Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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ruptcy with an overflowing exchequer. Burke, with
general applause, compared him, in a time of quiet and
plenty, to the evil spirit whom Ovid described looking
down on the stately temples and wealthy haven of
Athens, and scarce able to refrain from weeping be-
cause she could find nothing at which to weep. Such
a man was not likely to be popular. But to unpopular-
ity Grenville opposed a dogged determination, which
sometimes forced even those who hated him to respect
him.

It was natural that Pitt and Grenville, being such
as they were, should take very different views of the
situation of affairs. Pitt could see nothing but the
trophies ; Grenville could see nothing but the bill.
Pitt boasted that England was victorious at once in
America, in India, and in Germany, the umpire of the
Continent, the mistress of the sea. Grenville cast up
the subsidies, sighed over the army extraordinaries, and
groaned in spirit to think that the nation had borrowed
eight millions in one year.

With a ministry thus divided it was not difficult for
Bute to deal. Legge was the first who fell. He had
given offence to the young King in the late reign, by
i*eftising to support a creature of Bute at a Hampshire
•lection. He was now not only turned out, but in the
closet, when he deUvered up his seal of office, was
treated with gross incivility.

Pitt, who did not love Legge, saw this event with
indifference. But the danger was now fiist i^piXMch-



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 29

ing himself! Charles the Third of Spain had early
conceived a deadly hatred of England. Twenty years
before, when he was King of the Two Sicilies, he had
been eager to join the coalition against Maria Theresa.
But an English fleet had suddenly appeared in the Bay
of Naples. An English captain had landed, had pro-
ceeded to the palace, had laid a watch on the table,
and had told his majesty that, within an hour, a treaty
of neutrality must be signed, or a bombardment would
commence. The treaty was signed ; the squadron
sailed out of the bay twenty-four hours after it had
sailed in ; and from that day the ruling passion of the
humbled Prince was avereion to the English name.
He was at length in a situation in which he might
hope to gratify that passion. He had recently become
King of Spain and the Indies. He saw, with envy
and apprehension, the triumphs of our navy, and the
rapid extension of our colonial Empire. He was a
Bourbon, and sympathized with the distress of the
house from which he sprang. He was a Spaniard,
and no Spaniard could bear to see Gibraltar and
Minorca in the possession of a foreign power. Im-
pelled by such feelings, Charles concluded a secret
treaty with France. By this treaty, known as the
Family Compact, the two powers bound themselves
not in express words, but by the clearest implication,
to make war on England in common. Spain posi-
tioned the declaration of hostiUties only till her fleet,
laden with the treasures of America, should have ar-
rived.

The existence of the treaty could not be kept a
secret from Pitt. He acted as a man of liis capacity
and energy might be expected to act. He at once
proposed to declare war against Spain, and to intercept



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30 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

the American fleet. He had detennhied, it is said,
to attack without delay both Havanna and the Philip-
pines.

His wise and resolute counsel was rejected. Bute
was foremost in opposing it, and was supported by
almost the whole cabinet. Some of the ministers
doubted, or affected to doubt, the correctness of Pitt's
intelligence; some shrank from the responsibility of
advising a course so bold and decided as that which he
proposed ; some were weary of his ascendency, and
were glad to be rid of him on any pretext. One only
of his colleagues agreed with him, his brother-in-law,
Earl Temple.

Pitt and Temple resigned their offices. To Pitt the
young King behaved at parting in the most gracious
manner. Pitt, who, proud and fiery every where else,
was always meek and humble in the closet, was moved
even to tears. The King and the favourite urged him
to accept some substantial mark of royal gratitude.
Would he like to be appointed governor of Canada ?
A salary of five thousand pounds a year should be an-
nexed to the office. Residence would not be required.
It was true that the governor of Canada, as the law
then stood, could not be a member of the House of
Commons. But a bill should be brought in, authoris-
ing Pitt to hold his government together with a seat in
Parliament, and in the preamble should be set forth his
claims to the gratitude of his country. Pitt answered,
with all delicacy, that his anxieties were rather for his
wife and family than for himself, and that nothing
would be so acceptable to him as a mark of royal good-
ness which might be beneficial to those who were dear-
est to him. The. hint was taken. The same Gazette
which announced the retirement of the Secretary of



