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the Whigs. Queen Anne for many years governed through the
Duke of Marlborough and the Whigs ; at the end of her reign
by Lord Oxford, Bolingbroke, and the Tories. The popular


favor fluctuated from one of these parties to the other, and the
last House of Commons of Queen Anne was more decidedly for
High Church and Prerogative than any Parliament which had
met since the accession of Charles the Second.

When, on the death of Queen Anne, the Whig party obtained
the ascendency, and Dr. Arbuthnot was forced to exclaim,
Fuimus Tories, Lord Bolingbroke, who had led the Tory party
in the House of Commons in the days of their triumph, began,
in despair of restoring that victorious position, to promulgate a
new system, and to proclaim that "party was the madness of
many for the gain of a few.''

Among other charges against party it was alleged that the
Sovereign was enthralled by it, and was prevented by the in-
trigues and dictation of a combined faction from advancing merit,
and exercising freely his constitutional prerogatives.

There was something very plausible in this doctrine, and when
Lord Bute planted it in the tenacious mind of his young pupil,
it spread its roots firmly around, and clung to his whole frame,
and thought, and conduct. Lord Bute himself fled in afiright;
his subsequent attempts to govern were coldly viewed by his
master, but the lessons he had taught were kept in remembrance
and carefully practised.

The proofs of the intention, and rooted desire of George III.
to shake ofi" party, are to be found in his own correspondence,
confirmed by the testimony of those who took the most active
part in the politics of the time.

While the King was on his side laboring to undermine party,
Mr. Pitt, whose power and fame had rested on party support,
was unhappily working to the same end. He was prompted to
this course, partly by disgust at the conduct of Newcastle in the
celebrated affair of his proposal for a Spanish war — partly by a
wild and irregular ambition which prompted him to imagine that
with his uncertain health and ignorance of finance he could direct
alone all the affairs of administration.

In this temper he gave his support to the Rockingham Minis-
try on great measures, but withheld from them the more valuable


aid of his confidence. "Pardon me, gentlemen/^ he had said
with dramatic action : " confidence is a plant of slow growth in
an aged bosom.'' In the same spirit he resisted every offer of
Lord Rockingham to join the Ministry, and coldly replied that
he would unbosom himself only to the King. The King thus
became aware that upon any difference with his Ministry he
might look to Mr. Pitt, a man of great popularity and fame, to
supply their places.

Yet Lord Rockingham was pursuing, through difficulties and
obstructions, a course in which Mr. Pitt ought to have warmly
supported him. He was endeavoring to heal the breach with
America; to put an end to domestic struggles injurious at once
to authority and to liberty ; in short, to restore the ascendency of
Whig principles by means of a Whig Administration.

Unfortunately the means were not as efficient as the end was
noble. Lord Rockingham himself was no orator. When Lord
Sandwich, with ready talent and with much bitterness, attacked
the Prime Minister in the House of Lords, he made no reply,
and Lord Gower, addressing Lord Sandwich, said, "How cruel
it is of you to worry the poor dumb animal so I"

In the House of Commons the Ministry were led by General
Conway. Horace Walpole, his most intimate friend, has said of
Conway : "His heart was so cold that it wanted all the beams of
popular applause to kindle it into action.'' However this may
be, his character was not such as to animate his followers. With
great integrity of purpose he wavered between principle and in-
terest, according to the wishes of his friends and advisers. Of
these friends and advisers the most sagacious was Horace Wal-
pole. Conway had little knowledge of the world ; Walpole had
a great deal. Conway wished for the public good; Walpole cared
for nothing so much as the indulgence of his own hatred and re-
sentments. Thus he often imposed on the simplicity of his friend,
and at length induced him to take a part injurious to his country
and fatal to his own reputation^ in order to keep out of office men
who were the objects of Walpole' s petty spite or malignant


The other leader of the Rockingham Ministry in the House of
Commons was Dowdeswell, Chancellor of the Exchequer. With
considerable knowledge of finance, and with the entire confidence
of his friends, Dowdeswell was clumsy and reserved; he had
neither the law and sense of Grenville, nor the brilliancy of
Townshend, still less had he the purple oratory of Pitt.

Burke, ostensibly the Secretary, and privately the director of
Lord Rockingham, was known to the world only as an Irish
author, and with his fame as an orator only in the bud, he could
have little or no influence in the House of Commons.

