The Political History of England - Vol. X.
by William Hunt
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It must not be supposed that Pitt had information as to the relations between France and Spain which he did not lay before his colleagues; indeed it is fairly certain that this was not the case. They knew that a treaty was made, and that Spain had entered into it with hostile intentions. Pitt, with the insight of a statesman, was sure that war with Spain was certain, and desired to strike before she was ready. His colleagues, anxious for peace and fretting under his predominance, allowed themselves to be blinded by their hopes. They believed that France might yet shake off her engagement to Spain, and be willing to make peace on terms to which Great Britain could agree; and they determined in any case to put off a declaration of war against Spain as long as possible. Pitt resigned the seals on the 5th. So ended the ministry of that great man who alone, at a critical time, had justly rated the strength and spirit of England, and had dared to rely upon them, who had taught his fellow-countrymen how great things they might do, had sent them forth, confident in that knowledge, to victory after victory, and had laid broad and deep the foundations of Britain's colonial empire.

The king's petulant wish was fulfilled, but though he and Bute approved of the decision of the council, Bute thought that Pitt's resignation was "not favourable in the present minute to the king's affairs". He would have been well pleased if George could have found in Pitt a minister subservient to his royal will; he could not endure that he should give strength to a whig cabinet. Pitt took a line which the king disliked, yet Bute knew that he could ill be spared so long as the war lasted, and was annoyed that his intrigues against him had been successful at an inopportune time. The leaders of the whig oligarchy, and specially Newcastle, Devonshire, and Bedford, sometimes inspired by Bute, and sometimes urging him on, had succeeded in driving Pitt out of office. What was to be their reward? They were to fall back into disunion, and were consequently to find themselves unable to resist the growth of the royal power. As for Pitt himself, his resignation dissolved the unnatural alliance between him and them. His position was tolerable only so long as he was their master, for in feeling he was not one of them. As heartily as George himself he hated government by connexion, and like him desired to break up all parties. He despised the corrupt practices by which the whigs strengthened themselves, and he had a deep reverence for the crown. Yet his aims were totally different from those of the king. He would have broken party ties in order to form a strong administration; he would have destroyed corruption and looked to the king and nation for the support of government, and relying on their support would have crushed the enemies of England. George, on the other hand, wanted ministers who would carry out his will; he was led to imitate and, indeed, to surpass the whigs in corrupt practices; he desired that England should be at peace, and should take no part in continental politics. Pitt at last stood alone and unconnected. Which would gain his support, the king or the whigs? The question runs through the history of the party politics of England during the next eight years.

When Pitt went to the king to give up the seals of his office, George spoke graciously to him. Always intoxicated by a peep into the royal closet, Pitt burst into tears and replied in words of absurd self-abasement. The tidings of his resignation were received with general indignation. For a moment his popularity was overclouded. He accepted a pension of L3,000 a year for three lives, and the dignity of Baroness of Chatham for his wife. With mean and studied[52] adroitness it was contrived that the Gazette announcing his resignation should publish with it a notification of these grants, and a letter from Stanley again holding out hope of a peace with France. For the grants it is, as Burke wrote, "a shame that any defence should be necessary".[53] Pitt addressed a dignified letter to alderman Beckford, his chief follower in the city, on the cause of his resignation and the "unsolicited" marks of royal favour which he had received. His popularity rose as high as ever. The city was specially strong for him, for its merchants and traders owed him a deep debt of gratitude. At the lord mayor's feast on November 9, which was attended by the king, he had the bad taste to draw off the cheers in the street to himself; he was loudly applauded, and the king coldly received. Bute's coach was escorted by hired bruisers; it was attacked amid cries of "Damn all Scotch rogues!" "No Bute!" "No Newcastle salmon!" and Bute was rescued from the mob by constables. In parliament Pitt adopted a noble line; he justified his own conduct without blaming his late colleagues, disregarded attacks upon himself, and urged the ministers to act firmly, and the house to give them its united support.


He was succeeded as secretary of state by Lord Egremont, a man of small ability; the leadership of the commons was committed to Grenville, and Bedford took Temple's place as privy seal. Events soon vindicated the wisdom of Pitt's demand for instant war with Spain. Bristol in vain demanded satisfactory assurances from that court. At first Wall's answers were conciliatory, but naval preparations still went on. By November 2 all the treasure-ships had arrived safely. Their arrival caused a marked change in Wall's tone; he no longer disguised the hostile feeling of his court. At Christmas the Family Compact was published. It was of the same character as the compacts of 1733 and 1743, and arranged a strict alliance between the sovereigns of the house of Bourbon. It was formed between the Kings of France and Spain, the King of Spain also engaging for the King of the Two Sicilies, and it guaranteed the dominions of the three kings and of the Duke of Parma. Each sovereign was to send specified assistance to any of the others who might require it, but wars undertaken by France in consequence of engagements to German or northern states were not to be cases in which Spain should be bound to send help, "unless some maritime power should take part in them". These words pointed directly to Great Britain. On January 2, 1762, war was declared against Spain. France and Spain forced our ally, the King of Portugal, to declare war, and in the spring Spain invaded his kingdom.

This new war afforded Bedford an opportunity for moving in parliament for the recall of the British troops from Germany. Bute, though equally desirous for their recall, opposed the motion as inopportune; circumstances, he said, had arisen which promised to enable us to lessen expenses and reduce the war. The motion was lost. The declaration of disagreement between two cabinet ministers on so serious a question illustrates the difference between the cabinet system of the time and that of to-day. The circumstances to which Bute referred were the death of Frederick's enemy, Elizabeth of Russia, on January 5, and the accession of Peter III., who was his ardent admirer. Peter restored East Prussia to Frederick, ordered Tchernitchev and his 20,000 men to withdraw from Glatz, and entered into negotiations for an alliance with Prussia, which was concluded later. Frederick's position was totally changed. Bute hoped that he would use this change of fortune to make peace; it naturally caused him to be more eager to prosecute the war for Silesia. When he applied for the renewal of the English subsidy of L670,000, Bute informed him that it would only be granted on condition that he gave assurances that he was ready to make peace. This Frederick would not do. Other difficulties arose between the two courts. Bute complained that Frederick was secretly negotiating with Russia for a separate treaty which would hinder a general peace, and thwart our policy in the north by encouraging Russia to enforce the surrender of Schleswig. Frederick also had his complaints. Early in the year Bute made certain efforts for a general peace, and Frederick asserted that Bute had suggested that Russia should force him to surrender Silesia to Austria. Bute was deceived as regards the tsar's intentions, and his words were spoken in the interest of Prussia. Nevertheless, Frederick would not be pacified, and he further accused Bute of trying to dissuade Peter from making an alliance with him. This charge was flatly denied by Bute. It rests solely on the assertion of Prince Galitzin, the Russian ambassador in London, and there is no reason for doubting Bute's word.[54] As Frederick refused to give any pledge as to the terms on which he would make peace, the British government refused the subsidy.

Pitt having been driven from office, the king and Bute turned upon Newcastle. Bute and Grenville treated him with discourtesy; he found himself deprived of the power of dispensing patronage; the king did not even consult him as to the new peerages granted in the spring. As an old whig he set a high value on the continental connexion formed by the alliance with Frederick, and cared more for the war in Europe than for naval expeditions. He was deeply annoyed by the desire of Bute, Grenville, and Bedford to withdraw our troops from Germany and by the refusal of the subsidy. He would not, he declared, "be Grenville's tool and load the nation with four or five millions to carry on a ridiculous, destructive maritime war".[55] Nevertheless he clung to office. Devonshire and Hardwicke agreed with him, and attached themselves to a section of the whigs who acknowledged the Duke of Cumberland as their head. Newcastle proposed that a vote of L2,000,000 should be asked for, L1,000,000 as usual for the German war and L1,000,000 for the war in Portugal. Bute and Grenville maintained that only L1,000,000 was wanted. That, he said, implied the abandonment of the German war. The question was decided against him in a cabinet meeting on May 4. Bitterly as he felt this defeat on a matter concerning his own office, the treasury, he would not do more than threaten to resign, and found an excuse for retaining office for the present. George and Bute were determined that he should go; George was ungracious, Bute uncivil. His friends urged him to resign. At last he brought himself to the point and resigned on the 25th.[56]


On his resignation the king spoke kindly to the old man, as indeed he well might, for the duke had spent a long life and a vast fortune in the service of his house; he had, it is said, reduced his income from L25,000 to L6,000 a year in securing support for government by means which, whatever we may esteem them now, were then considered becoming to a man of his wealth and station. George pressed him to accept a pension. He refused, declaring that the gracious sense which the king expressed of the sacrifices he had made for his royal house was all the recompense he desired.[57] If Pitt's acceptance of rewards needs no defence, Newcastle's refusal of them demands admiration. Bute succeeded him as first lord of the treasury. Several other changes were made in the administration. George Grenville became secretary of state in Bute's place, and Sir Francis Dashwood chancellor of the exchequer in succession to Barrington, who took Grenville's office as treasurer of the navy. Dashwood was utterly ignorant of the rudiments of finance, and was scandalously immoral; his house, Medmenham abbey, was the meeting-place of the Hell-fire club, of which he was the founder, and he took a foremost part in the childish mummery, the debauchery, and blasphemy of the "Franciscans," as his companions called themselves. Lord Halifax, a man of popular manners, loose morals, and small ability, succeeded Anson at the admiralty; Henley remained lord chancellor, Bedford privy seal, and Fox paymaster. Devonshire had ceased to attend meetings of the cabinet but was still lord chamberlain. The king and Bute had won a signal success; the whig administration was broken up and Bute was virtually master of the government.

