‘some unlucky accidents on one hand, and some malicious contrivances on the other’, but although there was just enough to get the government ‘again afloat and have something to dispose of’, the crisis was putting divisive strains on the Treasury team over the legality of changing the contract conditions for the bills. The increase of premium paid to trustees reflected badly on the Treasury lords who had negotiated the deal and were also subscribers, with the chancellor alone putting down £2,000 for both the first and the second issues.41
At this unpropitious moment, Montagu decided to take a holiday and visit Richard Norton II* and other friends in the south-west, a sign that he was beginning to seek refuge from his problems. But by the end of September he was back in London, and reporting that paying off the troops ‘was so great a service for a House of Commons that I left nothing unattempted to bring it about, I went into the City and spoke to all sorts of people’. Yet the loan could only be secured at very high levels of interest, and even then he was ‘not pleased’ that the Bank of England refused to lend as an institution, its directors only promising to help in a private capacity. Unlike the previous year, when the end of the summer’s campaign eased pressure on him, there seemed no respite from difficulties, and he complained in the autumn of 1697 that ‘the fatigue of our business is not yet lessened by the peace’. Another issue of Exchequer bills was required, ‘for tho’ the second is not half called in, the demand on it is so great ’tis necessary to have a third to keep up their credit’.42
Ostensibly, the chancellor’s star was still rising. In the summer of 1697 he obtained two grants from the King, and in late October he dined with Portland and Sunderland, ‘making his court acceptably’, and was rewarded with a place in the Cabinet. Nevertheless, he was approaching the coming session from a position of insecurity. The Exchequer urgently needed money to pay for an army that was not only redundant but increasingly resented; and, as the archpriest of high taxation, the end of the war left him out of touch with public opinion, on which he had relied in default of strong personal ties with William. He was thus even more reliant on Shrewsbury to maintain his favour with the King at a time when the Duke was contemplating retirement, and when William’s resistance to Wharton as a replacement boded ill for the Junto, since it seemed to leave Sunderland’s influence all-pervasive. There was unsettling talk of a change of ministry.
When MPs reassembled, Montagu immediately ran into difficulties. On 7 Dec. his motion to consider supply met opposition from those who wished to discuss grievances first, on the grounds that peace could now mean a reversion to normal procedure. He countered that there was more need of supply than ever before, and that the rejection of his proposal ‘could give the public dark forebodings about this session, which would forfeit what little credit [the government] had left’, but only won the question by an uncomfortably narrow margin of three. Seymour had even attempted to exploit the government’s, and Montagu’s, embarrassment by raising the issue of falsely endorsed Exchequer bills, which suggested corruption by the chancellor’s officials, but the latter surprised his opponent by answering ‘that he would join with that gentleman in examining all abuses . . . and he himself would bring it before the House’. He outmanoeuvred his critics again on 9 Dec. when he forestalled objections about supply going to the army by suggesting that the £600,000 be earmarked for the less contentious support of the navy and other government needs. A few days later he again turned the tables on Seymour, who had proposed an examination of all accounts since 1690 as a pretext for censuring the administration of funds, by amending the starting date of the inquiry to 1660, which would have widened the investigation into Sir Edward’s own period of office, and, as L’Hermitage reported, Montagu’s ‘repartie ferma la bouche’ of his critic.43
But although these incidents showed that Montagu had lost none of his formidable debating skills, he was unable to withstand the strength of anti-army sentiment. During the debate on 10 Dec. on the King’s Speech he argued in vain that nobody designed a peacetime standing army, that peace was still fragile, that France might invade, and that there were enemies at home. The next day it was resolved to fix the army at the size it had been in 1680, estimated at about 6,000 troops, a decision that his exchange with John Howe did little to alter. Indeed his retort to Howe’s jibes implied that if the army had been maintained without parliamentary consent, it was not the King’s fault but due to failure by the House to grant proper supply, an outburst that did little for his own or the government’s position. Montagu’s interventions were actually hindering Court management, since one observer ascribed the vote against a larger army to the pique country gentlemen had against him. On 14 Dec. Montagu again clashed with Howe, who answered the chancellor’s assertion that he would never advise the King to break his oath not to maintain troops without the consent of Parliament with the quip that Montagu must already have done so since soldiers had been kept without pay. Unable to persuade the House to increase the number it had fixed, Montagu spoke on 23 Dec. against the committal of the disbanding bill, arguing that it destroyed the militia since it referred simply to troops, and that in the event of an invasion ‘these men cannot be got together again’; but once more his words failed to convince the House.44
Even so, Montagu’s success on 18 Dec. 1697 in obtaining a civil list of £700,000 p.a. for the King’s life, after a debate in which he defended William’s judgment and abilities, probably encouraged him to think that the size of the army could be renegotiated during discussions about the supply necessary to maintain it. On 8 Jan. 1698, after overnight discussions at the Rose Club of which he was a member, the Court tried to free the committee of the whole from being limited by the vote of 11 Dec. But despite these preparations, the guidance offered by the Court was weak and conflicting, and the chancellor’s hectoring tone assumed a new shrillness as he asserted that James II had ‘well received’ the news of the disbandment, and that ‘there were some that were for allowing the King no guards as well as no army’. When a Member complained that there were undertakers who wanted to lead the House by the nose, he replied (according to Bonet) that ‘on avait lieu de croire qu’il y avait des entrepreneurs de la Cour de St Germain’. These remarks ‘had like to have given little Montagu a fall’, and might have brought him to the bar, had not Harry Mordaunt* defused the tension ‘by a witty expression’. Montagu’s ability to manage the House was clearly under severe strain. On 11 Jan. Harley proposed £300,000 for supply, a figure Montagu was willing to accept, ‘seeing no reason to expect more’. He again said that England’s allies were surprised at the stance of the House and repeated his belief that fears for liberty from the army were groundless, arguments that may have induced Musgrave’s compromise offer of £350,000.45
After the Christmas recess the issues of supply and the army were increasingly laced with factional disputes. On 15 Jan. the House heard a complaint against the commissioners of the Admiralty, ‘but Mr Montagu set it right again by proposing the examination should be referred to a committee’. He also had to defend his own position, which had come under attack as a result of the scandal of the falsely endorsed Exchequer bills. But although the Treasury conducted an internal inquiry which had started before Parliament met, and after which the King had personally thanked the chancellor for taking such a ‘great deal of pains’ in laying the matter to rest, Montagu had still to endure attempts in the Commons to embroil him in the affair. On 4 Jan. 1698 some MPs cross-examined one of the culprits, Reginald Marriott*, ‘endeavouring by their questions to get an imputation laid on the principal commissioners of the Treasury’, but the next day the House heard Treasury minutes which showed that Montagu and his team had not tried to hide the abuses, even though Marriott had accused the chancellor of agreeing to shelter his officials Bartholomew Burton and John Knight I*. On 6 Jan. Somers reported that the attempts to ‘blemish Mr Montagu’ had been ‘utterly defeated’, and the following day the Commons heard Knight vindicating the Treasury from any involvement in the scandal.46
However, on 11 Jan. 1698 a pointed call was made for an account to be submitted of all grants made since December 1696, and two days later Sir John Bolles* hinted at the intention in ‘a speech about timber grants and destroying of forests’, a reference to Montagu’s gift of wood from the Forest of Dean, worth £2,000 p.a. Ironically, Montagu had himself attacked John Granville* in February 1697 on the grounds that the latter’s family had made £300,000 from royal grants. Now the opposition turned his own weapon against him. Vernon noted, however, not only that he ‘pluck[ed] up a spirit and will not bate them an inch’, but also that the attacks had provoked him into ‘a mind to be retaliating’. As Montagu himself told Shrewsbury,
the malice of my enemies has been very remarkable, but I can assure you, it has not given me one unquiet hour; and before many days are past you will hear I have carried the war in to their own country. I wish any use could be made of these malicious attacks; for when rage proves impotent, advantages are easily taken. I am sure I should have had no quarter, and I will give none, unless you command me.
