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Chapter 15:

The Duke of Cumberland forms a ministry—the Rocking-Ham whigs.

June—July, 1765.

while America was giving force to its resistance by
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union, divisions that could not be healed, planted confusion in the councils of its oppressors. We left the king quivering with wounded pride at the affront from his ministers. But far from giving way, he thwarted their suggestions about appointments to office, frowned on those whom they promoted, and publicly showed regard to his friends whom they displaced.

Grenville, in apparently confident security, continued his schemes of colonial revenue, and by the fourteenth of June, represented to the king, ‘that the Canadians were subject to taxation by virtue of his prerogative.’ But the duke of Bedford had already filled the palace with more rankling cares. The plain-spoken man, exasperated by the sense of his own unpopularity and by the coldness of the court, was growing weary of public life and wished to retire. On the twelfth of June, being resolved once more on an explanation, he recapitulated to his sovereign in person what had passed between him and his ministers on their resuming their functions, when [296] he had promised them his countenance and support.

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‘Has this promise,’ he demanded, ‘been kept? On the contrary, are not almost all our bitter enemies countenanced in public? Has not the earl of Bute, as the favorite, interfered, at least indirectly, in public councils, with the utmost hazard to himself, and risk to the king's quiet and the safety of the public? I hope your majesty will be pleased to give you countenance to your ministers, and for the future let your support and your authority go together; or else that you will give your authority where you are pleased to give your favor.’ The king only answered, ‘that he was much hurt at being told of consulting Lord Bute.’ That ‘his silence was a symptom of amendment,’ was Rigby's comment; for, said he, ‘to hold one's tongue is honester than to falsify all one says.’ At the same time the king was resolved to interpret the discourse of Bedford as a resignation; though the colleagues of the duke were by no means disposed to retire, or to push matters so far as to provoke their dismissal. ‘The thoroughly wise Grenville’ was expected to counterwork the king with Temple; for their reconciliation had been attended with the mutual engagement to act together in future; and if Temple and Pitt would only be neuter, a removal of the ministry appeared impossible.

The king, who was resolved at all hazards to make a change, again appealed to Cumberland, and through him summoned Pitt to an audience. On Wednesday, the nineteenth of June, in an interview which continued for three hours, the conversation turned not only on a Prussian alliance, an explanation of general warrants, and a repeal of the cider tax; but [297] Pitt declared himself against the measures that had

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been adopted to restrain the American colonies from trade with the Spanish islands, and against the taxation of the colonies by act of parliament, which nothing but extreme illness had prevented him from opposing in the House of Commons, and of which his mind foreboded the fatal consequences. The discussion was renewed on the following Saturday, when Pitt, having obtained satisfaction as to measures and as to men, entered most thoroughly and most heartily upon the work of forming an administration. On receiving the news by an express from Pitt, Temple broke confidence so far as privately to communicate its substance to Grenville, who, before returning to London, hastened to Woburn, and received from Bedford full powers to dispose of him entirely as he should think fit. Meantime, Temple, with a predetermined mind, repaired on Monday to Pitt at Hayes. The two statesmen were at variance on no important measure except the policy of the stamp act, which Pitt was resolved to abrogate as inconsistent with right, and which Temple, in common with the great body of the landed aristocracy, desired to confirm. Here was an irreconcilable antagonism of opinion which was to divide them for the rest of their lives. On account of their difference on the American question, or from a perfidious concert with Grenville and Bedford, or for reasons that have remained unrevealed, Temple refused to take office. Pitt was alike surprised, wounded, and embarrassed. Lord Temple was his brother-in-law; had, in the time of his retiring from the office of paymaster, helped him with his purse; had twice gone into a ministry [298] with him; and twice faithfully retired with him.
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The long discussion that ensued deeply affected both; but Temple inflexibly resisted Pitt's judgment, declaration, and most earnest remonstrance; he would not consent to supplant the brother whose present measures he applauded, and with whom he had just been reconciled; and Pitt felt himself disabled by this refusal. As they parted, he said pathetically, in the words of a Roman poet: ‘You, brother, bring ruin on me, and on yourself, and on the people, and the peers, and your country.’

