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the negotiations. Prior had been for a short time Commissioner of Trade and Plantations," and was now member for East Grinstead, a constituency which he had chosen in spite of the desire of his friends to bring him forward for the University of Cambridge. He voted for the impeachment, and has not unnaturally been accused of treachery for so doing, though an ingenious flatterer adduced his vote as “a rare instance of a generous mind, who scorned to persist in a vindication of any proceedings that his riper judgment convinced him were unjustifiable.” Sir James Montague excuses him by a piece of ingenious casuistry which fits in much better with Prior's political conscience, i.e., with his calculation of what course of action would look best in the eyes of his future patrons. The argument may be briefly stated as follows:— Prior had personally conducted the negotiations between the French and English monarchs, who were too cautious to commit their instructions to writing. Subsequent events made William anxious to shift his responsibility to the shoulders of his ministers, who were naturally supposed to have advised him in the action. Although Prior knew
* Swift said he hated this work because it spoilt his wit. “Prior says he dreams of nothing but cockets and dockets and drawbacks and other jargon, words of the Custom House.”
of the Ezaminer, in which the new Tory ministry were supported with brilliant abuse of their adversaries. The paper was originally conducted, under the direct influence of Harley and St. John, by Prior, Swift, Oldsworth, Dr. Freind, and Mrs. Manley, but rapidly fell entirely into the hands of Swift, whose satiric pen played such an important part in the political influences of those days. Prior was at the time considered responsible for many of the Dean's numbers, but those actually written by him are not particularly important. His Fable from Phaedrus (vol. ii. p. 201), and the Sphina (vol. ii. p. 247), first came out in the Ea'aminer, and the 6th No. (Sep. 7, 1710), which contained a criticism upon a poem of Dr. Garth's to the Earl of Godolphin, was also his. It was apparently in opposition to this number that Addison started the Whig Ea:aminer on Sep. 14, 1710, with the design of censuring “the writings of others and giving to all persons a re-hearing who have suffered under any unjust sentence of the “Examiner.’” The first number is devoted to the defence of Dr. Garth against Prior's satire. The ministry, however, soon found other and more lucrative employment for him. Their policy was to be friendly with France, and diplomatists were in request. Prior went to Paris in 1711 to continue the secret negotiations which had been opened with the Court at Versailles by an obscure priest, “the holy Gaultier,” whom he soon
brought back to England. To this man Prior wrote later “L’empereur est fou, et moi, je suis toujours à vous,” and the following passage throws light on his character, “Pardon, my dear fellow-traveller, d'avoir le moins soupçonné que le prêtre l'eut emporté dans votre esprit sur le gentilhomme.” With them came the astute Ménager, afterwards one of the French plenipotentiaries at Utrecht. The government had intended these arrivals to be kept as secret as Prior's departure had been, but suspicions were aroused as he landed at Deal, and he was arrested by the custom-house officers. Orders from the government secured his immediate release, but the curiosity of the country had been excited and would not be allayed. Yet it was impossible that the negotiations should be avowed. To solve the difficulty, Swift wrote his New Journey to Paris, which professed to be translated from the French, and which, “without communicating a syllable of real intelligence, had the effect of at once amusing the idle, confusing the suspicious, and sounding the temper of the nation on the subject of negotiation.”” Its progress is detailed in the Journal to Stella. August 31. “I have just thought of a project to bite the town. I have told you, that it is now known that Mr. Prior has been lately in France. I will make a printer of my
1 MS. Morrison.
WOL. I. G
own sit by me one day; and I will dictate to
terre par ses poésies ; mais sa principale qualité, dans les conjonctions présentes, étoit de soutraiter veritablement la paix." The same authority declares that * Les plenipotentiaires du Roi comptoient s'ouvrir principalement à Prior. . . . Le secret des intentions de la Reine sur l'article d'Espagne, la première des conditions fondamentales du traité de paix ; étoit reservé au seul Prior.'' It is unfortunate that the Frenchman's modesty permitted him to say so little about those details of the negotiations which he personally arranged with Prior. Bolingbroke's correspondence throws a good deal of light on these, and contains the following testimony by Torcy to Prior's tenacity of will as a diplomatist. * Vous avez renvoyé, my lord, sous l'extérieur de Matthieu, le véritable fils de Mons Buys ;* il ne lui manque que de remplir la verre de son père. Il est d'ailleurs aussi Hollandois, et je crois beaucoup plus opiniâtre. Il a fallu céder et se conformer presque à tout ce qu'il a voulu ; encore n'étoit-il pas content : j'espère cependant que vous le serez . . .. enfin je crois que vous serez plus content de son excellence que je ne le suis.'' Prior's work now became very important. He was considered an authority, as we have
* Then the Dutch ambassador at Paris, of whom much is said in Torcy's Mémoires. The above passages in dicate the nature of the man who did so much to retard the peace.