Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX. - A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. III
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CHAPTER IX. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. III 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. III.
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One of the most difficult problems which the framers of constitutions are called upon to solve is that of providing that the direction of affairs shall be habitually in the hands of men of very exceptional ability, and at the same time of preventing the instability, insecurity, and alarm which perpetual and radical changes in the Government must produce. Among the many objections to hereditary despotism, one of the most obvious is that it implies that the members of a single family, educated for the most part under circumstances peculiarly fitted to enervate the character, shall, during many generations, be competent to discharge one of the most arduous of human undertakings, the direction of the complicated and often conflicting interests of a nation. Among the many objections to elective monarchy, the most serious is that it condemns the country in which it exists to perpetual conspiracies, tumults, and intrigues, which are fatal to the formation of settled political habits, and derange every part of the national organisation. Considered as a matter of pure theory, no form of government might appear more reasonable than that under which the leading men in the country assemble at each vacancy of the throne to choose the man who appears to them the most fitted for the crown. But no form of government has been more decisively condemned by experience. The elected sovereign is always likely to conspire with the assistance either of his own army or of foreign Powers to perpetuate the sovereignty in his family. The other great powers in the State, through fear of such conspiracy, are tempted to reduce the military establishments below what is necessary for the security of the nation. Bitter factions, profoundly detrimental to the well-being of the community, are inevitably formed among the great families who are competing to raise their candidates to the throne. Every illness of the sovereign gives rise to intrigues, conspiracies, and insecurity; his death usually leads to disorder, and sometimes to anarchy and civil war. Each new king ascends the throne tainted by the arts of electioneering, deeply pledged to one section of his people, the object of the vehement hostility of another section, and conscious that large classes are looking forward eagerly to his death. Such are the inevitable vices of elective monarchy, and they are so grave that, with the exception of the Papacy, which rests upon conditions wholly unlike those of any other monarchy, this form of government has been long extirpated from Europe. The crowns of Sweden and of Denmark became in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries strictly hereditary. The German Empire, and the kingdoms of Hungary, Poland, and Bohemia passed away or were absorbed, and they perished mainly by their own incurable weakness.
Several attempts have been made in the way of compromise to obviate these evils, and to combine the advantages of hereditary and of elective monarchy. One theory of government which was widely diffused in antiquity, and which may be traced far into the Middle Ages, but which has now passed altogether out of the sphere of practical politics, was that royalty was hereditary in a single family, but that the chiefs, tribes, or nations had the power of electing whom they pleased from among its members.
Another theory, which, if not openly avowed, has been sometimes practically adopted, is that the King holds his office only during good behaviour. In modern France the sovereign has always been an active power in the State, continually intervening in the direction of affairs, but liable, whenever he showed himself either incompetent or unpopular, to be displaced by a sudden revolution. To men who are firmly convinced that the ecclesiastical notion about the divine right of kings is a baseless superstition, that the sovereign is but the first magistrate of the State, and that the office he holds is intended for the benefit of his people, such a system appears at first sight very simple. In the natural course of events it must often happen that the sovereign, being selected by no principle of competition and being exposed to more than ordinary temptations, must be contemptible both in intellect and character, and large sections of his subjects come to look upon him as nothing better than an overpaid and inefficient official, who, on the first offence, should be unceremoniously discharged.
But the evils which have resulted from the predominance of such a way of thinking in a community are so great that they have led many who have no personal sympathy with the superstitious estimate of royalty, as a matter of expediency, rather to encourage than oppose it. An hereditary monarchy which subsists only on the condition of the monarch being a superior man must be in a chronic state of insecurity, and the stability of the government is one of the first conditions of national well-being. Every revolution brings to the surface the worst elements in the community, demoralises public life, impairs material interests, and weakens the empire of the law. It is a great calamity for a people when its criminal classes have learnt to take an active part in politics. It is a still greater calamity when the appetite for organic and revolutionary change has taken hold of large classes, when the political enthusiasm of opposition assumes the form of rebellion, and when the prevailing disposition is to undervalue the slow process of constitutional reform, and to look upon force as the natural solution of political questions. This habit of regarding revolution as in itself admirable and desirable, and making, in the words of Burke, the extreme remedy of the State its habitual diet, is perhaps the most fatal of all the diseases which now affect political bodies in Europe. It necessarily throws the rulers into the posture of self-defence, and makes them nervously and constantly jealous of their subjects. It produces reactions in which the most important reforms are endangered, drives from politics the very class whose co-operation is most valuable, and exposes every nation in which it exists to the opposite evils of despotism and anarchy. Political liberty, whether in Parliament or in the Press, is only safe and permanently possible when oppositions are content to act within the lines of the Constitution and the limits of the law, and the amount of freedom which any nation can endure is measured much less by its positive civilisation and intelligence, than by the weakness of the element of anarchy that is within it.
There are also other evils, if possible more serious, which follow in the train of revolutions. Every deposed dynasty has its devoted followers, and the nation is thus cursed with the calamity of a disputed succession, which often leads to civil war, and always makes it impossible for the Government to command the whole national energies in great emergencies of the State. No other influence is so fatal to the spirit of patriotism. Through hostility to the Government a large proportion of the heroism, fidelity, and devotion of the nation is permanently alienated from its affairs, and forms a clear deduction from its strength. Subjects learn to look with indifference or complacency upon the disasters of their country, and to throw perpetual obstacles in the course of its policy. Rulers learn to pursue two policies—a national one intended to benefit the nation, and a dynastic one intended to benefit themselves. It was the great merit of the conciliatory policy of Walpole that it saved England during the period of its disputed succession from a large part of these evils; but in France, during the period that has elapsed since the Revolution, they have all been abundantly displayed. A soil once peculiarly fertile in political genius blasted by repeated revolutions; large classes wholly separated from the management of affairs, or animated by an insane passion for anarchy; a Government embarrassed by dynastic and revolutionary Opposition in the most critical moments of its foreign policy, and vainly seeking by wild military adventures to divert to foreign channels the passions that are dangerous at home; an administration, both civil and military, deeply tainted with corruption; a great empire invaded, humiliated and dismembered, and finally all the elements of disorder rising into fierce insurrection against the Government at the very time when a foreign enemy was surrounding the capital; these have been in our own day the fruits of that diseased appetite for organic change and that contempt for all constituted authority which the Great Revolution implanted in the chief cities of France. Blind indeed must be that politician who fails to perceive their significance, who has not learnt from this long train of calamities the danger of tampering with the central pillars of the State, and letting loose those revolutionary torrents which spread such ruin and desolation in their path.
The problem of combining stability, capacity, and political freedom has, in modern constitutional monarchies of the English type, been most fully met by a careful division of powers. The sovereignty is strictly hereditary, surrounded by a very large amount of reverence, and sheltered by constitutional forms from criticism or opposition, but at the same time it is so restricted in its province that it has, or ought to have, no real influence on legislation. The King, according to a fundamental maxim, ‘can do no wrong.’ The responsibility of every political act rests solely with the minister, and, as he has the whole responsibility, he has a right to claim the whole management. The credit of success and the stigma of failure belong alike to him. The King is placed altogether above the vicissitudes of party and of politics; he is confined to the discharge of certain offices which are universally admitted to be useful and essential, and which at the same time require not more than ordinary abilities. The chief efficient power, on the other hand, in a constitutional monarchy, is virtually, though not avowedly, as truly elective as in a republic, for although the Sovereign chooses the minister, he is restricted in his choice to the statesman whom the dominant political party has selected as its leader, and who has obtained the confidence of Parliament.
In this system the direct political power of the Sovereign is very small, but yet the position which he occupies is more important than might at first sight be imagined. In the first place, as the head of society, the patron of art, the dispenser of international courtesies, the supreme representative of his country in the council of nations, he discharges social, and, so to speak, ornamental functions, both of dignity and value, and in the next place he contributes very largely to foster the patriotic enthusiasm which is the animating principle and moral force of national greatness. The great majority of men in political matters are governed neither by reason nor by knowledge, but by the associations of the imagination, and for such men loyalty is the first and natural form of patriotism. In the thrill of common emotion that passes through the nation when some great sorrow or some great happiness befalls the reigning dynasty, they learn to recognise themselves as members of a single family. The throne is to them the symbol of national unity—the chief object of patriotic interest and emotion. It strikes their imaginations. It elicits their enthusiasm. It is the one rallying cry they will answer and understand. Tens of thousands of men who are entirely indifferent to party distinctions and to ministerial changes, who are too ignorant or too occupied to care for any great political question, and to whom government rarely appears in any other light than as a machinery for taxing them, regard the monarch with a feeling of romantic devotion, and are capable of great efforts of self-sacrifice in his cause. The circle of political feeling is thus extended. The sum of enthusiasm upon which the nation in critical times can count is largely increased, and, however much speculative critics may disparage the form which it assumes, practical statesmen will not disdain any of the tributary rills that swell the great tide of patriotism. Even in the case of more educated men, it is extremely conducive to the strength, unity, and purity of the national sentiment, that the supreme ruler of the nation should be above the animosities of party, and that his presence at the head of affairs should not be the result of the defeat of one section of his people. In a great composite empire, consisting largely of self-governed colonies, the importance of the monarchy as a bond of unity is especially great. In such colonies the Parliament of the mother country can claim no authority and inspire no enthusiasm, and any extension of its power is viewed with jealousy. In the outlying portions of the Empire, the throne, more than any other part of the Constitution, symbolises imperial unity and elicits loyal affection. No wise statesman can doubt that the cohesion between the different parts of the British Empire would be most seriously affected if the monarchical constitution of that Empire were destroyed.
To these advantages it must be added that the monarchical form of government provides a simple and admirably efficacious machinery for effecting without convulsion the necessary ministerial changes. In no other form of government do profound mutations of men and policy, violent conflicts of opinion, disordered ambitions, and glaring instances of administrative incapacity, affect so slightly the stability of the Constitution, A ministerial crisis has no affinity to a revolution. The permanence of the supreme authority, unchallenged and undisturbed amid all the conflicts of parties, calms the imaginations of men. The continuity of affairs is unbroken. The shock is deadened. The changes take place with regularity and in a restricted orbit, and the country is saved from an insecurity which long before it touches the limit of anarchy is disastrous to the prosperity of nations. Indirectly the monarchy has a great political influence, for if it did not exist the aristocracy could hardly subsist as a considerable political power. In the distribution of non-political patronage the Sovereign may not unreasonably claim a real voice, and if he be an able man the experience derived from an official connection with many successive ministries, and the peculiar sources of knowledge arising from his relations with foreign Courts, will never be wholly unfelt in the councils of the nation. In a few rare cases of nearly balanced claims he has a real power of deciding to whom he will entrust the task of forming an administration; in a few rare cases, when a ministry commanding a majority in Parliament is pursuing a course which appears plainly repugnant to the feelings of the country, he may justifiably exercise his prerogative to dissolve Parliament, and submit the question to the decision of the country. But in the immense majority of cases he is at once neutral and powerless in party politics. He simply puts in motion a machine the action of which is elsewhere determined, and is no more responsible for the policy to which he assents than a judge for the laws which he administers. The spirit of loyalty, while it remains a powerful adjunct to the spirit of patriotism, has thus ceased to be in any degree prejudicial to liberty. The position of the King in the Constitution resembles that of the Speaker in the House of Commons, and like that dignitary his political neutrality and the deference with which he is regarded contribute largely to his utility.
The extreme importance of freeing the Sovereign from all responsibility and withdrawing him from all official influence in politics, wherever the Parliament is a real exponent of the people's will and is at the same time the most powerful body in the State, may be easily proved. In the great majority of cases he must necessarily be a man of very ordinary ability, and even were it otherwise, his exclusion from Parliament and from the common life of his people deprives him of the kind of experience which is most essential for a popular statesman. And no statesman, though he possessed the ability and experience of a Walpole, a Chatham, or a Peel, could conduct the policy of the nation for the period of a long reign without occasionally incurring violent unpopularity and differing from the majority of the legislators. In a purely constitutional country this causes little disturbance, for the minister at once retires and is replaced by a statesman who shares the views of the majority. But in the case of the Sovereign no such expedient is possible. He must remain at his post. He must eventually carry out the policy of his Parliament, and select advisers in whom it has confidence. If then he regards himself as personally responsible for the policy of the nation, and if he be a man of strong, conscientious political convictions, his position will soon become intolerable. He cannot resist without danger, or yield without humiliation. He will be in the position of an irremovable Prime Minister, compelled to carry out a policy which he detests, and to select his subordinates from among his opponents. A more painful, a more insecure, a more fatally false position could hardly be conceived, but it must be that of every sovereign who in a constitutional monarchy is an active party in politics. If the collision be public, it may shake the monarchy to its basis. If it be confined to the precincts of the council-room, it is only a little less dangerous. A secret influence habitually exercised is sure to be suspected, to be exaggerated, and to be misrepresented. The national policy will almost inevitably be weakened when the confidence of the Sovereign is withheld from the ministers, or when he is perpetually interfering with their conduct. Court intrigues, secret and unofficial advisers, responsible ministers surrendering their real convictions in deference to the wishes of an irresponsible sovereign, are the natural results; and even if the firmness of ministers succeeds in averting them, it is no small evil that the duty of discussing in detail every political step with the Sovereign should be added to the almost overwhelming burden which already rests upon parliamentary statesmen. The King may retain a great influence in the management of affairs where Parliament is altogether a subordinate body, restricted in its functions and authority. He may even retain it, though more precariously, when Parliament has become the strongest body of the State, if the composition of that Parliament is so exclusive or aristocratic that he can sway it by the influences at his disposal. But whenever Parliament has become a direct expression of the people's will, and especially whenever the existence of a free press and the aggregation of a large proportion of the population in great towns has given popular opinion an irresistible volume and momentum, the withdrawal of the Sovereign from the arena is equally essential to his security and to his dignity. The only political power he can reasonably be suffered to exercise is that of a suspensory veto, preventing hasty legislation, and above all delaying the decision of Parliament on great questions till they have been brought directly before the constituencies by an election. But this power—which should certainly be lodged somewhere in the Constitution—is exercised as efficiently and much less invidiously by the House of Lords, and the royal veto has accordingly fallen into desuetude and has not been employed since the reign of Anne.
The gradual but substantial realisation of this ideal of constitutional monarchy has since the period of the Act of Settlement, been only slightly due to legislation, or at least to legislation which was intended to affect the position of the Crown. It has resulted partly from a series of historical facts growing out of the accession of the House of Hanover which have been described in a former volume, and partly from the steady subsequent growth of the popular element in the Constitution. The reigning Sovereign has exactly the same legal power of vetoing bills passed by both Houses of Parliament as William III. or the Stuarts, but it is a power which it has become impossible to exercise with safety. The Cabinet, which has gradually drawn to itself nearly all the ancient powers of the Privy Council, which sits without the presence of the Sovereign, and which determines the policy of the Government, is a body entirely unknown to the law and to the theory of the Constitution; and it is no special enactment, but only the silent strengthening of party government, that has virtually deprived the Sovereign of his legally unrestricted power of choosing his ministers. Even the power so largely exercised by the Tudors and by James I. of changing the composition of the representative body by summoning previously unrepresented towns to send members to Parliament, was in theory untouched by the Revolution, and no less a writer than Locke defended the propriety of extinguishing the rotten boroughs and readjusting the proportion of members to electors by a simple exercise of prerogative.1 Such schemes soon became impossible, but the form which popular government has assumed in England is mainly to be attributed to the Whig party, who, while they have combated steadily the Tory doctrine of the divine right of kings, and the conception of monarchy that flows from it, and have restricted within very narrow limits the political functions of the Sovereign, have at the same time, unlike many continental Liberals, carefully respected his dignity and his office, and made it a main object to place both outside the sphere of controversy. But in the eighteenth century the Whig ideal was still far from its attainment, and George III. is the last instance of an English sovereign endeavouring systematically to impose his individual opinion upon the nation, and in a great degree succeeding in his attempt.
When George II. died, on October 25, 1760, his grandson and successor had but just completed his twenty-second year. The life of the young Prince had hitherto been very unsuitable for the task he was to fulfil. Since his thirteenth year, when his father died, he had lived entirely with his mother, and he exhibited during his whole career the characteristic merits and defects of a female education. His mother was a woman of a somewhat hard, reserved, and tortuous character; with few friendships and several bitter enmities; with a power of concealing her true sentiments which baffled even those who came in closest connection with her; strict in the observance of her religious duties, and in her care of her nine children; eminently discreet in her dealings with a bad husband and a jealous father-in-law; deeply imbued with the narrow prejudices of a small German Court, fond of power, unamiable, and somewhat soured by adversity. The early death of her husband had deprived her of the prospect of a crown, and although after his death Leicester House ceased to be a centre of active opposition, the old King looked upon both the Princess and his grandchild with jealousy, and they had in consequence little intercourse with the Court circle, with the Whig ministers, and even with the other members of the royal family. The education of the young Prince was feebly and fitfully conducted; and it is remarkable that among his preceptors Scott had been recommended by Bolingbroke, while Stone had been suspected of Jacobitism. They appear to have discharged their functions very ill; for George III. was always singularly deficient in literary culture. Lord Waldegrave, who was much the ablest of his governors, described him as a boy of respectable abilities, but great constitutional indolence; scrupulous, dutiful, ignorant of evil, and sincerely pious, but neither generous nor frank; harsh in his judgments of others. with strong prejudices, indomitable obstinacy, and great command over his passions, exceedingly tenacious of his resentments, and exhibiting them chiefly by prolonged fits of sullenness. His indolence he succeeded in completely overcoming, but the other lines of this not very pleasing picture continued during his whole life.
He mixed little in the world—scarcely at all with the young nobility. His mother said that their lax manners would probably corrupt her son. Her enemies declared that the real explanation of this strange seclusion was her own insatiable avarice of power, which made her wish beyond all things to establish a complete ascendency over his mind, and to withdraw him from every influence that could rival her own. Like most members of German royal families, she exaggerated the prerogative of monarchy to the highest degree, and her favourite exhortation, ‘George, be a king!’ is said to have left a deep impression on the mind of her son. The most important figure in the small circle was John, Earl of Bute, a Scotch nobleman who had held an office in the household of Frederick. Prince of Wales, had lived after his death for some years a life of more than common retirement in Scotland, and, on the establishment of the household of the young Prince, had been placed at the head of it as Groom of the Stole. He was a man of some literary and artistic taste, but of very limited talents, entirely inexperienced in public business, arrogant, reserved, and unpopular in his temper, and with extreme views of the legitimate powers of royalty. The very confidential relations of Bute with the Princess gave rise to a scandal which was widely spread and generally believed.1 He became the chief adviser or instructor of her son, and strengthened in his mind those plans for the emancipation of the royal authority which George III. pursued steadily throughout his whole life.
The new Sovereign came to the throne amid an enthusiasm such as England had hardly seen since Charles II. restored the monarchy. By the common consent of all parties the dynastic contest was regarded as closed, and after two generations of foreign and unsympathetic rulers, the nation, which has always been peculiarly intolerant of strangers, accepted with delight an English king. The favourable impression was still further confirmed when the more salient points of the private character of the King became generally understood. Simple, regular, and abstemious in all his tastes and habits, deeply religious without affectation or enthusiasm, a good son, a faithful husband, a kind master, and (except when he had met with gross ingratitude) an affectionate father, he exhibited through his whole reign, and in a rare perfection, that type of decorous and domestic virtue which the English middle classes most highly prize. The proclamation against immorality with which he began his reign; the touching piety with which, at his coronation, he insisted on putting aside his crown when receiving the sacrament; his rebuke to a Court preacher who had praised him in a sermon; his suppression of Sunday levees; his discouragement of gambling at Court; his letter of remonstrance to an Archbishop of Canterbury who had allowed balls in his palace; his constant attendance and reverential manner at religious services; his solemn and pious resignation under great private misfortunes, contrasted admirably with the open immorality of his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, and with the outrageous licentiousness of his own brothers and of his own sons. He never sought for popularity; but he had many of the kingly graces. and many of the national tastes that are most fitted to obtain it. He went through public ceremonies with much dignity, and although his manner in private was hurried and confused, it was kind and homely, and not without a certain unaffected grace. Unlike his two predecessors, he was emphatically a gentleman, and he possessed to a rare degree the royal art of enhancing small favours by a gracious manner and a few well-chosen words. His country tastes, his love of field sports, his keen interest in the great public schools, endeared him to large classes of his subjects; and, though he was neither brilliant nor witty, several of his terse and happy sayings are still remembered. He was also a very brave man. In the Wilkes riots, in 1769, when his palace was attacked; in the Lord George Gordon riots, in 1780, when his presence of mind contributed largely to save London; in 1786, when a poor madwoman attempted to stab him at the entrance of St. James's Palace; in 1795, when he was assailed on his way to Parliament; in 1800, when he was fired at in a theatre, he exhibited the most perfect composure amid danger. His habit in dating his letters, of marking, not only the day, but the hour and the minute in which he wrote, illustrates not unhappily the microscopic attention which he paid to every detail of public business, and which was the more admirable because his natural tendency was towards sloth. In matters that were not connected with his political prejudices, his sincere appreciation of piety, and his desire to do good, sometimes overcame his religious bigotry and his hatred of change. Thus he always spoke with respect of the Methodists, and especially of Lady Huntingdon; he supported Howard, and subscribed to a statue in his honour; he supported the Lancaster system of education, though Lancaster was a Dissenter, and was looked upon with disfavour by the bishops; he encouraged the movement for Sunday-schools. He was sincerely desirous of doing his duty, and deeply attached to his country, although stronger feelings often interfered both with his conscientiousness and with his patriotism.
It is not surprising that a sovereign of whom all this may be truly said should have obtained much respect and admiration; and it must be added that, in his hatred of innovation and in his vehement anti-American, anti-Catholic, and anti-Gallican feelings, he represented the sentiments of large sections—perhaps of the majority—of his people. The party which he drew from its depression has naturally revered his memory, and old age, and blindness, and deafness, and deprivation of reason, and the base ingratitude of two sons, have cast a deep pathos over his closing years.
All these things have contributed very naturally to throw a delusive veil over the political errors of a sovereign of whom it may be said, without exaggeration, that he inflicted more profound and enduring injuries upon his country than any other modern English king. Ignorant, narrow-minded, and arbitrary, with an unbounded confidence in his own judgment and an extravagant estimate of his prerogative, resolved at all hazards to compel his ministers to adopt his own views, or to undermine them if they refused, he spent a long life in obstinately resisting measures which are now almost universally admitted to have been good, and in supporting measures which are as universally admitted to have been bad. He espoused with passionate eagerness the American quarrel; resisted obstinately the measures of conciliation by which at one time it might easily have been stifled; envenomed it by his glaring partisanship, and protracted it for several years, in opposition to the wish and to the advice even of his own favourite and responsible minister. He took the warmest personal interest in the attempts that were made, in the matter of general warrants, to menace the liberty of the subject, and in the case of the Middlesex election to abridge the electoral rights of constituencies, and in the other paltry, violent, and arbitrary measures by which the country was inflamed and Wilkes was converted into a hero. The last instance of an English officer deprived of his regiment for his vote in Parliament was due to the personal intervention of the King; and the ministers whom he most warmly favoured were guilty of an amount and audacity of corruption which is probably unequalled in the parliamentary history of England. All the measures that were carried or attempted with the object of purifying the representative body—the publication of debates, the alteration of the mode of trying contested elections, the reduction of sinecures and pensions, the enlargement of the constituencies—were contrary to the wishes of the King. Although his income during the greater part of his reign was little less than a million a year,1 although his Court was parsimonious to a fault, and his hospitality exceedingly restricted, and although he succeeded to a considerable sum that had been saved by his predecessor, he accumulated in the course of his reign debts to the amount of no less than 3,398,061l.;2 and there can be little doubt that contemporary public opinion was right in attributing a great part of these debts to corrupt expenditure in parliament or at elections. Of all the portions of the Empire none was so impoverished, distracted, and misgoverned as Ireland, but every attempt to improve its condition found in the King a bitter adversary. He opposed the relaxation of the laws by which Irish commerce had been crushed, although his own Tory ministers were in favour of it. He opposed Catholic emancipation with a persistent bitterness, although that measure alone could have made the Irish union acceptable to the people, and although his minister had virtually pledged himself to grant it, and by his refusal he consigned the country to a prolonged and disastrous agitation, the effects of which may never disappear. He opposed the endowment of the Catholic clergy, although statesmen of the most various schools concurred in the belief that no other measure would act so beneficially on the social condition of Ireland, or would so effectually tranquillise the minds of its people. He refused to consent to throw open the higher ranks in the army to the Catholics, although that measure had already been conceded to the army in Ireland by the Irish Parliament; and he flung the country into all the agonies of a ‘No Popery’ dissolution at the very time when a fearful struggle with France was demanding the utmost unanimity, and when thousands of Catholic soldiers were fighting bravely in his cause. In the same spirit he supported the slave trade; he described the Test and Corporation Acts as the palladium of the Constitution, and was inexorably opposed to their abolition, and he created Tory peers in such lavish numbers, and with such an exclusive view to their political subserviency, that he seriously lowered the character and fundamentally altered the tendencies of the House of Lords. In a word, there is scarcely a field of politics in which the hand of the King may not be traced—sometimes in postponing inevitable measures of justice and reform, sometimes in sowing the seeds of enduring evil.
The root, however, of his great errors lay in his determination to restore the royal power to a position wholly different from that which it occupied in the reign of his predecessor; and this design was in many respects more plausible than is now generally admitted. Every functionary has a natural tendency to magnify his office, and when George III. ascended the throne he found his position as an hereditary constitutional sovereign almost unique in the world. In France, in Spain, in Austria, in the smallest principality in Germany, the sovereign was hardly less absolute than in Russia or Turkey. And the power of the English sovereign had for many years been steadily declining, and the limitations to which he was practically subject went far beyond the mere letter of the law. The time had indeed long passed when Elizabeth directed her Parliaments to abstain from discussing matters of state, and when James I. declared that, ‘as it is atheism and blasphemy in a creature to dispute what the Deity may do, so it is presumption and sedition in a subject to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power;’ but even after the Revolution, William III. had been a great political power, and Anne, though a weak and foolish woman, had exercised no small amount of personal influence. What the position of the English Sovereign was in the eyes of the English Church was sufficiently shown by the long series of theologians who proclaimed in the most emphatic terms that he possessed a divine right, different, not only in degree but in kind, from that of every other power in the State; that he was the representative or vicegerent of the Deity; that resistance to him was in all cases a sin. The language of English law was less unqualified, but still it painted his authority in very different colours from those which, an historian of George I. or of George II. would have used. The ‘Commentaries’ of Blackstone were not published till George III. had been for some time on the throne; but Bute had obtained a considerable portion of them in manuscript from the author, for the purpose of instructing the Prince in the principles of the Constitution.1 ‘The King of England,’ in the words of Blackstone, ‘is not only the chief, but properly the sole magistrate of the nation, all others acting by commission from and in due subordination to him.’ ‘He may reject what bills, may make what treaties, … may pardon what offences he pleases, unless when the Constitution hath expressly, or by evident consequence, laid down some exception or boundary.’ He has the sole power of regulating fleets and armies, of manning all forts and other places of strength within the realm, of making war and peace, of conferring honours, offices, and privileges. He governs the kingdom: statesmen, who administer affairs, are only his ministers.2
It is not surprising that the contrast between such language and the actual position of George II. during the greater part of his reign should have vividly impressed a young sovereign surrounded by Tory followers, and naturally extremely tenacious of power, or that he should have early resolved to bend all his faculties to the task of emancipating his office from the restrictions that surrounded it. The period of his accession was in some respects exceedingly propitious to his design. Among the causes of the depression of royalty one of the most obvious and important had been the long exclusion from office of that great Tory party which naturally exalts most highly the royal prerogative. It had originally been defended, and perhaps justified, by the Jacobitism of Bolingbroke and of his colleagues; but it had been perpetuated through party motives, and the borough system, assisted by royal favour, had enabled a few great Whig families gradually to command the chief power in the State. But with the extinction of Jacobitism the necessity for this exclusion had ceased. Scotland had been completely pacified by the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions; the English Jacobites were shown by the Rebellion of 1745 to be few and insignificant. The animosity against George II. on account of the severities that followed the Rebellion was not extended to his successor. The dislike to a foreign king, which had hitherto been the strongest support, had now become one of the most formidable difficulties of the Jacobites. George III, was English by birth, by education, by character, and by creed. The Pretender was at once a foreigner and a Papist, with few or no English tastes, and sunk, according to common report, in habitual drunkenness.1 So many years had elapsed since the Act of Settlement that the new dynasty had struck its roots firmly in the soil, and all those large classes who were most attached to the theory of legitimacy were only waiting for the death of George II. to rally around his successor as they had rallied around Anne or around Charles II.
