Edmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice Fitzmaurice.

Life of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne; (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryEdmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice FitzmauriceLife of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne; (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 49)
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Patent of creation. Your Lordship will probably receive
an official notification from Lord Sydney, and will have
the goodness to communicate to him the title which you
wish to have inserted. If it should not be inconvenient
to your Lordship to kiss hands on Wednesday in the next
week, the creation may be then immediately completed.
If any thing should be likely to prevent your Lordship

1 Shelburne to Barrc, November 1784.


being present at that day, I shall hope to be honoured
with your further commands. I am extremely sorry that
circumstances purely accidental but unavoidable, have
occasioned the interval since I last troubled your Lord-
ship. The King does not at this time extend the mark
of his favour to any one besides your Lordship, except
Lord Temple. Allow me to repeat the sincere assurances
of the respect and regard with which I have the honour
to be,

" My dear Lord,
" Your most obed 1 and most faithful serv*

"W. PITT."

The tide Shelburne chose was that of Lansdowne,
which had been in the family of his first wife. 1 No offer
of office was made to him. Lord Gower became Privy
Seal ; Lord Camden accepted the Presidency of the
Council, vacated by Lord Gower, and within little more
than a year Jenkinson was made a Peer, Chancellor of
the Duchy, and President of the Board of Trade.
" From this moment," Lord Lansdowne wrote to Mr.
Baring, " I put him down as Minister under the King.
It is a farce to talk of his not being of the Cabinet, calcu-
lated only to impose upon the Minister's young friends,
whose age, capacity, and credulity makes them contented
with the first thing which is told them."

Meanwhile there was no apparent want of cordiality.
On the fth of January 1785 Lord Lansdowne records
that he came to town, and on the I4th went to the levee.
" The King was very gracious." He had " some conversa-
tion " with Lord Carmarthen, the new Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs, " encouraging him to take a more
active part in the House of Lords, and to make up his
mind to the business of Parliament " ; and " a great deal "
with Mr. Pitt, " who stated the intentions of the Ministry

1 He was created Viscount Calne and Calstonc, Earl Wycombe and Marquis of
Lansdowne in the Peerage of Great Britain. He had hitherto sat in the House of Lords
as Baron Wycombe. The Earldom of Shelburne was an Irish Earldom. The Patent
is dated December 6th, 1784.

8 Lansdowne to Baring, August fth, 1786.

1783-1785 MR. PITT 295

with regard to Ireland." These intentions were to put
everything upon an equal footing, meeting Ireland upon
the ground of their Duties, and allowing Ireland all the
benefits of the Navigation Act, but expecting the prin-
ciple of a contribution to be acknowledged, and secured
upon such taxes as would be sure to rise with the com-
merce and population of the country, which already went
to maice up the Hereditary Revenue, to the produce of
which the King had an original independent title ; and
after this confirmation and extension of an independent
commerce, would have a double claim ; at least to what-
ever sum it might increase to after the present era. " I
told him," Lord Lansdowne's account of the conversation
goes on, " that I entirely approved the first part ; but
differed as to the second ; that the time for a bargain was
over : it should have been stipulated when the Free
Commerce was granted by Lord North, or when their
rights were acknowledged by the Duke of Portland, and
confirmed to them by Lord Temple ; that the plan for a
contribution required to be changed ; that in my opinion
it would be a surer as well as more dignified mode of
proceeding to give what is now in question upon a large
principle of general policy, and watch a favourable moment
hereafter to obtain, upon a like general principle, pro-
ductive contributions to the general defence. To aim at
it now would give a handle for discussion, would confound
and distract the minds of many when the great and press-
ing object is to tranquillize and restore public confidence
everywhere, particularly in Ireland, where he stated the
Roman Catholics as nowhere to be depended upon, and
ready to claim their estates, and bring forward their old
titles the moment any disturbance gives them an oppor-

" I told him that I thought the best method in regard
to them was without delay to set forward some new and
general system of education ; to oblige the Protestant
clergy to immediate residence, and to every possible
exertion ; and to establish at any expense Protestant
Colonies in the Popish countries. He said he relied on


the Roman Catholics acquiring property gradually, in con-
sequence of the liberty given them by the repeal of the
Acts forbidding it ; a poor prospect considering what a
long time it cost this country to get the property from