The Russian alliance more than made up to Frederick for the loss of the English subsidy; Tchernitchev and his army were at his disposal. Suddenly his hopes were clouded over. On July 10 Peter was deposed and soon afterwards was murdered. He was succeeded by his wife Catherine, who did not share his admiration for the Prussian king. Frederick was facing the Austrians in Silesia when orders came to Tchernitchev to lead his army home. Tchernitchev delayed his departure, remaining merely as an onlooker, to give the Prussians the support of his presence. On the 21st Frederick won the decisive battle of Burkersdorf, and a few weeks later was master of Silesia. In western Germany, where the war more immediately concerned England, Prince Ferdinand showed consummate skill in forcing the French to act on the defensive. On June 24 the allies defeated them at Wilhelmsthal. The victory was decided by Granby, who, after a fierce engagement, destroyed the pick of the French army under Stainville. A series of successes followed; Gottingen was evacuated, the larger part of Hesse reconquered, and Cassel and some other places which remained to the French were blockaded. The French army of reserve under Conde marched from the Lower Rhine to help Soubise; a junction was effected to the north of Frankfort, and the French attempted to open up communications with Cassel. After much manoeuvring about the Lahn, no way seemed possible for them save by crossing the Ohm. The passage at Bruckenmuhle, near Amoneburg, was held by the allies. The French attacked on September 21. During the last four hours of the conflict, which lasted the whole day, the defence was taken up by Granby, and was maintained with splendid determination until at last the French retired. Cassel surrendered on November 1, and the war ended.


Success attended the arms of Great Britain in other quarters. Pitt's spirit still animated her efforts. How far the government adopted his plans and arrangements cannot, perhaps, be decided with certainty. He had large ideas, which probably included not merely the conquest of Martinique and Havana, but also an attack on Louisiana. The enemies of the government attributed to him the victories which followed his resignation.[58] The ministers naturally claimed the credit of them and certainly made arrangements for them,[59] probably following lines already marked out by Pitt. Rodney, who was in command on the Leeward islands station, acting in co-operation with General Monckton, reduced Martinique in February. The fall of that island, the seat of the government of France in the West Indies, the centre of her privateering expeditions, and her chief mart in those parts, was followed by the surrender of Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent, and England became mistress of all the Windward islands. Against these losses France could set only a momentary possession of St. John's, Newfoundland, which was speedily retaken. Spain had to pay heavily for her rashness in espousing the French cause. Her troops, indeed, entered Portugal, overran Traz-os-Montes, and threatened Oporto, while south of the Douro they advanced as far as Almeida and took it. But the aspect of affairs changed when 8,000 British soldiers landed at Lisbon and the Count of Lippe-Buckeburg took the command. He was ably seconded by General Burgoyne, and the Spaniards were forced to retreat within their own frontier.

So far as England was concerned the war in Portugal was a small matter. It was through her power on the sea that she was able to reap a rich harvest from her war with Spain. In March a fleet under Pocock, carrying 10,000 men under the command of the Earl of Albemarle, sailed for Havana. Off Cape St. Nicholas, Pocock was joined by a reinforcement sent by Rodney. There was no time to lose, for the hurricane season was near; and he therefore took his ships through the shoals of the Bahama channel instead of to the south of Cuba, and brought them out safely on June 5, a notable piece of seamanship, for the channel was little known. The troops laid siege to Fort Moro, which commanded Havana. The Spaniards made a vigorous defence, and the British suffered terribly from disease; at one time 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 seamen were incapacitated by sickness. Much-needed reinforcements arrived from New York, and, on July 30, the fort was taken by storm after a siege of forty-five days. The town capitulated on August 12. The reduction of the island deprived Spain of a rich colony, an important centre of trade, and, more, of a port which commanded the route of her treasure-ships from the Gulf of Mexico. An immense booty was secured, L3,000,000 in money besides merchandise.

About the same time England dealt Spain a heavy blow on the other side of the world. An expedition under General Draper sailed from Madras in a fleet commanded by Admiral Cornish, and on September 25 landed at Manila. The Spaniards, though unprepared, refused to surrender, and the place was taken by storm. Large government stores were seized by the victors, but the British commanders allowed the inhabitants to ransom their property for 4,000,000 dollars. Half this sum was paid in bills on the Spanish treasury which were rejected at Madrid, and the money was never paid. With Manila the whole of the Philippines passed to Great Britain. Though a privateering expedition undertaken with the Portuguese against Buenos Ayres was beaten off with heavy loss, Spain was unable to defend the sources of her wealth against the British navy. In May the capture of the Hermione, from Lima, brought over L500,000 to the captains and crews of the frigate and sloop engaged in the business. A glorious procession passed through London, carrying the treasure to the Tower, on August 12, when people were rejoicing at an event scarcely to be remembered with equal satisfaction, the birth of the future king, George IV. Two of the ships belonging to the Manila expedition also made a prize of an Acapulco ship with a cargo worth 3,000,000 dollars.

During the summer Bute treated with France through the Count de Viri. Bedford urged concessions upon him, and his fear lest the negotiations should be broken off made him willing to agree to Choiseul's demands. He would, indeed, have yielded more than he did, if Grenville had not checked him in the cabinet. In September Bedford was sent to Paris to settle the preliminaries. Peace was by no means desired by the English people; they were proud of their victories and were disgusted that Bute should have the management of affairs. Bedford was hooted in the streets of London as he set out for Paris. Both Bute and his enemies prepared for a struggle. Bute, as usual, employed the press to fight for him, and engaged the services of a number of pamphleteers and newspaper-writers. His character as a patron of men of letters rests chiefly on the money which he spent in this way, though it must be set to his credit that he procured a pension for Samuel Johnson without stipulating for any return. Among his hired scribes was Smollett, who edited a paper for him called The Briton. The other side, too, was active. In obedience to Frederick's instructions the Prussian ambassadors took part in exciting popular discontent with the government; and were justly reproved by Grenville for their preposterous conduct. Bute was vigorously assailed in print. The publication of The Briton called forth the ironically named North Briton, of which the first number appeared in June. It was brought out by John Wilkes, member for Aylesbury, a clever and dissipated man of fashion, with literary tastes, great courage, an excellent wit, too often employed in obscenity, and a remarkably ugly face. He was incorrupt and his political professions were probably sincere. Behind him stood Temple, ever ready to instigate others to stab the objects of his hate. The court party was strengthened by grants of peerages, preferments, and other good things, and "the king's friends," as they began to call themselves, became a recognised body. Yet Bute feared that parliament would be hostile, and made overtures to Newcastle and Hardwicke, hoping to secure the duke's influence; but they would not be cajoled.


A majority for the peace had to be insured before the preliminaries came before parliament. Grenville was dissatisfied with some of the articles, and would in any case have been too scrupulous for the work which had to be done. Bute was driven to apply to Henry Fox, whom both the king and he cordially disliked. Fox, who had previously sold his support to Bute at the price of a peerage for his wife, was offered Grenville's place as secretary of state and a peerage for himself, if he would take the management of the commons. "We must," George said, "call in bad men to govern bad men." Fox at once broke with the whigs and accepted the leadership, but he refused the seals, for he preferred to continue in the more lucrative office of paymaster of the forces, which he had used during the last six years as a means of amassing a great fortune. As paymaster he had large sums of public money in his hands to meet calls at fixed periods. Holders of the office were wont to employ such sums for their own benefit. Pitt would not do so, and left the office a poor man. Fox had no such scruples. During the war the government often obtained ready money by issuing bills at 20 per cent discount. Fox bought these bills with the public money which lay in his hands. He also used the public money in operating in government stock and gained immense profits from the fluctuations of the funds, for as a minister he of course knew more about the chances of peace than the public.[60] Grenville was forced to resign the leadership to him, and the office of secretary to Halifax, and take the admiralty in exchange. Fox set about the business of securing a majority in the commons by bribing members. In one day L25,000 was paid out of the treasury, and it is said even so small a sum as L200 was not refused.

