The Political History of England - Vol. X.
by William Hunt
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On Pitt's refusal to take office, Cumberland tried Lord Lyttelton and Charles Townshend, but they declined the king's offer because they believed that no strong administration was possible without Pitt. George was forced to beg his ministers to continue. They took full advantage of his humiliation. Pitt had asked for assurances on matters of public policy; they made stipulations which chiefly concerned persons. The king must promise never again to consult Bute, and must deprive his brother Mackenzie of the office of privy seal of Scotland. As regards Bute, George at once gave the required promise, and though he was afterwards constantly suspected of consulting with him, there is good reason to believe that he loyally kept his word, and that Bute never again offered him any advice.[71] He had promised Mackenzie his office for life, and declared "that he should disgrace himself" if he took it from him. Nevertheless Grenville forced him to give way. His relations with his ministers were naturally strained; they complained that he did not support them, and on one occasion Bedford remonstrated with him in insolent terms. Again George requested Cumberland to treat with Pitt, who had two interviews with the king and was anxious to accept his offer, but Temple peremptorily refused to take any office, even the treasury, and Pitt with deep regret again followed his lead. The king found no way of escape, save by authorising Cumberland to turn to the great whig families. Grenville was dismissed, and an administration formed under the leadership of the Marquis of Rockingham took office on July 16. It must have been a bitter humiliation to George after all that had passed. Yet, though for the moment he was defeated, he did not mean to give over the rule of his kingdom to the whigs, and for the present anything was better than Grenville's tyranny. George respected his character, but said he, "I would rather see the devil in my closet than Mr. Grenville".

The weakness of the Rockingham administration was patent from the first. Charles Townshend, who succeeded Holland as paymaster, called it "a lutestring ministry, fit only for summer wear"; Pitt was expected to supply one of more durable material before the winter. The old phalanx of the whigs, tried hands at political business, was broken up by death and desertion; their successors lacked experience and authority. Rockingham, a man of thirty-five, a prominent figure on the turf, of vast wealth and irreproachable character, was a wretched speaker, and had neither genius, knowledge, nor industry. The Duke of Grafton, the secretary of state for the northern department, was even younger, and, like Rockingham, a great racing man. His public spirit made him a politician, but he cared so much more for pleasure than for politics that he was apt to be content so long as any immediate difficulty was tided over, and he suffered in public estimation from the scandal caused by his dissolute life. The southern department was taken by Conway. Dowdeswell, the chancellor of the exchequer, was a sound financier, but a dull man. Newcastle, who was privy seal and again had charge of church patronage, was no longer so powerful as in earlier days. Nor were the ministers unanimous in feeling. Grafton was far more at one with Pitt than with the Rockingham party; and the chancellor (Henley) Lord Northington, Egmont the first lord of the admiralty, and Barrington the secretary-at-war were included to please the king. Another cause of weakness was George's notorious dislike of his new ministers, which encouraged his "friends," the court party, to intrigue against them.


Most serious of all was the attitude of Pitt. He was pressed to join the government; its policy was in many respects such as he could approve, and in other matters he could almost have made his own terms. Nevertheless he refused to take office and openly declared his lack of confidence in the ministers, though they tried to satisfy him in various ways, such as by obtaining a peerage for Pratt, who was created Baron Camden. Magnificent as he had shown himself as a dictator, he was unfitted by temperament to work with others, and his natural defects were aggravated by his constant attacks of gout. At the same time his present attitude was to a large extent also a matter of principle. He would willingly have taken office if he could have simply been the king's minister, unconnected, without belonging to any party. The Rockinghams, as they were called, were a party connexion, and under Rockingham's leadership would remain so, and their character was emphasised by the inclusion of Newcastle, the chief representative of a system which Pitt hated, government based on the influence of the whig houses and not on the good-will of the crown and the people. Pitt plainly declared that he would not sit at council with Newcastle. Nor would he take office under Rockingham. Without him the ministry had neither an original policy nor a chance of permanence. Called into existence by Cumberland, it leant on him for support; he was present at all cabinet meetings, and they were sometimes held at his house. His sudden death on October 31 was a severe shock to the stability of the government. Pitt would not advise the ministers. Grafton urged that he should again be invited to take office, but the king would not enter on a fresh negotiation with him, for he had refused his former overtures and held very different views from his regarding the American stamp act.

For months the ministers paid no heed to American discontent, save that Conway wrote rather feebly to some of the colonial governors with reference to the disorders. Parliament was not summoned until December 17, and though the king's speech directed attention to the late occurrences in the colonies, the ministers had not decided on a policy. They ascertained Pitt's opinion, and so gained a lead. When parliament assembled in January, 1766, after the recess, Pitt spoke warmly against any attempt to enforce the stamp act. He avowed his distrust of the government in a characteristic fashion: "Pardon me, gentlemen," said he, bowing towards the ministers, "confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom; youth is the season of credulity". He thought that he saw "traces of an overruling influence," a dark saying which probably referred to Newcastle.[72] While he asserted the sovereignty of Great Britain over the colonies in legislation, he maintained that parliament had no right to tax them; taxation, according to him, was "no part of the governing or legislative power". He regarded the tax as an infringement of constitutional liberty, and rejoiced that the Americans had resisted it. Such a matter, he urged, was not to be decided by text-books; he had not come down to the house "armed with the statute-book, doubled down with dog's-ears, to defend the cause of liberty". America might be crushed, but if she fell, she would fall like Samson, embracing and pulling down the pillars of the state, the constitution, along with her. Let them bind her commerce and restrict her manufactures, but abstain from demanding money without the consent of her people. His words had a great effect; they put enforcement out of the question.

A few days later Edmund Burke made his first speech in parliament, recommending the house to receive a petition from the colonies, and was at once recognised as a new power. He was an Irishman, and was already known as a writer. He became Rockingham's secretary in 1765, and a seat was provided for him. Unsurpassed in his mastery of English prose, he exhibits to the full the splendour of the English language in his speeches and pamphlets. Nor is his thought unworthy of the gorgeous attire with which it is invested. His power and constant habit of discerning and expounding the principles which were involved in questions of the moment, give him a supreme place as a teacher of political wisdom. In character he was pure, generous, and tender-hearted. His fervid imagination extended the area of his sympathies, and sometimes prejudiced his opinions. As a speaker he was eloquent, and now and again carried his audience completely with him, but he never caught the tone of the house of commons; his longer speeches were too much of the nature of exhaustive treatises to be acceptable to its members; he had little tact, an impatient temper, and often spoke with execrable taste. The chief article in his political creed was his belief in the excellence of the constitution. He was an ardent reformer of abuses, but with the constitution itself he would have no meddling. Unlike Pitt, he saw that the only effectual check to corrupt influence was to be found in government by a party united for the promotion of national interests upon some common principle. Such a party might, he believed, be based on the whig families, if only they would keep themselves free from court intrigue and selfish jealousies. He was a whig of a different type from Newcastle and Bedford; he built his hopes on the Rockinghams and inspired their policy. That he never sat in a cabinet was chiefly because in those days such a distinction was confined to men of higher birth.


Decided action with regard to America was a pressing necessity. The measures of retaliation adopted by the colonists were depressing trade at home. Petitions against the stamp act were presented from the merchants of London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and other towns, setting forth the loss inflicted on manufacturers and their work-people by the stoppage of the American trade, and the difficulties arising from the non-payment of debts due from America, which amounted to L4,000,000. The ministers resolved on the repeal of the act, and on a bill declaring the right of parliament to legislate for the colonies on all matters whatsoever. Some of the king's household having voted against the government, Rockingham went to the king to remonstrate with him. George told him that he was for repeal, and that Rockingham might say so. Two days later the ministers heard that Lord Strange, one of the court party, was saying that the king was against repeal, and wished it to be known. This made a great stir, and the "ministerial lives were thought not worth three days' purchase". Rockingham went to the king for an explanation. George acknowledged that he had told him that he was for repeal, but said that they had been speaking only of the choice between the repeal and the enforcement of the act, that of the two he was for repeal, but that he desired that the act should be modified and not repealed. The ministers had therefore "to carry on a great public measure against the king's declared sentiments, and with a great number of his servants acting against them".[73] Nevertheless the bill for the repeal of the act was carried in the commons on March 11 by 275 votes to 167, and a week later in the lords by 105 to 71. It was a signal victory; but, apart from the interests of commerce, it was due rather to Pitt than to the government. The declaratory bill also passed; its chief opponents being Pitt and, in the upper house, Lord Camden, who on this question, as well as on that of repeal, talked much trash about a fundamental law of nature and the limits of the power of parliament, more in place in the mouth of an American demagogue than of an English judge. An address was also carried recommending that the colonial governors should be instructed to require compensation to be made to those who had suffered during the late disturbances.

