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system compensated to the nation by the inflow of planta-
tion wealth, the lords of which were often little better than
its source, and by their corruption of English society and
politics partly avenged the slave.

Wilberforce, who came forward to deliver his country
and humanity from the slave-trade, was a representative 1788
of that party of evangelicals which, remaining inside the
Anglican church, sympathized and co-operated with the
Methodists outside, having, indeed, its origin in the same
reaction against the vice and impiety of the eighteenth
century. His appearance in the House of Commons and


his influence there were among the signs of an improve-
ment in publip character traceable to the religious revival
as well as to the change in the political position. Pitt
supported Wilberforce's movement, and one of the best of
his speeches was made in that cause. But, shackled either
by political or commercial influences, he failed to put
forth the full power of his government, and afterwards,
by annexing Sugar Islands which were cultivated by slave
labour, he became involuntarily responsible for an exten-
sion of the trade.

Fox's India Bill had been thrown out, but the Indian
problem still called for solution. To leave an annexed
empire, with the power of peace and war, uncontrolled in
the hands of a trading company was impossible. Pitt
1784 brought in a Bill which, avoiding the rock upon which
Fox's measure had split, effected the same object in another
way. The patronage which Fox had proposed to transfer
to the masters of parliament Pitt left ostensibly in the
hands of the company, only giving the crown a veto on the
appointment of the governor-general and of some other offi-
cers of importance. Nor did he abrogate the company's
charter ; but he made over the supreme power in reality
to a board of control consisting of six privy councillors,
including the secretary of state and the chancellor of the
exchequer. The company of British traders remained in
form and name a great eastern power, and the rulers of
the Indian empire were still called directors and writers ;
but the policy of the company was thenceforth under im-
perial direction and control. Legally the Indian patron-
age was left in the hands of the company. Practically
it fell to a great extent into those of Henry Dundas, the
president of the board of control. Dundas, a very able,


shrewd, and unsentimental Scotchman, skilled in party
management, was Pitt's second in command and the ad-
viser on whom he most leaned. Indian patronage in
Dundas's gift filled Hindostan with Scotchmen and kept
Scotland true to Pitt.

Conquest began to react, as all conquest must, on the
conquering nation. To India the coalition government
owed its overthrow. Englishmen who had returned with
fortunes from Hindostan, Nabobs, as they were nicknamed,
were eclipsing ancient houses, buying seats in parliament,
giving general umbrage by the display of a wealth which
was believed, often rightly, to have been amassed in evil
ways. India, in the days of a six months' voyage, was far
away, and public indignation was blind in the selection of
its objects. It fixed on Clive, the founder of the empire, 1767
and on Hastings, the organizer and preserver. Clive had 1786
not been scrupulous ; once, at least, he had stooped to that
which in the east was policy, in the west would have been
dishonour ; but he had been a reformer as well as a con-
queror ; he had put a stop to rapine by his establishment
of a regular civil service, and though he had taken a good
deal for himself, he could with justice say that he stood
astonished at his own moderation in not having taken
more. Unlike the rapacious Greek of old when intro-
duced into the treasure-house, he had filled only his
hands, not his boots and clothes, with gold. He escaped 1773
impeachment, but he did not escape hatred and obloquy,
which combined with disease to overpower him. In the
palace at Claremont which he had built, and the stately
rooms of which he paced in his last dark hours, one of
the mightiest of Englishmen died by his own hand. The 1774
statesmanship of Warren Hastings and his courage, gerene


