Letter 36
From The Journal To Stella by Jonathan Swift

December 7, 1711. This being the day the parliament was to meet, and the great question to be determined, I went with Dr. Freind to dine in the city, on purpose to be out of the way, and we sent our printer to see what was our fate; but he gave us a most melancholy account of things. The Earl of Nottingham began, and spoke against a peace, and desired that in their address they might put in a clause to advise the queen not to make a peace without Spain; which was debated, and carried by the Whigs by about six voices: and this has happened entirely by my lord treasurer's neglect, who did not take timely care to make up all his strength, although every one of us gave him caution enough. Nottingham has certainly been bribed. The question is yet only carried in the committee of the whole House, and we hope when it is reported to the House to-morrow, we shall have a majority, by some Scotch lords coming to town. However, it is a mighty blow and loss of reputation to lord-treasurer, and may end in his ruin. I hear the thing only as the printer brought it, who was at the debate; but how the ministry take it, or what their hopes and fears are, I cannot tell until I see them. I shall be early with the secretary to-morrow, and then I will tell you more, and shall write a full account to the Bishop of Clogher to-morrow, and to the Archbishop of Dublin, if I have time. I am horribly down at present. I long to know how lord-treasurer bears this, and what remedy he has. The Duke of Ormond came this day to Town, and was there.

December 8. I was early this morning with the secretary, and talked over this matter. He hoped, that, when it was reported this day in the House of Lords, they would disagree with their committee, and so the matter would go off, only with a little loss of reputation to the lord-treasurer. I dined with Mr. Cockburn, and after, a Scotch member came in, and told us that the clause was carried against the court in the House of Lords almost two to one. I went immediately to Mrs. Masham, and meeting Dr. Arbuthnot, (the queen's favourite physician,) we went together. She was just come from waiting at the queen's dinner, and going to her own. She had heard nothing of the thing being gone against us. It seems lord-treasurer had been so negligent that he was with the queen while the question was put in the House; I immediately told Mrs. Masham, that either she and lord-treasurer had joined with the queen to betray us, or that they two were betrayed by the queen: she protested solemnly it was not the former, and I believed her; but she gave me some lights to suspect the queen is changed. For, yesterday, when the queen was going from the House, where she sat to hear the debate, the Duke of Shrewsbury, lord-chamberlain, asked her, whether he or the Great Chamberlain Lindsay ought to lead her out; she answered short, `Neither of you,' and gave her hand to the Duke of Somerset, who was louder than any in the House for the clause against peace. She gave me one or two more instances of this sort, which convince me that the queen is false, or at least very much wavering. Mr. Masham begged us to stay, because lord-treasurer would call, and we were resolved to fall on him about his negligence in securing a majority. He came, and appeared in good humour as usual, but I thought his countenance was much cast down. I rallied him, and desired him to give me his staff, which he did; I told him, if he would secure me a week, I would set all right: he asked, how? I said, I would immediately turn Lord Marlborough, his two daughters, the Duke and Duchess of Somerset, and Lord Cholmondeley, out of all their employments; and I believed he had not a friend but was of my opinion. Arbuthnot asked, how he came not to secure a majority? He could answer nothing, but that he could not help it, if people would lie and forswear. A poor answer for a great minister. There fell from him a scripture expression, that the hearts of kings are unsearchable. I told him, it was what I feared, and was from him the worst news he could tell me. I begged him to know what he had to trust to: he stuck a little; but at last bid me not fear, for all would be well yet. We would fain have had him eat a bit where he was, but he would go home, it was past six: he made me go home with him. There we found his brother and Mr. Secretary. He made his son take a list of all the House of Commons who had places, and yet voted against the court, in such a manner as if they should lose their places: I doubt he is not able to compass it. Lord-keeper came in an hour, and they were going upon business. So I left him, and returned to Mrs. Masham; but she had company with her, and I would not stay.—This is a long journal, and of a day that may produce great alterations, and hazard the ruin of England. The Whigs are all in triumph; they foretold how all this would be, but we thought it boasting. Nay, they said the parliament should be dissolved before Christmas, and perhaps it may: this is all your d—d Duchess of Somerset's doings. I warned them of it nine months ago, and a hundred times since: the Secretary always dreaded it. I told lord-treasurer, I should have the advantage of him; for he would lose his head, and I should only be hanged, and so carry my body entire to the grave.