Encouraged by Fox's success, George gave the whigs a lesson on the fruits of opposition. The king, so the court party said, would be king; the prerogative was to shine out. Devonshire, the "prince of the whigs," was forced to resign the chamberlain's staff; the king treated him uncivilly and with his own hand struck his name from the list of privy councillors. The whigs were enraged at this high-handed proceeding. The Marquis of Rockingham resigned the bed-chamber, and George received his resignation with indifference. Worse was yet to come. Overtures were made to Pitt by the whigs who gathered round Cumberland, but he would not connect himself with them. They had defeated his policy, and though he desired Bute's removal, he would not help to turn him out in order to put Newcastle back in power.


The preliminaries of peace were signed on November 3, and laid before parliament on the 29th. France agreed to restore Minorca and to evacuate the territories of Hanover, Hesse, Brunswick, and Prussia. Both parties were to withdraw their troops from Germany. Dunkirk was to be dismantled. France resigned Canada, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton, together with some territory hitherto claimed as part of Louisiana. Spain ceded Florida and received back Havana and Manila. Portugal was restored to its position as before the war. Great Britain restored to France Belle Ile, Guadeloupe, Mariegalante, Martinique, and St. Lucia, and retained Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago. France was allowed a right of fishery in the gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Newfoundland coast, and received the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon as shelters, covenanting not to fortify them. Spain gave up its claim to the Newfoundland fishery, agreed that the dispute concerning prizes should be settled by the courts, and acknowledged the right to cut logwood on the Bay of Honduras. In Africa England restored Goree to France and kept Senegal. In India France abandoned her pretensions to conquests since 1749, and received back the factories which she had at that date. As a compensation to Spain for the loss of Florida, France ceded to her Louisiana; a Spanish governor arrived there in 1766, but though Spain had posts and settlements in the province, she can scarcely be said to have ever had any effective hold upon it.

It was a glorious peace for Great Britain; it marks a signal epoch in her imperial history. But it was not so advantageous as she had a right to expect. Financially peace was desirable, for the national debt of Great Britain and Ireland, which before the war stood, as has already been stated, at L72,505,572, had risen to L132,716,049, but her resources were by no means exhausted; she could have continued the war without distress. It is fairly certain that better terms might have been obtained if the government had carried on the negotiations in a different spirit. Martinique, specially valuable to a maritime power, was surrendered without compensation; Manila was simply thrown away through careless haste; Goree, on which the French slave trade depended, might easily have been retained. Grenville protested against the surrender of Guadeloupe, and it was decided on when he was too ill to attend the council. Florida was a poor exchange for Havana, the richest of our conquests. Whether Pitt's policy of obtaining commercial monopolies by force of arms was economically sound, and whether the restoration of the French navy would have been impeded so materially by exclusion from the fishery as he believed, are questions on which we need not dwell here. The treaty must be judged according to the beliefs of the time. As it ceded valuable conquests without adequate compensation, and encouraged France again to enter on a naval and commercial policy by restoring to her Goree, colonies in the West Indies, and her factories in India, and by granting her a share in the fisheries, it was justly condemned as unsatisfactory. As regards the continental war, the change in Frederick's position was sufficient reason for our withdrawal from a quarrel which did not concern us. Yet he had some cause of complaint, for though the treaty provided that the French should evacuate his territories, it did not provide that the territories should be handed over to him. He gained possession of them without difficulty, but for that he owed no thanks to England. He believed that he had been betrayed and deserted, and adopted an unfriendly attitude, which was a hindrance to England's foreign policy in later years.

At home the peace was widely condemned. When parliament met on November 25, Bute's coach was attacked and he was in some danger. In the lords the address approving the preliminaries was passed without a division. In the commons the debate had begun when Pitt entered the house. He was suffering from gout, and was carried by his servants within the bar. Dressed in black velvet, and leaning on a crutch, he advanced slowly to his seat, his limbs swathed in wrappings, and his face pale with suffering. Yet he spoke for three hours and forty minutes. After declaring that he was unconnected with any party, he criticised the various articles of the treaty, pointing out that they surrendered maritime and commercial advantages which would have been doubly valuable because our gain would have been the loss of France. The treatment of Frederick he denounced as base and treacherous. The address was carried by 319 to 65. The definitive treaty was signed at Paris on February 10, 1763, and on the 15th Prussia and Austria made peace at Hubertsburg. The majority was largely obtained by corruption. Many members, however, no doubt welcomed the peace, even though they were not fully satisfied with its terms. The rout of the whigs was completed by their disunion; some who would have voted against the address were discouraged by Pitt's attitude of solitary independence.[61] The king had succeeded in breaking up the whig party, and there was no organised opposition. The court was triumphant. On hearing the result of the division, the princess-dowager is said to have exclaimed, "Now my son is King of England!" The victory was followed up by a general proscription of the whigs; Newcastle, Grafton, and Rockingham were dismissed from their lord-lieutenancies. Nor was vengeance confined to the great. All whigs who held places were deprived of them, and even poor clerks and excisemen lost the employments bestowed on them by whig ministers. Fox urged on the execution of this shameful business. Every effort was made to obtain congratulatory addresses on the peace from municipal bodies, and money was offered for them. London and several other places refused to be won over by any means.

[Sidenote: THE CIDER TAX.]

The unpopularity of the administration was heightened by its finance. Dashwood's scheme for the supplies included a loan of L3,000,000, which was negotiated on such extravagant terms that the scrip soon rose to a premium of 11 per cent. The loan was not open to public competition, it was distributed among the chief supporters of the government; nine of them, it is said, cleared each L20,000, Fox L10,000, and so on, while the nation lost L385,000 by the transaction. It was a new form of corruption, specially dangerous because indirect.[62] More general indignation was excited by the proposal of a tax of four shillings a hogshead on cider, to be paid by the maker and collected as an excise. The tax was excessive in amount, onerous in its conditions, and unfair in its incidence, for it fell equally on the poorest and the most valuable cider, and pressed solely on particular districts. It was, however, as an extension of the excise laws that it was specially offensive to public feeling. That was a matter on which Englishmen were extremely jealous. Thirty years before a proposal for an extended excise nearly wrecked the power of Sir Robert Walpole, who wisely yielded to the storm. By Dashwood's scheme farmers were liable to have the privacy of their homes invaded by the visits of excisemen. Disturbances broke out in the cider counties, and troops were moved into them. The excitement was general. London petitioned against the tax, and its example was followed by many other corporations and counties. Bute was violently assailed in print, by Wilkes in prose and by his friend Churchill in verse. A parliamentary opposition was organised; it was joined by Pitt and Temple, and had its headquarters at Wildman's tavern in Albemarle Street. Pitt spoke strongly against the tax in the commons. It was defended by Grenville, who in the course of his speech constantly demanded where another tax could be laid. Mimicking his querulous tone, Pitt repeated aloud the words of an old ditty, "Gentle shepherd, tell me where". The nickname, Gentle shepherd, stuck by Grenville. The bill passed the commons and was sent up to the lords. For the first time since the revolution the lords divided on a money-bill, and voted 49 against, to 83 for its committal.

A few days later, on April 7, Bute announced that ill-health compelled him to retire from office. The announcement caused general surprise, but he had for some weeks determined to retire, and had arranged with the king that Grenville should succeed him. That he should have taken office was, Pitt wrote, more astonishing than his departing from it.[63] He took office with the intention of carrying out the king's policy of breaking up the whig phalanx and bringing about a peace. Both objects were accomplished. Though still strong in votes in the commons, he had few allies of any weight, for Bedford was offended with him. The newly formed opposition caused him uneasiness, specially as it included Pitt and Temple; it was strong in the lords, and he feared its influence in their chamber.[64] Though his health was not materially affected, he was doubtless weary of a task which he must have learned was too great for his abilities. He knew that he was generally hated by the people, and feared that if he remained longer in office, his unpopularity would become injurious to the king. Before his resignation he provided handsomely for his relations and friends at the expense of the nation; reversions of L52,000 a year were distributed among them. Fox was rewarded by his creation as Baron Holland, and managed to keep the pay office for two years longer.


