Archibald Philip Primrose Rosebery.

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For I must confess that when the French laid siege to
Maestricht in the beginning of 1748, I had such a gloomy
prospect of affairs that I thought it next to impossible to
preserve our friends the Dutch from the imminent ruin
they were then threatened with, or to maintain the present
Emperor upon the imperial throne.' x Though he had thus
already spoken, he wound up the debate for the Ministry,
and did so with equal discretion.

This was in February 1750. He seems to have spoken

no more that session, but in August Pelham wrote to his

brother : ' I think him the most able and useful man we

have among us, truly honourable and strictly honest. He

Aug. s-u, is as firm a friend to us as we can wish for, and a more


useful one does not exist.' 2 Such an eulogy, offered in
confidence by a Prime Minister, a reticent, unemotional
man, seems to us a great mark and epoch in Pitt's career.
Not * the most brilliant,' not ' the most eloquent,' not ' the
most intrepid,' as we should have expected, but * the most
useful, able, and strictly honest.'

Pitt had earned this praise by exertions which were not
visible to the outer world. It often happens that there is
a member of Government whose merits do not appeal to

1 Parl. Hist. xiv. 692-6.

8 Core's Pelham Adm. ii. 370.



the public, who is no orator, who passes no measures, whose
conversation does not attract, and whose position in an
administration is a puzzle to the outer world. And yet
perhaps his colleagues regard him as invaluable. He is
probably the peacemaker, the man who walks about dropping
oil into the machinery, and preventing injurious friction. This
had recently been Pitt's position. He had been diligently
and unobtrusively trying to keep the Government together.
This was not so easy as it would seem ; for though the
brothers Pelham had arranged it to their will when they
ejected Carteret, the morbid and intolerable jealousies of
Newcastle prevented any ease. Did other subjects of
intrigue and irritation fail he would quarrel with his
brother, for when all else was serene it would secretly
chafe him that his junior should be in the first place and
he only in the second. Henry himself, it may be noted,
seems to have been both blameless and placable on these
occasions, but naturally bored. The elder brother would
begin whimpering and whining to Hardwicke, his prop and
confidant. Hardwicke would soothe him as a sick baby is
soothed, eventually his tears would be dried, and he would
begin burrowing and intriguing in some other direction.

On this occasion the trouble arose over Bedford. Bedford
had become Joint Secretary of State with Newcastle on the
resignation of Chesterfield. Sandwich, a clever scapegrace,
and Bedford's henchman, had been Newcastle's candidate
for the office, while Henry Fox had been strongly supported
by Pitt and others. Before offering it to Sandwich, it was
thought well to make an honorary tender of the post to
Bedford, in the belief that he would refuse it. Bedford,
as sometimes happens on such occasions, had promptly



accepted it; for six months as he said, but, as also
happens, for as long as he could keep it, which was more
than three years. The appointment was thus distasteful in
its origin to Newcastle and became more irksome with
experience. Bedford as a minister was indolent, and as
a man was obstinate and unamiable to a singular degree.
But it was not these drawbacks which attracted the
malevolent attention of Newcastle. Bedford, no doubt,
was difficult to work with, and Newcastle soon wished to
be rid of him. But it was when Bedford became well
with the Court, with the King and with Princess Amelia,
for whom Newcastle had once affected to feel something
more tender than friendship, with the Duke of Cum-
berland and Lady Yarmouth, that Newcastle's hatred
passed the bounds of moderation and almost of sanity.
Pelham, who knew the parliamentary power of Bedford and
who was anxious not to alienate it, was reluctant to take up
his brother's dispute ; so Newcastle promptly quarrelled
with him. Pitt intervened. Had he been blindly
ambitious, he would have welcomed a schism which might
have produced a much greater position for himself. But
he saw that a quarrel between the brethren would
break up the Ministry ; and that such a destruction
would involve grave consequences, difficult to calculate,
and possibly the resuscitation of Carteret in the first
place. Moreover, though on the whole he sided with
Newcastle, as Fox sided with Pelham, he could not but
be aware of the priceless merits of Pelham as a party
manager, as one who allayed animosities, and as one who
kept the peace. Pelham, in writing to Newcastle, affects
to diminish the value of Pitt's intervention, as he wishes