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 31

State announced also that, in consideration of his gi-eat
public services, his wife had been created a peeress Jn
her own right, and that a pension of three thousand
pounds a year, for three lives, had been bestowed on
himself. It was doubtless thought that the rewards
and honours conferred on the great minister would
liave a conciliatory effect on the public mind. Per-
haps, too, it was thought that his popularity, which
had partly arisen fipom the contempt which he had al-
ways shown for money, would be damaged by a pen-
sion ; and, indeed, a crowd of libels instantly appetired,
in which he was accused of having sold his country.
Many of his true friends thought that he would have
best consulted the dignity of his character by refusing
to accept any pecuniary reward from the court. Never-
theless, the general opinion of his talents, virtues, and
services, remained unaltered. Addresses were pre-
sented to him from several large towns. London
showed its admiration and affection in a still more
marked manner. Soon after his resignation came the
Lord Mayor's day. The King and the royal family
dined at Guildhall. Pitt was one of the guests. The
young Sovereign, seated by liis bride in his state coach,
received a remarkable lesson. He was scarcely no-
ticed. All eyes were fixed on the fallen minister ; all
acclamations directed to him. The streets, the balco-
nies, the chimney tops, burst into a roar of delight as
his chariot passed by. The ladies waved their hand-
kerchief from the windows. The common people
clung to the wheels, shook hands with the footmen,
and even kissed the horses. Cries of "No Bute!"
" No Newcastle salmon 1 '* were mingled with the
shouts of " Pitt forever ! " When Pitt entered Guild-
hall, he was welcomed by loud huzzas and clapping of



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82 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

hands, in which the very magistrates of the city joined.
Lcyxl Bute, in the mean time, was hooted and i>elted
through Cheapside, and would, it was thought, have
been in some danger, if he had not taken the precau-
tion of surrounding his carriage with a strong body
guard of boxers. Many persons blamed the conduct
of Pitt on this occasion as disrespectful to the King.
Indeed, Pitt himself afterwards owned that he had done
wrong. He was led into this error, as he was after-
wards led into more serious errors, by the influence of
his turbulent and mischievous brother-in-law. Temple.

The events which immediately followed Pitt's re-
tirement raised his fame higher than ever. War with
Spain proved to be, as he had predicted, mevitable.
News came from the West Indies that Martinique had
been taken by an expedition which he had sent forth.
Uavanna fell ; and it was known that he had planned
aiL attack on Havanna. Manilla capitulated ; and it
was believed that he had meditated a blow against
Manilla. The American fleet, wliich he had proposed
to intercept, had unloaded an immense cargo of bullion
in the haven of Cadiz, before Bute could be convinced
that the Court of Madrid really entertained hostile m-
tentions.

The session of Parliament which followed Pitt's
retirement passed over without any violent storm.
Lord Bute took on himself the most prominent part
in the House of Lords. He had become Secretary of
State, and indeed prime minister, without having once
opened his lips in public except as an actor. There
was, therefore, no small curiosity to know how he
would acquit himself. Members of the House of
Commons crowded the bar of the Lords, and covered
the steps of tlic throne. It was generally expected



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 83

that the orator would break down ; but his most
malicious hearers were forced to own that he had
made a better figure than they expected. They, in-
deed, ridiculed his action tis theatrical, and his style
as tumid. They were especially amused by the long
imuses which, not from hesitation, but from affecta-
tion, he made at all the emphatic words, and Charles
Townshend cried out, " Minute guns ! *' The general
opinion however was, that, if Bute had been early
practised in debate, he might have become an im-
pressive spedcer.

