Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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the favourite Earl in the piazza of Covent Garden,
muffled in a large coat, and with a hat and wig drawn
down over his brows. His lordship's established type
with the mob was a jack boot, a wretched pun on his
Christian name and title. A jack boot, generally ac-
companied by a petticoat, was sometimes fastened on a



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42 THE EARI. OF CHATHAM.

gallows, and sometimes committed to the flames. Libels
on the court, exceeding in audacity and rancour any
that had been published for many years, now appeared
daily, both in prose and verse. Wilkes, with lively
insolence, compared the mother of George the Thii'd
to the mother of Edward the Third, and the Scotch
minister to the gentle Mortimer. Churchill, with all
the energy of hatred, deplored the fate of his country,
invaded by a new race of savages, more cruel and
ravenous than the Picts or the Danes, the poor, proud
children of Leprosy and Hunger. It is a slight cir-
cumstance, but deserves to be recorded, that in this
year pamphleteers first ventured to print at length tlie
names of the great men whom they lampooned. George
the Second had always been the K ^. His minis-
ters had been Sir R W , Mr. P , and the

Duke of N . But the libellers of George the

Third, of the Princess Mother, and of Lord Bute did
not give quarter to a single vowel.

It was supposed that Lord Temple secretly en-
couraged the most scurrilous assailants of the govern-
ment. In truth, tht»se who knew his habits tracked
him as men track a mole. It was his nature to grub
underground. Whenever a heap of dirt was flung up
it might well be suspected that he was at work in some
foul crooked labyrinth below. Pitt turned away from
the filthy work of opposition, with the same scorn with
which he had turned away from the filthy work of
government. He had the magnanimity to proclaim
every where the disgust which he felt at the insults of-
fered by his own adherents to the Scottisli nation, and
missed no opportunity of extolling the courage and
fidelity which the Highland regiments had displayed
through the whole war. But, though he disdained to



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 43

use any but lawfiil and honourable weapons, it wac
well known that his fair blows were likely to be far
inoi-e formidable than the privy thrusts of his brother-
in-law's stiletto.

Bute's heart began to fail him. The Houses were
about to meet. The treaty would instantly be the sub-
ject of discussion. It was probable that Pitt, the great
Whig connection, and the multitude, would all be on
the same side. The &vourite had professed to hold in
abhorrence those means by which preceding ministers
had kept the House of Commons in good humour.
He now began to think that he had been too scrupu-
lous. His Utopian visions were at an end. It was
necessary, not only to bribe, but to bribe more shame-
lessly and flagitiously than his predecessors, in order to
make up for lost time. A majority must be secured,
no matter by what means. Could Grenville do this ?
Would he do it ? His firmness and ability had not yet
been tried in any perilous crisis. He had been gener-
ally regarded as a humble follower of his brother Tem-
ple, and of his brother-in-law Pitt, and was supposed,
though with little reason, to be still favourably inclined
towards them. Other aid must be called in. And
where was other aid to be found?

There was one man, whose sharp and manly logic
had often in debate been found a match for the lofty
and impassioned rhetoric of Pitt, whose talents for
jobbing were not inferior to his talents for debate,
whose dauntless spirit shrank from no difficulty or
danger, and who was as little troubled with scruples as
with fears. Henry Fox, or nobody, could weather the
storm which was about to burst. Yet was he a person
to whom the court, even in that extremity, was unwill-
ing to have recourse. He had abvays been regarded



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44 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