This extraordinary letter shows Montagu’s relish in turning defence into counter-attack, a hallmark of his parliamentary ability, and his conviction that the factions were now at all-out war with one another. He may have drawn this new confidence in part from a belief that ‘we are again united to all the mistaken friends who left us’, probably a reference to restored unity among the Court ranks now that the army issue had been dealt with, and in part from the resignation of Sunderland, which had opened the opportunity of purging the administration of the faint-hearted. Shrewsbury hinted that although Sunderland had been behind the attacks on Montagu, the latter should be ‘cautious not to alienate the King’s mind from yourself or your friends, by doing anything to confirm the opinion some have laboured to give him that the Whigs have a natural sourness, that makes them not to be lived with’. But the chancellor was determined to press home personal and party advantage even at the expense of the King’s affairs. He rejected Shrewsbury’s view that Sunderland’s terms for reconciliation were reasonable, arguing that if Shrewsbury would allow himself ‘to be made the corner-stone, we will raise such a structure, as shall not easily be destroyed, especially when we have taken away his [Sunderland’s] tools and engines’. His plan was to destroy Sunderland’s protégé (Sir) Charles Duncombe, whom he believed to be ‘the Iago of the whole villainy’, and if Henry Guy could no longer be trusted, he too should be ‘blasted and sent after Duncombe’. Montagu clearly envisaged a new and impregnable Whig ministry, headed by Shrewsbury, with Wharton as secretary, and proscription for all those who ‘have been, underhand, fostered and nursed up to supplant us’, a forthright statement which may have shocked the moderate Shrewsbury into professions that his health prevented him from assuming the position Montagu wished.47
Shrewsbury’s caution did not, however, deter Montagu. He assured the Duke that if he was ‘responsible for anything in Parliament, I could assure you all the ill humour of the session will be spent in the matter of Exchequer bills’, fittingly the issue which his enemies had tried to use to bring him down. On 18 Jan. 1698 he enticingly gave notice of the impending attack in Parliament by telling Members that ‘he believed he should in a few days be able to open a new scene to the House, which would very well deserve their looking into’, a speech which ‘raised a great expectation’. Following Montagu’s hint that he would assist the investigation into alienation of crown property ‘as far as any man’, Vernon thought that the attack would be over grants, believing that Montagu’s friends would present an account of all those made since the Revolution, so that his own would pale into insignificance. But this would have been too defensive a tactic and perhaps have entangled too many in its wake. Accordingly, on 22 Jan., Montagu ‘brought on’ another debate about the Exchequer bills and ‘undertook to make out a very severe charge against’ Duncombe. The latter made the error of calling his bluff, and although Edward Harley* punned that ‘after a long examination of several witnesses the mountain was delivered of a mouse, no part of the charge against Duncombe being made out’, on 25 Jan. Montagu was ‘hotly engaged’ in convincing other MPs to send Duncombe to the Tower, and in the polite phraseology of his biographer, ‘followed through’ all the ‘windings and meanders’ of the scandal. He delighted in pushing for the committal of a bill of pains and penalties against Duncombe, which imposed a fine amounting to nearly half Duncombe’s estate, though the measure was defeated ‘out of spite’ in the Lords by Leeds, who saw in it an opportunity to repay Montagu for his accusations of 1695. At the same time Montagu was not only professing himself ‘well disposed to an accommodation’ with Sunderland, but actually claiming that ‘it would be much easier if Duncombe were well mortified’. But it is hard to believe that the chancellor was sincere about patching up his quarrels, and he may have found it convenient to hide behind the antipathy to Sunderland expressed by John Smith I, his Treasury colleague.48
Perhaps enjoying his role as the ‘governor’ of MPs too much, the chancellor overplayed his hand in the violence of his attack on Duncombe, since it, and the struggle at court, encouraged his enemies to launch a counter-attack aimed at unravelling the entire Junto ministry: ‘if they had broke in upon Mr Montagu, my Lord Chancellor [Somers] would have been next’, Vernon noted. On 16 Feb., two days after the passage in the Commons of the bill against Duncombe, ‘there were many speeches . . . in the House, which aimed at Mr Montagu’s ruin’ because he had accepted a grant in April 1697 from the Irish forfeitures. The House sat seven hours discussing the grant, which Montagu admitted had been for his benefit although made out in the name of his agent, Thomas Railton, and which was rumoured to be worth £12,000. Calls were made for his impeachment, and a motion that he withdraw from the House to allow free debate on the matter was so hotly promoted that at first no one dared defend him. The chancellor himself sat mute. When pushed to a vote, however, Montagu’s Tory critics suffered a surprisingly heavy defeat, by 207 votes to 98. Indeed, further arguments that in passing a grant which benefited himself Montagu had violated his oath as a Privy Councillor, Treasury commissioner, chancellor and MP were rejected in favour of a resolution that ‘for his good services to this government, Mr Montagu does deserve his Majesty’s favour’. Having turned the attack to his own advantage, the chancellor broke silence to remark that he was grateful to his enemies for making his innocence public, and was ready to return his gift to the King provided others did likewise, a jibe at Seymour and Granville, who had both profited under Charles II. John Evelyn I* was told that the chancellor would now ‘govern more absolutely than ever’. The bill to confiscate grants was not pursued with vigour, partly because the personalization of the issue had alienated many of its potential supporters, but an attack on the Treasury commissioners, claiming that their mishandling of Exchequer abuses was as grave a crime as Duncombe’s, failed only when Montagu told MPs that the commissioners had sought the advice of the lords justices on the matter. He ‘came off with flying colours’ by showing ‘le peu de rapport qu’il y avait entre leur procède et celui du S[eigneur] Duncombe’, and the issue was dropped.49
For the rest of the session the chancellor’s position was more secure. Opponents were unable to make anything of further investigations into Burton’s corruption because the Court ensured that the relevant committee was well attended. Montagu may even have been trying to appease some of his critics. On 22 Mar. he urged the House not to be ‘too easy’ in sending one of their Members, the Country Tory Hon. James Bertie*, to the Lords for examination, and though this action may have been prompted by his abiding watchfulness of Commons’ privileges, he again placated Country opinion by suggesting a deferral of a contentious penalty clause in the blasphemy bill, rather than its outright rejection. Moreover, on 8 Apr. he ‘promised his assistance’ for Foley’s proposal of a tax on grants in return for confirmation of all those made since the Restoration, claiming to be satisfied that all other ways of raising money ‘would be ineffectual, but in this method something might be raised’. As the French ambassador observed, ‘this has surprised everyone’, and he ascribed the compromise to an elaborate game of poker between Montagu and Seymour at the head of their respective parties, in which ‘they intended to deceive each other’. Although the outcome ‘did not relish well with the King’, it may also have been designed to end the feuding between the parties which was wrecking the session and the ministry. Indeed, the situation had deteriorated so far that Sunderland’s supporter, John Methuen*, thought it ‘not very proper to speak of the ministers here since there are not properly any that at present ought to be so called’, though he added that ‘if it may be said that anything is managed’ this was done by Somers, Montagu, Orford and Wharton. A remodelling of the ministry, with Montagu or Wharton as secretary and Shrewsbury as lord chamberlain, was being considered.50
The Junto were close to exclusive power, but for the moment found themselves unable to use it effectively because of Montagu’s position. The attacks on him were made, as Somers pointed out, because the Court’s critics were ‘sensible how useful and indeed how necessary he is’, and although ‘all [had] ended hitherto very highly to his honour’, he had been ‘so engaged in retorting upon those who he thinks would have been loading him, that he is not at leisure for other reflections’, leaving Court business to languish without direction and proceed ‘more heavily than ever’. The problem was to channel the energies devoted to preserving the chancellor’s position into promoting the Court’s concerns. ‘If those who compose one party were also of one mind on public business’, Portland sighed, ‘the affair of Mr Montagu would be a proof that the men of that party could do what they like.’ Accordingly, meetings took place in April between the King, Montagu, John Smith, Orford, Lord Coningsby (Thomas*) and Shrewsbury, partly to allow William to remove ‘any suspicions as if he were altered towards them’ but also ‘for putting the public business into a quicker motion’.51
Some degree of order was gradually restored, partly because the rest of the session was dominated by consideration of finances, the area in which Montagu was most confident as a manager. On 8 Mar. 1698 he had carried a division over payment of subsidies to England’s allies, ‘to satisfy those princes that they intended to discharge their debt’ and to ‘show that they treated the foreign troops as they did their own’. On 13 Apr. he seconded Coningsby’s motion for a quarterly poll, and ‘the debate lasted so little a while that the question was put by surprise’, though he had less success two days later in pressing for a clause to be added to the bill for preventing false and counterfeit money, that would have clarified the price of guineas. The improved attention to business was best shown in the Treasury’s strong backing for a proposal developed by Samuel Shepheard I*, John Ward II*, Sir Francis Eyles (Montagu’s aide on the Exchequer bill project), (Sir) Gilbert Heathcote and Sir William Scawen* under the patronage of the chancellor. In early May Montagu and Smith gave the King an account of the scheme, which was to better the Old East India Company’s offer of a loan of £700,000 by proposing £2 million in return for an exclusive right of trade and 8 per cent interest. William was ‘doubtful whether such a sum can be raised’, and although it was thought that ‘it will be very well liked if it succeeds’ there was also the possibility that it would provide ‘an amusement if it fails’. Once again, Montagu was risking everything on a bold financial proposal and it was seen as part of the struggle between interests: ‘if Mr Montagu’s proposal succeeds . . . he will not only disappoint all the designs of the opposite party, but yet further establish the credit of himself and his friends. If there should be a failure, it would be a public as well as a private misfortune.’ On 4 May 1698 he outlined the project to the House, making it clear that the Old Company would be free to subscribe ‘either jointly with the new subscribers or apart as they like best’, and concluded that the scheme would offer an opportunity to test ‘whether that trade were carried to the greatest advantage by a joint stock or no; and whether it were of any security to trade to have forts in the Mogul’s dominions’, as the Old Company had. He also said that ‘he had made the best inquiry he could whether raising such a sum might be depended upon, and he found great probability of it’. A stunned House resolved to consider the idea the next day when, with Montagu again at his wheedling best, he
submitted it to their judgment, and did not pretend to be otherwise answerable for it. He did not doubt but they would see how much money should be raised before they closed with it; for he should be loath to see them embark in any proposal which should fail them, as that of the land bank did.