When Temple, on the morning of Tuesday, the twenty-second, received the visit of Grenville, he appeared ‘under great agitation.’ He was still ‘nervous and trembling’ when he went in to the king, and declined ‘entering his service in any office,’ assigning reasons of the most tender and delicate nature, which he did not explain. ‘I am afraid,’ he added —and it was the king himself who repeated the remark—‘I foresee more misfortunes in your majesty's reign than in any former period of history.’

Deserted in this wise by the connection in whom he had trusted, Pitt immediately sought an interview with the king, who accepted his excuses, and ‘parted from him very civilly.’ Thus passed what seemed to him the most difficult and painful crisis of his life. ‘All is now over with me,’ said he despondingly, ‘and by a fatality I did not expect;’ and with grief and disappointment in his heart, he retired into Somersetshire.

‘Let us see,’ said the ministers, ‘if the duke of Cumberland will be desperate enough to form an administration without Pitt and Temple.’ Northington [299] assured them, that they might remain in office if

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they chose. The most wary gave in their adhesion; even Charles Yorke went to Grenville and declared his support, and Gilbert Elliott did the like. ‘Our cause is in your hands,’ said the Bedfords to Grenville, ‘and you will do it justice.’ This was the moment of his greatest pride and political importance; he was at the head of the Treasury; he had defeated his sovereign's efforts to change the ministry; he was looked up to and owned by the Bedfords as their savior and protector. His ambition, his vanity, and his self — will were gratified.

The king had been complaining in strong terms of

the little business done, and especially of ‘the neglect of the colonies and new conquests;’ and the indefatigable Grenville applied himself earnestly to American measures. Bishops were to be engrafted on a plan which he favored for an ecclesiastical establishment in Canada. On the fourth of July, he proposed a reform in the courts of admiralty; in the following days, he, with Lord North, settled the emoluments of the officers charged with carrying into execution the American stamp act; made an enumeration of the several districts for inspection; provided for supplying vacant places among the stamp distributors; and on the ninth, his very last day in office, consulted about removing incidental objections to the measure, in which he gloried as his own.

Meantime Cumberland had succeeded in forming an administration out of the remnants of the old whig aristocracy and their successors; and on the tenth Grenville was summoned to St. James's to surrender the seals of his office. ‘By what means have I drawn [300] down your Majesty's displeasure?’ asked the dis-

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carded minister. ‘I have found myself too much constrained,’ answered the king; ‘and when I have had any thing proposed to me, it was no longer as counsel, but what I was to obey.’ Grenville then told him, that he understood the plan of his new administration was a total subversion of every act of the former; that nothing having been undertaken as a measure without his Majesty's approbation, he knew not how he could let himself be persuaded to see it in so different a light, and most particularly the regulations concerning the colonies. ‘I beseech your Majesty,’ he continued, ‘as you value your own safety not to suffer any one to advise you to separate or draw the line between your British and American dominions. Your colonies are the richest jewel of your Crown. For my own part I must uniformly maintain my former opinions both in Parliament and out of it. Whatever is proposed in Parliament must abide the sentence passed upon it there; but if any man should venture to defeat the regulations laid down for the colonies, by a slackness in the execution, I shall look upon him as a criminal and the betrayer of his country.’

The conditions on which the new ministry took office, were agreed upon at the house of the duke of Newcastle, and did not extend beyond the disposal of offices. They introduced no system adapted to the age, no projects of reform; they gave no pledges in behalf of liberty, except such as might be found in the traditions of their party and their own personal characters. The old duke of Newcastle was the type of the administration, though he took only the post [301] of privy seal, with the patronage of the church.

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The law adviser of its choice, as attorney general, was Charles Yorke, whose political principles coincided with those of Mansfield. Its mediator with the king was the duke of Cumberland, who had a seat in the cabinet as its protector.

But younger men also came into power, giving hope for the future. In place of Grenville, the able debater, the learned jurist, the post of head of the treasury was assigned to the marquis of Rockingham. He was an inexperienced man of five and thirty, possessing no great natural abilities, of a feeble constitution, and a nervous timidity which made him almost incapable of speaking in public; acquainted with race-courses, and the pedigree of horses; unskilled in the finances of his country, and never before proposed for high office. But he had clear and sagacious sense and good feeling, unshaken fortitude, integrity, kindness of nature, and an honest and hearty attachment to liberty within established limits. His virtues were his arts, and they were his talents also. Had he been untitled and less opulent, he never would have been heard of; but being high in rank, of vast wealth, and generous without wastefulness, he was selected at the moment when the power of the oligarchy was passing its culmination, to lead its more liberal branch; and such was his own ambition of being first in place, such his sincerity, such his fidelity to his political connections, that from this time till the day of his death he remained their acknowledged standard-bearer.