The Rockingham Ministry fell, as the Grenville Ministry had
fallen, under the displeasure of the Court. General Conway
hesitated to support a grant for the King's brothers, which Lord
Rockingham had promised the King to introduce. The dissen-
sions of the Cabinet were noised abroad. Lord Sandwich, writing
to the Duke of Bedford, observed, that the question of the
princes was likely to be as fatal to the existing Ministry as that
of the regency had proved to their predecessors. Secret overtures
were made to the Duke of Bedford and Mr, Grenville. Mr. Pitt
was again appealed to by Lord Rockingham ; but he persisted in
his former answer, that he would only unbosom himself to the

At length the Chancellor (Lord Northington), either convinced
that the continuance of so weak a ministry was not for the public
advantage, or fearing to be hopelessly swept away in the ebb tide,
told the King that, in his opinion, the Administration could not
last. The King sent for Mr. Pitt, and intrusted to him the for-
mation of a ministry.

The manner in which Mr. Pitt executed his task has been
portrayed in one of Mr. Burke's most successful passages. No
lapse of time can weaken the colors of that picture. Indeed, the
more we inquire into the details which belong to the formation
of Lord Chatham's Ministry, the more we shall be struck with
the fidelity of Mr. Burke's painting. One of the most remarka-
ble of his arrangements, and most faithful of important conse-
quences, was that which related to the office of Chancellor of the


Exchequer. It had been held, under the Rockingham Adminis-
tration, by Mr. Dowdeswell. The office of Paymaster had been
held at the same period by Mr. Charles Townshend, a brilliant
wit without principles, moral or political, and without industry
to fit him for a laborious office. Mr. Pitt conceived the project
of obtaining the office of Paymaster for his relative Mr. James
Grenville, and for this purpose he offered to Mr. Charles Towns-
hcnd the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Townshend
declared himself very unwilling to exchange an office of 7000/.
a year for one of 2500/. ', he even notified his refusal to the King,
when Mr. Pitt thought he had accepted j but being at length
forced to resign, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and
took charge of the finances of the country rather than remain
out of office. The most extraordinary part of the story is, that
Mr. James Grrenville, after all, refused the office of Paymaster.

Another part of this strange combination was the new position
of Mr. Conway. He had been made Secretary of State by Lord
Kockino;ham, and ought to have resii^ned when Lord Rocking-
ham, the Duke of Richmond, and Mr. Dowdeswell left office ;
but Mr. Walpole did not choose that this should be so. He
pretended that Mr. Conway's fortune could not bear what Mr.
Conway's honor clearly required j so Mr. Conway remained Se-
cretary of State and leader of the House of Commons. But as
Mr. Conway was a man of scruples, he soon afterwards stipulated
that he should not be bound by the decisions of the cabinet to
which he belonged, and that he should be at liberty to oppose in
the House of Commons the measures of the Ministry of which
he was the organ!

It would seem that confusion could scarcely go beyond this ;
but, as if to confound still further that confusion, Mr. Pitt, the
nominal head of the Ministry, fell ill, and refused to be spoken
to on political subjects. With some intervals of large projects,
but none of efficient business, he fell into a state of physical and
mental debility, and became enveloped in an impenetrable cloud.
The King proposed to send the Duke of Grafton to him ; he

VOL. I. — 10


would not see the colleague of his choice. The King then pro-
posed to pay him a visit himself, and ask his advice j Lord Chat-
ham respectfully declined the honor. Sometimes he was at
Hampstead, confined to his room ; at one time at the inn at Marl-
borough, where he dressed up all the waiters in his livery ; every-
where he kept himself secluded, and the camp in vain bewailed
the absence of Achilles.^

It may well be supposed that a ministry so formed and so
carried on could only produce embarrassment in the public ser-
vice, and weakness in Parliament. An arrangement devised for
the settlement of the affairs of the East India Company was
rejected by that body. The Chancellor of the Exchequer having
proposed the renewal of a four-shilling land-tax, was defeated by
a union of the Grenvilles and Rockinghams, and the tax reduced
to three shillings in the pound.