This sarcastic reminder of the alleged financial incompetence of his enemies, and his own sound judgment, was followed by a renewed investigation into Sir Thomas Cooke’s bribery in obtaining the Old Company’s charter. On 9 May he also organized ‘a horse race on Banstead Downs, and the baiting of a bear near St. James’s Park’ at the time appointed for the debate on the incorporation bill, ‘which carried off the opposites and gave him and his party an opportunity to batter the Old Company and gain his point for the new’. With his opponents cowed or sidetracked, observers thought the proposal ‘took very much with the House’ and, more importantly, in the City, where subscriptions had begun. ‘Taking notice that there was a great probability of raising the sum’, Montagu accordingly moved on 13 May that the committee of ways and means provide a good fund to pay interest on the loan, since this would be a further encouragement to subscribers, of whom he was himself one. On 19 May he again reminded MPs of the need to establish a sufficient fund, and the next day was able to announce that £1,200,000 had already been subscribed. To quote L’Hermitage, he gloated ‘qu’ils pussent convincre tout le monde qu’ils avaient satisfait à leur promesses en faisant voir qu’ils pouvaient fournir la somme qu’on demande’. Having proposed a tax on salt and stamped paper as the basis for the fund, he could see ‘no inconveniency’ in giving the Old Company three years’ notice of dissolution. The company disagreed, however, and immediately petitioned against the move. Montagu explained on 24 May ‘how he understood the trade might be settled by coming as near to a free trade as the thing was capable of, which in his own judgment he should prefer’, but was astute enough to appreciate that even some of the interlopers did not share his views, and conceded that ‘as there were divided opinions, some being for a joint stock company and others for trading separately, he thought both might be satisfied, and the public receive no prejudice, since by that means a monopoly would be avoided and there would be more than one market’. The committee supported him, and the next day he successfully submitted ‘several regulations for the new settlement of trade to India’, including incorporation of the new company and recognition of its exclusive rights for ten years.52
Having appeared to win his way on the main issue, the chancellor turned to other matters. On 27 May 1698 he reminded Members that they had long ago resolved on the size of the civil list, and that it was high time they decided how to fund it. To help them, he ‘proposed the manner it might be done’, by raising £500,000 on excises, and the rest by double subsidies for the King’s life, a settlement that was compared to ‘a rent charge’. But the session could not be ended until a rearguard action brought by the Old East India Company had been fought off, though by conciliation rather than his usual confrontational approach. In order ‘to remove the clamour about the injustice’ felt by the Old Company about their charter, he proposed to seek the judges’ ruling on the legality of the notice of termination, and ‘showed a great willingness to make an ample allowance’ for their dead stock ‘to encourage their coming into the subscription’. Indeed, in private discussions about the fusion of the companies, he was prepared to give the Old Company ‘more than the worth of their forts’. Despite such concessions, and against a specific warning, the Old Company proposed on 10 June to match the £2 million by grafting the new subscription onto its own books. Montagu attacked the counter-proposal as ‘deceitful’ because a majority of the Old Company’s committee had in fact opposed such a motion, and it was rejected. Even so, he needed their money to achieve a full subscription, and tried to placate them by calling them in on 16 June to see if they had any clauses to add to the bill for settling the East Indies trade. He even ‘presented a clause in their behalf, that they should have the liberty of trading for three years’.53
The tide was now running Montagu’s way. On 18 June 1698 he proposed to add a clause to the £2 million bill which would have suspended the law requiring Exchequer payments to be made in specie, on the grounds that ‘it would be a means for keeping the money in the country’, and although this was ‘opposed as a matter that would be advantageous to the Bank only and troublesome to everybody else’, the motion was carried. He intervened again on 20 June to entice the Old Company into his scheme, and worsted Granville on the 25th in a formidable display of cutting repartee. Both bills duly passed to the Lords, though the East India bill met great opposition there. Critics in the Upper House tried to exploit the examination of Shepheard over promises made to merchants who had broken the ban on trade with France, but when none of those questioned implicated Montagu in anything underhand, the matter was dismissed as ‘a groundless clamour’. Montagu summed up his feelings in a frank letter to Shrewsbury on 16 July:
I have been in such a storm of business as never blew out of any quarter before. I was not ignorant of what I undertook, nor insensible of the opposition I should meet with, from such a set of men, as the East India Company; but really, the dispute was more obstinate than I did expect. I saw no other way, but something of that kind, to make any tolerable end of the session, and fix the civil list; and therefore I thought it ought to be risked; but in the progress, the contest ran so high I repented heartily it was ever attempted. But notwithstanding all the opposition, that the wit or malice of the party could give in the House, we kept our scheme entire; and though since the Act passed, there has been more industry used to run it down as a chimera and an idle notion, the subscriptions began on Thursday, at one, and were completed tonight at seven. I must confess I always thought I could not fail, if the Act passed, but the success is beyond all expectation, and it is certain there might have been another million taken on the same terms. This contest, and some other accidents, have freed us from a companion [Sunderland] that was intended us, who would have been worse than all this; but I think we are got clear of that fireship for ever. If he annoys us now, it must be by hoisting the enemy’s colours, and under that declaration, I do not fear him.