The propriety of breaking down the system of exclusion seemed manifest. The Tory sentiment of the country had long found no adequate expression in the Government. The party which carried with it the genuine sympathies both of the country gentry and of the country clergy had been so discouraged that after the death of Bolingbroke and of the Prince of Wales it was scarcely represented in Parliament, and its political eclipse had been followed by a great increase both of oligarchical influence and of corruption. There was something manifestly unhealthy in the continuance, during many years, of a Government like that of Walpole, which was supported chiefly by a majority of members of nomination boroughs in opposition to the large majority of the county votes; and nothing but the wisdom and moderation with which the Whig party used their ascendency could have repressed serious discontent in the country. Bolingbroke, in works which seem to have suggested the policy of George III., had strongly urged the necessity of disregarding the old party distinctions, and building up the royal authority on their decay. Carteret, after the fall of Walpole, had designed a mixed ministry, in which Tories as well as Whigs could be admitted largely to power. Pitt had long chafed bitterly against the system of government by connection, and it was noticed that although the higher offices in the Government were still occupied exclusively by Whigs, the country party, who had remained sullenly indifferent to preceding Governments, rallied warmly around him, and that in his militia appointments he entirely overlooked the distinction of Whig and Tory.1
The object of Pitt was to check the corruption that prevailed and to extend the area of patriotic feeling. The object of George III. and of the little group of politicians who surrounded and counselled him was very different, but their means were in some respects the same. In order to estimate their policy it is necessary in the first place to form a clear conception of their aims and methods. It is probable that Burke, in the famous pamphlet in which he described the condition of English politics in the first years of George III., considerably exaggerated the systematic and elaborate character of the plan that was adopted, but its leading features are sufficiently plain. ‘Prerogative,’ as Horace Walpole said, had once more ‘become a fashionable word,’1 the divine right of kings was once again continually preached from the pulpit, and the Court party never concealed their conviction that the monarchy in the preceding reign had fallen into an essentially false position, and that it should be the first object of the new sovereign to restore it to vigour.
They had, however, no wish to restrict or override the authority of Parliament, or to adopt any means which were not legal and parliamentary. Their favourite cries were abolition of government by party or connection, abolition of corruption at elections, emancipation of the Sovereign from ministerial tyranny. No class of politicians were to be henceforth absolutely excluded, but at the same time no class or connection were to be allowed to dictate their policy to the King. The aristocracy, it was said, had obtained an exaggerated place in the Constitution. A few great families, who had been the leading supporters of the Revolution, who were closely connected by family relationships, by friendship, by long and systematic political co-operation, had come to form a single coherent body possessing so large an amount of borough patronage and such vast and various ramifications of influence, that they were practically the rulers of the country.1 This phalanx was beyond all things to be broken up. If a great nobleman consented to detach himself from it and to enter into new combinations; if on a change of ministry subordinate officials were content to abandon their leaders and to retain their places, such conduct was to be warmly encouraged. The system of divided administrations which had existed under William and Anne was to be revived. The ministers were to be as much as possible confined to their several departments; they were to be drawn from many different connections and schools of policy, and they were not to be suffered to form a coherent and homogeneous whole.
The relations of the Crown to the ministry were to be changed. For a considerable time the Treasury, the ecclesiastical patronage, the Cornish boroughs, and all the other sources of influence which belonged nominally to the Crown, had been, with few exceptions, at the disposal of the minister, and were employed to strengthen his administration. They were now to be in a great degree withdrawn from his influence, and to be employed in maintaining in Parliament a body of men whose political attachment centred in the King alone, who looked to him alone for promotion, who, though often holding places in the Government, were expected rather to control than to support it, and, if it diverged from the policy which was personally acceptable to the King, to conspire against it and overthrow it. A Crown influence was thus to be established in Parliament as well as a ministerial influence, and it was hoped that it would turn the balance of parties and accelerate the downfall of any administration which was not favoured by the King.
There were many sources from which ‘the King's friends,’ as this interest was very invidiously called,1 might be recruited. Crown and Court patronage was extravagantly redundant, and it was certain in the corrupt condition of Parliament that many politicians would prefer to attach themselves to the permanent source of power rather than to transitory administrations. The popularity of the King strengthened the party. The Tories, who resented their long exclusion from power, and who recognised in the young sovereign a Tory king, supported it in a body; the divisions and jealousies among the Whig nobles made it tolerably certain that some would be soon detached from their old connections and would gather round the new standard, and the personal influence of the Sovereign over the leading politicians was sufficient to secure in most ministries at least one member who was content to draw his inspiration from him alone.
It must be remembered, too, that the conception of the Cabinet as a body of statesmen who were in thorough political agreement, and were jointly responsible for all the measures they proposed, was still in its early stage, and was by no means fully or universally recognised. A great step had been taken towards its attainment on the accession of George I., when the principle was adopted of admitting only the members of a single party into the Government. The administration of Walpole, in unity, discipline, and power, was surpassed by few of the present century. After the downfall of that administration the Whigs defeated the attempt of the King's favourite statesman to mix the Government with Tories, and a joint resignation of the Government in 1746 obliged the King to break finally with Bath and Granville, and admit Pitt to his councils. But, on the other hand, the lax policy of Pelham and the personal weakness of Newcastle had led to great latitude and violent divergences of policy in the Cabinet which they formed. Fox and Hardwicke, in the debates on the Marriage Act, inveighed against one another with the utmost bitterness, though the one was Secretary of State and the other Chancellor in the same Government. Fox and Pitt made their colleagues, Murray, Newcastle, and Robinson, the objects of their constant attacks, and these examples rendered it more easy for the King to carry out his favourite policy of a divided Cabinet.
A very remarkable pamphlet, called ‘Seasonable Hints from an Honest Man on the new Reign and the new Parliament,’ appeared in 1761, defending the new system of government, and it soon attracted much attention from the fact that it was understood to be the composition of no less a person than Lord Bath, the old rival of Walpole and the old colleague of Carteret.1 The question, the writer said, for the Sovereign to determine was, ‘Whether he is to content himself with the shadow of royalty while a set of undertakers for his business intercept his immediate communication with his people, and make use of the legal prerogatives of their master to establish the illegal claims of factitious oligarchy.’ He complains that ‘a cabal of ministers had been allowed to erect themselves into a fourth estate, to check, to control, to influence, nay, to enslave the others;’ that it had become usual ‘to urge the necessity of the King submitting to give up the management of his affairs and the exclusive disposal of all his employments to some ministers, or set of ministers, who, by uniting together, and backed by their numerous dependants, may be able to carry on the measures of Government;’ that ‘ministerial combinations to engross power and invade the closet,’ were nothing less than a ‘scheme of putting the Sovereign in leading-strings,’ and that their result had been the monstrous corruption of Parliament and the strange spectacle of ‘a King of England unable to confer the smallest employment unless on the recommendation and with the consent of his ministers.’ He trusts that the new King will put an end to this system by showing ‘his resolution to break all factious connections and confederacies.’ Already he has ‘placed in the most honourable stations near his own person, some who have not surely owed their place to ministerial importunity, because they have always opposed ministerial influence,’ and by steadily pursuing this course, the true ideal of the Constitution will be attained, ‘in which the ministers will depend on the Crown, not the Crown on the ministers.’ But to attain this end it was necessary that the basis of the Government should be widened, the proscription of the Tories abolished, and the Sovereign enabled to select his servants from all sections of politicians. ‘Does any candid and intelligent man seriously believe that at this time there subsists any party distinction amongst us that is not merely nominal? Are not the Tories friends of the royal family? Have they not long ago laid aside their aversion to the Dissenters? Do they not think the Toleration and Establishment both necessary parts of the Constitution? and can a Whig distinguish these from his own principles?’ One glorious result of the new system of government the writer confidently predicts. With the destruction of oligarchical power the reign of corruption would terminate, and undue influence in Parliament was never likely to be revived.
The young King came to the throne when rather more than three years of almost uninterrupted victory had raised England to an ascendency which she had scarcely attained since the great days of Henry V. The French flag had nearly disappeared from the sea. Except Louisiana, all the French possessions in North America, except St. Domingo, all the French islands in the West Indies, had been taken, and the last French settlements in Hindostan were just tottering to their fall. The wave of invasion which threatened to submerge Hanover had been triumphantly rolled back, and the nation, intoxicated by victory, and roused from its long lethargy by the genius of its great statesman, displayed an energy and a daring which made it a wonder to its neighbours and to itself. No sacrifice seemed too great to demand, yet in spite of every sacrifice, commerce was flourishing and national prosperity advancing. The sudden growth of the colonial empire of England, and the destruction of her most formidable rival on the sea, had an immediate effect, and it was computed that in 1761 English commerce was a fifth greater than in the last year of the preceding peace.1
A ministry which had achieved such triumphs, and which was supported by such a tide of popular favour, would have been able, had it been cordially united, to defy any attempt to subvert it. But it was divided by deep fissures, distracted by bitter jealousies and animosities. Its war policy had hitherto been directed absolutely by Pitt, who almost monopolised the popular enthusiasm, and who could count in the Cabinet upon the firm alliance of his brother-in-law Lord Temple, the head of the Grenvilles. The great wealth and position of Temple had given him some political weight, and he was usually entrusted with the defence of the policy of Pitt in the Lords; but his character, at once grasping, arrogant, and intriguing, seldom failed to alienate those with whom he co-operated. With this exception, Pitt had scarcely a cordial friend in the Cabinet. Personal jealousies and rivalry, real differences of opinion, but above all the unbounded arrogance with which Pitt treated his colleagues, had raised against him a weight of animosity which it needed all his genius, popularity, and success to repress. In the council the other ministers cowered like timid schoolboys before him. More than once, when doubts were expressed whether the Treasury would be able to furnish with sufficient celerity or in sufficient quantity the necessary supplies for the expeditions that were prepared, Pitt cut short the debate by declaring that in case of the smallest failure he would at once impeach the Commissioners of Treasury, or Newcastle himself, before Parliament. He compelled no less a man than Anson to sign orders as First Lord of the Admiralty which he was not allowed even to read, and he constantly gave orders relating to the war, in different departments, without even informing the responsible heads of those departments of his intentions.1 Newcastle lived in a continual state of mingled terror and resentment. Fox could not forget that he had been once deemed the equal of Pitt, and that his lucrative post of Paymaster of the Forces was in truth purely subordinate. Lord Granville, the old President of the Council, who had stood in the foremost rank of English politics before Pitt had even entered the House of Commons, could hardly brook the imperious tone of his younger colleague, and a powerful section of the ministry looked with great alarm upon the rapidly increasing debt, and desired at all hazards to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. The Duke of Bedford, who had a large number of personal adherents, strongly maintained this opinion, and predicted nothing but calamities, and his view was warmly supported by the Duke of Devonshire, by Lord Hardwicke, and above all by George Grenville, who, though he had not yet obtained a seat in the Cabinet, was already looked upon as the best man of business in the Government.
The change which had taken place in the spirit of the Court appeared from the very beginning. Bute at once obtained the dignity of Privy Councillor, to which, however, as an old servant of the new Sovereign, he had an undoubted right;1 and the first royal speech to the Council was composed by the King and Bute without any communication with the responsible ministers of the Crown. The sentences in which it spoke of ‘a bloody and expensive war,’ and of ‘obtaining an honourable and lasting peace,’ were justly interpreted as a covert censure upon the great minister who was conducting the war; and it was only after an altercation which lasted for two or three hours that Pitt induced Bute to consent that in the printed copy the former sentence should be changed into ‘an expensive, but just and necessary war,’ and that the words ‘in concert with our allies’ should be inserted after the latter. It was speedily spread abroad from lip to lip that, although the King for the present retained his old ministers, he would not be governed by them as his grandfather was. Bute became the medium of most private communications between the King and the more prominent statesmen, and he was generally understood to be the real centre of power. The necessity of drawing together the divided elements of the ministry was very manifest, and it is said that Pitt invited New-castle to join with him in a closer union;1 but the old statesman, who, though he sometimes spoke of resigning office, was in truth as wedded to it as ever, had already turned towards the rising star. Both the King and Bute skilfully flattered Newcastle, and aggravated the jealousy with which he regarded Pitt, and Newcastle, though one of the oldest and most experienced states-men in England, actually offered to serve under Bute.2
It was noticed in the first days of the new reign that the great Jacobite families who had long been absent from Court now crowded the antechamber. Horace Walpole, who was present at the first levee, was favourably struck with the affable behaviour of the King, and its contrast to the half-shy, half-sullen manners of his predecessor.3 Much scandal, however, was caused by the warm reception given to Lord G. Sackville, who was an intimate friend of Bute, but whose conduct at Minden had deeply tarnished his reputation;1 and much criticism was provoked by a sentence which the King himself inserted in his first speech to Parliament. Queen Anne was believed to have reflected on her predecessor when she described herself, on a similar occasion, as ‘entirely English’ at heart, and George III. indicated a somewhat similar spirit in the sentence, ‘Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.’ ‘What a lustre,’ replied the House of Lords, in a strain of almost Oriental servility, ‘does it cast upon the name of Briton, when you, Sir, are pleased to esteem it among your glories!’2 In a different spirit, but with almost equal absurdity, the King was afterwards accused of insulting his English subjects by ‘melting down the English name’ into that of Briton.3
The chief business of the first short session of Parliament was to regulate the civil list and the supplies. The first was fixed at 800,000l., and the second at a little less than twenty millions, and in order to supply what was defective a new duty of 3d. a barrel was imposed on beer and ale. One act, however, was accomplished in this session at the recommendation of the King, by which, at the cost of a very small diminution of the prerogative of his successors, he acquired great popularity for himself. The Act of William III. making the judges irremovable, except by the intervention of Parliament, during the lifetime of the King, had effectually checked the gross sycophancy and subserviency that had long disgraced the judicial bench, but it still left it in the power of a new sovereign to remove the judges who had been appointed by his predecessor. Such a power could hardly be defended by any valid argument; it was inconsistent with the spirit of the Act; its legality had been disputed on the death of William by Sir J. Jekyll, and it had been very sparingly exercised.1 On the accession of George I., Lord Trevor, who was a notorious Jacobite, was removed from the chief justice-ship of the King's Bench, and a few minor changes had been recommended by the Chancellor.2 A judge named Aland was removed by George II., but no change was made by his successor, and the young King recommended the Parliament to provide that the commissions of the judges should no longer expire on the demise of the sovereign. The measure was a wise and liberal, though not a very important one, and, although the concession was made entirely at the expense of his successors, it was accepted in the then state of men's minds as if it were an act of heroic self-sacrifice.
A general election was necessary, by Act of Parliament, within six months of the accession, but before that time several changes were effected. George Grenville, who was known to be conspicuously opposed to the prosecution of the war, obtained a place in the Cabinet. Lord Henley, afterwards Earl of Northington, exchanged the position of Lord Keeper for the fuller dignity of Chancellor. He was a coarse, drunken, and unprincipled lawyer, of no very extraordinary abilities, who had early attached himself to the Leicester House faction, and who, partly through a desire to conciliate that faction, and partly through jealousy of Lord Hardwicke, had been appointed Lord Keeper in the Coalition Ministry of Pitt and Newcastle; but George II. refused to raise him to the House of Lords until the trial of Lord Ferrers, when there was a difficulty in finding a lawyer who would preside as Lord Steward.1 In the new reign he became one of the most docile and useful agents of the policy of the King. The enterprise of giving Bute high political office was found somewhat difficult, but a characteristic method was adopted. Lord Holdernesse, who, though a man of very insignificant abilities, was a Secretary of State, agreed with Bute, as early as November 1760, to quarrel with his colleagues, and throw up his office in seeming anger.2 The resignation was for a time deferred; but it was accomplished in March 1761. Lord Holdernesse obtained a pension of 4,000l. a year for life, and a reversion of the Cinque Ports, and his place was filled by the favourite. Nearly at the same time, Legge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had some time before quarrelled with Bute about a Hampshire election, was dismissed with circumstances of great discourtesy, and his place was filled by Lord Barrington—an honest man, but one who adopted and avowed the principle that it was his duty always, except in case of the gravest possible causes of difference, to support the ministers selected by the King, whatever party or connection they belonged to, and whatever might be his opinion of the men and of their measures.3 He was thus completely identified with the King's friends, and by the wish of the King was kept in office through several successive administrations. The brilliant but versatile and unprincipled Charles Townshend filled his place, and a few other changes were made which, though unimportant in themselves, showed that Tory tendencies, and especially personal devotion to the Sovereign, had become the passports of favour. Notwithstanding the professions of purity that were made by the King's friends, it was noticed that the general election which now took place was one of the most corrupt ever known in England, that large sums were issued by the Treasury, that the King took an active part in naming the candidates, and that the boroughs attached to the Duchy of Cornwall, which had hitherto been at the disposal of the ministry, were now treated as solely at the disposal of the Crown.1
It was evident that it was intended, in the first place, to strike down Pitt;2 and an opportunity soon occurred. The great question now impending was the negotiation for peace. The arguments in favour of terminating a war are always strong, but in this case they had a more than common force. The debt was rapidly increasing, and the estimates had arisen to a most alarming extent. The total sum granted by Parliament for 1761 was more than nineteen millions. The British forces in different parts of the world amounted to no less than 110,000 soldiers and 70,000 seamen, besides 60,000 German auxiliaries in British pay.3 The success of England had hitherto been almost unparalleled, but there was now but little left for her to gain, and she had many dangers to fear. She had hitherto been very successful in Germany, but a German war could not fail to be extremely bloody and expensive. The interests of England in it were very subordinate, and as the colonial empire of France was passing away, it was certain that the war would be concentrated chiefly in this quarter. In a continental war the normal strength of France was so great that the chances were much in her favour, and, in the opinion of some good judges, there was much danger lest the King's German dominions should be ultimately absorbed.1 The Tory party had always looked with great aversion on continental wars, and, as we have seen, there was a strong minority in the Cabinet, including Newcastle and Hardwicke, who were prepared to sacrifice much for a peace.2 A very able pamphlet, called ‘Considerations on the German War,’ appeared about this time, and exercised an influence which was probably greater than that of any other English pamphlet since Swift's ‘Conduct of the Allies.’ Its author was an obscure writer named Mauduit, and it was said to have been published under the countenance of Lord Hardwicke. The writer fully approved of the capture of the French islands, and of the destruction of the naval power of France; but he argued with much force, that no policy could be more manifestly suicidal than to squander larger sums than were expended for the whole land and sea service during the Duke of Marlborough's campaigns, in a German war waged between two great German Powers, for the possession of a remote German province which might belong to either without affecting in any way the real interests of England. The burden of the war was beginning to be seriously felt. In March 1761, when there were rumours of an approaching peace under the superintendence of Pitt, the funds rose four per cent. When the three years' term of service in the militia expired, and a new ballot was about to take place, there were riots in several of the Northern counties. At Hexham, in Northumberland, a body of Yorkshire militia were attacked by six or seven thousand rioters armed with clubs, and a serious struggle ensued, in which forty-two persons were killed and forty-eight others wounded.1 The expedition against Belleisle caused many murmurs, for it cost much bloodshed, and the island was little more than a barren rock, of no value to England, and at the same time so near the French coast that it was tolerably certain that it would be restored at the peace. The unhealthy quarters to which English conquests had recently extended, made the mortality among the troops very great. Bounties rose to an unexampled height, and there were fears that if the war continued it would be a matter of great difficulty to fill the ranks.2
Negotiations for peace had taken place as early as November 1759, and they were resumed in the spring of 1761, but neither party appears to have entered very keenly into them. Pitt had just sent out his expedition against Belleisle, and he was anxious that nothing should be done until it succeeded. He told the King that he by no means thought ill of the state of the war in Germany; that he thought the total destruction of the French power in the East Indies, the probability of taking Martinique as well as Belleisle, and the probable results of the next German campaign, would enable us to secure all Canada, Cape Breton, the neighbouring islands, and the exclusive fishery of Newfoundland, and that he would sign no peace on lower terms. It was quite certain that the French were not prepared to accede to such terms, and both the King and Newcastle strongly remonstrated against the determination of Pitt to lay them down as indispensable at the very outset of the negotiations.1 On the French side, also, new prospects were opening out which produced an equal hesitation. Charles III., who had very recently exchanged the throne of Naples for that of Spain, still remembered with bitterness how the English had threatened to bombard Naples in 1742. He looked forward with great dread to the complete naval supremacy which England was rapidly attaining; he inherited the old Spanish grievances against England about Gibraltar and the trade of the Indies; he was closely connected with the French sovereign, and he also saw a prospect of obtaining in Portugal conquests of great value at little cost. These various considerations were rapidly drawing him into closer alliance with France.2 Belleisle was captured by the English on June 7, 1761. On the 15th of the following month, the French negotiator took the very significant and very startling step of presenting a memorial in behalf of Spain, claiming the restitution of some prizes bearing the Spanish flag which had been taken by the English, the right of the Spaniards to fish upon the banks of Newfoundland, and the demolition of the English settlements on the disputed territory in the Bay of Honduras.1
Such demands, made by a Power with which England was at perfect peace, through the intervention of a Power with which England was at war, could have but one meaning, and Pitt loftily expressed to the French agent his opinion of the transaction. ‘His Majesty,’ he answered, ‘will not suffer the dispute with Spain to be blended in any manner whatever in the negotiations of peace between the two Crowns, and it will be considered as an affront to his Majesty's dignity, and as a thing incompatible with the sincerity of the negotiations, to make further mention of such a circumstance. Moreover, it is expected that France will not at any time presume a right of intermeddling with such disputes between England and Spain.’ The rupture of the negotiations between France and England soon followed. It is not necessary to examine the proceedings in great detail; it is sufficient to say that Pitt was prepared to purchase the restitution of Minorca by restoring Belleisle, Guadaloupe, and Marie-Galante to the French, and that he consented to a partition of the Antilla Isles; but he maintained that England should retain all the other conquests. He refused the French demands for a participation in the fisheries of Newfoundland, for the cession of Cape Breton in America, for the restoration of either Goree or Senegal as a depôt for the French slave trade in the West Indies, and for the re-establishment in Hindostan of the frontier of 1755. He refused equally the demand for the restoration of prizes made before the declaration of war, and he insisted, in the interest of the King of Prussia, that the French should withdraw their armies from Germany, while England still retained her right of assisting her ally.1
The spell of success which had so long hung over the British arms was still unbroken. The capture of Belleisle in June 1761; the capture of Dominica, by Lord Rollo, in the same month; the tidings of new successes in Hindostan, and a victory of Prince Ferdinand at Vellinghausen in July, contributed to raise the spirits of the country, and formed the best defence of the demands of Pitt. Nor is there any reason to doubt that he sincerely desired peace, if he could have obtained it on terms which he deemed adequate.2 The alliance, however, between France and Spain was rapidly consummated. On August 15, 1761, the family compact between the French and Spanish kings was signed, binding the two countries in a strict offensive and defensive alliance, and making each country guarantee the possessions of the other. Mr. Stanley, the vigilant English agent who had been negotiating in Paris, obtained secret knowledge of one of the articles, and confidential communications from other quarters corroborated the account.3 Pitt, who had for some time watched with great suspicion the armaments of Spain, perceived clearly that the declaration of war was only delayed till the naval preparations of Spain were completed and the treasure-ships which were expected from Mexico and Peru had arrived safely in port. He acted with characteristic promptitude and decision. Spain had committed no overt act which could be reasonably taken as a pretext for war. The evidence of the family compact was somewhat doubtful, and, being derived exclusively from secret information, it could not be publicly produced. The Spanish Government loudly disclaimed all hostile intentions, and asserted that the ships of war which were building in the Spanish arsenals were only such as were required for convoying merchant vessels from Naples to Spain and repressing the Barbary pirates. Pitt, however, was prepared to take the responsibility of a war which it was very difficult to justify to the world, and he resolved to strike, and to strike at once. Expeditions were speedily planned against the most assailable parts of the Spanish dominions, and on September 18 a cabinet council was held in which Pitt proposed to his colleagues the immediate withdrawal of the English ambassador from Madrid, and a declaration of war against Spain based upon the warlike demands she had made through the intervention of the French negotiator in the preceding July.1
Frederick the Great afterwards expressed in warm terms his admiration for the sagacity and enterprise displayed by Pitt in this conjuncture, and the event showed that the policy of the great minister was as wise as it was daring. It must be owned, however, that modern public opinion would have seldom acquiesced in a war the avowed and known reasons of which were so plainly inadequate, and it was probably by no means only a desire to expel Pitt from the ministry that actuated those who rejected his advice. The King was strongly opposed to the policy of Pitt and much irritated by his conduct.1 In three successive cabinet councils the question was debated, and in the last Pitt, finding himself supported by no one but Lord Temple, rose with great warmth, declaring that ‘he was called to the ministry by the voice of the people, to whom he considered himself accountable for his conduct, and he would not remain in a situation which made him responsible for measures he was no longer allowed to guide.’ He was answered by old Lord Granville, the President of the Council, who made himself the representative of the majority, and who exhibited on this occasion one last flash of his old fire. ‘I can hardly,’ he said, ‘regret the right honourable gentleman's determination to leave us, as he would otherwise have compelled us to leave him; but if he be resolved to assume the right of advising his Majesty and directing the operations of the war, to what purpose are we called to this council? When he talks of being responsible to the people, he talks the language of the House of Commons and forgets that at this board he is only responsible to the King. However, though he may possibly have convinced himself of his infallibility, still it remains that we should be equally convinced before we can resign our understandings to his direction and join with him in the measures he proposes.’ Pitt and Temple persisted in their determination, and on October 5, 1761, they placed their resignations in the hands of the King.2
So ended an administration which had found England in a condition of the lowest depression, and by the efforts of a single man had raised her to a height of glory scarcely equalled in her annals. It is true, indeed, that with the exception of James Grenville, who resigned the insignificant post of Cofferer, no other official accompanied Pitt and Temple into retirement, but with Pitt the soul of the administration had passed away. As Burke truly said, ‘No man was ever better fitted to be the minister of a great and powerful nation, or better qualified to carry that power and greatness to their utmost limits. … With very little parliamentary, and with less Court influence, he swayed both at Court and in Parliament with an authority unknown before, and under him, for the first time, administration and popularity were united.’ The seals of Secretary of State were offered to George Grenville, but he refused them, though accepting the leadership of the House of Commons, and they were then given to Lord Egremont, an avowed Tory, and son of Sir W. Windham, the Tory leader in the last reign.1 The Duke of Bedford soon after replaced Temple as Privy Seal.
