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CHANGES IN THE MINISTRY
CHANGES IN THE MINISTRY
TOLD BY THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
IN A SERIES OF LETTERS TO JOHN WHITE, M.P.
EDITED FOR THE ROYAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY
All rights reserved
7 V (^ (^ !>
The writing of Narratives or Memorials of political negotiations
was a favourite exercise with eighteenth-century statesmen ; it
was a method of self-expression which could not fail to commend
itself to Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle (1693-1768).
.He was a man to whom a confidant was indispensable, to whom
correspondence was the salt of life. While Lord Hardwicke
lived, it was to him that he most often disburdened himself of
his complaints, grievances, and views ; on his death, in 1764, his
place was taken by the Duke's old friend, John White of Walling
Wells, M.P. for East Retford 173 3-1 768. Walpole describes
him as an old republican who governed both the Duke of
Newcastle and Lord John Cavendish,' and his interest with the
Cavendishes is frequently alluded to in the present Narrative.
One of his chief claims to fame is that Burke originally purposed
to dedicate to him his 'Thoughts on the Present Discontents,"''
and it is known that he became the recipient of many ministerial
confidences.^ Towards the close of his life, the Duke of New-
' Georg^e III. ed. Barker, ii. lo6.
* Burke's Correspondence, i, 182. Macknight's Burke, i. 393.
» Albemarle's Rockingham, ii. 20, note : 'The heads of the party admitted him
to their secret conciliabula.'
castle addressed to him the following series of letters, which he
intended to serve as a narrative of the political intrigues in
which he was concerned 1765-7, and the collection now forms
one volume of the Newcastle Correspondence, Add. MSS.
33003. Although the Narrative is headed 'very secret,' from
the care that has been taken in making duplicates ' in
enriching it with marginal notes and an appendix of illustrative
matter - it would seem not impossible that the Duke intended
it for ultimate publication.
The Narrative covers the period of continual ministerial
changes which followed on the dismissal of George Grenville
and preceded the rise of Lord North, the period in which it was
generally believed by the Whigs that Lord Bute ruled the
King's counsels. Secretaries of State and Lords of the Treasury
were rapidly shifting ; ' surely }'ou did not think,' says Walpole
satirically, that they ' are of more importance or ought to be more
permanent than churchwardens?' It is with the rise and fall of
the Rockingham Ministry and with the unsuccessful negotiation
for a coalition, which followed on the failure of Lord Chatham's
health, that the Duke's Narrative is principally concerned.
The first letter opens with an account of the attempts of
George III. to get rid of the obnoxious Bedford-Grenville
Ministry by means of a negotiation which should create a
Ministry from some section of the Whig Opposition. To
arrange terms with either the Duke of Newcastle and the
younger members of the party, or with Pitt and Temple, the
King engaged the services of his uncle, the Duke of
Cumberland, who himself wrote a Memorial of these events.
The Duke of Cumberland's dislike of Lord Bute had hitherto
' Only a small portion is extant in the Duke's own hand. The copy seems to be
in the hand of his chaplain, Dr. Thomas Hurdis.
* This no longer forms part of the volume, and appears to be lost.
kept him out of the King's favour, but as it was now obvious
that, with whichever party the King negotiated, terms more or
less exacting on the subject of Lord Bute and his friends and
relations would be made, the differences of uncle and nephew
were now overcome. The Duke of Cumberland's Memorial
is in the main substantiated by the present Narrative ; both
statements show that the exclusion of the Princess Dowager
from the Regency Bill was early made one of the Duke of
Cumberland's requests. The necessity of conceding this point,
if the negotiation was to proceed, ma}- explain the King's
agreement to Lord Halifax's motion, which was framed to omit
his mother. It is more likely that he sacrificed his wishes on
that question in the hope of securing a new Ministry than out
of dread of the old.
The account that follows serves to explain with clearness
the causes of the Duke of Cumberland's first failure to make
terms with Pitt and Lord Temple, The main reason of his
want of success was Lord Temple's suspicion of Lord Bute's
influence, for a report of a plan to give the headship of the
Treasur)' to Lord Northumberland, whose son had married
Bute's daughter, had reached Temple's ears, and was in truth
sufificiently alarming. Already, too, he was sensible of certain
famous ' delicacies,' ' although he stated expressly that his
reconciliation with his brother, George Grenville, did not lay
him under any obligation or restraint with regard to public
behaviour. Alread}*, too, it was made known that Mr. Pitt, as
Lord Temple's brother-in-law, * might have his delicacies also.'