Montagu had cause to be jubilant. The subscription of £2 million within three days included £315,000 from the Old Company, though, unlike ‘the great champions against a monopoly’, Montagu and Smith, its treasurer John Dubois did not sign the roll for the new company’s incorporation. The chancellor’s success in steering the risky bill through the House demonstrated his deft handling of the Commons, and at a stroke restored both his own and the Junto’s fortunes. He had conducted the Court’s business with such ability that few doubted, as L’Hermitage wrote, that ‘l’année prochaine on ne sera pas en peine de trouver des expédients’. As a reward, he was appointed one of the lords justices along with Marlborough, whose nomination he was said to have promoted, and it was expected that a peerage would be conferred on him, though ‘an Irish or Scotch title, that he may still continue in the House of Commons where he had done his Majesty so much service’.54
Yet there were clouds on the horizon. Montagu did not accept Sunderland’s disclaimers of involvement in the earlier attacks on him, and the closeting of the two men ‘for some time in private discourse’ failed to achieve a reconciliation. This might not have been so serious had the Junto enjoyed good relations with the King, or Shrewsbury been on the scene to push their case. As it was, the King refused to give Wharton a ministerial post, even though Montagu had been ‘said to desire to force his master to grant at present certain favours to his cabal’. Even his triumph contained the seeds of future difficulty, for the establishment of the New East India Company did ‘less good than he designed’, since it created fears that the Whigs wished to engross the nation’s money and trade, and the Old Company grumbled that their charter had been illegally infringed. Perhaps sensing the unease, Montagu had ordered Lowndes to alter the starting date of the period of notice for the Old Company to 29 Sept., a time ‘more agreeable to the Act of Parliament’; but the company held the chancellor responsible for the ruin of their trade, and did not hesitate to tell the King as much. Moreover, although Montagu’s biographer thought the success of the subscription showed his ‘skill in touching the springs of the people’s affections’, Bonet thought he ‘est à l’abri de la haine du peuple, et, ce qu’il y a de principal, la nation, selon l’opinion la plus générale’. Even he himself admitted that the difficulties in raising supply in the House owed less to the country’s inability to pay than to the unwillingness of MPs, and he was thus naturally said to be apprehensive ‘that on the dissolution of this Parliament, according to the triennial bill, he will lose his influence in future if he does not obtain it among the Members who will compose the new Parliament’.55
The elections in July 1698 seem to have confirmed Montagu’s fears that in the new situation created by peace, public opinion was turning against his abrasive style of management. Apart from trying to secure a seat for his brother James Montagu I*, he was much less active than before on behalf of others, possibly because his own election at Westminster was so uncomfortable and long drawn out. Sir Henry Dutton Colt, 1st Bt.*, who may have blamed Montagu personally for failing to reward his services to the Junto, now set up against him at Westminster on a Country ticket, and the chancellor and his partner James Vernon I had to labour hard against the cries that they were responsible for high taxes. Montagu obtained permission from the King that ‘the great bell called Tom of Westminster’ could be sold ‘and the money distributed to the poor’, and the grand jury was induced to declare in their favour; but even so he suffered the indignity of ‘sweating’ it out at a poll. The struggle prompted Bonet to comment that if he lost, the Court would not be able to find anyone else ‘de sa volée, qui fut meilleur orateur, qui eut plus de prétence d’esprit, et un discernement plus juste pour pouvoir déveloper en un moment toutes les affaires embrouillées’; but the very possibility of losing must have come as a shock to a man of Montagu’s pride and self-confidence. Although he headed the poll, Colt’s vote of over 2,000 showed the extent to which the chancellor’s credit was slipping, and the likelihood of a petition meant that he could not forget the humbling episode.56
Montagu had not been present when the results of the poll were announced because his wife died that evening. It is difficult to assess how this affected him emotionally. On the one hand, the marriage had never been a love match, and John Ellis* noted that he left to seek consolation at the Chelsea house of Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*) where there ‘were many pleasing objects to divert melancholy’. After only a month Ellis was reporting that Montagu ‘was at church in his own seat (covered with black) last Sunday, and me thought he cast his eyes round him, upon the beauties and the fortunes, as if (like the Great Turk) he was considering which of them he should honour with the cast of his handkerchief’. On the other hand, Lady Manchester’s death may have had a more profound impact than the wits imagined, for Montagu’s spirits were said to be ‘low’ at this time, and Prior’s consoling words that ‘as long as we are here let us live as easy as we can’ may have sunk home. Moreover, her £1,500 p.a. jointure now passed to the Earl of Manchester, and since Montagu had no personal estate of his own to fall back on, the financial loss created instability for him. Money was certainly on his mind, for in October he wrote to Coningsby to thank him for making the most of his Irish grant. On top of these personal misfortunes, he confided to Shrewsbury that the general election had ‘made a humour appear in the countries that is not very comfortable to us, that are in business’, and that the new Members would have to ‘be handled very nicely’. The ministry clearly needed to concert its measures, and Montagu embarked on a tour of his colleagues, meeting them at Boughton, home of the Earl of Montagu (Ralph Montagu†), at Orford’s seat at Chippenham, at St. Albans (further confirmation of his increasingly friendly relations with Marlborough), and at Winchendon, to consult with Wharton. Montagu’s roving party management seems to have had disappointing results in pulling the ministry together, and may only have served to make him aware how much of the burden of power he now had to shoulder personally.57
One final factor may explain the shift in Montagu’s mood at this time. In May he had been sabre-rattling about the strong line England would take to protect its interests when the king of Spain died, but towards the end of the summer the King William wrote to Somers about his negotiations with France over partitioning Spain in the event of Carlos II’s death. William was not seeking advice so much as sanction, though Somers nevertheless discussed the idea with Montagu, as well as Orford and Shrewsbury. Vernon believed that the ministers were broadly in favour of such a treaty, though Somers couched their collective reply in cautious terms. Although they still believed that France was intent on aggrandizement, they thought the country was in no condition for a new war, and thought that a good peace, ‘if it can be effected’, would be to the nation’s advantage. Montagu and Vernon returned to London with a commission under the great seal to be forwarded to the King. The issue was significant for two main reasons. The first was that when it became public in 1701, it provoked Montagu’s impeachment. At that time he was not only to declare that ‘he never once saw’ the treaty, which was strictly true since William had only communicated its outline, but also to deny that ‘he [was] ever advised with in it’, which was false. The second is that Montagu had had to take stock of the economic state of the country, and it was probably his advice that Somers reported when he wrote that the nation was ‘tired out with taxes to a degree beyond what was discerned till it appeared upon the occasion of the late elections’. The euphoria after the success of the New East India Company subscription had now evaporated.58
Such difficulties on the foreign, domestic and personal scenes may help explain why Montagu now displayed uncharacteristic timidity and cupidity. On receiving news of the death of Sir Robert Howard*, auditor of the Exchequer, he ‘went immediately to Sir Thomas Littleton, and from thence to Mr [John] Smith at Hampton Court, to let them know he would be glad of that place and desired their concurrence in it’. The Treasury lords ‘made no difficulty to gratify him’, and the three men passed a warrant on 5 Sept. 1698, in such haste that neither the King’s nor his friends’ prior approval was sought. Though the grant was initially made out in favour of his brother Christopher*, few had doubts that the emoluments of the office (worth at least £4,000 p.a. in peace time and more during war) would pass to Charles, who could take refuge in the place when it suited him to do so. The ramifications were far reaching. It drew the envy of others who had long had an eye on the post, such as Godolphin and, more importantly, the Duke of Leeds, who had obtained a royal warrant for the place from Charles II in favour of his son, Lord Carmarthen (Peregrine Osborne†). Leeds immediately protested, but the Treasury insisted that the office was in their own power of bestowal rather than in the gift of the King. Not only did this verdict inflame the feud between the Osbornes and Montagu, which ripened into a prolonged lawsuit and on a number of occasions in Anne’s reign led to challenges for duels, but it also risked insulting the King. Vernon and Shrewsbury were concerned that William would be ‘surprised to hear such a place is given away without consulting him’ and that the chancellor had taken such ‘a hazardous step’ towards a confrontation.59
In the event, the King reacted calmly, resolving not to meddle, and even seeming by December ‘well disposed in Mr Montagu’s affair, if it can be brought about without breaking his business’. It was an impossible proviso, for the appointment signalled little less than the short-term slackening of Montagu’s management of the Commons and the longer-term disintegration of the ministry. When it was put to him that he could not ‘be spared from the Treasury, especially at this meeting of Parliament [when] there will be a jealousy that he will not perform the same services, since he does not keep the same post’, Montagu replied ‘that he should not be missed’ as head of the Treasury, that Smith was ‘extremely capable of it, and he should give any assistance that was required’. Speculation was rife that he would resign when the King returned from the Continent, or when the legality of the appointment was determined, though Somers desperately hoped that his friend might hold both places rather ‘than quit the Treasury’. For the moment he kept his place as chancellor, but a large question mark now hung over his commitment to the proper administration of the King’s business. Moreover, he had seemed to confirm the charges of venality that had been raised in the previous Parliament. Even those who knew him well had thought him ‘too aspiring to stoop to anything below the post he was in, and that he least considered profit’, and while George Stepney confided that Montagu’s friends thought the post ‘a recompense for your many important, laborious and, I may say, dangerous services . . . at the same time, they consider your age and ability, your vigour and experience and hope you will not so far indulge the principles of ease and philosophy as to grow indolent and retire’. Now allies and enemies alike were forced to reassess his character. In the previous session of Parliament Montagu’s self-defence could be excused on the grounds that his survival was inextricably linked with the fortunes of the King and his party; but by signalling that he wished to cut, or at least redefine, those links he now indicated that he put private above public interest. It is not surprising that rumours circulated of an impending attack on him for diverting public funds to other uses.