In the Commons, George Grenville had been in-
trusted with the lead. The task was not, as yet, a
very difficult one: for Pitt did not think fit to raise
the standard of opposition. His speeches at this time
were distinguished, not only by that eloquence in
which he excelled all his rivals, but also by a temper-
ance and a modesty which had too often been wanting
to his character. When war was declared against
Spain, he justly laid claim to the merit of having fore-
seen what had at length become manifest to all, but
he carefully abstained from arrogant and acrimonious
expressions ; and this abstinence was the more honour-
able to him, because his temper, never very placid,
was now severely tried, both by gout and by calumny.
The courtiers had adopted a mode of warfare, which
was soon turned with far more formidable effect against
themselves. Half the inhabitants of the Grub Street
garrets paid their milk scores, and got their shirts out
of pawn, by abusing Pitt. His Gennan war, his sub-
sidies, his ))ension, his wife's peerage, were shin of
beef and gin, blankets and baskets of small coal, to
the starving poetasters of the Fleet. Even in the
House of Commons, he was, on one occasion during



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34 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

this session, assailed with an insolence and malice which
called forth the indignation of men of all parties ; but
he endured the outrage with majestic patience. In his
younger days he had been but too prompt to retaliate
on those who attacked him ; but now, conscious of his
great ser\'ices, and of the space which he filled in the
eyes of all mankind, he would not stoop to pei'sonal
squabbles. " This is no season,'* he said, in the debate
on the Spanish war, "for altercation and recrimina-
tion. A day has arrived when every Englishman
should stand forth for his country. Arm the whole ;
be oue people ; forget every thing but the public. I
set you the example. Harassed by slanderers, sinking
under pain and disease, for the public I forget both my
wrongs and my infirmities ! " On a general review of
his life, we are inclined to think tliat his genius and
virtue never shone with so pure an effulgence as
during the session of 1762,

The session drew towards the close ; and Bute,
emboldened by the acquiescence of the Houses, re-
solved to strike another great blow, and to become
first minister in name as well as in reality. That
coalition, which a few months before had seemed all
powerful, had been dissolved. The retreat of Pitt
had deprived the government of popularity. New-
castle had exulted in the fall of the illustrious col-
league whom he envied and dreaded, and had not
foreseen that his own doom was at hand. He still
tried to flatter himself that he was at the head of the
government ; but insults heaped on insults at length
undeceived him. Places which had always been con-
sidered as in his gift, were bestowed without any
reference to him. His expostulations only called forth
significant hints tliat it was time for him to retire.



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THE EARL OF CHATH.VI1. 86

One day he pressed on Bute the claims of a Whig
Prelate to the archbishopric of York. *' If your grace
thinks so highly of him," answered Bute, " I won-
der that you did not promote him when you had the
power." Still the old man clung with a desperate
grasp to the wreck. Seldom, indeed, have Christian
meekness and Christian humility equalled tlie meek-
ness and humility of his patient and abject ambition.
At length he was forced to undei*stand that all was
over. He quitted that Court where he had held high
office during forty-five years, and hid his shame and
r^et among the cedars of Claremont. Bute became
first lord of the treasury.

The favourite had undoubtedly committed a great
error. It is impossible to imagine a tool better suited
to his purposes than that which he thus threw away,
or rather put into the hands of his enemies. If New-
castle had been suffered to play at being first minister,
Bute might securely and quietly have enjoyed the
substance of power. The gradual introduction of
Tories into all the departments of the government
might have been effected without any violent clamour,
if the chief of the great Whig connection had been
ostensibly at the head of affairs. This was sti'ongly rep-
resented to Bute by Lord Mansfield, a man who may
justly be called the father of modem Toryism, of To-
ryism modified to suit an order of things under which
the House of Commons is the most powerful body
in the state. The theories which had dazzled Bute
could not impose on the fine intellect of Mansfield.
The temerity with which Bute provoked the hostility
of powerful and deeply rooted interests, was displeasing
to Mansfield's cold and timid nature. Expostulation,
however, was vain. Bute was impatient of advice,



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«(5 THE KARL OF CHATHAM.

drunk with success, eager to be, in show as well as
in reahty, the head of the government. He had en-
gaged in an undertaking in which a screen was abso-
lutely necessary to his success, and even to his safety.
He found an excellent screen ready in die very place
where it was most needed ; and he rudely pushed it
away.

