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CHAPTER VIII. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. II 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. II.
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On March 6, 1754, Henry Pelham died, and the peace which had so long prevailed in English politics at once terminated. For rather more than three years from this time the political stage presented an aspect of almost unexampled turbulence and confusion. In the vicissitudes of this period, however, there is but little of permanent interest, for they sprang neither from party divisions, conflicting principles, nor disputed measures, but solely from the rivalry of a few great houses, and from the incessant jealousies of a small circle of statesmen. The actors in the preceding struggle had for the most part passed away. Orford and Bolingbroke were dead; Bath had lost all power, and Granville all ambition; and Chesterfield, though he exercised some influence as a mediator in 1757, was content with a subordinate position, and contributed little to the history of the time. The most prominent, or at least the most influential, statesman of the old generation was the Duke of Newcastle, who upon the death of his brother became Prime Minister of England.
Newcastle is certainly the most remarkable instance on record of the manner in which, under the old system, great possessions and family or parliamentary influence could place and maintain an incapable man in the first position in the state. In private life or in a subordinate office the glaring weaknesses of his character would have been comparatively unnoticed, and he would have been justly respected as a man of pure morals, warm affections, and sincere and unaffected piety. Unfortunately, however, he inherited a greater parliamentary influence than any other English noble, and he was devoured by the most feverish and insatiable ambition. Without any of the aims or capacities of a legislator, or any sordid desire for the emoluments of office, he delighted beyond all earthly things in its occupations, interests, and dignity, in the secret and corrupt management of Parliament, in the dispensation of bribes, places, and pensions. George II. complained that he was unfit to be Chamberlain to the smallest Court in Germany, and he was the object of more incessant ridicule than any other politician of his time; but yet for forty-six years he held high posts at the Court or in the Government. For nearly thirty years he was Secretary of State; for ten years he was First Lord of the Treasury. His co-operation proved essential to the success both of Walpole and of Pitt, and no statesman or combination of statesmen could long dispense with his assistance. Intellectually he was probably below the average of men, and he rarely obtained full credit even for the small talents he possessed. He was the most peevish, restless, and jealous of men, destitute not only of the higher gifts of statesmanship, but even of the most ordinary tact and method in the transaction of business, and at the same time so hurried and undignified in manner, so timid in danger, and so shuffling in difficulty, that he became the laughing-stock of all about him. Lord Wilmington said of him that he always appeared to have lost half-an-hour in the morning, and to be running after it all the rest of the day. Associated with such men as Walpole and Pitt, he was often treated with gross contempt, and he was incessantly imagining slights where none were intended, indulging on the smallest provocation in violent explosions of grotesque irritability, and employing all the petty arts of a weak man to maintain his position among more powerful competitors. His confused, tangled, unconnected talk, his fulsome flattery, his promises made at the spur of the moment and almost instantly forgotten, his childish exhibitions of timidity, ignorance, fretfulness, and perplexity, the miserable humiliations to which he stooped rather than abandon office, his personal oddities, and his utter want of all dignity and self-control made him at once one of the most singular and most contemptible figures of his time.
Yet there were many worse men, and many more dangerous politicians. Chesterfield, who knew him well, and who seldom erred on the side of indulgence, described him as ‘a compound of most human weaknesses, but untainted with any vice or crime;’ and most of his faults sprang much more from extreme feebleness, inconstancy, and nervousness, than from any deeper cause. He was good-natured, placable, and on the whole well-meaning, indefatigable in the discharge of business, a respectable writer of official despatches, a ready though ungraceful debater. He originated nothing, and discouraged every measure that might arouse opposition; but the very timidity of his nature kept him for the most part in harmony with the wishes of the people, and he was guilty, during a career of unexampled length, of very little harshness, violence, or injustice. He was a steady upholder of the Hanoverian dynasty; he assisted during many years one of the best Home Ministers and the greatest Foreign Minister the country has ever possessed. He had the merit of bringing Hardwicke into office, and he secured his life-long confidence and attachment. In foreign politics he was a consistent supporter of the Austrian interest; and although he sometimes yielded too much to the German tendencies of the King, he appears to have had a real feeling for the honour of England. Though he cannot be acquitted of an inveterate passion for intrigue, the charge of deliberate and aggravated treachery to Sir R. Walpole, which Horace Walpole has brought against him, is, I conceive, both false and malignant. Newcastle differed from Walpole in desiring England to take a more energetic part in Continental affairs, just as he afterwards differed for a similar reason from his own brother. He remained in office after the retirement of Walpole at Walpole's express desire, and he exerted all his influence and no small amount of dexterity, to shield him from impeachment.1 The darkest stain upon his memory is the alacrity with which he sacrificed Byng to the popular clamour. The great evil of his ascendency was the gross, systematic, and shameless corruption which he practised. In his time it was impossible even for an able man to govern Parliament without corruption, but Newcastle vastly increased the evil, discredited and degraded his party, and left the standard of political morality lower than he found it. At the same time, though a great corrupter of others, he was not himself corrupt. During his official career he reduced his fortune from 25,000l. to 6,000l. a-year, and he refused a pension when he retired.
Such was the statesman who, on the death of Pelham, became the head of the Government. The position, however, of leader and manager of the House of Commons remained vacant, and it was fiercely contested. Of the ablest men in Parliament, there was indeed one who had no political ambitions. The silver-tongued Murray—the most graceful, luminous, and subtle of all legal speakers—was at this time Attorney-General, and although there was no height of political greatness to which he might not have aspired, he resolutely turned aside from the rugged path of statesmanship. His eyes were fixed upon the calm dignity of the Bench, and he soon after, as Lord Mansfield, took his place among the greatest of English judges. Two men, however, whose influence was almost equal, and whose names were destined during two generations to be in the foremost rank of politics, were looking eagerly to the vacant place. These were Henry Fox and William Pitt, who were afterwards known as Lord Holland and Lord Chatham, and who at this time filled respectively the offices of Secretary at War and Paymaster of the Forces. The first—a bold, bad man, educated in the school of Walpole, but almost destitute of principle, patriotism, and consistency—possessed rare talents for business and for intrigue, and social qualities which gave him great influence, and won for him much affection. Without any of the higher imaginative qualities or any of the lighter graces of oratory, his clear, strong sense, his indomitable courage, and his admirable tact, readiness, and memory, made him one of the most formidable of debaters. He had obtained, by the force of his personal attractions, and without the advantage of either rank or wealth, a considerable parliamentary following, and his position was strengthened by the somewhat hesitating favour of the King, by the friendship of the Duke of Cumberland, and by a close political alliance with the Duke of Bedford. He was known to be ambitious and unscrupulous, and it did not yet appear that he cared more for money than for power. Pitt was an incomparably greater man, both in intellect and character, and having just married the sister of Lord Temple, he had obtained the support of the Grrenville connection; but his lofty and unaccommodating character, and his arrogant temper, had impaired his popularity in the House; his denunciations of Hanover and of the Hanoverian policy of the Court, had made him, beyond all other politicians, obnoxious to the King; he was disliked and feared by Newcastle, and at the time of the death of Pelham, as in many other critical moments of his career, he was disabled by the gout.
I do not propose to follow in detail the long series of vicissitudes, intrigues, dissensions, and combinations that followed. They were not determined by political, but by personal motives. They have been minutely described by many historians, and they belong to a class of facts which in the present work I desire, as far as is consistent with the clearness of my narrative, to avoid. It will be sufficient to say that Newcastle first offered the leadership of the House to Fox, but insisted upon retaining in his own hands the distribution of the secret-service money and the nomination to the Treasury boroughs, or, in other words, the administration of corruption; that Fox refused the leadership when clogged by this restriction; that Newcastle, relying on the almost complete absence of formal opposition, then entrusted the vacant post to Sir Thomas Robinson, a politician of no ability or standing; that Fox and Pitt at once composed their differences, and resolved to make this arrangement impossible; that instead of adopting the plain and honourable course of resigning their positions, they remained in office, and at the same time devoted all their talents to ridiculing and discrediting their new leader, and that the covert sarcasms of Fox and the scarcely disguised denunciations which Pitt directed not only against Sir Thomas Robinson, but also against Murray and Newcastle, soon made the position of the Government intolerable. It is evident that this course was an outrageous violation of the most ordinary rules of political loyalty and honour, and it is equally evident that any prime minister of common firmness would have instantly and at all hazards dismissed a subordinate who was guilty of it. Instead of taking this step, Newcastle, with characteristic timidity, preferred to make new overtures to Fox, who after some negotiation accepted them, desisted from his covert opposition to his chiefs, disclaimed in private all connection with Pitt, and, although he was unable as yet to obtain the position of Secretary of State as he desired, he was called to the Cabinet Council in January 1755, and obtained some promotions for his adherents in the ministry.
In peaceful times these personal intrigues might have long continued to run their course without any other effect than that of lowering the level of political morality. The clouds of war were, however, now gathering heavily over the distant horizon. The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle had left the respective frontiers of the English and French colonies in America almost undefined. The limits of immense provinces, in a great degree uninhabited and even unexplored, were necessarily very vague, and the French and English colonists were both animated by fierce national antipathy. Each side aspired to complete ascendency in North America, and each side had tribes of Indians ready to fight in its cause. On the cession of Acadia or Nova Scotia to England, commissioners had been appointed to determine the frontiers of the province, but they had been wholly unable to agree; the English maintaining, and the French strenuously denying, that the tract around the Bay of Fundy was included in the ceded territory. A still more serious question arose about the line of the great lakes of the Ohio and of the Mississippi. The English, immediately after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, had given an English mercantile company the exclusive right of trading with the Indians, and founding colonies on the banks of the Ohio, and some scattered settlements were already established. The French, on the other hand, determined to connect by a long chain of forts their Canadian colonies with Louisiana, and thus to cut off New England from all communication with the central part of America. They maintained that the whole basin of the great rivers behind the Alleghanies formed part of Canada. They supported their claim by launching war-ships on Lake Ontario, and by rapidly throwing out outposts and founding forts along the Ohio; and the Marquis Duquesne, who was governor of Canada, sent a formal message to the governors of New York and Pennsylvania, announcing that France would permit no English settlements on that river.
Under these circumstances hostilities speedily broke out. The Board of Trade reported to the King that ‘as the French had not the least pretence of right to the territory on the Ohio … it was a matter of wonder what such a strange expedition in time of peace could mean, unless to complete the object so long in view of conjoining the St. Lawrence with the Mississippi,’ and Lord Holdernesse, the Secretary of State, sent orders to the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia to repel force by force, ‘whenever the French were found within the undoubted limits of their provinces.’ In the course of 1754 a few slight conflicts took place. A project of erecting an English fort near the point where the Monongahela flows into the Ohio was defeated by a French occupation, and a French fort, named after Duquesne, was established on the spot. The name of George Washington, then a young man of twenty-two, the son of a planter of Westmoreland county, on the Potomac, now appears for the first time in history. In 1753 he had been sent on a vain mission to negotiate with the French about the limits of their frontier, and in the following year he was despatched to the Ohio at the head of about 400 soldiers. In May 1754 a skirmish took place, in which the French commander was killed, but soon after Washington was attacked by a very superior force and compelled to capitulate. Remonstrances were made by the English ambassador at Paris. The colonial legislatures exhibited great disunion and incapacity, but still additional forces were raised, and, as the approach of a great war was felt to be imminent, the army estimates at home were increased. Troops were withdrawn from Ireland, and in October Major-General Braddock, a favourite officer of the Duke of Cumberland, was despatched to America, with about 2,000 troops.1
All these circumstances greatly added to the difficulties of Newcastle, and the popular feeling against him rose higher and higher. His conduct was a miserable exhibition of weakness and vacillation. He was now past sixty. He had spent a long life in official pursuits, and he was entirely incapable of breaking the habits he had formed. His love of office had become an absolute disease, and the idea of sacrificing it was intolerable to his mind. He was the undisputed leader of a party which possessed an immense majority in both Houses. Yet no minister was ever less able to control insubordinate colleagues, or to conduct a great war. He was incapable of taking any resolution, his mind veered with every breath of opposition, and with the exception of his Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke, he had hardly a sincere friend in the Cabinet. Pitt, sullen, irritated, and bitterly aggrieved with both Fox and Newcastle, confined himself to his own department, and took no pains to conceal his disgust and his contempt. ‘Your Grace knows I have no capacity for these things,’ he shortly answered when consulted about the difficulties in America, ‘and therefore I do not desire to be informed about them.’ The debates on the Marriage Act had made Fox and Hardwicke deadly enemies. Leicester House, for the first time since the death of the last Prince of Wales, had begun to take an active part in politics, and the influence of the Princess Dowager was exerted against the Government, and especially, on different grounds, against Newcastle and against the Duke of Cumberland. The universal feeling of the country was one of despondency, for men felt that great dangers were approaching, and that the hand which held the rudder was miserably weak. As a very acute observer1 writes, ‘There was no violence, no oppression, no particular complaint, and yet the nation was sinking by degrees, and there was a general indisposition proceeding from the weakness and worthlessness of the minister who would embrace everything, and was fit for nothing.’ The French made propositions for peace, but they appeared utterly inacceptable. They proposed to leave the valley of the Ohio in the condition in which it had been at the opening of the last war, and afterwards that both countries should retire from the country between the Ohio and the Alleghanies, leaving the country to the north and west of the Ohio in French possession. They claimed this territory on the double ground of discovery and of possession. French missionaries and French explorers had penetrated much farther to the west than the English; and since the Peace of Utrecht, while the English were chiefly employed in developing the country they had occupied, the French threw out many scattered forts in a country wholly uninhabited by their rivals. The English, on the other hand, held that when they had established a settlement on the eastern coasts of America their claims, as against any other European Power, extended in the same latitude from sea to sea; they considered it a matter of the most vital importance to prevent their colonies from being enclosed between the ocean and a hostile power, and they met the French proposals by demanding the cession of the coast of the Bay of Fundy, and the destruction of all forts built by the French in the disputed territory. The maritime preparations of the French were in the meantime rapidly pressed on. A squadron destined for America, and carrying 4,000 soldiers, sailed from Brest for America, and a British fleet was sent out, under Boscawen, to follow, and if it entered the St. Lawrence to intercept it. The French, suspecting the design, succeeded, under shelter of a fog, in evading the English, but two ships which had been detached from the French fleet were attacked by the English and captured.
After the news of this aggression, which had taken place without any declaration of war, and in spite of the pacific assurances of Newcastle, the French ambassador was immediately recalled. The next advices from America brought an account of the surprise and capture, by 3,000 English troops, of the French forts recently established at Beau Sejour, on the Bay of Fundy, and soon after the news arrived of a very serious disaster on the Ohio. In July 1755 General Braddock, at the head of about 2,000 men, having marched against Fort Duquesne, had been encountered by a smaller body of French and Indians, who concealed themselves in the long grass, and who, by an unexpected and well-directed fire, produced a panic and a rout. Braddock himself fell, about sixty officers were killed or wounded, and the whole force was put to flight. The perplexity of the situation was much increased by the absence of the King, who, contrary to the strong wish both of the ministers and of the people, had insisted on going with Lord Holdernesse to Hanover, leaving the government in the hands of a regency, of which the Duke of Cumberland was virtually the head. Many French merchant vessels from Martinico were now returning, and it was a great object, if possible, to intercept them. A new fleet, under Sir Edward Hawke, was ready, and it was resolved to send it out; but the great question in the Cabinet was what instructions should be given to it. The Duke of Cumberland strongly urged that as war was inevitable, the most vigorous measures should be taken. Fox, the Princess Dowager, and, with more hesitation, Lord Anson, who was at the head of the Admiralty, shared his view. Lord Granville appears to have vacillated, and he desired that hostilities should only be exercised against ships of war, and was absolutely against interfering with trade, which he called ‘vexing your neighbours for a little muck.’ The Chancellor desired to postpone matters and take no decisive and inevitable step. Newcastle himself was in a state of pitiable alarm. At one time he suggested that ‘Hawke should take a turn in the Channel to exercise the fleet, without having any instructions whatever;’ he then urged in turn that Hawke should be ordered not to attack the enemy unless he thought it worth while, that he should not do so unless their ships were more together than ten, that he meant this only of merchant ships—for, to be sure, he must attack any squadron of ships of war—that he should take and destroy all French ships of war, but no merchantmen, that he should be restrained from taking any ships except ships of the line.1 Ultimately it was decided as a compromise that war should not be declared, but that Hawke should be ordered to take all French ships of war and merchantmen. Letters of marque were issued to cruisers, and by the end of 1755 300 French merchant ships and 7,000 or 8,000 French sailors were brought into English ports. The French, who were resolved to put England clearly in the wrong, and who had also not quite completed their preparations, abstained from declaring war, released an English ship of war which some French ships had captured, and very naturally stigmatised the proceedings of the English as simple piracy. In the meantime the press for seamen in Great Britain and Ireland was stringently carried out, the great towns subscribed large premiums over and above the bounty given by the Government for all who voluntarily enlisted as soldiers or sailors, and the Government having resolved to raise a million by way of lottery, for military purposes, no less than 3,880,000l. was at once subscribed.2
While these events were taking place, the King was as usual mainly occupied with Hanover. It could scarcely fail, in case of war, to fall into the hands of the French, and there were some fears that France might obtain the support of Prussia, by offering its annexation as a bribe. The subsidiary treaties with Saxony and Bavaria had just expired, and the King made a new treaty with Hesse, and opened negotiations for a treaty with Russia. Such treaties binding England to pay large sums to foreign soldiers for the defence of the King's foreign dominions, though, as the event showed, they were very reasonable and indeed necessary to the security of England, were in the highest degree unpopular, and no one who knew Pitt could question that under the circumstances in which he then stood he would make use of this unpopularity to the utmost. Newcastle had an interview with him, and tried to conciliate him by the offer of a seat in the Cabinet, by hopes of further promotion, by entreaties that would under any circumstances have been humiliating, but which were doubly so when coming from an old to a young man, and from a Prime Minister to a refractory subordinate. Pitt treated him with contemptuous arrogance, induced Legge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to refuse to sign the warrants for the subsidy; and on the opening of Parliament in November 1755 he was the foremost orator in denouncing the treaties, and compelled Newcastle to dismiss him. Legge underwent the same fate, and two members of the Grenville family accompanied them into retirement.