Preparations for the new Parliament centred on promoting the Treasury’s nominee, Sir Thomas Littleton, for the Speakership, which was discussed at a meeting held by Montagu at the end of November 1698. To help divide the opposition he dined with his arch-enemy Seymour, who was reportedly ‘piqued against his old friends, or desires not to be too much pressed about his old accounts’, possibly to encourage him to contest the Country nomination with Granville, while at the same time knowing that news of the meetings would undermine Seymour’s own chances of election. On 6 Dec. Montagu spoke in favour of Littleton, and was reconciled with Vernon, who had helped secure the speakership. The Court victory was, however, only temporary. A tract about the contest castigated the tactics Montagu had used in the last Parliament, citing one occasion when he had guillotined a debate by putting, and then voting against, a motion to call for candles. Ill-feeling towards his management was certainly apparent on 14 Dec., when the opposition claimed, as in the last session, that custom demanded that the King’s Speech be considered before supply, and this time overrode Treasury protestations that ‘the formal steps of raising money had been more punctually observed during the war than at any time before’. The ensuing debate on the 16th on the King’s Speech led inevitably to the subject of disbanding the army, and the Court did not contest either the suggestion for a maximum of 7,000 men or a rider that the troops were to be ‘natural born subjects of England’. Montagu’s dereliction of duty in allowing these votes to pass may have been due to preoccupation with his own concerns, which once again took precedence over royal business. On 14 Dec. Colt had formally lodged a petition against Montagu’s return on the grounds that as a lord justice he had been ineligible to stand, and that he had bribed and corrupted voters. On 20 Dec. the committee resolved in Montagu’s favour, but when the report was made on the 22nd, Seymour tried to divert censure of Colt’s petition by questioning the voting qualifications of French refugees, and the House decided that in future they were to be excluded, a moral defeat for the chancellor who had insisted that it ‘was customary for them to do so’ and ‘thought it their right’.60
But at least Montagu’s seat was safe and, perhaps having been ‘chid’ by the King for earlier passiveness, he immediately proposed to put off consideration of the disbanding bill, ‘with design as believed to get time to solicit against it in order to debate some parts of it’. On 23 Dec. he duly ‘spoke against the frame of the bill’, repeating the arguments he had used the previous year that the bill would disband the militia, ‘that in case of invasion from abroad or disturbance at home, every body was tied up from giving any assistance to the public, and that they declared the army disbanded by a blank day, before any provision was made for paying them’. The debate was postponed until committee stage, and hence until after the Christmas recess, but Montagu’s failure hitherto to carry the Court’s point contributed to William’s anger and despair, which now culminated in a threat to abandon England. The King was no doubt frustrated that he was forced to rely on a Commons manager who could no longer secure what was most precious to him. Neither Montagu nor any of his allies had been appointed to the committee considering the disbanding bill.61
On 4 Jan. 1699 the House considered what instructions should be given to the disbanding bill committee and Montagu, lamenting that the King ‘had the wind in his face everywhere’, repeated his well-worn arguments about the safety of the kingdom from invasion, and the danger to the militia’s regulation. He intimated that the Court wanted at least 10,000 troops, since this had been the size of the army after Charles II’s disbandment, and possibly more cavalry, for which the bill did not fix a number. He was reported to have spoken ‘very well’, but it was clear that the Whigs were divided, several speaking with the Country opposition. On 13 Jan. the House considered how to raise the £800,000 needed for disbandment, and Harley sarcastically commented that he ‘hoped they should be assisted in it by the Treasury’, an allusion to the fact that at a meeting that morning with Musgrave, Foley, Smith and Lowndes, the chancellor ‘had been possessed that the best method would be by help of Exchequer bills’. Montagu had not only called a subsequent meeting with his officials, at which they ‘resolved not to promote it, whatever encouragement they gave to it before’, but also did all he could to obstruct an easy provision of money. In the House he and his colleagues ‘sat still while others argued against it, so that it fell’, and in committee he tried to set a low rate of interest on the fund, though this spoiling tactic was rejected. On 18 Jan., at the third reading of the disbandment bill, Montagu again spoke of the Jacobite threat, which he illustrated by reference to James II’s refusal to ‘remove further from England than the court of France’, and pushed for the higher figure of 10,000; but the rejection of his pleas was almost as much of a formality as his vote against the bill.62
Montagu therefore hoped, as in the last session, to salvage some concessions when the House considered supply. On 11 Jan. 1699 he told MPs that the cumulative deficit for 1692–7 was a ‘disappointment of £2,000,000’, and on 3 and 16 Feb. spoke to persuade Members to be generous in their provisions for the navy, reminding them on the latter occasion that they could always reduce the amount voted, but that procedure did not allow them to increase it. At the beginning of March he was active in the committee on supply, arguing that the forces were no threat to liberty (and in the colonies actually protected trade), and won a higher budget than the opposition had originally wanted to give. On 16 Mar. he made a long speech outlining the deficiencies in supply, and proposed to raise £400,000, partly by a new issue of Exchequer bills, which the House finally approved on the 21st in a victory of ‘strength of reason against the strength of all opposers’. But the Court was defeated over disbandment, and although William made a speech to the House about his guards, an attempt on 18 Mar. to restart debates on the issue so shocked Country Members that Montagu and Smith were forced to ‘protest they knew nothing’ of such a belated intent.63
With the opposition clearly gaining the upper hand, the session began to degenerate into attacks on the ministry and placemen. On 10 Jan. 1699 Montagu had deflected a question, aimed at Orford, about prizes taken in the Mediterranean, but the issue was again taken up on 2 Feb., when he and Sir Robert Rich ‘took some pains’ to clear the Admiralty from allegations of corruption; he was forced to make further defensive speeches on 1 and 10 Mar., and a vote absolving Orford of peculation was not passed until the 15th. On the 27th Montagu acted as teller for the Court in a further defence of the navy, and was the first-named to the committee to incorporate into an address the resolutions about naval mismanagement. Even then the price of victory was the alienation of MPs who thought the ‘herding of courtiers’ rendered debate meaningless. As Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, observed, ‘let but Musgrave of one side or Montagu of the other go but out to divide, and much the major part of the House will follow their leader, as well without as with reason’. The ensuing attack on placemen wrecked Court organization, and was encouraged by Leeds, who hoped that Christopher Montagu would be one of those to be expelled. Montagu had only one success in the rest of the session, and this was on old ground, securing on 15 Feb. a further reduction in the price of guineas to 21s.6d., though even this was seen, by one hostile observer, as ‘a very odd vote’, and Howe alleged that it was part of Montagu’s attempt to hinder disbanding. Otherwise, the session rumbled on disastrously, and the House snubbed Montagu by supporting the Old East India Company’s petition for a statutory recognition of its right to trade until 1714.64
The consequences of failure were far-reaching. Whereas in January Count Tallard, the French minister, had believed that the chancellor had ‘the entire confidence of the Court, with respect to finances and the Parliament’, by May he was reporting that William wanted to change ministries by bringing in more Tories or High Churchmen, though the process was to be gradual and Montagu had been refused permission to retire, even though he had ‘a great desire to be released’. He himself admitted that ‘the King would not let me go at present, though I was very unwilling not to be quiet’. William’s reluctance to part with him probably owed less to a desire to retain his services than to a need to use his help in negotiating the changes at Court. He was therefore allowed to hand over as chancellor to Smith, whom he had recommended to the King, but continued as a Treasury commissioner and a lord justice. Orford had come to a similar decision, and resigned as first lord of the Admiralty: Montagu professed to know nothing about it, but Vernon noted that he had accompanied his friend to Kensington on the morning of his departure. Orford’s retirement involved Montagu in discussions with the King about a new treasurer of the navy, though Sir Thomas Littleton was chosen instead of his preferred candidate, Lord Hartington (William Cavendish*), and he also seems to have been involved in placing other dissatisfied MPs in office, such as Henry Mordaunt and Henry Vincent I.65
As part of the preparations to hand over power, in August 1699 Montagu again toured his Junto colleagues, visiting Orford at Chippenham with Somers, then Boughton, Tunbridge and finally Petworth, the seat of the Duke of Somerset, for some hunting, though Harley thought the ‘dwarf’ would not ‘blow the horn of victory’ again. Although the meetings had failed to construct a stable ministry for the King, Montagu, who feared renewed attack when MPs met, could wait no longer for retirement, and, much to the annoyance of Somers, who thought ‘there was not that absolute necessity for it’, resigned as first lord of the Treasury on the eve of the new session, to take up the post of auditor of the Exchequer. Even though his eloquence was still needed to help guide financial bills, and to quell opponents who feared his sharp tongue, he was said to have lost his credit in the Commons, and the nature of his position had radically altered. He was no longer responsible for the formation or overall management of government policy, and although not given his long-rumoured peerage until the following year, he may well have been promised it at this time. Still a comparatively young man, he could give himself up to a life of ease, and in December it was said that he was ‘all over pleasure and making his house as fine as possible to entertain the ladies, particularly the bathing room [which] is to be mightily furnished with a fine field bed’. It was a role in which he cut a slightly ludicrous figure, and the Duchess of Marlborough sneered that the ladies whom he courted laughed at him behind his back.66
These preparations for a life of ease proved premature, for Montagu’s withdrawal from centre stage encouraged further sniping. Davenant published a treatise on the resumption of grants which included an allusion to one John de Montaigu, a French superintendent of finances in the reign of Charles VI,
or what we call commissioner of the Treasury, whom Mezeray describes to be a little insolent fellow, who from a low degree and without any great merit of his own, and only by the King’s favour, was got into great employments, where giving offence by his pride and arrogance, the great ones at last fell upon him, and he was accused, condemned and hanged.
