Chesterfield's Principles

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VIII | Start of Chapter

Chesterfield has left in his own writings some account of the principles which governed him during his Viceroyalty. "I came determined," he says, "to proscribe no set of persons whatever, and determined to be governed by none. Had the Papists made any attempt to put themselves above the law, I should have taken good care to have quelled them again. It was said that my lenity to the Papists had wrought no alteration either in their religious or their political sentiments. I did not expect that it would, but surely that was no reason for cruelty towards them." In the minds of many English statesmen of his time, the mere fact that lenity towards the Papists could not make any change in their religious or political sentiments was the best possible reason for visiting them with all the cruelty allowed by the penal laws. But Chesterfield was a man singularly in advance of his time, although until he had obtained this signal opportunity for proving his true character he had never been known for anything better than a frivolous and fascinating courtier, writer, and lover of society.