Both in England and America the repeal of the stamp act was hailed with rejoicing. American discontent was hushed, and the public manifestations of gladness were accompanied by expressions of loyalty and affection for the mother-country. The colonists, however, knew that they had won a victory over parliament, and they did not forget it. Their substantial grievance, the commercial regulations, still remained; they soon saw that they must go further, and that Pitt's distinction between a direct money-tax and duties on merchandise, though it had served their immediate purpose, would no longer be useful. The declaratory act was regarded as a menace, and kept alive their feelings of suspicion and irritation. Their temper was shown by the delay of many of the colonies to vote the required compensation. In Massachusetts, where the vote was passed in December, it was insolently accompanied by a vote of indemnity to all concerned in the riots. The repeal of the stamp act needs no defence; a mistake had been made which was leading to serious consequences, and in such a case it is a statesmanlike policy to retrace the false step. The declaratory act was passed to save the dignity of parliament. In spite of Burke's admiration for this act, it may be suggested that the assertion of a right by a party which at the same time declines to enforce it, is neither a dignified nor a wise proceeding. Its only, and sufficient defence is that without it the repeal of the tax would have been impossible. The Americans' denial of the right of parliament, accompanied as it was by violence of word and action, roused much indignation in England and involved every supporter of the repeal in the imputation of betraying its dignity. If repeal was to be carried it was necessary to satisfy men's minds by a declaration of the right of parliament to tax the colonies.


Some good work was done in other directions; the cider-tax was repealed, a commercial treaty was made with Russia, and the house of commons came into agreement with the judges on the question of general warrants by resolving that general warrants being illegal, except in the cases provided for by act of parliament, the arrest of any of its members on such a warrant would be a breach of privilege. The administration, however, was enfeebled by the unconcealed dislike of the king, the hostility of Pitt, and the general belief that it was keeping him out of office. Pitt was extremely anxious for office, but would not accept it unless a "transposition of offices" was made; unless, in fact, Rockingham was got rid of. To this Rockingham would not consent; he wanted Pitt to take office as his ally, not as his successor. There were differences in the cabinet on the matter. The king's section wished to gain Pitt for their master; Rockingham was upheld by his friends; Grafton wanted Pitt as prime minister, and Conway, though less decided, agreed with him. Pitt became querulous and unreasonable, and in April violently attacked the ministers, specially excepting Grafton and Conway.[74] All attempts at negotiation having failed, Grafton made his choice for Pitt and resigned office. It was not easy to fill his place, for the ministry was regarded as moribund, and finally the king was forced to give the seals to Rockingham's friend, the young Duke of Richmond. The chancellor, Northington, a strong supporter of the king, saw that the end was not far off, and apparently determined to make sure of a place in the next administration by sacrificing his colleagues. He quarrelled with them in the cabinet on a question relating to the administration of law in Canada, and early in July told the king that he must resign office, and that the ministry was too weak to go on. George eagerly seized the opportunity for getting rid of it and replacing it by a more comprehensive ministry with Pitt at its head. The difficulties which had stood in Pitt's way were removed; the American question seemed to be settled; he had made it known that he would not again be guided by Temple, and he was delighted to be the king's minister, avowing his determination "to defend the closet against every contending party"—against, that is, the great whig houses and their connexions.

The satisfaction consequent on Pitt's accession to power faded at the news that he had accepted a peerage as Earl of Chatham. It was unjustly considered as a bribe, and lost him much of his popularity. A more serious consequence was that it left the leadership of the house of commons to weaker hands. Though prime minister, he took for himself the unimportant office of privy seal. His course was probably determined by a consciousness of failing health. Conway became northern secretary of state, with the leadership of the commons, and Shelburne secretary for the southern department. In spite of Temple's opposition to the repeal of the stamp act, Pitt offered him the treasury, but that vain man would not enter the cabinet except as Pitt's equal, and a quarrel ensued between them. The treasury was then accepted by Grafton; and, unfortunately, by his advice, Charles Townshend was made chancellor of the exchequer. Camden was appointed chancellor, Northington president of the council, and they, with Granby as commander-in-chief, and Sir Charles Saunders, who succeeded Egmont at the admiralty, completed the cabinet. Besides Conway and Saunders, some other Rockinghams had inferior offices, but Rockingham himself and most of his party considered that Chatham had treated them badly, and repelled his advances. The ministry was unfortunate in being represented in the house of commons by the irresolute Conway and the unprincipled Townshend. Worse still, Chatham, whose arrogance increased with his disease, alienated adherents, and treated his colleagues with reserve and disdain.

Chatham at once pursued the foreign policy which he had consistently recommended by seeking a continental alliance to counterbalance the alliance of the Bourbon powers. The family compact did not lose its importance at the peace of Paris. Choiseul in France and Grimaldi, who succeeded Wall in Spain, worked together heartily in promoting a Bourbon policy, and looked forward to the reconquest of the lost possessions of France and Spain. The allies were strengthened by the good-will of Austria. Schemes of aggrandisement were formed, which included the acquisition of Corsica by France and of Portugal by Spain. There were unsettled causes of dispute between them and England touching the fortification of Dunkirk and the Manila ransom, and Spain was also aggrieved by a British settlement in the Falkland islands. Against France the natural ally of England was Russia, for she had a strong interest in opposing French influence in Denmark and Sweden; while on the side of England a Russian alliance would, in the event of war, secure her Baltic trade and enable her fleet to act elsewhere, and would be a defence for Hanover. An alliance with Russia had already been discussed, but Catherine II. had far less interest in the matter than England, and insisted that any alliance should include her Turkish war, to which England would not consent. Catherine was in alliance with Frederick of Prussia, and Chatham, hoping that the adhesion of England would be welcomed, designed a defensive alliance between Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia, which might take in Denmark, Sweden, the States-General, and any other power interested in withstanding Bourbon aggrandisement. To Catherine her alliance with Prussia was much more important than anything which she could obtain from England, and Chatham's design therefore depended on Frederick's good-will. He declined the proposal of Great Britain: he had not forgiven the ill-treatment which he believed he had received from Bute; he admired Chatham, but had no assurance that he would remain in power; and he considered any possible danger to himself from the Bourbon alliance to be too remote to make it advisable for him to join in a concert to prevent it. He was already meditating the partition of Poland, and the proposed combination would have been contrary to his policy. Chatham's great design was consequently defeated.


His arbitrary temper soon brought him into difficulties. He desired to reward a new adherent with the office of treasurer of the household, then held by Lord Edgcumbe, and on Edgcumbe's refusal to vacate the office, he deprived him of it. Edgcumbe was connected with the Rockingham party, and, with the exception of Conway, all the more important members of it who had joined the new ministry, the Duke of Portland, Saunders, and others, resigned office. Conway was almost persuaded to follow their example, for Chatham treated him with haughty coldness, but he yielded to the urgent advice of his friend Horace Walpole, and remained in the ministry, uneasy and vacillating. Any alliance with the Rockinghams being out of the question, Chatham was driven to make overtures to the Bedford party, which failed because they asked more than he would grant. Finally, Saunders's place at the admiralty was supplied by the famous admiral, Sir Edward Hawke, and the other vacancies were filled by tories and courtiers.

The harvest of 1765 was bad, and that of the present year promised to be no better. The price of wheat rose rapidly, and in July reached 44s. a quarter. The poor were distressed, worse times seemed to be ahead, and the dealers were believed to be keeping back supplies in the expectation of higher prices. Riots of a more or less serious character broke out in some fifty places; bakers' shops were pillaged, mills and barns were fired, and dealers and tradesmen were forced to sell provisions at prices fixed by the people. It was not until September 10, when wheat had again risen, that the ministers, in accordance with the economic ideas of the time, issued a proclamation against forestalling and engrossing. It had no effect; the price reached 49s., and on the 26th the council laid an embargo on exportation. By law the ministers had no right to take such a step until wheat was at 53s. 4d. As, however, prices were rising, all parties agreed that the embargo was in itself a justifiable measure. It was, however, objected that the ministers should have summoned parliament to meet at an earlier date, and have acted with its authority. When parliament met on November 11, the opposition insisted that the ministers needed a bill of indemnity for having set aside the law by a proclamation of council. Chatham defended their action on the constitutional ground of necessity. His colleagues and supporters were not all equally wise. Northington declared that the proclamation was legally, as well as morally, justifiable; and the chancellor, Camden, the assertor of popular liberties, that "it was at most a forty days' tyranny". His foolish speech was severely handled by Mansfield. In the commons Alderman Beckford, a hot-headed admirer of Chatham, said that "if the public was in danger the king had a dispensing power," and was forced by Grenville to retract his words. The debates on this matter injured the reputation of the ministry though they did not endanger its stability.


