The Political History of England - Vol. X.
by William Hunt
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Being too weak to do anything further without reinforcements, he decided to leave the Carolinas, effect a junction with Arnold in Virginia, and attempt the conquest of that province, reckoning that success there would check disaffection in South Carolina and ultimately tend to the conquest of North Carolina.[157] He wished Clinton to prosecute the war in Virginia with all the strength at his command, even at the expense of giving up New York. Clinton, however, was throughout opposed to his forward policy; he would have had him attempt nothing beyond the power of the force which he left with him, "the defence of South, and most probably the reduction of North, Carolina," and he did not intend the troops sent to Virginia to engage in "solid" operations, which he judged to be inadvisable until he should himself take the field. The king and the cabinet approved Cornwallis's line of action.[158] He advanced into Virginia on his own responsibility. This step led to unfriendly relations between the two commanders, and after the war was the subject of a bitter controversy between them. Cornwallis effected a junction with Arnold's army on May 20, and in command of over 5,000 troops overran the province, Lafayette, with a far inferior force, retreating before him. Meantime Rawdon struggled gallantly, though unsuccessfully, against Greene in South Carolina. He defeated Greene at Hobskirk hill on April 25, but was forced to retire from Camden. The loyalists saw that the British could not protect them; the whole province was disaffected, and post after post was taken by Greene, Lee, Sumter, Marion, and other generals. At last, after Rawdon's return to England on account of ill-health, a hard-fought battle at Eutaw springs on September 8, which both sides claimed as a victory, so weakened the British force that it remained in and about Charleston until it was withdrawn at the end of the war.

To return to the spring of the year, Cornwallis's invasion of Virginia and the destruction of property there seemed likely to bring the war to a successful issue. Washington's army was in grievous want of supplies, the American marine was annihilated, their finances were in a ruinous state, and their resources generally almost exhausted. Powerful co-operation with Cornwallis on the part of Clinton was urgently needed. The issue of the struggle depended on the power of Great Britain to prevent a French fleet and army from undertaking a joint enterprise with the Americans. At this critical juncture England lost the superiority at sea. In May, Washington and Rochambeau agreed that, as soon as Grasse brought his fleet over, they would join forces, and either attack New York or, perhaps, march into Virginia, as circumstances might direct. Clinton discovered their design, would not spare any troops from New York, and in June called on Cornwallis to send him part of the force under his command, and ordered him to take up a defensive position. Cornwallis retired down the James river to Portsmouth. Clinton withdrew his demand for troops and directed him to fortify a station on the Yorktown peninsula as a port for ships. He would there be able to take up a defensive position secured by access to the sea. Cornwallis concentrated all his forces, about 7,000 men, and fortified Yorktown and Gloucester. On July 6 Rochambeau, in expectation of the arrival of Grasse's fleet, brought his troops from Rhode Island (p. 219) and joined Washington at White Plains. It was agreed between Grasse and Washington that the united army, 4,000 French and 2,000 Americans, should march into Virginia and act in co-operation with the French fleet. Clinton, however, deceived by fictitious letters, written by Washington and designed to be intercepted, believed that it would attack New York, and remained quietly there while it marched half through New Jersey. Not until September 2 did he discover that it was on its way to join in a combined attack on Cornwallis. On the 5th it reached the head of Chesapeake bay.


By that time the inferiority of the British fleet rendered Cornwallis's situation extremely perilous. When Hood with the fourteen ships of the line left by Rodney (p. 218) arrived off Cape Henry on August 25, Graves was not there to meet him; he sailed to Sandy Hook and joined him. The fleet, nineteen ships of the line, sailed under Graves to Chesapeake bay, and found that during Hood's absence Grasse had entered the bay with twenty-eight ships of the line. Grasse at once stood out to sea, for he was anxious to secure a junction with the squadron from Newport, under Count de Barras, which Rodney had failed to attack in the previous September. Graves, who should have caught these ships instead of aiming at the main fleet, engaged him on September 5, handled his fleet badly, and got his ships knocked about. While he remained uselessly at sea the squadron of Barras slipped into the bay. On the 14th the British fleet returned to New York to refit, and Cornwallis was left without succour. Lafayette with a large army of French and Americans was already blocking the neck of the peninsula. Clinton attempted a perfectly useless diversion in Connecticut under Arnold. Washington's army joined Lafayette on the 18th, and Cornwallis was soon besieged by a force of over 16,000 men. On October 19 he was forced to capitulate. Of the garrison which surrendered at Yorktown and Gloucester, 6,950 men, only 4,017 remained fit for duty. On the day of the surrender, naval reinforcements having arrived at New York and the fleet at last being refitted, Clinton sailed with 7,000 troops to the relief of Cornwallis. They found that they were too late and returned to New York.

With this disaster the war in America virtually ended. Cornwallis in his attempt to recover the southern provinces showed a vigour and capacity which might, perhaps, have brought matters to a different issue if he had held the chief command. But his means were inadequate to meet the wastage caused by battle and sickness; he found the loyalists a broken reed, and his troops not well suited to the kind of warfare in which they were engaged. "Had Lord Cornwallis staid in Carolina, as I had ordered him," wrote Clinton, "and I had even assembled my forces at New York, and remained there with my arms across without affront, negative victory would have insured American Dependence."[159] "Arms across" seems indeed to have been Clinton's favourite attitude.[160] Cornwallis's advance into Virginia was certainly a risky movement, but it was a choice of evils and did not in itself entail disaster. Clinton reckoned, not without reason, that the Americans were too exhausted to prolong the struggle; he was in favour of desultory operations on the Chesapeake, against Baltimore and Philadelphia, with the view of gaining loyalist support, and of waiting until he had received reinforcements large enough to enable him to undertake a "solid" campaign in Virginia, without leaving New York insufficiently defended. Cornwallis believed that the best chance of success lay in securing a firm hold on Virginia. Germain, who still persisted in directing operations in America from London, considered Cornwallis's plan more promising than that of Clinton. He treated Cornwallis as though he had an entirely independent command, with the result that serious misunderstandings arose between Cornwallis and Clinton, the commander-in-chief, which hindered their co-operation; and while he approved of the plan adopted by Cornwallis he did not discountenance Clinton's proposals, with the result that neither course of action was vigorously pursued. It was by Clinton's order that Cornwallis retired to the York peninsula, where his safety depended on the continued command of the sea; the choice of Yorktown as his post was his own. It was not a good choice; but he had little reason to expect that he would have to hold it against an overwhelming force of French and Americans, with a French fleet in command of the sea. Clinton should not have been misled by Washington's simple trick into allowing the combined force to advance beyond his reach on its way to crush Cornwallis's army.

The true cause of the catastrophe, however, lay in naval mismanagement. The mistaken policy of employing the British fleet in various and distant enterprises instead of off the ports of the enemy enabled Grasse to sail from Brest unopposed. Rodney let slip a grand opportunity of baulking his plans off Fort Royal, and sent, perhaps was forced to send, Hood after him to America with an insufficient fleet. Partly through accident and partly through an error of judgment, Graves missed his junction with Hood. Grasse was consequently allowed quietly to enter Chesapeake bay, and Graves afterwards failed to use his ships to the best advantage. The loss of the command at sea was fatal to Cornwallis.


Tidings of the disaster reached London on November 25, two days before the meeting of parliament. On receiving them North's habitual calmness broke down; he threw up his arms as though he were shot, and repeatedly exclaimed, "O God! it is all over!" The king's fortitude was unshaken, and he showed no sign of agitation, save that, in acknowledging Germain's letter informing him of the surrender, he omitted to note the exact moment of his writing, as his custom was. The speech from the throne at the opening of parliament, while acknowledging disaster, contained no hint of giving way. Parliament for a while upheld the ministers, and the address was carried in the lords by 75 to 31, and in the commons by 218 to 129. Fox and Burke threatened the ministers with impeachment and the scaffold; and Pitt condemned their policy in speeches not less effective for being more moderate in tone. North announced that the war would no longer be carried on with a design of conquest, but only for the possession of posts on the coast which would be useful in the war with France and Spain. Crowded meetings in London and Westminster condemned the government. It was evident that there was dissension in the cabinet; North was anxious for an acknowledgment of American independence, Germain declared that he would never agree to it. By Christmas the government lost many supporters in parliament.