The treaties were carried, but the Government was shaken to the basis. Fox had just before received the seals as Secretary of State. Lord Barrington, one of the most servile politicians of the time, became Secretary at War in his place; Sir Thomas Robinson, who was the especial favourite both of Newcastle and the King, but who was entirely incapable of taking a foremost position in Parliament, returned to his old place at the Wardrobe with a pension of 2,000l. a year on the Irish establishment; and a few minor changes were made. The majority of the Government in Parliament was still considerable and unbroken, and with the assistance of Fox and Murray its debating power was very formidable; but opinion outside the House was now strongly against it, and, with the exception of a single measure, its policy exhibited extreme inefficiency. The exception was the treaty, which was signed in January 1756, with the King of Prussia, by which both parties agreed not to suffer foreign troops of any nation to enter or pass through Germany. Frederick had for a long time made the English King one of his favourite subjects of ridicule and abuse, had intrigued largely with the Jacobites, and appears to have entertained some hopes that in the event of a revolution in England, he might annex Hanover to his dominions.1 But the excellent intelligence which he obtained from all the chief capitals in Europe convinced him that the day for ambition was past, and that a cloud was slowly gathering over his head which threatened him with utter, speedy, and almost inevitable ruin.
The lapse of years and the vicissitudes of fortune had done nothing to allay the passionate hatred with which Maria Theresa regarded him, and she was prepared to make any sacrifice, to endure any humiliation, to engage in any war if she could only recover Silesia, and avenge the wrongs which she had suffered. Count Bruhl, who exercised an absolute control over the government of the Elector of Saxony, was scarcely less implacable in his hatred, and very soon after the Peace of Dresden these two were negotiating in secret on the possibility of an alliance against Prussia. Saxony as yet feared to enter into any formal alliance, but, at the suggestion of Bruhl, overtures were made to the Czarina Elizabeth who then governed Russia, and they were speedily successful. The Czarina had been the object of some of the scurrilous jests of Frederick, and a bitter resentment had been kindled in her mind. Reports of Prussian intrigues against Russia were industriously circulated by agents of Bruhl. The dangers of a new great military Power were set forth, and a secret compact was made between the Empress and the Czarina to which Saxony soon after acceded, the object being on the first opportunity to reduce Prussia once more to the condition of a fourth-rate Power. But in order that the plan should have a prospect of success it was necessary that the neutrality, if not the assistance, of France should be secured, and this became the great object of Maria Theresa. All the traditions of French policy were in the opposite direction. France had long looked upon Austria as her chief enemy upon the Continent. For generations it had been her main object to reduce Austrian influence and especially to support every German Power that opposed her. But she had already very recently shown how little she was wedded to traditional policy when in alliance with England she turned her arms against the French prince whom Lewis XIV. had placed on the throne of Spain, and she now made a change which was scarcely less startling. Madame de Pompadour, who then exercised an almost absolute rule over the counsels of Lewis XV., had made overtures to Frederick which had been repelled with bitter scorn. It was certainly no high sense of female virtue that animated him, but he had a contempt for women, he delighted in wounding them by coarse jests, which spared neither the virtuous nor the vicious, and he exasperated Madame de Pompadour into a deadly enmity. Kaunitz, the ambassador of Maria Theresa at the Court of France, completed the work by presents and by flatteries delivered in the name of the Empress, which soon secured the unbounded attachment of Madame de Pompadour to the Austrian cause.1
Nor were arguments of a purely political nature wanting. By espousing the side of Austria in her quarrel with Prussia, France could purchase, if not the alliance, at least the neutrality of Austria, in the war with England which was impending. To a far-seeing French statesman it could not appear desirable that a great military Power should grow up on the frontiers of France; and the very reasons that induced her to support the smaller German States against Austria now induced her to prevent the rise of a new State which might one day be scarcely less formidable. The history of the last war also was eloquent in favour of the alliance. Austria and France had both expended torrents of blood and millions of money, they had both ended the war exhausted and impoverished, yet neither had gained anything by the struggle. Each side had experienced the most crushing disasters, and in each case these disasters were mainly due to the sudden aggression or to the sudden desertion of Frederick. And the sovereign who had proved so false to both parties, who had brought such calamities on both parties, who had played so skilfully for his own selfish purposes upon their resentments and their ambitions, had remained the only gainer by the contest. Was it desirable that this drama should be repeated—that a Power should be consolidated strong enough to turn the balance in every contest between the two great rivals on the Continent, a Power certain to seek its own aggrandisement by inflaming their mutual animosities, and by depressing each in turn? Nor was this all. The territory most coveted by France was the Austrian Netherlands. Both for purposes of aggression and for purposes of defence, influence over those strong places would prove invaluable to her policy; but all her attempts to seize, or at least to hold, them had failed through the alliance of Austria and the maritime Powers. But to Austria this distant province, in which she held only a divided rule, was much less important than Silesia, and she was prepared in the event of recovering her ancient province that Mons should be ceded to France, and that Don Philip of Parma should exchange his Italian dominions for the Austrian Netherlands.
These propositions were the basis of a negotiation which was only very slowly matured. It was not until May 1756, nearly four months after the treaty between England and Prussia, that a compact of neutrality and defensive alliance was signed between Austria and France, by which the former Power engaged to preserve complete neutrality in the war between England and France, and the latter to abstain from every attack upon the Austrian dominions, while in all contingencies that did not arise out of that war, each Power guaranteed the territory of the other. It was not until the following year that France, in conjunction with Sweden, which she subsidised, drew the sword against Prussia and signed a treaty for her partition. But as early as the middle of 1755 negotiations with this object had begun, and Frederick learnt enough from a clerk in the Dresden archives to realise the full danger that was impending, and the importance of seeking an English alliance which alone was open to him. On the other hand, England, finding Austria unwilling to support her, gladly accepted an arrangement which saved Hanover from the possible contingency of a Prussian invasion and in the more probable event of a French invasion enlisted in its help the best army in Germany.
For the rest, nothing could be more deplorable than the condition of England, and the years 1756 and 1757 were among the most humiliating in her history. French preparations made at Dunkirk and Brest, apparently intended for a descent upon England, produced the wildest alarm. It was stated that there were only three regiments in the country fit for service, and ‘the nation,’ in the words of Burke, ‘trembled under a shameful panic too public to be concealed, too fatal in its consequences to be ever forgotten.’ Urgent appeals were made to the Dutch to send over once more the 6,000 soldiers which they had engaged by the barrier treaty of 1709 to furnish whenever the Protestant dynasty was in danger. The Dutch, however, were resolved not to thrust themselves into a European war on account of England, and they persisted in their neutrality, contending that the treaty did not bind them to take part in a conflict which was in reality not one between the House of Brunswick and the House of Stuart, but between the French and English settlers in America, and also that England, by seizing French ships without a declaration of war, was clearly the aggressor. In the preceding year it had been popular to denounce the policy of subsidising German troops as a scandalous sacrifice of English to Hanoverian interests, but now it was to German troops that the Government turned for the defence of England. To the great indignation of Pitt, who declared that the resources of the country were sufficient for its defence, a large body of Hessian and Hanoverian soldiers were brought over at the desire of the Parliament, and distributed through the country. It would be difficult to conceive a measure more irritating to the national pride, but the defences had been so deplorably neglected that in case of invasion it might have proved very necessary. As Lord Waldegrave wrote, ‘we first engaged in a war and then began to prepare ourselves.’ As Pitt himself said, the country was so unnerved ‘that 20,000 men from France could shake it.’
It soon appeared, however, that the alarms of a French invasion were groundless, and that the real object of the movement of troops in Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany was to divert the attention of the English Government from an expedition that was fitting out at Toulon for an attack upon Minorca. The design was perfectly successful. The English Government continued to disbelieve in the Toulon expedition till it was too late to intercept it, and on April 10, 1756, a fleet of twelve ships of the line, with an army of about 14,000 men1 under the command of that old voluptuary the Duke of Richelieu, sailed unmolested from Toulon for Minorca, where a landing was effected without opposition on April 17. The British troops, under General Blakeney, numbered less than 3,000 men, and they at once abandoned the open towns as indefensible, and concentrated themselves in the Castle of St. Philip, which the French proceeded to besiege. It was impossible that it could long hold out without succour, but three days before the French expedition had started from Toulon, the Government, being at last convinced of the reality of the danger, had sent out Admiral Byng, with ten ships of the line, to defend Minorca. Every stage of the expedition exhibited mismanagement or timidity. The ships of Byng were miserably ill-manned, and they had to be partially refitted at Gibraltar. Scarcely any marines were taken on board, and only a single regiment for the relief of Minorca. Byng was directed to demand a battalion at Gibraltar to reinforce the little army of Blakeney; but the commander having called a council of war, it pronounced the garrison to be so weak that no soldiers could be spared without imminent danger. On May 15 war had been at last declared by England against France, and on the 19th the fleet of Byng appeared off Minorca, where it was next day encountered by the French. After a partial and indecisive engagement, night drew on, and the Admiral, having summoned a council of war, represented to it that in his opinion the relief of St. Philip's with his present resources was impracticable. He urged that the French fleet was superior to his own in men and metal, that it was extremely doubtful whether a complete naval victory could save Minorca, that there were scarcely any troops to be landed, that in the absence of marines those few were necessary for the safety of the fleet, and that even if they were thrown into the castle they would be quite insufficient to save it. He added that Gibraltar might very probably at this very time be attacked, and that owing to the weakness of its garrison it would be in great danger if the only British fleet in the Mediterranean were destroyed. Under these circumstances, he determined, with the unanimous consent of the council, to draw off his fleet, to cover Gibraltar, and to await reinforcements.
St. Philip's, left to itself, was taken, after a brave resistance, on June 28; and thus Minorca, which contained one of the finest harbours in the Mediterranean, and which was one of the most valuable fruits of the Peace of Utrecht, passed into French hands.1
In America the war was less eventful, but hardly more successful. After the disaster of General Braddock, a slight success had, it is true, illumined the English fortunes. In the September of 1755, General Johnson, at the head of a body of rather more than 3,000 colonists and Indians, had defeated an almost equal French force under General Dieskau, near Lake George, and the French commander, mortally wounded, fell into the hands of his enemies. But no results followed, and in the August of the following year the important fort of Oswego was captured by Montcalm, and 1,600 men and about 120 cannon fell into the hands of the French. Numerically the French colonists were but a handful as compared with the English, but by superior energy and skill they had hitherto on the whole maintained an ascendency in the war.
Nor was it only in Europe and in America that the year 1756 was disastrous. Almost ever since the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, the French and English colonists in India had been contending against each other by intrigues and sometimes by arms. On the French side, since the recall and disgrace of Labourdonnais, Dupleix was without a rival, and, though miserably neglected by the Home Government, he had done very much to extend the dominions of France. Vain, ostentatious, and perfectly unprincipled, he was yet admirably adapted to build up a great Oriental empire. His ambition was boundless. He was eminently skilful both in intrigue and in organisation, and he discovered with the eye of a true statesman the real conditions, weaknesses, and tendencies of Indian politics. He was the first European statesman who understood the possibility of giving to native soldiers the discipline and the efficiency of a European army, who clearly realised the immense superiority in war of a small disciplined force over the great native armies of India, and who engaged on a large scale and with real knowledge in native contests. On the death of Aurungzebe, in 1707, the great Mogul empire had fallen into a condition of complete atrophy, if not dissolution; the real power passed into the hands of a multitude of nabobs or viceroys, who, while owning a nominal allegiance to the Court of Delhi, had become in fact independent and hereditary sovereigns in their several provinces, while in the absence of any strong central authority the country was torn by repeated rebellions, invasions, and disputed successions. Under circumstances so favourable for a policy of aggrandisement, Dupleix adopted with great skill the course of selecting his own candidate in cases of disputed succession, deciding the conflict by French arms and obtaining as his reward immense concessions of territory or power. He thus, after a few years of able and audacious policy, succeeded in establishing an almost complete ascendency over the Carnatic, and indeed over the whole of the Deccan, and became by far the greatest potentate in India. The English watched his progress with great jealousy and alarm, but for a considerable period they were unable to arrest it, and they feared with much reason that the consolidation of French power in the Carnatic would be followed in the next war by the subjugation of Madras. They accordingly threw their whole energies into the contest, and by the military skill of Lawrence, and especially of Clive, who was then a young captain in the service of the Company, the whole aspect of affairs was gradually changed. In 1752 and 1753, while there was still peace between England and France, war was raging in the Carnatic, and after several brilliant English victories, the French power in that province was almost shattered. The victory was completed by the French Government itself, who recalled and disgraced Dupleix in 1754, leaving the English candidate undisputed nabob of the Carnatic, and giving India a short interval of peace. But in 1756 a new danger had arisen from another quarter. Surajah Dowlah, the Viceroy of Bengal, one of the most powerful and most ferocious of the princes of India, having quarrelled with the English on some trivial pretext, marched upon Calcutta, captured both the town and fort after a very short resistance, and in the fierce heat of an Indian June his soldiers thrust 146 English prisoners for a whole night into the Black Hole, a prison cell only eighteen feet by fourteen, from which in the morning but twenty-three came forth alive.
Long before the news of this ghastly tragedy had reached Europe, the cloud of war which had been slowly gathering over Germany had burst. Frederick had certain knowledge that a league comprising France, Russia, Austria, and Saxony, was formed against his little State of five million inhabitants. No other country in proportion to its population was so purely military as Prussia, and its army, under the skilful direction of the King, had been raised to the highest efficiency; but the disproportion of numbers was so overwhelming that ruin appeared inevitable. The only possibility of success lay in a sudden attack which might crush some members of the league before they were prepared, and disconcert the plans of the others. France was not yet ready to enter into the field. Russia was very distant, and rapid successes in Saxony and Austria might even now change the course of events. At the end of July, 1756, Frederick despatched a peremptory message to Maria Theresa, demanding an explanation of the military preparations of Austria, and on receiving, as he expected, an evasive answer, he at once marched at the head of 60,000 men upon Dresden. The Saxon army, which consisted of about 18,000 men, retired to Pirna, where it was at once blockaded. Dresden was captured. In the presence of the Queen, who had vainly tried to prevent it, the door of the archive-room was forced, the original documents disclosing the circumstances of the league against Frederick were abstracted, and their publication amply justified in the eyes both of contemporaries and of posterity the invasion of Saxony. An Austrian army, slightly inferior to that of Frederick, and commanded by Marshal Browne—whom Kevenhuller, when dying, had pronounced to be the ablest general in the Austrian service—marched to the relief of the blockaded Saxons; and Frederick, leaving a portion of his army before Pirna, hastened with the remainder to meet the Austrians. The battle took place on Oct. 1, at Lobositz, a village within the Bohemian frontier. It was long, bloody, and admirably contested, but Frederick ultimately compelled the Austrians to retreat, though his own losses in killed and wounded were greater than those of the enemy. Browne made another gallant but unsuccessful attempt to relieve the Saxons, and on the 16th the whole Saxon army capitulated. Their sovereign was allowed to retire to his Polish dominions. The officers were dismissed on parole. The soldiers were compelled to enlist in the Prussian army, and Frederick retired to winter quarters in Dresden, where he levied crushing contributions on the Saxons for the support of the war.1
While these events were taking place abroad the distrust of the mismanagement of Newcastle was becoming stronger and stronger in England, and the Government, in spite of its Parliamentary majority, was manifestly sinking. In October 1756, Fox sealed its fate by deserting his colleagues. He complained that Newcastle monopolised power, withheld his confidence, and mismanaged affairs, and he was too clear-sighted not to perceive that the Government was doomed, and that his safest course was to abandon it. Nearly at the same time the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench became vacant, and Murray insisted upon obtaining it. Newcastle still made desperate efforts to avert resignation. He tried in vain by high political offers to induce Murray to abandon or defer his intention. He endeavoured in turn to persuade Pitt once more to join the administration, Lord Egmont to accept the lead of the House of Commons, Lord Granville to take the first place in a Government of which Newcastle should be a member. Every attempt, however, was in vain, and in November 1756 he resigned. Lord Hardwicke accompanied him into opposition, and Lord Anson, whose reputation was much sullied by the expedition against Minorca, was at the same time dismissed.
The King entrusted the formation of the new ministry to Fox, who made overtures to Pitt, but the latter peremptorily refused to serve with his rival. This combination having failed, a Government was, after much and difficult negotiation, formed in December by the Duke of Devonshire and Pitt, and supported by the Grenville connection. In this administration Devonshire succeeded Newcastle as First Commissioner of the Treasury, Legge became Chancellor of the Exchequer, Pitt succeeded Fox as Secretary of State. Lord Temple was placed at the head of the Admiralty; George Grenville succeeded Dodington as Treasurer of the Navy; and the Great Seal was put in commission. Great efforts were made to increase the army, and one of the earliest steps of Pitt was his famous measure of forming two regiments out of the Highland clans. It was important as providing a first instalment of a body of troops who have never been surpassed, and still more so as drawing into legitimate channels that exuberant martial spirit which was the secret of the insurrections and the anarchy of the Highlands, and associating the military enthusiasm of the Scotch with the existing dynasty. The merit of Pitt, however, in carrying it has been exaggerated. As we have already seen, it was an old recommendation of Duncan Forbes.1 It had been warmly approved of by Walpole, and its expediency was again pressed upon the Government in the early part of 1756.2 Pitt, however, carried it into effect, he provided with much energy for reinforcing the British strength in America, and the mere pre-eminence in the Government of a statesman in whom the nation had confidence did something to brace the flagging energies of his countrymen.