[35] Chatham Correspondence, ii., 69 n.

[36] Dutens, Memoires d'un voyageur, i., 178-79.

[37] Parliamentary Hist., xv., 1044-47.

[38] Newcastle to Bedford, July 2, 1761; Bedford Correspondence, iii., 19.

[39] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Aug. 17, 1761, Add. MS. 32,927, f. 68; Bedford Correspondence, iii., 36-42.

[40] Bristol to Pitt, Aug. 31, 1761, Add. MS. 32,927, ff. 285-87.

[41] Stanley to Pitt, Sept. 2, 1761, Add. MS. 32,928, f. 14.

[42] Stanley to Pitt, Sept. 6, 1761, ibid., ff. 1, 148, 179.

[43] Stanley to Pitt, Sept. 8, 1761, ibid., f. 40.

[44] Ibid., f. 225, printed in The Grenville Papers, i., 386-87.

[45] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Sept. 20, 1761, Add. MS. 32,928, f. 260.

[46] Stanley to Pitt, dated Sept. 14, 1761, received the 21st, ibid., f. 148.

[47] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Sept. 21, 1761, ibid., ff. 303-6.

[48] Stanley to Pitt, dated Sept. 19, 1761, received the 25th, ibid., f. 245.

[49] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Sept. 26, 1761, ibid., f. 362.

[50] The disposition of the naval force fit for service on Sept. 15, 1761, was: At home and within call, 54 ships of the line and 58 frigates; with Saunders, 11 of the line and 12 frigates; East Indies, 14 of the line; Jamaica, 6; Leeward islands, 8; North America, 6; other plantations, 2; convoys and cruisers, 4; total, 105 of the line. Men wanting to complete ships at home, 15,490 (Add. MS. 32,928, f. 185). France could not have had more than 42 ships of the line (Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, p. 312). Spain had 49 of the line fit for service, but insufficiently manned (Coxe, Bourbon Kings of Spain, iii., 245, ed. 1813).

[51] Minutes of Council, Oct. 2, 1761, Add. MS. 32,929, ff. 18-28.

[52] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Nov. 9, 1761, Add. MS. 32,929, f. 143.

[53] Annual Register, iv. (1761), 48.

[54] Bisset, Memoirs of Sir A. Mitchell, ii., 283, 286, 294 sq.; Buckinghamshire Correspondence, i., 47-52; Adolphus, Hist. of the Reign of George III., i., App. 5, 79-83.

[55] Newcastle to Devonshire, April 10, 1762, Add. MS. 32,937, ff. 11, 87.

[56] Add. MS. 32,938, ff. 18, 50, 105 sq., 239, 262, 304, 425.

[57] Newcastle to Cumberland, May 26, 1762, Add. MS. 32,939 f. 5.

[58] Newcastle to Pitt, 1762, MS. Pitt Papers, 25, R.O.; Temple to Pitt, Oct. 3, 1762, ibid., 61.

[59] As regards Manila, see Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep., vii., 316 sq.

[60] Fox's Memoir in Life and Letters of Lady Sarah Lennox, i., 72-73.

[61] A. von Ruville, William Pitt und Graf Bute, pp. 55-56.

[62] Parl. Hist., xv., 1305; History of the Late Minority, p. 96; May, Constitutional History, i., 382-83.

[63] Pitt to Newcastle, April 9, 1763, Add. MS. 32,948, f. 84. Bute resigned on the 11th.

[64] Newcastle to Lord Kinnoul, June 3, 1763, Add. MS. 32,949, f. 15.



The king appears to have received Bute's resignation without regret; indeed it was remarked that the day before it was announced he was in unusually good spirits, "like a person just emancipated".[65] Bute had done all that he could do for him as prime minister; he had cleared the ground for the establishment of the king's system of government; the whig oligarchy was disorganised and overthrown, and the war was at an end. George could not have wished to keep a minister in office who was hated by his people; that would have been contrary to the idea of a patriot king, and would in time have made him unpopular. Nor was he perhaps altogether satisfied with Bute's conduct in office; for in later life he observed that he was "deficient in political firmness".[66] Bute was to continue to be useful to him in another capacity in which political firmness was not so important; he was to be the king's private adviser, and help him to select and manage his responsible ministers. Through his instrumentality, George had already secured a set of ministers who would, they both believed, be content to carry out the king's will. Grenville, though he had opposed Bute in the cabinet with reference to the negotiations with France, professed that as prime minister he would try to win his complete approval, and with only one exception allowed Bute to form his administration for him. Bute and his master thought they had secured a useful tool, a subservient and hard-working drudge. They were mistaken in their man; Grenville was independent and self-confident. He took the two offices of first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer. Dashwood retired with Bute and the barony of Despencer was called out of abeyance in his favour. Halifax and Egremont remained secretaries of state and Henley lord chancellor. Bedford distrusted Bute and refused to take office. The new administration promised to exercise economy, and Grenville took care that the pledge should be redeemed. Its frugality did not make it popular; it did not command the confidence of the nation, and was generally considered a feeble continuation of its predecessor.

The king prorogued parliament on April 19, 1763; his speech described the peace as honourable to his crown, and claimed, or at least implied, that it had induced the enemies of the Prussian king "to agree to a peace which he had approved". On the 23rd appeared No. 45 of the North Briton with a violent denunciation of the speech. It declared that the king had given "the sanction of his sacred name to the most odious measures and to the most unjustifiable public declarations from a throne ever renowned for truth, honour, and unsullied virtue". That the ministers were responsible for the king's speech was well understood, and was clearly recognised in the article. George took the article as conveying an accusation of falsehood against himself personally, and there was some excuse for this interpretation of it. Other numbers of the paper had been violent, and had been passed by without notice. His present ministers were not deficient in political firmness; he ordered them to prosecute the writer. Halifax thereupon issued a general warrant, that is a warrant directed against persons not named, ordering the king's messengers to search for the authors, printers, and publishers of the North Briton, arrest them and seize their papers. Warrants of this kind to be executed on persons not named, without evidence of their identity or guilt, had hitherto been held lawful, but they were subversive of the liberty of the subject and contrary to the spirit of the constitution. During three days forty-nine persons were arrested under this warrant. Among them were the avowed publisher of the North Briton, the printer, and his workmen. They declared that Wilkes was the author.


Wilkes was arrested under the general warrant on the 30th, and carried before the secretaries of state; his house was searched and his papers seized. He was committed to the Tower. He hoped, he said, that he might have the room in which Egremont's father had been confined as a rebel, and, referring to the popular belief as to the consequences of the dirty habits of Bute's fellow-countrymen, in any case, one which had not been tenanted by a Scot. Temple at once applied on his behalf for a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted by Pratt, chief justice of the common pleas, but as Wilkes was no longer in the custody of the messengers, they could not produce him. He was kept in close confinement; Temple and the Duke of Grafton who went to see him were not admitted, and even his solicitor was denied access to him. A new writ was issued, and on May 3 he was brought before the court of common pleas. He pleaded his privilege as a member of parliament. Pratt delivered judgment on the 6th and decided that he was entitled to the privilege of parliament, which extended to all offences save treason, felony, and breach of the peace. The other judges concurred, and he was set at liberty. The crowd which had collected in Westminster Hall received the result of the trial with loud applause, and escorted Wilkes to his house in Great George Street. Meanwhile Egremont had in the king's name ordered Temple, the lord lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, to deprive Wilkes of his commission as colonel of the Bucks militia. In forwarding this order to Wilkes, Temple added some complimentary expressions, and on the 7th the earl was dismissed both from his lieutenancy and the privy council.

Several persons who were arrested on the general warrant brought actions against the messengers. In the first of these suits Pratt, setting aside evil precedents, declared general warrants to be illegal. A master-printer obtained L400 damages, one journeyman L300, and others L200. Wilkes sued Wood, the under-secretary of state, for ransacking his house, and the jury awarded him L1,000 damages. He also began actions for false imprisonment against the two secretaries of state. His suit against Egremont was cut short by the earl's death on August 20. Halifax took advantage of various legal devices to delay the hearing of the suit against himself, and it was not decided until six years later. Temple, who had paid Wilkes's law expenses, wished him to avoid giving further cause of offence. Wilkes, however, set up a press in his own house, reprinted the North Briton in volumes, and printed other matter also. The arbitrary proceedings of the government in this case excited much adverse feeling, especially in London, and gave a fresh impetus to the discontent in the cider districts. They were attributed to Bute's influence. In some western villages a man in Scottish dress led about an ass decorated with a blue ribbon and wearing a paper crown; and at Exeter an effigy of Bute remained hanging on a gibbet for a fortnight, no one daring to remove it.


