Who now reads Bolingbroke? Who ever read him through?
The ablest writer and the most accomplished orator of his age.
Burke – despite his criticism of Bolingbroke – was actually much influenced by his thought and writing style. Other admirers of Bolingbroke were King George III and his nemesis George Washington (both of whom showed many of the characteristics of moderate monarchy that Bolingbroke suggested), William Pitt, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill. Man of Mercury, first published in 1965, analyses Bolingbroke’s life and his ideas, bringing out his distinctive flavour.
Although he was a slightly secondary political figure in early-eighteenth century England, Henry St John, the first Viscount Bolingbroke, played an important role in the development of Tory political views. As one of the main players in the negotiations leading up to the Treaty of Utrecht, Bolingbroke was seen as a rising political figure, but the death of Queen Anne and the arrival of a Whig administration left him isolated, and his support for the Jacobites led to a period in exile. This allowed him to develop his political theories in works such as The Idea of Patriot King, making clear that ‘the good of the people is the ultimate and true end of government’ and that ‘the greatest good of a people is their liberty’. S.W. Jackman brings out the significance of this and the Letter on the Study and Use of History.