But it soon appeared evident that the Government could not last. Though the opinion of the country was incontestably and strongly in favour of Pitt, though the circumstances of the country were such that the presence of a man of genius and energy at the head of affairs was of transcendent importance, it is doubtful whether Pitt would have climbed to power had he not received the warm support of the Prince of Wales and condescended to gain the favour of Lady Yarmouth, the mistress of the King;3 and it is certain that the first administration in which he exercised a preponderating power was one of the weakest in the reign. The majority in both Houses still looked on Newcastle as their chief; and the opposition of the great Pelham interest, and the ambiguous attitude of Fox, were fatal to the Government. Pitt during most of the winter was incapacitated by the gout; and the King, though well satisfied with the Duke of Devonshire, was bitterly hostile both to Pitt and to Temple. In February, in a conversation with Lord Waldegrave, he summed up with amusing frankness his opinion of their merits. He complained that Pitt ‘made him long speeches which possibly might be very fine but were greatly beyond his comprehension, and that his letters were affected, formal, and pedantic; that as to Temple, he was so disagreeable a fellow there was no bearing him; that when he attempted to argue he was pert and sometimes insolent; that when he meant to be civil he was exceeding troublesome; and that in the business of his office he was totally ignorant.’ The King was certainly no admirer of Newcastle, but he now turned to him in despair, and anxiously asked Lord Waldegrave whether the old statesman would again undertake the management of affairs. Lord Waldegrave described the Duke as in his usual condition, ‘equally balanced between fear on one side and love of power on the other,’ ‘eager and impatient to come into power, but dreading the danger with which it must be accompanied.’ ‘I know,’ answered the King, ‘he is apt to be afraid, therefore go and encourage him; tell him I do not look upon myself as King whilst I am in the hands of these scoundrels; that I am determined to get rid of them at any rate; that I expect his assistance, and that he may depend upon my favour and protection.’ The Duke of Cumberland at the same time strongly pressed the King that Pitt and Temple should be turned out without further deliberation, and he desired that a new administration should be formed before he set out for Hanover, where he was about to take the command of the electoral troops.1
It happened, too, that on one important question both Temple and Pitt had incurred some transitory unpopularity in a manner that was greatly to their honour. When, during the administration of Newcastle the news arrived of the surrender of Minorca, the indignation against Byng ran fierce and high. He was burnt in effigy in all the great towns. His seat in Hertfordshire was assaulted by the mob. The streets and shops swarmed with ballads and libels directed against him. Addresses to the King soon poured in from Dorsetshire, Huntingdon, Buckingham, Bedford, Suffolk, Shropshire, Surrey, Somerset, Lancashire, from most of the great towns, and especially from the city of London, calling for a strict inquiry into the causes of the fall of Minorca, and it soon became evident that the people would be satisfied with nothing less than blood. Newcastle, terrified to the utmost, was only too ready to offer up any scapegoat. ‘Oh, indeed, he shall be tried immediately, he shall be hanged directly,’ he is said to have blurted out to a deputation from the City who came to him with representations against the admiral. Fowke, the Governor of Gibraltar, was broken by the King; and Byng on his arrival was at once put in close confinement, and soon after brought before a court-martial. The trial lasted from December 21, 1756, till the 20th of the following January. The court fully acquitted Byng of all cowardice and of all disaffection, but while admitting that he had acted according to his conscientious judgment, they, after much hesitation and delay, pronounced that he had not done all in his power to destroy the French ships or to relieve Minorca, and that he was accordingly guilty of neglect of duty. Originally the Articles of War left it at the discretion of the courts-martial to inflict, according to the circumstances of the case, death or whatever other penalty they pleased in cases of neglect of duty, but about three years before the trial of Byng the articles had been remodelled and the capital penalty was left without an alternative. The court, however, unanimously accompanied their sentence by a recommendation to mercy, and also by a very earnest representation to ‘the Lords Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral.’ ‘We cannot help laying the distresses of our minds before your Lordships on this occasion,’ they wrote, ‘in finding ourselves under a necessity of condemning a man to death from the great severity of the 12th Article of War, part of which he falls under, and which admits of no mitigation even if the crime should be committed by an error of judgment only; and therefore for our own consciences’ sakes, as well as in justice to the prisoner, we pray your Lordships in the most earnest manner to recommend him to His Majesty's clemency.’1
It appeared almost incredible that under such circumstances the sentence should have been carried out, and the opinion of the navy as well as the opinion of the court-martial was strongly and unequivocally in favour of remission. Pitt bravely urged its propriety both publicly in Parliament, and in the closet of the King, but without effect. ‘You have taught me,’ said the King, when Pitt spoke of the dominant sentiment of the House of Commons, ‘to look for the sense of my subjects in another place than the House of Commons.’ Temple was equally courageous, but with his usual absence of tact he mortally offended the King by some expressions which he let fall, which were supposed to have compared the conduct of the admiral with that of the King at the Battle of Oudenarde.2 The most prominent members of the court-martial again individually urged in the strongest terms the gross injustice of executing the admiral for what was a mere error of judgment; and Voltaire, with characteristic humanity, sent to England a letter he had received from Richelieu, in which that commander spoke with high eulogy of Byng. But all these efforts were in vain. Newcastle and his partisans, though out of office, had lost little of their power. They imagined that by the execution of Byng they could win popularity, secure themselves from the indignation of the nation, and assist Lord Anson, who had been First Lord of the Admiralty when the disaster took place, and to whose neglect it was mainly to be attributed. Fox, who showed on this occasion what he showed more conspicuously in the next reign—the callous selfishness which lay below his superficial good nature—made great use of the unpopularity of Byng as a party weapon against Pitt, and Lord Hardwicke steadily laboured for his destruction. The unfortunate admiral exhibited in the last days of life an admirable courage; and his execution, which took place on March 14, reflected much more real discredit upon the nation that demanded it than the military disaster which caused it.1
The execution of Byng, however, did nothing to restore the popularity of Newcastle, and his opposition to it did no lasting injury to that of Pitt. On April 5, 1757, three weeks after the tragedy had been consummated, the King struck the blow he had for some time meditated. Temple was dismissed; a few days later Pitt underwent the same fate, and after a term of office of less than five months the whole ministry was dissolved. It was followed by a very significant outburst of popular feeling. The stocks fell. The Common Council voted the freedom of the City to both Pitt and Legge. ‘For some weeks,’ in the words of Horace Walpole, ‘it rained gold boxes,’ and the nation showed beyond dispute that the statesman who was, beyond all others, the most disliked by the King and by the most considerable of the great nobles, was also the statesman in whom alone the English people had real confidence. For eleven weeks after his fall England was without a Government, and during all this time a great war was raging, difficulties and dangers were accumulating, the reputation of the country had sunk to the lowest ebb, and without a single real political principle being at issue, the statesmen were divided by the most implacable hostility. At last, after numerous abortive attempts and unsuccessful combinations in which Newcastle bore the chief part, it became evident to most men that the union of the parliamentary influence of Newcastle and of the genius and popularity of Pitt was absolutely necessary, and in June 1757 a coalition ministry was formed which was the most successful in English history, and which speedily restored the fortunes of the nation. Newcastle returned to the Treasury. Legge became again Chancellor of the Exchequer. Pitt and Lord Holdernesse were Secretaries of State. Temple became Privy Seal, and Anson, to the surprise and indignation of many, resumed his post at the Admiralty.
All the leading parties had to sacrifice much. The King was bitterly hostile to Pitt, whom he had just dismissed, and was absolutely coerced by the Duke of Newcastle, who now, to his great indignation, distinctly told him that he would take no part in a Government of which Pitt was not a member, and who induced the most powerful Whig families to support him. Newcastle, on the other hand, had, a few weeks before, promised the King that he would never coalesce with Pitt. He had received from Pitt insults and injuries that must have rankled in the least sensitive nature, and he was compelled, after a severe struggle, to relinquish to Pitt all control over the conduct of the war, and to confine himself to the management of the Treasury. Pitt, too, had much to forget. He had learnt by experience that he had overrated his strength and his importance. He was compelled to unite with a statesman whom he had covered with ridicule and insult, whose alliance he had rejected with the most arrogant scorn, whose expulsion from public affairs he had made a main end of his policy. But a few months had passed since he had dilated with withering irony upon the conduct of Fox in uniting with Newcastle, comparing it, in a well-known passage, to the junction of the two rivers at Lyons, and his language was now equally applicable to himself. He had, however, gained much. Animated by a real patriotism, and conscious of extraordinary powers as a War Minister, he now obtained the absolute direction of the war, an assured majority, and the leadership of the House of Commons, while it was not necessary for him to take any personal part in the corruption of its members. In his own words he ‘borrowed’ the majority of the Duke of Newcastle to carry on the government of the country.
The part taken by Fox at this juncture was the most remarkable. Hitherto he had been in political weight at least equal to Pitt, and the great interest in parliamentary contests had lain in their rivalry. In the country, however, he was even more unpopular than Newcastle, and his political prospects had recently declined. It was certain that he could not form a ministry alone, and that Pitt would not combine with him on equal terms. It was more than doubtful whether a ministry of Newcastle and Fox, from which Pitt was excluded, could ever stand. Neither statesman appears to have believed it, and to both the combination would have been eminently distasteful. On the other hand, Fox's fortune was dissipated; he loved money, and he saw a chance of obtaining in a short time great wealth. The office of Paymaster of the Forces was a subordinate one, and did not even carry with it a seat in the Cabinet, but in time of war it was extremely lucrative. Fox therefore consented to accept it, became the subordinate of his ancient rival, and speedily amassed an enormous fortune.
The events which I have now very briefly sketched are important as showing the disorganisation into which the Whig party had fallen in the last days of George II., at a time when it possessed a complete monopoly of political power. At hardly any other period of English history did parliamentary government wear a less attractive aspect, and it is not difficult to discover the causes of the disease. Party government, in the true sense of the word, had for many years been extinct; Toryism had sunk into Jacobitism; Jacobitism had faded into insignificance; and the great divisions of politicians had almost wholly ceased to represent a division of principles or even of tendencies. Two or three times in English history something analogous to this has occurred, and it always brings with it grave political dangers. Such a state of affairs is peculiarly unfavourable to real earnestness in public life. Faction replaces party, personal pretensions acquire an inordinate weight, and there is much reason to fear lest the tone of political honour should be lowered, and lest the public spirit of the nation should decline. But in periods when the parliamentary machine is completely controlled by the popular will, this state of party anarchy or amalgamation is not without its compensations. It continually happens that administrations become unpopular, not because the general principles of their policy are in conflict with the opinions of the country, but from isolated mistakes, from the feebleness or perversity of a particular minister. It is a great misfortune when Parliament is unable to transfer authority to more efficient hands without altering the whole system of national policy; yet, when the lines of party demarcation are strongly drawn, it is often impossible to do so. In times when party divisions cease to coincide with any clear division of principles, power will naturally pass to the ablest statesman; in other times, to the representative of the dominant principle. Besides this, it is at a time when the conflict of parties is in a great degree intermitted, that social reforms and administrative improvements have most prospect of being attended to.
At the period I am describing, however, the absence of party divisions concurred with a great weakness of popular control, and with an almost complete absence of a reforming spirit among politicians, while the immense corrupt influences that had been gradually matured and concentrated, had made the chief political power in the nation almost hereditary in a few families. The voice of the people was, it is true, still sufficiently powerful—with the assistance of some minor influences—to force Pitt into the ministry; and the character of Parliament was still so popular that Newcastle, in spite of his large majority, was unable to carry on the government in opposition to the most powerful speakers. But yet a small number of great noblemen had acquired a complete control over so large a proportion of seats that their combination made any opposing administration impossible; no government could be carried on without them, and the fluctuations of power were chiefly governed by their competition. And while the personal ambitions of the great families broke up the Parliament into numerous small factions, the conduct of the King aggravated the difficulty. His point of view, however mistaken, was at least very intelligible. He boasted, with much reason, that in the course of a long reign it would be impossible to cite a single case in which he had violated the constitution; but he had not yet fully acquiesced in the fact that the most important prerogative theoretically conceded to him had, by the force of facts, become little more than a fiction. He was told that it was his undoubted right to choose his ministers; and he contended that, if so, he had at least the right of excluding from office statesmen who were personally offensive to him. Such a right cannot, in practice, coexist with parliamentary government; but we can hardly blame the King for having been slow to recognise the fact. That he greatly underrated the genius of Pitt is very true. He complained that he was totally ignorant of foreign affairs, prolix, pompous and affected in the closet and in his letters; and he probably shared the feeling that appears to have been common, that he was a mere visionary rhetorician. ‘Pitt used to call me madman,’ said old Lord Granville after one of the cabinet councils, ‘but I never was half so mad as he.’ But the chief causes of irritation were the violent and grossly offensive attacks which Pitt had made on Hanover and on the Hanoverian partialities of the King, the persistence with which he had sought popularity by pandering to the popular jealousy on the subject, and the utterly unreasonable opposition he had made to the measures for the protection of Hanover at a time when that country was exposed to imminent danger solely on account of an English quarrel in America. It is not surprising that the King should have bitterly resented these attacks, nor yet that he should have pronounced the English notions of liberty ‘somewhat singular, when the chief of the nobility,’ as he complained, ‘chose rather to be the dependents and followers of a Duke of Newcastle, than to be the friends and counsellors of their sovereign.’1
He yielded, however, at last, and from this time Pitt had no reason to complain. Lord Nugent many years after described in the House of Commons one of the early interviews between the King and his new minister. ‘Sire, give me your confidence,’ said Pitt, ‘and I will deserve it.’ ‘Deserve my confidence,’ was the answer, ‘and you shall have it.’ The promise was fully kept, and during the remainder of the reign Pitt was scarcely less absolute over military affairs in England than Frederick the Great in Prussia. Perceiving clearly the extreme danger of divided counsels in war, he even assumed a complete control of the navy, insisting that the correspondence of the naval officers which had always been vested in the Board of Admiralty should be given over to him, and even that the Board should sign despatches which he wrote without being privy to their contents.1 From the middle of 1757 to the death of George II., there was no serious opposition to his will, and the history of England was little more than the history of his policy.
We may here, then, conveniently pause to examine in some detail the character and policy of this most remarkable man, who, in spite of many and glaring defects, was undoubtedly one of the noblest, as he was one of the greatest, who have ever appeared in English politics. There have, perhaps, been English statesmen who have produced on the whole greater and more enduring benefits to their country than the elder Pitt, and there have certainly been some whose careers have exhibited fewer errors and fewer defects; but there has been no other statesman whose fame has been so dazzling and so universal, or concerning whose genius and character there has been so little dispute. As an orator, if the best test of eloquence be the influence it exercises on weighty matters upon a highly cultivated assembly, he must rank with the very greatest who have ever lived. His speeches appear, indeed, to have exhibited no pathos, and not much wit; he was not like his son, skilful in elaborate statements; nor like Fox, an exhaustive debater; nor like Burke, a profound philosopher; nor like Canning, a great master of sparkling fancy and of playful sarcasm; but he far surpassed them all in the blasting fury of his invective, in the force, fire, and majesty of a declamation which thrilled and awed the most fastidious audience, in the burning and piercing power with which he could imprint his views upon the minds of his hearers. Like most men of real and original genius, but unlike the great majority even of very eminent speakers, his eloquence did not consist solely or mainly in the skilful structure and the rhetorical collocation of his sentences. It abounded in noble thoughts nobly expressed, in almost rhythmical phrases of imaginative beauty which clung like poetry to the memory, in picturesque images and vivid epithets which illumined with a sudden gleam the subjects he treated. He lived at a time when there were no regular parliamentary reporters, he never appears to have himself corrected a speech, the remains we possess are but disjointed fragments or palpably inaccurate recollections, and nearly a hundred years have elapsed since his death; but yet, in spite of all these disadvantages, there are few English orators who have left so many passages or sentences or turns of phraseology which are still remembered. His comparison of the coalition of Fox and Newcastle to the junction of the Rhone and of the Saône, his denunciation of the employment of Indians in warfare, his defence of the Dissenters against the charge of secret ambition, his appeal to the historical memories recorded on the tapestry of the House of Lords, his contrast between the iron barons of the past and the silken barons of the present, his eulogy of Magna Charta, his expansion of the trite maxim that every Englishman's house is his castle, his descriptions of the Church of England as ‘a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and an Arminian clergy,’ and of the press as ‘like the air, a chartered libertine,’ are all familiar, while hardly a sentence is remembered from the oratory of his son, of Fox, of Plunket, or of Brougham. He possessed every personal advantage that an orator could desire—a singularly graceful and imposing form, a voice of wonderful compass and melody, which he modulated with consummate skill; an eye of such piercing brightness and such commanding power that it gave an air of inspiration to his speaking, and added a peculiar terror to his invective. The weight and dignity of a great character and a great intellect appeared in all he said, and a certain sustained loftiness of diction and of manner kept him continually on a higher level than his audience, and imposed respect upon the most petulant opposition.
In the histrionic part of oratory, in the power of conveying deep impressions by gesture, look, or tone, he appears indeed to have been unequalled among orators. Probably the greatest actor who ever lived was his contemporary, and the most critical and at the same time hostile observers declared that in grace and dignity of gesture Chatham was not inferior to Garrick. But notwithstanding the exquisitely finished acting displayed in their delivery, his speeches exhibited in the highest perfection that quality of spontaneity which so broadly distinguishes the best modern speaking from the prepared harangues of antiquity. They were scarcely ever of the nature of formal orations, and they were little governed by rule, symmetry, or method. They usually took the tone of a singularly elevated, rapid, and easy conversation, following the course of the debate, passing with unforced transitions, and with the utmost variety of voice and manner, through all the modes of statement, argument, sarcasm, and invective; abounding in ingenious illustrations and in unlooked for flashes, digressing readily to answer objections or to resent interruption, and rising in a moment under the influence of a stron passion or of a great theme into the grandest and most majestic declamation. In his best days he used to speak for hours with a power that never flagged, but in his latter years his voice often sank, whole passages were scarcely audible to the listeners, and his eloquence shone with a fitful and occasional, though still a dazzling splendour. ‘He was not,’ it was said,1 ‘like Townshend, for ever on the rack of exertion, but rather lightened upon his subject and reached the point by the flashings of his mind, which, like those of his eye, were felt but could not be followed.’ He rarely involved himself in intricate or abstract speculation, or in long trains of reasoning; but no one was a greater master of those brief, keen arguments which are most effective in debate. No one could expose a fallacy with a more trenchant and epigrammatic clearness, or could illuminate his case with a more intense vividness. He is said to have cared less for the right of reply than most great speakers, but two of his most powerful speeches—his detailed refutation of Grenville's argument in favour of American taxation in 1766, and his answer in 1777 to Lord Suffolk's apology for the employment of Indians in war—were replies.
It was said by an acute critic1 that both his son and Charles Fox often delivered abler speeches, but that neither of them ever attained those moments of transcendent greatness which were frequent with the elder Pitt, and that he alone of the three had the power not only of delighting and astonishing, but also of overawing the House. He had a grandeur and a manner peculiarly his own, and it was the pre-eminent characteristic of his eloquence that it impressed every hearer with the conviction that there was something in the speaker immeasurably greater even than his words. He delighted in touching the moral chords, in appealing to strong passions, in arguing questions on high grounds of principle rather than on grounds of detail. As Grattan said, ‘Great subjects, great empires, great characters, effulgent ideas, and classical illustrations, formed the material of his speeches.’ His imagination was so vivid that he was accustomed to say that most things returned to him with greater force the second time than the first. His diction, though often rising to an admirable poetic beauty, was in general remarkably simple, and his speeches were so little prepared and so little restrained that he feared to speak when he had any important secret relating to the subject of debate on his mind. As he himself said, ‘When my mind is full of a subject, if once I get on my legs it is sure to run over.’ In the words of Walpole, ‘though no man knew so well how to say what he pleased, no man ever knew so little what he was going to say.’ But yet, as is often the case, this facility of spontaneous and sudden eloquence was only acquired by long labour, and it was probably compatible with a careful preparation of particular passages in his speeches. Wilkes described him as having given all his mind ‘to the studying of words and rounding of sentences.’ He had perused Barrow's sermons as a model of style, with such assiduity that he could repeat some of them by heart. He told a friend that he had read over Bailey's English dictionary twice from beginning to end. He was one of the first to detect the great merit of the style of Junius as a model for oratory, and he recommended some early letters which that writer had published under the signature of Domitian, to the careful study of his son. One who knew him well1 described him as so fastidious that he disliked even to look upon a bad print, lest it should impair the delicacy of his taste.