His deficiencies in knowledge and in rhetoric, the minister compensated by selecting as his secretary and [302] intimate friend Edmund Burke, who had recently es-

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caped from the service of one of the opposite party, and from a pension bestowed by Halifax. It was characteristic of that period for a man like Rockingham to hold for life a retainer like Edmund Burke; and never did a true-hearted, kindly and generous patron find a more faithful adherent. He brought to his employer, and gave up to his party, all that he had—boundless stores of knowledge, especially respecting the colonies, wit, philosophy, imagination, gorgeous eloquence, unwearied industry, mastery of the English tongue, and, as some think, the most accomplished intellect which the nation had produced for centuries. His ambition was fervid, yet content with the applause of the aristocracy. His political training had brought him in contact with the Board of Trade, and afterwards with the government of Ireland, the country of his birth. His writings are a brilliant picture of the British constitution, as it existed in the best days of the eighteenth century; and his genius threw lustre over the decline of the party which he served. No man had a better heart, or more thoroughly hated oppression; but he possessed neither experience in affairs, nor tranquil judgment, nor the rule over his own spirit; so that his genius, under the impulse of his bewildering passions, wrought much evil to his country and to Europe, even while he rendered noble service to the cause of commercial freedom, to Ireland, and to America.

The seals of the Northern department of state were conferred on the duke of Grafton, a young man of respectable abilities, yet impaired by fondness for pleasure, a ready speaker, honest and upright, naturally [303] inclining to the liberal side. He had little

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sagacity, but he meant well; and, in after years, preferred himself to record and to explain his errors of judgment rather than to leave in doubt the sincerity of his character. This is he to whom the poet Gray, in verses splendid but not venal, flung praise as to one who kept the steady course of honor through the wild waves of public life. In his college vacations, he had seen Pitt at Stowe, and been fascinated by his powers; he took office, in the hope that the ministry might adopt the Great Commoner as its chief.

Conway, who had been arbitrarily dismissed from military office, was suggested, as Grafton's associate. But ‘thinking men foresaw’ peril to the stamp act, in ‘intrusting its execution to one of the very few persons who had opposed the passing of it;’ and the king wished to consign that office to Charles Townshend, by whom it had so long been coveted. Who can tell how America would have fared under him, in an administration whose patron and adviser was the victor at Culloden? But though the king, in person, used every argument to prevail with him, yet he declined to join in a system which he compared to ‘lutestring, fit only for summer wear.’ Even so late as on the ninth of July, the king, who had reserved the place of secretary at war for Conway, renewed his entreaties; but the decisive refusal of Townshend, who held fast to his lucrative office of paymaster, threw the seals of the southern department and America, at the very last moment, into the hands of Conway.

The new secretary, like Shelburne and Edmund Burke, was an Irishman, and, therefore, disposed to [304] have ‘very just notions’ of the colonies. His tem-

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per was mild and moderate; in his inquiries he was reasonable and accurate; and it was his desire to unite both countries in affection, as well as interest. But he was diffident and hesitating. He seemed to be inflexibly proud, and was not firm—to be candid, and was only scrupulous. His honesty, instead of nerving his will, kept him for ever a sceptic. He would in battle walk up to the cannon's mouth with imperturbable courage; but in the cabinet his mind was in a perpetual see-saw, balancing arguments, and never reaching fixed conclusions, unless his sense of honor was touched, or his gentle disposition was invigorated by his humanity. The necessity of immediate action was sure to find him still wavering. He was so fond of doing right, that the time for doing it passed before he could settle what it was; and the man who was now appointed to guide the mind of the House of Commons, never knew how to make up his own.