in extremity, had saved, ordered, and extended the empire
founded by Clive. His rule, though arbitrary, had been,
in comparison at least with native anarchy or tyranny,
benelicent, and he was regarded with gratitude by the
Hindoo. Of most of the charges against him, notably
of the charge of judicially murdering Nuncomar by the
hand of Impey, he now stands acquitted before the tri-
• bunal of history. In hiring out British troops to a
native prince for the Rohilla war, the worst of all his
acts, he was yielding to the financial cravings of the
company. But he had a deadly enemy in Francis, the
venomous writer of the "Junius" letters, who had not
only opposed him in council but fought a duel with
him at Calcutta. Francis gained the ear of Burke, whose
soul was fired by a tale of wrongs done to ancient dynas-
ties and priesthoods, while his warm fancy was always set
at work by the imagery of the romantic and gorgeous east.
1786 Burke moved for the impeachment of Hastings. How
Pitt, after voting against impeachment on the Rohilla
charge, was induced to turn round and vote for it on
the charge of extorting an excessive subsidy from Cheet
Sing, which now appears less serious, is a mystery ; it is
probable that he was persuaded by Dundas, who had India
in his hands and had before attacked the government of
Hastings. His fiat was decisive. There followed the most
1788- important state trial and the grandest judicial pageant
^"^^^ seen in Westminster Hall since the impeachment of
Strafford. It ended, after seven years, in an acquittal.
But Hastings could truly say that he had given his coun-
try an empire, and she had rewarded him with a life of

Burke, in the attack on Warren Hastings, behaved


almost like a maniac. He wanted to make Francis, who
had fought a duel with the accused, one of the managers
of the impeachment. He incurred the formal censure of
the House by recklessly charging Hastings with having
suborned Impey to murder Nuncomar. His language in
Westminster Hall was outrageous. Once at least he was
called to order by the lords. He spoke of the illustrious
accused as " lying down upon a sty of disgrace, and feed-
ing on its offal," as a captain-general of a robber gang,
as a thief, a cheat, a forger, a swindler ; as one to be
compared, not with Tamerlane, but with the lice which
laid waste Egypt. He called him a fraudulent bullock-
driver, Hastings having been once concerned in a con-
tract for bullocks. Lord Coke, he said, had done wrong
in calling Sir Walter Raleigh "a spider of hell," but
he would have been guilty merely of indecorum if
he had applied the term to Hastings. Language not
less excited he could use in the House of Commons.
He had taunted North on personal defects. He com-
pared a minister to an indecent heathen deity. He
compared the House when they would not listen to him
to a pack of hounds. He spoke of the king, then afflicted
with mental disease, in words which shocked his hearers.
" Burke concluded his wild speech," said one of his
audience, "in a manner next to madness." Magnificent
though Burke's gifts were as an orator and a philoso-
pher, it is surely no great scandal that his friends should
have feared to trust his practical wisdom. The loftiness
and purity of his motives cannot be questioned. Nor
can it be questioned that the attention of the nation was
called to India and its conscience awakened by the im-
peachment of Hastings. But violence defeated itself, and


injustice to a great public servant was not the best way of
reforming the public service.

For a moment Pitt seemed in danger of losing power.
The flickering light of the king's intellect was for the

1788 second time eclipsed by lunacy. This time the eclipse
1788- appeared to be total. Then arose a constitutional ques-

1789 tion about the appointment of a regency, absorbing in
* those days, though of little interest in ours, except as the

appeal to medieval precedents for its decision marks the
unbroken course of the constitution.

It was assumed that the Prince, on becoming Regent,
would dismiss Pitt and call in Fox. So much power
the crown still retained. Thus on the regency ques-
tion the two rivals were led to take different lines and
lines at variance with the general politics of each. Fox,
the Whig, took the legitimist line, contending that the
Prince would be Regent of his own right and with the
full powers of the monarchy ; while Pitt, the Tory, took
the constitutional line, contending that it was for the
parliament to settle the government during the incapacity
of the sovereign, and bringing in a Bill to curtail the
powers of the Regent and take from him, among other
prerogatives, that of creating peers. Fox and Sheridan,
in asserting the Prince's claim, used language so highly
legitimist that Pitt could say of one of them that he would
un-Whig the gentleman for the rest of his life. They did
themselves no small harm, while the Prince, their client,
and his brother the Duke of York by unfilial and indecent
behaviour provoked general disgust. The king, however,
1789 recovered, and a long course of mischief still lay before
him. Throughout the kingdom there were rejoicings.
Pitt was more firmly than ever seated in power.