With this hint of his opponents’ ugly mood ringing in his ears, Montagu nevertheless guessed correctly that Somers would prove to be their first target because of his involvement in the Kidd affair, though his own role was not above suspicion. On 28 Nov. 1699 he tried to deter attack by saying that ‘they would find that what he had a hand in was ordered by his Majesty in Council; but Sir Edward Seymour answered, that was what they had reason to complain of’, and Members duly demanded an inquiry. On 2 Dec. Somers met Montagu (who came flush after a confident speech to the committee of the whole House on trade), Orford, Smith and Boyle and decided to admit Junto involvement with Kidd’s commission in order to make a better defence of the venture’s legality. Three days later, Montagu spoke to this plan in a heated debate, arguing for a deeper investigation before resolving the question of illegality, and on 6 Dec. hastened consideration of the relevant papers, bringing matters to a head and a surprising Court victory. Having further antagonized his critics by a successful defence of Bishop Burnet on 13 Dec. against a motion for his removal as preceptor to the Duke of Gloucester, he found it politic to speak ‘very frankly’ in favour of the Irish resumption bill, hoping thereby to salvage some of his credibility by appearing to sacrifice his private interest, and to participate in talks with Sunderland during the Christmas recess.67
Yet ironically it was Montagu’s own failing verbal dexterity, and reluctance to exert himself, that cost him most. On 9 Dec. 1699 he ‘unluckily’ explained that the debt of the Prince of Denmark had never previously been put before MPs, partly because of ‘a coldness and misunderstanding that was for some time between the two courts’, and, although ‘sensible that he had overshot himself . . . did not go about to explain it’. He committed a second, and more careless, gaffe a month later, on 13 Jan. 1700, when he ‘spoke smartly’ against a motion to print the report of the Irish commissioners, the majority of whom had been highly critical of government policy, arguing that ‘it was not fit to print so many reflections as they had heaped together without proofs’, and asserting that an MP had written to the commissioners urging them to carry their inquiry into the private estate of the King and his gifts to his mistress Lady Orkney, in order to smear William’s name. When the House resumed on Monday 15th, Montagu faced demands to substantiate his claim by naming his source, though he requested ‘to be excused for so doing’ and ‘declared that nothing but an order of the House should constrain him to do so’. Although he ‘excused himself as long as it was possible, till they were going to fix it upon him by a question that he was the author of a false and scandalous report’ – a question that he insisted was irregular – he finally named John Methuen, the lord chancellor of Ireland and an English MP on good terms with Sunderland. Methuen explained that Montagu had misunderstood him, but the Commons condemned the allegations as false and scandalous, and eventually traced the source of the story to Sir Richard Levinge*, who was dispatched to the Tower. According to one report, some MPs had wanted to send Montagu there too, and Burnet observed that the incident further undermined his sinking credit in the House. Humiliated into silence, he failed to speak on 18 Jan. against a motion of censure on those who had passed the Irish grants, though he and Smith plucked up courage to say ‘something in their own vindication’ once the vote had passed. Vernon observed that ‘these late proceedings give the other party a great triumph, and the Whigs are miserably run down’.68
Montagu’s counter-attack was reckless and misdirected, aimed largely at Sunderland’s allies rather than the Tory opposition. On 20 Jan. 1700 he ridiculed Lord Peterborough’s motion in the Lords for a union with Scotland as a ‘jest’, a remark that so incensed the peer that he sent Montagu a challenge. The day before, Montagu had dismissed a suggestion that a petition from the Old East India Company should lie on the table, saying ‘it was indifferent to him whether that matter was argued before the bringing in the bill [for its incorporation] or after’, and began a debate on 1 Feb. after the Commons had heard the two companies’ counsels, only to find himself shot down by Methuen, who sought ‘to expose the part Mr Montagu had in passing the two million bill and refusing the offers the Old Company made for raising the whole sum’. The bickering between the two courtiers continued on 8 Feb. when Montagu thought a debate on the growth of popery ‘a proper occasion to be revenged on Mr Methuen’ by slighting the faith of his son. The House received the allegation ‘with laughter’, but Methuen evened the score by replying that ‘considering what had lately happened he thought that gentleman would not so soon assert things in that House which were without ground’, and Howe twisted the knife further by suggesting that if Methuen’s son was a papist, it reflected badly on Montagu, who had helped to send him as envoy to Portugal.69
Faction was by now ruining the session. On 15 Feb. 1700 Thomas Coke* moved to have Thomas Railton’s grant read again, and Anthony Hammond* moved that Montagu withdraw. However, the matter fell, perhaps as a result of the influence of Harley, whose moderation may merely have been a shrewd assessment of the mood of the House, but which Montagu so appreciated that he began talking as if he wished Harley to be given some employment. The incident marks an important turning point in Montagu’s relationship with Harley, with whom he was to remain on good terms even during Anne’s reign. For the moment, however, it was perhaps no more than a recognition that an erstwhile opponent had become a more important manager of the Commons, especially on financial matters, than the former chancellor, and was now needed by the Court. Harley was nevertheless reported as being irreconcilable with Montagu and Somers, whom Vernon described as ‘still called the ministers, though there are none that I see who take upon them any management’.70
Certainly, Montagu’s control of the House was by now virtually negligible. Seymour was easily able to defeat him on the issue of the prohibition of Indian silks, and on 26 Feb. 1700 Musgrave’s motion, that the adviser to the King’s speech on Irish forfeitures had endeavoured to create a misunderstanding between King and people, met with very little opposition, partly because Montagu ‘said nothing to it’. When he did venture to speak again, on 5 Mar., it was to press for the benefits of union with Scotland, which he had so recently slighted, but he was frequently interrupted by critics of the way the issue had been introduced by a bill from the Lords, without a speech from the King or any request from north of the border. Three days later he suggested that there was ‘no occasion’ for an inquiry into the miscarriages of the Darien venture, and urged the consideration of the debt still owed to bankers from the stop of the Exchequer in Charles II’s reign. But thereafter he fell silent again, not wanting to provoke opponents who ‘had a great mind to fling at’ him, though on one occasion he cheekily secured agreement to raise money by land tax revenues at a time when opponents of the Court were absent. He was thus probably relieved to see the Houses set on a collision course over the Lords’ amendments to the Irish forfeitures bill, even though he waited on the King in early April ‘to represent what he thinks will be the fatal consequences of a breach between’ them.71
The end of the session did not bring any respite. In April 1700 Somers was dismissed from office, for which Montagu blamed Sunderland. William sought both to reassure and browbeat Montagu into remaining loyal to the King rather than to his friend: Somers’ dismissal, William explained, was not a ‘first step towards turning everybody else out of their employments . . . and as Mr Montagu had done him very acceptable services, and was still capable of doing more, he should have reason to take it amiss if he found him cold and slack in it’. A lampoon of the time intimated that the King believed that ‘the insolent, vain and impolitic elf’ Montagu could undertake anything William wanted him to. But Montagu’s reply emphasized that his loyalty to Somers was the greater – ‘he hoped nothing would be expected from him that was not consistent with his friendship and obligation to the Lord Somers’ – and he was ‘designedly’ absent from the Privy Council at which the new lord keeper was installed. Moreover, the removal of Somers made it increasingly likely that if Montagu remained in the Commons he would become the sole object of attack. Vernon believed that when he ‘set himself to consider what is most for his interest and quiet, he will not be for keeping up Parliament contentions, the weight of which has lain and will lay more heavily upon him than any other man, since he is looked upon as the great champion, and therefore all thrusts are made at him’. Thus, although he was active throughout the summer of 1700 arranging talks with his allies, and the Tories feared that he carried messages between the King and Somers, he was really only going through the motions of trying to shore up the ministry rather than actively seeking to rebuild his shattered party, and the Earl of Jersey found him in a dark mood about his own affairs. The effect was to paralyse government. ‘For God’s sake’, exclaimed even his friend Prior, ‘let somebody or other be ordained to rule us, for at present your Godolphins and Montagus equally deny that they have anything to do with us’.72