Its position was further weakened by continued ill-success in war. The Marquis de Bouille retook St. Eustatius on October 25. Grasse returned to Martinique, and in January, 1782, the two commanders landed a force on St. Kitts and besieged the garrison. Hood followed Grasse with twenty-two ships, out-manoeuvred him brilliantly, beat him off on the 26th, and held his station against a fleet of thirty-three ships of the line until February 14, when, as he was unable to prevent the fall of the island, he sailed away. The capture of St. Kitts and Nevis reduced the British possessions in the West Indies to Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbadoes. A joint attack on Jamaica was planned by France and Spain. Rodney, however, again arrived at the Antilles with twelve ships, was joined by Hood, and, as we shall see in the next chapter, restored the British flag to its proper place at sea. Nearer home, Kempenfeldt, the admiral whose tragic end is famous in Cowper's verse, dealt the enemy a severe blow. He was sent, in December, 1781, with only twelve ships to intercept a French fleet consisting, as the admiralty knew, or ought to have known, of seventeen ships with a convoy bound for the West Indies. Kempenfeldt took at least twenty of the convoy with troops and stores, but, overmatched as he was, he was forced to let the fleet sail on. It was dispersed by a storm shortly afterwards, and many of the ships returned home. The loss of this convoy seriously crippled the French in the West Indies.[161] In the Mediterranean, the garrison of St. Philips, in Minorca, which had been besieged since August by a French and Spanish army, was forced to surrender on February 5, after being reduced by sickness and war from 2,692 to 600 men fit for duty, and eighty years after its conquest the island was lost to England.

During the recess the ministers, convinced of the folly of prolonging the war, arranged to go on without Germain. Carleton succeeded Clinton at New York, and Germain was succeeded as third secretary of state by the insignificant Welbore Ellis, and was created Viscount Sackville, much to the wrath of the whig peers, who tried in vain to obtain a vote that the presence of a cashiered officer was derogatory to the dignity of their house. The opposition gathered strength. A powerful attack by Fox on the administration of the navy failed by twenty-two votes, a motion by Conway for putting an end to the American war only by one, and a like motion was carried a few days later by a majority of nineteen. The government then introduced a bill to enable the king to make peace, and North sent envoys to Paris to sound Franklin as to terms. It was evident that the end was near, and the new government was eagerly discussed. Pitt, though acting with the opposition, took a somewhat independent line, and announced in the house that he would not accept a subordinate office. This from a young member not then twenty-three excited some amazement, but his assumption soon proved to be well founded. On March 11 George sent the chancellor, Thurlow, to negotiate with Rockingham, but would not accept his terms. Three days later the government escaped a vote of want of confidence only by nine votes, and on the 20th North announced the resignation of the ministry. George was in great distress, and talked of retiring to Hanover, for life would be unendurable to him if he fell into the hands of the Rockingham party.


The two parties in the opposition, though acting together against the government, held widely different views. The Rockinghams aimed at a homogeneous ministry; they represented the aristocratic whig faction, were the enemies of prerogative, and were strong advocates of American independence. Shelburne, like his old chief, Chatham, was opposed to government by party, held that the king should have an interest in the government, and so far "be his own minister," and like Chatham had been hostile to American independence.[162] For political reasons, then, George was drawn to Shelburne, while personally he despised Rockingham and hated Fox. He invited Shelburne first, and then Gower, to form a ministry. Both declined. Shelburne could not afford to split with the Rockinghams; he knew that they could not stand without him, and he advised the king to send for Rockingham. George would not see Rockingham himself, and negotiated with him through Shelburne on the basis of freedom as regards men and measures, and as to the acknowledgment of American independence.[163] Rockingham formed his cabinet on the 24th. He took the treasury. Shelburne was secretary for home, Irish, and colonial affairs; Fox for foreign affairs, the third secretaryship being abolished; Keppel, who was created a viscount, first lord of the admiralty; Richmond, master-general of the ordnance; Lord John Cavendish, chancellor of the exchequer; Camden, president of the council; Grafton, privy seal; Conway, commander-in-chief; Dunning, who was created Baron Ashburton, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. To please the king Thurlow was retained as chancellor. Pitt was offered, and declined, a subordinate office. Burke was treated by his aristocratic friends as unworthy of cabinet office, and was made paymaster of the forces.

The king was defeated. His system of personal government through ministers supported by his influence in parliament received its death-blow from the ill-success of the American war. Before long he adopted a better system; he found a prime minister who could command the confidence of the nation, and he yielded himself, not always willingly, to his guidance. Meanwhile the whigs were victorious. How long they were to remain victors is yet to be seen. George was resolute, skilful in intrigue, and by that time well versed in politics. He was aided by the jealousies and mistakes of his opponents. Even in their hour of triumph they found that he gained an advantage over them. The cabinet was divided; its new members belonged half to the Rockingham and half to the Shelburne party, while Thurlow was the king's trusted friend. Rockingham acted unwisely in accepting office offered to him in a way which showed that he was not to have the king's confidence. Though he was prime minister, George gave his apparent confidence to another member of the cabinet. Shelburne was not unreasonably believed to be ready to make himself useful to the king with an eye to his own advancement. The seeds of discord and distrust were at once sown among the new ministers. Even while the ministry was in process of formation Fox sharply remarked to Shelburne that he perceived that it "was to consist of two parts—one belonging to the king, the other to the public".[164]


[145] Coxe, Bourbon Kings of Spain, iii., 424-37.

[146] George III. to North, April 18, 1782, Corresp., ii., 423.

[147] Rockingham Memoirs, ii., 425.

[148] Parl. Hist., xxii., 488.

[149] George to North, Sept. 26, 1780, Corresp., ii., 336.

[150] For the contrary view see Engl. Hist. Rev., v. (1890), 31 sq.

[151] Letters of Sir S. Hood, Introd., xxxi.-xxxii., pp. 15-16, ed. Hannay.

[152] Washington to Jefferson, June 8, 1780, Works, viii., 71; Clinton to Germain, Oct. 29, 1780, Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 283.

[153] Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 238, 246, 261, 267.

[154] Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 104 n. 3a.

[155] Rawdon to Leslie, Oct. 24, 1780, ibid., p. 274; see also pp. 272, 278.

[156] Cornwallis to Clinton, Dec. 3, 1780, op. cit., pp. 304-7; Tarleton, Campaigns of 1780, 1781, pp. 179-80; Stedman, ii., 229-31.

[157] Cornwallis to Germain, April 18, 1781, Clinton-Cornwallis Controv., i., 417-18.

[158] Germain to Cornwallis, March 7, 1781, ibid., p. 338; see also ii., 10.

[159] Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 43, n. 1b.

[160] Rodney to Germain, Dec. 22, 1780, Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep., ix., App., pp. 108-9.

[161] Chevalier, Histoire de la Marine Francaise (l'Indep. Amer.), pp. 278, 280.

[162] Parl. Hist., xxii., 987, 1003.

[163] Life of Shelburne, iii., 125-32.

[164] Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 292; see also p. 316.



The new ministers at once attacked the sources from which the crown derived its corrupt influence over parliament. They carried bills preventing contractors from sitting in parliament and depriving revenue officers of the franchise. As these officers, who were dependent on the ministers of the crown, numbered according to one computation nearly 40,000, and to another 60,000, out of an electorate of about 300,000, their disfranchisement was an important step towards freedom of election. A message to parliament recommending economy was extorted from the king as an introduction to a plan of economical reform which was brought forward by Burke. It was not so drastic as his earlier plan, for the king acting in the cabinet through Shelburne and Thurlow objected to many of the proposed retrenchments. Nevertheless, in spite of mutilations, the bill, which became law, effected a saving of L72,000 a year, chiefly by abolishing useless offices. The act also again provided for the payment of arrears of the civil list, amounting this time to L296,000. Burke nobly continued his work by a bill for the reform of his own office, preventing the paymaster from gaining the enormous profits appropriated by nearly all his predecessors. Another declaration in favour of freedom of election was made by the commons, for they at last accepted Wilkes's annual motion for expunging from their journals the resolution of February, 1769, declaring him incapable of re-election. The corrupt influence of the crown would, Pitt declared, be checked most effectually by a reform of parliament. Acting on his own account, he proposed an inquiry into the state of the representation, without bringing forward any scheme of reform. He pointed out that some boroughs were in the hands of the treasury, that others had no actual existence, and that many were merely the property of purchasers, the nawab of Arcot, for example, returning seven or eight members. His motion, though supported by Fox, was rejected by 161 to 141.