The ministry would have restored Shelburne to the Presidency of the Board of Trade; but he excused himself, because Rockingham, on taking office, had given no pledges but as to ‘men.’ ‘Measures, not men,’ said Shelburne, ‘will be the rule of my conduct;’ and thus the two branches of the liberal aristocracy gained their watchwords. The one was bound to provide for its connection; the other to promote reform. There could be no progress of liberty in England, but from the union of the aristocratic power of the one with the popular principle of the other. The refusal of Shelburne leaves the important office to the earl of Dartmouth, a young man, utterly inexperienced in business, distinguished only for his piety;

The one who wears a coronet and prays. [305]

A peerage was conferred on Pratt, who took the

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name of Camden; though Rockingham was averse to his advancement. But it was through Rockingham himself, that Lord George Sackville, who had been degraded while Pitt was minister, was restored to a seat at the Council Board, and raised to one of the lucrative vicetreasurerships of Ireland.

Thus was an administration, whose policy had been sanctioned by large and increasing majorities in parliament, and by the most cordial approbation of the king, avowedly turned out, to gratify his personal disgust at its exercising its constitutional right to control him in the use of the court favor. The new cabinet did not include one man of commanding ability, nor had it a single measure to propose to the crown, to the nation, or to the colonies; nor did it possess the confidence of parliament, in which its want of debating talent stamped its character with weakness. Grenville, in revenge, sullenly predicted to his friends, that every day would produce difficulties in the colonies, and with foreign powers.

‘Within the last twelve years,’ wrote Voltaire at that time, ‘there has been a marked revolution in the public mind. Light is certainly spreading on all sides.’ George the Third, without intending it, promoted the revolution which Voltaire anxiously awaited, and hastened results affecting America and the world, of which neither Voltaire nor himself had any preconception.

The new ministry did not enter upon their career with any purpose of repealing or changing the stamp act. Many of those whose support was essential to them, among others, Northington, who remained in [306] the cabinet as chancellor, Yorke, and Charles Towns-

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hend, were among its earliest and most strenuous supporters; and the duke of Cumberland was the last man in England to temporize with what he might think to be rebellion. The agents of the colonies seeing among the ministry some who had been their friends, took courage to solicit relief; but for many weeks Franklin1 admitted no hope of success. An order in council2, sanctioned by the name, and apparently, by the advice of Lord Dartmouth—perhaps the worst order ever proposed by the Board of Trade, so bad that it was explained away by the crown lawyers as impossible to have been intended—permitted appeals to the privy council from any verdict given by any jury in the courts of New-York; while the Treasury Board, with Rockingham at its head, directed the attorney and solicitor general to prepare instruments for collecting in Canada, by the king's authority, the same revenue which had been collected there under the government of Louis XV.; and without any apparent misgiving, proceeded to complete the arrangements for executing the stamp act. [307]

1 That Franklin believed the Stamp Act would be carried into effect appears from the verbal remark to Ingersoll, attributed to him; from his conduct; and from his correspondence. Take, for example, this extract from his letter to Charles Thomson, never before correctly published:

London, July 11th, 1765.
* * *—--‘Depend upon it, my good neighbor, I took every step in my power to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act. Nobody could be more concerned in interest than myself to oppose it, sincerely and heartily. But the tide was too strong against us. The nation was provoked by American claims of Independence; and all parties joined in resolving by this act to settle the point. We might as well have hun-
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dered the sun's setting: that we could not do. But since 'tis down, my friend, and it may be long before it rises again, let us make as good a night of it as we can. We may still light candles. Frugality and industry will go a great way towards indemnifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments; if we can get rid of the former, we may easily bear the latter.’

For the opportunity of printing the above paragraph correctly, in Franklin's own words, I am indebted to Mrs. Chamberlain, of Newark, Delaware, who has the original in her possession. The copy was made for me, with the utmost exactness, by Mr. A. II. Grimshaw, of Wilmington, and carefully compared with the original by Mr. Grimshaw and one of his friends.

There is another version in circulation, which makes Franklin say: ‘Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may easily get rid of the latter.’

This is not what Franklin wrote. To ‘bear’ with kings and parliaments and to ‘get rid of’ kings and parliaments, are very different things. Franklin was long-suffering, and waited some years yet before he advised to get rid of kings. He himself printed a part of this letter, but with amplifications, in the London Chronicle of Nov. 14 to 16, 1765, from which it was copied into Weyman's New-York Gazette of Feb. 3, and other papers. In all of them, as well as in the letter itself, the words are, ‘bear the atter,’ and not, ‘get rid of the latter.’

2 Report of the Lords in Council, 26 July, 1765.

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