When parliament rose in December Chatham went to Bath for the sake of his health. In February, 1767, he had a severe attack of gout, and in March the disease began to affect his mental powers. For the next two years he was unable to take any part in politics. His effacement left the ministry without a head. Before his retirement a difference arose in the cabinet on the affairs of the East India Company. From a simple trading company it had been raised by the victories of Clive and his generals to the position of a territorial power. Its affairs were managed by a court of directors elected annually, and consequently under the control of the court of proprietors in which every holder of L500 stock had a vote. It proved itself unequal to its new position. Clive returned to England in 1760, the possessor of a princely fortune, and in 1762 was created Baron Clive of Plassey in the Irish peerage. He was opposed in the court of directors by a party headed by Sullivan. In India he was succeeded by Vansittart, and there troubles soon arose, chiefly from the greed of the company's servants. Mir Jafar, the Nawab of Bengal, a self-indulgent and unpopular ruler, was deposed by the council in 1761, and his son-in-law, Mir Kasim, was made nawab in his place. It was a profitable business, for Mir Kasim spent L200,000 in presents to the council and ceded to the company the revenues of three districts, amounting to some L500,000 a year. Yet the exchange of nawabs proved an unwise step, for Mir Kasim was able and active. He moved his court from Murshidabad to Monghyr, at a greater distance from Calcutta, organised an army, and showed that he was ready to resist oppression.

The revenues of the Indian princes were largely derived from tolls on the transit of merchandise. The company, which had the right of free exportation and importation, passed its goods free inland under the certificate of the head of a factory. The system was abused. The company paid its servants insufficient salaries, and they made up for it by engaging in private inland trade, using the company's passes to cover their goods. Armed with its power, they forced the natives to deal with their native agents, to buy dear and sell cheap; they monopolised the trade in the necessaries of life, and grew rich upon the miseries of the helpless people. Private trade and extorted presents enabled many a man who as a mere youth had obtained a writer's place to return to England after a few years with a handsome income. Mir Kasim saw his people starving, his officers ill-treated, and his treasury robbed, and prepared for revolt. Conscious of the impending danger, Vansittart made an agreement with him as to tolls. The council at Calcutta indignantly repudiated the agreement, and Mir Kasim was furious. Open hostilities began in June, 1763. One of the council, who was sent on an embassy to Kasim, was killed by his troops. Patna was seized by the English; it was retaken, and some 200 English were made prisoners. A little army under Major Adams, routed the nawab's forces, and on October 11 Monghyr was taken. Mir Kasim caused all his prisoners, save five, to be massacred, and fled for refuge to Shuja-ud-Daula the nawab wazir of Oudh. Patna was taken by storm and Bengal was completely subdued.

Mir Jafar was again made nawab, and paid large sums both to the company and its servants as compensation for their losses. The war, however, was not over, for the nawab wazir espoused the cause of Mir Kasim, and, in conjunction with the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam, threatened Bengal. Major Hector Munro took command of the British army, and found it in a mutinous condition; desertions to the enemy were frequent. He captured a large body of deserters, caused twenty-four of the ringleaders to be blown from guns, and by his dauntless conduct restored discipline among the troops. With about 7,000 men, of whom only some 1,000 were Europeans, he inflicted a crushing defeat on the allied forces, 50,000 strong, at Baxar on October 23, 1764. The enemy lost 6,000 men and 167 guns. Oudh lay at the disposal of the English, and Shah Alam sought refuge with the conquerors. Early in 1765 Mir Jafar died, and the council at Calcutta, without consulting the emperor, appointed his son to succeed him, receiving in presents from him L139,357, besides money unaccounted for. These revolutions and wars cost the company much money, and, while its servants were enriching themselves, it incurred heavy debts. Clive was called upon to put an end to the maladministration of Bengal. He refused to return to India while Sullivan was chairman of the court of directors. After a sharp contest, in which large sums were spent, the proprietors put his party in power. He was invested with full authority as commander-in-chief and governor of Bengal to act in conjunction with a select committee.

He landed in India in May, 1765. During his administration of about eighteen months he secured for the company the virtual sovereignty over its conquests without dispossessing the nominal rulers, and he took measures for the reformation of the company's service. Averse from a forward policy of conquest, he restored Oudh to the nawab wazir on payment of L500,000. Allahabad and Kora were assigned to the emperor, together with a tribute from Bengal, and in return Shah Alam granted to the company the right of levying and administering the revenues of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, together with jurisdiction in the Northern Circars. The nawab of Bengal received an annual pension of L600,000, and surrendered all his power to the company, except the right of criminal jurisdiction. Clive reorganised the army, and stopped the double batta, or allowance, granted by Mir Jafar after the battle of Plassey. He forbade illicit trade and the receipt of presents, and secured the company's servants increased salaries. These reforms were effected in the face of violent opposition, both in civil and military quarters. Two hundred officers conspired to resign their commissions on the same day. Clive faced the mutiny successfully; he cashiered the leaders and accepted the submission of the younger men. Ill-health obliged him to return to England in January, 1767.


The enormous private fortunes made in India led people to believe that the company was far richer than it really was. During the late wars the dividend was 6 per cent. In 1766 the proprietors urged an increase. To this the directors objected that the debts of the company were heavy, and that a premature increase would raise the price of stock to a point at which it could not be maintained, and might end in a disaster like that of the South Sea Company. The ministers sent a message of warning, announcing that the affairs of the company would probably be considered in parliament. They concerned the public, for the company enjoyed protection and privileges granted by the nation. Nevertheless the proprietors carried their point, and a dividend of 10 per cent. was declared. Chatham held that the time had come for parliament to inquire by what right the company administered its territorial revenues. He considered that it had no right to its new position of a virtually sovereign power, that the sovereignty of the crown should be asserted, and that in return for the privileges which it enjoyed it should contribute a portion of its revenues to the national treasury. The company should apply to parliament to make good its defective title, and parliament should then settle what portion of its revenues should be assigned to it by way of favour. His ideas were based on an imperial policy. As early as 1759 he held that the territorial acquisitions of the company should be claimed for the nation. With him it was a matter not merely of revenue but of government, and though his ideas are indistinctly indicated, and were perhaps vaguely formed, it is probable that he had in his mind some idea of making the government of India an imperial matter. Yet, sharing as he did the general belief as to the wealth of the company, he certainly attached much importance to the possibility of obtaining from it an increase of the public revenue.

A special reason may be discerned for his desire to obtain such an increase at the end of 1766. The government wanted money; there was a heavy debt on the civil list, and the navy needed a large grant. An increase of taxation was inadvisable, for corn was dear. Various schemes for the increase of revenue were in the air. Many members of parliament, the court party, the country interest, and the Grenville and Bedford connexions were regretting the repeal of the stamp act. "We must look to the East and not to the West," wrote Beckford to Chatham,[75] and he spoke the mind of his leader. The cabinet was divided. Grafton and Shelburne agreed with Chatham that the question of the company's rights should be decided by parliament. Townshend declared that it would be "absurd" to force the company to share its power with the crown, and both he and Conway desired that the question of right should be waived and that its relations with the government should be settled by amicable arrangement. In May, 1767, the proprietors insisted on a dividend at the rate of 12-1/2 per cent. A motion was carried to bring the affairs of the company before parliament. Townshend, as Chatham said, "marred the business"; he managed to open the door for negotiation, and to make it a mere matter of money. In June, 1767, a bill was passed, based on an agreement with the company, which in return for the confirmation of its territorial revenues, bound itself to pay the government L400,000 a year for two years; and parliament prohibited a higher dividend than 10 per cent. The bill was violently opposed, specially by the Rockingham party, on the ground that it was an unjustifiable interference with the rights of property. In 1769 the agreement with the company was renewed, and permission was given for a dividend of 12-1/2 per cent, on certain conditions. The company was then in debt over L6,000,000.