So far the policy of the secret counsellors of the young King had been brilliantly successful. In less than twelve months, and in the midst of the war, the greatest war minister England had ever produced was overthrown, and the party with which the King personally sympathised had become the most powerful in the State. But grave dangers still hung around the Court, and no one was more conscious of them than Bute. ‘Indeed, my good Lord,’ he wrote in answer to the congratulations of Lord Melcombe, ‘my situation, at all times perilous, is become much more so, for I am no stranger to the language held in this great city, “our darling's resignation is owing to Lord Bute … and he must answer for all the consequences;” which is in other words for the miscarriage of another's system that he himself could not have prevented.’1 Newcastle, on the other hand, was filled with a delight which he took little pains to conceal,2 and he wrote triumphantly that according to information just received from the ambassador at Madrid, Wall had expressed his concern and surprise at the idle reports that Spain was to come to a rupture with England, and had assured Lord Bristol that there never was a time when the King of Spain wished more to have the most perfect friendship with the King of Great Britain than at present. ‘This,’ adds the Duke, ‘seems a flat contradiction to all Mr. Pitt's late suppositions and assertions.’3
It was inevitable that a statesman passing out of office after rendering such services as those of Pitt should have great offers pressed upon him, and every motive both of gratitude and policy urged the King and Bute not to depart from the custom. It was of the utmost importance, if possible, to conciliate Pitt, or at all events to diminish his popularity and withhold him from systematic opposition. He was offered and he refused the Duchy of Lancaster. He was offered and he refused the Governor-Generalship of Canada, without the obligation of residence and with a salary of 5,000l. a year;4 but he accepted the title of Baroness of Chatham for his wife, and a pension of 3,000l. a year for three lives, for himself. Contrary to all custom, these rewards were announced in the very Gazette that announced his resignation, and they produced a sudden and most violent revulsion of feeling. On an impartial consideration this revulsion will appear not a little unreasonable. Though divided from his colleagues on a single question, Pitt had no wish to enter into permanent opposition, and had he refused all favours from the Crown, such an intention would have been undoubtedly ascribed to him. No rewards were ever more amply earned, and the pension was smaller in amount than that which had just been bestowed upon Lord Holdernesse for his resignation. In English public life it is scarcely possible for anyone who does not possess independent means to take a prominent part out of office, and Pitt had not yet received the legacy of Sir William Pynsent which raised him to comparative wealth. He had, however, been accustomed to use a language about pensioners, and to talk in a strain of high-flown and heroic disinterestedness, not quite in harmony with his conduct, and a storm of indignation and obloquy was easily aroused. Writers connected with the Court party were the foremost in lampooning him, and the extreme bitterness with which Horace Walpole and Gray spoke of his conduct1 is sufficient to show that the feeling was not confined to the mob. Pitt also exhibited at this time one of those strange fits of humility and extravagant deference to royalty to which he was liable. He burst into tears at a few civil words from the young King, exclaiming, ‘I confess, Sir, I had but too much reason to expect your Majesty's displeasure; I did not come prepared for this exceeding goodness. Pardon me, Sir; it overpowers, it oppresses me.’1 His letters to Bute acknowledging the kindness of the King were couched in a strain of florid, fulsome, almost servile humility, lamentably unworthy of a great statesman.2
For a short time it appeared as if the popularity of Pitt were eclipsed, and as if the torrent of popular indignation which was so greatly feared had been turned against the fallen statesman. It was also a fortunate circumstance for the Court party that the resignation took place at a time when the recent marriage of the King with the Princess of Mecklenburg Strelitz, and the gorgeous ceremonies of the wedding and of the coronation, had to some extent stimulated anew that sentiment of loyalty which was already beginning to fade.3
But the exultation of the ministers was very short-lived. A few days of reflection and a brief and dignified letter written to the Town Clerk of London restored the popularity of Pitt, and a speedy reaction set in. Addresses congratulating him on his conduct poured in from many of the chief towns. The City of London, which had long been his chief supporter, after a momentary hesitation remained firm to its allegiance. The Common Council passed a vote of thanks to him five weeks after his resignation. On the occasion of the Lord Mayor's day, the King and Queen went in state to dine at the Guildhall, and Temple induced Pitt to take the injudicious and unbecoming step of joining the procession. The result was what had probably been predicted. The populace received the King and Queen with contemptuous indifference, Bute with an outburst of insult, and Pitt with the most enthusiastic applause. In Parliament he was assailed with disgraceful virulence by Colonel Barré, a partisan of Shelburne who was then ‘devoted to Lord Bute,’1 but although it was noticed that Barré was immediately after received with special favour at Court,2 both Parliament and the public were disgusted with the ferocity and the scurrility he displayed. Events soon justified the sagacity of Pitt. No sooner had he retired from office than the Spanish Court threw aside the mask, and the conciliatory language they had hitherto employed was exchanged for a tone of haughty menace. The treasure-ships which Pitt had wished to intercept arrived safely in Spain. Military preparations were pressed on without disguise. The alliance between France and Spain was openly avowed, but the Spanish Government haughtily refused to state its character and its conditions. Wall propounded a long series of grievances against England, and declared that Spain would no longer suffer France ‘to run the risk of receiving such rigid laws as were prescribed by an insulting victor.’ On December 10, 1761, the English Government, having vainly demanded a promise that the Spanish king would not join in hostilities against England, recalled their ambassador from Madrid. On the 31st, war was declared against Spain, and very soon after, one of the secret motives of the Spanish policy was disclosed. Portugal was on friendly terms with England, but she had been perfectly neutral during the struggle, and had given no kind of provocation to her neighbours. Without even a colourable pretext for hostility, Spanish armies were now massed on the Portuguese frontier, and in March the Spanish ambassador and the French plenipotentiary presented a joint and peremptory memorial to the Portuguese king, ordering him at once to break off all correspondence and commerce with England, and to join France and Spain in the war that was waging. The insolent demand was refused. War was declared, and a Spanish army was soon desolating the plains of Portugal.
But the hand of the great English minister, though withdrawn from the helm, was still felt in every department of the war. The perfection to which he had brought every branch of the military and naval service, the spirit of emulation and enterprise he had breathed into them, the discernment, with which he had selected the commanders for the most arduous posts, were all still felt, and victory after victory crowned the British arms. In February 1762, the important island of Martinique was taken from the French, and the conquest was followed by that of the dependent isles of Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent, leaving the English sole possessors of all the Caribbean Islands, extending from the eastern point of Hispaniola nearly to the continent of South America. Another and still greater conquest speedily followed. Among the designs of Pitt one of the most important was the conquest of Havannah, the richest and most important town in Cuba. Its harbour was one of the best in the world. It was the centre of the whole trade of the Spanish West Indies, and it was defended by strong fortifications and by a powerful fleet. The siege—which was conducted with signal skill and daring—lasted for two months and eight days. On August 14, 1762, Havannah fell, nine noble ships of the line and four frigates were taken, five others were destroyed during the siege or in the docks, and the treasure taken is said to have amounted to not less than three millions sterling.1 On September 21 a formidable French attack on Brückenmühle was repelled with great loss to the assailants by a German and English army under Prince Ferdinand and the Marquis of Granby. On October 6 Manilla, with the Philippine Islands, was conquered by Sir W. Draper, and among the Spanish, galleons taken at sea was one which contained a treasure valued at little less than a million. In Portugal the Spanish army was at first successful, but it was soon checked by the assistance of English and Hanoverians under General Burgoyne, and the Spanish were compelled to evacuate Estramadura. The only serious reverses were the capture by the Spaniards of the Portuguese settlement of Sacramento, on the Rio de la Plata, and the capture by the French of Fort St. John, in Newfoundland, from which, however, three months later they were easily expelled.
A campaign which was on the whole so brilliant would naturally have raised the reputation of the ministry that conducted it; but in this case every success was mainly attributed to Pitt, and was regarded as a justification of his wisdom and as a condemnation of his enemies. It was known that the war with Spain was his policy; that he had sent out the expedition against Martinique; that its success was mainly due to the troops his victories had liberated in America; that he had planned the conquest of Havannah; that if his counsels had been adopted, the number of rich Spanish prizes that were brought into English harbours would have been greatly increased. Without the ministry, discontent was gathering fast, and within there was jealousy or division. Grenville, though still acting with docility the part of leader of the House of Commons, was not suffered to have any voice in the secret corruption which was one of the most important functions usually attached to his post.1 Newcastle, in the first exultation that followed the resignation of Pitt, had anticipated a renewal of his ascendency, but he soon learned how greatly he had miscalculated. Although First Lord of the Treasury, he found that he was powerless in the Government. Even his own subordinates at the Treasury Bench are said to have been instructed to slight him. The most important political steps were taken without consulting him. Cabinet councils were summoned without any notice of the subject for discussion being given him. The King made no less than seven peers without even informing Newcastle of his intention. Neither his age, his rank, his position in the ministry, nor his eminent services to the dynasty, could save him from marked coldness on the part of the King, from contemptuous discourtesy and studied insults on the part of the favourite.2 The situation soon became intolerable, and when Bute announced his intention of withdrawing the subsidy which England paid to the King of Prussia, Newcastle refused to consent. In May 1762 the old statesman resigned, refusing with some dignity a pension that was offered him for the purpose of recruiting a fortune which had been wrecked in the public service.1 Bute then became in name, what since the resignation of Pitt he had been in reality, the head of the ministry, and Grenville became Secretary of State in his stead.
The Whig party, which had so long been in power, was now put to the test, and the weakness of many of its members was exposed. George Grenville, one of the most rising of its statesmen, and the Duke of Bedford, the head of one of its greatest families, had already gone over to Bute, and a long train of the personal adherents of Newcastle soon followed the example. The bishops led the way. Newcastle had always been especially careful to monopolise the ecclesiastical patronage, and it was said that there was not a single bishop on the bench whom he had not either appointed or translated. In the season of his prosperity they had thronged his hall with an assiduity that sometimes provoked a smile, but it was observed that only a single bishop was present at his farewell levee.2 But the most important of all the accessions to the party of Bute was Fox, the old rival of Pitt, in whose favour Grenville was displaced from the leadership of the Commons, who, in consideration of the promise of a peerage, undertook to carry the peace, and who, having vainly attempted to draw the Duke of Cumberland and other great Whig peers into the same connection, threw himself, with all the impetuosity of his fearless and unscrupulous nature, into the service of the Court.
The main object of the party since the downfall of Pitt had been to press on the peace. For many months Bute, without the knowledge of any of the responsible ministers of the Crown, carried on a secret negotiation through the mediation of the Sardinian ambassador, Count Viri,1 and when it had arrived at some maturity it was finally entrusted to the Duke of Bedford, who had for a long time identified himself with the extreme peace party. His letters give a vivid picture of the feelings of a section of the Government. Thus in June 1761, while Pitt was still minister, we find him deploring bitterly the expedition against Belleisle, and urging that ‘if we retain the greatest part of our conquests out of Europe we shall be in danger of over-colonising and undoing ourselves by them as the Spaniards have done.’2 In July he predicted the failure of the projected expedition against Martinique, and the speedy conquest of the King's electoral dominions by the French.3 He argued that to deprive the French of the Newfoundland fishery would be to ruin their naval power, and would unite all the other naval Powers against us, as aiming at a naval monopoly ‘at least as dangerous to the liberties of Europe as that of Lewis XIV.;’1 and with, the exception of a slight reservation on the article of Dunkirk, he advocated the unqualified acceptance of every one of the French demands in the abortive negotiation I have described.2 It is remarkable that Bute at this time remonstrated strongly against this spirit of absolute concession, and enumerated conditions very little different from those of Pitt, as essential to the honour and safety of England.3 In August, Rigby, the confidential follower of Bedford, wrote to him : ‘While we succeed … the fire is kept constantly fanned. For my own part I am so convinced of the destruction which must follow the continuance of the war, that I should not be sorry to hear that Martinico or the next windmill you attack should get the better of you.’4 Lord Shelburne, who was deeply mixed with the intrigues of this evil time, advocated in December 1761, in the House of Lords, the withdrawal of all English troops from Germany, and the complete abandonment of Frederick; and at the beginning of February 1762, Bedford, though now Privy Seal and an active member of the Cabinet, brought forward in the House of Lords a resolution to the same effect, without the consent of any of his colleagues, and he was defeated by Bute, who carried the previous question by 105 to 16.5
It is obvious that such a statesman was peculiarly unfit to carry on the negotiation, and he was a man of very little ability, and of a very haughty and unaccommodating temper. His personal honour, which was afterwards malignantly attacked, appears to have been quite unblemished, and on one important question that was raised, relating to the frontier in Hindostan, he asserted the British claims with energy and effect;1 but he entered upon the negotiation with the strongest desire to succeed at any sacrifice; he showed this spirit so clearly that the ministers thought it necessary to impose considerable restrictions on his powers;2 and it may easily be gathered from his correspondence that he desired Havannah, though perhaps the richest of all the conquests of the war, to be restored to Spain without any substantial compensation being exacted.3
The points of resemblance between the Peace of Paris and the Peace of Utrecht are so many and so obvious that it is impossible to overlook them. In both cases a war of extraordinary success was ended by a peace which was very advantageous, but which in many of its terms was greatly inferior to what might reasonably have been demanded. In both cases the peace was forced through Parliament amid a storm of unpopularity and by corruption and intimidation of the worst kind. In both cases the strange spectacle was exhibited of English ministers looking with positive alarm or dismay on some of the greatest successes that crowned their arms, and in both cases the extreme longing for peace was mainly due to party motives, and especially to the desire of excluding from power a great man who was pre-eminently fitted to conduct a war. It cannot, however, be justly said of the Peace of Paris that England purchased, as she had done under Queen Anne, great advantages for herself at the cost of her allies. Portugal was restored to everything she had lost by the war, and although Frederick the Great had some real reason to complain of England, her conduct to him was far short of the desertion which has been alleged. The wars between Prussia and Austria, and the wars between England and France, were in their origin entirely distinct, and although it afterwards suited the purpose of England to assist Frederick, as France was assisting Austria, the connection was of a purely casual and interested character. No stipulation bound England to continue indefinitely her subsidy to Prussia, and in April 1762, when the Government announced their intention of withdrawing it, they were perfectly justified in doing so.1 England had just entered into a new war with Spain, and the necessity of repelling the Spanish invasion of Portugal rendered it peculiarly costly. On the other hand, the death of the Czarina Elizabeth on January 5, 1762, had placed on the throne of Russia a passionate admirer of Frederick. Peace between the two crowns at once ensued. For the few months during which Peter the Third reigned, there was even an alliance between Russia and Prussia, and an armistice and then a peace between Prussia and Sweden speedily followed. The great confederation against Prussia was in this manner dissolved. France and Austria alone remained opposed to her; and although England by the Peace of Paris engaged no longer to assist her ally, she stipulated that France should also withdraw from the war, and should evacuate the territory and strong places she had occupied. It is true, however, that in the course of the negotiations there were some things of which Frederick had real reason to complain. By a strange and significant omission, the article compelling the French to cede the territory and strong places they had taken, did not specify the Power to which they were to be ceded.1 Bute is said to have even declared in Parliament that they were ‘to be scrambled for;’2 and but for the promptitude of the Prussian king, they would have fallen into Austrian hands. It is certain that in January 1762 some secret overtures were made by Bute to the Queen of Hungary without the knowledge of Frederick, and two charges of bad faith of the worst description were brought against the English minister. It was alleged that in order to induce Austria to consent to an early peace, he held out hopes that England would use her influence to obtain for Austria territorial compensations from Prussia, and that with the same view, after the death of the Czarina, Bute had urged upon Prince Galitzin, the Russian ambassador in London, the necessity of Russia remaining firm to the Austrian alliance, maintaining her army in the Prussian territory, and thus compelling Frederick to make large concessions to Vienna. These charges were fully believed by Frederick, and the latter rests on the authority of Prince Galitzin himself; but Bute positively asserted that they were untrue, and that his language in conversation had been grossly misunderstood or misrepresented.3
As far as England was concerned, the provisions of the treaty with France differed but little from those which had been rejected by Pitt in 1761. Minorca was restored by the French, and England retained possession of all Canada, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton, of Senegal, Grenada, and the Grenadines, and of the three neutral islands, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago. The French, however, secured the right of fishing on the coast of Newfoundland, and also in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at a distance of three leagues from the shore, and two small islands were ceded to them as a shelter for their fishermen. England restored Goree, which was deemed essential to the French slave-trade. She restored the islands of Guadaloupe, Marie-Galante, De la Désirade, Martinique, Belleisle, and San Lucia, and in Hindostan there was a mutual restoration of conquests made since 1749. The French were, however, forbidden to erect fortifications or to keep troops in Bengal; they were compelled to acknowledge the English candidates as Nabob of the Carnatic and Surbah of the Deccan, and they undertook to reduce Dunkirk to the same condition as before the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
Spain by the treaty of Paris ceded to England the province of Florida, with some adjoining territory to the east and south-east of the Mississippi, but she was partly indemnified by receiving from France New Orleans and all Louisiana west of the Mississippi. She renounced all right to participation in the fishery of Newfoundland. She consented that the adjudication of the prizes made by English cruisers on the coast of Spain should be referred to the English Court of Admiralty, and she acknowledged the long-disputed right of the English to cut logwood in Honduras Bay provided the English destroyed the fortifications they had erected there. In return for these great concessions she received again Havannah and the other ports of Cuba which had been conquered. The news of the conquest of Manilla and the other Philippine Islands did not arrive until after the preliminaries had been signed, and these valuable possessions were in consequence restored without any equivalent. When Manilla was captured, the private property of the inhabitants was saved from plunder on the condition of a payment of a ransom of a million sterling, one-half of which was paid in money and the other half in bills upon the Spanish Treasury. These bills the Spaniards afterwards refused to honour, and the English Government was never able to obtain their payment.
There can be no doubt that this peace was extremely advantageous to England, but there was hardly a clause in it which was not below what she might reasonably have expected. Every new acquisition which she obtained, and every conquest which she relinquished, was actually in her hands before the peace was signed. Minorca, which was the one great French conquest, would probably have been retaken if the war had continued, and its value did not amount to more than a small fraction of that of the territory which England, after a long series of almost uninterrupted victories, consented to abandon. The terms of the peace were little, if at all, more favourable than might have been obtained in the preceding year, though the war had been since then uniformly and splendidly successful. In the former negotiations France had consented to cede Goree as well as Senegal to England, but Goree, and with it the French slave trade, was now restored. Guadaloupe had been for more than three years an English possession. During that time the importation of a multitude of negroes, and a rapid increase of commerce, had enormously added to its value;1 and in the impartial and very competent judgment of Chesterfield it might easily have been retained.2 George Grenville insisted upon its retention, but Bute was so anxious to hurry on the peace that he availed himself of a temporary illness which prevented Grenville from attending to public business, to summon a council by which it was surrendered.1 St. Lucia, which was selected from the neutral islands for surrender, was alone much more valuable than the three neutral islands that were retained. Martinique, from its situation and its strong fortifications, was extremely important as a military post for the protection of the neighbouring islands,2 and its conquest, which was one of the most arduous and brilliant enterprises of the war, seemed a needless sacrifice of blood and treasure if this rich island was to be restored a few months later without any equivalent. Even Havannah, which was perhaps the richest of all the conquests of the war, would have been restored by Bute without any territorial equivalent, and it was only the resolution of Grenville, and the strong pressure of public opinion, that obliged him to exact in return for it the poor and barren province of Florida.3 The un-compensated surrender of Manilla was due to the shameful omission of any provision relating to conquests that had been made, though they were not known, before the preliminaries had been signed.
In all these respects the peace was deserving of censure, but we can hardly, I think, regret the abandonment by the ministry of the schemes of Pitt for destroying the whole commercial and naval greatness of France. The war had for the present given England an almost complete monopoly in many fields, and Pitt imagined that it was both possible, and desirable, and just, to prevent France, in spite of her vast seaboard and her great resources, from ever reviving as a naval Power. He maintained that the whole American fishery should be denied her. He had himself in the preceding negotiations consented, on certain conditions to leave her a part of it; but he asserted that on this, as on many other points, his opinion had been overruled by his colleagues; that the fisheries of Newfoundland and St. Lawrence formed the great nursery of the French navy, and that they should in consequence be reserved exclusively for England. In the same spirit he desired to obtain for England a strict monopoly of the slave trade, of the sugar trade, of the trade with India, and he protested against any cession which enabled France to carry on any of these branches of commerce. Such a policy could hardly fail to make national animosities indelible. It is probable that France would have resisted it to the uttermost; and it rested not only on exaggerated feelings of national jealousy, but also on very narrow and erroneous views of the nature of commerce. No English statesman maintained more persistently than Pitt the advantages of commercial monopoly, or believed more firmly that the commercial interests of different nations were necessarily antagonistic.1
If the peace had been made in a different spirit and by other statesmen, it would probably have been favourably received. The Court party, who observed the many signs of weariness in the nation, and who remembered that during the last two reigns the disposition of the Sovereign to involve the country in German disputes had been the chief source of disaffection, hoped, not altogether unreasonably, that the young King, by putting an end to the German war and by showing decisively that he was governed by no German sympathies, would have reaped an abundant harvest of popularity.1 But all such expectations were soon falsified by the event. No character in England is more detested than that of a Court favourite, and the scandal about the relations of Bute and the mother of the King was eagerly accepted. In the very beginning of the new reign a paper was affixed to the Royal Exchange with the words, ‘No petticoat government, no Scotch Minister, no Lord George Sackville,’2 and after the displacement of Pitt the popular indignation rapidly increased. The City gave instructions to its members to promote a strict inquiry into the disposal of the money that was voted, and to refuse their consent to any peace which did not secure to England all or nearly all the conquests she had made. The example was widely followed. The unpopularity of Bute was such that he could not appear unattended or undisguised in the streets, and he was compelled to enroll a bodyguard of butchers and boxers for his protection. He was insulted as he went to Parliament. On one occasion his chair was attacked by so fierce a mob that his life was in serious danger. The jack boot, which by a pun upon his name was chosen as his popular emblem, was paraded ignominiously through the streets, hung up on a gallows, or thrown into the flames,3 together with a bonnet or a petticoat symbolising the Princess. The declaration of war against Spain, which signally vindicated the foresight of Pitt, the splendid victories that followed, which were universally accepted as the direct results of his policy, the formal resignation of Newcastle, which brought the favourite into clear relief as the responsible leader of the ministry, all added to the flame. Never perhaps in English history were libels so bitter or so scurrilous, and the Influence of Frederick the Great was employed to foment them.1 The story of Earl Mortimer, who was united by an illicit love to the mother of Edward III., and who by her means for a time governed the country and the King, became the favourite subject of the satirists. Among the papers left by Ben Jonson were the plot and the first scene of an intended play on the subject, and these were now republished with a dedication to Bute from the pen of Wilkes.
But perhaps the most popular topic in the invectives against Bute was his Scotch nationality. In addition to the strong national antipathy of Englishmen to all foreigners, many reasons had made the Scotch peculiarly unpopular. They had for centuries been regarded as natural enemies. The Union had been almost equally disliked by both nations, and closer contact had as yet done very little to soften the animosity. The Scotch were chiefly known in London as eager place-hunters, entering into keen competition with the natives for minor offices. They were poor, proud, sensitive, and pertinacious. Their strange pronunciation, the barrenness of their country, the contrast between the pride of their old nobility and the wretched shifts to which their poverty compelled them to resort, furnished endless themes of illiberal ridicule. During more than half a century that followed the Union, only a single Englishman had been elected by a Scotch constituency;1 and there were bitter complaints that a people so exclusive at home should be suffered to descend upon the rich fields of English patronage. Yet the very unpopularity of the Scotch drew them more closely together, and their tenacity of purpose enabled them in the race of ambition to distance many competitors. The contempt for poverty which is one of the most conspicuous signs of the deep vein of vulgarity that mingles with the many noble elements of the English character, and a more than common disposition to judge all foreigners by their own standard of manners, combined with other and somewhat more serious reasons to make the English look down upon the Scotch. As we have already seen, the Scotch members were as yet an unhealthy and a somewhat inferior element in English political life. They had been the last members who received wages for their services. They were still exempt from the property qualification which was required from most English members.2 They had very little interest in English affairs. They usually voted together, and their venality was notorious.3
The rebellion of 1745 raised the national antipathy to fever heat. The Highland march to Derby, and the disgraceful panic it produced in London, were remembered with a bitterness that was all the more intense because it was largely mixed with shame. And now, when a Scotch representative peer of the name and lineage of the Stuarts had become almost omnipotent at the Court, when Jacobite Scotchmen were received with marked favour by the Sovereign; when Scotch birth was believed to be one of the best passports to English promotion, there arose a cry of hatred and indignation which rang through the length and breadth of the land. Churchill, in his ‘Prophecy of Famine,’ and Wilkes, in his ‘North Briton,’ were its most powerful exponents. The former, in lines of savage vigour, depicted Scotland as a treeless, flowerless land formed out of the refuse of the universe, and inhabited by the very bastards of creation; where Famine had fixed her chosen throne; where a scanty population, gaunt with hunger, and hideous with dirt and with the itch, spent their wretched days in brooding over the fallen fortunes of their native dynasty, and in watching with mingled envy and hatred the mighty nation that had subdued them. At last their greed and their hatred were alike gratified. What Force could not accomplish had been done by Fraud. The land flowing with milk and honey was thrown open to them. Already the most important places were at their disposal, and soon, through the influence of their great fellow-countrymen, they would descend upon every centre of English power to divide, weaken, plunder, and betray.
With less genius, but with even greater effect, Wilkes collected in his weekly libels every topic that could inflame the national hatred against the Scotch. He contended that ‘a Scot had no more right to preferment in England than a Hanoverian or a Hottentot;’ and he pointed out with bitter emphasis how the Scotchman Mansfield was Chief Justice of England, how the Scotchman London commanded the British forces in Portugal, how the Scots Sir Gilbert Elliot and James Oswald were at the Treasury Board, how the Scotchman Ramsay was Court painter, and the Scotchman Adam, Court architect; how a crowd of obscure Scotchmen had obtained pensions or small preferments, paid for from the earnings of Englishmen. Buckingham Palace was nicknamed Holyrood on account of the number of Scotchmen who entered it.1 The Duke of Cumberland had long been one of the most unpopular men in the kingdom, partly on account of the severities that followed Culloden; but these severities were now not only forgiven but applauded, and, as he was in opposition to Bute, he speedily became a hero, and was extolled as the second deliverer of England. The distinction between the two nations was so deep and marked that Horace Walpole gave the Scotch birth of Sir Gilbert Elliot as a conclusive reason why he should not lead the House of Commons, and the Duke of Bedford assigned the same reason as one of the objections to the appointment of Forrester to the Speakership.2 Junius himself never wrote with a more savage hatred than when he reminded the King of the treachery of the Scotch, to Charles I., and dilated on the folly of any sovereign of any race who should hereafter rest upon their honour.