VI GEORGE 111 253

Not even yet was it perfectly understood that a min-
istry was a unit, and that its members must stand or fall
together. Chancellors, especially, were still apt to think
their tenure permanent. The lord chancellor, Thurlow,
a most imposing but rather hollow personage, of whom it
was said that nobody could be so wise as Thurlow looked,
had made up his mind that though the Pitt ministry might
go out the chancellor would stay in. Having beneath an
outside of surly honesty no small aptitude for intrigue,
when the king's case was supposed to be hopeless he
opened an underground communication with the Prince.
The ministers, Thurlow among them, w^ent down to hold
a council at Windsor. When they were coming away the
chancellor's hat was missing, but was presently brought by
a page, who told them that he had found it in the Prince's
room. Upon the king's recovery Thurlow poured forth
his fervent loyalty in the House of Lords. " When I for-
get my king," he exclaimed, " may my God forget me ! "
"The best thing that can happen to you," said Burke.
" Oh, what a rascal ! " said Pitt. " Forget you ; he'll see
you damned first," said Wilkes. Thurlow, being gen-
erally contumacious in cabinet, was presently dismissed.
His blatant professions of loyalty had endeared him to
the king ; but Pitt's will prevailed.

By this complication the character and doings of the
Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV., were brought
fully into view. It was seen what hereditary monarchy
was likely to be when it was relieved of the duties and
perils which had been its salt in the middle ages and
exposed in irresponsible security to the influences of a
royal education, royal luxury, and the flattery of a court.
His Royal Highness was wallowing in debauchery and


sunk in debt. After the custom of his house, he was
at enmity with his father. Affecting Liberalism because
the court was Tory, he had thrown himself into the arms
of the opposition and made Carlton House its head-
quarters. Fox and Sheridan were too well qualified to
be his boon companions as well as his privy councillors,
and by their share in his moral ruin drew on them the

1787 deserved hatred of the king. The Prince had fallen in
love with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who, to do him justice, was in
every way worthy of his love and might have redeemed
him if he could have lawfully made her his wife. But
she was a Roman Catholic, and by the Act of Settlement
marriage with a Roman Catholic was forfeiture of the
crown. That forfeiture the Prince would have incurred
had his marriage with Mrs. Fitzherbert been valid. But
the Royal Marriage Act, passed in the early part of the
reign, upon the discovery of two marriages of disparage-
ment secretly contracted by royal dukes, forbade the mar-
riage of any member of the royal family under the age of
twenty-five, which the Prince had not reached, without
the consent of the crown. The marriage with Mrs. Fitz-
herbert was therefore invalid, and the Prince by his breach
of the second law was saved from the penalty of the
first. To say that he counted on the invalidity might be
harsh. Coming to parliament for payment of his debts, he
was met by an interrogation about his marriage, and the
first gentleman in Europe, as he deemed himself, and as
in mere manner he might have pretended to be, put up

1787 his bosom friend Fox to meet the interrogation with
a lie.

So far all had gone well, and more than well, with Pitt.
It was still morning with the young statesman, and the


morning was almost cloudless. Everything promised him
the continuance of a brilliant and beneficent career.
He had restored the finances and reformed the financial
system. He had converted deficit into surplus. By his
commercial treaty with France he had made a great
advance towards the realization of Adam Smith's policy
of free trade. The total abolition of customs duties even
was coming into view. The country was prospering and
growing rapidly in wealth. The inventions of Arkwright,
Hargreaves, Crompton, Watt, and Wedge wood, together
with the invention of smelting iron with coal, had given
an immense impetus to manufactures of all kinds, to metal-
lurgy and to mining. Trade, especially with America,
had greatly increased. Pitt's hold on the confidence of
parliament and of the country had been strengthened.
When he rose in the House of Commons with his lean but
majestic form, his lofty bearing, and his sonorous elocution,
he rose a king.

Pitt's government was one of personal ascendancy sup-
ported by the favour of the crown, not of party leader-
ship. His following was made up of different elements
brought together by their confidence in the man, hatred
of the Whig oligarchy, or attachment to the throne.
It followed him but loosely till it was welded by an-
tagonism to revolution. He never appealed to party
sentiment, never held counsel with a party. At a crisis
of peril he was willing to take his rival Fox into his gov-
ernment and was prevented only by the personal prejudice
of the king. It may safely be said that the theory of
government by two parties representing opposite sets of
principles and alternately rising to power did not present
itself to his mind.