[Sidenote: HAIDAR ALI.]

A new and formidable enemy had arisen in Southern India. In 1767 Haidar (Hyder) Ali, the ruler of Mysore, made war upon the English in conjunction with the Nizam of Haidarabad. The allies were defeated, and the nizam made peace. Haidar, however, continued the war. He had a large force of cavalry which he brought to great perfection, and, as the English were deficient in that arm, he was able to do much mischief in the Karnatic. In April, 1769, having previously drawn the English army away from Madras by skilful manoeuvres, he suddenly appeared in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. The English were forced to make a treaty with him on his own terms. The news sent the company's stock down 60 per cent. The same year the crops failed in Bengal, and in 1770 there was a grievous famine which is said to have carried off a third of the inhabitants. Yet in spite of the decreasing revenue and the heavy debts of the company, the proprietors were receiving dividends of 12 and 12-1/2 per cent.


[68] Newcastle's Narrative, p. 11.

[69] Annual Register, viii. (1765), 92.

[70] Bedford Correspondence, iii., 281; Walpole, Letters, iv., 365-66.

[71] Annual Register, xxi. (1778), 256.

[72] Lord Charlemont to Flood, Jan. 8, 1766, Letters to Flood, p. 5.

[73] Conway to Lord Hertford, Feb. 12, 1766, in a MS. collection of Conway's letters, to which Messrs. Sotheran kindly gave me access.

[74] Conway to Hertford, April 29, 1766, MS. Sotheran, u.s.

[75] Beckford to Chatham, Oct. 15, 1766, MS. Pitt Papers, 19; Grenville Papers, iii., 336.



While Chatham was suffering from gout and Conway from indecision, Townshend had opportunities for mischief. His brilliant wit and oratory gave him extraordinary influence in the house of commons, which he used merely for his own ends, for he was unprincipled and greedy for popularity. Whatever it might be that the majority in the house wished to have done, he was anxious to be the doer of it. This desire to lead the house by carrying out its wishes was probably the true reason of his opposition to Chatham's Indian policy. It led him to take a more disastrous line with reference to America. The colonies were irritated and suspicious. Massachusetts was encroaching on the royal prerogative by passing an amnesty bill, and was quarrelling over it with its governor, Bernard, and the New York assembly was defying the authority of parliament by refusing to provide the troops with certain articles specified in the mutiny act. An equally unconciliatory spirit prevailed in England, where the repeal of the stamp act had become unpopular. It was necessary to keep a permanent force in America, and the colonists should have been willing to contribute to the defence of the empire by paying for it. Their refusal was attributed to a desire to save their pockets, which to some extent was the case, and Englishmen were angry at the prospect of being called upon to meet expenses which should have been borne by others. Even warm friends of the colonies held that a military establishment should be paid for out of colonial revenues, and Shelburne was considering how a fund might be raised without taxation.[76] Unfortunately, Townshend chose to pander to the feelings of the majority of the commons. In a debate on the army supplies on January 26, 1767, he boasted, without any previous consultation with his fellow-ministers, that he could raise a revenue from America nearly sufficient to maintain the troops there. The house received his words with applause, his colleagues with dumb dismay. Grenville and Lord George Sackville took them up and forced him to pledge himself to make them good.


Money was wanted for the service of the country, and specially for the maintenance of the navy, and a month later Townshend proposed that the land tax should be continued at four shillings in the pound. A strong opposition was expected, for the country gentlemen reasonably contended that the tax had been raised from three to four shillings as a war-tax, that it was time to lower it, and that if the stamp act had not been repealed it might be reduced to its normal amount.[77] The whigs, whose economic policy was directed by their desire to increase the wealth and power of the nation by promoting trade, held that the larger share of taxation should be drawn from the land, and fostered the agricultural interest in order to enable it to bear the disproportionate burden they laid upon it. Nevertheless, the Rockingham and Grenville parties took advantage of the dissatisfaction of the landed gentry, acted together in a factious spirit, and defeated the government proposal by 206 votes to 188. This was a serious blow to the government, and was the first occasion on which a minister had been defeated on a money-bill since the revolution. The defeat was due to Townshend's neglect. Chatham would no longer bear with him, and one of his last acts before his retirement was to invite Lord North, the eldest son of the Earl of Guilford, to take his place as chancellor of the exchequer. North refused, and Townshend remained in office. He had to raise money somehow, and he was kept in mind of his pledge with regard to America; for parliament was indignant at the conduct of the New York assembly, and the court party urged him on by representing that the king was humiliated by the repeal of the stamp act. In June he carried two bills affecting the colonies, one providing for the execution of the trade laws, the other imposing duties on the importation of glass, paper, paints, and tea. The produce of these duties was to be applied, first, to the cost of administering justice and of the civil government, and the surplus was to be paid into the exchequer and appropriated by parliament to the defence of the colonies. The bills passed without opposition and the acts came into operation on November 20. A bill was also passed suspending the legislative power of the New York assembly, until it should comply with the mutiny act.

The new duties were external taxes, taxes on trade, such as the colonists had professed themselves prepared to pay, and they were trifling in amount, their produce being estimated at less than L40,000. But they were imposed for purposes of revenue, not for the regulation of trade, which would in Chatham's eyes have rendered them a rightful imposition. And the colonists' position had changed. They demanded to be taxed only by their own assemblies, and regarded the new acts as laying the foundation of a fiscal system which would probably be as liable to abuse as the Irish civil list. A renewal of the rumour concerning a colonial episcopate increased their suspicion as to the height to which demands on their purse might grow. Their discontent was originally founded on their impatience of control and on the restraints placed upon their industry and commerce; their resistance was roused by the fear of future ill-government rather than by actual grievances. The quarrel became embittered by faults on both sides. By denying the authority of parliament and contemning the prerogative, the Americans took up a position which could not be conceded to them without national humiliation; they irritated the English by violent words and actions, and treated the loyalists with injustice and cruelty. On the other hand, England, besides imposing restrictions on their industry and commerce, made demands upon them which, though just, were galling to their spirit. As they had representative assemblies, they argued that they should be taxed only by their authority. The king and the nation generally had no sympathy with their complaints and were unconciliatory.


Yet while there were faults on both sides, both alike showed a spirit worthy of their common stock, the colonists by their insistence on self-government, the mother-country by its steadfast adherence to the imperial idea as it then existed. Massachusetts again took the lead in resistance; the merchants renewed the non-importation agreements, and the assembly sent a petition to the king, and on February 11, 1768, a circular letter to the other provincial assemblies condemning the late acts and inviting co-operation. This letter, the work of Samuel Adams, did much to remove the jealousies between the provinces and to arouse a spirit of union. It evoked expressions of sympathy from Virginia and other colonies, and the merchants of New York at once joined the Bostonians in a system of non-importation. Of almost equal importance were The Farmer's Letters by Dickinson, which appeared in a Pennsylvania paper in 1767-68, and contained an able statement of the claims of colonies, recommending a firm but peaceable attitude of resistance. Meanwhile the condition of the ministry was unfavourable alike to any chance of conciliation or to a consistently vigorous policy.

George was grievously disappointed by Chatham's illness. Between them they had put together an administration which Burke aptly compared to a piece of mosaic, formed of men of various parties; and with it George not unreasonably hoped to be able to carry out his ideal system of government, to destroy party distinctions and establish his rule over his people for their benefit and with their good-will.[78] In Chatham's absence, Grafton became his principal minister, though he had no authority in the cabinet. For a time Chatham's speedy recovery was expected, and both the king and Grafton made constant appeals to him at least to express his opinion on public affairs. No help was to be had from him; he would only entreat Grafton to remain in office. The disorganised ministry was confronted by a strong opposition composed of the Rockingham, Bedford, and Grenville connexions. Chatham became incapable of transacting any business; and when it was evident that his illness would be prolonged, Grafton advised the king to enter into negotiations with them. In July, 1767, George invited Rockingham to draw up a plan for an administration. He did not intend to admit the Rockinghams to office; he wanted a ministry, formed on non-party lines, which would be strong enough to hold its ground in parliament, and all he wished Rockingham to do was to submit a scheme of such a ministry for his approval, including in it some of the present ministers. Rockingham, however, held the modern doctrine that a prime minister should form his own administration, and assumed that the existing ministry was at an end.