Yet in truth that taste was far from pure, and there was much in his speeches that was florid and meretricious, and not a little that would have appeared absurd bombast but for the amazing power of his delivery, and the almost magnetic fascination of his presence. The anecdotes preserved of the ascendency he acquired, and of the terror he inspired in the great councils of the realm, are so wonderful, and indeed so unparalleled, that they would be incredible were they not most abundantly attested. ‘The terrible,’ said Charles Butler, ‘was his peculiar power; then the whole House sank before him.’ ‘His words,’ said Lord Lyttelton, ‘have sometimes frozen my young blood into stagnation, and sometimes made it pace in such a hurry through my veins that I could scarce support it.’ ‘No malefactor under the stripes of an executioner,’ said Glover, ‘was ever more forlorn and helpless than Fox appeared under the lash of Pitt's eloquence, shrewd and able in Parliament as Fox confessedly is.’ Fox himself, in one of his letters, describes a debate on a contested election, in which the member, who was accused of bribery, carried with him all the sympathies of the House, and kept it in a continual roar of laughter by a speech full of wit, humour, and buffoonery. ‘Mr. Pitt came down from the gallery and took it up in his highest tone of dignity. “He was astonished when he heard what had been the occasion of their mirth. Was the dignity of the House of Commons on such sure foundations that they might venture themselves to shake it? Had it not on the contrary been diminishing for years, till now we are brought to the very brink of a precipice, when, if ever, a stand must be made.” Then followed high compliments to the Speaker, eloquent exhortations to Whigs of all conditions to defend their attacked and expiring liberty, “unless you will degenerate into a little assembly, serving no other purpose than to register the arbitrary edicts of one too powerful a subject.” … Displeased as well as pleased allow it to be the finest speech that was ever made; and it was observed that by his first two periods he brought the House to a silence and attention that you might have heard a pin drop.’ On two occasions a member who attempted to answer him was so disconcerted by his glance, or by a few fierce words which he uttered, that he sat down confused and paralysed with fear. Charles Butler asked a member who was present on one of these occasions ‘if the House did not laugh at the ridiculous figure of the poor member?’ ‘No sir,’ he replied, ‘we were all too much awed to laugh.’ No speaker ever took greater liberties with his audience. Thus, when George Grenville in one of his speeches was urging in defence of a tax the difficulty of discovering a substitute: ‘Tell me where it should be placed; I say, tell me where?’ he was interrupted by Pitt humming aloud the refrain of a popular song, ‘Tell me, gentle shepherd, where?’ ‘It, gentlemen, …’ began Grenville, when Pitt rose, bowed, and walked contemptuously out of the House. ‘Sugar, Mr. Speaker,’ he once began, when a laugh arose. ‘Sugar,’ he repeated three times, turning fiercely round, ‘who will now dare to laugh at sugar?’ and the members, like timid school-boys, sank into silence. ‘On one occasion,’ wrote Grattan—who, when a young man, carefully followed his speeches—‘on addressing Lord Mansfield, he said, “Who are the evil advisers of his Majesty? is it you? is it you? is it you?” (pointing to the ministers until he came near Lord Mansfield). There were several lords round him, and Lord Chatham said, “My Lords, please to take your seats.” When they sat down he pointed to Lord Mansfield, and said, “Is it you? Methinks Felix trembles.”’ Grattan adds, with much truth, ‘It required a great actor to do this. Done by anyone else it would have been miserable. … It was said he was too much of a mountebank, but if so it was a great mountebank. Perhaps he was not so good a debater as his son, but he was a much better orator, a greater scholar, and a far greater man.’1
It is manifest that while his eloquence would have placed him first, or among the first of orators, in any age or in any country, his usual style of speaking was only adapted to a period when regular reporters were unknown. Parliamentary reporting has immeasurably extended the influence of parliamentary speaking, it has done much to moderate its tone and to purify it from extravagance and bombast, but it is extremely injurious to its oratorical character. The histrionic part of eloquence has almost lost its power. A great speaker knows that it is necessary to emasculate his statements by cautions, limitations, and qualifications wholly unnecessary for the audience he addresses, but very essential if his words are to be perpetuated, and to be canvassed by the great public beyond the walls. He knows that language which would exercise a thrilling effect upon a heated assembly in the fierce excitement of a midnight debate would appear insufferably turgid and exaggerated if submitted the next day to the cold criticism of unimpassioned readers, and the mere fact that while addressing one audience he is thinking of another, gives an air of unreality to his speaking. In the time of Pitt, however, reporting was irregular, fitful, and inaccurate. The real aim of the great orator was to move the audience before him; but a vague report of the immense power of his speeches was communicated to the country; and detached passages or phrases, eminently fitted to stir the passions of the people, were circulated abroad.
If we pass from the oratory of Pitt to his character, we must speak with much more qualification. His faults were, indeed, many and very grave, but they were redeemed by some splendid qualities which dazzled his contemporaries, and have perhaps exercised a somewhat disproportionate influence upon the judgments of posterity. He was entirely free from all taint or suspicion of corruption. Entering public life at a time when the standard of political honour was extremely low, having, it is said, at first a private fortune of not more than 100l. a year, and being at the same time almost destitute of parliamentary connection, conscious of the possession of great administrative powers, and intensely desirous of office, he exhibited in all matters connected with money the most transparent and fastidious purity. He once spoke of ‘that sense of honour which makes ambition virtue,’ and he illustrated it admirably himself. He was entirely inaccessible to corrupt offers, and, unlike the great majority of his contemporaries, not content with declaiming when in opposition, he attested in the most emphatic manner his sincerity when in power. On his appointment as Paymaster of the Forces, in 1746, he at once and for ever established his character by two striking instances of magnanimity. His predecessors had long been accustomed to invest in government securities the large floating balance which was left in their hands for the payment of the troops and to appropriate the interest, and also to receive as a perquisite of office one half per cent. of all subsidies voted by Parliament to foreign princes. These two sources of emolument being united to the regular salary of the office made it in time of war extremely lucrative; and though they had never been legalised they were universally recognised, and had been received without question and without opposition by a long line of distinguished statesmen. Pitt, who was probably the poorest man who had ever filled the office, refused them as illegal, and when the King of Sardinia pressed upon him as a free gift a sum equivalent to the usual deduction from his subsidy, he at once declined to accept it.
Such a course speedily made him the idol of the nation, which had long chafed bitterly under the corruption of its representatives. Pitt had, indeed, every quality that was required for a great popular leader. His splendid eloquence, his disinterestedness, his position outside the charmed circle of aristocratic connections, the popular cast and tendency of his politics, filled the people with admiration, and their enthusiasm was by no means diminished by the pride with which, relying on their favour, he encountered every aristocratic cabal, or by the insatiable ambition which was the most conspicuous element of his character. His pride was indeed of that kind which is the guardian of many virtues, and his ambition was indissolubly linked with the greatness of his country. Beyond all other statesmen of the eighteenth century he understood and sympathised with the feelings of the English people, and recognised the great unrepresented forces of the nation, and amid all the variations of his career his love of freedom never faltered, and a burning, passionate patriotism remained the guiding principle of his life.
The qualities of a great popular leader are, however, by no means his only title to our admiration. It is his peculiar merit that, while no statesman of his time rested more entirely upon popular favour, or enjoyed it more largely, or valued it more highly, very few risked it so boldly in a righteous cause. Perhaps the very noblest incident of his life was his strenuous though unavailing opposition to the execution of Byng, at a time when popular excitement was running most fiercely against the unhappy admiral, and when the King fully shared the feelings of his people. The moment was one of the most critical in the career of Pitt. The Devonshire ministry had but just come into power. It was miserably weak in parliamentary influence. The King disliked it, and the favour of the people was its only support. No man had by nature less sympathy than Pitt with excessive caution or timidity. Yet he clearly saw that the execution of Byng was cruel, impolitic, and even unjust, and he risked the ruin of his popularity rather than support it.
He exhibited a similar courage more than once at a later period. When at the beginning of the next reign the opponents of Bute had lashed to fury the popular prejudice against the Scotch, Pitt, though himself the most formidable adversary of the Scotch favourite, never lost an opportunity of rebuking this prejudice with the sternest and most eloquent indignation. When Wilkes had become the idol of the multitude, Pitt, at the very time when he was exerting all his powers to defend the constitutional right of the popular hero to sit in Parliament, scornfully disclaimed all sympathy with him, describing him as ‘a blasphemer of his God, and a libeller of his King.’ When the Americans, defending the principles of liberty, had broken into open rebellion, Pitt defied the whole national feeling of England by exclaiming in Parliament, ‘I rejoice that America has resisted—three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.’
Great disinterestedness, great courage, and great patriotism, united with an intense love of liberty, with splendid talents, and with splendid success, were sufficient to overbalance and sometimes to conceal faults that would have ruined an inferior man. No impartial judge, indeed, who considers the career of Pitt, can fail to admit that it was disfigured by the grossest inconsistencies, and was in some of its parts distinctly dishonourable. He was a younger son of a family which had acquired considerable wealth in India—chiefly by the sale of the largest diamond then known; and which, though not noble, was connected by marriage with the Stanhopes, and counted among its property the borough of Old Sarum. At Eton and Oxford he formed intimacies with many men who afterwards had high positions in politics. He travelled for a time in France and Italy, obtained on his return a cornetcy in a regiment of dragoons, and entered Parliament for Old Sarum in 1735, being then about twenty-seven. He at once attached himself to the Prince of Wales, who was in violent opposition to his father and to the Government, and became one of the most impetuous assailants of Walpole. He was one of the fiercest of that mischievous band who, by their furious declamations, drove the country into the Spanish, war, frustrated all the pacific efforts of Walpole, and clamoured for a complete abandonment of the right of search as an indispensable condition of peace. He swelled the cry against standing armies in time of peace. He denounced the Hanoverian tendencies of Walpole; he made that great minister the object of his constant invectives. Walpole is said to have exclaimed, on hearing him, ‘We must muzzle this terrible cornet,’ and he deprived him of his commission; but the Prince of Wales at once appointed him groom of his bed-chamber. Upon the resignation of Walpole, Pitt distinguished himself beyond most other politicians by his implacable hostility to the fallen statesman, by the pertinacity with which he urged on his impeachment, and by the energy with which he supported the Bill for granting an indemnity to all who would give evidence against him.
The speedy result of the fall of Walpole was the ascendency of Carteret. Pitt appeared as far as ever from power, and the King already looked upon him with especial dislike. The Hanoverian measures of Carteret, and especially the subsidising of Hanoverian troops, were extremely unpopular; and Pitt immediately constituted himself the organ of the popular feeling, and delivered, in 1743 and 1744, some of his most powerful speeches in opposition to the new favourite. He nicknamed him ‘the Hanover-troop minister,’ and his Government ‘the prerogative administration.’ He described him as ‘a sole, an execrable minister, who seems to have drunk of the potion which poets have described as causing men to forget their country.’ Comparing him to Walpole, he adduced the parallel of Rehoboam the son of Solomon, whose little finger was heavier than his predecessor's lions. He insulted the King in language which must appear shameful to all who do not consider a sovereign excluded from the ordinary courtesy of a gentleman, doubly shameful when viewed in the light of Pitt's own policy at a later period. ‘It is now,’ he exclaimed, ‘but too apparent that this great, this powerful, this formidable kingdom, is considered only as a province to a despicable electorate.’ He opposed the address to the King after the Battle of Dettingen; he more than insinuated that the reports of the King's courage during the battle were untrue; he spoke of his ‘absurd, ungrateful, and perfidious partiality for Hanover;’ he declared that the public welfare demanded the separation of Hanover from England; he dilated upon the ‘cowardice’ of the Hanoverian troops, and upon the imaginary indignities offered to the British soldiers; and exaggerated with malignant eloquence every petty misconduct of the foreign allies. He objected to the whole scheme of the war, laying it down as a maxim ‘that we should never assist our allies upon the Continent with any great number of troops.’1
His language at this time was certainly sufficiently violent and exaggerated. It must, however, be admitted that there were real and serious grounds for complaining that Carteret had subordinated the interests of England to those of Hanover. Much must be allowed for the excited condition of the nation, and something for that vehement oratorical temper which naturally leads a great speaker to magnify the evil of what his judgment pronounces to be censurable, and to express his opposition in the most powerful language. With the country these speeches made Pitt eminently popular, and in Parliament he was greatly feared; but by the leading statesmen he was not much liked or trusted. He was described as ‘extremely supercilious and apt to mingle passions with business;’ as ‘a young man of fine parts,’ but ‘narrow, not knowing much of the world, and a little too dogmatical.’2 The old Duke of Newcastle, however, in a private letter to the Duke of Cumberland, not long after declared that Pitt had ‘the dignity of Sir W. Windham, the wit of Mr. Pulteney, and the knowledge and judgment of Sir W. Walpole.’
He soon, however, appeared in a very new light. He was extremely desirous of office; and it may be fairly admitted that this desire was due to no sordid motive, but to a consciousness of his extraordinary powers, and to a wish to devote them, in a period of great military decadence, to the service of the country. The Pelhams fully recognised his genius, and he speedily formed a close political alliance with them. This course was probably the only one which then opened to him a prospect of political power, and it proved eventually of great benefit to the country; but it must be acknowledged that there was something at least singular in the alliance of the orator who had denounced the whole policy of Walpole with the most unqualified violence, and who had continually thundered against the corruption of his administration, with Henry Pelham, who was universally regarded as the natural heir to the policy of Walpole, and with Newcastle, who had been the chief agent in the corruption of which Walpole had been accused. Be this, however, as it may; the alliance was a very firm one, and was long faithfully observed. When the Pelhams constructed the ‘Broad-bottomed Ministry’ in December 1744, they admitted several of Pitt's friends to office, and would have made Pitt himself Secretary at War but for the positive refusal of the King.1 They undertook, however, ultimately to break down the royal opposition; and on this understanding Pitt gave them his warm and unqualified support. He resigned his position in the household of the Prince of Wales. He had hitherto been the most vehement opponent of the system of carrying on the war by land, and had, as late as January 1743–4, made the policy of maintaining a British army in Flanders the special object of his attack;2 but he now rose from his sick bed, and came down to the House to deliver an eloquent speech in support of the Pelham project of strengthening and continuing that army. He had almost exhausted the vocabulary of abuse in denouncing Carteret for taking Hanoverian troops into British pay, but he now spoke in favour of the Pelham scheme of continuing that pay in an indirect form by increasing the subsidy of the Queen of Hungary on the understanding that she should take the Hanoverians into her service.1 Nor was this all. In 1746, without the smallest remonstrance from Pitt, the Hanoverians were again taken directly into British pay, and the measure for which one minister was driven with the intensest obloquy from office was quietly adopted by his successors.
The Pelhams were not ungrateful for this support. I have already described the events which placed Bath and Granville in power for forty-eight hours, and then led to the unconditional surrender of the King. The proximate cause of this change was the pertinacity with which Newcastle urged upon the King the claims of Pitt. The chief condition Newcastle exacted on returning to office was the appointment of Pitt—not, indeed, to the office of Secretary at War, but to that of Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, from which he was speedily promoted to that of Paymaster of the Forces. The admirable pecuniary disinterestedness he manifested in this office should not blind us to the glaring and almost grotesque inconsistency of his conduct. He who had done all in his power, not only to drive Walpole from office, but also to persecute him to death, was now a member of a Government consisting chiefly of Walpole's colleagues and following closely in Walpole's steps. He who had made Parliament ring with denunciations of the payment of Hanoverian troops now voted for a considerable increase of the Hanoverian subsidies. He who had contributed so largely to plunge the nation into war with Spain on account of the right of search, and had maintained that a British Government must at all hazards exact from the Spaniards a complete surrender of that right, now supported the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle which concluded the war without even mentioning the right of search. He who had made himself the special organ of the popular antipathy to an army in time of peace now strenuously argued for the maintenance of the army when the war was terminated.
It is an extraordinary proof of the intellectual power of Pitt that he should have maintained his position unshaken when his career was in so many respects open to attack. It is, perhaps, a still more remarkable proof of the impression of honesty and sincerity which he left upon the minds of those who came in contact with him, that, in spite of all these fluctuations, he should have still preserved his moral ascendency. No man, indeed, was more governed in his judgment by the vehement feelings of the moment, or cared less to reconcile the different parts of his career. When a member urged upon him the necessity of continuing the war till the right of search was conceded, he simply said that ‘he had once been an advocate for that claim. It was when he was a young man; but now he was ten years older, had considered public affairs more coolly, and was convinced that the claim of no search respecting British vessels near the coast of Spanish America could never be obtained unless Spain was so reduced as to consent to any terms her conquerors might think proper to impose.’ His conversion to the expediency of armies in time of peace was attributed to the lesson furnished by the rebellion of 1745. His abandonment of all his old maxims about subsidising foreign troops or carrying on continental war he justified on the ground that circumstances had changed by the expulsion from office of the minister who was in German interests; and at a later period he urged that Hanover was endangered on account of England, or that Frederick was the most formidable adversary of France. After the death of Walpole he took occasion in one of his speeches to speak of that minister in terms of warm eulogy, and to express his regret for his own opposition to the Excise Scheme. In general he refused to enter into explanations, and took a very lofty tone with all who ventured to hint at inconsistencies. ‘The honourable member had quoted his words exactly, but mistook the meaning; which was not to give offence to a head so honourable and honest as his. He deprecated any invidious retrospect as to what had passed in former debates, and heartily wished all the differences they had occasioned might be buried in oblivion, and not revived again to the reproach of any gentleman whatever.’