Peace was Pitt's element, and the world was and seemed
likely to remain at peace. For some years there had
been no great war, except that of Russia with the Turks.
In Holland Pitt had taken part with Prussia in a success-
ful intervention for the restoration of the House of Orange
to power, and the rescue of the country from the grasp of
French ambition, which was intriguing with the republican
party. He had been on the brink of a war with Russia,
whose growing power began to excite alarm, but parlia-
ment, deeming the danger too remote, had manifested
its independence by drawing him back. In 1792, bring-
ing in his budget, he held out a prospect of relief from
taxes within fifteen years ; " for although," said he,
"we must not count with certainty on the continuance
of our present prosperity during such an interval, yet
unquestionably there never was a time in the history of
*' this country when, from the situation of Europe, we might
more reasonably expect fifteen years of peace than we may
at the present moment." He reduced the navy and
looked forward to general reduction of armaments, aboli-
tion of customs duties, and emancipation of trade. Never
was man more bantered, to use Bolingbroke's expression,
by fortune. Instead of being on the eve of a fifteen
years' peace, Pitt was on the eve of a twenty years' war.
1791 In the discussion of a Bill giving Canada a constitu-
tion, which was about the last measure of the Liberal
Pitt, the debate had been interrupted by an angry alter-
cation, ending in a rupture of friendship between Fox
and Burke on a subject which at this time filled all
minds. That subject was the French Revolution.

Pitt, as he scanned the political and social horizon,
though he saw no signs of war, could not fail to see signs


of change. Everywhere he must have noted that it was
coming, in France that it was come. He must have
marked that among the educated class scepticism had
undermined the established religion. By this perhaps he
would not be much disturbed, since, however orthodox in
principle, he was not devout, and had let fall his opinion
that Bishop Butler raised more questions than he solved.
He must have observed the progress made in the conquest
of European opinion by the biting wit of Voltaire and the
seductive sentimentality of Rousseau ; though on this
again he might look, if not with complacency, without
fear, since Voltaire, though a universal questioner and
reformer, was no political revolutionist, while Rousseau's
vision of a return to nature might seem a vision and
nothing more. American revolution was far away and
not propagandist. As a son of light and a friend of
humanity, Pitt would view with pleasure the European
movement. He would rejoice over the progress of phi-
lanthropy, the improvement in jurisprudence and ad-
ministration, the incipient emancipation of serfs, the
mitigation of the criminal law, the tendency to encourage
education, the growing tolerance, the suppression of the
Jesuits, the reduced power of the Inquisition. Though
a thoroughly practical statesman, he would regard with
interest and favour the advance of political philosophy,
while he could hardly suspect the dire explosiveness of
political and social ideals. He would recognize the good
done, in spite of standing armies and territorial wars, by
Turgot in France, by Aranda in Spain, by Pombal in
Portugal, by Leopold in Tuscany, by Tanucci in Naples,
by Frederick and Maria Theresa as civil rulers in Prussia
and Austria, by Gustavus III. in Sweden, even by Cath-
voL. n — 17


erine in Russia. He would observe that if Europe was
still heavily encumbered by the incubus of a feudal aris-
tocracy, which, all its work for civilization having long
ago been done, had sunk into an idle, arrogant, reaction-
ary, and grossly oppressive caste, among the kings en-
lightenment, progress, and beneficence were becoming the
fashion, and, as was said at the time, a new political con-
stitution had been born, that of monarchy tempered, not
by parliaments, but by opinion. Everything in short might
seem to him to promise a peaceful transition from the feudal
or absolutist past to a more liberal and happier future.
This is not the place for telling the terrible story of
1643- ^^^ French Revolution. Louis XIV., taking up again
1715 the work of Richelieu, while he was impelled by his own
pride and lust of power, had made himself the state and
Versailles the country ; he had laid low every institution,
national or local, which was not a mere instrument of the
royal will; he had created an enormous standing army,
stamped upon the monarchy an intensely military char-
acter, and identified it with the policy of conquest; he
had set the example of court expenditure on the most
prodigal scale, and of the accumulation of public debt;
he had turned the land-owning aristocracy into courtiers,
place-hunters, and men of pleasure, domiciled them in his
palace, severed them from their tenantry, and divorced
them from their rural duties. In the gloomy end of his
life, falling under the sway of superstition and of its or-
gans, an intolerant priesthood and a priest-ridden woman,
he had sought the favour of his deity by persecution and
driven free conscience into exile or sent it to the galleys.
j^jg_ The glitter of his system while he lived concealed its rot-
1774 tenness, which in the next reign, that of a voluptuary