These instances are sufficient to show how far the great work of uniting the two nations was from its accomplishment. The dislike of the Scotch continued for many years unchecked, and among the Whigs it was greatly strengthened by the strong vein of Toryism, if not of Jacobitism, which was at this time conspicuous in Scotch writers. In the volumes of his History, published in 1754 and 1756, Hume had devoted a grace of style, a skill of narration, and a subtlety of thought, which no English historian had yet equalled, to an elaborate apology for the conduct of the Stuarts. Smollett was one of the most conspicuous and most violent of the writers in defence of the Court. The ‘Memoirs of Great Britain,’ by Sir John Dalrymple, which appeared in 1771 and 1773, for the first time revealed the damaging fact that Algernon Sidney, whose memory had been almost canonised by his party, had received money from the French ambassador, and in 1775 the ‘Original Papers’ published by Macpherson gave an almost equal shock to the Whig tradition by proving the later communications of Marlborough with the Stuarts. The writings of Horace Walpole sufficiently show the indignation with which these books were regarded by Whig politicians, while the popular dislike was incessantly displayed. Macklin painted the Scotch in the most odious and despicable light in the character of Sir Pertinax MacSycophant in the ‘Man of the World.’ Hume wrote in 1765 that the English rage against the Scotch was daily increasing, and he added that it was such that he had frequently resolved never to set his foot on English soil.up>1 At a time when the passion for representing plays of Shakespeare with dresses that were historically correct was at its height, it was suggested that Macbeth should wear tartan instead of the modern military dress; but Garrick rejected the proposal, not because it was historically incorrect, but because the appearance of the Scotch national dress would infallibly damn the piece.2 When Home, the famous author of ‘Douglas,’ produced his ‘Fatal Discovery’ in 1769, Garrick, in spite of the success of the earlier play, did not venture to reveal the name of the Scotch author, and induced a young Oxford gentleman to father the piece. The play was successful till the true author having then imprudently disclosed himself, its popularity speedily waned.1 As late as 1771, when Smollett published ‘Humphry Clinker,’ the last and perhaps the greatest of his novels, it was assailed with a storm of obloquy on the ground that it was written to defend the Scotch.2
It is a remarkable proof of the change that in a few years had passed over English politics, of the disintegration of the Whig party, and of the increasing force of corrupt influence in Parliament, that Bute should have been able, in spite of all his disadvantages, by the assistance of royal favour, to carry his measures triumphantly through Parliament. In the preceding reign Carteret had for a short time occupied a somewhat similar position; but, notwithstanding his brilliant talents and his long and varied experience, he soon found his task an impossible one. Bute was a man of very ordinary intellect, and he came to office with no previous experience of public business, with no practice of debate, with no skill in managing men. His speech in defence of the Preliminaries of the Peace is said to have exhibited some power both of reasoning and language, but it appears to have been a mere elaborate essay, probably learned by heart, and much impaired by a very formal delivery. Charles Townshend compared the slow monotonous succession of its sentences to the firing of minute-guns. There have been statesmen with very little political ability, who have maintained a high place in politics by the personal confidence they inspired, by a frankness and simplicity of character which disarmed enmities and attached friends. But of these qualities, to which the success of Lord Althorp in the present century was mainly due, Bute was wholly destitute. His honour, though it was probably unstained, was certainly not unsuspected. His relations with the Princess Dowager, and the negotiations with Prince Galitzin, left a cloud of suspicion upon it. The publication in 1756 of the ‘Memoirs of Torcy’ had for the first time disclosed to the English public the startling, fact that, in the negotiations between the English and French in 1709, a large bribe had been offered to Marlborough to induce him to favour the French cause, and a charge of having accepted a bribe from France to carry the Peace of Paris was brought publicly against Bute in 1765. Parliament, it is true, a few years later, after a careful investigation, pronounced it wholly frivolous;1 but it is a remarkable illustration of the low estimate in which Bute was held, that Lord Camden, long afterwards, expressed his firm belief that it was substantially true.2 A natural turn for tortuous methods and secret intrigues, combined with great moroseness and haughtiness of manner, had made Bute disliked and distrusted by all with whom he had to deal. Even the Duke of Bedford, with whom he chiefly shares the praise or blame of the peace, came to regard him with hatred when he found that, during the negotiations, he was secretly corresponding with the French. Of administrative ability he was wholly destitute. The peace, bad as it was, would have been much worse but for the intervention of his colleagues, and especially of George Grenville, and the financial administration of this ministry was one of the worst ever known in England. Sir Francis Dashwood, who had been made Chancellor of the Exchequer, was honourably distinguished in the last reign by his strenuous opposition to the execution of Byng, but he was better known as the President of the Medmenham Brotherhood or Franciscan Club, a well-known society famous for its debaucheries, and for its blasphemous parodies of the rites of the Catholic religion. Of financial knowledge he did not possess the rudiments, and his ignorance was all the more conspicuous from the great financial ability of his predecessor Legge. His budget speech was so confused and incapable that it was received with shouts of laughter. An excise of 4s. in the hogshead, to be paid by the grower, which he imposed on cyder and perry, raised a resistance through the cyder counties hardly less furious than that which had been directed against the excise scheme of Walpole.1
One man, however, of real ability and of indomitable courage stood by Bute. Henry Fox, soured by disappointment and unpopularity, at last saw the possibility, by a bold act of apostasy, of recovering his ascendency, and he fearlessly confronted the tempest of opposition. Of the feeling of the country he had no illusion. Just before he took the lead of the Commons he wrote to his confidant Shelburne: ‘Does not your Lordship begin to fear that there are few left of any sort, of our friends even, who are for the peace? I own I do.’1
Then came a period of intimidation and corruption compared with which the worst days of the Walpole administration appeared pure. Bribes ranging from 200l. and upwards were given almost publicly at the pay office. Martin, the Secretary of the Treasury, afterwards acknowledged that no less than 25,000l. were expended in a single morning in purchasing votes. Large sums are said to have been given to corporations to petition for the peace. Urgent letters were written to the lords lieutenant of the counties calling on them to procure addresses with the same object. From the very beginning of the ascendency of Bute, patronage had been enlarged, and employed with extravagant profusion for the purpose of increasing the political power of the Crown, and this process was rapidly extended. Bute did not venture, like Harley, to create simultaneously twelve peers, but sixteen were made in the space of two years. The number of Lords of the Bedchamber was increased from twelve to twenty-two, each with a salary of 500l. a year, and they were selected exclusively from among the members of Parliament. It was found necessary to raise 3,500,000l., and this was done partly by two lotteries, and partly by a loan which was not thrown open to public competition, and which was issued on terms so shamefully improvident that the shares at once rose 10 per cent. A large proportion of these shares were distributed among the friends of the Government, and thus a new and most wasteful form of bribery was introduced into English politics.2
Intimidation of the grossest kind was at the same time practised. All the partisans of Newcastle were at once driven from office, and some of the most prominent men in the country were treated with an arrogance that recalled the worst days of the Stuarts. The Duke of Devonshire was expelled from the office of Chamberlain with circumstances of the grossest insult. The King refused even to see him on the occasion, and with his own hand struck his name from the list of Privy Councillors. The Dukes of Newcastle and Grafton, and the Marquis of Rockingham, were deprived of the lord-lieutenancies of their counties.1 It has always been one of the most healthy features of English political life that the public offices are filled with permanent officials, who are unaffected by party fluctuations, who instruct alike Whig and Tory ministers, preserve unbroken the steady tendencies of government, and from the stability of their position acquire a knowledge of administrative details and an independence and impartiality of judgment which could never be reasonably expected from men whose tenure of office was dependent on the ascendency of a party. This system Fox and Bute resolved to break down. They determined that every servant of the Government, even to the very lowest, should be of their own nomination.2 A persecution as foolish as it was harsh was directed by Fox against the humblest officials who had been appointed or recommended by Whig statesmen, or were in any way connected with them. Clerks, tidewaiters, and excisemen were included in the proscription. The widow of an admiral who was distantly connected with the Duke of Devonshire, a poor man who had been rewarded for bravery against smugglers at the recommendation of the Duke of Grafton, a schoolboy who was a nephew of Legge, were among those who were deprived of places, pensions, or reversions. There was even a design of depriving the members of the Opposition of the great patent places they held, although the terms of the patents distinctly asserted that the places were for life. Fox wished to submit to the twelve judges the question whether it was not in the power of the King to annul the patents; but the Chancellor, Lord Northington, declared that it would be as reasonable to ask them to pronounce upon the validity of the Great Charter. It was the aim of the Court party to crush to the very dust the great Whig connection, by showing that no person, however humble, who had received favours from it could escape the vengeance of the Crown, while every resource of patronage and place was employed for the purpose of consolidating the new interest. One official, who for seven years had been of the King's bedchamber, was turned out solely because he had no seat in Parliament, and could therefore be of no use there.1
Among the few merits of Bute must be reckoned his strong literary tastes; and his patronage, though rarely or never extended to any writers except those of his party, was sometimes judiciously bestowed. Johnson owed to him his pension of 300l. a year. Sir James Stuart, the Jacobite political economist who had been obliged to fly from England on account of his participation in the rebellion of 1745, was pardoned through his instrumentality.1 That invaluable collection of about 30,000 pamphlets published at the time of the Commonwealth, which forms one of the most precious treasures of the British Museum, had been purchased by Bute for his own library, and it was bought from him for presentation to the nation, by the King.2 Prosecutions for libel during this ministry were exceedingly rare; it was one of the first objects of Bute to set up a paper to defend the peace, and a crowd of writers were soon induced by pensions or places to support the ministry. It was said, though probably on no very sure authority, that more than 30,000l. were expended on the Press in the first two years of the reign.3 Pitt became the incessant object of the most virulent attacks. Smollett assailed him, in a paper called ‘The Briton,’ with disgraceful violence, and with very little of the ability he showed in other fields. Dr. Shebbeare, who in 1758 had been sentenced to imprisonment and to the pillory for a virulent libel against the House of Hanover, was pensioned by Bute in order that he should defend the peace, and Dr. Francis, Murphy, Mallet, and several other obscure writers, were employed in the same cause. Hogarth, who was sergeant-painter to the King, powerfully assisted them by his clever print of the ‘Times,’ which appeared in 1762. Europe was represented in flames, which were rapidly extending to Great Britain, and Pitt, with a pair of bellows, was stimulating the conflagration. Around his neck hung a Cheshire cheese with 3,000l. written on it, alluding to his pension and to an expression in one of his speeches that he would rather live on Cheshire cheese than submit to the enemies of England. The aldermen of London were humbly worshipping him. Newcastle fed the flames with ‘Monitors’ and ‘North Britons,’ the chief papers of the Opposition; the King of Prussia, like Nero, was fiddling amid the conflagration; while Bute, assisted by English soldiers and sailors, and by Highlanders, was endeavouring to extinguish it. A man, representing Temple, was squirting at Bute from the window of the Temple Coffee House. A waggon was bearing off the treasures taken from the Spanish ship Hermione. In the distance, the Newcastle arms were being taken down and replaced by the patriotic ones.
The success which attended the measures of Bute was, for a time at least, very great. Parliament was now thoroughly amenable to corrupt influence. In addition to the nucleus of genuine Tories, the Government could count upon the Bedford connection, upon a portion of the Grenville connection, upon the small group of politicians who followed the fortunes of Fox, and upon nearly all the bishops. Newcastle was old and thoroughly discredited, and most of his adherents had gone over to Bute;1 and Pitt, though incomparably the greatest figure in English politics, had alienated from himself most of his former colleagues, had little parliamentary influence, and was prostrated during a great part of this critical period by the gout. His appearance at the Guildhall in the procession of the King was much blamed, and was afterwards regretted by himself; but with this exception his conduct was singularly stainless. He had been struck down in the very zenith of his great career and when his popularity was at its height, and the necessity which compelled Bute to declare war against Spain had amply vindicated his policy. But his language was equally free from irritation, recrimination, and triumph. His attitude was that of a great citizen conscious that his country was passing through a great crisis, and resolved at every sacrifice of personal considerations to support the Government in carrying the war to a triumphant issue, and securing an adequate and honourable peace. Violent and impetuous as he often was, no statesman felt more strongly that foreign politics were not the field in which party triumphs might be legitimately sought, and that in time of war internal division should be as much as possible suspended. During the war in Portugal he strongly supported the Government, recommending the strictest union, and declaring against all ‘altercation, which was no way to carry on the public business.’1 The fear of him was very great, and it was doubtless in order to neutralise the effects of his eloquence that the exclusion of strangers from the gallery of the House of Commons was at this time enforced with special rigour.2 Burke, who was in general by no means one of his greatest admirers, said with truth that the manner in which after his fall he ‘made his own justification, without impeaching the conduct of any of his colleagues, or taking one measure that might seem to arise from disgust or opposition, set a seal upon his character.’3 No one ever understood better the true dignity of statesmanship. He met the storm of scurrility that raged around him with a majestic and somewhat disdainful silence, and calmly watched the tide of popular favour which was rising higher and higher. At the same time he stooped to no demagogue art. The favourite topic of the opponents of the Government was abuse of the Scotch; but Pitt never lost an opportunity of rebuking the national prejudice, extolling the valour which had been shown by the Highland regiments during the war, and censuring the conduct of those who were trying to sow animosity between the two nations.
The Preliminaries were approved in the House of Lords without a division, in the House of Commons by 319 to 65. The Duke of Newcastle, seeing opposition to be hopeless, induced his friends to retire before the division. Pitt spoke against the terms for three and a half hours; but he was so broken by painful illness that he was obliged to speak sitting, and although his speech contained passages of great beauty and power, his voice often sank into an inaudible murmur. The exultation of the Court was unbounded. ‘Now,’ said the Princess Dowager, when the news of the decisive vote arrived, ‘my son is King of England.’ But outside the House the feeling was very different, and the ministers who made the Peace of Paris were scarcely more popular than those who had made the Peace of Utrecht. The City of London and the great county of York refused all solicitations to address. The animosity against Bute grew daily stronger, and Bedford was hissed in the streets.1 The cyder counties, which had hitherto been the warmest supporters of Toryism, were thrown into a blaze of agitation by the cyder tax; and although it was carried by overwhelming majorities in both Houses, this is said to have been the first occasion on which the House of Lords divided on a money Bill.2 Probably never since the days of the Revolution had the ministers of the Crown been the objects of such execration in the country. Bute quailed before the storm. He had very little experience in the agitations of public life; he was constitutionally a man of no great resolution of character; he had lately inherited a gigantic fortune, and had obtained from the Crown the Garter and the Rangership of Richmond Park for himself, and an English peerage for his son. He had little left to aspire to, and many dangers to fear. In the Cabinet he found himself isolated, and his Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, more than once voted against him. He was sincerely attached to the King, and could not but be sensible that he was ruining his popularity. His health was weak, and he hoped under a new ministry to wield with greatly diminished obloquy the same powers as in the beginning of the reign.
These were probably the real reasons of his resignation, which took place, somewhat unexpectedly, on April 8, 1763. Dashwood retired with him, receiving a sinecure and the title of Lord De Spencer. Fox claimed his peerage, but was thrown into transports of fury by hearing that the King and Bute expected him, when receiving it, to resign his enormously lucrative office of Paymaster. The bargain for the peerage had been made through the intervention of Shelburne, and Fox accused Shelburne of having shamefully duped him. It is certain that Shelburne, when engaging the services of Fox to carry the peace, never told him that on receiving the promised peerage he must resign his office. It is equally certain that Fox had never promised to resign it, and that nevertheless Shelburne, without his knowledge or authority, had spoken of his resignation as a settled thing. It was said, on the other side, that public opinion would have been greatly scandalised if Fox retained such an office with a peerage, that Fox had at one time been himself of that opinion, and that Shelburne had only given in conversation his own opinion on the subject, and had not professed to be communicating the words of Fox. The contention was long and vehement, and Fox lost no opportunity of describing Shelburne as ‘a perfidious and infamous liar;’ but he at last succeeded in retaining the office, though entering the Upper House as Lord Holland. He kept it till 1765, but without taking any further part in active politics.1 The character of the ministers was shown to the very last; not less than 52,000l. a year out of the public money was granted in reversions to the followers of Bute.2
The history of this ministry is peculiarly shameful. During two reigns the Tory party had been excluded from office, and during all that time they had constituted themselves the special champions of parliamentary purity. In the writings of Bolingbroke, in the speeches of the Tory leaders, in the place Bills they had repeatedly advocated, the necessity of putting an end to political corruption was given the foremost place. This had been their favourite cry at every election, the battle-ground they continually selected in their contests with the Whig ministers of the first two Georges; and in the beginning of the new reign the purification of Parliament and of administration had been continually represented as the great benefit that might be expected from the downfall of the Whigs.3 At last the party had risen to power, and in ten months of office they far surpassed the corruption of their predecessors. They had long protested against the monopoly of office by a single party; but when they came to power they had driven out the humblest officials who were connected with their opponents with a severity unparalleled in English history. They had delighted in expatiating upon the administrative incapacity of the great Whig families, and upon the contrast between the scandalous Courts of the first two Georges and the unchallenged purity of the Tory King; but the financial policy of the administration of Bute displayed a grosser incapacity than had been exhibited by any previous Government, and the appointment of Dashwood and the policy of Fox produced a scandal at least equal to any in the former reigns. The fame of the country was lowered by the peace; an enthusiastic loyalty was dimmed. The ill feeling between England and Scotland, which had been rapidly subsiding, was revived, and the whole country was filled with riot and discontent.
After a short negotiation, George Grenville was placed at the head of the Treasury. A remarkable letter, written by Bute to the Duke of Bedford a few days before the resignation of the former, sums up the principles on which the King was resolved that his government should be conducted. The first and most important was, ‘never upon any account to suffer those ministers of the late reign who have attempted to fetter and enslave him, ever to come into his service while he lives to hold the sceptre;’1 in other words, he was determined that the group of Whig noblemen who were accustomed to act together in politics, and who during the last reign had acquired a preponderating power, were, at all hazards and under all circumstances, to be absolutely disqualified from acting as ministers of the Crown. In order to maintain this disqualification, the King was resolved ‘to collect every other force, and especially the followers of the Duke of Bedford and of Mr. Fox, to his councils and support,’ and to give every encouragement to those Whig country gentlemen who, without abandoning any political principles, would consent to support his Government. It was toped that in this manner a Government might be formed which would command a secure majority in both Houses, but in which no set of statesmen would be able to dictate to the King. It was hoped, at the same time, that with the retirement of Bute the feeling of loyalty to the Crown would revive, and that the storm of popular agitation would subside. ‘I am firmly of opinion,’ wrote Bute, ‘that my retirement will remove the only unpopular part of Government.’
The character of George Grenville, who for the next two years was the strongest influence in the English Government, has been admirably portrayed by the greatest political writer of his own generation and by the greatest English historian of the present century, and there is little to be added to the pictures they have drawn. Unlike Bute, and unlike a large number of the most prominent Whig statesmen, Grenville was an undoubtedly able man, but only as possessing very ordinary qualities to an extraordinary degree. He was a conspicuous example of a class of men very common in public life, who combine considerable administrative powers with an almost complete absence of the political sense—who have mastered the details of public business with an admirable competence and skill, but who have scarcely anything of the tact, the judgment, or the persuasiveness that are essential for the government of men. Educated as a lawyer, and afterwards designated for the post of Speaker of the House of Commons, he surpassed all his leading contemporaries in his knowledge of parliamentary precedents, of constitutional law, and of administrative details; and he brought to the Government an untiring industry, a rare business faculty, a courage that flinched from no opponent, and an obstinacy that was only strengthened by disaster. Few men were more sincerely respected by their friends, and, though he never attained any general popularity, few men had a greater weight in the House of Commons. His admirers were able to allege with truth that he was one of the most frugal of ministers at a time when economy was peculiarly unpopular;1 that, though his fortune was far below that of most of his competitors, and though he was by no means indifferent to money, he lived strictly within his private means, and was free from all suspicion of personal corruption; and that he more than once sacrificed the favour of the King, of the people, and of his own family, to what he believed to be right. His enemies maintained with equal truth that he was hard, narrow, formal, and self-sufficient, without extended views or generous sympathies, signally destitute of the tact of statesmanship which averts or conciliates opposition, prone on every occasion to strain authority to the utmost limit which precedent or the strict letter of the law would admit.
Being a younger brother of Lord Temple, and brother-in-law of Pitt and of Lord Egremont, he had the assistance of considerable family influence in his career; but he had himself neither high rank nor great wealth; his talents were not shining; he was peculiarly deficient in the qualities that win popularity either with the nation or in the closet, and the success with which he slowly emerged through many subordinate offices to the foremost place was chiefly due to his solid application and indomitable will. In the early part of his life he was closely connected with Pitt. Like him he began his career among the ‘Patriots,’ who were opposed to Walpole, and as early as 1754, Pitt had pronounced him second only to the great party leaders in his knowledge of the business of the House of Commons.1 He was dismissed from office by Newcastle, with Pitt, in 1755; held office under Pitt during the German war; but, after many transient differences, at last openly quarrelled with him, and then inveighed against the extravagance of the war of which he had been an official though a subordinate and a reluctant supporter.
Apart, indeed, from all questions of personal ambition, the characters of the two brothers-in-law were so opposed that their rupture was almost inevitable. Except in matters of military administration, Pitt had very little knowledge of public business, and he was singularly ignorant of finance. He excelled in flashes of splendid but irregular genius; in daring, comprehensive, and far-seeing schemes of policy; in the power of commanding the sympathies and evoking the energies of great bodies of men. He was pre-eminently a war minister, ‘pleased with the tempest when the waves ran high,’ continually seeking to extend the power and increase the influence of his nation, too ready to plunge into every European complication, and too indifferent to the calamities of war and to the accumulations of debt. Grenville, on the other hand, was minute, accurate, methodical, parsimonious, and pacific, delighting in detail, anxious above all things to establish a sound system of finance and a safe and moderate system of foreign, policy, desponding to a fault in his judgment of events, clear and powerful, indeed, but very tedious in debate, and little accustomed to look beyond the walls of the House and the strict letter of the law. During the last years of George II. he had some connection with the Leicester House party of Bute and the Princess of Wales; and when Pitt retired from office in 1761, Grenville, as we have seen, became leader of the House of Commons. His sincere desire for peace may excuse, or at least palliate, his acceptance of office under Bute, and his silent acquiescence in the corrupt and arbitrary measures of that unhappy administration; and he at this time did good service to the country by compelling Bute to exact compensation from Spain for the cession of Havannah. He was, however, so discontented with the details of the peace that he refused to take any part in defending it, and was accordingly removed from the leadership of the House, and exchanged his position of Secretary of State for the less prominent and somewhat less dignified office of First Lord of the Admiralty, where he appears to have confined himself chiefly to the duties of his department.1 Bute recommended him as his successor, apparently under the belief that he was a mere official drudge, and would yield readily to the inspiration of a master.
He became the head of the Government on April 8, 1763, holding the two offices of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had not been united since the death of Pelham. Lord Egremont, whose influence among the Tories was very great, and Lord Halifax, who was a man of popular manners and character, but of no great ability or power, were made Secretaries of State, and were intended to share the chief power; but the early death of the first and the insignificance of the latter left Grenville almost without a rival.
His natural ally would have been his elder brother, Lord Temple, a man of very great wealth and position, of no remarkable talent or acquirement, but in a high degree ambitious, arrogant, violent, jealous, and vindictive. Temple, however, was closely allied with Pitt, who in the early part of his career was in a great degree dependent on the Grenville influence, and had even been under pecuniary obligations to his brother-in-law, and who repaid the boon by giving Temple a very disproportionate influence in his counsels and his combinations. He had been First Lord of the Admiralty in the administration of Pitt and Devonshire, Lord Privy Seal in the far greater administration of Pitt and Newcastle, and, although he was extremely disliked by George II., Pitt succeeded in obtaining for him the Garter, which was the great object of his ambition. In spite of several explosions of personal jealousy, he steadily supported the German policy of Pitt, joined him in recommending war with Spain in 1761, retired with him from office, and became from that time one of the most violent and factious of politicians. He is reported to have said of himself, very frankly, that ‘he loved faction, and had a great deal of money to spare,’1 and the saying, whether it be true or false, describes very faithfully the character of his policy. Indifferent to the emoluments of office, and unconscious of any remarkable administrative powers, he delighted in the subterranean and more ignoble works of faction, in forming intrigues, inciting mobs, and inspiring libels. He was the special friend and patron of Wilkes, and he was more closely connected than any other leading politician of his time with the vast literature of scurrilous and anonymous political libels. He assisted many of the writers with money or with information, and he was believed to have suggested, inspired, or in part composed some of the most venomous of their productions. He was accused of having ‘worked in the mines of successive factions for near thirty years together,’ of ‘whispering to others where they might obtain torches, though he was never seen to light them himself;’ and although his personal friends ascribed to him. considerable private virtues, his honour as a public man was rated very low. His influence upon Pitt, as we shall see in the sequel, was very disastrous, and at the time when Grenville assumed the first place he was bitterly opposed to his brother.
Being deprived of assistance in this quarter, Grenville might naturally have expected his chief support from the Duke of Bedford, who had so lately been his colleague, and who was at the head of a considerable section of the Whigs. The importance of this nobleman, like that of Lord Temple, depended altogether upon the accident of birth which made him the head of one of the greatest of the Whig houses, and it is not, I think, easy to find any consistent principle in his strangely intricate career, except a desire to aggrandise his family influence. The great inclination towards wealth which has usually prevailed in English politics has always been justified, among other reasons, by the consideration that a rich man, to whom the emoluments of office are a matter of indifference, is much less likely than a poor man to be bribed or to be guilty of political sycophancy or apostasy; but it is worthy of notice that this presumption hardly applies to the heads of great houses, who, under the system of government that preceded the Reform Bill, were exposed to special corrupting influences scarcely less powerful than those which act upon needy men. The desire of obtaining garters, ribands, and promotions for themselves, and especially the imperious necessity of providing for a long train of rapacious followers, on whose support their influence mainly depended, has not unfrequently made great noblemen of splendid fortune and position the most inveterate of place-hunters. The Duke of Bedford does not appear personally to have cared much for office; but his followers were among the most unprincipled politicians in England, and the faction he directed amalgamated cordially with no party, but made overtures in turn to each, entered into temporary alliances with each, deserted each, and formed and dissolved its connections chiefly on personal grounds. The Duke himself was violent, harsh, and fearless, and was noted as the only man who ventured to oppose Pitt in the Cabinet when that imperious statesman was in the zenith of his power.1 He began his career in opposition to Walpole, and exerted all his powers to produce a Spanish war. In the earlier years of the Pelham ministry, he showed considerable administrative abilities as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1744 to 1748, and he afterwards had the rare fortune of taking a leading part in the negotiation of two peaces, each of which was probably on the whole beneficial to the country, but neither of which was at all glorious or popular. As Secretary of State under Pelham, he in a great degree dictated the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which concluded the Spanish war, without obtaining any object for which that war was undertaken. As ambassador to France, under Bute, he negotiated the Peace of Paris, which made him so unpopular that for some time he could not show himself publicly in the streets of London. In the intervening Devonshire administration he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, where he took some measures to mitigate the penal laws against the Catholics, but where his attempts to restrict the rights of the Irish Parliament excited violent riots, and led to the ignominious defeat of his Government. He was closely connected with Fox, with whom he joined the ministry of Bute, and whose harshest and most tyrannical acts received the warm approbation of his confidential follower Rigby. The dissatisfaction of Grenville at some portions of the peace had, however, produced a coldness between Bedford and Grenville, which for some time prevented their cordial co-operation. When Bute retired from office he implored Bedford to accept the position of President of the Council in order to carry on with Grenville a system of Government substantially the same as that of the favourite; but Bedford declined the offer on the ground that such a ministry could not stand. He recommended the King and Bute to send for the great Whig families; and, though some of his followers took offices under Grenville, his position towards him in the beginning of his ministry was one of neutrality, if not of secret hostility.
The Government, under these circumstances, was not strong, and at first it appeared probable that the wishes of the Court would be fulfilled, and that Bute would be its real though unofficial director. For some time most important negotiations relating to its composition were conducted by him, and the Speech, which closed Parliament on April 19, 1763, identified its foreign policy with that of the preceding ministry; for the King was made to speak of the peace as having been concluded ‘upon conditions so honourable to my crown, and so beneficial to my people,’ and to suggest that England had been the means of securing a satisfactory peace for the King of Prussia. Wilkes, who for a few days had suspended the publication of the ‘North Briton’ to watch the course of events, now broke silence; and on April 23 the famous 45th number appeared, attacking the King's Speech with great asperity. The writer dilated especially upon the abandonment of the King of Prussia, the inadequate terms of the peace, the Cyder Act, the frequent promotion of Scotchmen and Jacobites, and he asserted that ‘the King is only the first magistrate of this country, … responsible to his people for the due exercise of the royal functions in the choice of ministers, &c.’ ‘The personal character,’ he added, ‘of our present amiable Sovereign makes us easy and happy that so great a power is lodged in such hands; but the favourite has given too just cause for him to escape the general odium.’ The King's Speech is, and has always been regarded as, the speech of the ministers, and, judging it in that light, Wilkes pronounced the last speech from the throne to be ‘the most abandoned instance of ministerial effrontery ever attempted to be imposed upon mankind.’ ‘Every friend of his country,’ he continued, ‘must lament that a prince of so many great and amiable qualities, whom England truly reveres, can be brought to give the sanction of his sacred name to the most odious measures, and to the most unjustifiable public declarations, from a throne ever renowned for truth, honour, and unsullied virtue.’ ‘The ministers’ speech of last Tuesday is not to be paralleled in the annals of this country.’
The blow was a very skilful one. The King's Speech, as Wilkes truly asserted, had long been regarded as simply the composition of the ministers, and as such it was fully open to criticism. Even Fox, the leading minister in carrying the peace, had very recently asserted this doctrine in the plainest terms.1 Considering the Speech in this light, the criticisms of Wilkes, though severe, were not excessive, and were certainly less violent than some in previous numbers of his paper. It had become, however, a main object of the Court party to draw a broad distinction between the King and his ministers, and to arrest what was regarded as the absorption of Crown influence by the administration. The paper of Wilkes, in the eyes of the Court party, was a direct attack upon the personal veracity of the Sovereign; and although Wilkes was now member for Aylesbury, and therefore protected by the vague and formidable panoply of parliamentary privilege, it was determined at all hazards to crush him. The King himself gave orders to prosecute him,1 and for several years the ruin of one very insignificant individual was a main object of the Executive.
John Wilkes, who now became one of the most prominent figures in English politics, was at this time in his thirty-sixth year. The son of a rich trader and of a Presbyterian mother, he had been educated at a Presbyterian school at Hertford, and in the house of a Presbyterian tutor, and he afterwards studied at the University of Leyden. When only twenty-two he married a rich heiress, ten years older than himself, and of strict Methodistical principles, from whom he was soon after separated and whom he treated with great baseness. His countenance was repulsively ugly. His life was scandalously and notoriously profligate, and he was sometimes guilty of profanity which exceeded even that of the vicious circle in which he lived, but he possessed some qualities which were well fitted to secure success in life. He had a brilliant and ever ready wit, unflagging spirits, unfailing good humour, great personal courage, much shrewdness of judgment, much charm of manner. The social gifts must have been indeed of no common order which half-conquered the austere Toryism of Johnson, extorted a warm tribute of admiration from Gibbon, secured the friendship of Reynolds, and made the son of a London distiller a conspicuous member of the Medmenham Brotherhood, and the favourite companion of the more dissipated members of the aristocracy. It is not probable that he had any serious political convictions, but, like most ambitious men, he threw himself into politics as the easiest method of acquiring notoriety and position, and he expended many thousands of pounds in the venture. He contested Berwick unsuccessfully, but became member for Aylesbury in 1757, and connected himself by a close personal friendship and political alliance with Lord Temple. Having speedily dissipated his own fortune and as much of the fortune of his wife as it was possible by any means to get into his hands, he began to look to office as a means of recruiting his finances, and he had hopes of becoming ambassador at Constantinople, or obtaining the governorship of Canada, but his prospects were blasted by the downfall of the Whigs, and in the beginning of the new reign Bute himself is said to have interfered to defeat one of his applications. He took a prominent part in censuring the King's Speech in 1761, but his speaking was cold and commonplace, and made no impression on the House. The ‘North Briton,’ however, which he founded in the following year, raised him at once to importance. It had little literary merit beyond a clear and easy style, but it skilfully reflected and aggravated the popular hatred of the Scotch; it attacked the Court party with an audacity that had been rarely paralleled, and it introduced for the first time into political discussions the practice of printing the names of the chief persons in the State at full length instead of indicating them merely by initials.1 It soon distanced or silenced all competitors, but no prosecution was directed against it till the accession of Grenville and the publication of No. 45.
The first measure of the Government was to issue a general warrant, signed by Lord Halifax, which, without specifying the names of the persons accused, directed the apprehension of ‘the authors, printers, and publishers’ of the incriminated number and the seizure of their papers. Under this warrant no less than forty-nine persons were arrested, and the publisher having acknowledged that Wilkes was the author of the paper, he was seized and carried before Lord Halifax, while his drawers were burst open and his papers carried away. He refused to answer any question, protested against the illegality of a warrant in which no name was given, and claimed the privilege of Parliament against arrest, but in spite of every protest he was confined a close prisoner in the Tower, and denied all opportunity of consulting with his friends or even with his solicitor.