George, though at first well pleased with the new administration, soon saw that it lacked strength. He made an attempt to enlist Hardwicke and Newcastle, but they would not take office without their party. Bute advised an offer to Bedford, who declared that he would not join the government unless Bute would undertake to retire, not only from the court, but from London. Negotiations were also carried on with Pitt, whom Bute was most anxious to secure for the king. Pitt made it clearly understood that he would not take office with Bedford, the man most responsible for the peace, nor would he come in alone. In spite of Pitt's objection to him, Bedford, who did not care for office, advised the king to take him. George was dissatisfied with his ministers; he was annoyed by their unpopularity and by the growth of a spirit of turbulence among the lower classes, and personally was wearied by the constant interviews and the long harangues which Grenville inflicted upon him. Bute, too, was not finding Grenville so anxious to win his approval as he expected, and on Egremont's death had an interview with Pitt. The result was satisfactory; and George, much to Grenville's disgust, told him that he meant to ask Pitt to enter the administration, and would "do it as cheap as he could," with as few changes as possible. Pitt had an interview with the king on August 27. Both evidently thought that there was nothing to prevent him from taking office, and he communicated with Devonshire, Newcastle, and Rockingham. The next day George seems to have changed his mind; he told Grenville that Pitt's terms were too hard. Bute is said to have instigated this change, and it is probable that both he and the king were disappointed at finding that Pitt meant to bring in with him several of the whig leaders. Pitt had a second interview with the king on the 29th, and George is said to have closed it with the words: "Well, Mr. Pitt, I see this will not do. My honour is concerned and I must support it." Pitt's proposals were probably exaggerated by the ministerial party. It is certain that he proposed several changes, and the admission of some of the leading whigs, and that either he or the king suggested Temple for the treasury. George had made up his mind before the interview that it would probably be useless. Both he and Bute would gladly have secured Pitt's support, but they wanted him to take office alone, or at least not with a party. George had no mind for another whig administration with Pitt as its master-spirit.

He again turned to Bedford and told him that Pitt had stipulated that he was to have no office, even about the court, at that time, though in future years he might be permitted to hold a court appointment, and that no favour should be shown to any one concerned in the peace. George may well have believed that this was the meaning of Pitt's words. Even so, he should not have divulged anything which took place in his closet, specially if it was likely to make mischief; he was, however, in serious difficulties. His device succeeded. Though Bedford was already aware that Pitt would not act with him, he was piqued at this fresh declaration of hostility; he agreed to take office, and, on September 9, was appointed president of the council in succession to Lord Granville who died in the previous January. He was considered head of the administration. The Earl of Sandwich became secretary of state and took the northern department, and Lord Hillsborough succeeded Lord Shelburne as president of the board of trade. Sandwich had official experience, and was neither idle nor incapable, though unprincipled and extremely profligate; Hillsborough was deficient in tact and judgment. Shelburne had been one of Bute's followers, and arranged his bargains with Fox, who accused him of having deceived him. He was employed in the late negotiations with Pitt, resigned office on their failure, and attached himself to Pitt. The king was completely in the hands of Bedford and Grenville, his only defence against an administration composed of whig magnates. They used their power to force him to send Bute out of London. This insolent conduct was specially reprehensible in the case of Grenville, who owed his advancement to Bute's recommendation. Grenville continued to weary the king with interviews; he worried him with his disputes with his colleagues, and irritated him beyond endurance by suggestions, which were not ill-founded, that he was still under Bute's influence. "Good God, Mr. Grenville," the poor king exclaimed, "am I to be suspected after all I have done?"

Parliament met on November 15, and the government at once made an attack on Wilkes. In the lords, Sandwich complained of two profane and obscene pieces printed in his private press, An Essay on Woman and a paraphrase of the Veni Creator. There was no evidence of publication; a few copies only were printed, evidently for private circulation, and one of them was obtained by tampering with a workman. Even if publication had been proved, there would still have been no reason for the lords' interference; for obscene and profane publications were punishable by law. But the ministers were anxious to obtain support for their measures of revenge. The name of Bishop Warburton of Gloucester was attached in mockery to notes in the Essay on Woman, and with his concurrence the case was brought before the house as a breach of privilege. The lords lent themselves to this transparent device; they petitioned the king to command the prosecution of Wilkes and, later, when he was out of their reach, ordered that he should be confined for his offence against themselves. Their proceedings excited public ridicule. That Sandwich should complain of obscenity and profanity, and should censure Wilkes, a fellow-monk of Dashwood's debauched fraternity, for indulging in them was, indeed, a case of Satan rebuking sin. At a performance of the "Beggar's Opera" at Covent Garden theatre the audience caught up with delight Macheath's words, "That Jemmy Twitcher should peach me I own surprised me," and Sandwich became generally known as Jemmy Twitcher.


On the same day as the proceedings in the lords, Grenville brought a message from the king to the commons informing them of what had been done in Wilkes's case. They voted, 273 to 111, that the North Briton, No. 45, was a false and seditious libel, and ordered that it should be burnt by the common hangman. In the course of the debate, Martin, who had lately been secretary to the treasury, called Wilkes a cowardly and malignant scoundrel. The next day, the 16th, they fought a duel with pistols in the ring in Hyde Park; they had no seconds and each fired twice. Martin's second shot wounded Wilkes dangerously. In his absence the commons discussed his plea of privilege. Pitt strongly urged the house to maintain its privileges. Parliament, he said, had no right to surrender them; if it did so it would endanger its own freedom and infringe upon the rights of the people. As for Wilkes personally, Pitt was anxious to show that he did not approve of Temple's support of him, and called him "the blasphemer of his God and the libeller of his king". The house voted by 258 to 133 that privilege of parliament does not extend to seditious libels, and ought not to obstruct the ordinary course of the law in such cases. In itself this was an excellent decision. Parliamentary privileges had increased to a mischievous extent. By the abandonment of many of them, such as certain invidious exemptions from the course of law which it claimed for its members, the exclusion of strangers from its debates, and the prohibition of reporting, parliament has gained in dignity and purity, and has confirmed the liberties of the people. Nevertheless, though the abandonment of privilege was in itself a step in a right direction, it was reprehensible in Wilkes's case, because it was an ex post facto measure, designed to meet a special case, and vindictive in its intention.

The lords agreed in the decision of the commons, though a protest against the surrender of privilege was signed by seventeen peers. On December 3, the day fixed for the burning of No. 45 in front of the Royal Exchange, a large mob broke the windows of the sheriff's coach and pelted the constables. Encouraged by gentlemen at the windows of neighbouring houses, they tore a large part of the paper from the executioner with shouts of "Wilkes and liberty," carried it in triumph outside Temple Bar, the boundary of the city, and there made a bonfire into which they threw a jack-boot and a petticoat, the popular emblems of Bute and the Princess of Wales. Yet Wilkes was in an unpleasant position. A Scot went to his house intending to murder him; was arrested and found insane. A summons was sent to him to appear at the bar of the house of commons; his surgeons stated that he was too ill to attend, and a later day was fixed. Before it came he went off secretly to Paris, and while there excused himself from obedience to the order of the house by sending a medical certificate. The commons refused to give any weight to it, declared him in contempt, and guilty of a seditious libel, and on January 19, 1764, expelled him the house. An information was laid against him in the court of king's bench for reprinting and publishing No. 45; he was convicted and, as he did not appear to receive sentence, was outlawed.

While little sympathy seems to have been felt for Wilkes personally, except among the lower classes, the attack upon him was widely resented because it was regarded as an encroachment on national liberty. Parliament was not in accord with public feeling. A strong effort was made to induce the commons to declare that general warrants were illegal. Pitt acknowledged that he had issued them during the war, when it was necessary to find out and remove suspected persons; but no such necessity existed at present, and he urged the house to do justice to the nation, the constitution, and the law, by condemning them. The ministers managed to shelve the question, but carried the adjournment only by 234 to 218. Though on other matters they commanded a large majority, several members from whom they expected support voted against them in the debates arising out of Wilkes's arrest. Among these were General Conway and Colonel Barre. Conway, the brother of the Earl of Hertford, had gained much credit in the war in Germany; he was a dashing officer and a respectable general, a man of refined tastes and high principles. As a politician he was thoroughly honest, of small ability and utterly wanting in decision of character. He was the dearest friend of Horace Walpole; and Walpole, who regarded politics in a personal light, exercised an unfortunate influence upon him. Barre, who had served with distinction in Canada, was a coarse man, eloquent, and feared by his opponents on account of his remarkable power of invective. He sat for one of Shelburne's boroughs, and believing himself slighted by Pitt, attacked him vehemently in the house on his resignation of office. As a supporter of Bute he was appointed adjutant-general and governor of Stirling, posts worth L4,000 a year. George, who regarded a vote against the ministers in this matter as a personal affront to himself, was determined that all who held either military or civil appointments should clearly understand that they could not continue to serve him if they opposed his policy in parliament. With Bedford's approval, Conway, Barre, and with them General A'Court, who had also voted in the minority, were deprived of their commands, and Shelburne, Barre's patron, was dismissed from his office as aide-de-camp to the king. Barre followed Shelburne's example in attaching himself to Pitt.