He supported the Pelhams very steadily and very efficiently, and they cordially recognised his merits. ‘I think him,’ said Pelham in one of his letters, ‘the most able and useful man we have amongst us; truly honourable and strictly honest. He is as firm a friend to us as we can wish for, and a more useful one there does not exist.’ On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that he owed a debt of the deepest gratitude to these statesmen, and especially to Newcastle. When he was still young, poor, and isolated, they had taken him under their protection, had supported him with the whole weight of their unrivalled parliamentary influence, and had made it for years their steady object to overcome the antipathy of the King. Newcastle was not a brave man, but he had not hesitated for the sake of Pitt to incur the bitterest royal displeasure, and even to break up the ministry in the midst of the rebellion, in order to compel the King to admit Pitt to office. The King never forgave it; and whatever may have been the faults of Newcastle, he had a right to expect much gratitude from Pitt. Nor was Pitt so insensible to the value of royal favour as to be inclined to underrate the service that was done to him. His language, indeed, when suffering under the displeasure of the King, was strangely abject and unmanly. ‘Bearing long a load of obloquy for supporting the King's measures,’ he once wrote to Lord Hardwicke, ‘and never obtaining in recompense the smallest remission of that displeasure I vainly laboured to soften, all ardour for public business is really extinguished in my mind. … The weight of irremovable royal displeasure is a load too great to move under; it must crush any man; it has sunk and broken me. I succumb, and wish for nothing but a decent and innocent retreat.’1 On another occasion, when Newcastle had been endeavouring, as he often did, to soften the feelings of the King towards the young statesman, Pitt wrote: ‘I cannot conclude without assuring your Grace of my warmest gratitude for the kind use you were so good as to make of some expressions in my letter; nothing can touch me so sensibly as any good office in that place where I deservedly stand in need of it so much, and where I have so much at heart to efface the past by every action of my life.’1
Such was the language, such were the obligations, of Pitt to Newcastle, at a time when the former was still struggling into power. How he requited them after the death of Pelham, when Sir Thomas Robinson obtained the leadership of the House, has been already described. His conduct at this period of his career is often passed over much too lightly. It is no doubt true that the fierce conflict between Hardwicke and Fox at a time when they were both prominent ministers in the same Government sufficiently shows the imperfection of the discipline then prevailing in the administration; but, still, the conduct of a subordinate minister who, while retaining office, makes it his main object to discredit his official superiors, cannot be justified. And Pitt adopted this course through the mere spite of a disappointed place-hunter, and his hostility was directed against the statesman to whom, more than to any other single politician, he owed the success he had hitherto achieved. At the very time when he thus revolted against Newcastle, he was actually sitting in Parliament for one of the Pelham boroughs.2 The excuses which have been made for him on the ground of the crude judgments and vehement passions of a young man, of the low standard of political morality, of the jealousies and fretfulness of Newcastle, or of the mismanagement of public affairs, can amount only to a palliation, not a justification, of his proceedings. Pitt was not a very young man when he came into Parliament; he was forty-six at the time of the death of Pelham; and his conduct exhibited far graver defects than mere violence, impatience, or inconsistency.
There were also faults of another description which greatly impaired his career. That nervous irritability which frequently accompanies great mental powers, and which the conflicts of Parliament are peculiarly fitted to aggravate, was in his case intensified by disease; and it reached a point which seemed sometimes hardly compatible with sanity. Canning, at a later period, exhibited a somewhat similar irritability; but the sensitiveness which in Canning was shown by acute suffering under attack, with Chatham assumed the form of an almost super-human arrogance. His natural temperament, his consciousness of the possession of unrivalled powers, his contempt for the corrupt politicians about him, and his determination to make the voice of the people heard amid the intrigues of party, contributed to foster it. In debate his transcendent eloquence, and especially his powers of invective, enabled him in a great measure to crush opposition even when he could not win votes; but it was in the management of party that his fierce and ungovernable temper was most fatal to his career. ‘His language,’ as General Conway once said, ‘was of a kind seldom heard west of Constantinople.’ His imperious and dictatorial manners made him in his latter days of all politicians the most difficult to cooperate with, and contributed perhaps as much as the selfishness of the great families to the disunion of the Whigs.
He was at the same time singularly theatrical and affected. His speeches owed much of their charm to the most consummate acting, and he carried his histrionic turn into every sphere in which he moved. As Goldsmith said of Garrick, he never seemed natural except when acting. In his intercourse with his most intimate friends, in the most confidential transaction of business, he was always strained and formal, assuming postures, studying effects and expressions. His dress, his sling, his crutch, were all carefully arranged for the most private interview. His under secretaries were never suffered to sit in his presence. His letters—whether he was addressing a minister on affairs of state, or exhorting his young nephew to guard against the ungracefulness of laughter1 —were tumid, formal, and affected. He told Lord Shelburne that, even independently of considerations of health, he would always, for reasons of policy, live a few miles out of town. He performed many noble and disinterested acts, but he seldom lost sight of the effect they might produce. He performed them with an elaborate ostentation; and simplicity, modesty, and unobtrusive excellence were wholly alien to his character. It is said of him that in his family circle he delighted in reading out the tragedies of Shakespeare, which he did with great pathos and power; but whenever he came to any light or comic parts, he immediately stopped and gave the book to some member of his family to read. This anecdote is characteristic of his whole life. He never unbent. He was always acting a part, always self-conscious, always aiming at a false and unreal dignity.
These faults increased with age. Success and admiration turned his head, and the seeds of a nervous disease that had a close affinity to insanity continally affected him. With all his brilliant qualities he was not one of those great men who retain the simplicity of their character in the most splendid positions, moving like the lights of heaven, undisturbed by the admiration of which they are the object. As his mind grew more and more disordered, he learnt to delight in an almost regal state, in pomp and ceremony and ostentation, in inflated language and florid imagery. Of all very great Englishmen, he is perhaps the one in whom there was the largest admixture of the qualities of a charlatan.
It was consistent with this disposition that he should have been singularly affected by royalty. He could, as we have seen, speak of the sovereign in terms that may be justly designated as insolent, and during the greater part of life he was in opposition to the Court; but he could also adopt a tone of almost Oriental servility. Royalty is suorrunded by associations that appeal so powerfully to the imagination that it exercises some dazzling influence on most of those who are brought for the first time in contact with it; but the power it seems to have had over such a man as Chatham after years of greatness and of office, is both humiliating and strange. I have already quoted some sentences from his letters on the subject, and others scarcely less abject might be cited. ‘The least peep into that closet,’ Burke complained, ‘intoxicates him, and will to the end of his life.’ ‘At the levee,’ said another observer, ‘he used to bow so low you could see the tip of his hooked nose between his legs.’ When he retired from office in 1761, in the very zenith of his fame, a few kind and unexpected words from George III. so overcame him that he burst into tears.
He was, no doubt, an eminently patriotic man, essentially disinterested, and free from all tendency to avarice, but even in this respect he was accustomed to take a tone of superiority which was not altogether justified by his life. He began his public career a very poor man, and he never stooped, like most of his contemporaries, to corruption; but no one who follows his course under George II. will regard him as having been indifferent to office; he was in fact nearly always in place either under the Crown or in the household of the Prince of Wales, and by a singular felicity he was no loser by his short periods of opposition. The Duchess of Marlborough was so pleased with his attacks upon Walpole and Carteret that she bequeathed him 10,000l. in 1744. His brother-in-law, Lord Temple, extricated him from difficulty when he was dismissed from office in 1755, by a gift of 1,000l. He obtained a legacy of 1,000l. from Mr. Allen, one of his admirers, in 1764; and in the following year Sir William Pynsent, who was wholly unknown to him, left him an estate of the annual value of 3,000l. Under George II. he stood proudly and somewhat ostentatiously aloof from the whole department of patronage, but he at least acquiesced very placidly in the corruption of his colleagues. In the following reign he accepted a fair share of the dignities and emoluments of the Crown—a peerage for his wife, a pension of 3,000l. a year, and at a later period an earldom for himself. None of these rewards were dishonourably acquired, all of them were amply deserved; but it is absurd to speak of such a career as a miracle of self-denial. Both the elder and the younger Pitt delighted in a kind of ostentatious virtue which raised them, in the eyes of careless observers, to a far higher level than politicians like Burke or like Fox, who, with abilities perhaps not inferior, sacrificed incomparably more to their principles.1
But yet with all his faults he was a very great man—far surpassing both in mental and moral altitude the other politicians of his generation. As a war minister his greatness was beyond question, and almost beyond comparison. At very few periods of English history was the aspect of affairs more gloomy than at the beginning of the second ministry of Pitt. The country seemed hopelessly overmatched; the public services had fallen into anarchy or decrepitude, and a general languor and timidity had overspread all departments. The wild panic that had lately passed through England upon the rumour of an invasion showed how little confidence she felt in her security, while the loss of Minorca had discredited her in the eyes of the world, and annihilated both her commerce with the Levant and her supremacy in the Mediterranean. In America, General Loudon, with a large force, made in expedition in July 1757 against Louisburg; but it was conducted with great timidity and hesitation, and on the arrival of a French fleet was somewhat ignominiously abandoned, while the French carried on the war with energy and success upon the borders of Lake George. In spite of English cruisers they succeeded in the beginning of 1757 in pouring reinforcements into Canada, while French squadrons swept the sea around the West Indies and the coasts of Africa. Nearer home an expedition against Rochefort, which was one of the first enterprises of Pitt, failed through the irresolution of Sir John Mordaunt. On the Continent the league against Frederick and against Hanover seemed overwhelming, and it appeared as if the struggle could not be greatly prolonged. Before the end of March 1757, two French armies, amounting together to 100,000 men, were in the field. They soon occupied the Grand Duchy of Cleves, and marched rapidly on Hanover. Frederick withdrew his garrisons from the invaded country, and left the defence of Germany to the Duke of Cumberland, who hastened over in April to defend Hanover with a mixed army of about 60,000 men, consisting almost entirely of different bodies of German mercenaries, while Frederick himself marched against Bohemia. He calculated that in a few months a great Russian army would be in the field against him; that his only chance of safety was to strike down the Austrians while they were still isolated, and that in the meantime the Duke of Cumberland might hold the French at bay. On May 5 he crossed the Moldau, and on the 6th he fought the great battle of Prague, one of the most bloody in the eighteenth century. It lasted for twelve hours, and although the victory remained with Frederick, he acknowledged that he had left 18,000 men on the field. Marshal Browne, who commanded the Austrians, was killed, and the losses of the Austrian army were computed at 24,000. Prague was speedily besieged, but on June 18 another great battle was fought at Kolin, which decided the campaign. The Austrians under Marshal Daun greatly surpassed the Prussians in numbers. They occupied a position of extraordinary strength, and after desperate efforts to dislodge them, the Prussians were driven back with the loss of about 14,000 men, and of many cannon. They were compelled to abandon the siege of Prague, and the shattered remains of a once mighty army hastily evacuated Bohemia and returned to Saxony. The Russians speedily advanced upon East Prussia, took Memel, and desolated the surrounding country. General Lehwald, with an army of less than a third of their number, attacked them on August 30, but after a fierce combat he was driven back; but the Russians suffered so much in the action that they retired for a time from the Prussian dominion, while General Lehwald succeeded in expelling the Swedes, who were desolating Pomerania.
On the side of Hanover the war was altogether unfortunate. The Duke of Cumberland, on July 26, was completely defeated by the French in the battle of Hastenbeck, on the Weser. Hanover was speedily overrun, occupied, and pillaged; and on September 8, by the mediation of the King of Denmark, the Convention of Clostersven was concluded, by which Cumberland agreed to send home to their respective countries the subsidised troops from Hesse, Brunswick, and Saxe-Gotha, while part of the Hanoverian army took shelter in the town of Stade, and the remainder retired beyond the Elbe, leaving Hanover in the full possession of the French, who were now free to turn their arms to any part of the Prussian dominions. Only a few weeks before, the news arrived that Ostend and Nieuport, so long regarded as among the most important barriers against the encroachments of France, had, by the invitation of her Imperial Majesty, received French garrisons.1
It is not clear that Cumberland could have taken any better step. His army was outnumbered, ill-disciplined, heterogeneous, and defeated; and if the French had at this time exhibited anything of the energy and military talent which they displayed so abundantly in the days of Lewis XIV., and which they again showed in the days of Napoleon, they might easily have compelled it to surrender at discretion. In Prussia, however, the Convention was denounced as the most infamous of desertions, and in England the indignation it excited was scarcely less. The unfortunate commander, on his return, was overwhelmed with obloquy. The King received him with a cutting silence. ‘Here is my son,’ he afterwards said to the courtiers who surrounded him, ‘who has ruined me and disgraced himself.’ Cumberland at once threw up all his military employments, and thus closed a career which had been singularly unfortunate. Of all the members of the royal family, with the exception of Queen Caroline, he was the only one who possessed any remarkable ability, and Horace Walpole even placed him in this respect somewhat absurdly, in the same category with Sir R. Walpole Granville, Mansfield, and Pitt.2 He was noted, too, for a rugged truthfulness, for a conscientious energy of administration, for an uncomplaining loyalty, for a fidelity to his friends and engagements not common among the great personages of his time. For a few weeks after the battle of Culloden he had been the idol of the nation, and in allusion to his name, ‘the sweet William’ became the favourite flower of loyal Englishmen, but the accounts of the atrocities that followed his triumph soon turned the stream; and his harsh, morose, and arbitrary temper, the exaggerated sternness of his military discipline, and the steady hatred of the Scotch, made him, somewhat undeservedly, one of the most unpopular men in England. In the Regency Bill, which followed the death of the Prince of Wales, he was deprived of the first place which would naturally have devolved on him. His one victory brought with it recollections more bitter than many defeats, and he was associated in the popular mind with the disasters of Fontenoy, Lauffeld, Hastenbeck, and Closterseven. Pitt, whom he had constantly opposed, and in whose dismissal he had borne a great part, acted on this occasion very nobly, and when the angry King urged that he had given his son no order for such a treaty, rejoined, ‘But full powers, sir; very full powers.’ The cloud that hung over the unhappy prince was never wholly removed, and he died in the prime of life in 1765.
It is not surprising that under the circumstances I have described, the position of affairs should have appeared almost hopeless. No English statesman had studied foreign politics more carefully than Chesterfield, and his judgment was forcibly expressed in a private letter written about this time. ‘Whoever is in,’ he wrote, ‘or whoever is out, I am sure we are undone both at home and abroad. At home, by our increasing debt and expenses; abroad, by our ill luck and incapacity. The King of Prussia, the only ally we had in the world, is now, I fear, hors de combat. Hanover I look upon to be this time in the same situation with Saxony, the fatal consequence of which is but too obvious. The French are masters to do what they please in America. We are no longer a nation. I never yet saw so dreadful a prospect.’1 The language of Pitt was scarcely less desponding. ‘The day is come,’ he wrote in one of his most confidential despatches, ‘when the very inadequate benefits of the Treaty of Utrecht, the indelible reproach of the last generation, are become the necessary but almost unattainable wish of the present, when the empire is no more, the ports of the Netherlands betrayed, the Dutch Barrier Treaty an empty sound, Minorca, and with it the Mediterranean, lost, and America itself precarious.’2 So serious did the situation appear, that he even endeavoured, though without success, to induce Spain to draw the sword against France, by the promise that if the Spaniards by their assistance enabled England to recover Minorca, England would cede Gibraltar to the Spanish king.3
Pitt had, however, just confidence in himself. ‘I am sure,’ he said on one occasion to the Duke of Devonshire, ‘that I can save the country, and that no one else can.’4 If he did not possess to a high degree the skill of a great strategist in detecting the vulnerable parts of his opponents and in mapping out brilliant campaigns, he had at least an eagle eye for discovering talent and resolution among his subordinates, a rare power of restoring the vigour of every branch of administration, and above all, a capacity unrivalled among statesmen of reviving the confidence and the patriotism of the nation, and of infusing an heroic daring into all who served him. ‘No man,’ said Colonel Barré, ‘ever entered his closet who did not come out of it a braver man.’ He came into power at the end of June 1757, and disasters, largely due to the incapacity of his predecessors, and especially to the long period of administrative anarchy that had just taken place, threw a deep shade over the first months of his power. The news of the defeat of Frederick, of the introduction of French troops into the Austrian Netherlands, of the battle of Hastenbeck, of the Convention of Closterseven, and of the failure before Louisburg, followed in swift succession. The expedition against Rochefort was skilfully planned. The energy with which a large fleet and a considerable army were equipped was of good omen, and the mere fact that England once more took the offensive had some moral effect; but the expedition, as I have said, failed through the timidity of its commander, or at least it succeeded only in destroying the fortifications of the little island óf Aix. An Act organising a national militia, which had long been a popular demand and a favourite project of Pitt, had been carried chiefly by the exertions of George Townshend, just before the accession of Pitt to power, but it was an extremely ominous sign that it produced the most violent discontent. Notwithstanding the critical condition of affairs great numbers of the country gentry and farmers resented the duties thrown on them. The people believed that by serving in the militia they became liable to foreign service, and the first months of the administration of Pitt were disturbed by violent riots in Surrey, Kent, Leicester, Hertford, Bedford, Nottingham, and Yorkshire. The towns speedily caught the martial enthusiasm which Pitt sought to inspire, but the country districts were at first torpid or hostile, and regular troops had to be employed in the midst of the war to compel the people to serve in that very constitutional force for which they had long been clamouring as the best defence against standing armies.1
It was from Prussia that the first gleam of good fortune shone upon the cause. That unhappy country was now placed under the ban of the German empire, and invaded simultaneously in different quarters by the French, the Russians, the Austrians, and the Swedes. Silesia was again in the power of the Austrians as far as Breslau, which surrendered, in November, without a blow. They had made themselves masters of Zittau in Lusatia, and in October an Austrian detachment had even laid Berlin under contribution, while the occupation of Hanover, and the surrender of Cumberland, had opened a long frontier line to the invasions of the French, and for a time deprived Prussia of all assistance on the Continent. But the little State which was thus struggling in the grasp of so many and such mighty antagonists, found in the agony of her fate resources in herself of which her enemies had scarcely dreamed. Her assailants were fighting only for ambition, but Prussia was fighting a desperate fight for her very existence. She had long been administered like a great camp. Her army, in proportion to her population, was enormous, and it had been brought by the Draconic discipline of two reigns to the highest point of efficiency. Her King was now incomparably the greatest general in Europe, and he had the immense advantage of not only commanding the armies, but also disposing absolutely of the resources of the State, while among his opponents discipline was relaxed, the whole army administration had gone to decay, and except in the Austrian army there was an almost entire absence of military ability. After several skirmishes in different parts of the Prussian territory, the King, at the head of an army of not more than 25,000 men, utterly routed nearly 40,000 French and nearly 20,000 German troops, at Rossbach, on November 5, 1757. 3,000 of the enemy were left on the field; nearly 7,000 men, more than sixty cannon, and many flags were taken; while the whole Prussian loss was about 500 men. A month later Frederick was found in Silesia at the head of an army of 30,000 or 40,000 men, and at Leuthen he fought a decisive battle with a great Austrian army commanded by Prince Charles of Lorraine. The disproportion of numbers was almost if not altogether as great as at Rossbach, and the Austrian army was better disciplined and better commanded than the French, but the victory of the Prussians was complete and overwhelming: at least 22,000 Austrians were left on the field or taken prisoners, and the remainder, with the loss of a multitude of cannon and flags, were driven in disorder out of the Prussian dominions. Before the Prussians retired into winter quarters, Breslau, with 17,000 Austrian soldiers, was compelled to surrender, and all Silesia was for a time under Prussian rule.