Such proceedings at once raised legal and constitutional questions of the gravest kind, and Lord Temple warmly supported Wilkes in vindicating his rights. The attitude of the demagogue was defiant and irritating in the extreme. One of the Secretaries of State was Lord Egremont, whose father had been imprisoned on suspicion of Jacobitism in the last reign. On his committal to the Tower, Wilkes asked to be lodged in the room in which Windham had been confined, or at all events in a room in which no Scotchman had been lodged, if such a room could be found in the Tower. He wrote a letter to his daughter, who was then in a French convent, congratulating her on living in a free country, and sent it open, according to rule, to Lord Halifax. He applied to the Court of Common Pleas for a writ of Habeas Corpus, and when he succeeded in obtaining it, he addressed the Court in a speech in which he complained that he had been ‘worse treated than any rebel Scot.’ The question of his arrest was fully argued before the Court of Common Pleas, and Chief Justice Pratt and the other judges unanimously pronounced it to be illegal on the ground that parliamentary privilege secured a member of Parliament from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and actual breach of the peace, and that a libel, though it might tend to produce the latter offence, could not be regarded as itself a breach of the peace. Numerous actions had been brought against the messengers who executed the general warrant by the persons who were arrested, and damages for various amounts were obtained, and two other constitutional points of great importance were decided. Chief Justice Pratt authoritatively, and with something more than judicial emphasis, determined that ‘warrants to search for, seize, and carry away papers,’ on a charge of libel, were contrary to law. He also expressed his opinion that general warrants issued by the Secretary of State without specifying the name of the person to be arrested were illegal, and this opinion was a few years later confirmed by Lord Mansfield.1
When these decisions were announced, the triumph of the people was unbounded. Wilkes was not only released from imprisonment, but a special jury at Guildhall awarded him 1,000l. damages against Mr. Wood, the Under Secretary of State; and Lord Halifax himself, against whom an action was brought, was compelled to resort to the most contemptible legal subterfuges to delay the proceedings. Three great constitutional questions had been decided, and in each case in favour of Wilkes, and the triumph was all the greater because both search warrants and general warrants, which were now pronounced to be illegal, had been undoubtedly frequently made use of since the Revolution. Passions on both sides were aroused to the utmost, and neither party was prepared to desist from the contest. Wilkes reprinted all the numbers of the ‘North Briton’ in a single volume, with notes establishing in the most conclusive manner the constitutional doctrine that the King's Speech should be regarded simply as the speech of the ministers. He showed that this doctrine had been unequivocally laid down in the two preceding reigns by such statesmen as the Duke of Argyle, Carteret, Shippen, and Pulteney, and that in 1715 the House of Commons had impeached Oxford among other grounds ‘for having corrupted the sacred fountain of truth and put falsehoods into the mouth of his Majesty in several speeches made to Parliament.’ Lord Egremont died on August 21, 1763, but Wilkes pressed on eagerly his action against Lord Halifax. He wrote to him in a strain of great insolence, accusing him of having robbed his house, and he even made a vain attempt to obtain a warrant to search for the missing documents. The King, on the other hand, dismissed Wilkes from the colonelcy of the Buckinghamshire Militia. It was the duty of Temple, as lord lieutenant of the county, to announce to him the fact, and he did so in a letter couched in the most complimentary language. Temple was at once deprived of his lord-lieutenancy, and his name was struck off the list of Privy Councillors. The Attorney-General instituted a regular prosecution for libel against Wilkes. He was surrounded by spies, who tracked his every movement and reported to the ministers the names of all who had intercourse with him, and his correspondence was systematically opened in the Post Office.1
The struggle was speedily transferred to another sphere. On November 15, 1763, Parliament met, and it soon appeared that a majority of both Houses were determined to pursue Wilkes with the most vindictive perseverance. On the first day of the session he rose to complain of the breach of privilege in his person, but he was anticipated by Grenville, who produced a royal message recapitulating the steps that had been taken and calling the attention of the House to the alleged libel. The House at once responded to the demand, and although the question was at this very time pending before the law courts, it proceeded to adjudicate upon it, voted the forty-fifth number of the ‘North Briton’ ‘a false, scandalous, and seditious libel,’ and ordered it to be burnt by the common hangman.2 Wilkes vainly endeavoured to avert the sentence by declaring that if his privilege was asserted, he was quite ready to waive it and to stand his trial before a jury.
At the same time another weapon for ruining him had been discovered. Wilkes, after his release from the Tower, had set up a private printing press in his own house, and among other documents had printed a parody of the ‘Essay on Man’ called ‘An Essay on Woman,’ and also a paraphrase of the ‘Veni Creator.’ They were anonymous, but the former at least appears to have been partly, if not wholly, composed by Potter, the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and one of the colleagues of Wilkes in the Medmenham Brotherhood. Bishop Warburton having recently published Pope's poems with illustrative notes, the parody contained some burlesque notes attributed to the same prelate. Both the ‘Essay on Woman’ and the imitation of the ‘Veni Creator’ were in a high degree blasphemous and obscene. Both of them would have been most proper subjects for prosecution had they been published or widely circulated. As a matter of fact, however, the little volume had not been published. Wilkes had not intended to publish it. Its existence was a profound secret, and only thirteen copies had been privately struck off for a few of his most intimate friends. Either by the examination of papers that were seized under the illegal search warrant, or by the treachery of some of Wilkes's old associates who were now connected with the Government, the ministers obtained information of its existence, and one of their agents succeeded, by bribing a printer employed by Wilkes, in obtaining the proof sheets, which on the first night of the session were brought before the House of Lords. As if to mark in the clearest light the nature of the proceeding, the task was entrusted to Lord Sandwich, who had been the intimate friend of Wilkes, who had been, like him, a member of the Medmenham Brotherhood, and who was notorious as one of the most profligate noblemen of his time. Whatever may have been the demerits of the ‘Essay on Woman,’ no human being could believe in the purity of the motives of Sandwich,1 and Wilkes afterwards even asserted that he was one of the two persons to whom the poem had been originally read.1 Sandwich discharged his task in a long speech, descanting upon the profligacy of Wilkes in terms which elicited from their common friend Lord De Spencer the pithy comment that he had never before heard the devil preaching. Warburton then rose to complain of a breach of privilege on account of the appearance of his name in the notes, and in language in which the courtier was at least as apparent as the saint, he declared that the blackest fiends in hell would not keep company with Wilkes, and apologised to Satan for comparing Wilkes to him. The House of Lords at once voted the poems a breach of privilege, and a ‘scandalous, obscene, and impious libel,’ and two days later presented an address to the King demanding the prosecution of Wilkes for blasphemy.2
Before this time, however, Wilkes was no longer able to answer for himself. Among the many persons who had been attacked in the ‘North Briton’ was Martin, a former Secretary to the Treasury, whose corrupt practices at the time of the Peace of Paris have been already noticed. In the debate on November 15, he got up and denounced the writer in the ‘North Briton’ as ‘a coward and a malignant scoundrel,’ and on the following day, Wilkes having acknowledged the authorship of the paper, Martin left at his house a challenge to meet him in Hyde Park with pistols within an hour. Wilkes, among whose faults want of courage cannot be reckoned, at once accepted the challenge. Martin, though the challenger, selected the weapon, and it was afterwards stated that during the whole of the eight months that had elapsed since the provocation was given, he had been assiduously practising at firing at a target. Wilkes fell dangerously, it was at first thought mortally, wounded, and he showed an anxiety to shield his adversary from the consequences of the duel, which was a strong proof of the genuine kindness of his nature, and added not a little to his popularity.1
It is not surprising that under these circumstances the angry feeling prevailing through the country should have risen higher and higher. Bute was still regarded as the real director of affairs, and the animosity against the Scotch and against the Court was as far as possible from being appeased. In the cyder counties, a crowned ass was led about by a figure attired in a Scotch plaid and decorated with a blue ribbon.2 At Exeter an effigy of Bute was hung on a gibbet at one of the principal gates, and the mob was so fierce that for a whole fortnight the authorities did not venture to cut it down.3 When, in obedience to the vote of the House of Commons, an attempt was made to burn the ‘North Briton,’ the high sheriff and constables were attacked, the obnoxious paper was snatched from the flames, and that evening a jack-boot and petticoat were publicly burnt in a great bonfire at Temple Bar.4 The Common Council of London voted thanks to the City members for asserting the liberties of their country in the question of general warrants. The decisions of Chief Justice Pratt in favour of Wilkes raised that judge to the highest point of popularity. The Corporation of Dublin presented him with its freedom, and the example was speedily followed by the City of London and by a great number of other corporations in England. His portrait became the favourite sign of public-houses throughout the country. By the direction of the Corporation of London it was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and placed in the Guildhall with an inscription ‘in honour of the jealous assertor of English liberty by law.’1 The blasphemy and obscenity of the poems printed by Wilkes could not be questioned, but the people very reasonably asked whether the private character of Wilkes was at all worse than that of Sandwich, who was the most prominent of his persecutors; and whether there was the least probability that Wilkes would have been prosecuted for immorality if he had not by his defence of liberty become obnoxious to the Court. ‘I am convinced,’ he himself wrote to the electors of Aylesbury, ‘that there is not a man in England who believes that if the “North Briton” had not appeared, the “Essay on Woman” would ever have been called in question.’ The hypocrisy, the impudence, the folly of the part taken by Lord Sandwich excited universal derision. The ‘Beggar's Opera’ was soon after represented at Covent Garden, and in the speech in which Macheath exclaims ‘that Jemmy Twitcher should peach me I own surprises me,’ the whole audience, by a burst of applause, recognised the application, and the name—which has been perpetuated in the well-known lampoon of Gray—ever after clung to Lord Sandwich, as Horace Walpole says, ‘almost to the disuse of his title.’2 The circumstances of the duel with Martin were such that it was commonly regarded as little less than a deliberate conspiracy by the ministry to murder Wilkes, and Churchill embodied the popular sentiment in ‘The Duellist,’ one of the most powerful of his satires.
Wilkes recovered slowly, but in the mean time the Parliament, rejecting his petition that further proceedings might be delayed till his recovery, pushed on its measures with vindictive energy, and its first step was one of very considerable constitutional importance. Hitherto it had been the steady and invariable policy of the House of Commons to extend as far as possible the domain of Privilege. The doctrine that no member of Parliament could be arrested or prosecuted without the express permission of the House, except for treason, felony, or actual breach of the peace, or for refusal to pay obedience to a writ of Habeas Corpus, had hitherto been fully acknowledged, and had, as we have seen, been very recently admitted by the law courts. In spite of the opposition of Pitt and of a powerful protest signed by seventeen peers, a resolution was now carried through both Houses ‘that privilege of Parliament does not extend to the case of writing and publishing seditious libels, nor ought to be allowed to obstruct the ordinary course of the laws in the speedy and effectual prosecution of so heinous and dangerous an offence.’ As the resolution was given a retrospective application, the proceeding of the House in this as in most other points was grossly and transparently unjust; but considered in itself it had a great value, as making a serious breach in that formidable edifice of parliamentary privilege which was threatening to become almost as prejudicial as the royal prerogative to the liberty of the subject. It is a singularly curious fact that at a time when parliamentary privilege was becoming a chief subject of popular complaint, this great concession was made, not in consequence of any pressure of opinion from without, but by the free will of Parliament itself, for the purpose of crushing a popular hero. It is hardly less curious that nearly at the same time the City of London, which had placed itself at the head of the democratic movement, should more than once, through its dislike to particular measures, have petitioned the King to exercise his dormant power of veto, and refuse his assent to Bills which had passed through both Houses of Parliament.1
Wilkes was unable to attend Parliament before the Christmas vacation, and during the recess he went over to France. Whether he really intended to return is doubtful. The Crown, the ministers, and the majority in both Houses of Parliament, were all leagued against him, and it was tolerably clear that they were determined to ruin him. A trial for seditious libel and a trial for blasphemy were hanging over his head, and Parliament had already passed resolutions prejudging his case. His life was by no means safe. He had offended large classes, and he was surrounded by vindictive enemies. One of the earliest numbers of the ‘North Briton’ had obliged him to fight a duel with Lord Talbot, who had officiated as High Constable at the Coronation. On a former visit to Paris he had been challenged by a Scotchman named Forbes, who was in the French service, on account of his attacks upon Scotland. The duel with Martin bore all the signs of a deliberate and premeditated attempt to destroy him; and when he was lying wounded and helpless on his sick bed, a mad Scotchman named Dun had tried to penetrate into his house to assassinate him. When the time came at which he was summoned to appear before Parliament, he sent a certificate signed by two French doctors, stating that he was unable to travel. The House of Commons, however, made no allowance for his state. On the 19th of January, 1764, he was expelled from the House for having written ‘a scandalous and seditious libel,’ and on the 21st of February he was tried and found guilty in the Court of King's Bench for reprinting No. 45, and also for printing the ‘Essay on Woman;’ and as he did not appear to receive sentence, he was at once outlawed. The most important of the actions brought by Wilkes had been that against Lord Halifax. By availing himself of every possible legal technicality, Halifax had hitherto postponed the decision, and now by pleading the outlawry of Wilkes he terminated the affair.
The Court had triumphed; but no one who knew the English people could doubt that the manifest desire of those in power to hunt down an obnoxious politician, would rouse a fierce spirit of opposition in the country. No minister, indeed, was ever more destitute than George Grenville of that which in a free country is the most essential quality of a successful statesman—the power of calculating the effect of measures upon opinion. Every step which had been taken in the Wilkes controversy was ill advised, vindictive, and substantially unjust. The Government had been formally convicted, on broad legal issues, of illegal conduct. They had resorted to the most disreputable artifices of legal chicanery in order to avert the consequences of the decision, and they had carried with them a great majority of Parliament, in usurping the functions and defying the sentences of the law courts. The Executive and the Legislature were alike discredited, and a most alarming spirit had been raised. For Wilkes personally there was not much genuine sympathy, and he was still far from the height of popularity which he subsequently attained. Churchill, indeed, predicted that—
But Pitt, who represented far more truly the best liberal sentiments of the country, while taking a foremost part in opposition to the unconstitutional proceedings of the Government, denounced his character and his writings in the strongest terms, and it is remarkable that an attempt to raise a public subscription for him was a failure,2 and that Kearsley, the publisher of the ‘North Briton,’ became bankrupt in 1764.3 A Devonshire farmer in that year left Wilkes 5,000l. as a testimony of his admiration;4 and he was always received with abundance of mob applause, but as yet the general public appear to have given him little support except by riots. His law expenses were chiefly paid by Temple, and he afterwards obtained an annuity of 1,000l. from the Rockingham Whigs, who supported him in much the same way as the Tories under Queen Anne had supported Sacheverell. But the spirit of riot and insubordination was very strong in the country, and it was noticed after the Wilkes case that it was ominously and rapidly extending. Libels attacking in the grossest manner the King, the Princess Dowager, and the ministry, were extremely common, and they were fiercely resented. In 1764 no less than 200 informations were filed against printers. In the whole thirty-three years of the preceding reign there had not been so many prosecutions of the Press.1 Hitherto, when the author of a libel was known, he alone was prosecuted; but the custom was now introduced, for the first time since the Revolution, of involving in these cases the printers also in the prosecution.2 The finances of the country were managed with an increased economy, and corruption had somewhat diminished; but Shelburne and Barré were deprived of their military posts, and Generals Conway and A'Court of their regiments, on account of their votes in Parliament. No such act had been perpetrated since Walpole had dismissed the Duke of Bolton and Lord Cobham from the commands of their regiments; and it was remembered that at that time Grenville had been one of the most prominent members in denouncing the act in the House of Commons, while Bedford had signed a protest against it in the House of Lords.
Nor were the other proceedings of the Government fitted to add to their popularity. Their tame acquiescence in the Spanish refusal to pay the Manilla ransom offended bitterly the national pride. The Stamp Act, which was imposed on America in 1765, in order to obtain 100,000l. of revenue, though it passed almost unnoticed in England, produced an immediate explosion in America, and led in a few years to the dismemberment of the empire. Bedford, who joined the ministry in the autumn of 1763 as President of the Council, brought with him a great weight of personal unpopularity which his subsequent conduct had no tendency to diminish. Perhaps the only valuable measure that can be ascribed to this ministry is the annexation to the English Crown of the Isle of Man. Its sovereignty had long been vested in the House of Derby, who did honorary service for it by presenting two falcons to the kings and queens of England on their coronation. It passed by marriage to the Dukes of Athol, and the island had been the centre of a great smuggling trade to England and Ireland, which it was found impossible to repress till the Grenville ministry in 1765 purchased the sovereignty for 70,000l.1
The party aspect of the ministry of Grenville and Bedford was somewhat ambiguous. Bedford, who was one of its leading members, was the head of a great Whig house. Grenville had begun public life as an undoubted Whig; he had never abjured the name, and he always exhibited that high sense of the prerogative and power of the House of Commons which usually accompanied Whig politics. He felt towards it as men feel towards the sphere in which they are most fitted to excel; and in different periods of his career he maintained its authority with equal energy against the Crown, against the colonies, and against the people. At the same time there was some undoubted truth in the assertion of Pitt, that this Government ‘was not founded on true Revolution principles, but was a Tory administration.’2 It was not simply that Grenville had seceded from the great body of the Whig party, that he had supported the ascendency of the Tory Bute, that he advocated with the Tory party the speedy termination of the French war, that his leaning on almost every question was strongly towards the assertion of authority. It is also certain that he came into office with the definite object of carrying into action the Tory principle of government. The real and essential distinction between the two parties at this period of their history lay in the different degrees of authority they were prepared to concede to the Sovereign. According to the Whigs, a connected group of political leaders acting in concert and commanding a majority in both Houses of Parliament, ought virtually to dictate and direct the government of the country. According to the opposite party, the supreme directing power should reside with the Sovereign, and no political organisation should be suffered to impose its will upon the Crown. According to the Whigs, the system of government which prevailed in the last years of George II., whatever might have been the defects of particular statesmen or of particular measures, was on the whole the normal and legitimate outcome of parliamentary government. According to the Tories, it was essentially an usurpation, and it should be the great object of a loyal minister to prevent the possibility of its recurrence. Both parties recognised the necessity of establishing some strong and permanent system of government, but the one party sought it in the connection of agreeing politicians, commanding parliamentary influence; the other party sought it in the creation of a powerful parliamentary interest attached personally to the Sovereign, reinforced by disconnected politicians, and by small groups drawn from the most various quarters, and directed by a statesman who was personally pleasing to the King. Other questions were for the most part casual and incidental, but this lay at the root of the division of parties, and it is the key to the language which was constantly used about breaking up parties, removing disqualifications, admitting politicians of all kinds to the service of the King. Grenville avowedly came into office to secure the King from falling into the hands of the Whig organisation and losing the power of political guidance.1
He was in many respects peculiarly pleasing to the King. His official connection with Bute, his separation from the great Whig families, his unblemished private character, his eminent business faculties, his industry, his methodical habits, his economy, his freedom alike from the fire and the vagaries of genius, his dogged obstinacy, his contempt for popularity, were all points of affinity. Again and again during the first months of the ministry the King spoke of him with the warmest affection, and he declared that ‘he never could have anybody else at the head of his Treasury who would fill that office so much to his satisfaction.’1 In the chief lines of their policy King and ministers cordially agreed. The King had himself, as we have seen, directed the prosecution of Wilkes; he warmly supported the Stamp Act, and the disastrous project of coercing the colonies; he both approved of and counselled the unconstitutional measure of depriving officers of their military rank on account of their votes in Parliament.2
But Grenville was placed in office to act the part of a pliant and convenient tool, and nature had given him the character of the most despotic and obstinate of masters. Whatever might be his principles or his professions, his Sovereign soon discovered that no one was constitutionally more fond of power, less disposed to yield to pressure from without, less capable of making harsh decisions palatable to others. There is something at once whimsical and pathetic in the efforts of the young King to free himself from the yoke. In April 1763 Grenville became Prime Minister. In July we already find the King and Bute consulting on the possibility of displacing him. A negotiation was accordingly opened with Lord Hardwicke, but he refused to take any part without the co-operation of Pitt and of the Whigs. In August, when the death of Lord Egremont had weakened the Tory element in the Cabinet, and strengthened the ascendency of Grenville, the King and Bute at once renewed their designs, and on the return of Grenville from a brief excursion in the country he found the King closeted with Pitt. The negotiation, however, again failed. Pitt insisted on the expulsion from office of those who had taken a leading part in negotiating the peace, and the restoration to office of the great Whig families, and the King, who dreaded this consummation above all others, was compelled to ask Grenville to continue in office. He did so on the assurance that Bute was no longer to exercise any secret influence; and he was bitterly indignant when he learnt that two or three days after the King had given this assurance, Bute had made through the instrumentality of Beckford a new attempt to obtain more favourable terms from Pitt. The King then considering the Grenville ministry the sole barrier against the Whig families, changed his policy, determined to support it, and resolved to strengthen it by a junction with the Bedford faction. The unpopularity of Bedford in the country was only second to that of Bute, and his blunt manner and domineering character were sure to bring him into conflict with the King, but he had at least quarrelled with the main body of the Whigs, and he could bring some votes and some administrative skill to the support of the Government. Bute accordingly applied to Bedford, who contented himself with recommending the King to apply to Pitt. The advice was taken; but Pitt, who was not informed of the intervention of Bedford, again urged the formation of a Whig ministry and the exclusion of the chief negotiators of the peace, and especially of Bedford. Tie King at once made a skilful but most dishonourable use of the incautious frankness of Pitt in the closet to sow dissensions among the Whig nobles, reporting to each such expressions as were most likely to offend them, and especially instructing Lord Sandwich to inform Bedford that Pitt had made his exclusion from all offices an essential condition. Bedford, who had himself advised the King to apply to Pitt, and who was probably perfectly unaware that Pitt was ignorant of that fact, was naturally greatly incensed, and through resentment he was induced to join the ministry as President of the Council, while Lord Sandwich, who was his oldest follower, became Secretary of State, Lord Hillsborough President of the Board of Trade, and Lord Egmont First Lord of the Admiralty.1
The junction of the Bedford faction with the ministry took place in September 1763. In the same month Lord Shelburne had resigned his position as President of the Board of Trade. Shelburne had hitherto been the most devoted follower of Bute; he entered the Grenville ministry by the favour and as the warmest friend of Bute,2 and he had thoroughly identified himself with his theory of government. It was the object of Bute to reduce each minister as much as possible to his own department, and to absolve him from allegiance to his colleagues, in order that the King should have full power to modify the composition of his Cabinet. In the summer of 1763, when the King was resolved to displace Grenville, he had at once applied to Bute, and under the instructions of the favourite, the President of the Board of Trade took a prominent part in the secret negotiations both with Bedford and with Pitt for the purpose of displacing and overthrowing the Prime Minister.1 Such services showed how fully Shelburne entered into the spirit of the designs of Bute; but he was himself rapidly becoming discontented. He appears to have disliked both his office and his colleagues; he doubted or more than doubted the legality of the measures that were taken against Wilkes, and he seems to have thought that his own influence and importance were not sufficiently recognised. How far his motives were of a public and how far they were of a private nature it is impossible to say, but on September 3 he resigned his post, and he afterwards voted with his followers Barré, Fitzmaurice, and Calcraft against the Court and the ministry. The King in bitter anger deprived him of his post of aide-de-camp, and Barré of the posts of Adjutant-General of the Forces and Governor of Stirling Castle; and from this time Shelburne severed himself from Bute and attached himself to what seemed to be the rising fortunes of Pitt.2
The junction of Bedford had, however, given some strength to the ministry, and although Bedford complained that he had not a sufficient share in the disposition of places, the year 1764, during which the country was convulsed by the Wilkes riots, was a year of comparative peace in the closet. The King, however, detested the hard and overbearing character of Bedford; he disliked the notorious profligacy of Sandwich,3 and although for some months he appeared reconciled to Grenville and often expressed warm esteem for him, he soon began to hate him as intensely as the last king had hated Lord Temple. In truth, Grenville was in the closet the most tedious, prolix, and obstinate of men, and his domineering and overbearing temper was shown in the smallest matters. ‘When he has wearied me for two hours,’ said the King on one occasion, ‘he looks at his watch to see if he may not tire me for one hour more.’ He refused a grant of 20,000l. for the purchase of some grounds adjoining Buckingham Palace, which the King was very anxious to secure in order to prevent buildings that would overlook him in his walks. He adopted so imperious a tone that the King complained that ‘when he had anything proposed to him, it was no longer as counsel, but what he was to obey.’1 His management of the Regency Bill was a much graver offence, and it wounded the King in his most sensitive points. In April 1765 the King was attacked with an alarming illness, and it was afterwards known that symptoms then for the first time appeared of that mental derangement which clouded the latter years of his reign. On his recovery it was thought right to provide against the confusion which might result from the death or illness of the King while his children were still young, and a Regency Bill was accordingly introduced in which it was proposed to restrict the right of becoming regent to the Queen and the royal family then residing in England; but when in the course of the discussion in the House of Lords the question arose who constituted the royal family, it appeared that the Cabinet had not agreed upon or even considered the subject. Bedford and Halifax, actuated probably by antipathy to Bute, maintained, in opposition to their own colleague the Chancellor, that the term Royal Family did not include the Princess Dowager. Bedford opposed and threw out a resolution inserting the name of the princess, and Halifax and Sandwich succeeded in extorting from the King his consent to a clause limiting the regency to the Queen and the descendants of the late King usually resident in England, and thus pointedly excluding his mother.
Much obscurity hangs over the motives which induced the King to consent to this insult to a parent to whom he was tenderly attached, but it appears that the affair was transacted in great haste, that the King hardly understood or realised what he was doing, and that he was persuaded by Halifax that if the princess were not indirectly excluded in the Bill, the House of Commons would take the still stronger and more insulting step of excluding her by name. At all events, he soon bitterly repented, and even implored Grenville as a personal favour to himself to include the princess in the Bill, and the matter became still worse when the House of Commons, instead of displaying the spirit which Halifax had predicted, inserted her name on the ground that the omission was a direct insult offered by the King's servants to the King's mother. The King was driven to the verge of madness by the false position in which he was placed.1 In April, when the Regency question was still pending, he had been negotiating with his uncle the Duke of Cumberland, and also with Bute, about a possible change of government, and on May 6 he implored Cumberland to save him from a ministry which had become intolerable to him.1 He had no truer or more loyal subject, but because Cumberland had lately been in opposition to Bute all his services to the dynasty had been forgotten, and the King had looked on him with the most vindictive hatred. A few months before, the Duke had been struck down by apoplexy, and his life was in imminent danger; but the King, though perfectly aware of the condition of his uncle, refused even to send to inquire after him, ‘because,’ as he explained to Grenville, ‘after the Duke's behaviour, no one could suppose he would inquire out of regard to him.’2 Yet it was to this prince that the King now resorted in his distress. The ministers had been for some time aware that the King had lost confidence in them, and that some change of government was contemplated, and on May 9 the Duke of Bedford remonstrated in no measured terms with his master on the treachery of his conduct.1 Cumberland was authorised to negotiate with Pitt and with the old Whig families whose exclusion the King had so ardently desired, but who probably appeared less dangerous when allied with a statesman who was in many respects hostile to their system. Pitt seemed ready to assume office, and the Whig families to co-operate with him; but Temple, who had lately been reconciled to Grenville, and who probably desired a purely family ministry, declined the office of First Lord of the Treasury, and persuaded Pitt to break off the negotiation. Pitt did so chiefly on the ground that the influence of Bute was as strong as ever, and overrode that of the responsible ministers of the Crown.2 An attempt was then made to induce Lord Lyttelton to form a government, but this, too, speedily failed.
