Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXII.: The King's Birth-day kept in Paris. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
LETTER XXII.: The King's Birth-day kept in Paris. - David Hume, Letters of David Hume to William Strahan 
Letters of David Hume to William Strahan, ed. G. Birkbeck Hill (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The King's Birth-day kept in Paris.
There have some Transactions pass’d with you of late1. , which much excite our Curiosity at a Distance; but I do not wish that you woud write me your Opinion freely about them, unless you can get a private hand, by whom you can send your Letter2. .
I shall be much obligd to you, if you will be so good as to insert the following Article in the Chronicle3. , and give it about to the other Papers.
’Paris. On Tuesday the fourth of June, being the Anniversary of his Majesty's Birth day, the Earl of Hertford, Ambassador from England, invited all the English of Rank and Condition in this Place, to the Number of seventy Persons, who dind with him and celebrated that Solemnity. The Company appeard very Splendid, being almost all drest in new and rich Cloaths on this Occasion; the Entertainment was magnificent, and the usual Healths were drunk with great Loyalty and Alacrity by all present4. .’
I am sorry it is not allowd me to communicate to you any more interesting Intelligence; but be assurd of my Regard, and excuse my abrupt Conclusion, as I write in a Hurry.
I am Dear Sir Yours most sincerely
Paris, 6th of June, 1765.
’May 25, 1765. My last, I think, was of the 16th. Since that we have had events of almost every sort. A whole administration dismissed, taken again, suspended, confirmed; an insurrection; and we have been at the eve of a civil war. Many thousand weavers rose on a bill for their relief being thrown out of the House of Lords by the Duke of Bedford. For four days they were suffered to march about the town with colours displayed, petitioning the King, surrounding the House of Lords, mobbing and wounding the Duke of Bedford, and at last besieging his house, which with his family was narrowly saved from destruction. At last it grew a regular siege and blockade; but by garrisoning it with horse and foot literally, and calling in several regiments the tumult is appeased. Lord Bute rashly taking advantage of this unpopularity of his enemies, advised the King to notify to his Ministers that he intended to dismiss them,—and by this step, no succedaneum being prepared, reduced his Majesty to the alternative of laying his crown at the foot of Mr. Pitt or of the Duke of Bedford; and as it proved at last, of both. The Duke of Cumberland was sent for, and was sent to Mr. Pitt, from whom, though offering almost carte blanche, he received a peremptory refusal. The next measure was to form a Ministry from the Opposition. Willing were they, but timid. Without Mr. Pitt nobody would engage. The King was forced to desire his old Ministers to stay where they were…. Here are all the great and opulent noble families engaged on one side or the other. Here is the King insulted and prisoner, his Mother stigmatised, his Uncle affronted, his Favourite persecuted. It is again a scene of Bohuns, Montforts and Plantagenets…. When I recollect all I have seen and known, I seem to be as old as Methuselah; indeed I was born in politics,—but I hope not to die in them. With all my experience, these last five weeks have taught me more than any other ten years.’ Walpole to Mann. Letters, iv. 370-2.
’June 26, 1765. You have known your country in more perilous situations, but you never knew it in a more distracted one in time of peace than it is in at present. Nor had I ever more difficulty to describe its position to you. Times of party have their great outlines which even such historians as Hollingshed or Smollett can seize. But a season of faction is another guess thing. It depends on personal characters, intrigues and minute circumstances, which make little noise and escape the eyes of the generality. The details are as much too numerous for a letter as, when the moment is past, they become too trifling and uninteresting for history.’ Ib. p. 377.
Burke, writing on May 18 to Henry Flood, said:—’Nothing but an intractable temper in your friend Pitt can prevent a most admirable and lasting system from being put together; and this crisis will shew whether pride or patriotism be predominant in his character; for you may be assured that he has it now in his power to come into the service of his country upon any plan of politics he may choose to dictate, with great and honourable terms to himself and to every friend he has in the world; and with such a stretch of power as will be equal to everything but absolute despotism over the King and kingdom. A few days will shew whether he will take this part, or that of continuing on his back at Hayes, talking fustian, excluded from all ministerial, and incapable of all parliamentary service; for his gout is worse than ever, but his pride may disable him more than his gout. These matters so fill our imaginations here that with our mob of six or seven thousand weavers who pursue the Ministry, and do not leave them quiet or safety in their houses, we have little to think of other things.’ Burke's Private Corres. i. 80.
Dr. Blair wrote to Hume in Paris on July 1 :—’Our Political Revolutions here would amaze you…. All that seems to be certain is that L. B. [Lord Bute] is worsted and — [the King] made a prisoner. If the present Establishment take any root, it will probably end in his relapsing altogether into the condition of a private man and amusing himself with his Wife and his Children; now that they have found the ways of subduing him.’ M. S. R. S. E.
Macaulay, in his second Essay on the Earl of Chatham (ed. 1874, iv. 318), describing his conduct at this time says:—’And now began a long series of errors on the part of the illustrious statesman, errors which involved his country in difficulties and distresses more serious even than those from which his genius had formerly rescued her. His language was haughty, unreasonable, almost unintelligible. The only thing which could be discerned, through a cloud of vague and not very gracious phrases, was that he would not at that moment take office.’