At these successes the spirit of the nation rose very high, and, as is ever the case, the consciousness of the presence of a great general gave a new courage and confidence to his troops, and infused a proportionate despondency into his enemies. But the struggle would have been a hopeless one but for the assistance of Pitt. The Convention of Closterseven had been ratified on neither side. It had not been rigidly observed by the French, there were no stipulations for the duration of the neutrality of the Hanoverians, and it might on the whole be reasonably regarded as a mere temporary armistice. Pitt recommended to repudiate it.1 The Hanoverian army was armed anew. The command was given to Prince Ferdinand of Prussia, one of the best generals in the Prussian service. It was soon after reinforced by 12,000 English under the Duke of Marlborough, and it bore a chief part in defending the side of Germany conterminous to France. Pitt, at the same time, disregarding all his former denunciations of German subsidies, obtained an annual subsidy of nearly 700,000l. for Frederick, which during the next few years was punctually paid. Had it not been for this succour, and for the immense supplies which Frederick contrived with a vindictive pleasure to wring from the unhappy Saxons, the material resources of Prussia would probably have been wholly inadequate to the strain of the war.
At the same time, undeterred by the failure of the Rochefort expedition, Pitt pressed on eagerly his attacks on the French coast. It is this part of his military policy that has been most blamed, and it must be owned that no material results were obtained commensurate with the cost of life and money incurred, but they kept large bodies of French troops in their own country. The moral effect of these numerous attacks on a nation peculiarly susceptible of sudden panic was very considerable. In the course of 1758 an attempt of the French to send reinforcements to America from Aix was defeated by Hawke. A powerful expedition of ships and soldiers was sent against St. Malo, but it resulted only in the destruction of some French shipping. Cherbourg was attacked and occupied, its docks were destroyed, its shipping was burnt; but this success was speedily counterbalanced by a disaster which befell some British troops who had landed at St. Cas, and who were surprised and driven off with great loss. In the following year, when some preparations were made for an invasion of England, Havre was bombarded and very seriously injured by Rodney.
The German campaign of 1758 was marked by great vicissitudes of fortune. The part which was taken by Frederick began with an invasion of Moravia, and an attempt to take Olmutz, which was defeated by the skilful strategy of Marshal Daun, who succeeded in cutting off the supplies of the Prussian army. After some inconsiderable movements, Frederick then turned his arms against the Russians, who, having invaded Pomerania and the marches of Brandenburg in great force, had penetrated nearly as far as Frankfort on the Oder, committing the most frightful atrocities on their way. The great battle of Zorndorf, which began on the 25th of August, and continued more or less during the two following days, determined the campaign. More than 21,000 Russians, more than 11,000 Prussains, were left on the field, and the Russian army was compelled to retreat. The victor then, leaving a small body of troops to watch the frontier, turned his rapid steps to Saxony, which Marshal Daun, after the raising of the siege of Olmutz, had hastened to relieve. The plan of the Austrians was to avail themselves of the absence of Frederick in Pomerania to invade simultaneously Silesia and Saxony, and it appeared almost certain that one or both would be withdrawn from the Prussian grasp. The chief efforts of the Austrians were made in Saxony. The small Prussian army there was completely outnumbered. General Maguire, one of the many Irish officers in the Austrian service, succeeded on September 5 in capturing after a short resistance the important fortress of Sonnenstein, overlooking Pirna, and there was much reason to believe that Dresden would soon be rescued. But Frederick, who, like Napoleon, was accustomed to disconcert his enemies not more by his strategy in the field than by the extraordinary and in his own day unparalleled rapidity of his marches, speedily arrived at the Saxon frontier, and reduced the enemy to the defensive. Here, however, for a time his good fortune deserted him. The skilful Austrian general, who had already baffled him at Kolin and at Olmutz, but whose extreme caution and excessive slowness had hitherto prevented him from reaping the fruits of his success, succeeded in surprising the Prussian camp at Hochkirchen, on the 14th of October, and in completely defeating the Prussian army. All the military skill of Frederick was required to prevent the defeat becoming an absolute rout, and it was one of the greatest faults of Daun that he gave Frederick time to repair it. The discipline, and in some degree the confidence of the Prussian army were speedily restored, and Frederick acted with characteristic vigour. Evading the army of Daun, and leaving Saxony for the present to its fate, he marched upon Neiss, a frontier town of Silesia, which an Austrian army was besieging, raised the siege, and obliged the Austrians to evacuate Silesia and to retire into Bohemia. In the meantime, Daun had besieged Dresden, which was courageously defended by a Prussian garrison, who held out till Frederick, with an army now completely refitted and reorganised, again appearing in Saxony, obliged Daun both to raise the siege and to cross the frontier.
The army of Prince Ferdinand had in the meantime driven the French from Hanover and across the Rhine, and although the English contingent had not yet arrived, it had defeated the French with much loss on June 23, in the battle of Crefeld. The French, however, having reached their own frontier, received powerful reinforcements, and after some weeks Prince Ferdinand recrossed the Rhine, baffling with great skill the efforts of the French to prevent him. In October the French gained a considerable success in Hesse, and the army of Prince Ferdinand was much wasted by illness. Among those who died was the Duke of Marlborough, who commanded the English.
In America events were taking place of far greater importance to England. In spite of the immense preponderance of numbers on the side of the English, the balance of success in the first years of the war had been clearly with the French. In Europe the administration and the enterprise of France had seldom sunk so low as during the Seven Years' War, but Montcalm and the little body of French colonists and soldiers whom he commanded in Canada exhibited in rare perfection the high quality of French daring. The population of the French colony was so small that there were said to have been in all not more than 20,000 men capable of bearing arms, and as these were drawn for the most part from agriculture, the utmost distress was prevailing. By skilful strategy, by availing themselves of powerful fortresses, by concentrating their slender resources on some single point, by the employment of Indian allies, and, it must be added, by the singular mismanagement and feebleness of their opponents, the French had hitherto more than held their own. But Pitt, on attaining to power, at once made it one of his main objects to drive them from America. He urgently appealed to the colonists to raise 20,000 men for the cause. The Crown was to provide arms, ammunition, tents, and provisions. The colonies were to raise, clothe, and pay the levies, but for this expense he promised a parliamentary reimbursement, and this promise induced the colonists to make all the efforts that were required. General Loudon, the English commander-in-chief, was recalled, and replaced by General Abercrombie. Disregarding all claims of mere seniority, and looking only for skill, courage, and enterprise, the minister placed Wolfe and Howe, who were still quite young men, and Amherst, who was but just forty, in important commands. A powerful fleet was sent out under the command of Boscawen for an attack upon Louisburg; the English had soon nearly 50,000 men under arms, and of these about 22,000 were regular troops, while the regular troops on the side of France were less than 5,000. Supplies were cut off by the fleet, and the French Government at home made scarcely a serious effort to support their colonists. Under such circumstances the war could have but one end. In 1758 Louisburg, with the whole of Cape Breton, was taken; and in another quarter Fort Duquesne, which had borne so great a part in the first events of the war, was compelled to surrender, but the French repulsed with great loss an English attack upon Ticonderoga, and Lord Howe lost his life in the battle. In 1759 Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Niagara were captured in swift succession, and soon after, a desperate struggle in which both sides displayed splendid courage, and in which both Wolfe and Montcalm found a glorious end, planted the flag of England on the heights of Quebec. In 1760 the French gained one last victory at Sillery and even laid siege to Quebec, but they were soon obliged to retire; the conquest was completed by the surrender of Montreal, with the last French army; and the whole of Canada passed under the English rule.
No conquest during the war excited a wilder enthusiasm. In the eyes even of keen observers it had long appeared extremely doubtful whether England or France was destined to exercise political supremacy in the New World. The progress of the French power had been so rapid, and its organisation so skilful, that it had been steadily encroaching upon its rival. Yet, looking at the question in the calmer light of history, it can hardly, I think, be disputed that the danger was exaggerated. The immense difference in population between the French and English colonies made the ultimate ascendency of the latter inevitable, and the same military character, which was the secret of the rapid successes of the French, prevented them from striking deep root in the soil, and from founding those great industrial communities which alone endure. But other consequences, unforeseen, but not less important, were pending; and already, amid the blaze of the victories of Pitt, that strange Nemesis which so often dogs the steps of great human prosperity may be clearly described. The destruction of the French power in America removed the one ever-pressing danger which secured the dependence of the English colonies on the mother country. The great colonial forces raised and successfully employed during the war gave the colonies for the first time a consciousness of their strength, and furnished them with leaders for the War of Independence; while the burden of the debt due to the lavish expenditure of Pitt revived that scheme for the taxation of America which led in a few years to the dismemberment of the empire.
The ascendency of the English on the sea was soon complete, and it involved the almost absolute destruction of the colonial empire of France. No less than 60,000 seamen were voted for 1758, and a measure which was carried for the more punctual payment of seamen's wages,1 as well as the great number of prizes that were speedily taken, added immensely to the popularity of the service. Pitt pressed on every expedition with a calculated and sagacious audacity, and his imperious will broke down every obstacle. In the very first enterprise of his administration, Anson, startled at the rapidity required, declared that it was impossible to have the ships ready at the time that was specified. Pitt at once rejoined that in that case he would lay the matter before the King, and impeach the First Lord of the Admiralty in the House of Commons. The threat was sufficient, and the ships were ready at the appointed time. The Dutch, presuming on the weakness of previous governments in England, had largely assisted the French with naval stores, but Pitt promptly arrested this by an order that every Dutch vessel laden with naval or military stores should be at once captured, and after much angry remonstrance the Dutch were obliged to submit. Goree and Senegal, so valuable for the African trade, Guadaloupe, and the little island of Mariagalante were soon compelled to surrender. Hawke, Boscawen, and Pococke, in a succession of naval victories, captured or destroyed about nine-tenths of the ships of war of France, while her commerce was swept by innumerable privateers from every sea.
At the same time the foundations were laid of a new empire, destined at length, by much genius and much heroism, by many generations of skilful administration, and by not a few acts of atrocious perfidy and violence, to attain a magnitude and a splendour unequalled in the history of mankind. After the tragedy of the Black Hole, the complete expulsion of the English from Bengal, and the confiscation of all their factories, Surajah Dowlah retired triumphantly to Moorshedabad, leaving a deputy with a small force to protect Calcutta. But the English at Madras speedily took measures to restore their affairs. In December 1756 an English fleet under Admiral Watson, with an army of 900 Europeans and 1,500 sepoys under Clive, entered the Hooghly. On the 27th the English captured the fort between Fulta and Calcutta. On January 2, 1757, they reached, and after a short conflict occupied Calcutta. On the 10th they took and plundered the town of Hooghly, about twenty-three miles higher up the river; and on February 4 they attacked in its encampments an army of 40,000 men, with which Surajah Dowlah had marched against them. A thick mist interrupted the battle, but the Nabob was so impressed by the daring of the English that he made overtures for peace, which Clive, who knew that the French war had begun, and that he was needed at Madras, hastened to accept. The privileges of the Company were restored, and the English obtained some pecuniary compensation, as well as the right of fortifying Calcutta, and of founding a mint. Clive soon after turned his arms against the French settlement of Chandernagor, about twenty miles from Calcutta, which, in spite of the brave resistance of the French, and the threatening remonstrances of Surajah Dowlah, was compelled to surrender.
The war with the Nabob speedily broke out anew. Immediately after the treaty he had signed, he had summoned the French to assist him in expelling the English from Bengal. He had played false to all parties, vacillated and shuffled in all his engagements, and governed his people so atrociously that they were ripe for revolt; and Meer Jaffier, his chief general, resolved, with the assistance of the English, to dethrone him. A secret treaty was signed, and after a long series of intrigues and falsehoods, which it is not here necessary to describe, but which left deep stains on the principal people concerned,1 the English unaided took the field, and on the 23rd of June, 1757, the fate of Bengal and ultimately of India was decided, with scarcely any loss on the English side, by the great battle of Plassy. Clive commanded only 900 Europeans2 and 2,100 sepoys. The force of Surajah Dowlah was estimated at about 60,000 men. Meer Jaffier had just before renewed with forms of peculiar solemnity, his allegiance to Surajah Dowlah, and had also promised Clive that he would desert to him in the battle, but he kept neither engagement, and remained passive, awaiting the event. But in spite of the immense disproportion of numbers, European discipline and European skill gained the day, and the army of Surajah Dowlah was scattered to the winds. Clive, wisely shutting his eyes to the timidity or treachery of Meer Jaffier, raised him to the position of Nabob of Bengal. Surajah Dowlah, soon after falling into the hands of the new sovereign, in the absence of the English, was put to death. Immense sums passed into the possession of the English Company, which from this time exercised a complete protectorate in Bengal.
The events of the next few years only served to confirm it. Clive, after the battle of Plassy, was made governor-general of the English possessions of Bengal, and the weakness of Meer Jaffier was so great that the English virtually exercised an absolute rule over a territory which already contained thirty millions of inhabitants. Repeated disturbances and partial insurrections against the new Nabob were composed or suppressed by the authority of Clive, and in 1759 he succeeded without a blow in defeating an aggression of a more formidable kind. The authority of the court of Delhi over the subordinate princes had long fallen into desuetude, and the reigning emperor was now held in complete servitude by his vizier; but his eldest son, Shah Alum, with a vigour not common in his race, fled to a Rohilla chief, who was in opposition to the vizier of his father, gathered around him an army of adventurers, and with the assistance of the Nabob of Oude, and of some other princes, endeavored to re-establish the ascendency of his family in Bengal by overthrowing the Nabob who had been raised to power by the English. A large army soon invested Patna. Meer Jaffier could scarcely be prevented by the influence of Clive from making the most abject submission, but the terror of the English name was already so great that the mere approach of an English army was sufficient to disperse the invaders. Meer Jaffier, in a transport of gratitude, gave a new dominion to Clive of the annual value of little less than 30,000l. Nearly at the same time Clive despatched a small army under Colonel Forde to drive the French from a region to the north of the Carnatic, which they had invaded, and which was defended by the Marquis de Conflans; and after some hard fighting the enterprise was fully achieved. At the close of 1759 another danger arose, and was surmounted with equal success. The Dutch, who possessed some factories in Bengal, and who had so long rivalled the colonial power of England, watched with bitter jealousy the growing ascendency of the English, and they resolved to counterbalance it by sending a considerable force from Java. Meer Jaffier, who had now come to look upon Clive with mingled terror and dislike, warmly, though secretly, encouraged them; and seven ships and 1,400 soldiers were sent from Java into the Hooghly. The troops were landed. The expedition was hastening to the Dutch settlement of Chinsurah, and there was reason to believe that Meer Jaffier was about to join it with forces that might gravely endanger the safety of the English. But the prompt daring of Clive baffled all calculations. Though England and Holland were at perfect peace, he ordered the Dutch to be attacked by sea and land. Their seven ships were taken. Their troops were cut to pieces. Their settlement in Bengal was attacked, and they were compelled to accept humiliating terms, rigidly restricting their future progress. Having thus secured his power against all competition, Clive sailed for Europe in February 1760.
While these events were taking place in Bengal, the struggle between the French and English for supremacy was decided in Madras. In the course of 1757 there had been several inconsiderable operations around Trichinopoly and Madura, but the great crisis of the war did not take place till after the arrival of Lally as commander-in-chief of the French, in April, 1758. A member of an old Irish Jacobite family, the new commander had served from early youth in one of the Irish regiments in the French army, had borne an honourable part in several arduous campaigns, and had contributed largely to the French victory at Fontenoy. He was an eminently skilful officer, noted among brave men for his heroic courage, frank, generous, ardent, and devoted, but easily led astray by a hot temper and an excessive self-confidence, rash and violent in his language, utterly ignorant of Oriental life and prejudices, and utterly destitute of the qualities of a good administrator. D'Argenson described him in a few graphic sentences as one who was like fire in his activity, who expressed, in terms that were not forgotten, everything that he felt, who could make no allowance for want of discipline, want of straightforwardness, or want of promptitude, and who rose into a storm of fury at the slightest appearance of negligence, insubordination, or fraud. The directors on appointing him urged upon him in the first place to eradicate the spirit of extreme corruption and cupidity that had become inveterate at Pondicherry, impoverishing the public, while it multiplied private fortunes; Lally arrived in the colony with a strong conviction that the chief persons in authority were dishonest, and he made little secret of his opinion. He had, indeed, every reason to be dissatisfied, and the negligence and abuses he discovered might have tried a more patient temper. Though he had been expected for eight months, he found that nothing whatever had been done to provide for his expedition. No money was raised to pay the soldiers. Twenty-four hours' provision for the men could not be obtained without difficulty in Pondicherry. The governor and council could give no accurate information about the number of the English troops, or even about the nature of the English fortifications. Time was very pressing, for Lally had started from France with more than 1,000 European soldiers, chiefly of his own Irish regiment, and though more than a fourth of them had perished by fever during the voyage, his army, if properly equipped, when united to the troops already in the colony, would have been much superior to any in the province.
He insisted at once on marching against Fort St. David. It was one of the most important, and perhaps the strongest fort possessed by the English in all Hindostan, and it was defended by a powerful garrison, and by 180 cannon. The difficulties of Lally were almost insuperable. His troops were weary and weakened by sickness, and by a long journey. He found it difficult to feed, and impossible to pay them. The supply of mortars and bombs and draught cattle was miserably insufficient, and on May 24 the Governor of Pondicherry wrote that his resources were exhausted, and that the colony, wasted by fifteen years of nearly incessant war, was quite unable to support the army. Pressing letters were sent to France for supplies of money, but many months must elapse before an answer could be received. The French fleet which was destined to co-operate with Lally was attacked by the English, and though the battle was indecisive, it was too much injured to render much assistance. The necessity of hastening the works was imperative; and Lally, who was probably perfectly ignorant that he was outraging the most cherished religious convictions of the natives, ordered them without distinction of caste to be pressed and employed in carrying burdens, and discharging other necessary works, and he thus turned all the sympathies of the natives against him. But the resolution of the general overcame all obstacles, and, on June 1, Fort St. David was compelled to surrender, and, in obedience to instructions received from France, was razed to the ground.
Lally desired to march at once upon Madras, but the commander of the French fleet refused to co-operate with him, and the want of money rendered another long enterprise utterly impossible. He accordingly turned his arms against the King of Tanjore, a rich native prince, against whom the French company held an old claim for a considerable sum, and he hoped by subduing him to obtain money sufficient to carry on his operations. He sacked some villages, levied contributions, plundered a pagoda which was widely venerated, blew from his cannons six Brahmins, whom he believed to be spies, and at last reached and bombarded the capital; but he met with a more obstinate resistance than he expected, and his ammunition was so scanty that he was driven to fire back upon the enemy their own cannon-balls. He persevered until there were not more than twenty cartouches for every soldier in his army, and he then reluctantly gave the order to retreat. In the meantime the English fleet attacked and defeated that of the French; and the French admiral, in spite of the urgent remonstrances of Lally, refused to risk another encounter, and resolved to abandon the sea to the English and take refuge at Mauritius.