Most memorable of the changes effected during the Rockingham administration is the establishment of the legislative independence of Ireland. When Carlisle went over as viceroy in December, 1780, he was instructed that the government would not oppose the demand for a habeas corpus act, but that he was to prevent parliament from declaring for legislative independence, or for a limitation of the perpetual mutiny act which kept the army beyond its control. The Irish parliament for a while steadily supported the government. The small party in opposition included Flood, who, after holding a lucrative office for six years, found himself unable to influence the government, adopted a hostile line, and was dismissed, and, above all, Grattan who had become leader of the party after Flood took office. But the force which was to enlist parliament on the national side was outside its walls. The volunteers grew in strength, and reviews of large bodies of them were held during the summer of 1781. They remained loyal, and when in September the fleets of France and Spain threatened the coast of Munster, they eagerly prepared to meet the enemy. At the same time the impending success of the American revolution encouraged them to demand independence for their own country, and as they were nearly 100,000 armed and disciplined men, while less than 5,000 regular troops were left in Ireland, their voice could not be disregarded. It soon made itself heard. On the invitation of Charlemont's regiment a meeting of delegates from the Ulster volunteers assembled in the church of Dungannon on February 15, 1782. They passed resolutions condemning the claim of the British parliament to legislate for Ireland, and the control which, in accordance with Poyning's act, the privy councils of England and Ireland exercised over Irish legislation, and they demanded the limitation of the mutiny act, and the independence of the judges.

Before the Irish parliament met after the Easter recess the Rockingham ministry came into office; Carlisle was abruptly removed, and the Duke of Portland was appointed to succeed him. Rockingham, Fox, and Burke were anxious to satisfy Ireland, but the ministry seems not to have determined its exact line of policy. An attempt was made to embarrass the ministers by Eden, Carlisle's chief secretary, apparently in revenge for their discourteous treatment of Carlisle. Without consultation with them, he proposed the repeal of the act of 9 George I. which asserted the right of the king and parliament of Great Britain to legislate for Ireland. Fox opposed the motion and it was withdrawn. The next day, April 9, the ministers brought a royal message to parliament recommending to its consideration means of satisfying Irish discontent. The spirit manifested in the Dungannon meeting overcame the resistance of the Irish parliament, and the nation was united in its demands. Rockingham and Fox tried in vain to persuade Grattan to give them time for consideration.[165] On the 16th he moved an address to the king in the Irish parliament asserting independence, and it was carried unanimously. The ministers, misled by Portland, believed that the Irish demands might be modified, and proposed negotiation. Grattan refused, and they yielded everything. On May 17 resolutions, afterwards followed by statutes, were carried without division in both houses, conceding legislative independence to Ireland, restoring the appellate jurisdiction of the Irish house of lords, and limiting the mutiny act. Ireland thus became almost an independent state. It remained connected with Great Britain by the tie of the crown, it had no executive dependent on its parliament, and its legislation was subject to a ministerial veto. The revolution of 1782, pressed on by Grattan, set up relations between the two kingdoms which were anomalous and fraught with danger.


Negotiations for peace were in progress, but the war still went on, and its last great events were glorious. The navy was far stronger than in 1778; the dockyards were busy during the war, and the number of ships was much larger. Improvements of various kinds were adopted; ships were coppered, the rapidity and accuracy of their fire was increased by new inventions, and carronades—light guns with a large bore mounted on the upper deck, for use at close quarters—not yet adopted by the French, were added to their armament. The discipline and ardour of the personnel of the navy reached a high pitch. The British sailor was keen to fight the Frenchman, and 93,168 seamen and marines are entered as borne during the present year. We left the French and Spanish fleets in the West Indies preparing to conquer Jamaica (p. 227). Grasse was at Fort Royal, and was to join the Spaniards on the coast of San Domingo, and Rodney, whose fleet was raised by his junction with Hood and the arrival of reinforcements to thirty-seven ships of the line, lay on the watch at St. Lucia. On April 8 the French stood out to sea, and the next day Rodney found them off Dominica. An indecisive action took place in which, owing to baffling calms, only the British van was engaged. Grasse then beat to windward between Dominica and the Iles des Saintes, but in consequence of various accidents made little way. The British followed him, and early on the 12th Sir Charles Douglas, the captain of the fleet, awakened Rodney with the stirring tidings that "God had given him the enemy on the lee-bow".

The English fleet was numerically the stronger, but the French had finer ships and heavier batteries. The action began about 7.30 A.M. At first it seemed likely to be as indecisive as usual, the two fleets passing each other on opposite tacks and cannonading, the French being to windward. As they sailed slowly with a light breeze, and at a short distance from each other, the British guns and especially the carronades were highly effective, for the enemy's ships were crowded with soldiers for the attack on Jamaica. Before long the battle took a form which rendered it memorable in the annals of naval warfare, for Rodney, without previous design, practised the manoeuvre known as breaking the enemy's line, and by that means was enabled to bring the engagement to a decisive issue, such as he hoped for in the battle of April 17, 1780. This manoeuvre, afterwards deliberately adopted with triumphant success by Howe, Nelson, and other great captains, though often practised in the naval battles between the English and the Dutch in the seventeenth century,[166] had fallen into complete oblivion, so firmly did admirals believe in the necessity of keeping their line of battle. By cutting through the enemy's line an admiral could concentrate his attack on any portion of it which could least easily receive help from the rest, and could throw the line into confusion; the ships to the rear of the point of penetration would be stopped, massed up, and might be caught together, while those ahead pursued their course. This mode of attack was worked out by a landsman, Clerk of Eldin, and though his Essay was not fully printed until 1782, parts of it were privately circulated in 1780.

As Rodney's flagship, the Formidable (98), which was half way down the British line, was coming up with the Glorieux (74), the fourth from Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris (104), a slight change in the wind opened a gap between the Glorieux and the ship next astern of her. Douglas urged Rodney to steer through the gap. He refused, then yielded; and as the Formidable, firing right and left from every gun at the ships on either side of her, passed round the stern of the Glorieux, and within pistol-shot of her, the French canonniers could be seen throwing down their sponges and handspikes and running below to escape the storm of shot which she poured upon them. This time Rodney's captains were quick to understand what he was at. The next five ships followed the Formidable, and like her engaged on the windward side of the enemy. Almost at the same time the ship sixth astern of her also cut the enemy's line, passing through a gap abreast of her. The French line was thus cut into three divisions, and its central portion, consisting of five ships, was thrown together and exposed to a deadly attack. By noon the enemy was scattered in various groups, the English, who had gained the wind, attacking at will and without any order. Grasse fought his ship, the splendid offering of the city of Paris to its king, with conspicuous gallantry, and the slaughter on board her was awful. At last, about 6 P.M., he hauled down the flag of France with his own hands, and surrendered himself to Hood on the Barfleur (90). Rodney then stopped the fight. Four other prizes were taken. Twenty more, Hood declared, might have been taken if Rodney had followed up his victory. He certainly lost a fine opportunity, probably because disease and suffering had robbed him of some of his former vigour. As it was, the "Battle of the Saints" saved Jamaica from invasion, seriously damaged the French fleet, and shed glory on the navy of Britain.[167]

The concluding scenes of the siege of Gibraltar were not less glorious. Vast preparations were made to take the fortress, which in September was besieged on the land side by nearly 40,000 men, under the Duke de Crillon. The combined fleets, forty-nine ships of the line, lay at Algeciras, and ten floating batteries were constructed which, it was believed, could neither be sunk nor burned. The garrison consisted of 7,000 men fit for duty. Lord Howe, who on the change of ministry was appointed to command the channel fleet, sailed to its relief on the 11th with thirty-four ships of the line and many store-ships and transports. On the 8th, when the enemy's works were not completed, Eliott opened fire upon them and did them much damage by using red-hot balls. During the next four days the enemy replied by a terrific bombardment from their heavy ordnance and gunboats. Early on the 13th a general attack was made by land-batteries and sea-batteries, and a perpetual fire was poured upon the fortress from over 300 pieces of the heaviest artillery. Eliott directed his red-hot shot chiefly against the battering ships, and at last during the night two of them caught fire. In the confusion which ensued Captain Curtis, commanding a small naval brigade, brought out his gunboats and completed the enemy's discomfiture. Nine of the battering-ships blew up, and the tenth was burnt by Curtis's boats. Some 1,500 of the enemy perished, and 400 were saved from death by the British seamen. After the failure of their great attempt, the enemy could only hope to reduce the place by blockade. Howe's fleet had a troublesome voyage, and did not come in sight until October 11. He effected the relief of the garrison with admirable skill. As he repassed the straits the combined fleet followed him, and on the 20th engaged him at a distance, but he brought his fleet off with little damage. The siege was raised on February 6, 1783, when the war had ceased. Eliott, to whom the successful issue of the defence, one of the finest feats of the British arms, was principally due, was created Baron Heathfield.