These dismissals violated the most valuable of the privileges of parliament, freedom of speech and immunity from royal coercion. It was a well-established constitutional rule that the king should not take notice of anything which passed in parliament and that no member should suffer for his speeches or votes. This rule had been broken in the last reign when, in 1733, two officers lost their commands and, in 1735, Pitt his cornetcy for acting with the opposition. On the present occasion the responsibility for its violation rests on Grenville at least as much as on the king himself. Parliament took little notice of this infringement upon its privileges, though on the first day of the session, 1765, Granby pleased the army by some sharp remarks on the dismission of officers on account of their votes in parliament.[67] Encouraged by their success against Wilkes, the ministers waged war on political libels. A large number of ex officio informations, or accusations presented by the attorney-general on which the person accused was brought to trial without the previous finding of a grand jury, were laid against printers and others during the course of the year. As this looked like persecution, it excited popular anger. One bookseller who was sentenced to stand in the pillory in New-palace-yard, Westminster, drove thither in a hackney coach numbered 45, and was cheered by a crowd estimated at 10,000 persons. Two hundred guineas was collected for him, and the mob hung a jack-boot and a "Scotch bonnet" on a gibbet and then burnt them.

Grenville insisted on economy in the national expenditure; it was needful, for during the late war the public debt had risen from L72,500,000 to L132,700,000, and the country was heavily taxed. His budget stood in honourable contrast to the finance of the late administration; it did not propose lotteries or a private loan, and it included an advantageous bargain with the Bank of England for the renewal of its charter. Yet in some matters his economy was short-sighted and peddling. He starved the naval estimates. During the war many ships were built hastily of timber insufficiently seasoned, and had fallen into so bad a condition that half their original cost was needed for the repair of their hulls; there were too few workmen in the dockyards, and the stores were empty of sails, rigging, and cordage. Lord Egmont, the first lord of the admiralty, represented the necessity for a large expenditure on the navy, but Grenville would not hear of it. So, too, in less important matters, he grudged spending money on the police of London, and highway robbery and other crimes of violence were insufficiently checked, and he even refused so small a sum as L20,000 which the king wanted for the purchase of some land at the back of Buckingham House, the site of part of the present Grosvenor Place, in order that the garden which he was then making might not be overlooked.

The expenditure on the American colonies and the irregularities by which they evaded their legal obligations, were offensive to his frugal and orderly temperament; he proposed to enforce their obligations, and to draw from the colonies some part of their cost to the mother-country. The colonies occupied a long and comparatively narrow tract of country stretching for seventeen hundred miles along the Atlantic. They differed in character. In the northern colonies the puritan element was strong, and the chief sources of wealth were commerce and farming. The southern colonies had cavalier traditions, and their wealth was chiefly derived from plantations which were cultivated by slave labour. Though puritanism as a religious force was well-nigh extinct in the New England provinces, it affected the temper of the people; they set a high value on speech-making and fine words, and were litigious and obstinate; lawyers were plentiful among them, and had much influence. As a whole the colonies were impatient of control and jealous of interference. Their constitutions differed in various points; in some the governor was appointed by the crown, in others by the proprietary. All alike enjoyed a large measure of personal and political freedom: they had the form and substance of the British constitution; they had representative assemblies in which they taxed themselves for their domestic purposes, chose most of their own magistrates, and paid them all; and it was seldom that their legislation was interfered with except with respect to commerce.


The freedom which they enjoyed did not extend to commerce and manufactures. In those matters the policy of Great Britain was founded on the "mercantile theory," then universally accepted, and was directed towards securing a monopoly of trade. Other countries pursued a like policy towards their colonies, though they treated them with far less liberality. The restrictions placed by Great Britain on colonial trade were based on the Navigation acts of 1660 and later years, which were originally aimed at the maritime power of the Dutch. Briefly, they confined trade with the colonies to English or colonial ships; the Americans were debarred from exporting a number of the most important products of their country, their tobacco, grain, sugar, hides, and timber for masts, except to Great Britain; no foreign ship might enter their harbours, nor, with certain exceptions, could they import foreign merchandise, except in ships sailing directly from England. Various acts debarred them from manufactures which would have entered into competition with English goods; they depended on the mother-country for the commonest and most necessary things, for their cloth, hardware, and a host of manufactured articles. Port duties were imposed by England, and were collected by officers of the customs, whose business it was to prevent contraband trading. These duties were not imposed for the sake of revenue, but for the regulation of trade; and the whole system of restrictions was founded on the idea that colonies should be made to serve the interest of the mother-country by giving its merchants and manufacturers the monopoly of the colonial market.

The colonies received some compensations for the restrictions placed upon their industry and commerce. With certain exceptions their trade was free. While some of their products were confined to the British market, they had the monopoly of that market; no Englishman, for example, might buy tobacco which did not come from America or Bermuda. Their export trade to England was encouraged by bounties, and, though their foreign imports generally had to come to them through England, a system of drawbacks, by which the duties were remitted on exportation to America, enabled them to buy continental goods more cheaply than they could be bought in England. Nothing indeed can be further from the truth than the idea that England's treatment of her colonies was harsh or illiberal. Unfortunately the mercantile theory set up an opposition between the interests of a mother-country and her colonies. A far more important mitigation of the restrictions imposed on the colonies than any that came from English liberality, was derived from the constant violation of them. Few English statesmen knew or cared to know anything about colonial affairs. Left to themselves the American colonies grew rich. Their merchants, especially in New England, carried on a brisk and extremely profitable contraband trade. In exchange for lumber, fish, and cattle the New England merchants obtained sugar and molasses, and bullion from the French and Spanish colonies; and vast quantities of rum were distilled in Boston and exported to Africa to be used in the slave trade.

England was not altogether a loser by these transactions. The richer a Boston merchant became, the more British goods did he import, and as he had to pay for them in bullion, his contraband trade enabled him to meet his obligations. These advantages were indirect, the loss to the English West India merchants was obvious and heavy. In order to protect them an attempt was made in 1733 to stop this contraband trade by the imposition of heavy duties; but the profits of the trade were so large that the revenue officers found it to their interest to be careless or actually conniving, and scarcely any duties were paid. On an average the American customs cost England from L7,000 to L8,000 a year and did not bring in quite L2,000. During the war the contraband trade afforded the French useful supplies, and in 1760 Pitt ordered the colonial governors to punish those who traded with the enemy. More power was placed in the hands of the revenue officers by the issue of writs of assistance enabling them to search for dutiable articles in any place without alleging specific information. These writs were lawful and were specially justifiable in time of war. Their lawfulness was unsuccessfully disputed before the superior court of Massachusetts by a lawyer named Otis, an eloquent speaker, singularly devoid of moderation. His speech, in which rhetoric is more conspicuous than a knowledge of law, attacked the commercial legislation of parliament generally; it was much admired, and has been regarded by some Americans as the first step towards revolution.


A system which cramped the trade and industry of a self-reliant people, growing in wealth and intent on gain, for the benefit of a country separated from them by 3,000 miles of ocean, then only crossed by sailing ships, must sooner or later have led to revolt. The Americans were impatient of control and apt to quarrel with their governors, who often found their office an unenviable one. "Such wrong-headed people," said one of them, "I thank God I had never to do with before." They were not a people patiently to submit to restrictions. Two causes had contributed to bind them to Great Britain. One of these was their fear of the French in Canada. So long as the French and their Indian allies threatened their homes, even the most turbulent of them knew that they gained by being subjects of the English king. The war with France called forth a feeling of loyalty. The triumph of England freed them from the fear of French aggression and their protestations of gratitude were exuberant. Yet there were many who saw that the conquest of Canada loosened the tie which bound the American colonies to the mother-country and would probably lead to an assertion of independence. Separation would, however, have been impossible without union. The jealousies between the colonies were so strong that revolt seemed improbable. Were they left to themselves, Otis declared in 1765, "America would be a mere shambles of blood and confusion". A common cause alone could bring about union, and such a cause was soon to be found. The termination of the war enabled the ministers to direct their attention to the contraband trade which had assisted the common enemy, defrauded the government, and annoyed the commercial class. During Bute's administration, in 1763, revenue cutters were sent to cruise off the American coast, the officers of the king's ships were sworn to act as revenue officers, and revenue cases were heard in the admiralty courts. Smuggling was more effectually checked, and the irritation caused by the loss of trade was aggravated by the roughness with which the seamen enforced the law.