A serious riot about this time complicated the situation. The silk weavers, being in great distress, had petitioned for the exclusion of all French silks from England, and they resented bitterly the terms in which Bedford opposed the measure. On May 15 a great body of them bearing black flags followed the King to the House of Lords, broke the chariot of the Duke of Bedford, wounded him on the hand and on the temple, and two days later attacked Bedford House with such fury that a large body of soldiers was required to save it from destruction. The episode was peculiarly unfortunate, for it gave the impending change of ministry the appearance of a concession to mob violence. Bedford absurdly ascribed the riot to the instigation of Bute, and lost no opportunity of showing his anger.3
In the meantime the King had intimated clearly to his ministers his determination to dispense with their services, and they held office only till their places were filled; but Cumberland was soon obliged to recommend his nephew to recall them.1 The humiliation was almost intolerable, but it was undergone. Grenville insisted on a solemn promise from the King that he would never again have a private interview with Bute. He insisted upon the dismissal of Stewart Mackenzie, the brother of Bute, from the sinecure office of Privy Seal in Scotland, though the King had distinctly pledged his honour that he should retain it. He lectured the King again and again on the duplicity he had shown. His Majesty, on the other hand, was at no pains to conceal his sentiments. He displayed the most marked courtesy towards the leaders of the Opposition, listened with a dark and sullen countenance to the expostulations of his ministers, and when they ventured to express a hope that he would accord them his confidence he preserved a blank and significant silence without even the courtesy of a civil evasion. When an appointment was to be made he studiously neglected their wishes, and often filled it up without even informing them of his choice. Bedford, three weeks after the Government had been restored, demanded an audience, and calmly read to the King a paper formally accusing him of acting towards his ministers with a want of confidence and sincerity utterly incompatible with constitutional monarchy. ‘If I had not broken into a profuse sweat,’ the King afterwards said, ‘I should have been suffocated with indignation.’ Once more he resorted to Cumberland and empowered him to offer the most liberal terms to Pitt. A ministry directed by that great statesman would have been beyond all comparison the most advantageous to the country; it had no serious difficulty to encounter, and Pitt himself was now ready to undertake the task, but the evil genius of Lord Temple again prevailed. Without his co-operation Pitt could not or would not proceed, and Temple absolutely refused to take office even in the foremost place. The King, however, would not fall back on Grenville. Yielding for a time what had long been the main object of his policy, he authorised the Duke of Cumberland to enter into negotiations with the great Whig families.1 A communication was made to the old Duke of Newcastle, and in July 1765, after about seven weeks of almost complete administrative anarchy, the main body of the Whigs returned to office under their new leader Lord Rockingham. Of Grenville, the King in after years sometimes spoke with regret and appreciation, but he never forgot or forgave the last months of his ministry. ‘I would sooner meet Mr. Grenville,’ he is reported to have said, ‘at the point of my sword than let him into my Cabinet.’ ‘I had rather see the devil in my closet than George Grenville.’2
Of Rockingham, the new minister, there is little to be said. A young nobleman of very large fortune and unblemished character, he had been for some time only remarkable for his passion for horse-racing, but had obtained a faint glimmer of notoriety when he resigned his office of First Lord of the Bedchamber and was dismissed from the lord-lieutenancy of his county for his opposition to the peace, and he was selected by the Whigs as their leader mainly on account of his property and connections, but partly on account of his conciliatory manners and high character. He was almost absolutely destitute of the ordinary power of expressing his opinions in debate, but his letters show a clear, moderate, and sound judgment, and he had considerable tact in smoothing difficulties and managing men. He carried out a steadily liberal policy with great good sense, a perfectly single mind, and uniform courtesy to opponents. He had the advantage of following one of the most unpopular of ministers, and the genius of Burke, who was his private secretary, and who was brought into Parliament by his influence, has cast a flood of light upon his administration and imparted a somewhat deceptive splendour to his memory.
Few English statesmen of the highest rank have been more destitute of all superiority of intellect or knowledge. Few English ministries have been more feeble than that which he directed, yet it carried several measures of capital importance. It obtained from Parliament—what the former ministry had steadily resisted—a formal condemnation of general warrants. By restoring to their posts the officers who had been deprived of their military rank for their votes in Parliament, it affixed such a stigma to that practice that it never was repeated. It allayed the discontent and even disloyalty of large classes of the English people by abolishing or at least profoundly modifying the obnoxious Cyder Act, and by the more doubtful measure of prohibiting the importation of French silks. It negotiated a beneficial commercial treaty with Russia; it was the first ministry since that of Walpole which took serious measures to relax the commercial restrictions which were the true cause of the alienation of the colonies; and above all, by repealing the Stamp Act, it for a time averted the struggle which soon afterwards brought about the disruption of the Empire. It did all this in the short space of one year and twenty days, in spite of every kind of opposition from within and from without, and, as far as can be ascertained, without resorting to any of the corrupt practices that had been so common among its predecessors. It was essentially a ministry of great families. The Duke of Newcastle brought to it his vast experience, his industry and influence, and he exerted himself with laudable zeal for the repeal of the Stamp Act. It was characteristic of the habits of the old minister that the Church patronage was at his desire specially attached to the office of Privy Seal, which he held, and it is scarcely less characteristic of another side of his character that he anxiously warned Rockingham against Burke, whom he suspected of being a Jacobite and a Papist in disguise.1 In party politics the leading idea of Newcastle at this time was dread of Pitt, and the great object at which he ineffectually aimed was a junction between the followers of Rockingham and Bedford. The great family connection of the Cavendishes, and many other Whig nobles distinguished only for their wealth and position, joined the ministry, which represented all that remained unbroken and unchanged of the powerful party which in the last two reigns had governed the country.
But in spite of aristocratic support the ministry had no real strength, and it soon perished by the combination of many enemies. Death had greatly thinned the ranks of Whig administrators, and the secession of Grenville and Bedford, the alienation of Pitt and of Temple, had thrown the management of the party into the hands of young men altogether inexperienced in government, mixed with two or three worn-out veterans: Rockingham, who should have led the party in the House of Lords, rarely opened his mouth in debate; Conway, who led the party in the Commons, was a brave and popular soldier, who had served with distinction at Culloden, Fontenoy, and Laffeldt, and had commanded a corps under Prince Ferdinand in 1761, but as a parliamentary leader he had neither resolution, knowledge, nor eloquence; Dowdeswell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a good financier, but nothing more. Charles Townshend, though he clung to the rich office of Paymaster of the Forces, treated his colleagues with undisguised contempt, described the Government of which he was a member as a ‘lutestring administration fit only for summer wear,’ and ostentatiously abstained from defending its measures. Northington, the Chancellor, and Barrington, the Secretary for War, were kept in office to please the King, and were completely at his service. They were prepared at any moment to turn against their colleagues, and they were strongly committed to views hostile to those of the Government to which they belonged on the two capital questions of American taxation and the legality of general warrants. Chesterfield very justly described the ministry as an arch which wanted its keystone, and the true keystone was evidently Pitt.1
Rockingham had done everything in his power to draw Pitt to his side, but he wholly failed. Pitt remained persistently isolated from all other politicians. While admitting that the characters of the new ministers were good, he openly declared in Parliament that he could not give them his confidence, and he countenanced a charge which is now known to have been completely groundless, but which was believed by both Temple and Bedford,1 that Bute was exercising a controlling influence upon their counsels. While Pitt maintained this attitude the ministry could have no genuine popularity; and the Duke of Cumberland, who had called it into power, and who warmly supported it, died at the end of October, about three months before the Old Pretender, the son of James II., whose prospects he had ruined at Culloden.
To a truly constitutional sovereign there was no reason why the Rockingham ministry should not have been acceptable. It consisted to an exaggerated extent of members of those great families who are naturally brought into closest contact with the Throne. It was studiously moderate in its policy, and none of its members were ever accused of the slightest disrespect. But to George III. its very existence was an intolerable humiliation to be endured only from extreme necessity. Only two years had elapsed since the King had authorised Bute to declare that he would never again during his whole reign admit the great Whig connection to power. The Duke of Devonshire, who was one of the chief supporters of the Government, was the son of the very statesman who had so lately been dismissed from office by the King in a manner which amounted to little less than personal insult. The King had been the first man to suggest the dismissal of Conway from his civil and military posts. He was now obliged to restore Conway to his regiment, and to accept him as Secretary of State and leader of the House of Commons. He had vehemently supported the most violent measures against Wilkes, but he now saw general warrants and the seizure of the papers of supposed libellers formally condemned in Parliament by resolutions introduced under the auspices of his ministers, and he was obliged to raise Chief Justice Pratt to the peerage as Lord Camden. The repeal of the American Stamp Act was contrary to the strongest wishes of the King. In order to make it possible it was accompanied by a declaratory Act asserting the abstract right of the Imperial Parliament to tax the colonies. Grenville, Bedford, and the whole party of Bute bitterly opposed the repeal, while Pitt denounced the declaration that accompanied it. The debates were long and vehement, and they were especially noteworthy on account of two speeches in defence of the Government, which extorted warm eulogy from Pitt, and in the words of Dr. Johnson ‘filled the town with wonder.’ They were the first parliamentary speeches of Edmund Burke.
The King soon made no secret of his hostility to the measures of his ministers. He assured those who held offices in his household that they were at full liberty to vote against the minister, and Lord Strange was authorised to spread about the report that the King was opposed to the repeal of the Stamp Act. Roekingham, who understood the character of his Sovereign, heard of it, and at once insisted upon obtaining in writing the consent of the King, which he showed to those who desired it; but place-hunters knew only too well the real wishes of the King and the weakness of the Government. It was the evil custom of the time to treat the adjudication of disputed elections as party questions, to be decided according to the majority in the House and not according to the merits of the case. On a question of a Scotch election in February 1766, the ministers only carried their candidate by eleven votes, and on the following day they were beaten in the Lords by a majority of three.1 Many attempts were made to induce isolated politicians to join the ministry, but they uniformly failed, and it was generally felt that its days were numbered.2 A motion of Grenville to enforce the Stamp Act was rejected by 274 to 134, but it was remarkable that the minority included not only the friends of Bute, but also nearly a dozen of the King's household.3 The Chancellor and the Secretary of War both voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act.4 Rocking-ham wished to restore some vigour and discipline to the ministry by removing Jeremiah Dyson, one of the under-treasurers, who had been in conspicuous opposition to his chief, but the King positively refused. He had indeed two measures. When a ministry represented his personal views, Walpole himself was not more strenuous in enforcing unanimity among its members. When it diverged from his views, Pelham was not more indulgent of dissent. In the same spirit the King refused to create a single peer at the desire of his ministers. The King's friends, who filled the subordinate places in the Government, plotted incessantly and voted fearlessly against their chief. At last, in May 1766, the Duke of Grafton struck the death-blow by resigning the seals of Secretary of State. ‘He had no objection,’ he said, ‘to the persons or the measures of the ministers, but he thought they wanted strength and efficiency to carry on proper measures with success, and that Pitt alone could give them solidity.’ In July, the Chancellor, Lord Northington, who had very persistently thwarted and opposed his colleagues in the Cabinet, openly revolted, and informed the King that the ministry could not go on. The ministers were dismissed, and on July 7, 1766, the King once more sent for Pitt.
The conduct of Pitt in refusing to join the Rockingham Government, if not the worst, was certainly the most disastrous incident of his career. He had no ground of complaint because Rockingham had taken office, for he had again and again been appealed to during the Grenville ministry to form a Government, and he had absolutely refused. Two months before the Grenville ministry fell, Rockingham had visited him at Hayes, with the object of effecting a junction with him; and when the new ministry was formed, and during the whole period of its existence, every possible effort was made to obtain his alliance. At least three separate applications were made to him by Rockingham. His advice was asked with a marked deference. The restoration of the officers who had been removed from their military posts on account of their votes in Parliament, a formal condemnation of general warrants, and the bestowal of some special honour on Chief Justice Pratt, had been three conditions on which Pitt specially insisted in his abortive negotiations with the King before the fall of the Grenville administration. All of these were carried out by Rockingham. In order still further to conciliate him, Grafton, who was his most devoted follower, was made Secretary of State. His brother-in-law, James Grenville, was offered one of the Vice-Treasurerships of Ireland. Nuthall, who was his confidential lawyer, and one of his most intimate friends, was made Solicitor of the Treasury. It was clearly intimated to Pitt that Rockingham and his colleagues ‘were most ready to be disposed of as he pleased,’ and he was expressly asked to place himself at their head.1 He could have entered the Government on what terms he wished, and could without difficulty have converted the Whig party from a struggling minority into the dominant power of the State. The importance of doing so was self-evident. As Pitt himself declared, ‘Faction was shaking and corruption sapping the country to its foundations.’ The utter disintegration of parties, and the influence of the Crown, now steadily employed in dissolving connections and sowing dissensions, had threatened the very ruin of parliamentary government, had created both at home and in the colonies a mass of disaffection which had hardly been equalled since the accession of the House of Brunswick, had brought Parliament into contempt, and was likely, if any great foreign complication arose, to lead the country to overwhelming disaster.
It has often been said that the democratic character which Parliament has in the present century assumed has weakened the Executive, and produced an excessive number of feeble ministries, but in no period of English history was this evil more conspicuous than in the first years of George III. In less than six years England had been ruled by the united ministry of Pitt and Newcastle, by the ministry of Newcastle alone, by the ministry of Bute, by the ministry of Grenville, and afterwards of Grenville and Bedford, and lastly by that of Rockingham. It was of vital importance to establish once more a system of firm and settled government, resting on an undisputed parliamentary ascendency, and secure from the intrigues of royalty and of faction. This could only be done by a coalition of parties, and the natural lines of combination were very clear. On most important points the followers of Grenville and Bedford agreed with the Tories, and the followers of Pitt with the Whigs. Though Grenville and Bedford had lately proscribed Bute, the political affinity was so strong that they actually made overtures to him in 1766, which he rejected with much contempt. On the other hand, the junction of Pitt and his followers with the genuine Whigs would have given that party a decisively popular bias, and would have brought to it all the weight, ability, and popularity that were required to give it a commanding power in the State. Its leaders were for the most part men of upright character and of liberal views, and unusually free from the taint of parliamentary corruption. There was little ability in the party, but Charles Townshend only wanted firm guidance to rise very high, and in the still obscure private secretary of Lord Rockingham the ministry could count upon a follower whose genius never indeed exhibited the meteoric brilliancy or the magnetic and commanding power of that of Pitt, but who far surpassed Pitt and all other English politicians in the range of his knowledge, in the depth and comprehensiveness of his judgment, in the sustained and exuberant splendour of his imagination. On nearly all the great questions that were impending, Pitt agreed with Rockingham; he agreed with him about the cyder tax, about general warrants, about the seizure of papers, about the restoration of the military officers who had been removed from their posts for their votes in Parliament, about the necessity of repealing the Stamp Act. The most serious point of difference was the Declaratory Act asserting the right of the English to tax America. But whatever opinion may be held about its abstract truth, it was the only condition on which the great practical measure of the repeal of the Stamp Act could be carried. The Tories, the Grenvilles, the Bedfords, and the King were all bitterly hostile to the Americans. In the ministry itself the Chancellor, Charles Townshend, and Barrington shared their opinion. Lord Mansfield had privately asserted that as a matter of law the English Parliament had an undoubted right to tax the colonies. Lord Hardwicke was strongly of the same opinion. Public opinion in the country and in Parliament was exasperated by the resistance of America. Considered abstractedly, it would no doubt have been better if the Stamp Act had been simply and unconditionally repealed, but it is doubtful if any ministry could have carried such a measure; it is quite certain that a weak one could not. The Rockingham Ministry was very weak, and it was weak chiefly through the abstinence of Pitt.
He not only repelled on repeated occasions the overtures of the Whig leaders, but he also shook the ministry to its basis. On some questions, it is true, he cordially supported it. He seconded the resolution of Dowdeswell for remodelling the cyder tax, and he spoke with extraordinary force in favour of repealing the Stamp Act. The ministers, with their usual deference, had carefully consulted his wishes about the repeal,1 but he openly declared his want of confidence in them. ‘Confidence,’ he said in a characteristic phrase, ‘is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom; youth is the season of credulity.’
The reasons for his conduct were probably very various. Much must be allowed for a natural character which was morbidly irritable and impracticable, and peculiarly unfit for co-operation with others. ‘Nothing,’ wrote Burke in May 1765, ‘but an intractable temper in your friend Pitt can prevent a most admirable and lasting system from being put together; and this crisis will show whether pride or patriotism be predominant in his character, for you may be assured that he has it now in his power to come into the service of his country upon any plan of politics he may choose to dictate, with great and honourable terms to himself and to every friend he has in the world, and with such a stretch of power as will be equal to everything but absolute despotism over the King and kingdom. A few days will probably show whether he will take this part or that of continuing on his back at Hayes talking fustian.’1 But Pitt, as Lord Hardwicke once said, would ‘neither lead nor be driven.’2 Constant attacks of gout had prostrated his strength, irritated his nerves to an extraordinary degree, and perhaps produced in him a secret desire to postpone as much as possible a return to office. He was courted on all sides, and personal friendships or antipathies greatly governed him. His friendship with Temple was now rapidly dissolving, but Temple had still much influence over his mind, and it had for some time been steadily employed in alienating him from the great body of the Whigs. The old dislike to Newcastle was also still living, and Pitt declared peremptorily that he could never have ‘any confidence in a system where the Duke of Newcastle has influence.’3 The fear was very unreasonable, for the influence of the old duke was nearly gone, and he professed himself ready to take whatever course Pitt required.
There were, however, a few real differences between Pitt and the Rockingham Ministry. On the capital point of American taxation they differed on the question of right, though they agreed on the question of policy. Pitt disliked the free-trade views of Burke, and the more aristocratic Whigs disliked the City agitation which Pitt encouraged. It must be added that the impending dissolution of the Rockingham Ministry would almost necessarily throw the chief power into the hands of Pitt, and he probably miscalculated greatly his power of forming a strong ministry.
He was, however, also actuated by another reason, which drew him closer to the King. As we have already seen,1 from an early period of his career he had rebelled much against the system of party government, and in this respect he sympathised strongly with the doctrines which George III. had imbibed from Bolingbroke. Many expressions in his letters show that his real desire was to remain isolated and unconnected, that he wished to form an administration of able men drawn from every quarter, and that he looked with great dread and irritation to the prospect of family or party influence narrowing ministries as they had been narrowed in the days of Walpole. The cry of the abolition of parties was one which had been raised by the followers of the King at the very beginning of the reign, and it is remarkable that Burke himself, though he became the greatest and most earnest of all the advocates of party government, appears to have listened to it with some momentary favour.2 That Pitt should have felt such sentiments was very natural. Party government in the latter days of George II. had assumed some of its worst forms. The opponents of the dominant party were regarded as the opponents of the dynasty, and disaffection was thus unnaturally and unnecessarily prolonged. In the absence of strong popular influence corrupt family influence had been inordinately increased, and the amount of ability at the disposal of the Crown very unduly limited. It was natural that a statesman who was conscious of unrivalled genius and of unrivalled popularity, and who had at the same time little family influence and but few personal adherents, should have revolted against the constraints imposed by the organisation of the great Whig families. ‘As for my single self,’ he wrote to Newcastle in October 1764, ‘I purpose to continue acting through life upon the best convictions I am able to form, and under the obligation of principles, not by the force of any particular bargains. … I shall go to the House free from stipulations about every question under consideration. … Whatever I think it my duty to oppose or to promote, I shall do it independent of the sentiments of others. … I have little thoughts of beginning the world again upon a new centre of union. … I have no disposition to quit the free condition of a man standing single, and daring to appeal to his country at large upon the soundness of his principles and the rectitude of his conduct.’1 ‘The King's pleasure,’ he wrote towards the end of the Rockingham ministry, ‘and gracious commands alone shall be a call to me. I am deaf to every other thing.’1 ‘As to my future conduct,’ wrote his follower Shelburne to Rockingham, ‘your lordship will pardon me if I say “measures, not men,” will be the rule of it.’2
The propriety of discouraging party distinctions, and endeavouring on every occasion to select in a judicial spirit the best man and the wisest measure irrespective of all other considerations, has so plausible a sound that it will appear to many little less than a truism. No reasonable man will question that party government is at best a highly artificial system—so artificial, indeed, that it is scarcely possible that it can be the final or permanent type of government in civilised nations—and that it has many evils and many dangers. It is a great evil that political questions should be decided by the Legislature on a double or a false issue, each member speaking of their intrinsic merits while he is thinking largely of their relation to the well-being of his party. It is a great evil that politicians should be obliged to conceal, or attenuate, or even deny their genuine convictions when on some particular occasion the course which appears to them the wisest is not that which has been adopted by the leaders of their party. It is a great evil in a country in which at least nine out of ten questions have no real connection with party divisions, that men of the greatest administrative ability should for years be excluded absolutely from the management of affairs, because the organisation to which they have attached themselves is politically the weakest. Party interests often run counter to national interests, and there is then much danger lest party spirit should weaken national affection. It is not easy for an Opposition, in the full ardour of conflict, to look with unmixed pleasure upon national triumphs that are due to the policy of their opponents, or to deplore very bitterly national calamities that may lead their own side speedily to power. The mixture of party with foreign politics has sometimes led to the gravest calamities, and the deep division which party introduces into the councils of a nation has often weakened it seriously in the hour of danger, diminished the amount of talent and energy available for its service, and induced its enemies to underrate greatly its patriotism and its strength. In a perfect government the management of affairs would be placed in the hands of men who were not only eminent for their ability and their integrity, but who also made it their sole object to do what they thought best for their country. No one can fail to observe how widely party government diverges from this ideal by the inevitable introduction of other and lower motives of political action. Even apart from the necessities of co-operation, and from the desire for place and power, the keen competition of parties generates a kind of sporting interest like fox-hunting or horse-racing, which becomes to many the strongest and most absorbing of political passions. Those who are nearest to the arena, those who are brought into closest contact with the chief actors, are naturally the most susceptible to it, and they are very apt to regard politics as little more than a game played by rival leaders, and every measure as merely a good or bad move in the race for power. Party government thus never fails to introduce a large amount of insincerity and unreality into politics. When there are two plausible courses to be pursued, the Government takes the one and the Opposition is almost bound to defend the other. The Government have the advantage of the first choice and the most authentic information. The Opposition have the advantage of a somewhat later experience. Whenever any considerable amount of discontent against the conduct of the Government exists in the country, whether it be reasonable or unreasonable, the Opposition is usually practically obliged to constitute itself its representative and exponent.
The gravity of these evils cannot easily be overestimated. A close observer of English political life can hardly fail to feel how rarely even the greatest intellects can preserve their full sanity of judgment in the fierce excitement of a party conflict, and how dangerous it is that public affairs should in critical moments be administered by men in whom that sanity is in any degree impaired. The transition, too, from opposition to power is, under the system of party government, surrounded with some peculiar difficulties. When a party is in opposition the party element in its policy is usually strongly accentuated. Its leaders must maintain specially, keenly, and vividly the interests and opinions of the particular classes that support it. But once it arrives at power its point of view is widely changed. It inherits and must carry out lines of conduct which it had stubbornly opposed; it must preserve the essential continuity of the national policy; it becomes the representative not merely of one section but of all sections of the people, and while it retains the organisation, it must discard or subdue many of the characteristics of a party. The true spirit in which a statesman should guide the government of his country is not that of a missionary, or an advocate, or an avenger, or an experimentalist, but of a trustee. It is his business to adapt institutions to the wants of men with opinions or in stages of civilisation widely different from his own; to provide for the well-being of systems with which he has no personal sympathy; to protect interests which he never would have created; to carry out engagements into which he never would have entered. Personal and even party ideals can have only a faint and casual influence upon his policy. The spirit of conflict and the sectional habits of thought which party opposition especially develops must be lowered or must disappear. He must cultivate above all things that form of imagination which reproduces habits of thought and feeling widely different from his own, and realises the conditions of the happiness of men in many different circumstances, of many different types and classes, and with many different beliefs.
At the same time, as I have endeavoured to show in a former chapter, party divisions, though in a large degree artificial, have some real or natural basis, and are in some form or measure the inevitable and almost spontaneous products of representative government. Each party usually represents a special theory of government or doctrine or ideal, which more or less colours a great part of political judgments. Each party is the special representative of different class interests, and reflects with some degree of fidelity different types of character and intellect. As long as these differences exist the system of party must grow up; and its political advantages are very great. No other method has ever been devised which is equally efficacious in securing the fidelity of representatives. A man who would have little scruple in changing his opinions if he were an isolated individual, or in yielding to the blandishments or the temptations of power, will be much less likely to abandon an organised body of men to whom he has pledged his allegiance, and to enter formally into new connections or alliances. By pledging successive generations to the advocacy of particular measures or to the attainment of some political ideal, the system of party organisation greatly increases the probability of their ultimate triumph, and it also secures the representation in an organised form of the different opinions and class interests of the nation.
But its chief advantages, and those which make it indispensable in parliamentary government, are that it gives administrations some measure of permanence and stability, and that it places the habitual direction of affairs in the hands of competent leaders. A Government depending for its existence on the isolated and unbiassed judgment of some 600 individuals would be an impossibility. It could never count for a week upon its tenure of office. It could never make an engagement for the future. It could never enter into any course of sustained and continuous policy. In order that a Government should faithfully discharge its functions it must have sufficient stability to surmount difficulties, to brave transient unpopularity, to survive occasional blunders. Even if the House of Commons consisted of the six hundred wisest men, a ministry dependent on so many unconnected judgments would be absolutely unfit to conduct the business of the nation; and the more the actual composition of the House is considered the stronger becomes the argument for disciplined political action. The House of Commons usually contains four or five men of extraordinary statesmanlike genius. It contains, perhaps, eighty or ninety others who, from long parliamentary experience, from the education of county or municipal government, or from natural ability improved by reading, are eminently sound judges in politics, and count among their number many men quite capable of conducting departments of government and defending their policy in Parliament, It contains, also, a few men who, without any general legislative knowledge or capacity, are able, from the circumstances of their lives, to throw great light on special subjects, such as agriculture, military organisation, navigation, the money market, or the condition of India or the colonies. There are also a large number of lawyers who are authorities on technical questions of law, but whose general habits of thought and reasoning are essentially unpolitical, whose time and studies are mainly devoted to another sphere, who usually regard the House of Commons simply as a stepping-stone to professional promotion, but who, on account of their practice in speaking, and of that freedom from diffidence which is a characteristic of their profession, are thrown into an unfortunate prominence. But the great majority of members are perfectly incompetent to conduct independently legislative business, or to form opinions of any value on the many intricate and momentous questions submitted to them. There are landlords or sons of landlords brought into the House on account of the importance of their properties or of their local popularity, who have never made the smallest study of the political conditions of the country, or of the general principles that underlie political questions, who value the House as a pleasant club, and their legislative functions as giving them an honorary leadership in their counties. There are manufacturers the spring and summer of whose days have been wholly spent in amassing wealth, and who, having succeeded in business and obtained the influence which naturally belongs to great employers of labour, aspire in their old age to such social consequence as Parliament can afford. There are place-hunters, demagogues and intriguers whose sole object is to push their fortunes, and who are ready to spread their sails to any breeze, and to adopt any cause which, is conducive to their interests. And this strangely composite assembly has to decide not only questions of home and domestic policy, but also questions of foreign policy of the most delicate description, questions on which accurate and extensive knowledge of circumstances and conditions wholly unlike those of England is imperatively necessary, questions on which the promptest and most decisive action is often required. To suppose that a Government dependent on this great mass of unguided, incompetent, and sometimes dishonest judgments, can act under such circumstances with the requisite intelligence and firmness, or can command the respect and confidence of foreign Governments, is absurd. The sole way of enabling a popular assembly to exercise supreme power with safety is to divide it into great, coherent, disciplined party organisations. When such organisations exist, they will necessarily be directed by the ablest men, who become responsible for their guidance, who can count upon the habitual support of a large body of followers, and who therefore represent a permanent, calculable force in the political world.
These considerations apply to every case in which a Parliament is the most powerful body in the State, though it must be acknowledged that they have a still greater force in our own day than they had under George III. Parliament is now a much larger body. The Irish union added 105 members, and the average attendance of English and Scotch has also been greatly increased. Under the old system so many members had small constituencies completely under their control, and even in large constituencies the means of supervision were so scanty, that a very large proportion of members were usually absent, and public business was practically conducted by a comparatively small body. At the same time, while the average parliamentary attendance has been greatly raised, there has been no corresponding elevation of the average of parliamentary ability. Besides this, under the old system, members who were elected were at least free to exercise their judgments. Now great bodies of uneducated constituents, newspaper writers, demagogues, local agitators, are perpetually interfering with each question as it arises, and putting pressure on the judgment of the representatives. Questions of the most difficult foreign policy, involving consequences of the most various, intricate, and far-reaching nature, are treated in great popular agitations by multitudes who have no real feeling of political responsibility, and no detailed and minute knowledge of the subjects on which they are pronouncing. If the domestic and still more the foreign policy of the country is to be at the mercy of these violent gusts of ignorant, irresponsible, interested agitation, nothing but ruin can be predicted; and it is only the firm coherence of party organisation that gives statesmen the power of resisting them. It must be added, too, that Parliament encroaches much more than formerly on the province of the Executive, and meddles much more habitually in the details of measures. For these reasons parties appear to me not merely expedient but absolutely necessary, if the House of Commons is to retain its present position in the State. A House of Commons without clearly defined parties might exist, but it could not be safely entrusted with the virtual government of the country.
It is easy to maintain the discipline of party organisations when they represent a clear division of principles and measures. It is much more difficult in periods of political languor, when there is no pressing question at issue, when the old grounds of controversy have been exhausted and new ones have not yet arisen, and when the keenest observers of political conflicts can detect but little real difference of principle or even of tendency, At such times the true function of the party in opposition is to restrain the Government from isolated mistakes, to expose such mistakes when they are committed; and if through blunders or personal unpopularity the Government has fallen into discredit, to be prepared to take its place and to carry on the administration on the same general lines, but with greater dexterity of management. This is the contingency for which under such circumstances an Opposition should wait. The great majority of the mistakes of governments are at all times unconnected with party principles, and a body whose function is to criticise and prevent them is discharging a duty of the first importance. No doctrine in modern politics is more mischievous than that an Opposition is bound to justify its separate existence by showing that it differs on broad questions of principle and policy from the party in power. Among the greatest dangers of modern constitutional governments is the temptation presented to Oppositions to go about looking for a cry, seeking for party purposes to force on changes for which there is no real and spontaneous demand.
