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Chapter 6:

The triumvirate ministry pursue the plan of taxing America by parliament.

April, May, 1763.

George the Third was revered by his courtiers as
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realizing the idea of a patriot king.1 He would espouse no party, rule ‘by no faction,’ and employ none but those who would conduct affairs on his own principles. The watchword of his friends was ‘a coalition of parties,’ in the spirit of dutiful obedience, so that he might select ministers from among them all, and he came to the throne resolved ‘to begin to govern as soon as he should begin to reign.’2 Yet the established constitution was more immovable than his designs. Pitt did not retire from the ministry till the country was growing weary of ‘his German war,’ and a majority in the British cabinet opposed his counsels. Newcastle, so long the representative of a cabal of the oligarchy, which had once been more repected than the royal authority itself,3 did not abandon [98] office till he had lost weight with parliament and
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the people; and the favorite, Bute, after making the peace with general approbation, had no option but to retire from a place which neither his own cabinet, nor the nation, nor either house of parliament, was willing he should hold. In the midst of changing factions the British constitution stood like adamant.

Grenville, who was never personally agreeable to the king,4 was chosen to succeed Bute in the ministry, because, from his position, he seemed dependent on the court. He had no party, and was aware of it.5— No man had more changed his associates: entering life as a patriot, accepting office of Newcastle, leaving Newcastle with Pitt, and remaining in office when Pitt and Temple were driven out. The head of his own house now regarded him with lively hatred, and one of his younger brothers had repudiated his conduct as base:6 so that he derived no strength from his family. Moreover, he loved office, and loved it for its emoluments,7 and so inordinately, that, even against the utmost endeavors of his own brothers, he had for many years nourished a rankling grudge against Pitt, and secretly questioned his friendship, honor, and good faith, because Pitt had conferred upon him the very lucrative office of treasurer of the navy, at a time when he himself was lusting after the still more enormously lucrative one of paymaster to the forces.8 And, in 1762, he had suffered himself to [99] be summarily thrust out of the office of secretary of

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state, and had accepted another from avarice,9 and in the hope of still higher preferment.10

Yet Grenville was no venal adventurer, and in his love of money retained the cold austerity that marked his character. He never grew giddy with the hazards of the stock-market, nor made himself a broker of office, nor jobbed in lottery-tickets and contracts. His desire was for solid and sure places; a tellership in the exchequer, or the profits of a light-house, the rich sinecures which English law and English usages tolerated; so that even in the indulgence of his strongest passion, he kept a good conscience, and men regarded him as a model of integrity,11 and the resolute enemy of corruption. Nor was he aware that the craving for wealth led him to penurious parsimony. He was the second son; and his childless elder brother, whose title would fall to his family, could break the entail of some part of his great possessions;12 so Grenville saved always all his emoluments from public office, pleading that it was a disinterested act, which only enriched his children;13 as if a miser hoards money for any others than his heirs.

His personal deportment was always grave and formally solemn and forbidding; and in an age of dissoluteness, his apathy in respect of pleasure made him [100] appear a paragon for sanctity of morals. Bishops