The position of Lally was now in the last degree deplorable. He had quarrelled with all the leading people about him. His army was without money or ammunition, and almost without provisions, and he was utterly ignorant of the country and of the very peculiar character of the people with whom he had to deal. He collected, however, with extreme difficulty some small munitions, took some inconsiderable forts, and at last even succeeded in carrying out his favourite project of attacking Madras. From his private fortune he contributed 60,000 rupees for the enterprise, and he induced some members of the council and a few other inhabitants of Pondicherry to follow his example. His army consisted of 2,700 Europeans and 4,000 natives, and he was ready to march in the beginning of November 1758, but furious storms of rain delayed him for a full month. The garrison of the town in the meantime was reinforced, and it now consisted of for more than 1,700 European soldiers and about 2,400 natives. The Black Town was easily taken, and some slight successes were gained against the garrison, but an insubordinate spirit was rapidly spreading among the French troops. Their pay was several months in arrear. The great quantities of spirits found in the Black Town contributed to demoralise them. Almost all provisions except rice and butter had come to an end. Desertions became very numerous, and many of the officers were in open or secret opposition to their general. A breach was made in the fort, and Lally was anxious for the assault, but his officers held back and pronounced it to be impracticable, and on February 16, 1759, Admiral Pococke, with powerful reinforcements from the English, appeared at Madras. Nothing then remained but retreat, and Lally fell back upon Pondicherry, where he found utter confusion and extreme destitution reigning, while his many enemies received him with insults, and every conference ended in angry recriminations. In September the French fleet from Mauritius again appeared off Pondicherry, having on its passage fought an indecisive but, on the whole, unsuccessful engagement with the English, and 500 European soldiers, 400 Caffirs, and a small quantity of money were landed; but the admiral refused to remain upon the coast, and again left the unhappy colony to its fate.
The interest of the war now gathered chiefly around the fort of Wandewash, one of the most important barriers of the French colony. In May an English force had attacked it, but on the approach of the French army it decamped. At the end of September Major Brereton made another attempt, but an officer named Geoghegan, who commanded a very inferior French force, repelled him with much loss. But on October 27 Colonel Coote, who was one of the ablest of the many able soldiers produced in the East Indian service, landed at Madras, with considerable reinforcements, and on November 29 he took Wandewash. Lally marched to oppose him, and a decisive battle was fought on December 22, 1759, in which the French were completely defeated.
By the battle of Wandewash Coote decided the fate of Madras, as Clive, by the battle of Plassy, had decided that of Bengal. The two battles were, indeed, in some respects very different. At Plassy the skill and prowess of a small body of Europeans were opposed to an enormous numerical preponderance of Asiatics. At Wandewash the forces were probably nearly equal. Europeans bore the burnt of the fray, and each side was admirably commanded. Lally appears to have done what little could be done to retrieve affairs, but his army was demoralised and almost destitute, and he was detested by all the civil authorities with whom he had to combine. Fortress after fortress in the Carnatic was slowly reduced, and at last, on December 9, 1760, Coote laid siege to Pondicherry. It was gallantly defended, but provisions soon ran short, and on January 16, 1761, it was compelled to surrender at discretion, and the power of France in India was extinguished. The town which had so long rivalled the importance of Madras was levelled to the ground, and though the colony was restored and the town rebuilt at the peace, France never again became a serious rival of England in Hindostan. The scandalous inefficiency of the Government of Lewis XV. was in no respect more conspicuous than in the almost complete abandonment of these noble settlements, and in the gross ingratitude shown to those who had founded or defended them. La Bourdonnais had languished for years in the Bastille. Duplex died a ruined and broken-hearted man. Lally, who had been guilty of much imprudence, but who had at least defended the interests of France with great courage, with perfect devotion, and with no mean military skill, was reserved for a yet more terrible fate. While he was detained a prisoner of war in England, the indignation aroused in France by the ruin of Pondicherry blazed fierce and high, and his many enemies were only too glad to make him their scapegoat. With characteristic intrepidity and characteristic rashness he obtained his parole, and, relying on his innocence, appeared in Paris to meet his accusers. He was at once flung into the Bastille, removed from thence to a common prison, and confined for fifteen months before trial. He was then brought before the Parliament of Paris, one of the most partial of tribunals, denied the assistance of counsel, and condemned to death on the vague charge of having betrayed the interests of the King. When the sentence was read to him, he exclaimed, in the bitterness of his indignation, ‘Is this then the reward of forty-five years of service?’ and he tried to stab himself to the heart with a pair of compasses that was lying near, but the instrument was wrested from his hand, and that very day he was dragged to the scaffold on a common dung-cart, and with a gag to his mouth. It was not until 1778 that the unrighteous sentence was reversed, and the memory of one of the bravest though most unfortunate of soldiers judicially vindicated.1
The administration of Pitt had little or nothing to say to the victories of Clive, but it contributed much by its prompt reinforcements, and by the expeditions which detained the French troops in their own country, to the triumph of Coote in Madras. On the other hand, the rumours of great victories in a distant and almost unknown land inflamed the imaginations and strenghtened the enthusiasm of the nation. At the close of 1758 there were no less than 24,000 French prisoners captive in England, an army of nearly 95,000 British and 7,000 foreign troops had been voted, and above twelve millions had been raised for the ensuing year.2 Yet there were on signs of flagging or discontent. The intoxication of glory had made the nation indifferent to sacrifices, and the spell which the great minister had thrown over his fellow-countrymen was unbroken. It was noticed that, unlike all previous statesmen, he seemed to take a strange pleasure in rather exaggerating than attenuating the pecuniary sacrifices he demanded, and his eloquence and his personal ascendency almost silenced opposition. Even the Prussian subsidy was acquiesced in with scarcely a murmur. Pitt defended it in a speech of consummate power; and as the sound of approbation arose from every part of the House, he shouted, in his loudest and most defiant tone, ‘Is there an Austrian among you? Let him stand forth and reveal himself!’ and this, which from any other speaker would have seemed the most arrogant of rants, had a thrilling effect upon his hearers. Very judiciously, however, he left to others the burden and the odium of financial measures and of parliamentary management, and identified himself only with those military enterprises which he understood so well. ‘Ignorant of the whole circle of finance,’ wrote an acute observer, ‘he kept aloof from all details, drew magnificent plans, and left others to find the magnificent means. Disdaining to descend into the operations of an office which he did not fill, he affected to throw on the Treasury the execution of measures which he dictated. … Secluded from all eyes, his orders were received as oracles. Their success was imputed to his inspiration—misfortunes and miscarriages fell to the account of the more human agents.’2
The German war was naturally the least popular part of the policy of the Government. It cost much both in men and money. It involved the greatest dangers and it promised least advantage to England. Pitt, in opposition, had done everything in his power to fan the popular feeling against continental subsidies, and it is one of the most remarkable proofs of the ascendency he exercised that he was able to extend that system further than even Carteret had desired. He urged, in a sentence that was often repeated, that he conquered America in Germany, and the career of Frederick exercised a very natural fascination over the popular mind. One of the most marked features of the national character is the strong sympathy which is always shown in England for a small power struggling against great odds; a sympathy honourable and noble in itself, but which is often carried to such a point that it makes the British public wholly indifferent to the original cause of the conflict. Never in the history of Europe was the spectacle of such a struggle more strikingly exhibited than by Frederick at this time. In the campaign of 1759 it seemed as if everything was lost. The veteran troops with which Frederick had begun the war were now for the most part swept away and replaced by raw levies. The Austrians, under Daun, were again slowly but steadily creeping on upon Saxony, while a great Russian army menaced Silesia. Marshal Dohna, who was sent at the head of a Prussian army to repel it, found himself out-manœuvred and compelled to retire. Frederick superseded him, and replaced him by General Wedell, to whom he gave positive orders to attack the Russians. The Prussians were less than 30,000. The Russians were about 70,000. A battle was fought at Züllichau on July 23, and the Prussians were completely defeated, and Frankfort-on-Oder fell into the Russian hands. Frederick then hastened in person, with every soldier he could spare, to oppose the Russians. Daun, as usual, had entrenched himself impregnably, and knowing that the Russian army was deficient in cavalry, he sent 12,000 horsemen with 8,000 foot, under the command of General Laudohn, to reinforce it. On August 12 in the neighbourhood of Frankfort the great battle of Kunersdorf was fought. Frederick commanded 50,000 men; the Russian army was estimated at between 80,000 and 90,000. At first fortune appeared to smile on the King, but at the end he experienced the most crushing of all his defeats. 19,000 Prussians were killed, wounded, or made prisoners. All their cannon were taken; most of their generals were killed or wounded. Frederick escaped only with great difficulty, and at the evening of the day not more than 3,000 Prussian troops were together. Had it not been for the amazing dilatoriness of the enemy, who were content with the blood they had shed, and who left Frederick time to collect the scattered remnants of his army, to bring cannon from different fortresses, and to refill his ranks by new levies, it would have been impossible to have continued the war. As it was, Saxony was for a time almost denuded of Prussian troops. In the beginning of September Dresden was taken by the Austrians, and in November, before the armies retired into winter quarters, Marshal Daun compelled several thousand men, under the Prussian General Finck, to surrender themselves as prisoners at Maxen, while a few days later another Austrian general captured General Dierecke, with 1,500 Prussians, at Meissen.
But even in this year, so disastrous to Frederick, the star of England shone proudly on the Continent. Prince Ferdinand had, it is true, in the middle of April, been defeated by the French at Bergen. But a far more important battle was fought at Minden, on August 1, when a French army of more than 50,000 men was utterly defeated, with a loss of at least 7,000 men and of 30 cannon, by a British and German army of about 36,000 men. One shadow, indeed, rested on the fortunes of the day. Lord George Sackville, who commanded the English cavalry, through a nervousness of which there are very few examples in English military history, disobeyed at a critical moment of the battle the order to charge, and thus saved the French from absolute destruction. He was pronounced by a court-martial guilty of disobedience, and unfit to serve the Crown in any military capacity whatever; and although great family influence and very considerable abilities raised him in the following reign to a high position, his reputation was irrevocably blasted. But the timidity of one man was amply redeemed by the splendid courage shown by many thousands, and the victory of Minden contributed largely to reconcile the people to the continental war. The French still mediated an invasion of England, but all alarm from this quarter was dispelled in November, when Hawke defeated and nearly annihilated the French fleet in Quiberon Bay.
Still, this war, had it not been accompanied by splendid victories on sea, in Asia, and in America, and had it not been conducted by a statesman to whom the nation could refuse nothing, would have met with great and general opposition at home. In 1760—the last year of the reign of George II.—the campaign opened very fatally for Frederick. He had, indeed, made the most extraordinary efforts to restore his affairs. The fields were almost deserted, civil business was almost in suspense through the unsparing levies which he had raised for his army. Prisoners of war were compelled, at the point of the bayonet, to take the oath of allegiance and enlist against their countrymen, and every device was employed to attract or inveigle soldiers from the surrounding States. The English subsidy contributed in part to defray the expenses of the war, and by pitiless exactions immense sums were drawn from the inhabitants of those unhappy provinces which had the misfortune to be occupied by Prussian troops. Saxon woods were cut down and sold to speculators. The civil officials were left unpaid, while a vast quantity of base money was coined, and issued from the Prussian Mint. In this manner, by imposing sacrifices such as no nation could undergo, except for self-preservation, Frederick endeavoured to meet the enormous preponderance of power that was against him, while the spirits of an ignorant and superstition soldiery were raised by the circulation of false news and of forged prophecies.
But for a time all seemed in vain. The campaign of 1759 had extended far into the winter, and Frederick conceived the bold idea of renewing it while the vigilance of his enemies was relaxed in winter quarters, and of making another effort to drive the Austrians from Saxony. His head-quarters were at Freyberg. Having received reinforcements from Prince Ferdinand, and been joined by 12,000 men under the hereditary prince, he left the latter to keep guard behind the Mulde, and in January 1760, at a time when the snow lay deep upon the ground, he made a fierce spring upon the Austrians, who were posted at Dippoldiswalde; but General Maguire, who commanded there, baffled him by the vigilance and skill with which he guarded every pass, and compelled him to retrace his steps to Freyberg. When the winter had passed and the regular campaign had opened, Laudohn, one of the most active of the Austrian generals—the same who had borne a great part in the victories of Hochkirchen and Kunersdorf—entered Silesia, surprised with a greatly superior force the Prussian General Fouqué, compelled him, with some thousands of soldiers, to surrender, and a few days later reduced the important fortress of Glatz. Frederick, at the first news of the danger of Fouqué, marched rapidly towards Silesia, Daun slowly following, while an Austrian corps, under General Lacy, impeded his march by incessant skirmishes. On learning the surrender of Fouqué, Frederick at once turned and hastened towards Dresden. It was July, and the heat was so intense that on a single day more than a hundred of his soldiers dropped dead upon the march. He hoped to gain some days upon Daun, who was still pursuing, and to become master of Dresden before succours arrived. As he expected, he soon outstripped the Austrian general, and the materials for the siege were collected with astonishing rapidity, but General Maguire, who commanded at Dresden, defended it with complete success till the approach of the Austrian army obliged Frederick to retire. Baffled in his design, he took a characteristic vengeance by bombarding that beautiful city with red-hot balls, slaughtering multitudes of its peaceful inhabitants, and reducing whole quarters to ashes; and he then darted again upon Silesia, still followed by the Austrian general. Laudohn had just met with his first reverse, having failed in the siege of Breslau; on August 15, when Daun was still far off, Frederick fell upon him and beat him in the battle of Liegnitz. Soon after, however, this success was counterbalanced by Lacy and Totleben, who at the head of some Austrians and Russians, had marched upon Berlin, which, after a brave resistance, was once more captured and ruthlessly plundered; but on the approach of Frederick the enemy speedily retreated. Frederick then turned again towards Saxony, which was again occupied by Daun, and on November 3 he attacked his old enemy in his strong entrenchments at Torgau. Daun, in addition to the advantage of position, had the advantage of great numerical superiority, for his army was reckoned at 65,000, while that of Frederick was not more than 44,000. But the generalship of Frederick gained the victory. General Ziethen succeeded in attacking the Austrians in the rear, gaining the height, and throwing them into confusion. Daun was wounded and disabled, and General O'Donnell, who was next in command, was unable to restore the Austrian line. The day was conspicuous for its carnage even among the bloody battles of the Seven Years' War: 20,000 Austrians were killed, wounded, or prisoners, while 14,000 Prussians were left on the field. The battle closed the campaign for the year, leaving all Saxony in the possession of the Prussians, with the exception of Dresden, which was still held by Maguire.
The English and German army, under Prince Ferdinand, succeeded in the meantime in keeping at bay a very superior French army, under Marshal Broglio; and several slight skirmishes took place, with various results. The battle of Warburg, which was the most important, was won chiefly by the British cavalry, but Prince Ferdinand failed in his attempts to take Wesel and Gottingen; and at the close of the year the French took up their quarters at Cassel.1
Such is a brief outline of the events of the war to the close of 1760. The principal criticisms that have been brought against the war ministry of Pitt were the expense that was incurred, and the uselessness of some of his expeditions. The latter criticism has been already discussed; the former, it must be admitted, had some plausibility. Notwithstanding the long peace, and the strict economy of Walpole, the national debt, which was fifty-two millions at the accession of George II. in 1727, had risen to nearly one hundred and thirty-nine millions at the peace of 1763. Fox accused Pitt of breaking windows with guineas; and Lord Bath, in a powerful pamphlet, complained that the war expenses during all King William's reign ‘were at a medium not above three and a half millions a year, and Queen Anne's though the last years were exorbitant, were little more than five millions; whereas now twelve or fourteen millions are demanded without reserve, and, what is still more, voted without opposition.’1 In 1760, no less than sixteen millions were voted.2 It may, however, be truly answered with that the expenditure of Pitt was insignificant when compared with that of North in the American war, and of his own son in the French war; that the area of hostilities had been immensely increased by the development of the rival colonies in America and India; that the scale of the German war was such that no smaller subsidy would have enabled Frederick to hold his own, while no subsidy was ever more adequately employed; and, lastly, that the expeditions of Pitt were almost always crowned with success. He maintained with much reason that prompt expenditure is good economy in war, and the expeditions he sent forth were so admirably equipped that their blows were usually decisive, and had rarely to be repeated. Besides this, one of the main objects of the war was the creation of a great colonial empire, which, at a time when free trade was yet unknown, was the essential condition of great commercial development. The immense outlets furnished for English industry, and the complete empire which England soon acquired upon the sea, rapidly increased the national wealth. France, in 1759, proclaimed herself bankrupt, and stopped the payment for her debts; the Prussian people were reduced to the lowest depths of misery, and their government subsisted only by debasing the coin; but in England the chief springs of national wealth were unimpaired, and in no previous war had commercial activity been so fully sustained. It is a remarkable proof of the healthy financial condition of England that, in nearly every war, her exports, though they for a time declined in value, soon ascended again, till they reached and passed, in time of war, the level of the preceding peace. In the war which began in 1702, this was effected in ten years; in the war which began in 1739, it was effected in nine years; in the war which began in 1755, the period was much shorter, and already, in 1758, the exports passed the figure of the preceding peace.1
A more just, and at the same time a more serious criticism, is that the war, in its later stages, had become unnecessary. If Pitt seriously desired peace with France, it seems almost certain that he could have obtained it; and even if Europe could not have been pacified, the withdrawal from either side of France and England, without seriously disturbing the balance of power, would have greatly limited the contest. But although some slight negotiations were made in 1759, it appears evident that Pitt had no real desire for peace, or at least for any peace that did not involve the complete humiliation of his adversary. Not content with having almost annihilated the fleets of France, he desired to deprive her of all her colonial empire, and also of all participation in that Newfoundland fishery which he described as the great nursery of her sailors. ‘Some time ago,’ he said in the midst of his triumphs, ‘I would have been content to bring France to her knees, now I will not rest till I have laid her on her back.’ He once confessed, with a startling frankness that he loved ‘honourable war.’ He never appears to have had any adequate sense of the misery it produces, or to have looked upon France in any other light than that of an inevitable and natural enemy. It must be remembered, however, that while the contest between the Prussians on the one side and the Austrians and Russians on the other, was one of the most stubborn and most sanguinary on record, England had in this war the good fortune of gaining immense advantages by victories that were almost bloodless. Never, perhaps, since the struggle in Thermopylæ were the military enterprises so disproportioned to the political results they produced. Pitt declared in Parliament that not 1,500 Englishmen had fallen in the conquest of Canada.2 In the battle of Plassy, which decided the ascendency of England in Bengal, Clive lost only 20 Europeans and 52 sepoys.1 In the battle of Wandewash, which overthrew the French power in India and made England supreme in Madras, the losses of Coote in killed and wounded were 190 Europeans and 69 black soldiers.2
It must be added, too, that the memory of two inglorious peaces rankled bitterly in the mind of the people, and that in desiring to push the war to the uttermost, Pitt was in perfect accordance with their wishes. For the first time since the great days of Queen Anne, the nation was drinking the intoxicating cup of military glory, and Marlborough himself was never supported by an enthusiasm as powerful and as undivided as that which was elicited by the triumphs of Pitt. Marlborough was personally never very popular. A large party in England regarded every victory he won as injurious to their policy and their interests. He was fighting chiefly for Continental objects, and though the splendour of his genius threw a flood of glory upon the nation to which he belonged, English soldiers bore but a small part in the battles which he won. Of the 52,000 men who conquered at Blenheim 18,000 were imperial troops under Eugene. Of the remainder who were commanded by Marlborough about a fourth part were English.3 At Ramillies the chief brunt of the battle was borne by the Dutch and the Danes, who encountered and with little assistance cut to pieces the household troops who were the very flower of the army of France.4 At Oudenarde the Confederates lost in killed and wounded 2,972 men. Less than 180 of these were English.5 Of the 129 battalions who formed the victorious army at Malplaquet only 19 were English, and the English suffered little more than a tenth part of the whole losses of the allies.6 But no other European nation took part in the conquests of Canada and India or in the naval victories of Hawke, and the fruits of these triumphs belonged to England alone. Party spirit had wholly gone down. The king was now reconciled to his great minister. Parliament was almost unanimous, and for the first time for many years it was in real sympathy with the people.