Although public opinion was quite ripe for some measures of reform, the lines of political division in the first years of George III. were strangely confused, and party had in a great degree degenerated into faction. There was little of the natural union of politicians through community of political principles and aims; but there were several distinct groups united through purely personal motives—through attachment to a particular nobleman, or a desire to secure for particular families a monopoly of power. As long as a very large proportion both of the county and borough votes were at the command of a few great noblemen, who were closely connected by relationship or friendship, it was inevitable that this form of influence should prevail in Parliament; and the evil lay not in the existence but in the great multiplication of these groups, and in the purely personal motives that usually actuated them. The first great object should have been to draw a distinct line of policy according to which these scattered fragments might be combined. The temptation of politicians in popular governments is to outrun, but in oligarchical governments to lag behind, genuine public opinion; and there were questions of the gravest and most pressing kind which had long been calling for the attention of the legislators. Such were the inadequacy of the popular element and the gross and notorious corruption in Parliament, and the appearance within its walls of an organised Court party distinct from the party of administration. By pressing these questions, all statesmen would soon be obliged to take a side, and it was probable that the excessive subdivision of parties would speedily disappear.
This was very much the policy which was advocated by Burke as the spokesman of the Rockingham Whigs. He maintained that the habit of systematic co-operation between politicians was to be encouraged rather than discouraged; that the personal attachments and connections which cemented it were very useful in government, but that it was necessary, in the face of the mass of discontent which was smouldering in the nation, and of the growing corruption and inefficiency of Parliament, that each party should have a distinct line of policy. As time went on, these lines, as we shall see, became clearer and clearer; and the writings of Burke probably contributed more than any other single influence to define them. Pitt, on the other hand, while loudly proclaiming the necessity of strengthening the popular element in Parliament, imagined it to be both possible and useful to break up absolutely the small bodies which had grown up around the great families. He regarded with some reason the selfishness, the incapacity, the intrigues, and the jealousies of the great nobles as the main cause of the weakness, anarchy, and corruption of recent English politics. He imagined that by selecting subordinate ministers from men of the most various factions he might, with the assistance of the King, dissolve these factions, subdue all serious opposition, and by the ascendency of his own genius, character, and popularity, give a firm and consistent movement to the administration.1
In accordance with these principles, the new ministry was formed of politicians drawn from the most opposite quarters and encumbered by the most opposite antecedents. Some of them were men of great ability and position; but they were men who in the divisions that had grown out of the Wilkes case, and out of the Stamp Act, had recently pursued the most divergent courses, and who in many instances had shown a strange vacillation of character and opinion. The King's friends mustered strongly in the lower offices, and they also held several posts of commanding importance. Lord Northington exchanged the Chancellorship for the post of President of the Council, and as the new office was somewhat less lucrative than the former one he obtained in addition the grant of a pension of 4,000l. a year, from the time he quitted office, as well as a reversion of Clerk of the Hanaper for two lives. Lord Barrington was still Secretary of War. Charles Townshend, whose support of the policy of taxing America was no secret, was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord North, who had for some time been rising to notice as one of the ablest defenders of the Court policy about Wilkes and about America, was made Joint Paymaster of the Forces. His colleague, George Cooke, is said never to have even spoken to him till they were united in the same office. Side by side with them sat the new Chancellor, Lord Camden, who in the Wilkes case and in the case of America had identified himself with the most popular opinions. Conway, who in the last ministry had introduced and carried the repeal of the Stamp Act, was induced to abandon the Rockingham party and retain his old office of Secretary of State. Shelburne and Barré, who were now closely attached to Pitt, and who had distinguished themselves by their uncompromising opposition to American taxation, were both in the ministry, the first as Secretary of State, the second as a Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. Lord Granby was made Commander-in-Chief. The head of the Treasury would naturally have fallen to Pitt, but he emphatically refused it. He felt, as the result showed with too good reason, that his health made him wholly unfit for a post of great official duty, and, though the real head of the Government, he held only the almost sinecure office of Privy Seal. The Duke of Grafton, who had so recently revolted against Rockingham, was made First Lord of the Treasury. When only twenty-four, Grafton had been Groom of the Stole to George III. when he was the Prince of Wales, and his courtly manners, as well as a certain ductility of principles, had made him peculiarly acceptable to the King, but had not secured him from being deprived of the lord-lieutenancy of his county for his opposition to the peace. His great position, his very considerable powers of speech, and the unbounded admiration he professed for Pitt, explained his promotion; but he hated business, he was passionately devoted to field sports, and he had neither the industry nor the firmness that were required for the head of a Government.
In this strangely incoherent ministry Temple had no place. His influence over his brother-in-law had during the last few months been most disastrously displayed; but the relations between them had been rapidly becoming strained. They differed about the Stamp Act; for Temple on this question agreed with his brother George Grenville. They differed about Wilkes; for Pitt, though condemning the legal proceedings of which he was the object, never concealed his contempt for that demagogue. They differed in party politics; for Temple was now steadily gravitating towards Grenville. At the same time, the popularity which he had lately enjoyed on account of his connection with Wilkes had raised his pretensions to the highest point. Pitt offered to place him at the head of the Treasury; but refused to grant him an equal share in nominating to the other posts. Temple was bitterly offended, broke off the conference in anger, and began to inspire virulent libels against his brother-in-law. In an anonymous pamphlet on the other side there occurred a phrase which was much noticed for its happiness of expression, and in which critics imagined that they could trace the hand of Pitt: ‘Had Lord Temple not fastened himself upon Mr. Pitt's train, he might have crept out of life with as little notice as he crept in, and gone off with no other degree of credit than that of adding a single unit to the bills of mortality.’ The secession of Temple contributed, indeed, to make the Government more popular with the King; it relieved Pitt from one of his worst advisers, but the whole Grenville connection were now united in opposition.
Much more fatal to the ministry was the news that Pitt was resolved to abandon the House of Commons, and, as Earl of Chatham, to take his seat among the Lords. His promotion to the peerage was the necessary consequence of his acceptance of the post of Privy Seal, as that office was always held by a peer,1 and it was probably due to a well-founded conviction that his health was so broken and his nervous system so shattered that it was simply impossible for him to conduct public business in the House of Commons. But he soon found, as Pulteney had found before, how ruinous such an honour may be to a popular statesman. The main secret of his unrivalled influence over the people was the conviction that he owed his power to their favour; that in the midst of the corruption of an essentially aristocratic Government he was the great representative of the democracy of England. His pension had for a time obscured his popularity; but it soon returned, and his unrivalled influence in the House of Commons was unshaken. But now, at last, the spell was broken. The revulsion of feeling was immediate and irrevocable. The City, where he had lately been idolised, refused to present an address. The lamps which had already been placed around the Monument, for an illumination in honour of his return to office, were at once removed. Shorn of the popularity which had been the chief element of his power, he passed into an assembly which was eminently uncongenial to his eloquence, while in the House of Commons Charles Townshend alone was able to encounter Grenville and Burke; and Townshend, in spite of his extraordinary abilities, had all the vanity of a woman and all the levity of a child. ‘The City,’ wrote Sir Robert Wilmot, ‘have brought in their verdict of felo de se against William, Earl of Chatham.’2 ‘I wish,’ wrote Chesterfield to his son, ‘I could send you all the pamphlets and half-sheets that swarm here upon the occasion; but that is impossible, for every week would make a ship's cargo. It is certain that Mr. Pitt has by his dignity of Earl lost the greater part of his popularity, especially in the City; and I believe the Opposition will be very strong, and perhaps prevail next session in the House of Commons, there being now nobody there who has the authority and ascendency over them that Pitt had.’1
At every step the difficulties of Chatham increased. He had at all times remarkably few personal adherents. In one of his conversations in 1762 he represented himself as so isolated in Parliament that he had no one except the Clerk to speak to; and just before his second ministry he described himself, with the gross bad taste into which he occasionally fell, as ‘standing like our first parents, naked, but not ashamed.’ The politicians whose opinions in general agreed the best with his own were those who were attached to Rockingham, and he wished, while breaking up the Rockingham organisation, to retain the services of the chief members of the party. Rockingham appears to have acted with great moderation. He advised those of his followers who were not removed by Chatham to remain in office, and many great noblemen of the connection accordingly remained in posts which were chiefly honorary. But after the conduct of Chatham during the late ministry cordial co-operation was impossible. Chatham visited Rockingham; but the latter positively refused to see him.2 Dowdeswell, whose financial capacity was very considerable, and who was much respected in the House of Commons, was strongly pressed to join the Government, either as President of the Board of Trade or as Joint Paymaster, but he absolutely refused.3 Edmund Burke, whose splendid genius was rising rapidly above the horizon, might have had a seat at the Board of Trade; but he remained faithful to his leader and to his party.1
It was unfortunate, too, that the ministry was formed at a period of great and general distress. The harvest had been unusually bad; the price of corn rose with ominous rapidity. In every part of England bread riots took place. Flour mills were destroyed; corn, bread, and other necessaries were in many places seized by the populace and sold at low prices, and several lives were lost in the western counties in collisions between the soldiers and the mob. The gaols were filled with prisoners, and discontent was wide and bitter. The Government, according to the unwise custom of the time, issued a proclamation in September 1766 for putting in force an old statute against forestallers, regraters, and engrossers of corn; and this measure proving ineffectual, they thought it necessary to prohibit the export of corn. By an Act of Charles II. corn might be legally exported from England as long as the home price was under 53s. 4d. a quarter, and this limit had not yet been attained; but as the price was rapidly rising, and as famine was approaching, the ministers thought it necessary to anticipate the legal period of prohibition. The proper machinery for effecting this was, of course, an Act of Parliament. But Parliament was not sitting, and there were serious objections to summoning it as quickly as might be required. Under these circumstances, an Order of Council was issued laying an embargo on corn. The act was obviously beyond the law; but under ordinary circumstances it would probably have excited little comment, for it was called forth by a grave, pressing, and acknowledged necessity, and Parliament was perfectly ready to ratify what was done. Chatham, in a very reasonable and moderate speech, and in language which was perfectly constitutional, defended it as ‘an act of power justifiable before Parliament on the ground of necessity;’ but Northington contended that under such circumstances the proclamation was legally as well as morally justifiable, and Camden added that, at worst, the measure was ‘but a forty days' tyranny.’ Mansfield at once saw his advantage, and, assuming the position of the champion of law against prerogative, he answered with crushing force.
In the Commons the debates were even more damaging to the ministry. Beckford, who was one of the most intimate friends of Chatham, and who was sometimes put forward to speak in his name, declared that ‘if the public was in danger, the King has a dispensing power, with the advice of the Council, whenever the salus populi requires it.’ It is not probable that he meant anything very different from what would now be generally acknowledged, that extreme cases sometimes arise in which it is the duty, and therefore the right, of ministers, at their own peril, and subject to the subsequent judgment of Parliament, to set aside the law; but his expressions were plainly inaccurate, and they might be easily construed into a revival of the dispensing doctrine of the Stuarts. Grenville moved that the words should be taken down, and Beckford was ultimately obliged to retract them. A Bill was brought in by Conway to indemnify those who acted under the proclamation; but Grenville maintained that the act of indemnity must include the ministers who advised as well as the officials who acted under the proclamation. The ministers accepted this correction, and Chatham especially recommended that the Act should be ‘made as strong as possible;’ but the whole transaction raised a great deal of angry and exaggerated outcry against his administration.1
It was evidently necessary to strengthen it, but no minister was ever less fitted than Chatham to conciliate opponents or to perform the delicate functions of party management. His colleagues complained that he consulted no one in his nominations, that he took the most important steps without their knowledge, that they were often wholly ignorant of the policy he designed. The letters of his opponents were full of complaints of ‘the hauteur with which Lord Chatham treats all mankind;’ of ‘the disgust which extended very wide among the principal families of the kingdom;’ of ‘the insolent behaviour of the minister to the first nobility of the kingdom.’ Continually harassed by the conflicting pretensions of titled beggars, whose sole merit lay in their properties and their names, he met them with a pride which was beyond the pride of birth or wealth, and he made personal enemies at every step. In the House of Commons the Government was especially weak. When Charles Townshend brought forward his first budget, Grenville and Dowdeswell combined to reduce the land-tax from 4s. to 3s. in the pound, and by the assistance of the county members they carried their motion by a majority of 18. This is said to have been the first instance since the Revolution of a minister being defeated on a money Bill, and it is a significant illustration of the declining popularity of Chatham, that on this occasion ‘most of those who had county or popular elections' were united against him.’2
The attempt to withdraw single politicians from their several connections signally failed. Overtures were made to the Bedford faction, but the Duke, whom Chatham had recently endeavoured to drive out of all active politics, would only join if he had the disposal of so many places that he would have become virtually the director of the Government, and the negotiation, to the great delight of the King, accordingly failed. In the course of it, Chatham wished to appoint a partisan of the Duke of Bedford Treasurer of the Council, and Lord Mount Edgcumbe, who held that post, was asked to exchange it for the post of Lord of the Bedchamber. He refused, and was summarily dismissed, and the Government thus lost the support of the patron of four boroughs not long before a general election, and once more mortally affronted the whole Rockingham connection. In November and December 1766, the administration seemed in a state of complete dissolution. The Duke of Portland, the Earls of Besborough and Scarborough, Lord Monson, Sir C. Saunders, Sir W. Meredith, and Admiral Keppel, resigned, and Conway was only prevented with extreme difficulty from following their example. A few scattered politicians—the most remarkable being Sir E. Hawke—were induced to fill the void, but a new negotiation with the Duke of Bedford ended only in a violent altercation. The ministry had neither the strength which grows out of popularity nor the strength which grows out of interest. ‘There is still a little twilight of popularity,’ wrote Burke, ‘remaining round the great peer, but it fades away every moment.’1 ‘One thing,’ wrote Charlemont to Flood, ‘appears very extraordinary, if not indecent—no member of the Opposition speaks without directly abusing Lord Chatham, and no friend ever rises to take his part. …. Never was known such disunion, such a want of concert as visibly appears on both sides. How it will end Heaven only knows.’1 ‘Such a state of affairs,’ wrote Chesterfield, after the resignation of the Rockingham section of the ministry, ‘was never before seen in this or any other country. When this ministry shall be settled, it will be the sixth in six years' time.’2
Alarming intelligence had been received of renewed war preparations in France, and Chatham resolved to guard against the danger that was still apprehended from the Family Compact, by a great northern alliance of England, Prussia, and Russia. Frederick, however, resented bitterly the desertion of England in the last war, and he utterly refused the alliance. Of Chatham personally he spoke with respect and admiration, but professed himself entirely sceptical about the continuance of his power and popularity since he had accepted a peerage. Frederick had now entered into a close and separate connection with Russia, and was wholly alienated from England, while Russia would only accept the alliance if it were made to extend to a Turkish war.3 ‘One thing I feel,’ wrote that experienced diplomatist, Sir Andrew Mitchell, ‘that the late frequent changes in England have created a degree of diffidence in foreign Powers which renders all negotiation with them difficult and disagreeable.’4
The Government could thus point to no great triumph of policy to counterbalance its internal weakness. A project was indeed entertained of withdrawing the great dominions which had been conquered in Hindostan from the control of a mere mercantile company, placing them under the direct dominion of the Crown, and diverting to the public treasury the territorial as distinguished from the mercantile revenues. Clive had at one time suggested this measure, though he afterwards appears to have opposed it.1 Chatham attached very great importance to it, and Shelburne entered cordially into his views, but a parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the Company was the only step of importance that was taken before Chatham was hopelessly incapacitated by illness. It was moved in the Commons in November 1766, and it was characteristic of Chatham that he entrusted the motion, not to any of the responsible ministers of the Crown, but to Beckford, one of the vainest and most hot-headed of the City politicians. The inquiry was ordered by a large majority, in spite of the opposition of the Grenvilles and the Rockinghams; but Charles Townshend, while supporting it, took occasion to say, in direct opposition to the leading principle of Chatham, that ‘he believed the Company had a right to territorial revenue.’2 Townshend was already intriguing against his chief, speaking openly against him in private circles, and probably aspiring to the position of Prime Minister, and he soon after more openly raised the standard of revolt by declaring his full sympathy with the policy of taxing America.
The Government was steadily becoming a Tory Government. Separated from the Grenville connection, from the Bedford connection, and from the Rockingham connection, the King's friends were necessarily its chief support. The King was gratified by the restoration of Mr. Stuart Mackenzie, the brother of Bute, to the post from which Grenville had so imperiously thrust him, subject, however, to the condition that he was to exercise no political power.1 Lord Northumberland, the brother-in-law of Bute, was thrown into paroxysms of fury because another nobleman had been preferred to him as Master of the Horse, but he was pacified by a dukedom;2 and, to the astonishment and indignation of many of the old followers of Chatham, most of the vacant places were filled up by Tories. The power of the Government rested upon the extreme division of its opponents, and upon the firm union which was again established between the ministry and the Court. Each of these possessed so great an influence over elections and over members of Parliament that they could seldom fail when united to command a majority. The defeat of the Government on the land-tax was chiefly due to a surprise and to the selfish interests of the county members, but in most cases the Government, even when much divided, discredited, and out-debated, could count upon large majorities in the House of Commons. In critical divisions abstentions were very numerous, and one or other section of the Opposition usually left the House.3
The clouds darkened more and more. The health of Chatham, which was now of such capital importance, rapidly gave way. In the very first month of his administration he had been prostrated with fever,4 and it soon became evident that he could exercise no steady direction over affairs. From October 1766 till the following March, he was at Bath, but was able to keep up some correspondence with his colleagues, but immediately on his return his disease appeared to settle mainly on his nerves. For some time it had been evident to close observers that his mind was gravely disordered. In public this was shown by the extraordinary and ungovernable arrogance with which he treated almost every leading politician with whom he came in contact; by the strange outbursts of wild rhodomontade that defaced some of his noblest speeches; by the unbridled fury with which he often resented the slightest opposition. In private the symptoms were still more unequivocal. The legacy of Sir W. Pynsent had made him a rich man, but it was wholly insufficient for the extravagant expenses into which he now plunged. He bought up all the residences around Hayes and around his London house in order to free himself from neighbours. He ordered great plantations at Hayes, and pushed on the works with such feverish haste that it was necessary to continue them by torchlight throughout the night. He could not bear to have his children under the same roof, and could not tolerate the slightest noise. He sold Hayes and removed to Pynsent, where he insisted on covering a barren hill with cedars and cypresses, which were brought at enormous expense from London. A constant succession of chickens were boiling or roasting in his kitchen at every hour of the day, as his appetite was altogether uncertain, and when he desired to gratify it his temper could not brook the smallest delay. He soon grew tired of Pynsent, began to pine after Hayes, and at last, with great difficulty, Lady Chatham succeeded in repurchasing it for him. About nine months after he came to power his health wholly gave way. A gloomy and mysterious malady affecting his nerves and his mind, rendered him incapable of any mental exertion, of any political intercourse, of enduring even the faintest noise, of transacting the most ordinary business, and in this state he continued with little intermission from March 1767 for more than two years.1
The Government fell at once into complete anarchy. The spell of the name of Chatham was still so great that he was kept at the head of affairs, but he was unable to take the smallest part in counsel or debate. Sometimes in the height of his malady he was seen taking exercise out of doors,2 but he could bear no discussion, he could make no mental effort. The King vainly asked an interview of but a quarter of an hour. He wrote letter after letter full of the kindest consideration, imploring him to see Grafton, if it were but for five minutes. He represented to him that the Government majority in the Lords was one day only six, and another only three; that Shelburne was plotting against his colleagues; that Townshend was in open enmity with Grafton; that Conway had already announced his intention of resigning; that the Grenvilles, the Rockinghams, and the Bedfords were united in their efforts to storm the closet, while they confessed that they were far too divided to form an administration. The answers received by the hand of Lady Chatham were always in substance the same.
‘Such was the state of Lord Chatham's health that his Majesty must not expect from him any further advice or assistance.’ ‘He is overwhelmed with affliction still to find that the continuance in extreme weakness of nerves renders it impossible for him to flatter himself with being able soon to present himself before his Majesty. He is as yet utterly incapable of the smallest effort.’ He had no wish to continue in a post the duties of which he was unable to discharge, and he again and again implored the King to accept his resignation; but, broken and in some respects discredited as he was, his same was still the one support of the Government. The King implored him to remain; Grafton, Camden, and Shelburne wrote urgently to the same effect. On one occasion Grafton obtained an interview with him, but he found him completely prostrated with nervous weakness and depression, and was able to extract from him little more than an entreaty to remain at his post, and the general advice to strengthen the ministry by some coalition; if possible, by a junction with the Bedford party.1
That ministry was now indeed the strangest spectacle of confusion. As Charlemont said, it ‘was divided into as many parties as there were men in it.’ During the latter part of 1767 and some months of 1768 it continued in a condition of chronic fluctuation, perpetual negotiations and intrigues going on between the different fractions of the ministry and the different sections of the Opposition. Every leading Whig statesman took part in them, and in the course of them we for the last time find in public affairs the names of the old Duke of Newcastle and of Lord Holland. Without describing them in detail, it may be sufficient to relate the most important changes. In September 1767 Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons, died, and Lord North became Chancellor of the Exchequer. A few months later the Bedford faction effected a junction with the Government. The Duke, indeed, declined office, but Gower, Sandwich, Weymouth, and Rigby were introduced into the ministry, while Northington and Conway retired.1
In January 1768 Lord Hillsborough, whose sympathies were with the Tory party, was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies, and in October Shelburne, who was now one of the most trusted adherents of Chatham, was almost forced to resign. Shelburne had become obnoxious both to the King, the Bedford faction, and the Duke of Grafton. He utterly differed from the pacific policy of the Government, and he would have resisted by force the acquisition of Corsica by France. He now went with his follower Colonel Barré into opposition. Lord Camden, the Chancellor, was at variance with all the other members of the Cabinet, and remained for long periods absent from its meetings. The Duke of Grafton, the nominal Prime Minister, was outvoted on some of the most important questions, and desired only to resign. In July 1767 he had told the King that he could not continue at the head of the Treasury under existing circumstances, that he had accepted the foremost place merely for the sake of acting under Chatham, and not with any intention of being First Minister himself, and that unless Chatham was able and willing to grasp the helm he was resolved to retire.1 He was persuaded with difficulty to continue in office if Conway remained, and then again to continue when Conway resigned, but he was fully conscious that he was unfit for his post, and incapable of controlling the discordant elements of the Government. He gave full rein to his feelings of disgust and of indolence, and remained for long periods in the country, only going once a week to London to discharge his duties as First Minister of the Crown.2
On every important question it touched, the ministry which was formed by Chatham pursued a course opposed to the policy of its chief. Beyond all other English statesmen Chatham had been jealous of French power, conspicuous in denouncing the attempt to tax America, and fearless in the assertion of popular rights. His colleagues during the season of his prostration permitted France to obtain possession of Corsica, revived the disloyalty of America by imposing duties on certain goods imported into the colonies, and flung the country into a paroxysm of agitation by maintaining that the simple vote of the House of Commons was sufficient to disqualify Wilkes. They also justly aroused great indignation by a measure which was regarded as a flagrant violation of personal property for political purposes. Sir James Lowther, the son-in-law of Bute, a man of immense wealth and political influence in Cumberland and Westmoreland, but whose violence, arrogance, despotism, and caprice rose almost to the point of madness,1 was engaged in a fierce political contest in those counties with the Duke of Portland, the head of the most important family of the Opposition. The property of Portland had been granted by the Crown, and Sir James Lowther discovered that a certain district containing many freemen, which had been for two generations in the undisputed possession of the Portland family, was not distinctly specified in the grant. Availing himself of the legal maxim that no lapse of time can destroy the rights of the Crown or of the Church, Lowther disputed the title of the Duke to this portion of his property, and obtained from the Crown the lease of the lands for himself. The notorious object of this transaction was the transfer of a few votes from the Opposition to the Government, and it appeared peculiarly iniquitous, for the latter refused to give the Duke of Portland access to the collection of grants in the office of the Surveyor-General, which might have enabled him to defend his rights.2 Even among the supporters of the ministry it produced grave discontent, and it led to the Nullum Tempus Bill, which, though thrown out by the influence of Lord North in 1768, was carried without opposition in the following year, and secured landowners from all dormant claims on the part of the Crown after an undisputed possession of sixty years.
The ministry of Chatham had been warmly supported by the King, for Chatham had thrown himself cordially into the King's great object, the destruction of the previous system of government by party or by connection. ‘I know,’ wrote the King on the day he signed the warrant creating his minister an earl, ‘the Earl of Chatham will zealously give his aid towards destroying all party distinctions and restoring that subordination to government which can alone preserve that inestimable blessing, liberty, from degenerating into licentiousness;’1 and in another letter he described ‘the very end proposed at the formation of the present administration’ as being ‘to root out the present method of parties banding together.’2 The patience and consideration with which the King acted towards Chatham during his illness forms one of the brightest pages of his reign, and for some time there was a cordial union between the Court and the Executive. The introduction of the Bedford faction into the Government was contrary to the wishes of the King, but he appears to have recognised the necessity. His objections to this faction were rather personal than political, and the condition of the Government was at this time extremely favourable to his designs. A feeble, uncertain, and wavering ministry, without any efficient head, and paralysed by the dissensions of its most important members, gave rare facilities for the exercise of his influence. Several of the ministers were personally attached to him. The discipline and unity of action of the King's friends gave them an overwhelming power amid the disintegration of parties. Bute, whose personal unpopularity and incapacity had greatly weakened the royal cause, was now wholly removed from politics,3 and in the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord North, the King had found a parliamentary leader who was prepared to accept office under the conditions he required, and who was in almost every respect pre-eminently fitted to represent his views.
The son of the Earl of Guilford, Lord North had entered Parliament in 1754, had accepted a lordship of the Treasury under Pitt in 1759, had been removed from office by Rockingham in 1765, and had again come into office with Pitt as Joint Paymaster of the Forces. He belonged, however, to none of the Whig parties, and he possessed in the highest degree that natural leaning towards authority which was most pleasing to the King. Since the beginning of the reign there had been no arbitrary or unpopular measure which he had not defended. He supported the Cyder Act of Bute and opposed its repeal. He moved the expulsion of Wilkes. He was one of the foremost advocates of general warrants in every stage of the controversy. He defended the Stamp Act. He bitterly resisted its repeal. He defeated for a time the attempt to secure the property of the subject from the dormant claims of the Crown. Most of the measures which he advocated in the long course of his ministry were proved by the event to be disastrous and foolish, but he possessed an admirable good sense in the management of details, and he had many of the qualities that lead to eminence both in the closet and in Parliament. His ungainly form, his harsh tones, his slow and laboured utterance, his undisguised indolence, furnished a ready theme for ridicule, but his private character was wholly unblemished. No statesman ever encountered the storms of political life with a temper which it was more difficult to ruffle or more impossible to embitter. His almost unfailing tact, his singularly quick and happy wit, and his great knowledge of business, and especially of finance,1 made him most formidable as a debater, while his sweet and amiable disposition gave him some personal popularity even in the most disastrous moments of his career. Partly through political principle and partly through weakness of character he continually subordinated his own judgment to that of the King, and carried out with greatly superior abilities a policy not very different from that of Bute. The growing power of North drew the King more closely to his ministers, and he cordially adopted their views on the two great questions on which English politics were now chiefly concentrated. These questions were the Middlesex election and the renewed taxation of America.
Locke, On Government, book ii, ch. xiii. See, too, Hallam's Const. Hist. ch. xiii. O'Connell once drew up a legal argument to prove that it was within the prerogative of the Crown to restore the Irish Parliament by its sole action. See O'Neil Daunt's Personal Recollections of O'Connell, ch, xvi.
See e.g. Lord Waldegrave's Memoirs, p. 53. Walpole's Memoirs of George II. ii. 204, 205.
See the calculations in Discontents. Burke's Causes of the Present Discontents.
May's Const. Hist. i. 206.
Adolphus, Hist. of George III. i. 12.
Blackstone, book i. ch. vii.
‘The Pretender continues to be perpetually drunk; the other day he forced a Cordelier to drink with him as long as he possibly could. At last the friar made his escape, which the other resented so much that he fired with ball from the window at him. He missed him, but killed a cow that was passing by.’ Mr. Stanley to Pitt.—Grenville Papers, i. 366. In another letter Stanley says: ‘The Pretender's eldest son is drunk as soon as he rises, and is always senselessly so at night, when his servants carry him to bed. He is not thought of even by the exiles.’—Chatham Corresp. ii. 128.
After his resignation Pitt said: ‘He lay under great obligations to many gentlemen who had been of the denomination of Tories, but who during his share of the administration had supported Government upon the principles of Whiggism and of the Revolution.’—Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 150. ‘The country gentlemen deserted their hounds and their horses, preferring for once their parliamentary duty … and displayed their banner for Pitt.’—Glover's Memoirs, p. 97; see, too, p. 115. Walpole speaks of Pitt's ‘known design of uniting, that was breaking, all parties.’—Memoirs of George III. i. 15.