as a Whig of the Whigs- He had been the friend
and disciple of Walpole. He had long been connected
by close ties with William Duke of Cumberland. By
the Tories he was more hated than any man living.
So strong was their aversion to him that when, in the
^Inte reign, he had attempted to form a party against
I he Duke of Newcastle, they had thrown all their
weight into Newcastle's scale. By the Scots, Fox was
abhorred as the confidential friend of the conqueror of
Culloden. He was, on personal grounds, most ob-
noxious to the Princess Mother. For he had, imme-
diately afler her husband's death, advised the late King
to take the education of her son, the heir apparent, oi-
tirely out of her hands. He had recently given, if pos-
sible, still deeper offence; for he had indulged, not
without some ground, the ambitious hope that his beau-
tiful sister-in-law, the Lady Sarah Lennox, might be
queen of England. It had been observed that the
King at one time rode every morning by the grounds
of Holland House, and that, on such occasions. Lady
Sarah, dressed like a shepherdess at a masquerade, was
making hay close to the road, which was then separated
by no wall from the lawn. On account of the part
which Fox had taken in this singular love affair, he was
the only member of the Privy Council who was not
summoned to the meeting at which his Majesty an-
nounced his intended marriage with the Princess of
Mecklenburg. Of all the statesmen of the age, there-
fore, it seemed that Fox was the last with whom Bute
the Tory, the Scot, the favourite of the Princess
Mother, could, under any circumstances, act. Yet to
Fox Bute was now compelled to apply.

Fox had many noble and amiable qualities, which in
private life shone forth in full lustre, and made him



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 45

dear to his children, to his dependents, and to his
friends ; but as a public man he had no title to esteem.
In him the vices which were common to the whole
school of Walpole appeared, not perhaps in their
worst, but certainly in their most prominent form ; for
his parliamentary and official talents made all his faults
conspicuous. His courage, his vehement tempei', hi;
contempt for appearances, led him to display much that
others, quite as unscrupulous as himself, covered with
a decent veil. He was the most unpopular of the
statesmen of his time, not because he sinned more than
many of them, but because he canted less.

He felt his impopularity ; but he felt it after the
fashion of strong minds. He became, not cautious,
but reckless, and faced the rage of the whole nation
with a scowl of inflexible defiance. He was born with
a sweet and generous temper ; but he had been goaded
and baited into a savageness which was not natural to
him, and which amazed and shocked those who knew
him best. Such was the man to whom Bute, in ex-
treme need, applied for succour.

That succour Fox was not unwilling to afford.
Though by no means of an envious temper, he had
undoubtedly contemplated the success and pojjularity
of Pitt with bitter mortification. He thought himself
Pitt's match as a debater, and Pitt's superior as a man
of business. They had long been regarded as well-
paired rivals. They had started fair in the career of
ambition. They had long ran side by side. At length
Fox had taken the lead, and Pitt had fallen behind.
Then had come a sudden turn of fortune, like that in
Virgil's foot-race. Fox had stiunbled in the miix?, and
had not only been defeated, but befouled. Pitt had
reached tlie goal, and received the pri/iC. The emolu'



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46 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

ments of the Pay Office might induce the defeated
statesman to submit in silence to the ascendency of his
competitor, but could not satisfy a mind conscious of
gieat powers, and sore &x>m great vexations. A s soon,
therefore, as a party arose adverse to the war and to
the supremacy of the great war minister, the hopes of
Fox began to revive. His feuds with the Princess
Mother, with the Scots, with the Tories, he was ready
to forget, if, by the help of his old enemies, he could
now regain the importance which he had lost, and con-
front Pitt on equal terms.

The alliance was, therefore, soon concluded. Fox
was assured that, if he would pilot the government
out of its embarrassing situation, he should be re-
warded with a peerage, of which he had long been
desirous. He undertook on his side to obtain, by
fair or foul means, a vote in favour of the peace. In
consequence of this arrangement he became leader of
the House of Commons; and Grenville, stifling his
vexation as well as he could, sullenly acquiesced in the
change.

Fox had expected that his influence would secure
to the court the cordial support of some eminent
Whigs who were his personal friends, particularly of
the Duke of Cumberland and of the Duke of Devon-
shire. He was disappointed, and soon found tliat, in
addition to all his other difficulties, he must reckon on
the opposition of the ablest prince of the blood, and
of the great house of Cavendish.

But he had pledged himself to win the battle ; and
he was not a man to go back. It was no time for
squeamishness. Bute was made to comprehend that
the ministry could be saved only by practising the
tactics of Walpole to an extent at which Walpole



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 47

himself would have stared. The Pay Office was
turned into a mart for votes. Hmidreds of mem-
bers were closeted there with Fox, and, as there is too
much reascm to believe, departed carrying with them
the wages of infamy. It was affirmed by persons
who had the best opportunities of obtaining informa-
tion, that twenty-five thousand pounds were thus paid
away in a single morning. The lowest bribe given,
it was said, was a bank-note for two hundred pounds.