to attribute the renewal of harmony to * natural affection.'
But an impartial judgment comes to a different conclusion
Natural affection had not prevented discord, and was in-
sufficient to produce reconciliation. It is at all times an
indifferent political cement. But the exertions of an in-
dependent colleague such as Pitt could not be over-
estimated. There exists a long and earnest letter of
July 13, 1750, from Pitt to Newcastle, too long and
too tedious to quote, but which is both tactful and
energetic, though in his worst style of winding verbosity.
* I don't hazard much,' he wrote, * in venturing to pro-
phesy that two brothers who love one another, and two
ministers essentially necessary to each other, will never
suffer themselves to be divided further than the nearest
friends by difference of opinion or even little ruffles of
temper may occasionally be. Give me leave,' he con-
tinues, * to suggest a doubt. May not frequent reproaches
upon one subject gall and irritate a mind not conscious,
intentionally at least, of giving cause ? ' and so forth. 1 He
concludes all this with warm eulogies on Newcastle's con-
duct of foreign affairs, and soothes and flatters the fretful
duke with something like sympathetic regard. He or
4 natural affection ' is successful, for, a week afterwards,
he writes a brief note on another subject, which ends
thus : ' I am glad to note that the understanding between
you and Mr. Pelham, for which I had fears, is re-
established.' 2 It is pleasant thus to catch a glimpse of
Pitt as a loyal colleague, strenuously patching up differ-
ences; not less pleasant to see him pushing the claims of

1 Add. MSS. 32721.

2 July 20, 1750. Add. MSS. 32721.



his rival, Fox, to be Secretary of State. This is a new
human, and attractive aspect.

The termination of the Bedford transaction is worth
noticing for more reasons than one. The King, though he
was at least indifferent to Bedford, declined to remove him
at the instance of Newcastle, and was probably pleased to
have the opportunity of thwarting the tiresome minister
who had been the inseparable bane and necessity of his life.
Pelham would not intervene directly for other reasons. A
characteristic and tortuous method was therefore adopted.
The King cared nothing for Sandwich, who was necessary
to Bedford. So the brothers suggested the removal of
Sandwich, to which the King promptly acceded, and
Bedford, as they had foreseen, instantly resigned.

Two points are notable with regard to the vacancy
thus caused. The Prime Minister announced that the
nomination of Bedford's successor must be left to the sole
nomination of the King, with which he would not interfere
in any way, but insisted that he must be a peer. 1 The
main reason for this strange limitation seems to have been
that there were fierce but dormant rivalries in the House
of Commons, and that an appointment of one of the
aspirants would call uncontrollable passions into activity.
Both Secretaries of State must therefore be peers, a prin-
ciple which seems strange to a later generation. The King,
therefore, nominated Lord Holdernesse, of whom the Prime
Minister merely observes, * I cannot possibly see him in
the light of Secretary of State.' 2 Holdernesse however
is appointed, and reappears more than once in this acci-
dental character.

1 Coxe's Pelham Adm. ii. 181, 370. 2 Ib. ii. 396.



But Pelham, though he tried to take this affair easily,
was near the end of his patience. He was worn out by
the perpetual exigencies and caprice of his brother and
colleague, for Newcastle was in truth his partner in the
Premiership, as well as by the explosive rivalries of Pitt
and Fox, which any spark might ignite. Chained to an
intolerable nincompoop, with two such subordinates ready
to fly at each other's throats or his, and conscious of failing
health, he began to long for liberty and repose. At the end
of March 1751 died the second Earl of Orford, and thus
vacated the rich sinecure office of Auditor of the Exchequer,
worth at least eight thousand a year. Pelham, it is said,
intimated his wish to retire from active business with this
noble provision, but the King would not let him go.