He yielded to the king's wish, but was determined not to take office except with a comprehensive ministry united on the basis of opposition to that court influence which had wrecked his former government. With this idea he attempted to form a union with the Bedford party. The negotiation failed, for Grenville and Temple, who were then united to the Bedfords, represented to their allies that no union was possible without agreement as to American policy. This ended the matter, for the Grenville and Bedford parties were strongly in favour of American taxation. Rockingham therefore told the king that he was unable to act upon his invitation. Grafton remained in office. A man of pleasure and of culture, in some points a true descendant of Charles II., he was out of his proper element in political life. He grudged leaving his kennels at Wakefield Lodge or the heath at Newmarket to transact public business in London, and preferred reading a play of Euripides at Euston to being bored by a debate at Westminster. On no other English minister have the responsibilities of office had so little effect; he would put off a cabinet meeting for a race meeting, and even in the presence of the king and queen appeared at the opera by the side of his mistress, Nancy Dawson, afterwards Lady Maynard.


Yet, uncongenial as official work was to him, Grafton was unwilling to desert the king and disappoint Chatham. He fully intended to carry out Chatham's policy. He failed to do so, for he allowed himself to be swayed by the king; and he let things slide in a wrong direction, because he would not take the trouble to make any strenuous effort to check their course. In Chatham's absence the king gradually gained complete control of the ministry, and on every important question the ministers followed a line wholly contrary to that which Chatham would have adopted. Townshend died in September and North became chancellor of the exchequer. North was an able financier, personally popular, and a successful leader of the house of commons. He was a strong tory and was prepared to uphold the king's policy whether he approved it or not. At the end of the year an agreement was made with the Bedford party. The duke, whose sight was failing and who was mourning the loss of his only surviving son, would not himself take office, but bade his followers do as they pleased. Lord Gower became president of the council in place of Northington; Conway resigned the seals of secretary, though he remained in the cabinet, and Lord Weymouth was made secretary of state for the northern department. Lord Hillsborough was appointed as a third secretary of state for the colonies which, in consequence of the increase of colonial business, were removed from Shelburne's department, and other members of the "Bloomsbury gang" received minor offices. These changes were held to amount to the formation of a fresh administration. George did not at first like the junction with the Bedfords, which seemed contrary to his policy of destroying connexions, but the new ministers were so ready to carry out all his wishes that he was soon delighted with them.

The ministry showed its bias by its action with reference to a dispute between the two chief magnates in Cumberland and Westmorland, the Duke of Portland, a prominent member of the Rockingham party, and Sir James Lowther, Bute's son-in-law, who commanded nine seats in the house of commons. The duke's estate in the north came to him by a grant from William III. to the first Earl of Portland, in virtue of which he held the forest of Inglewood and the socage of Carlisle, valued at about L30,000, as appurtenances to the estate expressly granted. Lowther contended that the grant did not convey these appurtenances and applied to the treasury for a lease of them. Without officially informing the duke of his claim, the treasury granted the lease. As between subject and subject the duke's title would have been indisputable, for his house had had undisturbed possession for over sixty years, but as regards claims of the crown there was an ancient maxim: Nullum tempus occurrit regi—"Time does not bar the king's rights". The attempt of the treasury to revive this maxim was considered oppressive, and was generally attributed to the influence of Bute and the court, and to a desire to injure a political opponent and gratify a powerful supporter. The feeling was strengthened by the characters of the two disputants, for Portland was a man of high reputation, Lowther a cynical tyrant. On February 17, 1768, Sir George Savile, a great Yorkshire landowner and a member of the Rockingham party, whose integrity and wealth gave him weight in the house, brought in a bill called the Nullum tempus bill, to make sixty years' possession a bar to claims of the crown. It was opposed by the ministry, and North succeeded in adjourning the motion, though only by 134 to 114. Parliament was dissolved in March, and the new parliament passed the bill.

The union with the Bedford party lessened any chance of American conciliation. Hillsborough ordered the Massachusetts assembly to rescind its circular letter. It refused, and, acting on Hillsborough's instructions, Bernard dissolved the assembly. Other colonies rejected the command to disregard the letter; they would stand or fall with Massachusetts. In New York, however, the "whig party" was defeated at the elections, the assembly complied with the mutiny act, and its legislative authority was restored. Bernard sent home disquieting reports; the revenue laws were openly defied, and the officers forcibly prevented from executing them; he was himself insulted by the mob, and had not, he wrote, "the shadow of authority". There were no troops nearer than New York. Bernard, an upright and fairly able man, though too apt to dispute with his disputatious opponents, was extremely unpopular, for it was known that he advised the ministers to take strong measures. It was his duty to represent the royal authority and to maintain the laws, and he told them that he could do nothing unless he was supported. He was right. Between a frank surrender and a vigorous and consistent policy there should have been no middle way. The ministers found one. They irritated the Americans without attempting to crush the fomenters of disturbance; they threatened and retreated, made a demonstration of force and shrank from employing it; their threats made the British government hated, their lenity brought it into contempt.[79] Bernard, of course, wrote as a partisan, but with this allowance his reports may be accepted as trustworthy.

Acting on these reports, Hillsborough, early in June, 1768, ordered Gage to send troops to Boston to protect the king's officers. It was full time. On the 10th a sloop belonging to Hancock, a merchant of Boston, arrived in the harbour laden with wine from Madeira. The tide-waiter who boarded her was forcibly detained, and an attempt was made to defraud the revenue by a false declaration. On this the commissioners seized the sloop and laid her under the stem of the Romney, a man-of-war, in the harbour. A riot ensued; the revenue officers were mobbed, one of their boats was burned, and they were forced to take refuge in the castle. On September 29 seven ships carrying the 14th and 29th regiments, and a company of artillery, in all about 1,000 men, arrived in the harbour. The Bostonians refused to assign quarters for the troops, and they suffered some hardships. On receiving the news of the riot in June the ministers despatched the 64th and 65th regiments to Boston. These reinforcements arrived in January, 1769. The people were indignant; but in the face of so large a force remained quiet.


On American, as well as on other measures, Shelburne, who desired conciliation, differed from his colleagues. In the autumn of 1768 the king and the Bedford party urged his dismissal, and Grafton acquiesced. Chatham was annoyed by this decision, and still more by the dismissal of Sir Jeffrey Amherst, governor of Virginia. He resigned the privy seal in October, and Grafton was thenceforward considered as head of the ministry. A few days later Shelburne resigned. He was generally disliked and distrusted. He had acted as a go-between in the early days of his career, and while in office was believed to be false to his colleagues; his face answered to the popular idea of a Jesuit, and his manners were artificial. He was given the nickname of Malagrida, a Portuguese Jesuit who had been executed for conspiracy in 1761. Weymouth took his place in the southern, and Lord Rochford became secretary of state for the northern department. When parliament met in December, Bedford moved a petition to the crown to apply to Massachusetts an act of 35 Henry VIII., by which offenders outside the kingdom were liable to be brought to England for trial. This motion and eight resolutions on American affairs moved by Hillsborough passed both houses without a division, though not without opposition, the cause of the colonists being advocated in the commons by Pownall, an ex-governor of Massachusetts, Burke, and others.

To recommend the revival of an obsolete statute, made in a tyrannical reign and to meet different circumstances, in order to enable a government to deport offenders from a distant colony and try them by juries certain to be prejudiced against them, was so contrary to the spirit of the constitution as to be defensible only on the ground of necessity. That it would have been impossible to secure a verdict in the province against a rioter can scarcely be doubted. The government, however, advocated this measure, not because it was necessary, but merely to frighten the colonists. This became known in America, and the colonists learned that England had made an empty threat, and was about to adopt a conciliatory policy. The only effect of the threat was to excite Virginia and North Carolina to non-importation. The non-importation agreements, which were enforced by advertising the names of offending tradesmen, caused heavy loss to British trade. Between Christmas 1767 and 1769 the value of exports to America decreased by about L700,000. The cabinet inclined to conciliatory measures, and the Massachusetts assembly was again summoned, though it professed no regret for its past conduct. On May 1, 1769, the cabinet resolved to bring in a bill during the next session for taking off all the new duties except that on tea. Grafton proposed to give them all up, and was supported by Camden, Conway, and Granby. North was inclined to a total repeal, but yielded to the king's influence, and declared for retaining the tea duty as a manifestation of right; Gower, Hillsborough, Weymouth and Rochford voted with him. Grafton, though outvoted in the cabinet, remained in office; he desired to resign, but found no "good ground for retirement," for though the king henceforward dictated his orders to him rather than asked his advice, he did not, so Grafton writes, withdraw his personal favour. So completely was the position of a prime minister of our own day unknown at that time.