" He then spoke of the general state of the finances ;
appeared much elated with the increased produce of the
sinking fund ; acknowledged that he found Dr. Price's
statement in the postscript to his last statement very

correct ; that an overplus of must be produced,

which he expected the improvement of taxes and a few
additional would effect. He spoke of a tax upon the
transfer of property, and a tax upon mortgages as a
favourite idea. I told him the transfer of property might
be very proper to come in aid of the sinking fund ; but
I conceived it too slow to depend on for any other
purpose. In regard to mortgages I conceived that he
might with the same risque carry through a tax upon
incomes, which would go to the root of the evil, and lay
the foundation of an entire change of system : nothing short
of it could possibly put the country where it ought to be
at home or abroad. I told him I found the west country
cold about Parliamentary reform, but much disposed to
support any effort which should be proposed in favour of
public credit ; that I thought this disposition visible
throughout England since the Peace ; that the worst con-
sequence of the Coalition was suffering it to cool. If not
soon taken advantage of it would die away ; that in my
opinion very little more would be necessary than to state
the circumstances of the country at present, the alarming
consequences which were to be apprehended at home and
abroad, the certainty of attracting war by not being pre-
pared to meet it, and the impossibility of going on in the
old way without taxing manufactures and commerce.
Moneyed men might allege many claims of exemption in
the past ; landed men on theirs ; but both would be
ruined without some strong exertion ; that the business
of the Minister was to encourage it by a readiness on his
part to devise or adapt any plan of security to a sinking

1783-1785 MR. PITT 297

fund which human ingenuity could devise, as well as
solemn engagements that in case of a future war the
supplies should be raised within the year. If this could
be once accomplished, it was obvious that the rich paid
whatever was payable, and must gain whatever was gain-
able ; that by relieving commerce and manufactures they
must gain by the simplification of the receipt ; and by
furnishing the means of extending commerce and manu-
factures, great additional wealth must accrue to the
kingdom, all which must finally centre with them. The
whole of this reasoning seemed to make a considerable
impression upon him. He said that he was to blame for
whatever was not done, as he had, so far as regarded
these points, the entire confidence of those with whom he
acted. I told him I wished honour and glory to whoever
was disposed to earn it in the present situation, that I saw
no other foundation to build upon, but what I stated
that anarchy was much to be apprehended. He said that
nothing more than common firmness was wanting to resist,
but acknowledged it had not appeared during the reign.
He agreed to raise the licences of public-houses, upon
my representing the mischief which resulted from them in
the West of England, and the impossibility of getting
the country gentlemen to suppress them." And then the
conversation wandered off to the strange hallucinations of
the Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, under whom Lord
Shelburne as a young man had served in the Seven Years'
War, who now, General Fawcett said, was entirely taken
up with Free Masonry, and " pushed it to such a degree
as to occupy his mind with a belief in apparitions and
all manner of idle things of the kind " ; beliefs
which were gaining ground among the German Princes,
particularly at Brunswick and Berlin. 1 And there the
talk ended. The topic of the occupations of retired
generals may possibly have suggested a danger that the

1 The allusion is to the influence of the Illuminati and the Rosicrucian Society.
These mystics, with WOllner their high priest, pretended to be able to evoke the dead,
and to have had conversation with the shades of Moses and Caesar, and even with
Christ himself. Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick fell under their influence, so did the
King of Prussia. See Charles, Duke cf Brunswick, by the present author, pp. 40-41.


conversation might extend itself to the occupations of
retired statesmen.

The authors of Rolliad celebrated the conclusion of
these negotiations in a Pastoral poem, in which the First
Lord of the Treasury and the Marquis address one another
in amoebaean strains.


WHILE on the Treasury-Bench you, Pitt, recline,

And make men wonder at each vast design ;

I, hapless man, my harsher fate deplore,

Ordain'd to view the regal face no more ;

That face which erst on me with rapture glow'd,

And smiles responsive to my smiles bestow'd :

And now the Court I leave, my native home,

" A banish'd man, condemn'd in woods to roam " ;

While you to senates, Brunswick's mandates give,

And teach white-wands to chaunt his high prerogative.