In India the outbreak of war with France encouraged the Marathas, who dominated the country from Mysore to the Ganges, in the hope of expelling the British, by acting in conjunction with Haidar Ali. Hastings found that a French agent was intriguing with them, and took prompt measures against them. An expedition from Bombay failed miserably, but Colonel Goddard, who was sent by Hastings from Bengal, captured Ahmadabad, and drove Sindhia over the Narbada. His fortress, Gwalior, was stormed by Major Popham in August, 1780. Nevertheless, the war strained Hastings's resources. His difficulties were terribly increased by the invasion of the Karnatic. Haidar and his son, Tipu, practically took the English by surprise, overran the country with an army of some 75,000 cavalry and 15,000 infantry, instructed by 400 Frenchmen; defeated the Madras troops, captured Arcot, and threatened Madras. Sir Eyre Coote, who had come out to conduct the Maratha war, was despatched to Madras, and in 1781 negotiations were opened with Sindhia, and his former possessions were restored to him. Peace was made with the Maratha confederacy in May, 1782, by the treaty of Salbai, which was ratified seven months later. While Coote was forcing Haidar to raise the siege of various British fortresses in January, 1781, a French fleet appeared at Pondicherry. Haidar called upon it to help him, for his own fleet had been destroyed by Admiral Hughes; but Coote prevented the French from obtaining supplies, and they sailed away without effecting anything. He gained a splendid victory over Haidar at Porto Novo on July 1, met him with doubtful success at Pollilur, completely routed him at Sholinghar, and, in January, 1782, though suffering from serious illness, skilfully relieved Vellore.

Hughes had already taken the Dutch settlements, Negapatam and Trincomali, when in February a French fleet appeared off Madras to protect them. It was commanded by M. de Suffren, an admiral of remarkable ability. Suffren sailed from France in March, 1781. He fell on an English squadron, on its way to seize the Dutch colony at the Cape, in the neutral water of Porto Praya harbour in the Cape de Verde islands. The fight was indecisive, but he arrived first at the Cape and prevented the projected attack. His fleet was superior to that of Hughes, whose principal object was to prevent him from gaining a port as a place of supply and for landing troops. Hughes fought four indecisive battles with him, and was unable either to prevent the French from acting with Haidar, or from taking Cuddalore, which gave them a good naval and military station, or from reducing Trincomali. In this long and famous naval duel Hughes, though a capable and gallant captain, showed himself far inferior to Suffren in strategical and tactical skill. The French admiral, however, was constantly thwarted by the misconduct of his subordinates, while the English captains gave Hughes loyal support.[168] Coote carried on the war with vigour, but his victory over Haidar and his French allies at Arni was rendered fruitless by his lack of cavalry and supplies. Haidar died in December, leaving a message bidding his son make peace with the English, which Tipu did not obey. Coote died in April, 1783. The peace with the Marathas enabled the English to invade Tipu's country on the Malabar side, where they met with some success and one signal disaster. Meanwhile Coote's successor, Stuart, was attacking the French in Cuddalore. A fifth indecisive battle with Suffren on June 20 compelled Hughes to withdraw his fleet to Madras to refit. Stuart's army, weakened by disease and in sore need of supplies, was saved from probable disaster by the news of the treaty of Versailles. Deprived of his French allies, Tipu was at last, March 11, 1784, persuaded by Lord Macartney, the governor of Madras, to make peace. By this treaty, which Macartney made against the commands of Hastings, both parties surrendered their conquests. A renewal of war was certain, for Tipu's arrogance was unabated.


Although the government carried some highly beneficial measures it was not free from the usual whig failings. Led astray by party spirit, the ministers sent Admiral Pigot, a mere nonentity, to supersede Rodney. Scarcely had they done so when the news of Rodney's victory reached them. A messenger was at once despatched to stop Pigot, but it was too late. Rodney was created a baron, a rank which some thought unequal to his deserts. While the ministers virtuously curtailed the expenditure of the civil list, they burdened the country with pensions of L4,000 a year to Dunning and L3,200 to Barre, both members of Shelburne's party. And they quarrelled amongst themselves. That was the inevitable result of the existence of two parties in the cabinet. Between Shelburne and Fox there was much ill-feeling, which came to a head over the negotiations for peace. Until the independence of the American colonies was acknowledged, negotiations with them belonged to Shelburne's department. The arrangement of a peace with foreign enemies was Fox's business, and he would also be responsible for negotiations with the Americans as soon as the colonies were recognised as forming an independent state. In addition to the difficulties naturally arising from this division of responsibility, the two secretaries differed on policy. Fox desired an immediate recognition of American independence, in the hope of detaching the Americans from the French alliance, and so putting England in a better position for dealing with her other enemies; Shelburne agreed with the king that the acknowledgment should be a condition of a joint treaty with France and America, for England would then have a claim to receive some return for it.

Shelburne with, it is said,[169] the consent of the cabinet, sent one Oswald to Paris to open informal negotiations with Franklin. Oswald, who was wholly unfit for diplomatic work, favourably received Franklin's monstrous proposition that England should cede Canada to the Americans, though they had been driven out of the country, and the Canadians themselves desired to remain attached to England. He gave Shelburne a paper containing this proposition. Shelburne, who would certainly not have assented to it, treated the paper as confidential and did not show it to his colleagues. The cabinet agreed that Oswald should return to treat with Franklin, and that Thomas Grenville, the second son of George Grenville, who was nominated by Fox, should negotiate with Vergennes. Rodney's victory gave the ministers ground for believing that, if they could separate America from France, they would be in a good position to resist French demands; and they therefore instructed Grenville to propose to Vergennes that England should acknowledge American independence directly, and not through France. This Fox held gave him the whole conduct of the negotiations. As, however, Franklin was anxious not to lose so pliant a negotiator as Oswald, the cabinet agreed that Oswald should continue to confer with him. On June 4, Grenville complained to Fox that the separate negotiation between Oswald and Franklin rendered it impossible for him to make any progress, and further told him that he had learned from Oswald that Shelburne had seen the paper containing Franklin's proposition with respect to Canada. Fox was indignant, for he considered that Shelburne was carrying on a clandestine negotiation, and that the concealment of the Canada paper was a proof of his duplicity. On the 30th he proposed in the cabinet that the independence of America should be acknowledged without a treaty, which would have given him the entire charge of the negotiations. He was outvoted and declared that he would resign office. In this matter Shelburne does not appear to have been guilty of intrigue. The two secretaries mistrusted and were jealous of one another, and Fox was too ready to believe that Shelburne was secretly working in league with the king to counteract his negotiations, which was not the case. In concealing the Canada paper from his colleagues, Shelburne behaved with characteristic lack of openness, but as Franklin's proposition was informal and required no answer, the matter was trivial, and did not warrant the indignation which was expressed by Fox and his friends.[170]


On July 1, the day after Fox declared his intention to resign, Rockingham died. His death delivered George from the domination of the whigs. He at once bade Shelburne propose a plan for a ministry. The Rockingham party in the cabinet objected, declaring that they had a right to advise the king as to his choice, and pressed him to send for Portland, whose position as a whig magnate constituted his chief claim to office. George refused to yield to their dictation. Fox would not serve with Shelburne and resigned the seals. He was followed by only one member of the cabinet, Lord John Cavendish, by Portland, Burke, Sheridan, and a few more. Richmond, Keppel, and the rest of the party remained in office. Shelburne took the treasury, Pitt became chancellor of the exchequer, and Thomas Townshend succeeded Shelburne, and Lord Grantham Fox, as secretaries of state. Barre was made paymaster of the forces, and Lord Temple, afterwards Marquis of Buckingham, the eldest son of George Grenville, lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Fox was disappointed to find that so few followed him. Distrusting Shelburne as he did, he could not do otherwise than resign rather than serve with him. As, however, the new ministry was a whig ministry, as Shelburne professed many of the Rockingham principles, and as Pitt, who virtually had the leadership of the lower house, was at that time a whig, he should have taken up a neutral position, supporting the government when he approved of its measures and opposing it when he disapproved of them. He took another course; at once went into opposition, declared the new ministers could not be bound either by promises or honour, and prophesied—after events make his words worth remembering—that they would soon "be joined by those men whom the house had precipitated from their seats".[171] Parliament was prorogued on July 11.

