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to avail himself of this last opportunity of wreaking his vengeance on the man who he believed had most injured him,) made use of some plausible arguments for inveigling him into a personal conference, urging that he had matter to communicate which should only be entrusted to St. John's private ear. This request (as Guiscard was a prisoner for high treason) was very properly refused by St. John; a circumstance to which he was apparently indebted for his life.
During his examination, Guiscard had contrived to thrust himself between the Duke of Ormond and Harley ; so closely, indeed, that he might easily have drawn the sword of the former, and used it for his purposes of revenge: either, howeyer, in the perturbation of his thoughts, the circumstance did not occur to him, or he trusted in the insignificant weapon which he had secreted about his person. Guiscard continued so pertinaciously arguing with St. John on the necessity of granting him a private interview, that Harley, wearied with his importunities, or satisfied that the object of the investigation had been sufficiently attained, rose to ring the bell, for the purpose of summoning the messengers to remove their prisoner. Guiscard, observing his object, remarked,—" Voilà qui est dur!-pas un mot !” At the same time he made a step towards Harley, as if he had something to whisper in his ear. From a Frenchman's gesticulations, it is not always easy to discover whether he is an enemy or a friend. In a moment Guiscard had drawn the knife from
his bosom and thrust it into the breast of the minister. The blade broke at the first thrust, but the assassin, ignorant of the circumstance, continued desperately to repeat the stroke. For a moment the members of the council were stupified at the suddenness of the attack. St. John was the first to recover his self-possession, and made towards Guiscard ;_ “ The villain,” he said, drawing his sword, “ has killed Mr. Harley.” The council - chamber was, of course, in an uproar. Some of the members drew their rapiers, and thrust at the defenceless assassin; others defended, or fancied they defended themselves, with chairs; while Guiscard, on his part, rushed desperately against his assailants, as if desirous of meeting his death at their hands. It was not till further assistance was obtained, that the assassin was effectually secured, and conveyed to Newgate. From this period Guiscard refused all aid from medicine, and in a few days died of a mortification which ensued from one of his wounds.
Harley's recovery from his wound. --His firmness and self-pos
session when anticipating death. His popularity increased by Guiscard's attempt on his life.- Publicly congratulated by the House of Commons on his escape.-His reply.-Act of Parliament passed on the occasion.—Harley created Earl of Oxford.—Extract from Swift's journal to Stella.—Harley appointed Lord High Treasurer, and honoured with the Garter.Lord Dartmouth's and Lockhart's opinions of Harley.-Extracts from Spence's anecdotes and Swift's correspondence.-Curious anecdotes of Harley.-Intrigues of St. John against Harley.-The latter's jealousy of his rival. Reasons of St. John's hostility to Harley.--Mrs. Masham declares against Harley.—The Queen induced to abandon him.-Inquiry into the charges brought against him.—Letter from Harley to Swift.—Memorable interview between the Queen, Mrs. Masham, Harley, and St. John. -- Indecent squabble between the parties in the royal presence.—Harley resigns the post of Lord Treasurer.—Accession of George the First.—Harley's sanguine anticipations in consequence.His disappointment.-St. John impeached of high treason.Harley impeached by Lord Coningsby of the same crime, and committed to the Tower.-Popular sympathy for the fallen minister.-His noble conduct under disgrace.-Attempts made by his enemies to delay his trial.-Feigned quarrel between the Houses of Lords and Commons.— Unanimous acquittal of Harley.-He retires into private life, and amuses himself by collecting the Harleian MSS., now in the British Museum.—His death.
The wound received by Harley, though a serious, was not a dangerous one. The knife, indeed, having broken in his breast, caused him severe pain; so much so, that he apprehended himself to be mortally wounded, and enquired of Bucier, the surgeon, whether his life was in very imminent danger: he did not fear death, he said, but he was desirous of settling his affairs. “This fearlessness of consequences,” says Lord Dartmouth, “ was visible by his countenance, which was not in the least altered." Swift styles him “the most fearless man alive;" and St. John, in a letter to his confidential agent, Drummond, observes,—“ It is impossible to express to you the firmness and magnanimity which Mr. Harley showed upon this surprising occasion: I, who have always admired him, never did it so much. The suddenness of the blow, the sharpness of the wound, the confusion which followed, could neither change his countenance, nor alter his voice.” The accident, however, proved eventually of great service to Harley, by adding considerably to his popularity, which had for some time been on the wane. His assassin being a Papist, he was regarded as a martyr to the Church of England ; and, moreover, in consequence of the blow having been struck by a secret emissary of France, it was presumed that his zeal for the interests of his own country must have rendered him an especial object of hatred to its enemies. Thus did an accident, - a blow from a disappointed maniac, whose arm was guided by motives of mere personal revenge,at once overthrow the schemes of Harley's enemies, and re-establish him in the fulness of his power. On such trifling circumstances often rests the stability of a popular government. A dastardly assassination, the excitement caused by a royal marriage, or a successful battle, more frequently serve as props to a falling administration, than acts which might deservedly claim for their promoters the blessings of mankind.
Harley, on recovering from his wounds, had little reason to complain of want of sympathy on the part of the world. Addresses had already been presented by both Houses of Parliament to the Queen, which, while they deprecated the late “ barbarous attempt” on her servant's life, at the same time expressed their conviction that it was Harley's fidelity to Her Majesty's person, and his zeal for her service, which had drawn down upon him the hatred of all the abettors of Popery and faction. The House of Commons, especially, voted that he should be publicly congratulated on his providential escape; and, accordingly, on his return to his Parliamentary duties, after a confinement of a few weeks, from the effects of his wounds, the Speaker, in a formal speech from the chair, expressed to him the joyful satisfaction of the Commons of England at the preservation of “ so valuable a life, upon which, under Her Majesty, depended the safe-guard of the religion and constitution of the country.” “Sir," concluded Harley's reply, -- " The undeserved favour I have received this day, is deeply imprinted in my heart, and whenever I look upon my breast, it will put me in mind of the thanks