Hillsborough informed the colonies of the partial repeal of the duties, and of the intention of the government not to lay any further taxes on America for the purpose of revenue. In its amount, namely, threepence on the pound, the tea duty was not a grievance, for the duty of one shilling paid in England was returned on re-exportation, so that the Americans could buy their tea ninepence per pound cheaper than in England. The colonial agitators, however, denied the right of taxation and the authority of parliament, and these the king and the English people generally were determined to maintain. Hillsborough's letter was ungracious, but its tone was probably of no consequence; the quarrel was not of a sort to be allayed by smooth words. Further attempts at conciliation were made. In compliance with a petition from Massachusetts, Bernard was recalled, and his place was taken by Hutchinson. Boston complained bitterly of the presence of the troops, and half of them were moved away. So long as the British force was strong the town was fairly quiet. When it was reduced the people began to abuse and irritate the soldiers, until the insults heaped upon them led, as we shall see, to an untoward encounter. Thus did the ministry strengthen the spirit of resistance and bring contempt upon Great Britain. For its refusal to make its concessions complete, the king is mainly responsible. A complete surrender would have humiliated him and his realm in the eyes of the world. Whether such humiliation, surely not tamely to be accepted by a great nation, would in the end have prevented the Americans from finding cause for quarrel and separation may possibly be matter for discussion. It is certainly not so with the policy of the ministers, that, if it can be called a policy at all, was clearly the worst they could have adopted.


In Irish, not less than in American, affairs the policy of the ministry was decided by the king. Ireland was governed as a subject country. Shut out from the benefits of the navigation laws, she was only allowed such commerce as would not bring her into rivalry with England. Since the beginning of the century the condition of her people had slightly improved, but in Munster and Connaught there was much terrible misery. Though the severest provisions of the penal code were obsolete, the protestants still remained a dominant caste. Roman catholics were shut out from the bar and the army, and the sons of catholic squires for the most part either spent their youth in idleness or served in foreign armies. The great landowners were generally absentees and their estates were rented by middle-men; the lands were let three or four deep, and the peasants were crushed by exorbitant rents and unjust dealing. Their burdens were increased by the tithe paid to an alien Church which was still rather a secular than a religious power and, though more Irishmen held preferments in it than formerly, had no place in the affections of the people and neglected its duty, while the catholic priests, mostly poor and ignorant men, were active, were adored by their flocks, and ruled them with benevolent despotism. The tithe was specially burdensome to the poor, both because the rich pasture-lands of the wealthy were exempt from payment, while it was levied on little plots worked by the plough or spade of the peasant, and because it was constantly farmed out to men who made their bargains profitable by oppressing the needy with unfair exactions. Chief among the causes of the misery of the peasants was the extent to which arable land was converted into pasture. Commons were unjustly enclosed, villages were depopulated, the starving peasants were forced to flee to the mountains, and black cattle roamed at will round the ruins of their deserted dwellings.

The despair of the wretched found expression in violence. In 1761 a secret society called the Whiteboys was organised in Munster and parts of Leinster to resist, or exact vengeance for, the enclosure of commons, and unjust rents or tithe. The movement was agrarian, not religious, though the Whiteboys were catholics, nor political. It was formidable, for there was no Irish constabulary or militia. The Whiteboys would gather in obedience to some secret mandate, march by night in large and ordered companies, some to the land of one offender, others to that of another, and, making the darkness hideous with their white smocks, fall to houghing cattle, destroying fences, and spoiling pastures. Many cruel deeds were done, though the murders were few. Stern acts were passed against Whiteboyism; volunteers put themselves at the disposal of the magistrates, and the rising was at last crushed, not without cruelty and an unfair administration of the criminal law. The outbreak is a notable event in Irish history, for from that time until now secret societies which have attempted to gain their objects by lawless and bloody means have constantly existed in Ireland. In protestant Ulster the Oakboys, as they called themselves, rose in 1763 against an increase in the demands for tithe and the burdens laid upon them for making and repairing roads. Their rising was not accompanied by the cruelties which disgraced Whiteboyism, and was speedily pacified. Some years later the greediness of Lord Donegal, who for the sake of gain evicted over 6,000 protestant families and replaced them by new tenants, many of them catholics, caused a rising in Antrim and Down. Already numerous presbyterians of Ulster, men of Scottish and English descent, had been driven by the destruction of the woollen trade and the disabilities imposed by the test act to emigrate to America, and many of Donegal's evicted tenantry followed their example. Ireland lost men who should have defended British interests, and America gained some of her best soldiers in the revolutionary war. The feud between the protestants and catholics of Ulster arising out of Donegal's evictions bore bitter fruit in later troubles.


The Irish house of commons was composed exclusively of protestants, elected exclusively by protestants. Of its 300 members sixty-four were returned for counties and were in some measure elected by the people. Two were returned for Trinity College, Dublin. The remainder sat for cities and boroughs, and of these 172 were nominated by borough-owners. The duration of parliament was only terminated by the demise of the crown. The house was the representative of the protestant aristocracy and was completely out of touch with the mass of the people. It had little control of finance, for the Irish establishments were large. The civil list was burdened with pensions and sinecures, distributed either as a means of parliamentary corruption, or among the supporters of the castle policy and the hangers-on of the English court. By Poyning's law the Irish parliament was subordinated to the English privy council, and could not be summoned until the bills which it was called upon to pass had received the assent of the council. A desire for greater independence was growing up in parliament, and a patriotic party eagerly pressed for reforms, for the extension of the habeas corpus act to Ireland, for securing the judges in office, and for shorter parliaments. The government was in the hands of a party called the "Irish interest" which worked harmoniously with the English ministers. Its chiefs, the "undertakers," undertook the king's business in parliament, administered the country, and dispensed patronage, for the lord-lieutenant only resided in Ireland during the session of parliament, that is for six months every other year. They answered roughly to the whig oligarchy in England at the beginning of the reign, and in spite of some extravagance and corruption used their power not altogether ill.

George, who was sincerely anxious for the good government of the country, desired, as a matter of general policy, to break down the power of the undertakers, as he had broken down the power of the whigs in England. He also had a special point to carry; he wanted to obtain the consent of parliament to an augmentation of the Irish army from 12,000 to 15,000 men. As the peace establishment of Great Britain was only about 17,000 men, the crown certainly needed a larger force, but it was unfair to lay the burden of providing it on Ireland. With these objects the ministry sent the Marquis Townshend, Charles Townshend's brother, to Ireland as viceroy in 1767, ordering him to reside there throughout his term of office. After much difficulty Townshend obtained the augmentation, with the proviso that 12,000 troops should be kept in the country, and the patriotic party, Lord Charlemont, Lucas, Flood, and others, were gratified by the octennial act limiting the duration of parliament to eight years. When the new parliament met, the commons acting under the influence of the undertakers, renewed an attempt made at the beginning of the reign to establish their authority over supply by rejecting a money bill which, according to custom, had been prepared by the government and returned by the English privy council. Townshend prorogued parliament; and before its next meeting secured a majority by wholesale corruption, such as had been employed in England by Fox and Bute, and overthrew the power of the undertakers. His want of tact and his indecorous conduct rendered his victory fruitless, and he was recalled in 1772.

The general election of 1768 was even more corrupt than that of 1761. Again both the court and the nabobs came well to the front. Borough-mongers did a business in seats much as house-agents did in houses. One of them laughed when Lord Chesterfield offered L2,500 for a seat for his son; the nabobs, he said, had raised prices to at least L3,000; some seats had fetched L4,000, two as much as L5,000. George Selwyn took L9,000 for the two seats for Ludgershall. The city of Oxford offered to return its two sitting members if they would pay the city's debts, L5,670. They informed the house of commons of the offer, and ten of the leading citizens were confined for five days in Newgate, and afterwards knelt at the bar of the house and were reprimanded by the speaker—a solemn farce, for they sold the seats to two neighbouring magnates, and are said to have arranged the transaction while they were in prison. Holland bought a seat for his second son, Charles James Fox, then a youth of nineteen. As was natural in his father's son, Fox supported the ministers, and was soon distinguished in parliament by his opposition to all liberal measures, and outside it by reckless gambling and extravagance.