ON the meeting of Parliament in January 1751, Lord
Egmont raised on the Address the question of the
peace with Spain, Pitt in reply delivered a speech of
singular interest, for he disarms criticism by frankly avowing
the errors of his 'young and sanguine' days, to employ his own
epithets. After pointing out that the Spaniards could not be
expected to give up the assertion of their right of search any
more than we would renounce our claim to the right of
free navigation in the American seas, he proceeded : ' I must
therefore conclude, Sir, that " no search " is a stipulation which
it is ridiculous to insist on, because it is impossible to be
obtained. And after having said this I expect to be told
that upon a former occasion I concurred heartily in a motion
for an address not to admit of any treaty of peace with Spain
unless such a stipulation as this should be first obtained as a
preliminary thereto. 1 confess I did, Sir, because I then
thought it right, but I was then very young and sanguine.
I am now ten years older, and have had time to consider
things more coolly. From that consideration I am convinced
that we may as well ask for a free and open trade with all
the Spanish settlements in America, as ask that none of
our ships shall be visited or stopt, though sailing within a
bowshot of their shore ; and within that distance our ships
must often sail in order to have the benefit of what



they call the land breeze.' 'I am also convinced that all
addresses from this House during the course of a war, for
prescribing terms of peace, are in themselves ridiculous ;.
because the turns or chances of war are generally so-
sudden and often so little expected that it is impossible
to foresee or foretell what terms of peace it may be
proper to insist on. And as the Crown has the sole
power of making peace or war, every such address must
certainly be an encroachment upon the King's prerogative,
which has always hitherto proved to be unlucky. For these
reasons I believe I should never hereafter concur in any such
address, unless made so conditional as to leave the Crown at
full liberty to agree to such terms of peace as may at the
time be thought most proper, which this of " no search " can
never be, unless Spain should be brought so low as to give
us a carte blanckc ; and such a low ebb it is not our interest
to bring that nation to, nor would the other Powers of
Europe suffer it, should we attempt it.' *

This is a new milestone. ' Those who endeavour to
quote from my former speeches, the outpourings of my
hot and fractious youth, are hereby warned off. I have
sown my wild oats ; henceforward I am to be regarded as a
prudent and sagacious statesman.' This was the real purport
of this speech, divested of the necessary circumlocutions.
A statesman who has been an active politician in his youth
usually has to utter some such warning and repentant note
in his maturity.

In 1751 we find Pitt delivering another speech whicli
marks a further distance from his unregenerate days. At
this time, for reasons which we can now scarcely discern, but

1 Purl. Hist. xiv. 801.


which originated with George II., who considered that the
peace and safety of his electorate depended on a secure suc-
cession to the Empire being vested in the House of Austria,
our foreign policy was concentrated on securing the election
of Maria Theresa's son, a boy of ten years old, as King of the
Romans, and so heir to the Empire. This strange line of
action was absurd enough to be congenial to Newcastle,
who soon adopted it, called it his darling child, and
grudged its paternity to the King. 1 Pelham had reluc-
tantly to follow, only deprecating expenditure as far as
possible. For this we slaved and negotiated and sub-
sidised, in the faith that should the Emperor die without
a King of the Romans being ready to succeed him, a
war must infallibly ensue. This hypothesis was at least
doubtful ; but, in any case, we expended our energies
in vain. Prussia, and France as guarantor of the Treaty
of Westphalia, declared the election of a minor to be
contrary to the fundamental laws of the Empire, and
prevailed. There is the less reason to deplore our failure,
as it is not known what we should have gained by success.
Austria, which was alone to profit, threw the coldest water
on the project. The obvious flaw of the policy appears to
have been that the receipt of subsidies so entirely conflicted
with the electoral oath as to form an insuperable bar of
honour preventing any elector who received them from
voting for our candidate. We were in fact to bribe those
who could not vote if they accepted our bribe, for an
object flagrantly illegal, on behalf of a Power which
scouted our assistance. We offered to bribe the Electors
of Mainz, Cologne, and Saxony. To the Elector of Bavaria

1 Coxe's Pelham Adm. ii. 225, 359.


we agreed by treaty to pay 40,000/. a year, the sum

to be made up by Holland and ourselves. It was this

last treaty which Pitt found himself called upon to defend,

and his speech was a broad defence of the whole system

and principle of subsidies. 'Surely,' he cried, 'it is more Feb. 22,1751.

prudent in us to grant subsidies to foreign princes for

keeping up a number of troops for the service of the

common cause of Europe, than by keeping up such numerous

armies of our own here at home, as might be of the most

dangerous consequence to our constitution.' 1 This must

have seemed strange doctrine to those who remembered

his former harangues. But in this speech he was to exceed

himself in superfluous candour. He had said that there

was a good prospect of a firm and lasting peace, arid then

strangely wandered off to the consequent prospect of

economy at home, 'perhaps by a different method of

collecting the revenue. I am not afraid to mention

the word Excise. 2 I was not in the House when the

famous Excise scheme was brought upon the carpet.