It was the Godolphins who finally emerged late in 1700 at the head of a reshuffled ministry, and Montagu, who continued to attend Council though not Cabinet meetings, was created a peer to remove him from the Lower House. This was said to have ‘much dejected his friends’, though Prior accurately predicted that the peerage would help reconcile the two East India companies, ‘since being in the House of Commons he would make an ill figure if he either declined to support the new, or should find too great an opposition in his endeavouring to do so’. But, always controversial, even his peerage created outrage. The title of Halifax offended admirers of the old trimmer, and the preamble of his patent was blatantly eulogistic: ‘Nature formed his mind for great achievements; learning and industry polished his genius, and his happy talent in eloquence, and in the exercise of business brought his parts to perfection.’ In the Commons he was always ‘daring in his notions, and successful for the public good’, in Privy Council he ‘constantly approved himself faithful, wise and prudent’; as treasurer he had provided ‘the sinews of war’ by his ‘dexterous sagacity’, and saved the coinage by his ‘daring and happy advice’. The wording ‘added fuel to the fire kindled in the breasts of his enemies’, and turned the stomach of the Country Whig Robert Molesworth*, who had never seen ‘anything so insolent, arrogant and assuming, and highly dishonourable to Parliaments: it deserves in my opinion an impeachment itself, for nobody (if you will believe that preamble), nor the two Houses joined, did anything considerable to save the nation but his lordship . . .’73
Having provoked the hostility of both Tories and Country Whigs by the end of his career, Halifax was duly impeached in 1701, but the proceedings were unsuccessful. Although he was the first to congratulate Anne on her accession, having made unseemly haste to St James’s Palace ‘as soon as the breath was out of the deceased king’s body’, the new reign confirmed his political eclipse. In January 1703 a Commons’ vote declared his conduct as auditor of the Exchequer to be ‘a breach of trust’, though a committee of the Lords acquitted him, and he retained his post. In the Upper House he was one of the most vigorous opponents of the occasional conformity bills. He was instrumental in obtaining the Lords’ judgment in favour of Ashby in the Aylesbury election case, and his biographer claims that he ‘first projected the Equivalent’, without which union with Scotland could not have been accomplished. Yet although he had continued to act with, and lead, the Junto in the Lords, he was not taken into office with his colleagues after 1706, probably because he held out for the lord treasurership, which would have meant the Junto breaking with Godolphin, and perhaps Marlborough as well. As compensation, he was sent on a special mission to Hanover in 1706, stopping at The Hague to lay the foundations for the Barrier Treaty, but Harley recognized that ambition made Halifax open to intrigues. Even so, Halifax was able to remain on suspiciously good terms with Harley during the latter’s administration. He spoke against an early peace, and promoted the Hanoverian succession, yet the death of Anne did not bring its expected benefits. Although reappointed first lord of the Treasury, the office of lord treasurer still eluded him, and his affronted pride and vanity pushed him into alliance with former enemies. The Duchess of Marlborough noted that ‘because he had not the white staff I observed he was out of humour, ready to burst with rage, and looked all dinner time as if he would have killed everybody’. When he died on 19 May 1715 he was ironically said to be more of a loss to the Tories than the Whigs.74
Montagu was buried in Westminster Abbey, where he had earlier erected a monument to the man to whom he first owed his fame, John Dryden. The earldom became extinct, but the barony passed to his nephew and heir, George Montagu*. Halifax died a rich man, with one estimate putting his wealth at £150,000, not including substantial stocks in the Bank and East India Company, though he may have realized many of these assets before his death, since they were not mentioned in his will. He remained controversial even in death. His generous settlement to Newton’s niece, Catherine Barton, his housekeeper whose beauty he had toasted at the Kit-Cat Club, and who received all his jewels and furniture, plus £5,000 ‘as a token of the sincere love, affection and esteem [he had] long had in her conversation’, fuelled gossip about the precise nature of their relationship. The will fails to support speculation that Halifax had secretly married her.75
The 18th-century historian Ralph, reacting against much of the unthinking eulogy of the age, thought it ‘not wholly unsupposable that the man and his merits were somewhat overrated’ in party legend. An assessment of Montagu’s achievements must inevitably centre on his skill as a finance minister, for Montagu has consistently been credited with the formulation of projects in which his role is in fact obscure, creating the suspicion that he gained some of his reputation unfairly. Davenant, whose observations are far from impartial, believed him to be a rapacious fraud who had ‘made himself a lord by stealing other men’s projects’, and lambasted the
scandalous rate he treated all projectors . . . first he would caress, court and make them large promises, till he was master of the discovery; then he would cool in his pretended kindness to them by degrees, and at length, having begged what was discovered for himself, would cock up his nose in the air and over-look them, till he had ruined or wearied them.
There was some truth to this accusation. Montagu was haughty, vain, and ‘could not endure an equal in business’; and he may have played down the contribution of other scheming brains in order to reap personal credit. But the status of the projector in the Augustan period was not high, and Montagu was quite open about his methods, saying that he always kept an open door to such men because ‘from some one or other of them he always learned something which he had not thought of before’. Although it is curious that we know little of his personal views at a policy level, this is not because he was incompetent. His imaginative and daring use of major financial proposals as a tool in personal and party struggles suggests that he had the dedication to sift through the multitude of projects received by the Treasury or printed in the press, the discernment to see which could work, the ability to shape them to his own ends, the eloquence to carry them through the House, and the power to ensure their enforcement, with the end result of frequently wrong-footing his opponents. As another 18th-century biographer wrote, ‘it is not worth considering whether he was the author or the adaptor of schemes for the service of the government, since his merit in the proper application of them is undeniable’.76
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. Letters of Lady Russell ed. Sellwood, 151.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 204; Boyer, Anne Annals, v. 12.
- 3. Essex RO, Maldon bor. recs. D/B3/1/23; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 372.
- 4. [C. Davenant?], England’s Enemies Expos’d (1701), 7, 11, 14; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 105–6; Addison Letters, i. 121; D. Ogg, Eng. in Reigns of Jas. II and Wm. III, 338, 412, 414, 419, 423, 442; J. P. Kenyon, Sunderland, 270; B. Falk, Ways of the Montagus, 170; P. Kelly, Locke on Money, 24, 106–9.
- 5. Ellis thesis, 79; Ralph, Hist. Eng. ii. 785; Life of Montagu (1715), 10–17; Add. 7121, f. 49; 61458, f. 163; Montagu, Works, preface; Eng. Lit. Hist. viii. 52; England’s Enemies, 2–3, 9; Dunton, Life and Errors, 345; Spence’s Anecdotes ed. Osborn, 87; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 703.
- 6. Dunton, 345; Macky, Mems. 51; England’s Enemies, 10, 18, 20; Ellis thesis, 402; Life, 30; Tindal, Hist. Eng. i. 378; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 65.
- 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 123; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 105–6; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 166; Grey, x. 73; HMC Rutland, ii. 129.
- 8. HMC 7th Rep. 199; Grey, 162, 175, 181; Luttrell Diary, 5, 19, 23, 33.
- 9. Luttrell Diary, 75, 99–100, 154; Life, 28–29.
- 10. Luttrell Diary, 51–52, 56, 63, 111, 157, 175; SP 9/18, ff. 27, 56, 73, 78; HLRO, HC Lib. mss 12, f. 56.
- 11. Luttrell Diary, 142, 143–4, 171–2, 197, 203.
- 12. Dalrymple, Mems. iii. 252; Luttrell Diary, 219, 331, 342, 348, 317, 457, 463.
- 13. Luttrell Diary, 227, 257, 260, 269, 284, 290, 298, 307, 312, 321, 368; Grey, 280; Macaulay, Hist. Eng. v. 2282.
- 14. Luttrell Diary, 370, 410, 420, 424, 430, 435, 445, 448.
- 15. Ibid. 367, 381, 406, 464.
- 16. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 57, 222; Burnet, iv. 222.
- 17. Grey, 312, 318, 320–1, 324–5, 328; Add. 70017, f. 345; 57861, f. 20; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 125.
- 18. Grey, x. 330, 352, 363, 369, 379; Ranke, vi. 236.
- 19. P. G. M. Dickson, Financial Revol. 54–55; W. Marston Acres, Bank of England, 8, 16; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/3, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 3 July 1694.
- 20. Add. 6703, f. 28; 46527, f. 29; 70017, f. 267; Tindal, i. 253; Baxter, Wm. III, 324; Ellis thesis, 217; Luttrell, iii. 303; EHR, lxxi. 595.
- 21. Kenyon, 271–2; Horwitz, 150; CJ, xi. 327.
- 22. Nat. Archs. Ire. Wych mss 1/129, William Bath to Sir Cyril Wyche*, 4 May 1695; Harl. 7315, f. 237; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 502–3, 505, Guy to Portland, 31 May, 14, 25 June 1695; PwA936, Montagu to same, 11 June 1695; Kenyon, 272–5.
- 23. Portland (Bentinck) mss, PwA 1248–9, Sunderland to Portland, 29 July, 18 Aug. 1695; PwA 510, 512, Guy to same, 30 July, 16 Aug. 1695; HMC Portland, ii. 174; EHR, lxxi. 599.
- 24. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1248, Sunderland to Portland, 29 July 1695; Bodl. Rawl. C.421, f. 205; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 246; Luttrell, iii. 537; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, 88.0, Montagu to Bedford, 8 Oct. 1695; HMC Portland, ii. 173; Macaulay, v. 2558; C. Wilson, England’s Apprenticeship, 129; Kelly, 23–34, 106–10; Locke Corresp. ed. de Beer, v. 295, 543; Horwitz, 153, 170; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss EL8900.
- 25. CJ, xi. 163; Kelly, 20–32, 106–9; Life, 30; Horwitz, 160.