Grenville adopted a new policy apparently contemplated by Bute's ministry. Hitherto parliament had imposed customs duties on the colonies solely for the purpose of regulating trade; he designed to raise revenue from them. The idea was suggested to Walpole as a means of obtaining money on the failure of his excise scheme, and that wary statesman promptly rejected it. The money, however, which Grenville hoped to raise from the colonies was not to swell the revenues of England; it was to be applied to their own defence. His design was reasonable. The war had enormously increased the public debt. It is true that it was not undertaken only for the defence of the colonies; it is not less true that it was not a merely insular war. The war concerned the empire at large, and Great Britain's lavish sacrifices of blood and treasure delivered her children across the ocean from the fear of French conquest. Her expenditure on their defence could not end with the war; a small standing army had to be maintained for their protection. It seemed not unlikely that France would attempt to regain her lost dominions; it would have been fatal to leave the American colonies undefended. And another foe was always at hand, for the Indians regretted the overthrow of the French and were exasperated by the ill-treatment they received from the British colonists. In 1763 Pontiac, head-chief of the Ottawas, formed a confederation against the English. Along the borders of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland the Indians massacred outlying settlers, surprised many forts and slew their garrisons. Three provinces might have been overrun before the inhabitants had organised any defence, had not Sir Jeffrey (later Lord) Amherst, the commander-in-chief, had a small British force at his disposal, consisting mainly of companies of the 7th, 42nd, and 77th regiments of the line, and of the Royal American regiment (later the 60th Rifles), formed in 1755 for service in America. A little army composed largely of men of the 42nd Highlanders, and commanded by Colonel Bouquet, defeated the Indians at Bushy Run on August 5. Fort Pitt was relieved and, the victory having encouraged the provincials to make a stand, the war virtually ended in November, 1764.


The provincials disliked the idea of a standing army, and would have preferred that their defence should have been left to themselves. That was impossible. They were largely farmers and traders, peaceful folk unwilling to leave their profitable pursuits. There was no central authority to dictate the proportion of troops which each of the colonies should contribute to a common force, and their selfishness and jealousies made them grudge help one to another. The Americans behaved shabbily to the troops sent to defend them, but Pontiac's war proved that in times of pressing danger their safety might depend upon the presence of a British force. Was it right or just that the colonies should be defended by England and should contribute nothing towards the cost of their defence? Grenville thought that it was not. On March 10, 1764, he laid before parliament a list of port dues; some of them were higher than before, and to counterbalance the increase he proposed to give several new advantages to colonial trade. Payment was no longer to be evaded so easily as in past times, and smuggling would be attended with greater risk. The money was to be paid into the English treasury and was to be used only for colonial defence. More would be wanted for that purpose, and he proposed to raise it by an act requiring that all legal documents should bear stamps. This measure he deferred for a year in order to ascertain the feeling of the colonies and to give them an opportunity of raising the money in some other way if they preferred it. The force to be kept in America was twenty regiments, or about 10,000 men, which, with the maintenance of fortifications, would cost L350,000 a year. Of this sum the proposed stamp act would, it was calculated, bring in about L100,000. The bill passed without remark.

In an interview with the agents of the colonies Grenville pointed out that the tax was reasonable, and was an easy and equitable way of raising the required money, but promised that if the colonies disliked it, and would raise the money themselves in some other way, he would be content. Before the year was out they met him again and, acting on instructions from their colonies, tried to dissuade him from his purpose. Chief among them was Benjamin Franklin, then agent for Pennsylvania, a New Englander by birth, not a puritan either in religion or morals, a wise politician, shrewd, public-spirited, inventive, and full of schemes of practical usefulness. He proposed that the money should be voted by the provincial assemblies, but could not say that the colonies would agree as to the amount which each should contribute. On that of course the whole matter depended. When Grenville brought in his stamp bill the debate, Burke says, was extremely languid. Parliament had no idea that the act would lead to serious consequences. Nor were the American agents much better informed, for Franklin, who considered that a small standing army might be useful, believed that the colonies had no choice but to submit to the tax. Pitt was absent from parliament, suffering from gout. Conway and Barre opposed the bill, and Barre, in a speech of fervid eloquence, described the Americans as "sons of liberty," driven from their country by tyranny and treated by her with neglect. In the commons the bill was carried with only forty dissentients, and in the lords apparently without a division. It received the royal assent on March 22, 1765, and was to come into operation on November 1. In April the mutiny act was extended to America, binding the colonies to provide the king's troops with quarters and certain necessaries, such as fuel and candles.


The stamp act raised a storm of indignation in the American colonies. Some of them, and especially the New England colonies, already had a substantial grievance in the heavy blow dealt to their prosperity by the repression of their contraband trade. Their discontent was increased by a suspicion that England was about to establish episcopacy among them at their expense, for Archbishop Secker and other English churchmen were anxious to introduce bishops into America. A more sentimental, though an efficient cause of irritation also existed in the affectation of superiority adopted by Englishmen towards their colonial fellow-subjects. The stamp tax brought their discontent to a head, and gave the party hostile to government an opportunity for stirring up opposition. During the year unwisely allowed by Grenville for considering the proposed tax, they busily agitated against it. While at that time the Americans allowed that parliament had a right to impose duties for the regulation of trade, they denied its right to levy an internal tax for the purpose of revenue, because they were not represented in parliament.

Opposition to the ministerial policy naturally began in Boston, where the repression of contraband trade weighed most heavily and where—though that was a smaller matter—the dislike to episcopacy was specially strong. The town-meeting promptly passed resolutions denying the right of parliament to tax the colonies without their consent. The meeting was led by Samuel Adams, a man of frugal life and austere character, who, after failing as a brewer and as a tax collector, adopted the career most congenial to his tastes and talents of political agitator. The resolutions were adopted by the provincial assembly, and on its invitation five other colonies joined with Massachusetts in sending memorials and petitions to England against the proposed tax. The assembly of Virginia was in session when the news came that the tax was enacted, and Patrick Henry, a lawyer, brought forward some defiant resolutions, of which four were carried, though only by a small majority. His speech, which contained an insolent reference to the king, was much admired. A general congress of the colonies was proposed by Massachusetts and met at New York on November 7. Representatives of nine colonies attended and others sent expressions of good-will. The members drew up a statement of their claims and grievances in moderate terms, and further expressed them in an address to the king, a memorial to the lords, and a petition to the commons.

These orderly proceedings were accompanied by outbursts of lawless violence. Societies for resistance were organised. The "sons of liberty," as they called themselves in reference to Barre's speech, were active in Boston, and in August, 1765, a mob plundered the house of a man who was nominated as a distributor of stamps, destroyed a building on his land which they believed was to be used as a stamp-office, hanged him in effigy, and forced him to renounce his appointment. A sermon preached by Jonathan Mayhew, a popular unitarian minister, on the words "I would that they were even cut off which trouble you," was followed by a more serious riot. Public buildings were attacked, the records of the admiralty court were burnt, and the rioters forced their way into the custom-house and got at the liquor in the cellars. Maddened by drink they wrecked the stately mansion of Hutchinson, the lieutenant-governor, and destroyed his fine collection of books and manuscripts. Persons of good position more or less openly encouraged these excesses and no one was punished for them. Outbreaks of mob violence, though of a less riotous kind, took place in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and elsewhere. On November 1, the day on which the stamp act came into operation, copies of it were offered for sale headed, "The folly of England and the ruin of America," bells were tolled, and mock funerals passed through the streets.