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praised him for his constant weekly attendance at the morning service. He was not cruel; but the coldness of his nature left him incapable of compassion. He had not energetic decision, although he was obstinately selfinterested: as a consequence, he was not vengeful; but when evil thoughts towards others rose up within his breast, they rather served to trouble his own peace with the gall of bitterness. He would also become unhappy, and grievously repine at disappointment or the ill success of his plans, even while his self-love saved him from remorse. Nor was he one of the king's friends, nor did he seek advancement by unworthy flattery of the court.14 A good lawyer, and trained in the best and most liberal political school of his day, it was ever his pride to be esteemed a sound Whig,15 making the absolute supremacy of parliament the test of his consistency and the essential element of his creed; and he rose to eminence through the laborious gradations of public service, by a thorough knowledge of its constitution16 and an indefatigable attention to all its business. Just before his death, after a service in the House of Commons of about thirty years,17 he said with pride that to that house he owed all his distinction; and such was the flattering self-conceit of this austere and rigidly inflexible man, that he ascribed all his eminence to his own merits, which he never regarded as too highly rewarded. Gratitude, therefore, found no place in his nature; 18 [101] but now that he was at that period of life when the
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gentler passions are quiet, and ambition rules without restraint, he was so much like the bird that croaks whilst enjoying the fullest meal, that towards those even who had benefited him most, there remained in his heart something like a harsh willingness to utter reproach for their not having succeeded in doing more. And when he looked back upon the line of his predecessors in office; upon Bute, Newcastle, Devonshire, Waldegrave, and even Pelham, under whom he had been trained, it was easy for him to esteem himself superior to them all. Yet Grenville wanted the elements of true statesmanship and greatness: he had neither a creative mind to devise a system of policy, nor active powers to guide an administration. His nature inclined him not to originate measures, but to amend, and alter, and regulate. He had neither salient traits nor general comprehensiveness of mind; neither the warm imagination, which can arrange and vivify various masses of business, nor sagacity to penetrate the springs of public action and the consequences of measures. In a word, he was a dull, plodding pedant in politics; a painstaking, exact man of business, capable of counting19 the Manilla ransom if it had ever been paid. In his frequent, long, and tedious speeches, it has been said that a trope20 never passed his lips; but he abounded in repetitions and explanatory self-justification. He would have made a laborious and an upright judge, [102] or an impartial and most respectable speaker of the
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House of Commons; but at the head of an administration, he could be no more than the patient and mepthodical executor of plans ‘devolved’21 upon him by the statute-book of England or by his predecessors in office. The stubbornness with which he was wont to adhere to them sprung from the weakness of pride and obstinacy, that were parts of his nature, not from the vigor of a commanding will,22 which never belonged to him.

With the bequest of Bute's office, the new minister inherited also the services of his efficient private secretary, Charles Jenkinson, who now became the principal Secretary of the Treasury. He was a man of rare ability. An Oxford scholar without fortune, and at first destined for the Church, he entered life on the side of the whigs; but using an immediate opportunity of becoming known to George the Third while Prince of Wales, he devoted himself to his service. He remained always a friend and a uniform favorite of the king. Engaged in the most important scenes of political action, and rising to the highest stations, he moved with so soft a step, that he seemed to pass on as noiselessly as a shadow; and history was hardly aware of his presence. He had the singular talent of being employed in the most delicate and disagreeable personal negotiations, and fulfilling such trusts so calmly as to retain the friendship of those whom he seemed commissioned to wound. Except at first, when still very poor, he never showed a wish for office, till the time arrived when it seemed to seek him; and [103] he proved how an able man may quietly gain every

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object of his ambition, if he is but so far the master of his own mind as to make desire wait upon opportunity and fortune. His old age was one of dignity, cheered by the unabated regard of the king; and in the midst of physical sufferings, soothed and made happy by the political success of one son and the affectionate companionship of another. The blot on his life was his conduct respecting America; the thorough measures which Charles Townshend had counselled with dangerous rashness, and which George Grenville in part resisted, Jenkinson was always ready to carry forward with tranquil collectedness.

The king wished to see Townshend at the head of the admiralty.23 ‘My nephew Charles,’ reasoned Newcastle,24 ‘will hardly act under George Grenville;’ and it proved so. A sharp rivalry existed between the two, and continued as long as both lived; each of them, in the absence of Pitt, aiming to stand first in the House of Commons, and in the Government. But Townshend, though, for the present, he declined office, took care to retain the favor of the king by zeal against popular commotions.25 The Duke of Bedford, too, refused to join the ministry after the advancement of Egremont and Grenville, who, at the time of his negotiating the peace, had shown him so much ill-will. He advised the employment of the old whig aristocracy. ‘I know,’ said he, ‘the administration cannot last; should I take in it the place of [104] President of the Council, I should deserve to be

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treated like a madman.’26 So unattractive was Grenville!