’London, June 8, 1757. The public, perhaps at the moment I write this, is at the crisis of its fate∗ But I say no more. For at the Post Office, it is said, they use a liberty without licence (just the contrary of what is done everywhere else, where they use licence without liberty) to open people's letters.’ Warburton to Hurd. Letters from a late Eminent Prelate, ed. 1809, p. 244.
’London, June 26, 1765. You know, my dear Sir, I never expect you to answer me on these delicate subjects [a threatened change of Ministry]. I even send this by a safe conveyance to Lord Hertford at Paris, as I did a former one which I hope you received.’ Horace Walpole to Mann. Letters, iv. 378.
’London, Aug. 29, 1766. I am told there is a great fracas at the Post Office about a letter from the Duke of Bedford to the Duke of Grafton [the Prime Minister] having been opened. Mr. Saxby is named as the person doing it, and is under strict examination, I hear, to name who set him on to do it…. Sept. 2. Saxby is turned out of an office of £1200 a year for opening the Duke of Bedford's letter, it is said, to the Duke of Grafton.’ Mr. Lloyd to Mr. Grenville. Grenville Papers, iii. 311. The editor quotes a Private Memorial to Mr. Grenville, when Prime Minister, from Mr. Anthony Todd, the Secretary to the General Post Office, dated August 1763, containing an account of £5810 Secret Service Money applied to the payment of the allowances on the Secret List for one year. A request was made that the allowance of one Mr. Bode might be increased,‘for engraving the many seals we are obliged to make use of.’ On this Secret List Mr. Todd's name is entered for £750, with £25 added,‘for distributing these allowances.’ His regular salary was only £200 (Court and City Register for 1765, p. 129). It must have been raised later on, for on June 17, 1783, Mr. Pitt in the Debate on his Bill for Reform of Abuses in the Public Offices,‘speaking of fees mentioned the place of the Secretary of the Post Office, who with a salary of five or six hundred pounds made an annual income of upwards of three thousand. Mr. Pitt stated this to arise from his having two and a half per cent. on all packets [packet-boats]; and in the last year of the war he said £140,000 had been expended in packets, so many were either lost at sea or taken.’ Parl. Hist. xxiii. 951. I was puzzled at finding in the Secret List the Bishop of Bath and Wells as the recipient of £500 a year; but after some search I solved the mystery by discovering the following mention of him by Horace Walpole in 1741:—’Old Weston of Exeter is dead. Dr. Clarke, the Dean, Dr. Willes, the decipherer, and Dr. Gilbert of Llandaff are candidates to succeed him. Sir R[obert Walpole, the Prime-Minister] is for Willes, who, he says, knows so many secrets that he might insist upon being made Archbishop.’ Letters, i. 116. His death is thus mentioned in the Gent. Mag. for Dec. 1773, p. 582:—’In Hill Street, Berkeley Square, aged 80, Dr. Edward Willes, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, and joint Decipherer (with his son Edward Willes, Esq.) to the King. He was consecrated Bishop of St. David's in 1742, and translated to the see of Bath and Wells in 1743.’ Edward Willes is entered on the Secret List as receiving £500, and Thomas Willes £300.
’dublin, May 19, 1769. To avoid the impertinence of a post-office I take the opportunity of sending this by a private hand.’ Earl of Charlemont to Burke. Burke Corres. i. 167.
’Gregories, July 9, 1769. Might I presume to suggest that just at this time he [the Duke of Richmond] may possibly expect to hear from your lordship by the first safe conveyance. If the letter be given to his porter it will be sent by the coach to Goodwood.’ Burke to the Marquis of Rockingham. Ib. p. 176.
If we may trust Hume the correspondence of private life was safe. He wrote to the Countess de Boufflers in 1775:—’No private letters are ever opened here.’ Hume's Private Corres. p. 282.
At this time the posts to France left London on Tuesday and Friday in every week, and arrived in London from France on Monday and Friday. Their punctual arrival must of course have depended on a favourable wind. Court and City Register for 1765, p. 132.
1The Pitt and Newcastle Ministry was forming.
[1.]Note 1. The Grenville Ministry which had been formed on April 16, 1763, was succeeded by the Rockingham Ministry on July 13, 1765. The nature of the transactions which excited Hume's curiosity at a distance can be seen in the following extracts:—
[2.]Note 2. In the letter writers of this age distrust is very often shewn of the Post Office. Such passages as the following are not unfrequently met with:—’London, April 19, 1748. I know that most letters from and to me are opened.’ Lord Chesterfield to Mr. Day-rolles. Chesterfield's Misc. Works, iv. 47.
[3.]Note 3. It was inserted in the Chronicle of June 13.
[4.]Note 4. On June 5 of the previous year Wilkes wrote from Paris, where he was living in exile:—’Lord Hertford gave yesterday a grand dinner to all the English here except one, and to the true Irish Whigs; nor, like a good courtier, did he omit the new converts, the Scotch…. I am the single Englishman not invited by the ambassador of my country on the only day I can at Paris shew my attachment to my Sovereign, as if I was disaffected to the present establishment…. To say the truth, I passed the day much more to my satisfaction than I should have done in a set of mixed or suspicious company; a fulsome dull dinner; two hours of mighty grave conversation to be purchased (in all civility) by six more of Pharaoh—which I detest as well as every other kind of gaming.’ Almon's Memoirs of Wilkes, iii. 124-7.