At the time of the Duke of Cumberland's second negotiation
' See Walpole (ed. Barker), ii. 133 : 'But surely Lord Temple was not so over-
run with delicacy that he could afford to make a secret of the only delicacy he seems
ever to have felt, the turning out his own brother to take his place himself.'
in the following month, when there was no further doubt of the
genuineness and directness of the King's offer, these ' delicacies '
had become more decided. Pitt was still affirming that he was
' penetrated with His Majesty's goodness, ready, proud and in
duty bound to fling himself at His Majesty's feet,' and, accord-
ing to the Duke of Newcastle, was even persuaded into actual
acceptance on being satisfied that the King was 'not averse'
to the treaty he proposed with Russia and Prussia. Ulti-
mately, however, Lord Temple's private reasons for refusal
necessitated Pitt's withdrawal, as without Lord Temple he
felt that he would have no one he could trust to convey his
thoughts to His Majesty.
The King was determined not to submit again to the
humiliation of a return to the Grenville Ministry, and out of what
remained of the Opposition he formed the Rockingham Ministry,
which took office July 1765, after some seven weeks of ' adminis-
trative anarchy.' The Duke of Newcastle became Privy Seal,
and (as he says) at the King's desire he undertook the duty of
recommending to all Church preferments. He had hoped that
his age and experience might give him a principal swaj- in the
counsels of ministers so young and inexperienced as the Marquis
of Rockingham and the Duke of Grafton : but a bitter dis-
illusioning awaited him, and to John White he turns, crying out
against their ingratitude.
Although he had taken the Privy Seal ' to be free from
the trouble, fatigue, and responsibility of a Minister,' he had
fully expected ' to be consulted on every material step in
Government cither with regard to measures or men ' — men
particularly. Walpole writes of him at this time as ' busy in
restoring clerks and tide-waiters, in offering everybody every-
thing, and in patronising the clergy again ; not being yet cured
by their behaviour of loving to make bishops.' Yet he was not
half so busy as he wished to be. He was, however, a great deal
more busy than Pitt wished him to be.
Early in December 1765 he was urging, as others were
urging, the necessity of an application to Pitt, whose services in
foreign affairs appeared to him to be 'more wanted than ever.'
He did not then know that it was his own presence in the
Ministry that was a main obstacle in the way of Pitt's adherence.
In the summer Pitt had written to a friend : ' Claremont could not
be to me an object of confidence or expectation of a solid system
for the public good, according to my notions of it,' and in Decem-
ber he had come to the conclusion that the Duke's eagerness for
his help was ' nothing but a little artifice to hold out to the
public an appearance of connection where he knows he has none,
and I know he never shall have any.' ' When his Grace does
me the honour to say that anything is exactly conformable to
my ideas, he is pleased to use the name of a man who has never
communicated his ideas to the Duke of Newcastle upon the
present state of affairs, and who is finally resolved never to be
in confidence or concert again with his Grace.' ' I have been
so often sacrificed ' by the Duke of Newcastle, ' I shall never
accede to his Grace's Ministry,' It has been thought that Pitt
was unnecessarily fearful of Newcastle's influence, and on this
question the Duke's Narrative throws some light. Although it
is full of complaints that his old influence has waned and is
waning, it is clear that it was still necessary to reckon with it.
By January 3, 1766, the Duke knew that Pitt made his
exclusion a condition, though it would appear that he was not
yet aware of the depth of his distrust. In any case, the Duke
perceived the futility of resistance, if the Duke of Grafton and
Mr. Conwaj' should persist in advising the King to send for
Pitt, and on January 9 he wrote to Lord Rockingham a dignified
letter expressing his determination ' to be in no degree himself
an obstacle.' ' Pitt continued to make public allusion to ' that
influence which was most suspected,' which was interpreted to
be the Duke of Newcastle's,- and at length the news reached
his Grace that Pitt had refused to sit at Council with him. For
a while the Duke sought to adhere to his former position, but
in the face of the King's unwillingness to negotiate with Pitt, it
was unnecessary for him to offer himself as an immediate
sacrifice, and as time went on the wound rankled.
