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courtier-like compliance, however common in those days, must be ranked as one of Churchill’s meannesses, and amongst the gravest of them.
Patronage, however, did not raise him as a soldier, it merely gave him opportunity. As a soldier, his merit advanced him, and in the career of arms his escutcheon is without a blot.
Avarice is imputed to Marlborough by most writers. The evidence does not sustain the imputation of sordid living or habits, it sustains the charge, not of inordinate but of mean acquisition, and of unchristian parsimony in the use of money. It is customary to attribute to the miser alone the sin of not giving where money should be given, but the censure should be extended also to the spendthrift and to many a careful raiser of a moderate fortune. Since it is a Christian duty to give of our superfluity to the poor and needy, and as few men who give nothing away, have not, or may not have, some superfluity, this particular sin of neglecting the many for the nearer few, is one of very common commission. As these gifts of love and charity must be proportionate to means, and subordinate to duty, the violation of them must be dependent, as to its degree, upon varying circumstances, as rank, station, ofl-ice, number of children, and so forth. We praise the poor provident man who joins a club, invests in a savings bank, insures his life, &c., and the praise is just; for prudence and self-control, with self-sacrifice, are virtues. What is a virtue in one rank of life cannot be a vice in another, and the question must always be, when we condemn a man for his accumulations of wealth made by himself, whether they are excessive, regard being had to his position and the just expectations of his family, or are in themselves. reasonable in relation to the same circumstances.
The evidence shows that Churchill’s marriage was delayed by poverty. He married at 28 years of age when he had been I2 years a soldier ; he had risen then to distinction; he had been thanked by the order of the French King, by Turenne at the head of the army. On another occasion he was presented by Monmouth to Charles II., with these or similar words, “To this brave officer I owe my life.” As Charles had no money to give, he rewarded Churchill with a peerage, a doubtful benefit to one who had then no estate equal to support the title of a peer. VVhen james came to the Throne the future deserter was made an Earl. At that time also he had no estate equal to support his title. In the first year of Anne’s reign she raised the Earl to the rank of Duke. The Duchess was averse, for she said, truly, their estate was then unequal to support that higher dignity. This was in the first year of the war, when his vast emoluments were but beginning. These large gains, however, were of uncertain continuance. His life was constantly exposed to great risks. Had the cannon-ball, which took off the head of the officer who was holding his stirrup, killed Marlborough, he would then have left an estate unequal to the maintenance of his whole family in their respective degrees. Had his son lived, the four daughters of Marlborough, who were married to the heirs of peerages, two of which were very slenderly endowed, would have had no abundance of wealth.
It could not then be foreseen that the war would last as long as the siege of Troy, that Marlborough’s son would die, that Marlborough would survive his command twelve years, and that accumulations would raise for his descendants an ample estate and provision for all. During much the larger portion, therefore, of Marlborough’s life, his saving had proper objects and a proper motive. If disproportionate to the reasonable wants of his family, it became so by accident, which could not, during the earlier accumulations, have been foreseen. The evidence then does not support the charge that he was a miser, a harpagon from his youth. If avarice was his sin, the facts rather prove that thrift grew to avarice. Experience shows how a vice will grow from, and overpower, a virtue.
The “immense wealth” which he left (to use the language of Coxe), in itself proves no sin of commission, or omission, since we have known several commoners, all liberal and generous men, leave a larger property to their children or descendants, commoners still. Before the death of the Marquis of Blandford, Marlborough had to found and endow one Dukedom with wealth, and to leave, as I have already observed, adequate fortunes to four daughters, all of whom had married into noble families of no rank lower than an Earldom, two of which titles were very slenderly endowed. Noble as was the endowment made for the future Dukes of Marlborough, it was not an excessive provision, and great as was the whole wealth of the great Duke, it was not an excessive provision for his descendants.
The property which Marlborough left may be readily accounted for by calculating the accumulations for twenty years on the great savings made by parsimony from a large income.