ruled by a series of harlots, became apparent as well as
complete. The advent of a young king, well-meaning, 1774
though with little intelligence and no force, seemed
to be a, renewal Of hope. With it came a roseate dawn
of promise, social, intellectual, and scientific. Abuses
still called for reform ; aristocratic privilege and inso-
lence were most galling ; the corruption of the church,
especially of the hierarchy, was extreme ; the public
debt was heavy, the defi6it was large, the financial system
was wretched. Yet the evil was not past cure. Turgot
was in a fair way to cure it when he was turned out of 1776
office, and his measures of reform and economy were
quashed by a court coterie and a pleasure-loving queen.
Then came intervention in America and war with Eng- 1778
land, which completed the ruin of the finances, gave a 1793
stimulus to revolutionary sentiment, and infected with it
the French troops which had served beside American
rebels. Still, a deficit, however large, ought not to have
laid a mighty monarchy in the dust. In the cities, at all
events, there were prosperity and wealth. It is difficult,
even now, to account for the sudden rising of the storm
cloud which overspread the sky, and the simultaneous
boiling up of all the elements of disaffection and revolu-
tion, political, social, economical, and religious. Visionary
speculation and practical suffering brought into contact
with each other on the largest scale, it is truly said, could
not fail to be explosive. At a crisis produced by the
financial distress and the administrative rottenness of the
government, the torch of a revolutionary and Utopian
philosophy fired the vast mine of material discontent
which ages of wrong and misery had charged. For
something, perhaps for much, bad seasons and scarcity


of bread might account. Hunger, driving men from
the country to the city, would increase the terrible mob
of the Faubourg St. Antoine. In the general spread of
scepticism the government, the ruling class, the priesthood,
had lost faith in themselves and were prepared to fall.
Had the king been strong, the army being at his com-
mand, he would have grasped the reins firmly, have him-
self proclaimed reform, put a stop to waste, beginning
with the waste of his court, lowered the barriers of privi-
lege, abolished oppressive feudal rights by his own legisla-
tive power, gone over the country in person looking into
the grievances of the peasants, and if the public creditor
could not be paid in full, have made the best arrangement
possible with him, selling if necessary for the purpose
monastery lands. This he might have done without the
violence displayed in quelling an aristocracy by Gus-
tavus III. of Sweden. To such a policy, welcomed as it
would have been by the masses of the people, the obstruc-
tiveness of the parliament of Paris, with its spurious
popularity, could have offered no resistance. Monarchy
itself the French people loved ; what they hated and
burned to overthrow was monarchy with a privileged
class, and a state church intolerant and corrupt. Being
not strong, but as weak as he was well-intentioned, Louis
1784- XVI., after trying a financial conjurer in the person of
^^ ' Calonne, and vainly asking counsel of a narrow Assem-
1787- bly of Notables, called out of the depth of the French
' past the States General, and unwisely fixed the place for
their meeting at Versailles, in the contagious neighbour-
hood of the centre of fermentation. Still, by a frank
policy of concession he might have got on amicably with
an Assembly which, at the outset, was far from hostile to


the crown, and in the end, the country being radically
monarchical, he might insensibly have recovered a good
deal of his power. That hope was blasted by want of tact
on the part of the court and the stupid formalism of court
officials, by the fatal demagogism of Mirabeau, and after-
wards by the meddling of the queen and her coterie, who,
like Henrietta and her circle in the English Revolution,
tried to bring up the army for the coercion of the Assembly.
All know the sequel ; the legislative babel which ensued
in an Assembly too unwieldy for deliberation, split into a
score of factions, without parliamentary experience ; the

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