Pitt's real difificulty, it would seem, lay with the King, whose
alarm at Pitt's firmness on the American question, fear of finding
his advances once more rebuffed through the influence of Lord
Temple, and hope that a fairly placable Ministry might stem
the tide of popular opinion yet a little longer, all combined to
keep him still friendly with the old Duke of Newcastle, whom
he always trusted, and unwilling to approach the dangerous
Pitt. After Pitt's great speech on the Repeal of the Stamp Act,
January 14, the King definitely declined to authorise the Duke
of Grafton to approach him.
For a brief space the King hoped to evade the direct issue
of the repeal or enforcement of the Stamp Act by a vote for
'modification.' In this the royal influence failed, and Lord
Rockingham enjoyed a short-lived triumph over the vote for the
repeal. This question settled, a chief difficulty in the way of Pitt's
inclusion was removed, and by the end of April the Duke of
Grafton made known his intention to resign, in the hope of
precipitating a crisis which should force Pitt's return. His
resignation failed of the desired effect, for two further difficulties
' AUx;marle's Rockingham, i. 265.
' Letters of CharUmovt to Flood, p. 5.
remained, in the King's unwillingness to make advances before
he was certain of a successful result, and in his belief that the
Duke of Newcastle's activity and experience w^ere fair counter-
parts for Pitt's genius and judgment. Only the immediate
difficulty in filling the Duke of Grafton's place as Secretary of
State presented itself. The old Duke nursed a half-hope that
he might be pressed to take the office himself, and the King
sympathised, it would seem, with the Duke's annoyance when
told that Lord Rockingham had been perfectly silent on hearing
the suggestion. The appointment of the Duke of Richmond
proved merely a temporary expedient for prolonging the
Ministry's lingering existence, for it had no real strength of
Although Lord Rockingham had triumphed in securing the
repeal of the Stamp Act, the credit was all Pitt's, and he found
himself unable to secure his own way with the King, whenever
they differed on any point. By the end of the session the King
came to see that Pitt's idea of a Ministry of the ablest men of
all parties was one in which he had always believed ; and Lord
Northington, getting wind of the King's readiness to approach
Pitt, made his own resignation of the Chancellorship the signal
for a storm which should land him safely in the coming Ministry.
The result of his negotiation was that the Duke of Grafton
became First Minister, with Pitt, now raised to the peerage, as
Privy Seal. Pitt's determination to take this office was bitterly
resented by the unhappy Duke of Newcastle, who was called
on to resign it. Henceforth he persistently describes himself as
' the first sacrifice to Lord Chatham's boundless ambition.' To
the last he cherished the hope that the King would ask him to
remain and take office in the Grafton-Chatham Ministry, but he
is careful to add that no consideration on earth would have
made him accept it. It is not inconceivable, however, that, had
the offer been made, his services would have been retained. His
sense of party duty was such that he was led to regard the
retention of office under most circumstances as dignified rather
than contemptible. He praises greatly the conduct of the Duke
of Portland, who ' out of generosity and a noble way of thinking,'
as he calls it, resisted his inclinations by keeping his emplo}'-
ment ' for the sake of the public and the Whig cause,' because
resignations would have 'thrown the Earl of Chatham into those
hands from whom every violence and destruction to the Whig
cause was to be expected.'