And now the new system of government came into
full operation. For the first time since the accession
of the House of Hanover, the Tory party was in the
ascendant. The prime minister himself was a Tory.
Lord Egremont, who had succeeded Pitt as Secretary
of State, was a Tory, and the son of a Tory. Sir
Francis Dashwood, a man of slender parts, of small
experience, and of notoriously immoral character, was
made Chancellor of the Exchequer, for no reason that
could be imagined, except that he was a Tory, and
had been a Jacobite. The royal household was filled
with men whose favourite toast, a few years before,
had been the King over the water. The relative po-
sition of the two great national seats of learning was
suddenly changed. The University of Oxford had
long been the chief seat of disaffection. In troubled
times, the High Street had been lined >vith bayonets ;
the colleges had been searched by the King's mes-
sengers. Grave doctors were in the habit of talking
very Ciceronian treason in the theatre; and the un-
dergraduates drank bumpers to Jacobite toasts, and
chanted Jacobite airs. Of four successive Chancellors
of the Univewity, one had notoriously been in the Pr^
tender's service ; the other three were fully behevcd
to Ixi in secret correspondence with the exiled family.
Cambridge had therefore been especially favoured by
the Hanoverian Princes, and had shown herself grate



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THE EAKL OF CHATHAM. 37

fill for their patronage. George the First had en-
riched her library ; George the Second had contrib-
nted munificently to her Senate House. Bishoprics
and deaneries were showered on her children. Her
Chancellor was Newcastle, the chief of the Whig
aristocracy ; her High Steward was Hardwicke, the
Whig head of the law. Both her burgesses had held
office under the Whig ministry. Times had now
changed. The University of Cambridge was received
at St. James's with comparative coldness. The an-
swers to the addresses of Oxford were all gracious-
ness and warmth.

The watchwords of the new government were pi*e-
rogative and purity. The sovereign was no longer to
be a puppet in the hands of any subject, or of any
combination of subjects. George the Third would not
be forced to take ministers whom he disliked, as his
grandfather had been forced to take Pitt. George the
Third would not be forced to part with any whom he
delighted to honour, as his grandfather had been forced
to part with Carteret. At the same time, the system
of bribery which had grown up during the late reigns
was to cease. It was ostentatiously proclaimed that,
since the accession of the young King, neither constit-
uents nor representatives had been bought with the
secret service money. To free Britain from corruption
and oligarchical cabals, to detach her from continental
conr.ections, to bring the bloody and expensive war
with France and Spain to a close, such were the spe-
cious objects which Bute professed to procure.

Some of these objects he attained. England with-
drew, at the cost of a deep stain on her faith, from her
German connections. The war with France and Spain
was UTminated by a peace, honourable indeed and ad-



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38 TilK EARL OF CHATHAM.

vantageous to our country, yet less honourable and les8
advantageous than might have been expected from a
long and almost unbroken series of victories, by land
and sea, in every part of the world. But the only
effect of Bute's domestic administration was to make
faction wilder, and corruption fouler than ever.

The mutual animosity of the Whig and Tory par-
ties had begun to languish after the fall of Walpole,
and had seemed to be almost extinct at the close of tlie
reign of George the Second. It now revived in all itB
force. Many Whigs, it is true, were still in office.
The Duke of Bedford had signed the treaty with
France. The Duke of Devonshire, though much out
of humour, still continued to be Lord Chamberlain.
Grenville, who led the House of Commons, and Fox,
who still enjoyed in silence the immense gains of the
Pay Office, had always been regarded as strong Whigs.
But the bulk of the party throughout the country re-
garded the new minister with abhorrence. There was,
indeed, no want of popular themes for invective against
his character. He was a favoiuite; and &yourite8
have always been odious in this country. No mere
favourite had been at the head of the government since
the dagger of Felton had reached the heart of the
Duke of Buckingham. After that event the most
arbitrary and the most fi'ivolous of the Stuarts had felt
the necessity of confiding the chief direction of afiairs
to men who had given some proof of parliamentary
or official talent. Strafford, Falkland, Clarendon, Clif^
ford, Shaflesbury, Lauderdale, Danby, Temple, Hali&x,
Rochester, Sunderland, whatever their &ults might be,
wevQ all men of acknowledged ability. They did not
owe their eminence merely to the favour of the sover-
eign. On the contrary, they owed the favour of the



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THK ICARL OK CHATHAM 39

sovereign to their eminence. Most of them, indeed,
had first attracted the notice of the court by the ca-
pacity and vigour which they had shown in opposition.
The Revolution seemed to have for ever secured the
state against the domination of a Carr or a Villiers.
Now, however, the personal regard of the King had at
once raised a man who had seen nothing of public busi*
ness, who had never opened his lips in parhament, ovei*
the heads of a crowd of eminent orators, financiers,
diplomatists. From a private gentleman, this fortu-
nate minion had at once been turned into a Secretary
of State. He had made his maiden speech when at
the head of the administration. The vulgar resorted
to a simple explanation of the phenomenon, and the
coarsest ribaldry against the Princess Mother was
scrawled on every wall and sung in every alley.

