Egmont may most directly refer to John Perceval, Second Earl of Egmont (1711-1770), a British politician best known for his skills in pamphleteering and his influence in British politics (though his father, as well as his seventh son, were also heavily involved in British politics). Carlyle uses this influential political figure as a foil for the current political "geniuses" of the day in order to indicate how poorly the current situation compares. Perceval, first entering politics in 1731 when elected to the Irish House of Commons, advanced his career when elected to represent Westminster in the British House of Commons. He became a front man for the opposition of war (in which it seemed Britain was frequently involved), publishing his eloquent and popular pamphlet "Faction detected by the Evidence of Facts" in 1743. A supporter of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, and the Leicester House faction, with the Prince he "drafted the Glorious Plan, a blueprint to take control of the government at Frederick's accession" ("John Perceval, 2nd earl of Egmont"). Being a close adviser of the Prince, his appointment as a lord of the bed-chamber would have lead to his appointment as prime minister had Louis lived to become king. As it was, he still attained English peerage in 1762 when he became Baron Lovel and Holland, and had a seat in the English House of Lords. He was later appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, but resigned due to his distaste of William Pitt's foreign policy. A confidant of King George III (Fredrick Louis' Son), he had great political influence not only through his successful pamphleteering but also through his direct connection with the rulers and top politicians of the day.
Perceval's father, although best known for his contributions in establishing the colony of Georgia, had also been an influential politician, serving in the Irish House of Commons, Irish House of Lords, and the British House of Commons, and like his son had Whig tendencies as concerning the opposition of war. Having created the Egmont name by being appointed the first Earl of Egmont in Ireland in 1733, he paved the way for his son's political ambitions. Also in the Family, Perceval's seventh son later became the prime minister. And so the term Egmont may in fact refer to this entire family of political geniuses, which would provide a high standard for the politicians of Carlyle's time to measure up to.
Carlyle complains that "the Dutch too have retained their old constitution; but no Siege of Leyden, no William the Silent, not even an Egmont or DeWitt any longer appears among them", indicating a longing for past greatness. He laments that current politics no longer contain the genius and influence granted by past politicians. He asserts that "it is the noble people that makes the novel Government, rather than conversely", another indication of his criticism of the current system as it has no men with the "energy and spiritual talent" that have lead in the past.
"John Perceval, 2nd earl of Egmont." Encyclop¾dia Britannica online. 2009. 24 Mar. 2009.
Egmont, John Perceval. Things as they are. Printed for S. Hooper, and A. Morley; G. Woodfall; and J. Staples, London: 1758.
"Earl of Egmont." Wikipedia. 2009. March 24. 2009.
Litrico, Mary Beth. "John Perceval, Second Earl of Egmont". www.amelianow.com.
Last modified 1 April 2009