Everywhere the new stamps were seized and destroyed. At New York the lieutenant-governor, encouraged by the presence of the king's troops, tried to secure the stamps sent to the town. A riot ensued. General Gage, the commander-in-chief, declined to interfere at the risk of beginning a civil war, and the stamps were surrendered and locked up in the town hall. Besides these not a parcel of stamps was left in the colonies. For a time this put an end to legal business, and the courts were closed. Then lawyers agreed to take no notice of the lack of stamps on documents, and at last the governors declared that the operation of the act was to be reckoned as suspended. Retaliatory measures were concerted. Merchants combined to stop all importation from England, cancelled their orders and delayed sending remittances. Associations were formed for abandoning the use of English goods, and the richest citizens either wore old clothes or rough material of colonial production. Manufactories of linen, cloth, and hardware were started, and in order to insure a supply of wool, butchers were forbidden by their customers to kill lambs.

The distinction made by the party of resistance between external and internal taxation was in accordance with previous practice. Though parliament had frequently imposed port-duties on the colonies, it had abstained from imposing taxes within them. The stamp act was a new departure. English history afforded ground for the distinction, which was alleged in Bate's case, in the reign of James I., in support of the claim of the crown. Yet it is clearly artificial, for a division of taxes, such as into external and internal, only concerns their incidence; it is a matter which belongs to economics and does not affect political right. The colonists' claim of exemption from parliamentary taxation on the ground of non-representation appeals to the sympathy of Englishmen. Both in England and America there were some who desired that the colonies should be represented in parliament, but their distance from England and the ignorance of both peoples as regards the circumstances and needs of each other would have been fatal objections to any such scheme. The claim of the colonists seems to imply a misapprehension of the character of parliament; for parliament is not a mere meeting of delegates, it is an imperial assembly, and its sovereignty is neither derived from the perfection of its constitution nor lessened by its imperfection. Taxation is an attribute of sovereignty, and parliament had a right to tax the colonies because the sovereign power resided in it. Where else could it reside? To deny the right to tax and to admit the right to legislate was inconsistent. How could parliament, in virtue of its sovereign authority, have a right to pass a bill ensuring personal freedom in the colonies, and yet have no right to pass another bill imposing a tax on them? The logical outcome of the American contention was that all parliamentary legislation concerning the colonies was null, except so far as they chose to admit it. Under all their arguments lay the germ of independence, though as yet the leaders of the agitation loudly professed loyalty.


That the tax was reasonable in intention, equitable in incidence, and in itself tolerable, few probably will now deny. Nor will any one surely deny that the act was foolish and unstatesmanlike. Strict definitions of legal right are not safe guides in practical politics: sentiment and circumstances should be held to be of far greater account. The Americans maintained that there was an important difference between external and internal taxation, and, in common with all other Englishmen, they highly valued the right expressed in the maxim, "No taxation without representation". It was a fatal mistake to disregard their belief and, for the sake of avoiding a not very serious expenditure, to seem to deny what they claimed as their heritage as Englishmen. Heavy as its expenses were, Great Britain could have afforded to take upon itself the sum required for the defence of the colonies. Grenville could not see the matter in this light. Well-meaning and wishing to act fairly both towards England and the colonies, he brought trouble on both alike by his insistence on legal right. His administration was fruitful in evil. He permitted parliament to enter on a disastrous struggle with Wilkes in order to gratify the king; he raised up discord between England and her most important colonies; he allowed the strength of England to decay by grudging to spend the money needed for the maintenance of the navy, and its dignity to be impaired by neglecting to insist on the payment of the Manila ransom, though for that he was not individually responsible. One judicious act of his administration may be recorded here. The Isle of Man, though under the allegiance of the king, was not fully under the royal authority; the king had no courts and no officers there, and it was, as Burke said, "the very citadel of smuggling". In 1765 the crown bought the rights of the Duke and Duchess of Atholl over the island for L70,000, and it became thenceforward an integral part of the realm of England.


[65] Hardwicke to Newcastle, Add. MS. 32,948, f. 54.

[66] G. Rose, Diaries, ii., 192.

[67] James Grenville to Lady Chatham, Jan. 12, 1765, MS. Pitt Papers, 35.



Both for public and personal reasons George was anxious to get rid of his ministers. Unlike them, he appears as early as the spring of 1765 to have considered the discontent of his American subjects a serious matter, and he blamed them for it.[68] In other respects, too, he was dissatisfied with their public conduct, and he complained bitterly of their behaviour towards himself. In spite of some outward agreement in action, he and Grenville, who without the name retained nearly all the authority of prime minister, pursued fundamentally different systems. Grenville, though not less ready than the king to meet opposition with violent measures, was imbued with whig theories. While George sought to rule by securing the support of parliament, Grenville tried to use that support to enable him to rule the king. He was a pedant, and lectured the king on his duty like a schoolmaster. Bute stood in his way as the king's ally and secret counsellor. His victory over him was partial and short-lived. While Bute was in the country the king corresponded with him, and he returned to London in the spring of 1764. His return made the ministers uneasy, and Grenville's lectures became intolerable. "When he has wearied me for two hours," George complained, "he looks at his watch to see if he may not tire me for an hour more." Bad as their public conduct was, he and his colleagues owed their fall chiefly to their unbecoming behaviour to their sovereign.


Early in 1765 the king had a severe illness and showed signs of the insanity from which he suffered later. He recovered in March, and as he believed that his life was not likely to be prolonged, he was anxious to provide for a possible regency. Constitutional usage pointed to the queen as the proper person to be regent during the infancy of her son. George, however, wished to have the power to nominate a regent by an instrument revocable at pleasure. Grenville dissuaded him from this idea, and, with his ministers' consent, he announced from the throne that a bill would be laid before parliament restricting the regency to the queen and other members of the royal family usually residing in England. When the bill was proposed in the lords the question was raised whether the king's mother was a member of the royal family, or only those in the order of succession. If the Princess of Wales became regent, Bute would probably regain power. In order to prevent this dire possibility, Bedford sacrificed decency and common sense by successfully opposing a motion that the princess's name should expressly be included in the bill. While the matter was pending, on May 3, Halifax and Sandwich went to the king and persuaded him that the bill would not pass the commons unless the princess was excluded. Anxious to save his mother from insult, George authorised Halifax to move an amendment that only the queen and those descended from George II. should be capable of the regency. Halifax, in moving the amendment, announced that he did so with the king's sanction, and it was adopted by the lords.

George soon learnt that he had been deceived, that people were scandalised at his appearing to cast a slur upon his mother, and that the opposition in the commons would move to include her name. In great agitation he appealed to Grenville to help him by announcing a message from the crown to the commons recommending the inclusion of the princess. Grenville, though he had had no part in the trick of the two secretaries, refused his request on the ground that it would stultify the ministers, nor would he give way though the king actually wept with mortification. An amendment to insert the princess's name was proposed in the commons, was carried by 167 votes to 37, and was accepted by the lords. George determined to shake off Grenville's yoke. He called on his uncle, Cumberland, to find him new ministers, and the duke, though he had been treated unkindly by his nephew, loyally came to his help. Evidently by Bute's advice, the king authorised him to treat with Pitt and Temple. Pitt was living in retirement, and in October, 1764, told Newcastle that he intended to remain unconnected. He was willing to accept office in a comprehensive administration on the understanding that the officers who had been dismissed for their votes in parliament should be restored, that the new ministers should be at liberty to propose a resolution declaring general warrants illegal, and that a continental alliance should be formed against the Bourbon powers.

Temple, however, refused office, and Pitt would not come in without him. As Temple was on the eve of a reconciliation with his brother Grenville, with whom he had quarrelled over the Wilkes affair, it was thought that his refusal was due to an ambitious idea of a family administration of himself, his brothers, and Pitt. Be this as it may, he probably suspected that Bute would have an influence in the proposed administration. Pitt allowed himself to be swayed by gratitude for help which Temple had given him in the days of his poverty. During this negotiation a riot broke out in London. The silk manufacture was depressed owing to foreign competition, and thousands were consequently almost starving. A bill to check the importation of silk by the imposition of fresh duties was laid before the lords; it was opposed by Bedford, who was averse from restraints on commerce, and it was rejected. On this a large number of Spitalfields weavers went to Richmond, on May 14, to seek help from the king in person. They met him on Wimbledon common. He received them kindly, but could not, of course, give them the help they wanted. The next day many thousands gathered in Spitalfields and Moorfields at beat of drum, marched to St. James's and Westminster, and stopped members on their way to parliament. Bedford was assaulted and wounded, and on the 17th a determined attack was made upon his house on the north side of Bloomsbury Square. It was garrisoned by soldiers and others, but the attack was only defeated by the arrival of fresh troops. When the disturbances were at last quelled, a large collection was made for the relief of the immediate distress, which was further mitigated by a sudden fall in the price of bread.[69] The affair increased the king's discontent with his ministers and embittered the feelings of anger between the Bute and Bedford factions.[70]

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