- 26. Ming-Hsun Li, Great Recoinage, appendix II; Life, 31–35; Horwitz, 162–3.
- 27. Kelly, 109; [S. Grascome], An Acct. of Procs. in Commons in Relation to Recoining (1696), 6; Boyer, Wm. III, iii. 125; Life, 35; Horwitz, 164.
- 28. BL, Trumbull Misc. mss 32, acct. debate 31 Jan. 1696; HMC Hastings, ii. 252–3; Locke Corresp. 486; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 154; Wm. and Mary Q. xiv. 370–99.
- 29. Parlty. Hist. vii. 232–5; Horwitz, 167; Locke Corresp. 542–3, 552–3, 561–3.
- 30. Tindal, i. 308; Bull. IHR, sp. supp. 7, pp. 17–18; CJ, xi. 572; An Account, 18; Lansd. 801, f. 62; Add. 34355, f. 2; Li, 79.
- 31. CSP Dom. 1696, p. 196; Add. 34355, ff. 1–2, 4.
- 32. Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 161; Luttrell Diary, 142; Horwitz, 167; J. K. Horsefield, British Monetary Experiments, 122–3; S. Clement, Discourse of the Several Notions of Money (1695), 37; NLS, Advocate’s mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31.1.7; Add. 46527, f. 32.
- 33. Macaulay, v. 2622; Add. 34355, ff. 7, 10, 14, 16, 18–19; CSP Dom. 1696, pp. 269, 318; EHR, lxxxv. 708–9; BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 4, Francis Gwyn* to [?Halifax], 3 Aug. 1696.
- 34. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 26, 30; Ralph, ii. 686.
- 35. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 11, 30, 49, 58, 63; Cobbett, 1003, 1038, 1052–3, 1106–7, 1128; Ralph, ii. 696–701.
- 36. Macaulay, vi. 2652; Life, 39, 42; Add. 17677 QQ, f. 596; Horsefield, 133; CSP Dom. 1696, pp. 482–3; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 83; Bodl. Ballard 11, f. 142; Locke Corresp. 730–1; Luttrell, iv. 196.
- 37. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 88; Locke Corresp. 730; Stanhope mss U1590/059/5, Yard to Stanhope, 8 Dec. 1696.
- 38. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 91, 94; Life, 37–38.
- 39. Cal. Treas. Bks. intro. to vols. xi–xvii, pp. cxlii, cxlv, cliii; Li, app. v; Life, 42–43; Add. 6703, f. 33.
- 40. Luttrell, iv. 213; Add. 30000 A, f. 298; 34355, ff. 27, 29, 32; Shrewsbury Corresp. 477; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, v. 501–2; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 158, 161.
- 41. Add. 34355, ff. 39, 43; 6703, f. 33; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 310; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 10.
- 42. Add. 34355, ff. 57, 59; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 422, 428.
- 43. Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/156, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 23 Oct. 1697; Stanhope mss U1590/059/6, Yard to Stanhope, 23 Nov. 1697; Horwitz, 223; G. Holmes and W. A. Speck, Divided Soc. 162; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 502; Add. 17677 RR, f. 528; 17677 SS, f. 86.
- 44. CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 506, 517; Add. 30000 A, f. 397; Cam. Misc. xxix. 379.
- 45. Horwitz, 227; Add. 30000 A, f. 410; 30000 B, f. 8; 17677 SS, f. 114; Montagu (Boughton) mss, 46/177, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 8 Jan. 1698; Cam. Misc. xxix. 358–9; Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/278, Robert Price* to Duke of Beaufort, 10 Jan. 1698; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Biscoe-Maunsell newsletters, 15 Jan. 1698; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 460.
- 46. CSP Dom. 1698, p. 31; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii, 4, 6, 35; Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/175, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 4 Jan. 1698; Shrewsbury Corresp. 524.
- 47. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 215, 465, 469; Cobbett, 1306; Shrewsbury Corresp. 528, 530–1; Add. 15895, f. 19.
- 48. Shrewsbury Corresp. 534; Stanhope mss U1590/059/7, Yard to Stanhope, 21 Jan. 1698; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 38; Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/181, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 18 Jan. 1698; Add. 70019, f. 10; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 477, 483, 486, ii. 2; Life, 50; Bodl. Ballard 39, f. 136; Cunningham, Hist. GB, 169.
- 49. Ellis thesis, 339; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 15; BL, Evelyn mss 544, William Draper to John Evelyn I, 17 Feb. 1698; Add. 30000 B, f. 43; 17677 SS, ff. 161–2; Luttrell, iv. 345; Burnet, iv. 508; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 96; Cocks Diary, 162–5.
- 50. Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/79, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 14 Mar. 1698; CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 155, 184; Trumbull Misc. mss 57, Sir Gilbert Dolben* to Sir William Trumbull*, 31 Mar. 1698; Grimblot, Letters, i. 406; Baxter, 362; Add. 28882, ff. 205, 215.
- 51. Cole, Mems. 22; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 475; Grimblot, i. 216; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 193; Hervey Letter Bks. i. 134; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/21, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 28 Apr. 1698.
- 52. CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 135, 195, 197, 226, 227, 239, 243, 258–9, 262, 271; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 73, 75; Ralph, ii. 772; Stanhope mss U1590/059/7, Yard to Stanhope, 17 May 1698; England’s Enemies, 17; Luttrell, iv. 388; Add. 17677 SS, f. 266.
- 53. CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 272, 2901; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 95, 97, 103.
- 54. CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 305, 308–9, 340, 343; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 118, 130; Shrewsbury Corresp. 543–4; Add. 17677 SS, f. 323; 30000 B, f. 173; Luttrell, iv. 404.
- 55. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 99, 123; Grimblot, i. 495–6; HMC Downshire, i. 78; Ralph, ii. 772; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 341; Life, 61; Add. 30000 B, ff. 144, 169.
- 56. Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch-Halifax pprs. box 5, bdle. 3, Anthony Hammond to Sir John Banks, 1st Bt.*, 29 Mar. 1698; Add. 30000 B, f. 178; 70305, Westminster election case; Luttrell, iv. 402; Shrewsbury Corresp. 550; Biscoe-Maunsell newsletters, 30 July 1698.
- 57. CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 343, 367, 375; HMC Bath, iii. 249; Luttrell, iv. 407; Add. 57861, f. 41; Shrewsbury Corresp. 551–2; Portland mss PwA 1498, 1498–1500, Vernon to Portland, 4, 11, 22 Aug. 1698.
- 58. Grimblot, ii. 6; Dalrymple, iii. 206.
- 59. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 165–7, 170; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 7, 108; Luttrell, iv. 423; Add. 28086, ff. 9–81; 17677 AAA, f. 581; 17677 YY, f. 314.
- 60. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 217; HMC Bath, iii. 302; Add. 40773, f. 5; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 424; Ellis thesis, 389; Horwitz, 249; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/122–3, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 20, 22 Dec. 1698; Luttrell, iv. 464; Cam. Misc. xxix. 369.
- 61. Horwitz, 250; Cam. Misc. xxix. 370; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 240; Shrewsbury Corresp. 563.
- 62. Cam. Misc. xxix. 376, 382, 386; Add. 30000 C, ff. 3–4, 12–13; 17677 TT, f. 70; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 246; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/132, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 14 Jan. 1699.
- 63. Cam. Misc. xxix. 392, 394, 395, 397, 399–401; Luttrell, iv. 494, 496; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 113; Bodl. Tanner 22, f. 6.
- 64. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 249, 266; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/155, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 1 Mar. 1699; Cam. Misc. xxix. 391; Add. 30000 C, f. 49; Suffolk RO (Ipswich), Gurdon mss m.142 (1), p. 35, Sir William Cook, 2nd Bt.*, to Thornhagh Gurdon, 16 Feb. 1699; Horwitz, 254.
- 65. Grimblot, ii. 235, 322; Northumb. RO, Blackett mss, Montagu to Sir William Blackett*, 11, 27 May 1699; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 284–5, 288, 345; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/184, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 15 May 1699.
- 66. Luttrell, iv. 549, 555, 560; Add. 40774, ff. 136–7, 139–40; 17677 TT, f. 292; 30000 C, f. 232; HMC Downshire, i. 794; Cole, 81–2; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 2 (1881), 79; DNB.
- 67. Ralph, ii. 828; Add. 17677 TT, f. 314; 30000 C, f. 283; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 369, 373, 375, 379, 399; Cocks Diary, 42; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 54.
- 68. Burnet, iv. 398; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 383–4, 406, 409, 412; Horwitz, 264; Add. 30000 D, f. 14.
- 69. Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 246; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 414–15, 429–30; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/27, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 1 Feb. 1700.
- 70. Cocks Diary, 53, 55; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 268, 444.
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