Intimidation was joined with corruption. All ranks,
iirom the highest to the lowest, were to be taught that
the King would be obeyed. The Lords Lieutenants
of several counties were dismissed. The Duke of
Devonshire was especially singled out as the victim
by whose fate the magnates of England were to take
Avaming. His wealth, rank, and influence, his stain-
less private character, and the constant attachment
of his &mily to the House of Hanover did not secure
him from gross personal indignity. It was known that
he disapproved of the course which tlie government
had taken ; and it was accordingly determined to
humble tlie Prince of the Whigs, as he had been
nicknamed by the Princess Mother. He went to
the palace to pay his duty. " Tell him," said the
King to a page, " that I will not see him." The
page hesitated. ^^ Go to him," said the King, ^^ and
tell him those very words." The message was deliv-
ered. The Duke tore off his gold key, and went away
boiling with anger. His relations who were in office
instantly resigned. A few days later, the King called
for the list of Privy Councillors, and with his own
nand struck out the Duke's name.

In this step there was at least courage, though little
wisdom or good nature. But, as nothing was too high



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48 THE E.VRL OF CHATHAM.

for thu revenge of the court, so also was nothing too
low. A persecution, such as had never been known
before, and has never been known since, raged in
every public department. Great numbers of humble
and laborious clerks were deprived of their bread,
not because they had neglected their duties, not be-
cause they had taken an active part against the minis-
try, but merely because they had owed their situations
to the recommendation of some nobleman or gentle-
man who was against the peace. The proscription
extended to tidewaiters, to gangers, to doorkeepers.
One poor man to whom a pension had been given
for his gallantry in a fight with smugglers, was de-
prived of it because he liad been befriended by the
Duke of Grafton. An aged widow, who, on account of
her husband's services in the navy, had, many years
before, been made housekeeper to a public office, was
dismissed from her situation, because it was imagined
that she was distantly connected by marriage with the
Cavendish family. The public clamour, as may well
be supposed, grew daily louder and louder. But the
louder it grew, the more resolutely did Fox go on with
the work which he had begun. His old friends could
not conceive what had possessed him. " I could for-
give," said the Duke of Cumberland, " Fox's political
vagaries ; but I am quite confounded by his inhuman-
ity. Surely he used to be the best-natured of men."

At last Fox went so far as to take a legal opinion
on the question, whether the patents granted by George
the Second wera binding on George the Third. It is
said, that, if his coUeaguas had not flinched, he would
at once have turned out the Tellers of the Exchequer
and Justices in Eyre.

Mc'ainvhil? the Parliament met. The ministers,



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THE EARL OF- CHATHAM. 49

more hated by the people than ever, were secure of a
majority, and they had also reason to hope that they
would have the advantage in the debates as well as
in the divisions ; for Pitt was confined to his chamber
by a severe attack of gout. His friends moved to defer
the consideration of the treaty till he should be abl^
to attend: but the motion was rejected. The great
day arrived. The discussion had lasted some time,
when a loud huzza was heard in Palace Yard. The
noise came nearer and nearer, up the stairs, through
the lobby. The door opened, and from the midst
of a shouting multitude came forth Pitt, borne
in the arms of his attendants. His face was thin
and ghastly, his limbs swathed in flannel, liis crutch
in his hand. The bearers set him down within the
bar. His friends instantly surrounded him, and with
their help he crawled to his seat near the table.
In this condition he spoke three hours and a half
against the peace. During that time he was repeat-
edly forced to sit down and to use cordials. It may
well be supposed that his voice was faint, that his
action was languid, and that his speech, though oc-
casionally brilliant and impressive, was feeble- when
compared with his best oratorical performances. But
those who remembered what he had done, and who
saw^ what he suffered, listened to him with emotions
stronger than any that mere eloquence can produce.
He was unable to stay for the division, and was carried
away from the House amidst shouts as loud as those
which had announced his arrival.