It was obvious that on this defeat the Ministry ought to have
resigned, or to have largely reduced the expenditure. Neither
of these courses was taken. Charles Townshend conceived a
plan for carrying into effect Mr. Grenville's principle of taxing
America, without exposing himself to Mr. Grenville's failure.
In an evil hour he proposed a duty on tea, to be levied in Ameri-
can ports. It is obvious that such a tax was as obnoxious as
the tax on stamps to Mr. Pitt's celebrated reproach, " We give
and grant — what ? — our own money ? — no ; the money of the
people of America." Where was Mr. Pitt ? — at the head of the
Ministry. The tax was also open to all those objections of im-
policy which had induced Mr. Conway to move the repeal of the
Stamp Act. Where was Mr. Conway ? — he was Secretary of
State, and the leader of the Ministry in the House of Commons.

This deplorable error was the second source of all the waters
of strife which so soon overflowed. Such was the effect of the
selfish ambition of Lord Chatham — of the infirm purpose of Mr.
Conway. Lord Chatham, indeed, had for the moment an excuse;

^ Lord MaLon disbelieves the story of dressing up the waiters ; Lord
Shelburne, however, told the story to his son, the present Lord Lands-
downe, and can scarcely have been mistaken. — J. R.


his intellects were darkened by disease. But Mr. Conway had
none, and he sheltered himself under a plea as paltry as his act
was discreditable. He declared himself at liberty to vote against
any measure of which he disapproved, thus weakening all govern-
ment, and keeping office without dignity or responsibility.

It is impossible in this slight sketch to give an adequate con-
ception of the mischief which ensued. The King, by seeking to
elevate prerogative, exposed himself to insulting remonstrances,
and repeated indignities. The Ministry, deprived of Lord Chat-
ham and Lord Shelburne, were divided, baffled, and scorned.
The sham patriot Wilkes triumphed over the Crown, the Minis-
try, and the House of Commons, and reigned in the hearts of
a people he despised. On the great question of taxing America,
the conduct of the Ministry was totally unworthy of respect. It
was proposed in the Cabinet by the Duke of Grrafton, First Lord
of the Treasury, on the 1st of May, 1769, to repeal the duties
on tea, paper, glass, and colors imported into America. This
proposal was supported by Lord Camden, General Conway, and
Lord Granby, but being opposed by the Lord President, Lord
Hillsborough, Lord Rochford, Lord North, and Lord Weymouth,
the article of tea was left out, and the Prime Minister, defeated
by a majority of one, was content to preside over councils he
could not guide. But more than this, Lord Hillsborough wrote
a circular to the colonies, founded on a minute which was not
submitted to the Cabinet, and of which neither the Duke of
Grafton nor the Lord Chancellor approved. At one time the
Duke of Grafton offered to resign ; the Rockinghams, the Bed-
fords, and the Grenvilles, attempted a concert and produced only
a quarrel. At length an Administration was formed, which had
at least the merit of having a responsible head.

Frederick Lord North, the eldest son of the Earl of Guildford,
represented the old Tory politics of that family. He had boasted
in the House of Commons, that he had voted against all popular,
and for all unpopular measures. With an ungainly appearance,
and awkward manners, he had a vigorous understanding, and
though not fond of application, soon became superior to all but


Mr. Grcuville in the knowledge of finance. He came into office
as a junior Lord of the Treasury, and when he was oiiered the
post of Chancellor of the Exchequer, declined it at first for fear
of encountering Mr. Grenville's mature and merciless criticism.
There was, however, at this time, an utter dearth of persons to
defend, in the leading offices, the policy of the Court. The
Rockinghams and the G-renvilles were odious to the King. Mr.
Conway was too scrupulous, and voted against the measures of
the Ministry to which he belonged. Sir Gilbert Elliot was pro-
scribed by the public as a Scotchman, and seems to have preferred
the convenient party called the King's friends — who, as he truly
said, were courted by every ministry by turns — to the slippery
ascent of political eminence. Lord North, a man of firmness
sufficient to defend bad measures, and not too obstinate in urging
his own views ; of a talent for speaking which gave a decent
pretext to a willing majority ; and, moreover, an hereditary foe
to the great Whig party, was an invaluable accession to the
Court. Lord North had many qualities which endeared him to
his followers. His good-humor was inexhaustible. When re-
proached with indolence and love of flattery, he answered that he
spent a great part of his time in that house, which was not indo-
lence, and that much of what he heard there could not be called
flattery. The language of those days was far less courteous than
that to which we are now accustomed. In the vocabulary of
opposition he was a profligate, and a wicked Minister, who de-
served to have his head brought to the block. Lord North
generally disregarded these invectives. But when he saw an
occasion of retort, his wit turned the laugh of the House against
his opponents. Thus, when Alderman Sawbridge presented a
petition from Billingsgate, and accompanied it with much vitu-
peration of the Minister, Lord North began his reply, '' I will
not deny that the worthy alderman speaks the sentiments, nay
the very language of his constituents," &c. He was often
asleep in the house, but when an opponent exclaimed, '^ The
noble lord is even now slumbering over the ruin of his country,
asleep at a time" — " I wish to God I was," muttered Lord North,