The Narrative gives no record of events from August 4, 1766,
to July 1767. Walpole writes of the Duke in the summer of
1766 as moving heaven and earth to raise dissatisfaction, ' but
heaven and earth are not easil}- moved with a numbed finger
of 70.' Soon, however, the weakness of the Grafton Ministry
was to afford him one last opportunity. He writes in July
1767 of the Ministry's growing difficulties, of the total neglect
of foreign affairs ; the Duke has heard such an account of
France as must make every good Englishman tremble, ' their
army complete to a man, well-officered, well-appointed, well-
paid, their trade flourishing everywhere, and encroaching upon
ours.' The weakness and disunion of the Ministry, and Lord
Chatham's continued ill-health, led the Duke of Grafton to seek
support from the Rockingham party, and to attempt through
them a negotiation with the Bedford party. The Duke of
Newcastle, though greatly vexed to hear no offer of his own
restoration to office, thought he saw his way to act as mediator
in this difficult and delicate negotiation, by which he hoped to
crown his closing years with success. His efforts to persuade
Lord Rockingham to let nothing stand in the way of coalition
were unwearying, but naturally enough unavailing, for Lord
Rockingham's determination to retain Conw^ay as leader of the
House of Commons, and the Duke of Bedford's desire for the
inclusion of Grenville, were obviously irreconcilable. Yet the
Duke thought that ' the Grenvilles ought to be included at any
rate, provided they would yield the Treasury and American
department' 'Conway, learning that the Duke was strongly
for George Grenville, would not be commonly civil to him,' but
the Duke was blind even to this indication that the personal
and party hostilities, which divided factions, so long bitterly
opposed, were not likely to be all at once even superficially
reconciled. He was certain of the possibility of a lasting re-
conciliation only because he was eager for it, being w^eary of
' those Bute fluctuating administrations,' and ' desirous of seeing
such a one established as one might support with honour.' The
whole negotiation was obviously foredoomed to failure, and
with its collapse and a final upbraiding of John White and the
Duke of Portland, to whom the whole Narrative was submitted,
the Duke of Newcastle's journal abruptly closes.
It cannot be urged that in this singularly naive piece of
self-justification the Duke represents himself as other than he
was known to be. The almost unanimous verdict passed upon
him by his contemporaries was that ' he was the most capital
simpleton that ever the caprice of fortune placed in the high
offices which he filled,' ' and the Narrative may serve to warrant
it. That he should have attained a great political position and
kept it for some fifty years is one of the surprises of eighteenth-
century history ; the Narrative wmII not explain the secret of
his power. It is lucid, if ungrammatical, for his natural
' See the letter of Selw)ii in ihe Iluward .MSS., Fifteenth Report of the Historical
MSS. Commission, p. 230.
simplicity made him incapable of literary obscurity ; it is honest,
if undignified ; it is as self- revealing as the Diary of Pepys, but
that it is totally devoid of wisdom is not to be denied. It
seems, however, to deserve publication, that it may be used in
conjunction with such contemporary narratives as the Duke of
Cumberland's ' Memorial,' the Duke of Bedford's ' Private
Journal,' Charles Yorke's 'Journal,' and Grenville's 'Diary of
The capitals and punctuation of the apograph have not been
strictly adhered to.
CHANGES IN THE MINISTRY, 1765-7
Fo. I. Add. MSS. 33003. Claremont : ' June 4, 1765.
Sir,— I am sure you must be desirous to hear the particulars
of the rise, progress, and, at last, the miscarriage of the mo.st
extraordinary transaction, that ever happen'd in this, or in any
An extraordinary transaction indeed ! when an opportunity
offer'd, which no one man could ever hope for; that the removal
of an administration, which, by their conduct, had render'd them-
selves so disagreable to the nation, should be proposed by the
King, and not take effect ! the removal of which administration
had been the avowed principle, and view, of all those, united,
which were called the Opposition ; which had made so many
formidable but yet unsuccessful attempts, in both Houses, for
that purpose ; and which Opposition, from desertions, varieties
of opinion, and varieties of views amongst themselves, and by the
unjustifiable acts of power and influence of the Crown, had been
so reduced, that any attempt, in either House, upon any the most
' The house at Esher, not the present building.
2 CHANGES IN THE MIM>TRV, "1765-7
urgent, and most justifiable occasion was scarcely ventured upon ;
and every body had given over almost the thoughts of Opposition
to the administration. In these circumstances, the Crown itself,
— sensible of the inability of the present Ministers and of the ill
consequences of their remaining in their offices — flings itself, as it
were, into the Opposition, to form an administration amongst
themselves, which the King was desirous to take ; and would
undoubtedly have supported : so that without being liable to
the trite, common objections of forcing the Croivn, — coining in
zuithout the Kings approbation, — being not sure of the King's
support. &c.. His Majesty was the first proposer ;— wanted only
to get rid of his present obnoxious Ministers ; and settle such an
administration as might be agreeable to the Nation, and particu-
larly to the true friends of his family, the Whigs. And, to evince
all the world of this truth, was pleased to make use of the most
proper person, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland,
(in whom all true friends of the Government had, or ought to
have the greatest confidence,) to bring it about ; and yet, that
this should miscarry, and the Ministers remain in their places !