Wilkes, who made a short visit to England in 1766, when he remained quiet and was not disturbed, was brought back again by the election. He stood for the city of London, was at the bottom of the poll, and announced that he would stand for Middlesex. His proceedings caused much excitement, for the country was discontented and disturbed. The price of bread was high, and during the early part of the year there were many strikes and much rioting, especially in London. The Spitalfields weavers made several riots and broke the looms of those who refused to join in their demands. The sailors struck, and detained all outward-bound vessels in the Thames. The coal-heavers also struck, and fought fierce battles with the sailors in which many lives were lost. Though some of these riots broke out a little later, they explain the excitement and enthusiasm with which Wilkes was received by the London mob. He was returned for Middlesex by a large majority. The mob which had passed out from London to Brentford, the polling-place, came back in triumph, forced people to illuminate their houses, and smashed many windows. If on Wilkes's return to England George had granted him a free pardon, the demagogue would probably have subsided into a peaceable member of parliament. Unfortunately he could not overlook Wilkes's insults to himself and to his mother. Grafton came to London as seldom as possible, but George found a willing instrument in Weymouth. On April 17 Wilkes surrendered to his outlawry. In anticipation of disturbances Weymouth wrote to the Lambeth magistrates, bidding them, if need arose, to be prompt in calling in the aid of the military.

On the 26th Wilkes was committed to the king's bench prison. The populace drew him along in a coach to Spitalfields, where he escaped their further attentions and voluntarily went to the prison. An excited crowd daily assembled outside the prison, and the riots of the sailors, coal-heavers, and sawyers grew formidable. Parliament was to meet on May 10, and the king, believing that a serious riot would probably take place on that day, recommended firmness and a prompt employment of troops. The tone of his letters at this crisis is unpleasant and shows personal animosity; yet neither he nor Weymouth can justly be blamed for urging prompt and decided measures, for they were necessary for the preservation of order and for the protection of life and property. As George had foreseen, a riot broke out on the 10th. A vast mob gathered round the king's bench prison and in St. George's Fields, and demanded that Wilkes should be liberated in order to take his place in parliament. The riot act was read, the troops were severely pelted, and some soldiers killed a young man named Allen, whom they mistook for a ringleader of the rioters. The order to fire was given; five of the mob were killed and several wounded. Though for the moment the mob was mastered, this untoward event exasperated the malcontents, and much indignation was excited by an order signed by Barrington, which assured the troops that they would be protected if "any disagreeable circumstance" should arise in the execution of their duty. On June 8 Lord Mansfield, the lord chief-justice, reversed Wilkes's outlawry and sentenced him on the verdicts brought against him in 1764 to fines of L1,000, and twenty-two months further imprisonment.

While in prison Wilkes obtained Weymouth's letter of April 17, and published it with libellous comments, charging him with having deliberately planned "the massacre" of St. George's Fields. These comments were voted a seditious libel by the commons. Wilkes's petition for redress of grievances was rejected; he was brought to the bar of the house and avowed the authorship of the comments on Weymouth's "bloody scroll," as he called it. On the next day, February 3, 1769, Barrington proposed his expulsion from the house, and supported his motion by recapitulating his various misdeeds. Grenville, Burke, and others urged that it was unfair to go back to past offences and accumulate the charges against him, and Grenville warned the house that the course on which it was embarking would probably lead it into a violation of the rights of the electorate. Nevertheless, the house lent itself to the wishes of the king and voted the expulsion by 219 to 137. Grenville's warning was justified. Wilkes was re-elected on the 16th, and the next day the house annulled the election and declared him incapable of being elected to serve in the present parliament. That the house, whether acting justly or not, has a right to expel any member whom it judges unworthy to sit, is indisputable, but to declare an incapacity unknown to the law was an unconstitutional and arbitrary proceeding. In spite of this declaration Wilkes was again returned on March 16. The election was again annulled. An address in support of the king was prepared by the court party in the city, and on the 22nd hundreds set out in coaches for St. James's to deliver it. They were pelted by a vast mob, and only a third of them reached the palace. Meanwhile another mob gathered at St. James's and tried to force a hearse bearing a picture of Allen's death into the court-yard. They were foiled by the courage of Talbot, the lord-steward, and were dispersed after some scuffling. Throughout the whole day the king exhibited perfect composure, though the riot was serious and might easily have become formidable.


A new writ was issued for Middlesex, and Colonel Luttrell, one of the court party, resigned his Cornish seat in order to oppose Wilkes. In the previous December at the election of Serjeant Glynn, Wilkes's counsel, to the other seat for the county, one of his supporters lost his life. Two men were found guilty of murdering him, and received a royal pardon, for, though they assaulted him, the man's death was due to natural causes. Luttrell was believed to be risking his life, and bets were freely made as to his probable fate. The election, however, passed off quietly on April 13, when Wilkes polled 1,143 votes and Luttrell 296. On the 15th, the house, after a hot debate, carried by 197 to 143 a motion that Luttrell "ought to have been returned". This decision, which set at nought the rights of electors, was the inevitable outcome of the vote of expulsion. The king was victorious, and was delighted at his victory. His satisfaction was soon alloyed, for the means which he had employed to gain his end roused widespread indignation. He had brought himself into conflict with his people and had blunted his weapons. He had gradually got together a set of ministers through whom he could rule; for some of them were his willing instruments, and the rest, though uneasy at their position, forbore to oppose him. At great cost to himself and the nation he had secured a majority in the house of commons, and he had strengthened his cause by enlisting on his side the jealousy with which the house regarded all matters of privilege. Neither his ministers nor the house failed him, not even when called upon to violate the constitution, but his policy rendered both alike odious to the nation. Wilkes was a gainer by his own defeat. Thousands who had little or no sympathy with him personally espoused his cause when they found it justly associated with liberty. A large subscription was made for him: L17,000 was spent in paying his debts; his long-deferred suit against Halifax was at last heard, and he obtained L4,000 damages; he was again enabled to live in comfort, and while still in prison was elected an alderman of London.

Other causes contributed to the unpopularity of the ministers, among them the French annexation of Corsica. The island rebelled against the Genoese; and they, finding themselves unable to subdue it, agreed to sell it to France. The bravery of the insurgents excited sympathy in England; and there was a strong feeling that the acquisition of the island by France would increase her naval strength, which was reasonably regarded with jealousy. "Corsica," said Burke, "as a province of France is terrible to me;" and Sir Charles Saunders, who had commanded in the Mediterranean, held that to prevent the proposed annexation would be well worth a war. There was, however, something to be said on the other side. The ministers might have pursued either one of two courses. They might have given France to understand that they would make the annexation of the island a cause of war, and in that case France would probably have drawn back; or they might, without loss of dignity, have passed the matter by as no concern of theirs. Unfortunately, a decided course was impossible to the divided cabinet. They remonstrated vigorously, and France wavered. Then the Bedford section made it known that England would not in any case go to war, and France despised their remonstrance. Grafton allowed the Corsicans to hope for British help, and secretly sent them arms. This was worse than useless. The Corsican general, Paoli, was forced to flee; the island was annexed to France in 1769, and, as Burke said, "British policy was brought into derision".


Again, in the midst of the struggle with the Middlesex electorate, parliament was asked for L513,500 to pay the debts on the civil list. The civil list was sufficient to meet the legitimate expenses of the crown; the king was personally frugal; how had the deficiency arisen? Beyond all question the money had been spent in augmenting the influence of the crown by multiplying offices and pensions, by the purchase of votes at elections, and other corrupt means. The ministers were responsible to the nation for the way in which the public money had been spent. The opposition, and specially Grenville, Burke, and Dowdeswell, urged that before the house made the grant, it should inquire into the causes which rendered it necessary. Their demand was resisted: the house decided not to consider the causes of the debts, and the ministers carried the grant without inquiry. By this evil precedent the commons abandoned the constitutional means of checking the expenditure of the public money by the crown, and proved themselves unfaithful to their duty towards the nation.