Pitt made large demands upon the self-sacrifice and resolution of the nation, but in this respect he was never disappointed. England under his guidance was almost wholly unlike the England of Walpole and Pelham. Its relaxed energies were braced anew. The thick crust of selfishness, corruption, and effeminacy was broken, and an emulation of heroism and enterprise was displayed. Foreign nations cordially recognised the greatness of the change. ‘England,’ said Frederick, ‘had long been in labour, but had at last produced a man’; and long years after Pitt had been removed from office, it was observed that the mere mention of the probability of his returning to power was sufficient to quell the boasts of the French. At the same time he never appears to have been regarded in France with the intensity of hatred which was bestowed upon his son. The magnanimous and generous features of his character, and the somewhat theatrical nature of his greatness in some degree dazzled even his enemies; and it is remarkable that one of the most eloquent eulogies of Chatham is from a Frenchman, the Abbé Raynal.
The intellectual and moral qualities that constitute a great war minister and a great home minister are so very different that they have hardly ever been united in the same man. In judging the influence of Pitt on home politics we must remember how short a time he was in power and in health. During the last years of George II., when his authority was so great, the energies of the nation were absorbed in the war; nor did he ever attain in home politics the authority which was willingly conceded him in military administration. In the succeeding reign he was either in opposition, or, being in office, was prostrated by illness. His proposals were seldom or never carried into effect, or even fully elaborated. They were like the unfinished sketches of a great artist, or like beacon-lights kindled in the darkness to mark out a path for his successors. That he possessed the qualities of a great home or peace minister can hardly be alleged. In matters of finance and on questions of commercial policy he was extremely ignorant. We look in vain in his career for any great signs of administrative or constructive talent, and he was eminently deficient in the tact, the moderation, and the temper that are requisite for party management. Yet even in this sphere he exercised a profound and, on the whole, a salutary influence. The most remarkable characteristic of his home policy was the great prominence he gave to the moral side of legislation, or, in other words, the skill with which he acted upon the higher enthusiasms of the people. In his conception of politics, the supreme end of legislation is to inspire the nation with a lofty spirit of patriotism, courage, and enterprise; to enlist its nobler qualities habitually in the national service, and to make the legislature a faithful reflex of its sentiments. No preceding statesman showed so full a confidence in the people. It was thus that, by arming the Jacobite clans, he attracted to national channels the martial enthusiasm of Scotland, which had been so often in the service of the Stuarts. It was thus that he proposed, and at last carried out, the scheme of a national militia, and but for the opposition of his colleagues, he would have extended it to Scotland. It was thus that he supported, though without success, the measure which was brought forward by Pratt in 1758 to extend the operation of the Habeas Corpus Act, which applied only to those who were detained on some criminal charge, to all who were confined under any pretence whatever. In the following reign he was the first conspicuous statesman who raised the banner of parliamentary reform, and it was characteristic of him that he based his proposal not on the common ground of the irregularities or anomalies of the legislature, but on the ground that the strong patriotic spirit that animated the country was not adequately represented in it; that corrupt or personal motives had lowered its tone, and that an infusion of the popular element was necessary to reinvigorate it.
It was in the same spirit that he attempted in his latter days to break down the system of party government, under the belief that it diverted the energies of politicians from national objects; and to withdraw the government of India from the East India Company, under the belief that so great a territory should not remain in the hands of a mercantile company, or be governed on merely commercial principles, but should be thoroughly incorporated in the British Empire. No one who follows his career can doubt that, had he been in power at the time of the American troubles, he could have conciliated the colonies; and it was during the later ministry of Pitt that the first steps were taken towards the introduction of a better government into Ireland. He never could have conducted party government with the tact of Walpole; he never could have framed, like Burke, a great measure of economical reform, or have presided, like Peel, over a great revolution of the commercial system; but no minister had a greater power of making a sluggish people brave, or a slavish people free, or a discontented people loyal.
Although he cannot be said to have carried a single definite measure increasing the power of the people, or diminishing the corrupt influence of the Crown or of the aristocracy, it may be said, without a paradox, that he did more for the popular cause than any statesman since the generation that effected the Revolution. With very little parliamentary connection, and with no favour from royalty, he became, by the force of his abilities, and by the unbounded popularity which he enjoyed, the foremost man of the nation. In him the people for the first time felt their power. He was essentially their representative, and he gloried in avowing it. He declared, even before the Privy Council, that he had been called to office by the voice of the people, and that he considered himself accountable to them alone. The great towns, and especially London, constantly and warmly supported him; and though his popularity was sometimes for a short time eclipsed, it was incomparably greater than that of any previous statesman. In our day, such popularity, united with such abilities, would have enabled a statesman to defy all opposition. In the days of Pitt it was not so, and he soon found himself incapable of conducting government without the assistance of the borough patronage of the aristocracy, or of resisting the hostility of the Crown. But although he was not omnipotent in politics, the voice of the people at least made him so powerful that no Government was stable when he opposed it, and that all parties sought to win him to their side. This was a new fact in parliamentary history, and it marks a great step in the progress of democracy.
His influence was also very great in raising the moral tone of public life. His transparent and somewhat ostentatious purity formed a striking contrast to the prevailing spirit of English politics, and the power and persistence with which he appealed on every occasion to the higher and unselfish motives infused a new moral energy into the nation. The political materialism of the school of Walpole perished under his influence, and his career was an important element in a great change which was passing over England. Under the influence of many adverse causes the standard of morals had been greatly depressed since the Restoration; and in the early Hanoverian period the nation had sunk into a condition of moral apathy rarely paralleled in its history. But from about the middle of the eighteenth century a reforming spirit was once more abroad, and a steady movement of moral ascent may be detected. The influence of Pitt in politics, and the influence of Wesley and his followers in religion, were the earliest and most important agencies in effecting it. It was assisted in another department by the example of George III., who introduced an improved tone into fashionable life, and it was reflected in the smaller sphere of public amusements in the Shakespearian revival of Garrick. In most respects Pitt and Wesley were, it is true, extremely unlike. The animating principles of the latter are to be found in doctrines that are most distinctively Christian, and especially in that aspect of Christian teaching which is most fitted to humble men. Pitt was a man of pure morals, unchallenged orthodoxy, and of a certain lofty piety,1 but yet his character was essentially of the Roman type, in which patriotism and magnanimity and well-directed pride are the first of virtues; and the sentences of the Latin poets and the examples of the age of the Scipios, which, in a letter to a bishop he once called ‘the apostolic age of patriotism,’ appear to have left the deepest impression on his mind. But with all these differences there was a real analogy and an intimate relation between the work of these two men.
The religious and political notions prevailing in the early Hanoverian period were closely connected. The theological conception which looked upon religion as a kind of adjunct to the police-force, which dwelt almost exclusively on the prudence of embracing it and on the advantages it could confer, and which regarded all spirituality and all strong emotions as fanaticism, corresponded very faithfully to that political system under which corruption was regarded as the natural instrument, and the maintenance of material interests as the supreme end of government; while the higher motives of political action were systematically ridiculed and discouraged. By Wesley in the sphere of religion, by Pitt in the sphere of politics, the tone of thought and feeling was changed, and this is perhaps the aspect of the career of Pitt which possesses the most abiding interest and importance. The standard of political honour was perceptibly raised. It was felt that enthusiasm, disinterestedness, and self-sacrifice had their place in politics; and although there was afterwards, for short periods, extreme corruption, public opinion never acquiesced in it again.
It was a singular fortune that produced, in so brief a period from the ranks of the Whig party, one of the greatest peace ministers and the greatest war minister of England, and it would be difficult to find two nearly contemporary statesmen, of the same party and of equal eminence, who in character and policy were more directly opposed than Walpole and Pitt. Each was in many respects immeasurably superior to the other, and in some respects they will hardly admit of comparison. We can scarcely, for example, compare a speaker who was simply a clear, shrewd, and forcible debater, without polish of manner or elevation of language, with an orator who surpassed Chesterfield in grace, while he equalled Demosthenes in power. In his private life, Walpole, though a man of great kindness of nature, was notoriously lax and immoral, while Pitt was without reproach; but we must remember that the first was full of constitutional vigour, while the second was a confirmed invalid. In public integrity there was, I think, less real difference between them than is usually imagined. There is no proof that Walpole ever dishonestly appropriated public money. Both statesmen received large rewards for their services, and these rewards in kind and in amount were nearly the same. The factious conduct of Walpole during the administration of Stanhope may be fairly balanced by the conduct of Pitt towards Walpole, and afterwards towards Newcastle. Pitt, however, was entirely free from nepotism, while Walpole bestowed vast public revenues upon his sons. Walpole hated everything theatrical and declamatory. He had too little dignity for the position he occupied, and in his best days he was more liked than respected. Pitt was always in some degree an actor. His want of social freedom greatly impaired his success as a party leader, and he inspired more awe than any other English politician. The ability of the one was shown chiefly in averting, that of the other in meeting, danger. A cautious wisdom predominated in the first, an enterprising greatness in the second. The first dealt almost exclusively with material interests, and sought only to allay strong passions. The second delighted in evoking, appealing to, and directing the most fiery enthusiasms. The first was incomparably superior in his knowledge of finance; the second in his management of war. The first loved peace, and made England very prosperous; the second loved war and surrounded his country with glory.
The influence of the two men on political morals was, as we have seen, directly opposite. With much quiet patriotism Walpole had none of the loftiness of character of Pitt, and was entirely incapable of the traits of splendid magnanimity and disinterestedness which were so conspicuous in the latter. Though he did not originate, he accepted, systematised, and extended parliamentary corruption; his personal integrity, though probably very real, was never above suspicion, and his ridicule of all who professed high political principles contributed very much to lower the prevailing tone. It was reserved for Pitt to break the spell of corruption, and he did more than any other English statesman to ennoble public life and to raise the character of public men.
The death of George II., on October 25, 1760, cut short the ministerial ascendency of Pitt as well as the undisputed supremacy of the Whig party. Without being in any sense of the word a great, or in any high sense of the word a good man, this sovereign deserves, I think, at least in his public capacity, more respect than he has received, and England owes much to his government. He was, it is true, narrow, ignorant, ill-tempered, avaricious, and somewhat vain, exceedingly faulty in his domestic relations, and entirely destitute of all taste for literature, science, or art; but he was also an eminently honest, truthful, and honourable man; and during a period of thirty-three years, and often under circumstances of strong temptation, he discharged with remarkable fidelity the duties of a constitutional monarch. He was unfaithful to his marriage bed, but he had a sincere respect and admiration for his wife; and, to the great advantage of the country, he allowed himself to be governed mainly by her superior intellect. He was extremely fond of war, and showed distinguished personal courage at Oudenarde and at Dettingen; but he cordially recognised the ability of the most pacific minister of the age, and he supported Walpole with honourable constancy through all the vicissitudes of his career. He loved money greatly, but he lived strictly within the revenues that were assigned to him, and was the most economical English sovereign since Elizabeth. He was a despotic sovereign in Germany, as well as a constitutional sovereign in England; but the habits he had formed in the first capacity never induced him to trench in the smallest degree upon the liberties of England, and on several occasions he sacrificed frankly his strongest predilections and antipathies. It was thus that he allowed Walpole to restrain him from the war which he desired; that he received Newcastle as minister; that he discarded Carteret, who, of all politicians, was most pleasing to him; that he consented, though only after a long struggle, to give his confidence to Pitt, who had grossly insulted him. He yielded, ungracefully and ungraciously indeed, and usually with an explosion of violent language, but yet honestly and frankly; and no minister to whom he had ever given his confidence had cause to complain of him. ‘The late good old King,’ said Chatham in the succeeding reign, ‘had something of humanity, and amongst many other royal virtues he possessed justice, truth, and sincerity in an eminent degree, so that he had something about him by which it was possible to know whether he liked you or disliked you.’ He was a respectable military administrator and an industrious man of business, and some of the sayings recorded of him exhibit considerable shrewdness and point. Courtly divines and poets were accustomed to eulogise him in language which would be exaggerated if applied to the genius of Napoleon or to the virtues of Marcus Aurelius. An impartial historian will acknowledge that the reign of George II. was in its early part one of the most prosperous and tranquil, and in its latter part one of the most glorious periods of English history; and that the moderation with which the sovereign exercised his prerogative, and the fidelity with which he sacrificed his own wishes in the support of his ministers, contributed in no small measure to the result.
Walpole to Devonshire, Feb. 2, 1741–2. Coxe's Walpole, iii. 592. Coxe's Pelham, i. 29–30.
Hildreth's Hist. of the United States. Bancroft. Walpole's George II. Sparks's Life of Washington.
Dodington's Diary, May 1755.
Dodington's Diary, July 1755. Walpole. Smollett. Lord Waldegrave's Memoirs, pp. 45–49.
See Lord Stanhope's Hist. of England, iv. p. 72.
It is commonly said that Maria Theresa wrote to the French mistress with her own hand, but Arneth in his Hist. of Maria Theresa, has thrown great doubt upon the story.
From 13,000 to 14,000, according to Byng. See his letter to the Admiralty, in Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, i. p. 468. According to another version the French numbered 16,000.
All the more important documents and facts relating to this expedition are collected in Beatson. See too Walpole's Memoirs of George II., vol. ii.
Frederick, Hist. des Sept Ans. Carlyle, History of Frederick the Great.
See Vol. I. p. 3. 60
See a remarkable paper of recommendations presented to the Duke of Cumberland in May 1756, and by his order delivered to Pitt, in Dec. 1756. One of the recommendations is as follows: ‘Two regiments, 1,000 men in a corps, may be raised in the north of Scotland for the said service [that of America]… No men in this island are better qualified for the American war than the Scots Highlanders.’—Almon's Anecdotes of Chatham, i. pp. 166–167. The suggestion is said to have been due to the Duke of Argyle. Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, ii. p. 2.
Walpole's George II. ii. 259–260. Shelburne's Autobiography. Waldegrave's Memoirs.
Waldegrave's Memoirs, 95–98.
Walpole's George II. pp. 226–231, 284–293. Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, i. 501–513.
This statement of Horace Walpole, which appeared incredible to Macaulay, is partly corroborated by Lord Waldegrave. Memoirs, pp. 93–94.
Walpole's Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of George II., and Letters. Waldegrave's Memoirs. Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs.
See Lord Waldegrave's very interesting report of the King's conversation on this matter. Memoirs, pp. 132, 133. Also Walpole's account of this period. Memoirs of George II.
Thackeray's Life of Chatham, i. 293.
See an admirable letter on Pitt's speaking, in Grattan's Life. Grattan's Character of Pitt, Miscellaneous Works, pp. 9, 10. Butler's Reminiscences, vol. i. 139–156. Thackeray's Life of Chatham. Almon's Anecdotes of Chatham. Glover's Memoirs. Lord Waldegrave's Memoirs. Walpole's Memoirs of George II., and the autobiography in the first volume of Lord E. Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne. This last book has thrown a good deal of additional light upon the elder Pitt.
A curious collection of extracts from speeches of Pitt to this effect will be found in the Quarterly Review, vol. lxvi. Life of Chatham.
Marchmont Papers, i. 72; 74, 80.
Coxe's Life of Pelham, i. 197.
See this speech in Thackeray's Life of Chatham, i. p. 129.
Coxe's Life of Pelham, i. 216.
Chatham Correspondence, i. p. 105.
Chatham Correspondence, i. p. 49.
Walpole's Memoirs of George II., ii. p. 271.
Chatham Correspondence, i. p. 79. Chesterfield impressed the same precept upon his son.
See the very remarkable statements of Lord Shelburne in his Autobiography, pp. 75, 76.
Chatham Correspondence, i. 248.
Walpole's George II., iii. p. 85.
July 1757. Chesterfield's Miscellaneous Works, iv. 198.
To Sir Benjamin Keene, Aug. 1757. Chatham Correspondence, i. 251.
Chatham Correspondence, i. 247–256.
Thackeray's Life of Chatham, i. 318.
Walpole's Memoirs of George II., iii. 40–42. Chatham Correspondence, i. 257–262.
The text of the Convention and also the arguments of the English when repudiating it are given in full by Smollett.
See Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, ii. 93, 94.
Except Admiral Watson, who refused to sign the fictitious treaty devised for the purpose of deceiving Omichund. The story is too well known from Macaulay's admirable essay on Clive to need repetition.
They consisted chiefly of the 39th regiment. There were also about one hundred English artillerymen and fifty English sailors.
See Mém. de Lally. Sismondi, Hist. des Français. Voltaire, Mélanges Historiques, Lally, and the Hists. of Orme and of Mill. Biographie Universells, art. Lally. Coote said than no other man in all India could have maintained the struggle so long or so gallantly.
Walpole's George II. iii. 151.
Walpole's George II. iii. 173, 174.
I have compiled this sketch chiefly from the works of Frederick and from the inimitable narrative of Mr. Carlyle.
Letter to Two Great Men, p. 33.
Walpole's George II. iii. 282.
Burke's Third Letter on a Regicide Peace.
Horace Walpole's George II. iii. p. 235.
Orme's Military Transactions of the British in Hindostan, ii. 178.
Ibid. ii. 589.
Marlborough's wing consisted of 48 battalions and 86 squadrons. Of these 14 battalions and 13 squadrons were English. — Lediard's Life of Marlborough, i. 368.
Ibid. ii. 26–27.
Ibid. ii. 284.
1,866 men out of 18,353. Ibid. ii 501. The Dutch, who are hardly mentioned in most English accounts of these battles, lost 8,463 men at Malplaquet, more than 1,500 men at Oudenarde, and most of those who fell at Ramillies. I may mention that Lediard's military statistics are much fuller than those of Coxe.
See especially a striking letter about religion to his nephew. Chatham Correspondence, i. 73–75