The chief business before the new ministry was to arrange terms of peace. England wished to free the Americans from French influence and to establish good relations with them by a separate negotiation. Vergennes hoped to delay the acknowledgment of independence until a general peace, intending that France should compensate Spain for her disappointment with respect to Gibraltar by securing for her the sole navigation of the Mississippi and that the United States should be enclosed by the Alleghanies. The American commissioners found that France regarded the success of the revolution, the result of her own work, with jealousy, and wished to shut them out from the Newfoundland fishery and from extension on the west and north. On the other hand, England acknowledged American independence on September 27, and showed herself inclined to meet their demands in a friendly spirit. Accordingly, without consulting the French ministers, they signed preliminaries of peace on November 30, the treaty to be concluded when terms were arranged between England and France. England acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States; the Mississippi was recognised as their boundary on the west, and on the north a line passing through the great lakes; and they secured a right to fish on the banks of Newfoundland and in the gulf of St. Lawrence. The American revolution was accomplished. Englishmen of all parties believed that the day of England's greatness was over. Yet the separation, bitter and humiliating as it was, taught her a lesson in colonial government which has rendered her empire strong as well as vast, while in place of discontented colonies with cramped energies, it laid the foundation of a mighty power bound to her by bonds which will grow in strength so long as the affairs of both Great Britain and the United States are wisely directed. It was a happy beginning of the relations between the two powers that it was through England, and not through their foreign allies, that the Americans obtained the gratification of their legitimate ambitions, and that from the peace with the United States England gained some advantage in treating with her continental foes.

The treaty did not protect the loyalists. Shelburne did his best for them, but Franklin was bitter against them, and his feelings were those of the victorious party generally. The American commissioners would only agree that there should be no further confiscations and prosecutions, and that congress should recommend the several states to revise their laws concerning them. These articles were nugatory. Nothing short of a renewal of the war could have induced the Americans to forego their revenge, and if the war had gone on longer, the loyalists' fate would have been no better. Everywhere, with the exception of South Carolina, they were treated with barbarity. Some 60,000 persons left the country before Carleton evacuated New York, taking refuge either in Great Britain or her colonies. At least 25,000 of both sexes settled in the British maritime provinces of North America, and helped to establish the province of New Brunswick which received representative institutions in 1784; 10,000 others, United Empire Loyalists as they were afterwards called, in the valley of the St. Lawrence. England did what she could for her unfortunate friends; liberal grants of land were made to them, some had half-pay as military officers, and between 1783 and 1790 L3,112,455 was distributed among them, besides L25,785 granted in pensions.[172] Relief, however, was slow in coming, and many, reduced from wealth to penury, died in the utmost distress.


Preliminaries of peace with France and Spain were signed on January 20, 1783, and were followed by the definitive treaty of Versailles concluded on September 3. The war brought France into financial difficulties, and for that reason England, though forced to cede some of her conquests in the last war, obtained as good terms as she had a right to expect. In the West Indies she restored St. Lucia to France, ceded Tobago, and received back Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. In Africa Senegal and Goree went to France, and Gambia and Fort St. James were guaranteed to England. France received back her commercial establishments in India; her right to participate in the Newfoundland fishery was clearly defined; England ceded to her the islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre in sovereignty, and the old stipulation for the demolition of the fortifications of Dunkirk was given up. France and Spain pressed the government to agree to some exchange for Gibraltar. The king, Shelburne, and the majority of the cabinet would have let it go if a sufficient compensation had been offered; Richmond and Keppel objected to its cession on any terms. The signature of the American preliminaries strengthened the position of Great Britain and the question was dropped.[173] Spain retained Minorca and West Florida, and England ceded East Florida to her. On the other hand, Spain restored by treaty Providence and the Bahama isles, which were surrendered without bloodshed in 1782, and had already been recovered not less easily by England; and she guaranteed the right of the English to cut logwood in the bay of Honduras. A truce with Holland led to a treaty providing for a mutual restoration of conquests, with the exception of Negapatam which was retained by England.

When parliament met on December 5, it was evident that the terms of peace would be sharply criticised by both the parties in opposition, the followers of North and of Fox. Shelburne was disliked and distrusted by his colleagues, who considered him secretive and inclined to act alone, and the government soon showed signs of dissolution. Richmond retired from the cabinet in January, 1783, though he kept his office; the next day Keppel resigned the admiralty because he was dissatisfied with the preliminaries, and Carlisle, the lord steward, also resigned for the same reason. Shelburne was prevented by his colleagues from making overtures to North, and Pitt, who stood by him, tried to persuade Fox to re-enter the ministry. Fox asked if Shelburne would remain, and Pitt having answered that he would, at once declined. On this Pitt closed the interview with, it is said, the words: "I did not come here to betray Lord Shelburne". From that time Pitt and Fox were political enemies. The Duke of Rutland having succeeded Carlisle as lord steward with a seat in the cabinet, Grafton declared that Shelburne had no right to make an addition to the cabinet without consulting its members, and that he was making himself a "prime minister," and he too resigned the privy seal. According to the whigs the cabinet was to dictate to the king whom he should direct to form a cabinet, and was then to control its own composition. Their constitutional ideas were warped by their desire to perpetuate their own power.

The government was not in a case to speak with its enemies in the gate. In the commons 140 members were known to be supporters of Shelburne, 120 were followers of North, and 90 of Fox; the intentions of the rest were unknown or uncertain. With this division of parties and with the government in a state of dissolution, Fox, if he had exercised a little patience, might soon have formed a strong and united whig party. He chose another course, and, on February 14, formed an alliance with North on the basis of "mutual good-will and confidence"; they agreed that enough had been done to reduce the influence of the crown, that though the king should be treated with respect, he should have only "the appearance of power," and that on the question of parliamentary reform each should act as he chose. This coalition decided the fate of the government. The preliminaries of peace were discussed in parliament on the 17th, and almost every article was adversely criticised. In the lords the government address was carried by 13; in the commons it was rejected by 224 to 208. Fox was reproached for his "unnatural junction" with North, and his answer showed that he was prepared to act with him further than in that night's debate. On the 21st a vote of censure on the terms of the peace was carried by 207 to 190. The coalition was avowed. Fox defended it with ability on the ground that the country needed a broad and stable administration, and declared himself a candidate for office in the future ministry. Pitt, in a speech of great dignity, taunted "the self-made minister," contended that the objections to the peace were simply an attack on Shelburne, and in a fine peroration spoke of himself as caring more for his own honour than for the emoluments of office. Shelburne resigned on the 24th.


The coalition was triumphant. It was condemned by the public, and the verdict has been endorsed by posterity. Though it is true that North carried on the war with America only to please the king, that was not then known, and his conduct in that, and almost every important matter, was utterly opposed to the principles which Fox professed. What ground was there for mutual confidence? For eight years Fox had reviled North with extraordinary bitterness. If his words were just he had no business to ally himself with him. "My friendships," he said, with a Latin quotation, "are perpetual, my enmities are not so," a good reason for reconciliation with a private enemy; but political quarrels should be founded on differences of principle. Fox's words illustrate his adherence to the whig notion that the politics of the nation might be treated by the members of a few great families as their personal concerns. Of the two, North was at first more blamed than Fox, for it seemed pusillanimous in him to forgive Fox's treatment, but neither escaped censure. The king was furious. He had no love for Shelburne, but he hated Fox, and determined if possible to avoid falling into the hands of the coalition. He offered the treasury to Pitt, who with admirable discernment saw that his time was not yet come, and refused it. He tried Gower; he tried to detach North from the coalition; he even offered terms to the coalition; then again he pressed Pitt to take the treasury, and failing in all these attempts, sought help from Chatham's nephew, Thomas Pitt, and failed to obtain it. From February 24 to April 2 the country was without an organised government. George was almost in despair, talked of retiring to Hanover, and spoke bitterly of the ingratitude of North, whose past subservience to him had been largely rewarded. At last he was forced to accept the coalition ministry, to give Portland the treasury, and to submit to the exclusion of Thurlow, who had been chancellor since 1778 in the ministries of North, Rockingham, and Shelburne.