Violent attacks were made on the ministers by the press. The most famous of these are the letters signed "Junius," and others attributed, some of them with little probability, to the same author, which appeared first in the Public Advertizer, a London daily paper. Their fame is partly due to the mystery of their authorship. For that doubtful honour more than thirty names have been suggested. On strong, if not perfectly convincing grounds, Junius is now generally believed to have been Philip Francis, then a clerk in the war office and later a member of the East India council and a knight, though, if he was the author, he probably received help from some one of higher social position, possibly from Temple.[80] As literature the letters are remarkable for clearness of expression and for a polish of style so high as to be artificial and monotonous; their chief literary defect is violence of language. Occupied almost exclusively with personal vituperation, they deal with events as opportunities for abuse rather than for thoughtful comment, with constitutional doctrines as weapons of attack rather than as bulwarks of liberty. The writer's political opinions are based on narrow grounds; he exhibits no power of generalisation or philosophic thought. Sheltered by his carefully guarded anonymity, he exercised a vile ingenuity in devising how he might wound most deeply persons whom he dared not attack in his own name. Without regard to decency or truth he mocks with devilish glee at the vices, failings, and misfortunes of the objects of his hatred. His attacks on the chief ministers of the crown, on Grafton, Bedford, North, Weymouth, and Sandwich, on Mansfield, and on the king himself, excited intense curiosity. Before long their violence defeated their purpose and the disgraceful "Letter to the King," published in December, 1769, excited general disgust.

The anger caused by the issue of the struggle with the Middlesex electors found voice in petitions to the throne. Middlesex sent up a manifesto, which was virtually adopted by London, accusing the ministers of treason; Westminster prayed for a dissolution of parliament, and some counties and boroughs followed its example, arguing that the presence of Luttrell, who had not been duly elected, invalidated every act of the existing parliament. London further declared itself against the court party by electing Beckford, a prime mover in promoting the Surrey petition, as lord mayor. The country, however, was not all on the same side; the petitions were not, as a rule, signed by many of the larger freeholders, and by the end of the year the movement seemed at a stand.[81] In July Chatham appeared at court restored to health. The king received him kindly, but must have been vexed to hear that he disapproved of the policy of the ministers, specially with regard to the Middlesex election. He treated Grafton with extreme coldness, and Camden, who had sneered at him in his absence, at once followed his lead. He allied himself with the opposition, with Temple, Grenville, and their following, and with the Rockingham party, so far as measures were concerned. With the Rockinghams, however, he was never wholly at one; his violence, and habit of looking beyond parliament to the people itself, and of seeking political strength in popular good-will, separated him from them in feeling and methods of action. Yet his alliance with them was never formally broken. He entered into it because, he said, former differences should be forgotten when the struggle was pro aris et focis. He was eager for the fray. Parliament, said he, "must, it shall, be dissolved". With him as leader and with a united opposition, backed by a large part of the nation, victory seemed almost certain. He reckoned without the king. An ostensible minister might be forced to resign; but the king was a permanent official, and George was hard to beat.


Parliament met on January 9, 1770. It was a critical time: at home discontent was widespread; the American colonies were disaffected; war with France and Spain seemed not far off. The king's speech recommended attention to American affairs and hinted at the unfriendly attitude of foreign courts, but took no notice of domestic discontents, and gave prominence to an outbreak of distemper among "horned cattle". The cattle plague was a matter of serious national concern; yet the speech was insufficient for the occasion; it was, Junius declared, the speech of "a ruined grazier". It showed that the ministers intended to ignore the signs of popular indignation. Chatham moved, as an amendment to the address, that the lords would inquire into the causes of the prevailing discontents and specially into the matter of the Middlesex election. "The people," he said, "demand redress, and depend upon it, my lords, that one way or other they will have redress;" and he attributed their discontent to the action of the commons in Wilkes's case. Camden followed, and declared that he had beheld the arbitrary acts of the ministry with silent indignation, that he would no longer keep silence, and was of the same opinion as Chatham. Mansfield opposed the amendment on the ground that it infringed upon the right of the commons to be sole judges of elections and might lead to a quarrel between the two houses. Chatham said that he reverenced the constitutional authority of the commons, but they had gone beyond it, they had betrayed their constituents and violated the constitution. He ended with a declamation exhorting the peers to act as became descendants of the barons of Magna Charta (how many of them could trace descent from so noble a source?) and like "those iron barons, for so," said he, "I may call them when compared with the silken barons of modern days," to defend the rights of the people at large. His amendment was negatived. The address was carried in the lords by 203 to 36, and in the commons after a hot debate by 254 to 138.

Camden's conduct was discreditable. It is true that the maxim that a member of the cabinet should either acquiesce in the decision of the majority or resign his seat in it, was not then universally accepted, and that Camden had made it plain that he disapproved of the policy of his colleagues with respect to the vote of incapacity. He had not, however, opposed it with any show of determination. His alliance with Chatham made it certain that he could not retain the chancellorship, yet he would not resign it, because he could inflict a harder blow on the ministry as a member of it than he could when out of office. Decency demanded that he should resign before he appealed to the lords against a decision made by the cabinet in which he sat. He was dismissed from office on the 17th. Granby at once threw up the ordnance and the command of the army, and Dunning, the solicitor-general, and some others also resigned. It was difficult to find a new chancellor, for the ministry was believed to be moribund. Grafton offered the great seal to Charles Yorke, the second son of the famous chancellor, Hardwicke, who died in 1764. He had twice been attorney-general, and was an ambitious man. His brother, Lord Hardwicke, and Rockingham, to whose party he had attached himself, urged him not to accept the offer, and he declined it. On the 17th, George told him that if he did not accept the great seal then, it should never be offered to him again. He yielded, and his brother and Rockingham reproached him bitterly for his compliance. He was in ill-health and his malady may well have been increased by his agitation. In any case, he died on the 20th, perhaps by his own hand. His death defeated Grafton's one hope of strengthening the administration; he had no one in the cabinet on whose support he could rely except Conway; for Weymouth and the rest constantly acted contrary to his opinions. He resigned office on the 28th.


George was undaunted; he turned to the one man of eminence among his remaining ministers and appointed North to the treasury, to be held along with the chancellorship of the exchequer. Few changes were made in the ministry; the great seal was put in commission, and Mansfield, who remained in the cabinet, took the speakership of the house of lords. Conway retired from the cabinet. Thurlow, a strong advocate of prerogative, coarse, blunt, yet insincere, became solicitor-general, and the other vacant places were filled. Yet these changes mark an important epoch. During Grafton's administration the king became master of the government, but was forced to employ unsatisfactory instruments for the exercise of his power. Though differences of opinion still arose in the cabinet, the ministry gained in solidarity and strength by the loss of its dissentient members. Above all, George at last found a first minister after his own heart. North had ability, tact, knowledge, and an unfailing good temper; he was well educated and of high moral character. Though ungainly in appearance and with no oratorical talent, he was witty and formidable in debate. In intellect he was the king's superior, but he allowed George's prejudices to override his convictions. He would never be called prime minister. George was his own prime minister, and he merely his manager and representative. His submission to the king at the cost of his duty to the country did not proceed from selfish motives; it was the result partly of personal attachment and partly of the action of the stronger upon the weaker will. George repaid his devotion by giving him his full confidence and constant support. North was lazy, yet this defect added strength to the combination of king and minister. Behind the scenes George was active and anxious, while in parliament the weapons of indignation and sarcasm with which North was assailed failed to pierce the impenetrable wall of his amiable insouciance. The king's policy was triumphant. The combination between the obedient responsible minister and the imperious irresponsible king lasted for twelve years, during which George ruled as well as reigned.

Again, the point we have reached marks an epoch, because the rise of modern radicalism has with fair reason been traced to the struggle over the Middlesex election in 1769, though in accepting this judgment we must not forget that the radicalism of 1819 was affected by events of later dates. In 1769, however, as in 1819, the representatives of the people were opposed to the will of the people. Where was sovereignty to reside? In the nation as represented in parliament, or in the nation external to it? When this question arises it can only be set at rest by making parliament truly representative of the nation. Accordingly popular discontent in 1769 was not merely directed against ministers and measures, it demanded radical changes in the constitutional machinery, and its demands were expressed by means which, though not unconstitutional, were not recognised by the constitution, such as public meetings and associations. Meetings to express discontent and urge reforms were constantly held, and an association for promoting the popular demands, called the Bill of Rights Society, was formed by a clerical demagogue named Horne (afterwards Horne Tooke), Wilkes, Glynn, and others. Among the changes which they demanded as remedies for the unsatisfactory state of the representation were annual parliaments, the exaction of an oath against bribery, and the exclusion from parliament of holders of places and pensions. At this time, too, constituencies began to assert a right to control their representatives by sending them instructions as to their conduct in parliament.

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