Oh ! Lansdowne, 'twas a more than mortal pow'r
My fate controul'd, in that auspicious hour,
When Temple deign'd the dread decree to bring,
And stammer'd out thejirmaun of the King ;
That power I'll worship as my household god,
Shrink at his frown, and bow beneath his nod ;
At every feast his presence I'll invoke,
For him my kitchen fires shall ever smoke ;
Not mighty Hastings, whose illustrious breath
Can bid a Rajah live, or give him death,
Though back'd by Scott, by Barwell, Palk, and all
The sable squadron scowling from Bengal ;
Not the bold Chieftain of the tribe of Phipps, 1
Whose head is scarce less handsome than his ship's j 1
Not bare-breech'd Graham* nor bare-witted Rose,
Nor the great Lawyer with the little Nose ; 8
Nor even Villien self shall welcome be, 4
To dine so oft, or dine so well as he.

1 Created Lord Mulgrave in 1794. Minister for Foreign Affairs in the second
Administration of Mr. Pitt in succession to Lord Harrowby. He had been in the Navy.

* The Marquis of Graham. See Wraxall, Posthumous Memoirs, i. 279.

1 Pepper Arden, Attorney-General.

4 Mr. John Villiers, second son of the Earl of Clarendon, " the Nereus of the party,
comely, with the flaxen hair." Wraxall, Posthumous Memoirs, i. 279.


I7 8 3 -i 7 85 MR. PITT 299


Think not these sighs denote one thought unkind,
Wonder, not Envy, occupies my mind ;
For well I wot on that unhappy day,
When Britain mourn'd an empire giv'n away ;
When rude impeachments menaced from afar,
And what gave peace to France to us was war ;
For awful vengeance Heav'n appear'd to call,
And agonizing Nature mark'd our fall.
Dire change ! Dundas's cheek with blushes glow'd,
Grtnville was dumb, Mahon no frenzy showed ;
Though Drake harangu'd, no slumber Gilbert fear'd ;
And Mulgravis mouth like other mouths appear'd ;
In vain had Bellamy prepared the meat ;
In vain the porter Bamber could not eat ;
When Burke arose, no yell the curs began,
And Rolle, for once, half seem'd a gentleman ;
Then name this god, for to St. James's Court,
Nor gods nor angels often make resort.


In early youth misled by Honour's rules,
That fancied Deity of dreaming fools ;
I simply thought, forgive the rash mistake,
That Kings should govern for their People's sake !
But Reverend Jenky soon these thoughts supprest,
And drove the glittering phantom from my breast ;
Jenky ! that sage, whom mighty George declares,
Next Schwellenbergen, great on the back stairs : x
'Twas Jenkinson ye Deacons catch the sound !
Ye Treasury scribes the sacred name rebound !
Ye pages sing it echo it ye Peers !
And ye who best repeat, Right Reverend Seers !
Whose pious tongues no wavering fancies sway,
But like the needle ever point one way. 2

1 One of the two Keepers of the Robes to the Queen.

2 " That during many years Jenkinson enjoyed more of the royal confidence than
any other subject can hardly be denied." Wraxall, Posthumous Memoirs, i. 98, ii. 166.
In 1884 during the debate on the Westminster Election Petition, Fox denounced
Jenkinson as "that obstinate, dark and short-sighted spirit, which like a species of
infatuation, pervades, as it has uniformly guided and overshadowed the councils of this
unfortunate country, throughout the whole progress of the present disgraceful and
calamitous reign " (Wraxall, Posthumous Memoirs, i. 98) : a passage closely resembling
the views recorded by Shelburne in his Autobiography, i. 53. It must however be re-
collected, in justice to the object of these denunciations, that he was a man of great
financial and economic knowledge, and an acknowledged authority on the currency.
His work on The Coins of the Realm is still recognized as the leading work on the sub-
ject. It was published in 1805 ; and republished by the Bank of England in 1880.