The new cabinet consisted of Portland, who was little more than a figure-head; North and Fox, secretaries of state; Stormont, president of the council; Carlisle, privy seal; Lord John Cavendish, chancellor of the exchequer; and Keppel, first lord of the admiralty. All except Stormont belonged to the party of Fox, the dominant partner in the coalition. The great seal was placed in commission. Burke again became paymaster, and Sheridan was secretary to the treasury. George was determined not to give his confidence to the ministers who had thus thrust themselves upon him, and to get rid of them as soon as possible. Fox applied himself assiduously to the duties of office, as indeed he did during the Rockingham administration, and strove in vain to overcome the king's dislike by deferential behaviour. George's hostility was strengthened by the friendship between Fox and the Prince of Wales. The prince's habits were dissolute and extravagant; he was an undutiful son, and the king a somewhat unforgiving father. He violently espoused the cause of the coalition, and George is said to have called the government "my son's ministry". It was time to provide him with a separate establishment, and Fox promised him that he would ask parliament for L100,000 a year. The majority of the cabinet thought the sum too large. The king was of the same opinion, and did not wish his son to be independent of all parental control. He therefore offered him an allowance of L50,000 from the civil list. Fox was unwilling to disappoint the prince, and the dismissal of the ministers seemed certain. They were saved by the prince's acceptance of the king's offer, in addition to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall which amounted to L12,000 a year; and parliament had only to vote him L60,000 for his debts and present expenses. The question of parliamentary reform was again brought forward by Pitt. As before, he urged that reform would prevent the crown from again exercising corrupt influence in parliament. He proposed as resolutions that the number of county and metropolitan members should be increased, suggesting an increase of at least a hundred, and that for the future any borough which was found by a committee of the house to be grossly corrupt should be disfranchised. This, he believed, would gradually reduce the number of members to what it then was, and would purify elections. North opposed the motion, Fox spoke in favour of it, though he wished that it had gone further. It was lost by 293 to 149. The public was no longer so eager for reform as in 1780.[174] Sawbridge's annual motion for shortening the duration of parliament was lost by 121 to 56.


Indian affairs demanded immediate legislation. The company's charter was renewed in 1781; a new arrangement was made as to its dividends and its payments to the state, and its political transactions were placed more completely under ministerial control. Two committees were also appointed by the house of commons to inquire into its administration. Of one of these Burke was the most active member, and Dundas, then holding office under North, was chairman of the other. In 1782 Dundas moved resolutions condemning the company's administration; the Rockingham ministry took the matter up, and the house voted that Warren Hastings, the governor-general, should be recalled. The directors agreed, but on Rockingham's death the proprietors refused their assent. North's regulating act of 1773 worked badly. From 1774 to 1780 Hastings was thwarted in council by three of the four councillors sent out by the ministers, and specially by Francis, the reputed author of the Junius letters, who opposed him with extreme rancour. Hastings fought a duel with him in 1779 and wounded him; he returned to England, and Hastings gained a majority in the council. The Madras council also quarrelled with their governor, Lord Pigot; he was arrested by their order and died in confinement. Other difficulties arose from the independent action of the minor governments of Bombay and Madras, and from the indefinite character of the powers of the supreme court of judicature. Administrative abuses existed, and the extreme financial difficulties caused by the wars with the Marathas, Haidar Ali, and the French, drove Hastings to adopt some high-handed measures. The Rockingham whigs were adverse to him, and Burke, whose generous emotions were roused by any tale of oppression, applied himself to collecting evidence against him, which his fervid imagination magnified and distorted.

Hastings guided the affairs of India through a period of extreme danger; preserved the empire, brought order out of anarchy in every branch of the administration, and won the esteem and confidence of the subject people, the army, and the civil service. His task was not merely to govern well, but to provide dividends out of revenue, and his work was criticised by the company with reference to its pecuniary results as well as its political wisdom. In Bengal he abolished Clive's mischievous dual system, and administered the province through English officials; he reformed the collection of the revenue, and he effected large economies by reducing the enormous pension of the nawab, who under his new system was spared the expenses of government, and by withholding the tribute to the emperor, who was a mere puppet in the hands of the Marathas. While governor of Bengal he allied himself with the Muhammadan states on the frontier, and specially with Oudh, which he wished to make a barrier against Maratha invasion. He took Allahabad and Kora from the emperor, or rather from the Marathas, and made them over to Shuja-ud-Daula, the wazir of Oudh, and partly to raise money for the company, and partly as a matter of policy he accepted the wazir's offer of forty lakhs of rupees for the loan of British troops to help him conquer the Rohillas, an Afghan tribe which had lately settled in those districts and was intriguing with the Marathas. The conquest was carried out in Eastern fashion in 1774, and the wazir's cruelties, which were grossly exaggerated, were laid to Hastings's charge. The overthrow of the Rohillas was advantageous to the British rule; but though the council at Calcutta thought the bargain highly profitable to the company, the hiring out of British troops to serve as subsidiaries to an Asiatic potentate was a deplorable mistake. Another charge brought against Hastings concerned the execution of Nanda-Kumar (Nuncomar), a rascally Brahman, who, after Hastings was appointed governor-general, helped his opponents in the council by bringing charges against him. Nanda-Kumar was hanged for a private forgery, after a patient trial in the supreme court. His death was highly convenient to Hastings, but there is no evidence that he had anything to do with the prosecution or sentence.[175]

[Sidenote: FOX'S INDIA BILLS.]

During the Maratha war, a tributary chief, Chait Singh, raja of Benares, neglected to perform the demands made upon him, and showed a dangerously independent spirit. In 1781 Hastings imposed an enormous fine upon him; he revolted and was defeated, and his estates were confiscated and given to a kinsman. Though the raja's conduct was contumacious, Hastings seems to have acted with undue severity. He was pressed for money, and left the raja no choice between paying a very large sum and losing his estates. Difficulties increased, and he called on Asaf-ud-Daula, then nawab wazir of Oudh, to pay his heavy arrears of debt to the company. The begams, the mother and widow of the late nawab, had a vast treasure which should have belonged to the state. Hastings was informed that these powerful ladies were helping Chait Singh; it was necessary to get money from the wazir, and he bade him force the ladies to give up their treasure. The resident at Lucknow brought up some troops; the begams' palace at Faizabad was blockaded, and their eunuch-ministers imprisoned and maltreated until the resident obtained enough to liquidate the wazir's debt. The wazir threw the odium of this transaction on the English. Hastings defended his conduct as just and politic. He was not directly responsible for the severe measures adopted by the wazir, but it was certainly not a matter in which the British governor-general and his officers should have taken any part. His conduct in this matter as well as towards the Benares raja was misrepresented and used against him in England.

The refusal of the proprietors to recall Hastings was highly displeasing to the commons, and a petition from the company for relief from some obligations imposed in 1781 gave occasion to parliament again to interfere in its affairs. In April, 1783, Dundas, who was then in opposition to the coalition ministry, proposed a bill for the government of India. His plan was to render the governor-general more independent of his council, to subordinate more completely the inferior governments to the government of Bengal, to change the uncertain tenure of the zamindars into hereditary possession, to recall Hastings, and to appoint some noble, like Cornwallis, as his successor. As the government promised to bring in an India bill the next session, he allowed his bill to drop. When parliament reassembled in November, Fox brought in two bills, which were largely prepared by Burke, one affecting the constitution of the company, the other its administration in India. The first vested the management of the territories, revenue, and commerce of the company in seven commissioners, named in the bill, for four years, with power to appoint and remove all officers of the company. After that term Fox suggested that the crown should nominate the commissioners, and meanwhile was to appoint to vacancies. Commercial transactions were to be managed by a subordinate board chosen by parliament from among the larger proprietors. The second bill abolished all monopolies in India, prohibited the acceptance of presents, and gave native landlords an hereditary estate. The objections urged against the first bill by the opposition, and chiefly by Pitt, Grenville, and Dundas, were grounded on its violation of the company's charter, and its tendency to vest the patronage of India in the existing ministry. Fox ably defended the bill, and Burke, in an eloquent speech, depicted, with much exaggeration, the injustice which, he maintained, the millions of India had suffered during Hastings's administration, and argued that the delinquencies of the company justified the violation of its charter.