If the Duchess had survived her husband but one year, instead of living 25 years after him, the whole descendants of Marlborough would not, in that case, have been wealthy, in proportion to their rank. The accumulations of the Duchess raised the Sunderland branch, the descendants of a younger son of her second daughter, to equal affluence with the elder branch from that daughter, which succeeded in time to the Dukedom. The just conclusion from the evidence is, that he did not lend to the Lord a proportionate part, and so was illiberal and ungenerous, but with exceptions of occasional bounty. No charge of falsehood, treachery, or want of fidelity to engagements was preferred against him, until that time of
trial when the misconduct of their King forced on the subjects of james a hard choice, between their King and their religion. The religious question dethroned the King. Churchill abandoned his Patron, Benefactor and King. He went over to the Prince of Orange, that is, to the Parliament, for in fact he voted for a Regency. From the time of that desertion, the stain of perfidy has fouled his reputation. It has coloured every narrative. Even Evelyn, not his enemy, writes of him, “ Note this was the Lord who was entirely advanced by King james, and was the first who betrayed and forsook his master.” Yet Evelyn, writes of james, that, under the advice of jesuits, “he indiscreetly attempted to bring in Propery, and make himself absolute in imitation of the French.” Anyone reading the two entries together will see reason for not subscribing to the implied charge of the first. The King and the jacobites may be laid aside as accusers. judged by their principles Marlborough was a judas. As Marlborough was not an enemy to large kingly power, our modern love of power in the people cannot be invoked in his favour. His justification was that he could not fight against his religion. He must be judged by the broad principles of the foundations of duty. \Vhat was the duty then of a Protestant subject of King james, surrounded by danger of civil war, and torn by conflicting obligations? It is impossible to ‘cut the knot by calling Marlborough a hyprocrite. “Thou should’st not have said so, said my Uncle Toby, God only knows who is a hypocrite.” The evidence establishes that Churchill remonstrated with james, and warned him of the tendency of his measures; declared, then, to him, that if they were pursued he must resign his service, and subsequently to the Prince of Orange he said that he could not fight against his religion. “ My life,” said he, “has not been that of a Saint, but I will not fight against my religion.” His whole correspondence seems to prove that whether he acted up to the precepts of his religion or not, he not merely professed but entertained a strong preference for the Protestant faith and his own Church. His case then cannot be separated from that of others, who invited William to invade the realm, some of whom also were bound by ties of gratitude to the King. Men in general will like a Dundee better than a Churchill, but unless it is a higher duty to plunge your country into a civil war than to avert civil war altogether from it, reason will not follow here the guidance of the feelings. james could never be brought to see his own faults, but he in truth cut the tie of allegiance that bound his subjects to him. In such a conflict the first duty of the subject is to his country, the King being false to his trust. If then the Revolution of 1688 be justifiable. Churchill stands justified for his desertion of ]ames. A true sword is servant to the Laws. Our revolution was defensive.
But “ he led others.” Surely a man may persuade others to do that which it is right in him to do, circumstances being the same? But “ he strongly protested his fidelity, even whilst meditating a treason.” He did so, but he lied under the pressure of interrogation. So pressed, Compton prevaricated, Churchill lied. In neither case do their acts and words prove the men to have been habitually liars or deceivers. Under question, silence is confession. It may have been their duty to speak the exact naked truth, and to ruin their cause with those engaged in it. If so it is a duty of such rare performance, that no one can be branded as “ turpissimus,” who so pressed, shelters himself, his cause, and his associates, under an untruth.
Upon a just and reasonable construction of the acts of the life of Marlborough, he is found not guilty of more than ordinary, though grave, faults, until the time of his correspondence with the dethroned monarch. That charge, made in his lifetime, was supported by no evidence until long after llis death, when on the publication of the Stuart papers, his guilt came to light. These papers prove him guilty of