If I had 1 should probably have been induced by the

general but groundless clamour to have joined with those

who opposed it. But I have seen so much of the deceit

of popular clamours, and the artful surmises upon which

they are founded, and I am so fully convinced of the

benefits we should reap by preventing all sorts of unfair

trade, that if ever any such scheme be again offered

whilst I have a seat in this assembly, I believe I shall

be as heartily for it as I am for the motion now under

our consideration.' 3

1 Parl. Hist. xiv. 967.

2 Stone to Newcastle, Feb. 22, 1750/1. Add. MSS. 32724.

3 Parl. Hist. xiv. 970.



It is scarcely possible to conceive a more deliberate
and scornful repudiation of responsibility for any previous
opinions that he may have maintained than is expressed in
this passage. He goes out of his way to tender an un-
necessary support to the detested Excise scheme, which
at the same time he declares that he should certainly have
opposed had he been in the House when it was introduced.
The middle-aged Pitt seemed never to tire of trampling
savagely on the young Pitt, even wantonly, as on this
occasion. There is, indeed, more justice than is usual in
Horace Walpole's taunts when he says of Pitt, ' Where he
chiefly shone was in exposing his own conduct ; having
waded through the most notorious apostasy in politics, he
treated it with an impudent confidence that made all re-
flections upon him poor and spiritless when worded by
any other men.' This is one way of putting it. A pre-
ferable and, in our judgment, a truer way is that Pitt
deliberately chose this method of public atonement for
past recklessness, and as an avowal that he had learned
and ripened by experience. He recanted at large, so as
to obliterate every vestige of his heedless and censorious
youth. It is better for the country and for themselves
that statesmen should thus do penance than that they
should continue to offer sacrifices of what they see to be
right to the somewhat egotistical pagod of their personal
consistency. Honourable consistency is necessary to retain
the confidence of the country ; but there is also a dishonour-
able consistency in concealing and suppressing conscientious
changes of judgment.

Though, as we have seen, his defence of the principle of
subsidies seemed unbounded, it was more limited in practice,



and Pitt fixed his limit at the Bavarian contribution. In
1752 Pelham had to move a subsidy to the Elector of
Saxony, King of Poland. This had been negotiated by
Newcastle, but was so strongly disapproved by Pelham that
he even threatened to second the opposition to it. How-
ever, he was persuaded by the argument most urgent and
sometimes most fatal to prime ministers, that the apparent
unity of the Government must at any cost be maintained,
to withdraw his opposition and move the vote. Old
Horatio Walpole, though he voted with Pelham, spoke
warmly against him, and Pitt supported Walpole's argu-
ment, though privately and not in speech. He felt, it may
be presumed, that it was not for him to be more of a
Pelhamite than Pelham himself.

With Pelham, however, he had felt constrained to
be at open variance in the previous year, about the time
of the Bavarian subsidy. The Minister had moved a
reduction of our seamen from 10,000 to 8000. Pitt
declared a preference for 10,000 ; and Potter, whom
we have seen in the Buckingham and Aylesbury
affair, a clever, worthless fellow, who had now become
an ally of Pitt, opposed the reduction. Pelham seemed
to acquiesce, but Lord Hartington, an enthusiastic Pel-
hamite, who was hereafter to be for a while Prime Minister
under Pitt, forced a division, in order to show Pitt that
the Whigs would not support him against Pelham. Pitt's
immediate following on this occasion seems to have con-
sisted only of Lyttelton, the three Grenvilles, Conway,
and eight others. There was, it is to be observed, nothing
factious in this ; the opinion of Pitt was natural, and
not distasteful to Pelham. Moreover, on the report Pitt

289 u


made a conciliatory speech, marking in the strongest
manner his regret at differing with Pelham. declaring
that it was his fear of Jacobitism alone which made him
prefer the larger number, and expressing his concern at
seeing our body of trained seamen, whom he called our
standing army, reduced. He and his little following, or
rather cousinhood, vied with each other in loyal eulogies
of the Prime Minister.