It was, however, the political side of the bill which chiefly roused opposition. All seven commissioners belonged to Fox's party. For four years it vested in his nominees "all the patronage of the East". Pitt declared that it created "a new and enormous influence"; Grenville that "the treasures of India like a flood would sweep away our liberties". Fox was accused of making himself "King of Bengal," and a caricature represents him as Carlo Khan entering Leadenhall street on an elephant which has the face of North and is led by Burke. All this was party exaggeration; the bill was a genuine attempt to benefit the natives of India, and would not probably have had any really serious consequences in England, though the control of the Indian patronage for four years would have strengthened Fox's party, and, if it had afterwards been vested in the crown, would have given some opportunity for the exercise of corrupt influence by ministers. The king was waiting for an opportunity to get rid of the coalition ministry, and Thurlow and Temple easily excited his jealousy for the prerogative by telling him that the bill would deprive him of half his power and disable him for the rest of his life. His influence in the commons was diminished by recent legislation, and there the bill was carried by two to one. Before the second reading in the lords he gave Temple a card authorising him to say that, whoever voted for the bill "would be considered by him as an enemy". This soon became known, and, on December 17, the commons voted by 153 to 80 that it was now necessary to declare that to report the king's opinion on any question pending in parliament with a view to influence votes is a high crime and misdemeanour. Nevertheless the king's unconstitutional move was successful; the lords rejected the bill. The next night George ordered the secretaries of state to send back their seals, for he would not receive them personally, and the coalition ministry was dismissed. Pitt at once accepted the offices of first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer.


He was then in his twenty-fifth year. Extraordinary difficulties faced him: the opposition of a large majority of the commons, led by Fox, a master of debate, and strong in men of ability and experience, and the discredit attaching to the king's unconstitutional action to which he owed his position. He found it difficult to form a ministry, for few were willing to join him in a struggle in which victory seemed hopeless. Shelburne, his former leader, he would not invite, for he could not endure his habitually enigmatic conduct. Temple, an instigator and the agent of the king's action, became secretary of state, but immediately resigned owing apparently to a personal offence. The new cabinet consisted only of Lords Sydney (Thomas Townshend) and Carmarthen, secretaries for the home and foreign departments; Gower, president of the council; Rutland, privy seal; Thurlow, chancellor; and Howe, first lord of the admiralty; besides Pitt who alone among them sat in the commons. Richmond again became master of the ordnance and a little later re-entered the cabinet. Dundas was treasurer of the navy. Pitt's acceptance of office was regarded by the opposition as a "boyish freak"; his ministry was "a mince-pie administration which would end with the Christmas holidays".[176]

Pitt had a majority of the commons against him; but in those days the cabinet was not so wholly dependent on the commons as it became after 1832.[177] Supported by the king and the lords, Pitt determined to do battle with the majority in the hope that he would overcome their opposition, discredit his enemies, and win the confidence of the country before he appealed to it. Fox should have urged an immediate dissolution. If Pitt had tried to avoid it, he would have incurred the odium of hesitating to accept the will of the nation. Fox, however, used every effort to prevent a dissolution. The will of the commons had been thwarted by the king's unconstitutional interference, and he was determined to vindicate the authority of the house. Besides, he had a substantial majority, and though it might have been maintained by a general election, he knew that his coalition with North was unpopular, and that his India bill had aroused the hostility of some powerful corporations which felt that their privileges were endangered by his attack upon the company's charter. The affairs of India were at once made a pretext for an address to the crown deprecating a dissolution; the house was engaged upon them, and a dissolution would frustrate its endeavours. The king replied that he would not interfere with its work either by dissolution or prorogation.


The house reassembled after the Christmas recess on January 12. Fox relying on the authority of Lord Somers, one of the leading statesmen of the revolution, questioned the right of the crown to dissolve parliament during the business of a session; James II., he said, had done so and put an end to his reign. His contention was unsound; the will of a house of commons is not conclusive: the crown has a right to dissolve in order to ascertain the will of the nation. Pitt replied that he "would not compromise the royal prerogative or bargain it away in the house of commons". He was in a minority of 193 to 232. On the 14th, he brought in his India bill, which proposed to place the political concerns of the company under a board of control in England to be appointed by the crown, and to leave to the company its commerce and patronage. Fox attacked it as incomplete, and it was negatived though only by eight votes. A fierce struggle followed, a struggle, Dr. Johnson called it, "between George the Third's sceptre and Mr. Fox's tongue". Fox tried every means to force the ministers to resign; he put forth all his wonderful powers of debate and attacked Pitt with great bitterness; addresses to the crown and resolutions hostile to the ministers were adopted, and the supplies and the mutiny act were postponed. Through it all Pitt exhibited wonderful courage, sagacity, and self-control. A body of independent members proposed a compromise, and the king reluctantly assented. Fox declared himself willing to work with Pitt, but, determined to assert the authority of the house, insisted that the ministers should resign before arrangements were discussed. To this Pitt haughtily refused to assent. George upheld him: during the late administration he would not create any peers; on Pitt's recommendation he created four, and almost daily sent his young minister encouraging little notes. The lords too were on his side; they condemned as unconstitutional a resolution of the commons suspending certain statutory powers of the treasury, which was adopted in order to embarrass the ministry, and sent an address to the king assuring him of their support in the just exercise of the prerogative.

Pitt won general admiration by granting the valuable sinecure office of clerk of the pells to Barre in exchange for the pension secured to him by the whigs. His private means were only L300 a year, and, as such matters were then regarded, he might have taken the office himself without scandal; but uncertain as his position seemed to be, he preferred saving the country L3,200 a year to putting it into his own pocket. Feeling outside the house ran strongly in his favour; addresses were sent up thanking the king for dismissing the late ministry, and Pitt was presented with the freedom of the city of London. As on his return from the city on February 27 his carriage was being drawn by workmen in triumph up St. James's street, it was attacked opposite Brooks's, the meeting-place of Fox's party; he was assaulted and escaped with difficulty into White's club. Members of Brooks's were believed to be concerned in the outrage, which increased Pitt's growing popularity. The opposition began to waver. On March 1 a fresh address to the king for the removal of the ministers was carried by only twelve votes. George again refused his assent. Fox shrank from attempting the extreme measure of refusing supplies; it would, indeed, have been useless, for his suggestion that the house should pass a mutiny bill for a brief period met with no encouragement. He made one more effort; on the 8th he moved a representation to the king, drawn up by Burke, which was carried only by one vote. The struggle was over; the next day the usual mutiny bill passed without a division; the supplies were voted, and on the 23rd Pitt saw that the time had come for a dissolution. A difficulty suddenly arose, for the great seal was stolen from Thurlow's house. A new one was promptly made, and on the 25th parliament was dissolved.

Of his coalition with North, Fox said that it could be justified only by success. For a second time he put his political fate to the touch. He attempted to give absolute authority to one branch of the legislature, to enable an existing house of commons to restrain the constitutional exercise of the prerogative, to prolong its own existence, and to hinder an appeal to the will of the nation. Both moves were disastrous to him. The coalition was condemned as unprincipled; whigs were offended at his alliance with North, whom they held responsible for the American war, tories by the alliance of North with the opponent of prerogative. His attempt to hinder the expression of the national will by a general election perplexed the whigs, his attack on the prerogative disgusted the tories. His India bill alarmed chartered bodies, and was held, unjustly it is true, but with some show of reason, to be inspired by the wish to perpetuate the power of the whig oligarchy through corrupt influence. Feelings of personal loyalty and of admiration for the youthful minister who dared to fight, and was able to win, the king's battle against such tremendous odds, combined to destroy the effect of George's unconstitutional proceeding and to rouse enthusiasm for Pitt. The opposition candidates were defeated in almost all the larger constituencies; 160 of them—"Fox's martyrs" they were called—lost their seats. The rout was complete; even Yorkshire, so long faithful to the great houses, returned Pitt's friend, Wilberforce, the son of a banker. One consolation they had. After an exciting struggle Fox was re-elected for Westminster, though only as second member, and, as we shall see, even this triumph was disputed. Fox's conduct caused the overthrow of the whig party, and gave the government into the hands of a minister whose high principles, not less than his supreme ability, commanded and preserved the confidence of the nation.


