Sir William Temple, an English statesman, born in London in 1628, died at Moor Park, Surrey, Jan. 27, 1699. He was the son of Sir John Temple, master of the rolls in Ireland. After passing two years at Emmanuel college, Cambridge, he went abroad without taking a degree, and made the continental tour. He was married in 1654, and for several years resided with his father in Ireland. He represented the county of Carlow in the Irish convention in 1660, and also in the first Irish parliament after the restoration. In 1663 he removed to England, and in 1665 was sent on a secret mission to the bishop of Munster. In reward for his services, he was created a baronet and appointed resident at Brussels. In 1667 he visited Holland, and urged upon his government the necessity of a league with that country against the projects of Louis XIV. Receiving, in January, 1668, the necessary powers to negotiate such a treaty, he concluded the triple alliance between England, Holland, and Sweden, by which the contracting parties bound themselves to endeavor to bring about a peace between France and Spain, and to keep the former power out of the Low Countries. After perfecting at Aix-la-Chapelle negotiations for peace in pursuance of this alliance, he went in August, 1668, as ambassador to the Hague. Recalled to England in September, 1670, he discovered that the ministry had formed a secret treaty with France, by which the triple alliance was rendered of no effect, and in June, 1671, received his dismissal.
For two or three years he resided at his estate of Sheen; but in 1674 he was summoned to negotiate a peace with Holland, which he accomplished in London. He returned soon afterward.to his former post at the Hague, and was also one of the mediators deputed to attend the congress of Nimeguen, which resulted (1678) in an unsatisfactory treaty of peace between France and Holland, which Temple refused to sign. Returning to England, he declined to accept the office of secretary of state; but Charles II., harassed by the violence of parliament, gladly availed himself of Temple's advice, and his plan for a new privy council of 30 members, 15 to be great officers of state and 15 independent noblemen and gentlemen of great weight and landed possessions, was carried into effect in April, 1679. But in consequence of several perversions of its fundamental principles, and the admission of Lord Shaftesbury as a member contrary to his advice, Temple ceased to attend the regular meetings. A single session of parliament, to which he had been elected from the university of Cambridge, satisfied him with legislative life; and his name being stricken from the list of privy councillors in 1680, he thenceforth lived in retirement, either at Sheen or at Moor Park, a seat in Surrey. During the last ten years of his life Jonathan Swift was his secretary.
His works comprise " Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands," essays on the " Origin and Nature of Government," " Ancient and Modern Learning," "Gardening," etc, and a variety of political and miscellaneous tracts. His collected works were first published in 1720, edited by Swift; the last and best edition is in 4 vols. 8vo (London, 1814).