The triumvirate, of whom not one was beloved by the people, became ‘a general joke,’27 and was laughed at as a three-headed monster,28 quieted by being gorged with patronage and office. The business of the session was rapidly brought to a close. Grenville's bill for the effectual enforcement of the acts of navigation received the royal assent. The scheme of taxing the colonies did but lie over for the next session; but at the prorogation, the king's speech announced the purpose of improving the revenue, which, as the de bates during the session explained, had a special reference to America. It was not ‘the wish of this man or that man;’29 each house of parliament, and nearly every body in Great Britain, was eager to throw a part of the public burdens on the increasing opulence of the New World.

The new ministry, at the outset, was weakened by its own indiscreet violence. In the speech at the close of the session, the king vauntingly arrogated merit for the peace which Frederic of Prussia had concluded, after being left alone by England. Wilkes, a man who shared the social licentiousness of his day, in the forty-fifth number of a periodical paper called the North Briton, exposed the fallacy. The king, thinking one [105] of his subjects had given him the lie, applied30 to the

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ministry for the protection to which every Englishman had a right. How to proceed became a question. Grenville,31 as a lawyer, knew, and ‘declared that general warrants were illegal;’ but conforming to ‘long established precedents,’ Halifax, as one of the secretaries of state, issued a general warrant for the arrest of all concerned in a publication which calm judgment32 pronounces unworthy of notice, but which all parties at that day branded as a libel. Wilkes was arrested; but on the doubtful plea that his privilege as a member of parliament had been violated, he was set at liberty by the popular Chief Justice Pratt. The opponents of the ministry hastened to renew the war of privilege against prerogative, with the advantage of being defenders of the constitution on a question affecting a vital principle of personal freedom. The cry for ‘Wilkes and Liberty’ was heard in all parts of the British dominion.33

In the midst of the confusion, Grenville set about confirming himself in power34 by diligence in the public business. ‘His self-conceit,’ said Lord Holland afterwards,35 ‘as well as his pride and obstinacy, established him.’ For the joint secretary of the treasury he selected an able and sensible lawyer, Thomas Whately, in whom he obtained a firm defender and political friend. His own secretary as Chancellor of [106] the Exchequer was Richard Jackson; and the choice

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is very strong evidence that though he entered upon his task blindly, as it proved, and in ignorance36 of the colonies, yet his intentions were fair;37 for Jackson was a liberal member of the House of Commons, a good lawyer, not eager to increase his affluent fortune, frank, independent, and abhorring intrigue. He was, moreover, better acquainted with the state of America, and exercised a sounder judgment on questions of colonial administration, than, perhaps, any man in England. His excellent character led Connecticut and Pennsylvania to make him their agent; and he gave the latter province even better advice than Franklin himself. He was always able to combine affection for England with uprightness and fidelity to his American employers.

To a mind like Grenville's, the protective system had irresistible attractions. He saw in trade the foundation of the wealth and power of his country, and embraced all the prejudices of the mercantile system; he wished by regulations and control to advance the commerce and public credit, which really owed their superiority to the greater liberty of England. He prepared to recharter the bank of England, to connect it still more closely with the funding system; to sustain the credit of the merchants, which faltered under the revulsion consequent on the return to peace; to bind more firmly the restrictions of the commercial monopoly; to increase [107] the public revenue, and in its expenditure to found

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a system of frugality. America, with its new acquisitions-Florida, and the valley of the Mississippi, and Canada-lay invitingly before him. The enforcing the navigation acts was peculiarly his own policy, and was the first leading feature of his administration. His predecessors had bound him by their pledges to provide for the American army by taxes on the colonies; and to find sources of an American revenue, was his second great object. This he combined with the purpose38 of so dividing the public burdens between England and America as to diminish the motive to emigrate from Great Britain and Ireland;39 for, in those days, emigration40 was considered an evil. In less than a month after Bute's retirement, Egremont, who still remained Secretary of State for the southern department, asked the advice of the Lords of Trade on the organization of governments in the newly acquired territories, the military force to be kept up in America, and in what mode least burthensome and most palatable to the colonies, they can contribute towards the support of the additional expense which must attend their civil and military establishment.41 [108]

The head of the Board of Trade was the Earl of

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Shelburne. He was at that time not quite six and twenty years old, had served creditably in the seven years war, as a volunteer, and, on his return, was ap pointed aide-de-camp to George the Third. He had supported the peace42 of 1763, as became a humane and [109] liberal man; in other respects he was an admirer of
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While his report was waited for, Grenville, through Charles Jenkinson,43 began his system of saving, by an order to the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in America, now that the peace was made, to withdraw the allowance for victualling the regiments44 stationed in the cultivated parts of America. This expense was to be met in future by the colonies.

