George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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patriot died from a shot received in the shoulder, or from the accidental
bursting of his pistol in his hand, and of the veracity of the first named
statement no one now entertains a doubt ; but in what purported to be
the result of the opening of Hampden's supposed coffin, as inserted in the
Oentleman's Magazine, there was a kind of sanction given to the story of
the pistol by the alleged discovery of traces that the right hand had been
amputated. Southey took part in a discussion on the subject which after-
wards arose, and his statement of the result of his inquiries I believe to be
the only strictly authentic account of what passed. ' Repairs going on in
' the church at the time, search was made there for the body of Hampden,
' and, as the persons understood, at the instance of Lord Nugent ; several
' coffins were inspected, but not opened, because either the date did not
' agree with Hampden's death, or the inscription bore a different name ;
' but one coffin was at length found, which had neither date nor inscrip-
' tion, and this was opened, although, from its form, it appears to have
' been older than his time. Mr. Norris, a surgeon of Risborough, examined
' the body, which was that of a very lusty man, the head covered with rich
' auburn hair, reaching beneath the shoulders ; it was in high preservation,
' except that one arm had crumbled off, owing to the action of the air,
' which had made its way to that part through a crack in the coffin ; but
' there had been no amputation, or operation of any kind.' That the
search was made ' at the instance of Lord Nugent ' I have no doubt
whatever ; not simply because of the extract above quoted from the letter
of Lord Denman, but because on my mentioning to him an amusing com-
plaint of Mr. Godwin's confided to me, that he had been invited to the
disinterment, and, when the day for it was actually fixed, had never
been apprised thereof, Lord Nugent admitted that it was so.


M. de Salvandy, when minister of Louis Philippe, for the
judgment of an intelligent foreigner is in some sort as the
verdict of posterity. " C'est une production judicieuse, vraie,
' et forte. Un noble cceur, et un bon esprit, 1'ont dictde."

Meanwhile the exciting events of 1830 had not passed
without their influence on Lord Nugent' s political fortunes.
The light he had tended so steadily when nickering and low,
he was now in every sense to feel the warmth of, as its fierce
and burning flame, suddenly blazing forth in France, was
caught up and diffused over England. Not the least bitterly
contested election of this memorable summer was that of the
little borough of Aylesbury, not the least gallantly fought and
won. 'There certainly was no election throughout the
' kingdom/ writes Lord Holland to Lord Nugent, in a letter
of the 14th of September, 1830, now lying before me, 'in which
' I felt more interested on publick grounds, and none in the
' result of which I more unfeignedly rejoice. If good wishes
' are services, you had as many as you acknowledge from me ;
'but all I did was to mention the strength of them to
' Dissenters, who, I believe, whether I had mentioned them or
' not, would have exerted themselves to their utmost, as they
' were bound to do, in your favour/ The same letter is
remarkable for what it contains of allusion to the events
then passing in France, and may also be quoted for its high
and honourable tribute to the zeal and generosity of Lord
Nugent' s services to the patriots of Spain.

At this time the life of Prince Polignac, whose capture had
been effected, was supposed to be in danger; and Lord
Holland, for some personal and many public reasons, was
anxious to save it. From feelings not only of private regard
and compassion, but (' overjoyed as all of us are at the events
' and prospects in France') of public zeal for the character
and stability of the new free government, he described himself
in this letter to Lord Nugent as most anxious that the
commencement of Louis Philippe's reign should not be tarnished