OF the great measures proposed by Pitt in the period
which elapsed between his accession to power and the
outbreak of the French Revolution, there was hardly one
which cannot be shown to have had an origin in the
brief period when Shelburne was at the head of the
Treasury. If Pitt in 1785 proposed to complete the
Irish commercial reforms begun in 1780 by North, it
was Shelburne who, in the latter year when in opposi-
tion and in 1782 when in office, had declared that the
American and African trade must be opened to Ireland,
and colonial produce be allowed to be reshipped from
that country to any part of Great Britain. If Pitt
understood the urgent necessity of controlling the
monopoly of the East India Company, so did Shel-
burne. If Pitt in 1785 introduced sweeping reforms
into the public offices, it was Shelburne who in 1782
originated these measures. The sinking fund, whatever
the advantages or disadvantages of it may have been,
was as much if not more the idea of Shelburne than
of Pitt. When the latter in 1787 introduced the
commercial treaty with France, he was only carrying
into effect the ideas which Shelburne had put forward
in 1782 as those which ought to govern the relations
between the two countries. It is not intended by these
remarks to detract from the greatness of Pitt. His


1785-1788 RETIREMENT 301

Administration from 1783 to the French Revolution must
remain entitled to the praise of having first carried into
effect the great economic principles which in more recent
times have so entirely changed the face of Europe.
Shelburne may however justly claim to have been his
precursor. " Vous m'apprenez la nouvelle du monde
la plus interessante," writes Morellet to him at this
period ; " en me disant que vos principes sur la libertd du
commerce et de la communication des nations se repandent
et s'accreditent parmi vos negociants et vos manu-
facturiers et j usque dans votre capitale, ou 1'esprit de
monopole a etc, je crois, plus dominant qu'en aucun
autre lieu de FEurope. II m'est bien clair que ce
progres dans les lumieres de votre nation est du a
vous-meme. M. Smith et quelquefois le Doyen Tucker
chez vous les ont bien saisies, ces verites, mais ils n'ont
fait que les mettre dans les livres et vous les avez mises
dans le monde." l

The speech which Lord Lansdowne delivered on the
French treaty may be perhaps considered his ablest effort,
and will bear comparison with the speech made by Pitt
on the same occasion. 2 " Is the old commercial system
to be changed as totally erroneous, and should France for
any political reason make an exception in this change,
were," he said in reply to the Bishop of Llandaff, " the
two great questions before the House. The first required
very little discussion. Truth had made its own way.
Commerce, like other sciences, had simplified itself.
There was no science that had not done so. A right
reverend prelate had said that our commercial system
required no alteration, which, with great submission,
he thought could not be said of anything ; and, if the
question was put to him, he believed he would not
say it of the Church. It was unnecessary to define the
progress of the change. A great minister in Holland

1 Morellet to Shelburne, July gth, 1785. Lettres de Morellet, xliv. 209 (edited by
the present author, Paris, 1898).

2 For an account of this speech see Rutland Papers, iii. 376. Hist. MSS. Commission
Reports. Daniel Pulteney to the Duke of Rutland, March 2nd, 1787. Wraxall,
Posthumous Memoirs, ii. 266.


first opened the eyes of modern Europe upon commercial
subjects. 1 Men of letters in different countries contri-
buted their aid to develop and extend the principles of
free trade. Ministers of the first eminence in a neigh-
bouring country adopted and pushed them still further,
more or less, as suited their different views of consider-
ing the subject. The old calculations so much dwelt
upon by the reverend prelate, gradually became exploded ;
and the idea of estimating the balance of each trade was
given up."

He then proceeded to ridicule the notion that France
had always been inimical to England, and alluded in sup-
port of his position to the conduct of Queen Elizabeth,
Cromwell, and Sir Robert Walpole, who had all valued
the French alliance. He acknowledged that William III.
had adopted a very different system, but, he said, as there
might be spots in the sun, it must be allowed, with all
possible admiration of King William, that his foreign
politics did not make the brightest part of his character as
an English King, for his conduct was entirely governed
by his aversion to Louis XIV.

To those who argued that France was our natural
enemy and never could be otherwise, he replied, that the
circumstances were entirely changed since the time of
William III. England, he said, had no natural enemy,
except the powers that kept 300,000 men under arms,
maintained for the sake of conquests, and not for defence ;
they were the enemies of mankind, and merited that all
Europe should join against them. He then proceeded
to condemn the partition of Poland and the conduct of
the Northern Powers.

After thus pronouncing on the policy of the measure,
he proceeded to criticize some or the details, amongst
which he specified the choice of the articles on which the
French import duties were to be lowered, but he con-
fessed that in making these observations he was bound to

1 In the opinion of Monsieur W. H. de Beaufort the allusion to the great Minister
in Holland probably refers to the porto franco of the Stadtholder William IV., or to John
de Witt, to whom was attributed the part authorship of de la Court's Interest van
Holland, with regard to the chapters on trade.