opening his eyes on his discomfited opponent. In private life he
was a most affectionate husband and father, beloved by all who
surrounded him. Yet he could not suppress his habitual incli-
nation for a joke, even when the occasion seemed least propitious.
His son Greorge coming to him one day for money to pay his
debts, drew a picture of the straits to which he had been reduced,
and finished by saying he had been obliged to sell his favorite
mare. "Quite wrong, Greorge," rejoined Lord North, ''Equam
memento rebus in arduis, servare." It is to be hoped that after
this merciless pun he advanced the money.

Lord North's good-humor and readiness gave him great in-
fluence with the House of Commons. But he was supported on
each side by Thurlow and Wedderburne. Two men of more
hardy understandings, or of more pliant consciences, have seldom
adorned and desecrated the profession of the law. I here revert
to Lord Holland's remarks on the position of Mr. Fox.*

" It has always appeared to me a fortunate circumstance — for-
tunate for the interests of liberty and truth, and fortunate for
the comfort and happiness — perhaps for the character — of 1\Ir.
Fox's political life, that he had quarrelled with Lord North
before the question of the American war had distinctly arisen.
His dismissal from office, and the subsequent loss of his father,
gave him an opportunity of exercising an unbiassed and impar-
tial judgment on that great question, and the important princi-
ples involved in it. With his gallant spirit in party, he would,
no doubt, had he remained in office, have defended in the first
instance the conduct of the Grovernment under which he served ;
and the habit of defending ministers without regard to popularity,
as well as the general lessons of political prudence and subser-
viency to the Court, inculcated by his father, might in some
measure have tended to reconcile him to acts of authority,
which being unshackled when the great question arose, he could,
without inconsistency, resist. It is, however, but just to the
first Lord Holland to observe, that his sagacity early foresaw
the imprudence of taxing America, and that any deference which
Charles Fox might have felt for his father would have led him



to question, or to condemn, rather than to applaud the policy
which involved this country in a contest with its colonies.
Many traces of this opinion may be discovered in the corre-
spondence of Lord Holland with Mr. Ellis in 1765 and 1766,
and in one of his letters he says distinctly — ' I am more sorry a
good deal for the rebellion of the colonies. But I should date
it from the passing of the Stamp Act, not the repeal of it.' I
have recorded this at the present period, because it is curious to
trace to its origin Mr. Fox's opinion on that great question.
And it is worthy of remark that, if in adopting more elevated
notions of politics, and more popular motives of action, he devi-
ated from the school in which he had been bred, yet in his pre-
ference of a conciliatory to a coercive system of policy — in his
abhorrence of unnecessary war, and in his attachment to reli-
gious liberty, or at least in his aversion to everything like reli-
gious intolerance, hypocrisy, or superstition — he adhered to and
enforced the principles which his father had transmitted from
Sir Robert Walpole and his school, and instilled into him." —