by any vindictive acts of severity towards the ex-ministers
'and Polignac in particular. It has occurred to me/ he
continued, ' that a relation of his conduct and a publication of
' his correspondence in the affair of Biego (which, if I recollect
' rightly, were feeling and generous) would be of some service
' in softening publick indignation (which constitutes his real
' and only danger) against his person just now. Have you a
' copy, or do you know where it can be had, or where our
' friend the Canonigo is. My memory is so bad that I am
' not quite sure whether it was the Eiegos or the Quirogas
' about whom we interested ourselves so much ; but I recollect
' your warmth, zeal, and generosity well, and I am therefore
' certain that on the present, in some senses similar, and in others
' opposite, occasion, you will, if you can, assist me in softening
' asperity (too natural and too just, it must be owned) against
' Polignac, and his colleagues or accomplices too, if it be practi-
' cable.' Sharing earnestly the feeling thus expressed, Lord
Nugent could hardly have suppressed a smile in contrasting this
letter of Lord Holland's with a dry mention of the same subject
by the Duke of Wellington, in a letter, also to himself, of a
fortnight's earlier date. ' I think/ wrote the Duke, ' that all
' the ministers would have been let off if Prince de Polignac
'had not been taken. But I think they will execute him;
' and probably Peyronnet. The Prince de Polignac, however,
' has adopted the best mode of having his life saved, by proving
' to the world that he is not so able a man as he was believed
' to be. His letter to Mons. Pasquier is a remarkable example
' of weakness/* As all the world now knows, the latter sup-

* In the same letter, which is dated from Walmer Castle on the
27th August 1830, the Duke of Wellington makes a striking and charac-
teristic allusion to the ultra-royalist party. 'I received your note,'
he writes. ' Of course, what you said to me is between ourselves. I have
' already had a different report ; and have reason to believe that the Comte
' de Ponthieu is acting prudently, whatever he may say. I know that an
' offer was made to him of services, which I think in former times would
' not have been rejected. This offer was declined ; and at the same time



position of the Duke proved to be the correct one, and the
poor prince was not thought deserving of the scaffold.

And now followed the overthrow of the Duke's adminis-
tration, and Lord Grey's accession to power, when Lord
Xugeut took office as one of the Junior Lords of the
Treasury, and in the following spring, after another sharp
contest, was again returned member for Aylesbury. The duties
of his office received conscientious attention from him, and,
during this and the succeeding year, he had charge of several
Acts of a useful or necessary kind. Among them he was always
glad to remember that he had carried through the House one
of the shortest Acts of Parliament contained in the statute book,
which nevertheless, in its ten or a dozen lines, abolished not
less than forty forms of oaths in the Customs and Excise.
For Lord Nugent had faith in the Scriptural precept swear
not at all and would have given it extensive application in
public affairs. He believed that to scatter oaths broadcast
was to reap harvests of perjury, and when he found that in
the two departments thus brought within his official control
nearly fifteen hundred oaths were sworn every year, he justly felt
that the interests of morality would be better protected by the
substitution of declarations in every case, with the penalty of a
heavy fine on discovery of falsehood. Oaths are but fetters
on the honest and conscientious, to whom they are also a
needless burden. To the dishonest they offer no check what-
ever. The subjection to them, still rendered compulsory in
the highest as in the lowest offices of State, is nothing better
than a sheer superstition. There is either no danger, or the
remedy is utterly inadequate.

Lord Nugent did not again contest Aylesbury at the disso-
lution in 1832, having meanwhile, in the July of that year,
accepted from Lord Grey the office of Lord High Cominis-

' a declaration made that he would not return if it was in his power ; and
' that even for the Due de Bourdeaux he would not say a word as long as
' he should remain in this country.'


sioner of the Ionian Islands. And that this appointment was
not the reward for any indiscriminate support even of the
Ministry under which he held subordinate office, will perhaps
sufficiently appear from the fact, that his name had figured,

Inot long before, in the minority of 150 liberal members who
voted against the ministerial attempt to save the borough
of Saltash from Schedule A. Lord Nugent left England
while the Reform Bill excitement was still strong, and one of
his last acts before departure was to sit to the ill-fated painter
of the Banquet held in Guildhall to celebrate the passing of
the measure. Mr. Haydon has described this sitting so
cleverly in a diary written at the time, and conveying with
graphic fidelity so manifest an impression of the man, that it-
may, properly be inserted in this place. The portrait on
Haydon's canvas is less like.*