December 9. I was this morning with Mr. Secretary; we are both of opinion that the queen is false. I told him what I heard, and he confirmed it by other circumstances. I then went to my friend Lewis, who had sent to see me. He talks of nothing but retiring to his estates in Wales. He gave me reasons to believe the whole matter is settled between the queen and the Whigs; he hears that Lord Somers is to be treasurer, and believes, that sooner than turn out the Duchess of Somerset, she will dissolve the parliament, and get a Whiggish one, which may be done by managing elections. Things are now in the crisis, and a day or two will determine. I have desired him to engage lord-treasurer, that as soon as he finds the change is resolved on, he will send me abroad as queen's secretary somewhere or other, where I may remain till the new ministers recall me; and then I will be sick for five or six months till the storm has spent itself. I hope he will grant me this; for I should hardly trust myself to the mercy of my enemies while their anger is fresh. I dined today with the Secretary, who affects mirth, and seems to hope all will yet be well. I took him aside after dinner, told him how I had served them, and had asked no reward, but thought I might ask security; and then desired the same thing of him, to send me abroad before a change. He embraced me, and swore he would take the same care of me as himself, etc., but bid me have courage, for that in two days my lord-treasurer's wisdom would appear greater than ever; that he suffered all that had happened on purpose, and had taken measures to turn it to advantage. I said, God send it; but I do not believe a syllable; and, as far as I can judge, the game is lost. I shall know more soon, and my letters will be at least a good history to show you the steps of this change.

December 10. I was this morning with Lewis, who thinks they will let the parliament sit till they have given the money, and then dissolve them in spring, and break the ministry. He spoke to lord-treasurer about what I desired him. My lord desired him with great earnestness to assure me that all would be well, and that I should fear nothing. I dined in the city with a friend. This day the Commons went to the queen with their address, and all the lords who were for the peace went with them, to show their zeal. I have now some farther conviction that the queen is false, and it begins to be known.

December 11. I went between two and three to see Mrs. Masham; while I was there she went to her bed-chamber to try a petticoat. Lord-treasurer came in to see her, and seeing me in the outer room, fell a rallying me: says he, you had better keep company with me, than with such a fellow as Lewis, who has not the soul of a chicken, nor the heart of a mite. Then he went in to Mrs. Masham, and as he came back desired her leave to let me go home with him to dinner. He asked, whether I was not afraid to be seen with him? I said, I never valued my lord-treasurer in my life, and therefore should have always the same esteem for Mr. Harley and Lord Oxford. He seemed to talk confidently, as if he reckoned that all this would turn to advantage. I could not forbear hinting, that he was not sure of the queen; and that those scoundrel, starving lords would never have dared to vote against the court, if Somerset had not assured them that it would please the queen. He said, that was true, and Somerset did so. I staid till six; then De Buys, the Dutch envoy, came to him, and I left him. Prior was with us a while after dinner. I see him and all of them cast down; though they make the best of it.

* * *

December 15, Morning. They say the Occasional Bill is brought to-day into the House of Lords; but I know not. I will now put an end to my letter, and give it into the post-house myself. This will be a memorable letter, and I shall sigh to see it some years hence. Here are the first steps towards the ruin of an excellent ministry; for I look upon them as certainly ruined; and God knows what may be the consequences. — I now bid my dearest MD farewell; for company is coming, and I must be at Lord Dartmouth's office by noon. Farewell, dearest MD; I wish you a merry Christmas; I believe you will have this about that time. Love Presto, who loves MD above all things a thousand times. Farewell again, dearest MD, etc.