1 The Annual Register: Gov. Bernard, in a speech to the Legislature of Massachusetts.

2 Bolingbroke's Patriot King, 77.

3 Bolingbroke on the Spirit of Patriotism, Works, III. 18, 19.

4 Autobiography of the Duke of Grafton: ‘There may be good reason for believing that his [George Grenville's] manners were never agreeable to His Majesty.’ 34.

5 Grenville's own remark to the king, in his Diary.

6 James Grenville to Temple, 3 Nov. 1762. In Grenville Papers, i. 409.

7 Knox: Extra Official Papers, II. 34.

8 G. Grenville's Narrative, in the Grenville Papers, i. 439.

9 Horace Walpole's George the Third, i.

10 Fragment in the Grenville Papers, i. 484.

11 Walpole's George III. i. 338, 339. Walpole then ‘entertained a most favorable opinion of his integrity.’ Soon afterwards he had a hitter quarrel with Grenville, and from that hour spoke very ill of him. Ibid i. 343. This must be borne in mind; towards no man of his time does Walpole show himself so peevishly bitter as towards Grenville, often coloring and distorting facts, and always swayed by an invincible disgust.

12 Grenville's Narrative, in the Grenville Papers.

13 Knox: Extra-official Papers, II. 35.

14 Burke, in his speech on American Taxation.

15 ‘I know that Mr. Grenville, as a sound whig, bore me no good will.’ Hume, in Burton's life of Hume.

16 Edmund Burke.

17 Grenville, in Cavendish.

18 Billop Newton's Autobiography, in Newton's Works, i.

19 Dr. Johnson's Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falk land's Islands. First edition: ‘Let him (George Grenville) not be depreciated in his grave. He had powers not universally possessed. Could he have enforced payment of the Manilla ransom, he could have counted it.’ Boswell's Life of Johnson, chap. XXV.

20 Knox: Extra-official Papers.

21 Edmund Burke on American Taxation.

22 The elder Pitt had a very strong will, and was by no means obstinate: Grenville had a feeble will, and was very obstinate.

23 Bute to Beford, 2 April, 1763, in Wiffen and Bedford Correspondence.

24 Newcastle to Pitt, 9 April 1763, in Chatham Correspondence, II. 221.

25 Gilly Williams to George Selwin, in Jesse's George Selwin, i. 189.

26 Bedford to Bute, Paris, 7 April, 1763, in Wiffen, II. 525, and in Bedford Correspondence, III. 228.

27 Walpole to Mann, 30 April, 1763.

28 Wilkes to Lord Temple, in Grenville Papers.

29 Speech of Cornwall, brother-in-law of Charles Jenkinson, in the House of Commons, in Cavendish Debates, i. 91.

30 Grenville, in Knox's Considerations on the Present State of the Nation. 48.

31 Grenville's Speeches in the House of Commons, 16 December, 1768, and 3 February, 1769, in Wright's Cavendish Debates, i. 110, 160.

32 Mahon's History of England, IV.

33 Hutchinson's History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, III. 163.

34 Grenville's Account of himself to Knox.

35 Lord Holland to George Selwyn.

36 That Grenville was very ignorant as to the colonies we have a witness in Knox, who himself had held office in Georgia, and knew America from his own observation.

37 ‘The best in the world.’ Burke and the Duke of Grafton both vouch for Grenville's good intentions.

38 M. Frances au Due de Choiseul à Londres le 2 Septembre, 1768.

39 Second protest of the House of Lords, on the repeal of the stamp act.

40 Knox, i. 23, Extra-official Papers, II. 23.

41 Secretary Lord Egremont to the Lords of Trade, 5 May, 1763:

North America naturally offers itself as the principal object of your lordship's consideration upon this occasion, with regard to which I shall first obey his majesty's commands in proposing to your lordships some general questions, before I proceed to desire you will furnish that information which his majesty expects from your lordships with regard to the North American and Southern parts of this continent, considered separately.