[165] H. Grattan, Life of Grattan, ii., 216-20.

[166] Hoste, Naval Tactics, i., 153-55, ed. Boswall.

[167] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 480-500; Hannay, Rodney, pp. 179-213, and Hood's Letters, pp. 101-21, 123-30; Mundy, Life of Rodney, ii., 222-50; Ann. Reg., xxv. (1782), 252-57.

[168] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 420-56.

[169] Life of Shelburne, iii., 175.

[170] Life of Shelburne, iii., 174-221; Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 330-87, 468-80; Lewis, Administrations of Great Britain, pp. 31-49; Lecky, History, iv., 226-35.

[171] Parl. Hist., xxiii., 163, 177.

[172] Jones, Hist. of New York, ii., 241-55, 497-509, 645-63; Sabine, American Loyalists, pp. 70, 86, 107-12.

[173] Life of Shelburne, iii., 305, 312-14; Anson, Grafton, pp. 346-50.

[174] Ann. Reg., xxvi. (1783), 176.

[175] Forrest, State Papers, India, i., Introd., xxxiii-xlviii; ii., 298-414; Sir A. Lyell, Warren Hastings, pp. 60-74; Sir J. F. Stephen, Story of Nuncomar.

[176] Lady Minto, Life of Lord Minto, i., 90; Wilberforce, Life of Wilberforce, i., 48.

[177] Anson, Law of the Constitution, ii., 129.




The first forty-one years of the reign are marked by important social and economic changes, some of which began earlier, and some were not fully carried out till later. Though the cursory review of them attempted in this chapter will extend beyond the date which we have already reached, it seems time to say something of such matters, and a look ahead will make the later narrative more complete and intelligible. With the painful exception of a deterioration in the condition of the poor, these changes were for the better. Manners became more decent, pity was more easily evoked by human suffering, and culture more widely diffused. Moral improvement may be traced to a revival of practical religion and to a general reaction from the artificial cast of thought of earlier days, while as forces on the same side may be reckoned the influence of the king and, in a greater degree, that exercised by a number of distinguished men such as Johnson and Burke. Ideas elaborated and propounded by French philosophers shook the smug satisfaction of the world in what was hard, shallow, and insincere, and combined with the stress of a great war to complete the slow progress of a change in English taste. After long hesitation literature and art finally turned from unreality and convention, and drew inspiration direct from nature. As regards material progress, manufactures and commerce were enormously increased by the use of mechanical inventions, and the productive power of the soil by improvements in agriculture. The conditions of industry changed and, as must ever be the case, industrial revolution brought suffering on the poor.

The highest class still formed a small and close society; there was no doubt as to who belonged to it and no chance for an outsider to push his way into it. The members of it were so thoroughly acquainted with one another's doings that invitations to dinner were often given only two days beforehand, and with even shorter notice. They had enormous authority, both political and social. Entirely independent of public opinion, those of them who loved vice or frivolity indulged their tastes without shame or measure. Gambling, the fashionable folly, was carried to an extraordinary height, especially between 1772 and 1776. At Brooks's the stakes at quinze were not less than L50, and there was often L10,000 on the table. Gamesters exchanged their rich clothes for frieze coats, covered their lace ruffles with leather cuffs, and shielded their eyes by high-crowned hats with broad brims. Fox squandered L140,000, chiefly at play, by the time he was twenty-five, and his brother Stephen lost L20,000 at a sitting. Among the older gamesters were Lord Masham, too poor for such folly, the wicked Lowther, witty George Selwyn, and his associate, Lord March, afterwards Duke of Queensberry, Fox's instructor in vice, the "old Q." who in the next century as he sat in his favourite place above the porch of his house in Piccadilly presented to the passers-by the embodiment of the iniquities of an older generation. Ladies were not less given to play than men. Duchesses at Bath, the "paradise of doctors and gamesters," set an example which the vice-regal court at Dublin professed to imitate by spending whole nights at unlimited half-guinea loo.

There was no redeeming side to this gambling; it was a sordid struggle for money. At Brooks's in 1781 Fox, in partnership with some allies, kept the bank at faro as a regular business, one partner relieving another, and play going on continuously night and day. As the dealer and the partners could be seen at work through the open windows of the club, one can scarcely wonder that Fox's faro-bank was a sore point with the opposition. He won largely, then lost, and finally was L30,000 "worse than nothing". Idlers in St. James's street were amused by watching the Jews as they packed his clothes and books and carted them off from his lodgings. The next year the king was forced to make him a secretary of state. Though gambling continued common, it became less extravagant and was more widely condemned. In 1796, when the war with France was sobering people, some ladies of rank created a scandal by keeping a faro-bank at their houses. Chief-justice Kenyon threatened the pillory, and Gillray expressed and stimulated public opinion by a caricature representing two of "Faro's daughters" in that position. One of them, Lady Buckinghamshire, and two of her associates, were fined the next year for unlawful gaming. Fox and other gamesters of the wild time supplemented the faro-bank by betting at Newmarket. It was a notable period in the history of the turf, for many great men, specially of the whig party, were eager and judicious breeders. Such were the king's uncle, Cumberland, the breeder of Eclipse, Grafton, Rockingham, Egremont, Richmond, and Sir Charles Bunbury, whose horse Diomed won the first Derby race in 1780. The professional bookmaker was not yet, and racing, though used for betting purposes, was free from some evils which grew up later. The sport was popular, and in 1784 as many as 500 plates were raced for annually.


Excessive drinking was common in society. Since the Methuen treaty of 1703 port was the wine most drunk. A genuine port cost about two shillings a bottle, but the wine was largely adulterated on importation, and one stingy lord is said to have recommended his guests to drink his port instead of a more expensive wine by assuring them that he knew that it was good as he made it himself.[178] Men would constantly drink two bottles of port apiece at a sitting, and sometimes three and even more, and would appear in parliament, in the theatre, or in a drawing-room in a state of drunkenness. A treaty with France in 1786 largely increased the consumption of French wines, but this change, which favoured sobriety, was ended by the war. Nevertheless, drunkenness was less general than earlier in the century, and, except in the Prince of Wales's set, seems to have decreased during the war with France. Duels were frequent, and, though towards the end of our period they were increasingly condemned by religious people, they were approved of by society at large. For some time men of fashion dressed in velvets and silks of various hues, but during the American war Fox, once the most extravagant of "macaronis," and his friends showed their political sympathies by carelessness in dress, and their example was largely followed. Men's dress, however, did not decline until about 1793 when the whigs imitated the severity affected by the French republicans. Wigs were discarded early in the reign, except by professional men, and hair-powder began to fall out of fashion by the end of the century. Then, too, ladies' dress became more simple, chiefly because improvements in the textile manufactures provided them with materials at once simple and pleasing.

Besides the ordinary amusements of society, fashionable people frequented public assemblies, of which those at Ranelagh were longest in vogue. The company at Vauxhall was more mixed. People of the shop-keeping and lower classes enjoyed themselves in the numerous pleasure resorts about London, such as Mary-le-bone gardens, Islington, and Sadler's Wells. Theatres were well attended and the increase of public decency is illustrated by the disappearance from the stage of the coarseness of earlier times. It was the golden age of the drama; for it saw the acting of Macklin and Garrick, of Mrs. Siddons, "the tragic muse," and her brother John Kemble, of Mrs. Abington, Miss Farren, "the comic muse," afterwards Countess of Derby, and Mrs. Jordan. As dramatists Home, Foote, Colman, and Cumberland deserve to be mentioned; and Goldsmith and Sheridan wrote comedies which, while belonging to acting drama, adorn English literature. Among less respectable amusements bull-baiting was confined to the lowest class. An attempt to render it illegal was defeated in parliament in 1800, chiefly through the opposition of Windham. Cock-fighting, though widely condemned, was practised even by gentlemen, chiefly as a means of betting. Exhibitions of combats with swords became extinct, and made way for the scarcely less dangerous prize-fights of bruisers which from about 1788 became extremely popular.

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