' 26th. Breakfasted with Lord Nugent. Sketched him. Passed

' a very delightful morning. He took down with the grace of high

' birth, a print of Hampden, which hung in an old English frame,

' and presented it to me, writing his name on the back. He said

' some capital things. Talking of the Greeks, he said, " I

. ' " acknowledge they are liars. But why ? It is the arm of slavery

' "against tyranny." He said, " I have as delightful associations

' " about the enclosed country of the civil wars as about Greece or

' " the Troad. I have as much pleasure in standing and thinking

' " I see the whole hedge lined with cuirassiers, as if they were

' " ancient Greeks in the Acropolis," " Yes," said I, " my Lord, and

1 ' " I never think of the civil wars, but I associate the terrific face of

I ' " Cromwell gleaming dira fades above the field. He was a

1 ' " grand fellow, my Lord. He died in power." " Yes, he did; but

c " recollect Napoleon," said Lord Nugent, immediately grasping

' my meaning, " what he suffered, with a thief-catcher ferreting his

' " dirty linen, harassed by a hideous complaint, and tortured by

' " insults." He went on; " Do you know who H. B. is ? " " No."

' " I think I do." " Who my Lord ? " "I think it is Harry

' " Burrard, of the Guards. We went to school together, and he

* Haydon's Memoirs, ii. 310. 320.


' " drew capitally." We then went into a long discussion about
' arms ; tried rapiers ; looked at black-jacks. He ordered up a
' bloodhound and a Scotch greyhound that would honour Abbots-
' ford, and after forty visits, twenty letters, after Joe, and Bill,
' and Dick, and Harry had had their orders, in came the groom.
' " Where's the little mare? " " At Stowe, my Lord." " How
' "came she there? " " My Lord, your own orders." " Get her
' " directly, in time to embark. W T ho covered her ? " "I don't
' " know, my Lord." In came Joe.* " My Lord, the captain of
' " the steamer." " Show him in." " Mr. Haydon, we had better
' " begin." I began, wanting his head to the left; but the captain
' sat on the right, and every instant Lord Nugent jerked his head
' to the right, to discuss the various probabilities of embarkation,
' and there I sat, catching his features as I could, and getting them
' in rapidly.

' After seeing the drawing, he said, " I shall be happy to see
' " you at Corfu. You can be out in three weeks in a steamer.
" We'll then take a trip to the Troad and Constantinople. Don't
' " forget it. Joe ? " " My Lord." " Tell Mr. What's-his-name,
' " Hookham will settle it." " Yes, my Lord. My Lord, here's
' " the silversmith." " Who ? " " The silversmith." " Send him
' " to Hookham's too. Then, captain, we must be on board by

* ' Joe,' Joseph Turpin, was Lord Nugent's favourite and attached
servant, his friend why should I not call him ] He attended him every-
where, travelled over all Europe with him, went with him on his eastern
pilgrimage, and was still most at home in the little manor-house of Lilies
near which he was born, at which he stood by his master's death-bed, and
where he still remains, devoted to his memory. Describing, in his Lands
Classical and Sacred, an illness which attacked him in Syria, and which
gave occasion for the exercise of active and considerate kindness on the
part of his friend and fellow traveller, Major Qrote, Lord Nugent adds :
' And I should be ungrateful, if, while expressing what I feel of the
' diligent care received from others, I could forget what I owe to the
' intelligence and indefatigable zeal shown on this as on so many other
' occasions, by one whose services, during the many years and various
' scenes we have together passed through, have always been rendered to
' me rather in the spirit of an attached friend than in the mere fulfilment
' of the duty of a trusty servant ; I mean my good Joseph Turpin, who
' from his boyhood has been by my side, and whose skill as well as
' attention contributed so much now to set me soon upon my legs again.'


' " three? Can the horses, eh, what do you call it can the horses
c " the horses get on board easily ? " " As easy as a glove, my
' " Lord." " Well, captain, you had better see Lady Nugent, and
'"talk to her about the baggage." "Yes, my Lord." "Joe."

* " Yes, my Lord." " Ask Lady Nugent for that old painting."
' " Yes, my Lord." " Michel." " Oui, milord:'

' In the midst of all this I finished my sketch, and was off. I
' like Lord Nugent very much. He is of race, and looks like a
' noble. His manners are graceful and commanding. He is cul-
' tivated and entertaining, and I dare say will honour his station.

' 27th. Finished the head of the chairman. Lord Nugent and

* Sir Matthew Wood called, and liked the picture. Lord Nugent
' made some capital remarks, which I adopted. He embarked at
' three.'