1785-1788 RETIREMENT 303

recollect the expression of the Duke of Marlborough :
" I find many very ready to say what I ought to have
done when a battle is over ; but I wish some of these
persons would come and tell me what I ought to do
before the battle." Notwithstanding these expressions,
he was accused of having spoken on both sides of the
question. " I am accused," he thereupon retorted, " of
speaking on both sides, because I have not from friend-
ship towards the Ministers, forborne to state my ob-
jections to many parts of the measure under discussion ;
and because I have not, in complaisance to the Opposi-
tion, withheld my tribute of applause to the principle.
The fact is, that throughout life I have stood aloof from
parties. It constitutes my pride and my principle, to
belong to no faction, but to approve every measure on its
own ground, free from all connection. Such is my political

The debates on the French Treaty did not end with-
out his becoming involved in a violent controversy with
one of his former colleagues. He had observed that
some representation ought to have been made during
the negotiation of the treaty, on the fortifications in
the course of erection at Cherbourg. The Duke of
Richmond, Master -General of the Ordnance, then de-
clared that England had nothing more to do with
Cherbourg than France had to do with Portsmouth
or Plymouth. Lord Lansdowne replied that he did
not think it at all probable that the French would
object to our fortifying our coast, since in the event
of an invasion they would take possession of the
fortresses as advantageous posts. Roused by this
sarcasm, the Duke of Richmond accused him of
having approved those very fortifications in 1782, and
appealed to Mr. Pitt in support of his statement,
while Lord Lansdowne produced a letter from the
Duke of Richmond himself as evidence on the other
side. The altercation was renewed several nights in
succession, and became so acrimonious, that it put an
end to the friendship of the two illustrious disputants,


who it was even reported were about to have a duel. 1
The general wish of the Whigs was that they should
fight, that one should be shot, and the other hanged
for it. 8 No encounter however ensued, and Lord
Lansdowne retired to the "woods" from which, as
he assured the House of Lords, "he was just come,"
without having to add another duel to his exploits
against Colonel Fullarton.

In these "woods" he now generally remained for the
greater part of the year, avoiding London and Parliament.
His relations with the Government were naturally delicate,
from the relative positions of Pitt and himself. With the
Opposition he refused to hold any communication. They
made it a principle, he said, to oppose everything right
or wrong, and thereby to stifle and mislead public opinion.
Faction was however the weapon most natural to a party
which, while professing to be more liberal than the Govern-
ment, was in reality behind the time on all the great
questions of the day.

Under these circumstances it was only natural that
Lord Lansdowne should prefer the society he gathered
around him at Bowood and the occupations of country
life to the game of politics in London. He at the same
time kept up a busy correspondence, both at home and
abroad, chiefly on economic subjects, to which he was now
turning his attention in an increasing degree. Morellet
kept him informed of all that was passing in France,
Arthur Lee of the state of affairs in America, and Orde of
events in Ireland ; while Baring and Jekyll supplied the
latest commercial and political news from London.

One effect of the study of the principles of political
economy was to convince him more and more that the
terrible condition of the rural poor, especially in his own
neighbourhood, was in no small degree owing to the very
laws intended for their relief. " I have long been morti-
fied," he wrote to a friend, " to see the state of the poor

1 The speeches of Lord Lansdowne on the Irish Commercial Propositions, and the
French Treaty, are given in the Parliamentary History, xxv. 855 ; xxvi. 554, 574.

2 Life and Lettert of Sir G. Elliot, i. 134. See, too, Wraxall, Poithumiut Memoirt^
ii. 45.

1785-1788 RETIREMENT 305

in my own neighbourhood, and for some years past have
given the state of them a great deal of my attention and
observation. I am persuaded that whatever measure is
adopted, the present poor rate should be immediately
limited, and a plan prescribed for its gradual extinction.
There should be total suppression of ale houses, except
where it is necessary for the accommodation of travellers.
There are no ale houses in France. What a difference
must this make in the prices of all manufactures, public
morals, and police. The clubs or friendly societies
should be encouraged by all possible means. There
might be a parish holiday or festival once a year, with
music or any other attraction, and upon the same day
throughout England.

" Courts of Conscience should be abolished and a

Online LibraryEdmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice FitzmauriceLife of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne; (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 49)