The Exclusion Crisis, 1678-81, and the Earl of Shaftesbury: Joshua Shotton Defends a Much-Maligned Statesman

By Shotton, Joshua | History Review, December 2003 | Go to article overview

The Exclusion Crisis, 1678-81, and the Earl of Shaftesbury: Joshua Shotton Defends a Much-Maligned Statesman


Shotton, Joshua, History Review


Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first Earl of Shaftesbury, is an atypical figure in our history, and for this reason his true character, personality and motivations have eluded almost all those who have written about him. He has remained an enigma, perhaps because of that reserve and impenetrability which Richelieu describes as the most valuable gift for a politician. If he is remembered at all as an individual, it is through Dryden's masterfully executed character assassination of him, as 'In friendship false, implacable in hate,/ Resolved to ruin or to rule the state'. A more reasoned, though still deeply hostile, sketch was written by Lord Peterborough in Succint Genealogies: 'he was as as Lucifer, and Ambitious beyond whatever entered the designs of any Man; impatient of every Power but his own, of any Man's reputation'. Such is the typicality of this analysis, that, as Timothy Eustace has written, 'few politicians have aroused as much venomous hatred as ... Shaftesbury'.

An Evil Reputation

One reason for Shaftesbury's ongoing reputation as inconsistent, ruthlessly ambitious and unprincipled is the unfortunate destruction of most of his papers (lest Charles II's government use them to secure his conviction), which might have balanced the derision he received from others. Unlike Strafford and Cromwell, Clarendon and Danby, Halifax and Watpole, Shaftesbury did not leave enough evidence after his wretched death, in exile in the Netherlands, for historians to see events through his eyes. Thus he has been seen through the observations of others, in prose or in doggerel, primarily the Tory satirists, hack-writers and pamphleteers who so relished scorning the tube in his side which let his abscess, supposedly the result of fornication, drain ('a silver tap, through which ... doth strain ... both excrements and brain').

There were a few panegyrists who produced works in his defence, such as an anonymous Whig propagandist, under the pseudonym 'Philanax Misopappas', who wrote Rawleigh Redivivus. However, such rare documents went unread following the revelations of the so-called Rye House Plot of 1683, in which, despite liberal room for argument over guilt, 'the name of Shaftesbury was blackened freely as that of a man whose malevolent influence had inspired plans for assassination and rebellion even after his own death'. In any case the political situation of 1683 meant that any sympathy for Shaftesbury had to be muted.

One might expect a Whig apologist for the Revolution settlement like Bishop Burnet to support the architect of his party. Yet Burner's watch was firmly set to 1688 rather than 1678-81; he rejoiced that Exclusion had come through William of Orange (to whom Shaftesbury was distinctly frosty) rather than via the methods that Shaftesbury had envisaged. Burnet the bishop plainly disliked Shaftesbury's unorthodoxy and anticlericalism (the earl 'is best described as a deist'), while Shaftesbury hardly took to Burnet's officiousness. Naturally Burnet's Tory counterpart, Reresby, writing in 1683, had few kind words for him: 'we enjoyed a happy peace at home; and which was the more likely to make it last was the death of that soe busy and factious Lord Shaftesbury ...' It is important to remember, however, that Reresby's account is a memoir rather than a diary, and as such was written after Shaftesbury's final disgrace. Certainly Reresby did not always hold the lord in such contempt, as shown by his epistolary appeal to Shaftesbury in 1668, 'in a particular which I am confident is both in your Lordships power and principals to rectifie for'.

Apart from exceptions like Christie's scholarly 1871 biography, historians until very recently have sustained this assault against Shaftesbury. Those in the Whig tradition have followed Macaulay in vilifying him as 'first a member of the most corrupt administration, then the leader of the most violent opposition of the century', while Stuart apologists have focused their condemnation on him as the founder of the Whig party. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Exclusion Crisis, 1678-81, and the Earl of Shaftesbury: Joshua Shotton Defends a Much-Maligned Statesman
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.