Lord Nugent reached the seat of his government in Decem-
ber 1832, and left in February 1835. But before allusion is
made to the circumstances under which he resigned, I will
briefly advert to tlie leading results of his administration.

The subject to which he gave the greatest attention on his
arrival in the Islands was that of the financial administration,
and the results in this respect of his brief term of power afford
the best means of testing the spirit which animated his govern-
ment, and the value of his services to the country he was
called to govern. Tor they rest upon documents which it is
impossible to disprove, and may be verified by any one who
consults the Blue Books filed in the Colonial Office. From
these it is manifest, that during his residence at Corfu the
revenue had considerably increased, while the proportionate
expenditure had suffered diminution with each successive year.
The account for 1834, for example, shows an increase of
nearly 50,000 over that for 1832 ; and while, in the latter
year, the excess of expenditure over revenue amounted to
nearly 11,000, the former year showed a balance of revenue
over expenditure, of more than 34,000.

In connection with this improvement in revenue, another
important change was effected by the new High Commissioner.


In the spring of 1834, he suggested to the Home Government
an arrangement to which he had obtained the consent of the
Ionian Parliament, that the States should commute, in place of
the obligation imposed upon them by the treaty of Paris for
the maintenance of the British troops in the Islands and for
the repair of fortifications, an obligation they had never been
able to fulfil, and which had always been in arrear, by annual
payment to Great Britain of 35,000 a-year. The English
Colonial Minister thought this arrangement equitable to the
States, and beneficial to the protecting power. It was there-
fore duly carried out.

It is not necessary, and would indeed be unbecoming in such
a slight sketch as the present, that the other parts of Lord
Nugent' s government should be here in any manner dwelt
upon. It is right to state, however, most emphatically, that
his conduct in his office was repeatedly approved by the home
authorities ; that, on his return, many private and very earnest
letters from the Colonial Minister, and other members of the
Government, assured him of the undiminished confidence and
respect with which they regarded him as a public man ; and
that, with reference to an enquiry to be mentioned hereafter,
Lord Glenelg conveyed to him in an official letter the specific
information that no representation or charge of any kind,
against any part of his conduct, had been sent to the Colonial
Office during his government or afterwards, with one sole
exception involving a matter of Ionian law. This latter,
I may add, was investigated after Lord Nugent' s resignation
by the then Colonial Minister, Lord Aberdeen, who decided
against the complainant and in favour of Lord. Nugent, to
whom, with much frankness and courtesy, an official copy of
the decision was forwarded at the time.

Nor were the testimonies brought or received by Lord
Nugent from the States themselves, less positive and earnest
in expression. After his resignation, addresses of regret at his
departure were presented liim from the various authorities.


The Primary Council of the States, as well as the Archbishop
and Clergy of the Greek Church, took part in those addresses.
The representatives of Corfu in the Legislative Assembly
decreed him a gold tablet, expressive of their high sense of
the benefits conferred by his government. A gold medal, a
testimony never before given to a Lord High Commissioner,
was unanimously voted to him by the Senate. The same feel-
ing of regret and gratitude was expressed publicly by the
secretary of the Senate, Sir Edward Baynes, in presence and
in the name of all the British civil functionaries of the Ionian
government. And finally, there followed him to England
addresses from all the seven Islands, signed by the several
Regents, the principal proprietors, and numbers of the in-
habitants of each.

Yet some of his measures, in dealing with existing monopolies,
had exasperated not a little some powerful interests in the
Islands ; he had also been obliged to dismiss, with the full
sanction of the Home Government, an influential officer who
had long held an important employment at Corfu ; and though
it was not from this quarter that anything connected with his
resignation proceeded, there can be no doubt that any in-
triguing ex- treasurer, or any disappointed applicant for employ-
ment anxious to vent his spite against the Government -House,
would find no lack of idle or malignant gossip manufactured
to his hand, among the enmities thus provoked.