The questions which relate to North America in general, are—

1st. What new governments should be established, and what form should be adopted for such new governments? And where the capital or residence of each governor should be fixed?

2dly. What military establishment will be sufficient? What new forts should be erected? And which, if any, may it be expedient to demolish?

3dly. In what mode, least burdensome and most palatable to the colonies, can they contribute towards the support of the additional expense which must attend this civil and military establishment, upon the arrangement which your lordships shall propose?

It is noticeable, that the question as to taxing America by parliament, implied in the third interrogatory, does not relate to the expediency of doing it, but the mode. On the right or propriety of the measure, the Board of Trade is not invited to express an opinion.

42 Walpole, in Memoirs of the Reign of King George III. i. 257, 258, says of Shelburne: ‘The probability was, that he (Shelburne) intended to slip into the pay-office himself.’ Again; he insinuates that Shelburne, in negotiating with Fox to support the peace, practised ‘the pious fraud’ of concealing Lord Bute's intention of retiring. Similar anecdotes were told me by one of the worthiest men in England. Having read a vast deal of Lord Shelburne's correspondence, I observed how unlike these imputations were to the character imprinted on his writings. I was advised to inquire if in the papers of the first Lord Holland these charges are preserved; an I having opportunity to do so, I was answered with courtesy and frankness, that they are not to be found in the unpublished memoirs, nor, I believe, in any of the papers of Lord Holland.

As to the first surmise, that Shelburne desired to slip into the pay-office himself, there exists no evidence to justify it; while every letter that has since come to light, goes to show such a readiness on the part of Bute, and, for a time, of Grenville to gratify Fox, that he himself was satisfied and avowed his purpose to give every support to the new ministry. The whole tone of their intercourse is inconsistent with the supposition of any difference about the paymaster's place. Grenville's Diary, in Papers II. 207, 208. As for Shelburne, he was marked out for the higher office of a Secretary of State; but, ‘in the handsomest manner, wished to be omitted.’ Bute to Grenville, 1 April, 1763, in Grenville Papers, II. 41.

As to the other insinuation, the concealment of Bute's purpose of resigning, whether blamable or not, was the act of Bute himself, with whom Fox negotiated directly. ‘I am come from Lord Bute,’ writes Fox to the Duke of Cumberland, on the 30 Sept. 1762, ‘more than ever convinced that he never has had, nor now has, a thought of retiring or treating.’ Alhemarle's Memoirs of Rockingham, i. 132. That Fox was with Bute repeatedly before superseding Grenville in the lead of the House of Commons, appears from Albemarle, i. 127, 129 and 132. Bedford Correspondence, III. 124 and 133. That Fox did not regard this concealment as an offence appears from his own testimony; for he himself, in December, 1763, said to Grenville, that ‘he believed Lord Bute to be a perfect honest man; that he respected him as such; and that in the intercourse between them Lord Bute had never broken his word with him.’ See G. Grenville's Diary for Wednesday, 25 Dec. 1764. Even Walpole admits that Lord Holland's own friend, as well as the Bedfords, refused to find Shelburne blamable. Walpole's Geo. III. i. 262, 263.

In the very paragraph in which Walpole brings these unsubstantiated charges against Shelburne, he is entirely at fault in narrating confidently that the Treasury was offered to Fox. The Grenville Papers show that it was not.

The name of Shelburne will occur so often in American history during the next twenty years, that I was unwilling to pass over the aspersions of Walpole. It is to be remembered also, that both whig and tory were very bitter against Shelburne; some of the Rockingham whigs most of all, particularly C. J. Fox and Edmund Burke.

43 C. Jenkinson to Sir Jeffery Amherst, 11 May, 1763. Treasury Letter Book, XXII. 392.

44 Weyman's New-York Gazette, 3 October, 1763. No. 251, 2, 1.

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