A large majority approved the peace. The exulta-
tion of the court was boundless. " Now," exclainiefl
the Princess Mother, " my son is really King." The
young sovereign spoke rf himself as freed from the



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60 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

bondage in which his grand&ther had been held.
On one point, it was announced, his mind was nn-
alterablj made up. Under no circumstances what-
ever should those Whig grandees, who had enslaved
his predecessors and endeavoured to enslave himself
be restored to power.

This vaunting was premature. The real strength
of the ikvourite was by no means proportioned to the
number of votes which he had, on one particular cU-
vision, been able to command. He was soon again in
difficulties. The most important part of his budget
was a tax on cider. This measure was opposed, not
only by those who were generally hostile to his ad-
ministration, but also by many of liis supporters.
The name of excise had always been hateftil to the
Tories. One of the chief crimes of Walpole in their
eyes, had been his partiality for this mode of raising
money.' The Tory Johnson had in his Dictionary
given so scurrilous a definition of the word Excise,
that the Commissioners of Excise had seriously thought
of prosecuting him. The countie$ which the new
impost particularly affected had always been Tory
counties. It was the boast of John Philips, the poet
of the English vintage, that the Cider-land had ever
been faithftil to the throne, and that all the pnining-
hooks of her thousand orchards had been beaten into
swords for the service of the ill fated Stuarts. The
effect of Bute's fiscal scheme was to produce an union
between the gentry and yeomanry of the Cider-land
and the Whigs of the capital. Herefordshire and
Worcestershire were in a flame. The city of London,
though not so directly interested, was, if possible, still
moi*e excited. The debates on this question irrepara-
bly damaged the government. Daslvwood's financial



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 61

Statement had been confiised and absurd beyond belief,
and had been received by the House with roars of
laughter. He had sense enough to be conscious of his
unfitness for the high situation which he held, and
exclaimed in a comical fit of despair, "What shall
I rlo ? The boys will point at me in the street, and
cry, ' There goes the worst Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer that ever was.' " George Grenville came
to the rescue, and spoke strongly on his favourite
theme, the profusion with which the late war had
been carried on. That profusion, he said, had made
taxes necessary. He called on the gentlemen opposite
to him to say where they would have a tax laid, and
dwelt on this topic with his usual prolixity. " Let
them tell me where," he repeated in a monotonous
and somewhat fretful tone. " I say, sir, let them tell
me where. I repeat it, sir; I am entitled to say to
them. Tell me where." Unluckily for him, Pitt had
come down to the House that night, and had been
bitterly provoked by the reflections thrown on the
war. He revenged himself by murmuring, in a whine
resembling Grenville's, a line of a well known song,
" Gentle Shepherd, tell me where." " If," cried Gren-
ville, " gentlemen are to be treated in this way "

Pitt, as was his fashion, when he meant to mark ex-
treme contempt, rose deliberately, made his bow, and
walked out of the House, leaving his brotlier-in-law
in convulsions of rage, and every body else in conviJ-
gions of laughter. It was long before Grenville lost
I he nickname of the Gentle Shepherd.

But the ministry had vexations still more serious to
endure. The hatred which the Tories and Scots bore
to Fox was implacable. In a moment of extreme peril,
they had consented to put themselves under his guid-



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52 THE EAKL OF CHATHAM.

ance. Bat the aversion with which they regarded him
broke forth as soon as the crisis seemed to be ov«r.
Some of them attacked him about the accounts of the
Pay Office. Some of them rudely interrupted him
when speaking, by laughter and ironical cheers. He
was naturally desirous to escape firom so disagreeable a
situation, and demanded the peerage which had been
pi*omised as the reward of his services.

It was clear that there must be some change in the
composition of the ministry. But scarcely any, even
of those who, from their situation, might be supposed
to be in all the secrets of the government, anticipated
what really took place. To the amazement of the
Parliament and the nation, it was suddenly announced
that Bute had resigned.