Nothing could be more honourable to Lord Nugent than
the circumstances of his resignation of his High Commission-
ership, on the sudden fall of the Whig administration, after
Lord Spencer's death. At that time he had held the office
not more than two years ; and any removal of him by the new
Administration was quite out of the question, so long as the
usual term of colonial governorships remained unexpired.
But Lord Nugent conceived himself to stand in peculiar rela-
tions to the party with which the elder branch of his family
continued to act, and which he had himself so steadily opposed ;


and he had already, before his departure from England, so
provided that he should not incur in that quarter any obliga-
tion that could be avoided, or delay for a moment longer than
was necessary his participation in the fortunes of the states-
men with whom he had acted all his life. In the event of any
accession of the Conservatives to power, a nobleman con-
nected with the Ministry, and a near relative of Lord Nugent' s,
had received from him the resignation of his appointment, to
be tendered at his discretion.

Upon the unexpected event of 1834, such was the peculiar
posture of affairs, and the apparently uncertain issue of any
attempt to replace the Whigs, that some doubt occurred to
the holder of this resignation as to whether or not it should
be tendered at once ; but one of the retiring ministers having
been consulted, it was thought right so to tender it, and this
step received afterwards the cordial approval of Lord Nugent
himself. Having mentioned this, however, I ought to add,
not less explicitly, that the claim upon his party which he
believed himself to have thus established, was not afterwards
acknowledged as he held that it ought to have been.

The portion of his administration of which Lord Nugent
spoke always with the greatest pride, was that reform of
the finances which, with entire approval from home, he
was engaged in carrying out, and which already had
produced a larger surplus revenue than had ever accrued
to those islands, except during the year of Sir Thomas
Maitland's Commissionership. His measures in this direction,
and in breaking down a very oppressive monopoly in the
currant trade, of which the effect was to impoverish the revenue
not less than the people, had, as I have shown, secured the
approval of the Colonial Ministers in office during his term of
power, and of their successor on his recall. But though the
fact of these reforms, thus commenced and interrupted, may
be said to have strengthened Lord Nugent' s claim to be
restored to the position he had held so soon as a fair oppor-


tunity should present itself, it is to be stated with regret that
this met with no recognition, and that almost alone among
the lesser members of the Whig Administration of that day,
he was left to suffer for having voluntarily linked his fortune
to that of his friends. And an incident occurred at the time
which, though unconnected with this neglect, or in 'any degree
inducing it, made it in Lord Nugent's case a peculiar wrong,
and for some time increased the many painful personal feelings
excited by it.

This incident, indeed, which occurred at the close of the
year of his return, was in all respects so painful that I would
gladly, if possible, have omitted all mention of it here. As it
is, I shall touch it very briefly, and only so far as his own
generous nature would now have wished, in vindication of his
personal honour. For, manifold and great as were the annoy-
ances and irritations connected with the matter at the time,
they had long ceased to embitter his recollections of it. In
this, as in all things, his mind was one in which as little of
the mere spleen of selfish anger continued as in that of any one
who ever lived. But he had a natural anxiety that his eager-
ness to repel a gross calumny should not be forgotten, what-
ever it might be agreed to forget of the too little sympathy
exhibited for a wrong committed, or the too much countenance
given to the wrong-doer, by his own political friends and
associates ; and it is this consideration only which suggests
and limits the statement I now permit myself to make.

In November, 1835, there appeared in an evening paper
supporting the Government at that time, since extinct, a
leading article containing a personal attack on Lord Nugent,
stating that he was reported to be a candidate for the
Government of Ceylon, hinting at his having committed acts
of great impropriety during his residence at Corfu, and
asserting that the writer had ' the best grounds for believing
'that representations respecting Lord Nugent's government
' were sent to the Secretary of State, and remain recorded in


' the Colonial Office, which, even if the Administration had not
' been changed in November last, must have led to serious in-
' vestigation, with every probability of the noble lord's recall/
Upon the appearance of this libel, Lord Nugent lost not
an hour in taking steps to vindicate his character ; and on a
complete and frank retractation being refused, a civil action for
damages was commenced against the journal which had
published it. On various grounds, and by the interpositions
of legal forms and delays always resisted by Lord Nugent, the
trial of the case was put off from time to time ; but every
proposal for a compromise which did not involve an entire

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 5 of 45)