I call an extraordinary event.
I shall now give you as exact an account, as my memory
can serve me with, of the several particulars, which have come to
my knowledge, which have passed in this negotiation ; and I
believe, the Duke, or my Lord Albemarle, have told me every
thing, that was material'
> The Duke of Cumberland drew up a Memorial on his negotiation, April to May,
which is published in K\h&\x\2ix\&'% Memoirs of the Marquis of Roiki)tghant,\. 185.
The dates of the earlier part (to p. 190) are substantiated by the Duke of Newcastle's
account. From p. 191 onwards the Duke of Cumberland has antedated events by a
week. The mistake seems to have arisen from a confusion between the dates of
the first passing of the Regency Bill in the House of Lords and the second passing,
after it had been amended by the House of Commons. Cf. Grenville Corresporuieme,
iii. 175 >wte ; 224 note. Also, for accounts of the negotiation and the Regency Bill
Debate see Charles Yorke's Journal in Harris's Hardwicke, iii. 445, and Phillimore's
Lytteltoii, ii. 664. And, for the Duke of Cumberland's negotiation, Almon's Anecdotes
of Eminent Persons, ii. 41 sqq., and Anecdotes of the Earl of Chc'ham, i. 465 r-qq.
AS TOLD nV THE DUKE OF NEWTASTI.F ^
On Monday morning, the 15th of April, (the last time His
Royal Highness came from Newmarket,) heorder'd me to attend
him, at Cumberland House ; and then gave me an account of what
had passed with the King, — the Sunday that His Royal High-
ness went to Newmarket,^ and with my Lord Northumberland—
afterwards at Newmarket.
N.B. — Great part of my Lord Northumberland's conversation
was with my Lord Albemarle.
His Royal Highness had received a message from the King
to attend His Majesty, that — Sunday morning, at nine o'clock,
before he went to Newmarket ; which the Duke did accordingly
His Majesty was extremely gracious to His Royal High-
ness ; and began by saying, that as he had been ill, thank God
he was then quite recovered, he had been thinking what con-
fusion this country would be in, if an accident should happen to
him, whilst his children were under age ; that, for that reason, he
was determined to have a Regency settled immediately ; that
this was his own thoughts, and not any of his Ministers' ; that he
had talked separately upon it to his four Ministers, viz. the Duke
of Bedford, Mr. Grenville, and the two Secretaries of State ; and
that he had order'd them to consider in what manner it was to
be done ; but that His Majesty wanted His Royal Highness's
opinion and advice ; as nobody knew better what to do, than
the Duke did. And, I think, something as if His Royal High-
ness might have something to do in it.
The Duke of Cumberland then represented to His Majest}-,
that (God be prais'd !) His Majesty's health was now so good
that there did not seem to be the least occasion for any hurry ;
that this was a question that required very mature consideration ;
that it was then the month of April ; and there did not seem to
be time enough, this Session, for such a thorough consideration,
as an affair of this importance required. And I am not sure
that His Royal Highness did not touch, at a distance, upon the
' April 7.
4 CHANGES IX THE >HNISTRV, 1 7^5-7
difficult part of the question ' ; upon which, however, His Royal
Highness explained himself fully in the course of the trans-
The King answer'd very peremptorily, — that it was his own
thought, and that it must be carried into execution this Session.
His Majesty also, to the best of my remembrance, let drop
some dissatisfaction with his present Ministers ; and the Duke
of Cumberland made some verj' short reply, lamenting that the
old and true friends of His Majesty's Royal Family and Govern-
ment were excluded from his service. To which His Majesty
replied that it was not his fault ; he proscribed nobody ; or to
At Newmarket, my Lord Northumberland had had two con-
ferences with the Duke of Cumberland ; which, the' His Royal
Highness did not know it then, his Lordship declared afterwards,
to have been by His ^Majesty's order.
In these conferences, my Lord Northumberland explained
very fully His Majesty's dissatisfaction with his present Minis-
ters ; and, that he was determined to part with them : and to
my Lord Albemarle he said, the King was determined to fling
himself into the Duke's hands.
His Lordship, however, insisted with the Duke, that the
affair of the Regency could not be postponed ; that that must
be immediately settled.