V. H.

*The commencement of the year 1774 was marked by one of
those unhappy incidents which tended so greatly to embitter our
national contest with America. Benjamin Franklin, a man of
science and of letters, having risen from obscurity by his talents,
was at this time Deputy Postmaster-General under the Crown
for the American colonies, and agent in London for the Assem-
bly of Massachusetts. In both capacities he had become inti-
mately connected with Mr. John Temple, lately Surveyor-General
of the Customs, and at this time one of the Commissioners of
Customs at Boston. Some letters of Hutchinson, the Governor,
and Oliver, the Lieutenant-Governor, of Massachusetts, addressed
to Mr. Thomas "VVhately, Under-Secretary of State, appear to
have fallen into the hands of Mr. Temple, and to have been by
him communicated to Franklin. The letters were addressed to
a private friend, but to a private friend in office, and the matter
of them was of a public nature. The violence of the Boston
opposition was in these letters treated with severity; doubts


were expressed whether a colony three thousand miles from the
parent state should enjoy all the liberty of the parent state.
Such letters were sure to kindle a flame in the colony. Regard-
less at once of such consequences, and of the private character
of the letters, Franklin imitated the conduct of the younger
Vane, and transmitted the letters, under an injunction of secrecy,
to the Speaker of the House of Assembly in Massachusetts.
The secrecy which he had not kept himself was not likely to be
observed by the leaders of a popular assembly; the letters were
divulged; it was resolved by 101 to 5 that they were designed
to subvert the constitution ; and a petition of the Assembly to
the King praying for the removal of Hutchinson and Oliver,
was voted, and transmitted to Franklin for presentation. The
petition to this effect was by the King's Ministers referred to
a Committee of the Privy Council. On the 29th of January,
1774, thirty-five Privy Councillors attended the meeting which
had been fixed for the purpose of hearing counsel. Mr. Dun-
ning, afterwards Lord Ashburton, and Mr. Lee, afterwards Lord
Rockingham's Solicitor-Grcneral, spoke for the petitioners.

On the other side appeared Wedderburne, the Solicitor-Gene-
ral of the Crown. Discarding the merits of the question, he
directed his utmost abilities to an invective against Franklin.
He denounced the eminent man of letters and of science, as
homo trium literarum, a cant Roman expression for " fur," a
thief. He compared his conduct to that of Zanga in the " Re-
venge," and exclaimed, " I ask, my Lords, whether the vengeful
temper attributed by poetic fiction only to the bloody-minded
African, is not surpassed by the coolness and apathy of the wily
New Englander?"

It is impossible to justify the conduct of Franklin. The
Privy Council might reasonably have dismissed the complaint.
But the savage rhetoric of Wedderburne was impudent, scurri-
lous, and outrageous. Offensive as it was, however, the Lords
of the Privy Council applauded it with laughter and noisy
assent. They reported that the petition was framed upon " false


and erroneous allegations/^ and they concluded by declaring it
to be " groundless, vexatious, and scandalous.''

Such was one of the fatal episodes of the American struggle.
Lord North is said not to have joined in the applauding laughter
of "his colleagues at the intemperate sallies of his Solicitor-
Greneral. But when he dismissed Franklin two days afterwards
from his post of Deputy-Postmaster, he ought at the same time
to have dismissed Wedderburne from his office of Solicitor-
Greneral. To refuse all modes of conciliation likely to succeed,
was impolitic and absurd, but to prepare the way for it by
exciting the passions of the Privy Council, branding with infamy
a distinguished citizeUj and pointing the finger of scorn at a
whole assembly, was flagitious and wicked in the extreme.

The year 1774 may be considered as the epoch of the struggle
for independence. Till this year, and even during the course of
it, the Americans had retained their affection for England, for
its monarchy, its institutions, and its people.

Lord North had, the year before, obtained the easy assent of
Parliament to a bill for allowing the East India Company a draw-
back on tea imported to America, leaving the local duty for
imperial purposes to be levied in American ports. The people of
Boston took this occasion for a riotous, but at first a clandestine
resistance. Persons disguised as Mohawks boarded the tea ships,
and threw the chests of tea to the waves.

The answer of Lord North to these outrages consisted of two
measures: one, to close the port of Boston, and transfer its
establishments to Salem ; the other, altering the royal charter
of Massachusetts.

In taking this course, Lord North was warmly supported in the
closet, and received the sympathy of the country. Yet it is im-
possible not to reflect that Lord North was the same minister who
in 1768 had, by his voice in the Cabinet, prevented the repeal of
the tea duty, and the same minister who, in 1778, proposed the
repeal of the tea duty, and the abandonment of all taxation
by Parliament for imperial purposes. Had he supported that
repeal in 1768, he would have prevented the American war ; in

1774.'] CHARLES JAMES FOX. 117

1774 he at least would have given a chance to peace; in 1778,

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 31)