Twenty different explanations of this strange step
were suggested. Some attributed it to profound de-
sign, and some to sudden panic. Some said that the
lampoons of the opposition had driven the Earl from
the field ; some that he had taken office only in order
to bring the war to a close, and had always meant to
retire when that object had been accomplished. He
pubUcly assigned ill health as his reason for quitting
business, and privately complained that he was not
cordially seconded by his colleagues, and that Lord
Mansfield, in particular, whom he had himself brought
into the cabinet, gave him no support in the House of
Peers. Mansfield was, indeed, fiir too sagacious not
to perceive that Bute's situation was one of great peril,
and far too timorous to thrust himself into peril for the
sake of another. The probability, however, is that
Bute's conduct on this occasion, like the conduct of
most men on most occasions, was determined by mixed
motives. We suspect that he was sick of office ; for



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 53

this is a feeling much more common among ministers
dian persons who see public life from a distance are
disposed to believe ; and nothing could be more natu-
ral than that this feeling should take possession of the
mind of Bute. In general, a statesman climbs by slow
degrees. Many laborious years elapse before he reaches
the topmost pinnacle of preferment. In the earlier
part of his career, therefore, he is constantly lured on
by seeing something above him. During his ascent
he gradually beoMnes inured to the annoyances which
belong to a life of ambaticm. By the time that he has
attained the highest point, he has become patient of
labour and callous to abuse. He is kept constant to
his vocation, in spite of all its discomforts, at first by
hope, and at last by habit. It was not so with Bute.
His whole public life lasted little more than two years.
On the day on which he became a politician he be-
came a cabinet minister. In a few months he was,
both in name and in show, chief of the administration.
Ghreater than he had been he could not be. If what
be already possessed was vanity and vexation of spirit,
no delusion remained to entice him onward. He had
been cloyed with the pleasures of ambition before he
had been seasoned to its pains. His habits had not
been such as were likely to fortify his mind against
obloquy and public hatred. He had reached his forty-
eighth year in dignified ease, without knowing, by
|)ersonal experience, what it was to be ridiculed and
slandered. All at once, without any previous initia-
tion, he had found himself exposed to such a storm of
invective and satire as had never burst on the head of
any statesman. The emoluments of office were now
nothing to him ; for he had just succeeded to a princely
property by the death of his fatheiwn-law. All the



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54 THE EARL OF CHATHAM.

honours which could be bestowed on him he liad
already secured. He had obtained the Garter for
himself, sCnd a British peerage for his son. He seems
also to have imagined that by quitting the treasury
he should escape from danger and abuse without really
resigning power, and should still be able to exercise in
private supreme influence over the royal mind.

Whatever may have been his motives, he retired.
Fox at the same time took refiige in the House of
Lords ; and George Grenville became First Lord of
the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

We believe that those who made this arrangement
fully intended that Grenville should be a mere puppet
in the hands of Bute ; for Grenville was as yet very
imperfectly known even to those who had observed him
long. He passed for a mere official drudge ; and be
had all the industry, the minute accuracy, the formality,
the tediousness, which belong to the character. But
he had other qualities which had not yet shown them-
selves, devouring ambition, dauntless courage, selfcon-
fidence amounting to presumption, and a temper which
could not endure opposition. He was not disposed to
be any body's tool ; and he had no attachment, polit-
ical or personal, to Bute. The two men had, indeed,
nothing in common, except a strong propensity towards
harsh and unpopular courses. Their principles were
fundamentally different. Bute was a Tory. Grenville
would have been very angry with any person who
should have denied his claim to be a Whig. He was
more prone to tyrannical measures than Bute ; but
he loved tyranny only when disguised under the forma
of constitutional liberty. He mixed up, after a fash-
ion then ifot very unusual, the theories of the repub-
licans of the seventeenth century with the technical



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THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 55

maxims of English law, and thus succeeded in com-
bining anarchical speculation with arbitrary practice.
The voice of the people was the voice of God ; but
the only legitimate organ througli which the voice of
the people could be uttered was the Parliament All
power was from the people ; but to the Parliament the
whole power of the people had been delegated. No
Oxonian divine had ever, even in the years which im«
mediately followed the Restoration, demanded for tlte
King so abject, so unreasoning a homage, as Grenville.
on what he considered as the purest Whig principles,
demanded for the Parliament. As he wished to see
the Pariiament despotic over the nation, so he wished
to see it also despotic over the court. In his view the
prime minister, possessed of the confidence of the House



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 44 of 84)