Memoirs of George III. i. 16.
‘During the last two reigns a set of undertakers have farmed the power of the Crown at a price certain; and under colour of making themselves responsible for the whole have taken the sole direction of the royal interest and influence into their own hands and applied it to their own creatures without consulting the Crown or leaving any room for the royal nomination or direction.’—Lord Melcombe to Bute. Adolphus, i. 24.
The term ‘King's friends,’ as a distinction for a particular class of politicians, if not invented, was at least adopted by Bute. See a letter from him (March 25, 1763).—Grenville Papers, ii. 32, 33.
Walpole's George III. i. 54. Wilkes in private conversations said that the ‘distinction which has been supposed to exist between the friends of the King and the friends of the minister originated in the councils of Lord Bath.’—Butler's Reminiscences, i. 74. ‘This project,’ said Burke, ‘I have heard was first conceived by some persons in the Court of Frederick Prince of Wales.’—Thoughts on the Present Discontents.
Burke, Observations on the State of the Nation.
See the curious account of Sir G. Colebrooke. Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 80–82.
Walpole says Bute was admitted into the Cabinet (i. 8), but it is, I think, evident that he only means the Privy Council. The same distinction was given at the same time to the Duke of York. Compare Walpole's Letters to Montagu and to Mann, October 28, 1760. Hist. of the late Minority, pp. 10, 11. Adolphus, i. 11. Annual Register, 1760, p. 142.
Walpole's George III. i. 10, 12.
According to Lord Hardwicke, Bute ‘availed himself with much art and finesse of the dissensions between the Duke of Newcastle and Mr. Pitt, and played off one against the other occasionally till he had got rid of the popular minister.’—Rockingham's Memoirs, i. 6, 7. See, too, pp. 8–10, and Dodington's Diary, Dec. 27, 1760.
‘For the King himself, he seems all goodnature and wishing to satisfy everybody; all his speeches are obliging; I was surprised to find the levee room had lost so entirely the air of the lion's den. This sovereign don't stand in one spot with his eyes fixed royally on the ground and dropping bits of German news; he walks about and speaks to everybody. I saw him afterwards on the throne, where he is graceful and genteel, sits with dignity and reads his answers to addresses well,’—Walpole to Montagu, Nov. 13, 1760. See, too, the Letters of the first Earl of Malmesbury, i. 82.
Pitt seems to have especially resented it, and it is said to have been the first cause of his enmity to Bute.—Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 232.
Parl. Hist. xv. 982–986.
Stephens' Life of Horne Tooke, i. 61. Junius talks of the King having ‘affectedly renounced the name of Englishman,’—Letter to the King.
See Townsend's Hist. of the House of Commons, ii. 51.
Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, v. 295, 296.
He was accused of taking money in private causes from both sides, and availing himself of the information communicated on one side in advocating the opposite. See Walpole's George III. i. 240. Junius's Letters, 39.
Dodington's Diary, Nov. 1760.
See the very curious letters published in the Life of Barrington by his brother the Bishop of Durham, pp. 79, 99, 103-105.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 61–64. Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 41, 42. Dodington's Diary, Feb. 2. 1761.
See on the feeling of Bute towards Pitt a letter of the Duke of Newcastle.—Bedford Correspondence, iii. 19.
Parl. Hist. xv. 1000–1006.
See Bedford Correspondence, iii. 22–29.
In Dodington's Diary, Jan. 2, 1761, there is a report of a conversation he had with Bute on the prospects of the peace. Bute said ‘the ministry neither were nor could be united; that the Duke of Newcastle most sincerely wished for peace, and would go any length to obtain it; that Mr. Pitt meditated a retreat and would stay in no longer than the war.’
Annual Register, 1761, p. 83. Chatham Correspondence, ii. 100, 101. Walpole to Montagu, March 19, 1761. See, too, Adolphus's Hist. of England, i. 571, 572.
Adolphus, i. 100.
See the letter of Newcastle to Lord Hardwicke, April 15, 1761. Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 23, 24.
The earlier stages of this negotiation may be traced in the letters between Grimaldi and Fuentes, the Spanish ambassadors at Paris and London, in Jan., Feb. and March 1761. Chatham Correspondence, vol. ii
See the official documents on the subject in Parl. Hist. xv. There is a good epitome in De Flassan's Hist. de la Diplomatic Française.
Adolphus, i. 36–40. De Flassan, v. 382–388. A curious picture of the debates in the Cabinet, and of the imperative manner in which Pitt silenced all opposition, will be found in the letters of Newcastle to Hardwicke in Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, vol. i.
It is remarkable that Jenkinson, who was one of the most uncompromising adherents of Bute, had no doubt of this. He wrote (Aug. 6, 1761): ‘The Duke of Newcastle has already been with Lord Bute to beg that we may not lose sight of peace; and take my word for it, Mr. Pitt is almost as unwilling, though he is too wise to show it.’—Grenville Papers, i. 382.
Compare Walpole's George III. i. 123, 124. Adolphus, i. 41–45. Chatham Correspondence, ii. 140, 141.
See Grenville Papers, i. 386–7. Chatham Correspondence, ii. 140–143. Bedford Correspondence, iii. 46–49.
Sept. 23, 1761. Newcastle wrote to Hardwicke: ‘The King seemed so provoked and so weary that his Majesty was inclined to put an end at all events to the uncertainty about Mr. Pitt.’ Sept. 26, he writes: ‘The King seems every day more offended with Mr. Pitt, and plainly wants to get rid of him at all events.’—Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 42, 44. See, too, Bedford Correspondence, iii. 48.
Adolphus, i. 43, 44. Hist. of the late Minority, pp. 33–37. Annual Register, 1761. Mr. Ballantyne, however, in his Life of Carteret, has given (pp. 359–361) some reason for questioning whether the speech of Lord Granville was correctly reported.
Grenville Papers, i. 411, 412.
Adolphus, i. 572.
Walpole's George III. i. 82
Bedford Corr. iii. 49, 50.
Chatham Corresp. ii. 147, 148. Harris's Life of Hardwicke, iii. 258, 259.
See for Walpole's opinions his letters to the Countess of Ailesbury, Oct. 10, 1761, and to Conway, Oct. 12, 1761. Gray wrote at the same time: ‘Oh that foolishest of great men, that sold his inestimable diamond for a paltry peerage and pension i The very night it happened was I swearing it was a d—d lie and never would be; but it was for want of reading Thomas à Kempis, who knew mankind so much better than I.’—Works, iii. 265.
Chatham Correspondence, ii. 147.
Ibid. ii. 149–152.
‘Mr. Pitt himself,’ wrote Walpole, Sept. 9, 1761, ‘would be mobbed if he talked of anything but clothes and diamonds and bridesmaids.’—Walpole to Mann.
This was Shelburne's own expression. See Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 120.
See the statement of Barré himself in a letter to Shelburne.—Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 122. Walpole's George III. i. 122. Barré had served with Wolfe, and he had written to Pitt shortly before his attack upon him, in a strain of warm admiration, asking for a promotion. Pitt had refused the request on the ground that senior officers would be injured by the promotion, and Barré in a letter to Pitt described himself as ‘bound in the highest gratitude for the attention he had received.’—Chatham's Corresp. ii. 41–43, 171. A graphic account of the manner in which Pitt was attacked in this debate will be found in a letter of Mr. Noel Milbanke to Rockingham.—Life of Rockingham, i. 79–83.
Annual Register, 1762. See, too, Bedford Correspondence, iii. 130.
See his complaint of the difficulty he had ‘to carry on the business of the House of Commons without being authorised to talk to the members of that House upon their several claims and pretensions,’—Grenville Papers, i. 483.
See the letters of Newcastle to Hardwicke, Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 102–112; and his letter to Bedford, Bedford Correspondence, iii. 79, 80. Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 156. Harris's Life of Lord Hardwicke, iii. 230, 273, 274.
His private fortune is said to have been reduced from 25,000l. to 6,000l. a year by his long tenure of office.—Harris's Life of Hardwicke, iii. 280.
Cornwallis, Bishop of Lichfield. The Bishop of Norwich, however, who was then absent from London, remained staunch to his benefactor. See, on the ingratitude of the bishops, Harris's Life of Hardwicke, iii. 334. Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 169, 170. Walpole to Montagu, May 25, 1762. Newcastle is said on this occasion to have made a very happy witticism which is often ascribed to Lord Melbourne. Mrs. Montagu writes: ‘The Duke of Newcastle after his resignation had a very numerous levee, but somebody observed to him that there were but two bishops present. He is said to have replied that bishops, like other men, were too apt to forget their maker. I think this has been said for him, or the resignation of power has much brightened his understanding; for of whatever he was accused, the crime of wit was never laid to his charge.’—Doran's Life of Mrs. Montagu, p. 120.
See Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 137.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. 17.
Ibid. pp. 23. 89.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. 26.
Ibid. p. 28.
Ibid. pp. 30–34. Grenville Papers, i. 376.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. 43.
Cavendish Debates, i. 568–575. Parl. Hist. xv. 1217–1221. Bedford Correspondence, iii. 73, Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 123, 124.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. xxiii.
Ibid. pp. 114–119, 126–129.
Ibid. pp. 118, 119, 136–138. Lord Barrington, also, was of opinion, that no compensation should be asked for the restoration of Havannah.—Barrington's Life of Barrington, p. 82.
See Bute's own defence in a despatch to Mitchell, the English Minister to Frederick (May 26, 1762). Bisset's Life of Sir A. Mitchell, ii. 294–302.
Carlyle's Frederick, book xx. ch. xiii. Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii. 22.
Anecdotes of Chatham, i. 401.
Compare Frederick, Œuvres Posthumes, iv. 290–292. Bisset's Memoirs of Sir Andrew Mitchell, ii. 206–302. History of the late Minority, pp. 52–54. Adolphus' Hist. of England, i. 76–81; and especially the letters in the appendix, pp. 579–589.
See the description of the Island by Admiral Rodney.—Grenville Papers, ii. 11–13.
Chesterfield's Letters, iv. 353.
Grenville Papers, i. 450.
Ibid. i. 450, 476, 483.
Ibid. ii. 12, 13. Life of Shelburne, i. 154.
See the striking statement of his views on this matter, Parl. Hist. xv. 1265. ‘The trade with these conquests [Martinique and Guadaloupe] is of the utmost lucrative nature and of the most considerable extent. The number of ships employed by it are a great resource to our maritime power; and, what is of equal weight, all that we gain on this system is made fourfold to us by the loss which ensues to France. But our conquests in North America are of very little detriment to the commerce of France.’
Thus in Jan. 1761, Lord Melcombe wrote to Bute: ‘If the intelligence they bring me be true Mr. Pitt goes down fast in the City, and faster at this end of the town. They add, you rise daily. … Should not a measure so extremely popular as the sacrificing that country [Hanover] to this, for a time, to secure an honourable and advantageous peace … come immediately from the King, and by his order be carried into execution by the hands in which he places his whole confidence?’—Adolphus, i. 571, 572.
Walpole to Montagu, Nov. 13, 1760.
Walpole to Conway, Oct. 26, 1761. Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 85. Grenville Papers, i. 452.
See the very curious letter of Frederick to his Ministers Knyphausen and Michell urging them to use all their influence to stir up writers and agitators against Bute.—Grenville Papers, i. 467, 468.
Chauncy Townsend, the Member for Wigtown, who died in 1770.—Annual Register, 1770, p. 114.
University members and sons of peers were in England exempt. Townshend's History of the House of Commons, ii. 406.
Their subservience had been very bitterly noticed by Jekyll in the last reign. When Walpole's special tax on Papists and Non-jurors was imposed, the Scotch were exempted. Jekyll said: ‘I know not why the Scotch should be excused from paying their proportion of this extraordinary tax, unless it was because forty-five Scotch representatives in that House always voted as they were directed.’—Townshend's Hist. of the House of Commons, ii. 52, 53. Montesquieu, in his Noies sur l'Angleterre, which were written, in 1730, had said, ‘Il y a des membres écossois qui n'ont que deux cents livres sterling pour leur voix et la vendent à ce prix.’
Walpole to Montagu, June 8, 1762.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. xxxiii.
Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 665.
Doran's Jacobite London, ii, p. 350.
Scott's Essay on the Life and Works of John Home.
See Walpole's Memoirs of George III. iv. 328. We have a curious illustration of the change that may take place in national judgments in the Autobiography of Lord Shelburne. ‘Like the generality of Scotch,’ he says, ‘Lord Mansfield had no regard to truth whatever.’—Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 89. Among the many admirable qualities of the Scotch there is probably none which a modern observer would regard as so conspicuous and so uncontested as their eminent truthfulness.
Parliamentary Hist. xvi. 763—785.
See Lord Stanhope's History of England, iv. 273.
Parl. Hist. xv. 1307–1316. This tax was said to have been proposed ‘because Sir Francis Dashwood could not be made to understand a tax on linen, which was first intended, sufficiently to explain it to the House.’—Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 186.
Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 157.
Walpole's George III. i. 199. Hist. of the late Minority, pp. 69, 83, 93—102. Anecdotes of Chatham, i. 282. North Briton, p. 234
Adolphus, i. 119. Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 158, 159. Harris, Life of Hardwicke, iii. 320, 333—335.
‘The impertinence of our conquered enemies last night was great, but will not continue so if his Majesty shows no lenity. But, my Lord, with regard to their numerous dependants in Crown employments, it behoves your Lordship in particular to leave none of them. Their connections spread very wide, and every one of their relatives and friends is in his heart your enemy.… Turn the tables and you will immediately have thousands who will think the safety of themselves depends upon your Lordship, and will therefore be sincere and active friends.’—Fox to Bute, Nov. 1762. Shelburne's Life, i. 180.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 233—240.
Burke's Correspondence, i. 130. Colman's play, The English Merchant, was written to grace his pardon. An exceedingly favourable account of the literary acquirements and of the conversation of Lord Bute will be found in Dutens' Mémoires d'un Voyageur qui se repose, ii. 299—306. The author had been employed by Bute in some negotiations preparatory to the Peace of Paris.
Annual Register, 1763, p. 117.
Anecdotes of Chatham, i. 203. Adolphus, Hist. George III. i. 115, 121. Dodington's Diary, Dec. 20, 1760.
Rockingham's Memoirs, i. 152.
Thackeray, ii. 7.
Parl. Hist. xv. 1227.
Annual Register, 1761, p. 481.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III.
Parl. Hist. xv. 1316.
Compare Walpole's George III. i. 257, 258, with Lord E. Fitzmaurice's elaborate defence of Shelburne.—Shelburne's Life, i. 199—229.
Walpole to Montagu, April 14, 1763.
Walpole says: ‘It was given out that the King would suffer no money to be spent on elections,’ that ‘he had forbidden any money [at the general election] to be issued from the Treasury.—Walpole's George III. i. 19, 41 ‘Every one,’ said Burke, ‘must remember that the Cabal set out with the most astonishing prudery, both moral and political. Those who in a few months after soused over head and ears into the deepest and dirtiest pits of corruption, cried out violently against the indirect practices in the electing and managing of Parliaments which had formerly prevailed.… Corruption was to be cast down from Court as Atê was from Heaven.’—Thougts on the Causes of the present Discontents. See, too, the Seasonable, Hints from an Honest Man on the present Crisis.
Bedford Corresp. iii. 223–226.
He boasted that the secret service money was lower in his ministry than in any other recent administration.—Grenville Papers, ii. 519, iii. 143.
See Grenville Papers, i. pp. ix., x.
See an interesting autobiographical sketch in the Grenville Papers, i. 422–439, 482–485.
Grenville Papers, iii. p. xxxvii.
See Bedford Corresp. iii. 56.
Walpole's George III. i. 121.
This is stated in the Journal of the Duke of Grafton.—See Campbell's Chancellors, vi. 327; and also Grenville Papers, ii. 192. See, too, on the warm personal interest which the King took in pushing on the measures against Wilkes, Walpole's George III. iii. 296. According to Almon (who is not a very good authority), No. 45 was in a great measure based upon a conversation about the King's Speech between Pitt and Temple which took place at the house of the latter when Wilkes happened to be calling there.
Walpole' Memoirs of George III. iii. 164.
Compare Adolphus, i. 136, 137. Campbell's Chancellors, vi. 370. The legality of general warrants was brought before Mansfield in November 1765. He gave an opinion similar to that of Pratt. In order to avoid a judgment against the Crown on the merits of the case, the Attorney-General admitted a formal objection, and so contrived to be defeated.—Campbell's Life of Mansfield, p. 462.
See much curious evidence of this, Grenville Papers, ii. 8, 71, 130, 155-160. In one of his letters to Wilkes, Temple said: ‘I am so used to things of this sort at the Post Office, and am so sure that every line I write must be seen, that I never put anything in black and white that might not be read at Charing Cross for all I care.’—Grenville Papers, i. 489.
Parl. Hist. xv. 1354-1360.
A description of the Essay on Woman will be found in a contemporarypamphlet denouncing it by a clergyman named Killidge. No genuine copy of the poem is known to exist, though some spurious versions were circulated. The manuscript poem bearing the name which is among the Wilkes papers in the British Museum is certainly not genuine. An elaborate discussion about the authorship and the true version of the poem will be found in Dilke's Papers of a Critic.
Walpole to Mann, Nov. 17, 1763. Lord De Spencer was said to have been the other.
Walpole's George III. i. 309-312.
Parl. Hist. XV. 1357-1359.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III. i. 280.
Campbell's Chancellors, vi. 289.
Walpole's George III. i. 330. Annual Register, 1763, p. 144.
Annual Register, 1764, p. 51. Campbell, vi. 372.
Walpole's George III. i. 314. ‘It is a mercy,’ wrote Chesterfield, ‘that Wilkes, the intrepid defender of our rights and liberties, is out of danger; and it is no less a mercy that God hath raised up the Earl of Sandwich to vindicate and promote true religion and morality. These two blessings will justly make an epooha in the annals of this country.’
It presented petitions to this effect against both the Cyder Bill and the Quebec Bill.
Grenville Papers, ii. 138, 142. See, too, Mr. Rae's Wilkes Skeridan, and Fox, p. 69.
Annual Register, 1764, p. 113.
Ibid. p. 91.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III. ii. 15.
See a remarkable letter ‘Concerning libels, warrants, and the seizure of papers,’ ascribed to Dunning, in Almon's Scarce and Rare Tracts, i. 102.
Annual Register, 1764, p. 92; 1765, pp. 96, 97, 262.
Grenville Papers, ii. 199.
‘We entered into the King's service … to hinder the law from being indecently and unconstitutionally given to him.’—Grenville Papers, ii.16. ‘I told his Majesty that I came into his service to preserve the constitution of my country and to prevent any undue and unwarrantable force being put upon the Crown. (Ibid. p. 106. See, too, a remarkable letter of Sir John Phillips to Grenville, ibid. p. 118.)
Ibid. ii. 192. See, too, pp. 205, 493, 495, 500.
Ibid. pp. 162, 166, 223, 224.
See Harris's Life of Hardwicke, vol. iii. Grenville Papers, ii. 83–97, 104–107, 191–206. Bedford Correspondence, vol. iii. Walpole's George III.
See the correspondence between Bute and Shelburne.—Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 273–278.
Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 281–289.
See the detailed account of this event in Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne. Walpole said: ‘Many reasons are given [for the resignation], but the only one that people choose to take is, that thinking Pitt must be minister soon, and finding himself tolerably obnoxious to him, he is seeking to make his peace at any rate.’—Walpole to Mann, Sept. 13, 1763.
The King speaks daily with more and more averseness to Lord Sandwich, and appears to have a settled dislike to his character.’—Grenville Papers, ii. 496. The King would have deserved more credit for his feelings about Sandwich if he had ever shown reluctance to employ bad men who were subservient to his views. When remonstrated with for employing such a man as Fox, his answer was, ‘We must call in bad men to govern bad men,’—Ibid. i. 452. In 1778, when North was very anxious to resign and when there was a question of reconstructing the administration on a Whig basis, the King declared that he would accept no ministry in which some politicians he mentioned had not seats in the Cabinet, and among these politicians was Sandwich.—Letters of George III. to Lord North, ii. 158.
Grenville Papers, iii. 213.
Burke—who had not yet entered Parliament—wrote at this time to Flood: ‘The Regency Bill has shown such want of concert and want of capacity in the ministers, such inattention to the honour of the Crown, if not such a design against it, such imposition and surprise upon the King, and such a misrepresentation of the disposition of Parliament to the Sovereign, that there is no doubt that there is a fixed resolution to get rid of them all (except perhaps Grenville), but principally of the Duke of Bedford.’—Burke Correspondence, i. 79, 80. The best account of the management of the Regency Bill is in the Grenville Papers, iii., especially the very interesting Diary of G. Grenville, pp. 112–222. The interview at which the King consented to the exclusion of his mother was on May 3. He immediately after felt that he had committed an impropriety, and his opinion was strengthened by the Chancellor, who assured him that many people were offended at it, and that a motion against it would be made by the Opposition. On the 5th, the King ‘in the utmost degree of agitation and emotion, even to tears,’ implored Grenville to alter the Bill, but he was unable to prevail.—Ibid. pp. 152–155.
See Cumberland's own statement.—Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 185–203. On the 27th of April the King had an interview with Bute at Richmond.—Grenville Papers, iii. 134.
Ibid. ii. 490.
Grenville Papers, iii. 159, 160. Bedford Correspondence, iii. 279–281.
See the letter of the Duke of Cumberland, May 21, 1765.—Albemarle's Life of Rookingham, i. 211.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III. ii. 155–159. Grenville Papers, iii. 171.
I have compiled this account from the memorial of the Duke of Cumberland describing the negotiations with which his was entrusted, which is printed in Albemarle's Life of Rockingham the ‘Diary’ of George Grenville in the Grenville Papers, and the account given by Walpole. These three accounts are not in all points quite coincident, and some of the dates in the Duke of Cumberland's memorial appear to be wrongly given.
See the Bedford Correspondence, iii. 283, 284, 286–290, 293–295. Walpole's George III. Grenville Papers, iii. Albemarle's Life of Rockingham.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 50.
Prior's Life of Burke, i. 135.
Lord Lyttelton wrote at this time (Jan. 28, 1765): ‘The desire of Mr. Pitt in the public is inexpressibly strong, and nothing will satisfy them without him. I believe he is also much desired in the Court.’—Phillimore's Life of Lyttelton, ii. 683.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. 304, 305, 312.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 296.
Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii. 75. Grenville Papers. Bedford Correspondence. Chatham Correspondence.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III. ii. 287, 288.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 321. Barrington's Life of Barrington, p. 108.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 312. Adolphus, i. 227–230. Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 364–371.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 269.
Burke's Correspondence, i. 80.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 177.
Chatham Correspondence, ii. 360; see, too, p. 322. The final rupture seems to have been in Oct 1764 (ibid. pp. 293–298). On January 9, 1766, the Duke of Newcastle wrote a letter to Rockingham which does the writer great credit, urging that a junction with Pitt was absolutely indispensable to the Government, and that he was himself perfectly ready to resign office in order to facilitate it.—Albe-marle's Life of Rockingham, i. 264, 265.
See above, p. 178.
See a very curious passage in the historical section of the Annual Register for 1762. ‘From the beginning of this reign it had been professed, with the general applause of all good men, to abolish those odious party distinctions [Whig and Tory] and to extend the royal favour and protection equally to all his Majesty's subjects.’—Annual Register 1762, p. .
Chatham Correspondence, ii. 296, 297. On Feb. 24, 1766, when Rockingham had been making a new indirect overture to Pitt, the latter wrote to Shelburne: ‘Lord Rockingham's plan appears to me to be such as can never bring things to a satisfactory conclusion; his tone being that of a minister, master of the Court and of the public, making openings to men who are seekers of offices and candidates for ministry. … In one word, my dear lord [he continued], I shall never set my foot in the closet but in the hope of rendering the King's personal situation not unhappy, as well as his business not unprosperous; nor will I owe my coming thither to any Court cabal or ministerial connection.’—Chatham Correspondence, iii. 11, 12. In April 1766, Rigby wrote to the Duke of Bedford that Pitt had made ‘a kind of farewell speech,’ in which he said ‘that he wished for the sake of his dear country that all our factions might cease; that there might be a ministry fixed such as the King should appoint and the public approve … that if ever he was again admitted as he had been into the royal presence, it should be independent of any personal connections whatsoever.’—Bedford Correspondence, iii. 333. ‘Lord Chatham,’ wrote Mitchell in Dec, 1766, ‘declares to all the world that his great point is to destroy faction, and he told the House of Lords the other day “that he could look the proudest connection in the face.”’—Chatham Correspondence, iii. 138.
Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne i. 382. See, too, his very similar declaration in 1762,—Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i, 151.
Shelburne's Life, i. 334.
The judgment of Walpole when the ministry was first formed is a remarkable instance of his political sagacity, ‘The plan will probably be to pick and cull from all quarters, and break all parties as much as possible. From this moment I date the wane of Mr. Pitt's glory; he will want the thorough-bass of drums and trumpets, and is not made for peace.’—To Montagu, July 10, 1766.
Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii. 84.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 26.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 21.
Grenville Papers, iii. 283.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 22, 23.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 111. Prior's Life of Burke, i. 163.
George III. cap. vii. See an account of the whole transaction in a letter from Grenville himself, Grenville Papers, iii. 341-343, and in a letter from Flood to Charlemont (Flood's Letters, ix.). See, too, Chatham Correspondence, iii. 125-128.
Parl. Hist. xvi. 362-364. Chatham Correspondence, iii 224.
Burice's Correspondence, i. 106,
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 210. ‘There are four parties,’ Lord Northington said about this time, ‘Butes, Bedfords, Rocking-hams, Chathams, and we (the last) are the weakest of the four.’—Albemarle's Life of Rocking-ham, ii. 34.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 136.
Ibid. iii. 6-9, 84-86.
Ibid. iii. 80.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 62. Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, ii. 16-18
Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, ii. 22.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 68.
Grenville Papers, iii. 384, 385.
The following were the numbers in several of the chief party divisions in 1766:—129 to 76, 166 to 48, 140 to 56, 131 to 67, 106 to 35, 180 to 147.—Wolpole's George III. vol. ii.
Grenville Papers, iii. 279.
See Walpole's Memoirs of George III. iii. 41—44. Chatham Correspondence. Whately wrote (July 30, 1767), ‘Lord Chatham's state of health (I was told authentically yesterday) is certainly the lowest dejection and debility that mind or body can be in. He sits all the day leaning on his hands, which he supports on the table; does not permit any person to remain in the room; knocks when he wants anything, and, having made his wants known, gives a signal without speaking, to the person who answered his call to return.’—Phillimore's Life of Lyttelton, p. 729.
‘Here [at Bath] Lord Chatham is, and goes out every day on horseback when the weather lets him, and looks rather thin and pallid; but otherwise very well in appearance; he sees no one.’—Mr. Augustus Hervey to Mr. Grenville, Nov. 3, 1767. Grenville Papers, iv. 180. On May 5, 1767, Chesterfield wrote, ‘Lord Chatham is still ill, and only goes abroad for an hour a day to take the air in his coach.’—Chatham Correspondence, iii. 253.
See the interesting passage from the Duke of Grafton's autobiography quoted in Walpole's George III. iii. 51, 52.
In one of Lord Lyttelton's letters (Nov. 25, 1767) there is a very curious account of a conversation of Lord Mansfield with the writer on the condition and prospects of the ministry. Mansfield said that ‘no opposition would signify anything if the ministers held together, that the King mediated between them and kept them from breaking; that he was the most efficient man among them; that he made each of them believe he was in love with them [sic] and fooled them all: that unless that mad-man, Lord Chatham, should come and throw a fireball in the midst of them he thought they would stand their ground, but what that might do he could not tell; that Lord Bute alone could make a ministry which could last; that if he was dead no other man could do it so well. … He then dwelt a good deal on the certainty of a fixed resolution in the King not to change his army but only the generals of that army.’—Phillimore's Life of Lyttelton, pp. 736, 738.
Grenville Papers, iv. 27, 31.
Walpole's George III. iii. 268.
Some very curious anecdotes of this singular personage will be found in Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 70-72.
Walpole's George III. iii. 143—146.
Chatham Correspondence, iii 21.
Ibid. iii. 137.
In 1778 Bute authorised his son to write to the papers, ‘that he declares upon his solemn word of honour that he has not had the honour of waiting upon his Majesty but at his levee or drawing-room; nor has he presumed to offer any advice or opinion concerning the disposition of offices or the conduct of measures either directly or indirectly, by himself or any other, from the time when the late Duke of Cumberland was consulted in the arrangement of a ministry in 1765 to the present hour.’—See the Correspondence of George III. and Lord, North, i. p. xxi.
See a very striking account of his budget speech in 1767, in a letter of Rigby.—Bedford Correspondence. iii. 408.