This was not all. The spirit of party, roused by
impolitic provocation from its long sleep, roused in turn
a still fiercer and more malignant Fury, the spirit of
national animosity. The grudge of Whig against Tory-
was mingled with the grudge of Englishman against
Scot- The two sections of the great British people
had not yet been indissolubly blended together. The
events of 1716 and of 1745 had left painful and endur-
ing traces. The tradesmen of Comhill had been in
dread of seeing their tills and warehouses plundered by
barelegged mountaineers firom the Grampians. They
still recollected that Black Friday, when the news
came that the rebels were at Derby, when all the shops
in the city were closed, and when the Bank of Eng-
land began to pay in sixpences. The Scots, on the
other hand, remembered, with natural resentment, the
severity with which the insurgents had been chastised,
the mflitary outrages, the humiliating laws, the heads'



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40 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

Hxed on Temple Bar, the fires and quartering blocks
on Kennington Common. The favourite did not suffer
the English to forget from what part of the island he
came. The cry of all the south was that the public
offices, the army, the navy, were filled with high-
cheeked Drummonds and Erskines, Macdonalds and
Macgillivrays, who could not talk a Christian tongue,
and some of whom had but lately begun to wear Chris-
tian breeches. All the old jokes on hills without trees,
girls without stockings, men eating the food of hoi*8es,
pails emptied from the fourteenth story, were pointed
against these lucky adventurers. To the honour of
the Scots it must be said, that their prudence and their
pride restrained them from retaUation. Like the prin-
cess in the Arabian tale, they stopped their ears tight,
and, unmoved by the shrillest notes of abuse, walked
on, without once looking round, straight towards the
Golden Fountain.

Bute, who had always been considered as a man of
taste and reading, affected, from the moment of his
elevation, the character of a Maecenas. If he expected
to conciliate the public by encouraging literature and
ai*t, he was grievously mistaken. Indeed, none of the
objects of his munificence, with the single exception of
Johnson, can be said to have been well selected ; and
the public, not unnaturally, ascribed the selection of
Johnson rather to the Doctor's political prejudices than
to his litemry merits : for a wretched scribbler named
Shebbeare, who had nothing in common with Johnson
except violent Jacobitism, and who had stood in the
pillory for a libel on the Revolution, was honoured
with a mark of royal approbation, similar to that
which was bestowed on the author of the English
Dictionary, and of the Vanity of Human Wishes. It



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 41

WBs remarked that Adam, a Scotchman, was the court
architect, and that Ramsay, a Scotchman, was the
court painter, and was preferred to Reynolds. Mallet,
a Scotchman, of no high literary fame, and of infa-
mous character, partook largely of the liberality of
the government. John Home, a Scotchman, was re-
warded for the tragedy of Douglas, both with a pen-
sion and with a sinecure place. But, when the author
of the Bard, and of the Elegy in a Country Church-
yard, ventured to ask for a Professorship, the emol-
uments of which he much needed, and for the duties
of which he was, in many respects, better qualified than
any man living, he was refused ; and the post was be-
stowed on the pedagogue under whose care the fevour-
ite's son-in-law. Sir James Lowther, had made such
signal proficiency in the graces and in the humane vir-
tues.

Thus, the first lord of the treasury was detested by
many as a Tory, by many as a favourite, and by many
as a Scot. All the hatred which flowed from these
various sources soon mingled, and was directed in one
torrent of obloquy against the treaty of peace. The
Duke of Bedford, who had negotiated that treaty, was
hooted through the streets. Bute was attacked in his
chair, and was with difficulty rescued by a troop of the
guards. He could hardly walk the streets in safety
without disguising himself. A gentleman who died
not many years ago used to say that he once recognised



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 43 of 84)