This called up Hampden, an intrepid buffoon, but
the great-grandson of the patriot, and * twenty-fourth
hereditary lord of Great Hampden,' who attacked Pitt
and his group with rancour. Here, again, we seem to
discern traces of Buckinghamshire politics and jealousies.
Temple and his belongings had, as we have seen, many
enemies in their own county, and Hampden was one of
them. Perhaps the Aylesbury affair still rankled. Pitt
was visibly angered. Though Pelham warmly defended
him, he was not appeased, and the affair would have ended
in a duel had not the Speaker's authority intervened. In
the succeeding year, it may be noted, the number of 10,000
was restored.

Though these hostilities were averted, the debate pro-
duced further friction between the brethren who controlled
the Ministry. Newcastle was profusely grateful to Pitt for
the line he had taken. He wrote to one of his vassals
(January 30, 1750-1): 'As you can be no stranger (if you
have attended the late debate) to the able and affectionate
manner in which Mr. Pitt has taken upon himself to defend
me, and the measures which have been solely carried on by
me, when both have been openly attacked with violence, and
when no other person opened his lips, in defence of either,.



but Mr. Pitt, 1 think myself bound in honour and gratitude
to show my sense of it in the best way I am able. I must
therefore desire that neither you nor any of my friends
would give into any clamour or row that may be made
against him from any of the party on account of his differing
as to the number of seamen. For after the kind part he has
acted to me, and (as far as I am allowed to be part of it) the
meritorious one to the administration, I cannot think any
man my friend who shall join in any such clamour, and who
does not do all in his power to discourage it. I desire you
would read this letter to' (here follow the names of seven
forgotten men whom we may presume to have been his
closest followers). 1 Pitt's attitude had alarmed Pelham, and
this letter from the Duke, so formidable from parliamentary
influence, made him sensible of imminent danger. He saw
that he must either be reconciled to his brother or face that
alarming coalition of Pitt and Newcastle which was after-
wards effected with so much success. Once more there
was a crisis, and Pelham's son-in-law Lincoln was called
in as mediator. A treaty of peace of three articles was
solemnly drawn up between the brothers, and apparent
harmony restored. The King, however, broke out anew
with emphatic anger against Pitt and the Grenvilles.

This was probably due to the rumour that Pitt and his
connections were negotiating with the Prince of Wales.
This is not improbable. We know indeed that Lyttelton
was arranging through his brother-in-law Dr. Ayscough
for a coalition between the forces of Stowe and those of
Leicester House. The King was old, and ambitious poli-
ticians would not wish to be ill with his heir, if that could

1 Coxe's Pelham Adm. ii. 144.



be avoided. But all such foresight was wasted, for Frederick
was never to reign, and within two months of the vote on
the seamen he was dead. Up to the last he was intriguing
and securing adherents. On February 28 he was engaging
Oswald, an able debater in the House of Commons, to his
cause ; on March 20 he died. Next morning his party was
convoked by Egmont to consider the future. Many came,
probably from curiosity, but dispersed without any con-
clusion. * My Lord Drax,' writes Henry Fox in pleasant
allusion to the promises of the Prince, * my Lord Colebrook,
Earl Dodington, and prime minister Egmont are dis-
tracted ; but nobody more so than Lord Cobham, who cum
suit has been making great court and with some effect all
this winter. Do not name this from me. I fear they will
not be dealt with as I would deal with them.' 1 In truth the
purpose and bond of the party, the sole reason for its exist-
ence, had disappeared. Henceforth the courtiers who found
no favour with the King kept their eyes on the Princess of
Wales and her eldest son, a shy, sensitive boy, who was
afterwards to be George III. Soon they began to perceive
in this obscure court a handsome, supercilious Scotsman,
who enjoyed the favour of the Princess and the veneration
of her son, who was now a lord of the Prince's bedchamber,
but was hereafter to head one ministry and become the
bugbear of many others, John Earl of Bute.

The Heir Apparent was only thirteen, and a Regency Bill
was required. This is only pertinent to our narrative in
that it produced a fierce parliamentary duel between Pitt
and Fox, the point at issue between them being the Duke
of Cumberland, whom the King wished, but the Ministry

1 Coxe's Pelham Adm. ii. 165.



did not dare, to nominate Regent. Indeed, one of the
principal expressions of popular grief for the loss of the

Online LibraryArchibald Philip Primrose RoseberyChatham, his early life and connections → online text (page 21 of 39)