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Chapter 26:

Coalition of the King and the Great Commoner against the aristocracy—the Administration of Chatham.

July—October, 1766.

the obnoxious clauses of the Billeting Act had
Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
been renewed inadvertently by Ministers, who had designed to adopt a system of lenity. They proposed to remove Bernard from Massachusetts, in favor of Hutchinson,1 whom Conway had been duped into believing a friend to colonial liberty. Reviving against Spain the claim for the ransom of the Manillas, they suggested in lieu of it a cession of the island of New Orleans; though the Spanish ambassador took fire at the thought, saying, ‘New Orleans is the key to Mexico.’2 With equally vain endeavors, they were forming new and milder instructions for the government of Canada,3 in the hope to combine respect for the municipal customs and religion of its old inhabitants, with the safeguards of the English criminal law.4 The conquest of New France [18] subjected to England one more country, whose people
Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
had not separated from the Church of Rome. At first, the English penal laws were extended to the banks of the St. Lawrence; but the British Government was soon compelled to take initiatory steps towards Catholic emancipation. Canadians, without altering their faith, were permitted to serve as jurors,5 and it was proposed to make them eligible as Justices of the Peace and as Judges.6 But Northington, in very ill humor, thrust forward vague objections;7 and as his colleagues persevered, he repaired to the King to advise their change.8

The time was now come for the eclipse of the genius and of the glory of William Pitt. Unrelenting disease and the labors of the winter session had exhausted his little strength, and irreparably wrecked his constitution. Had he remained out of place, and appeared at intervals in the House of Commons, he would have left a name needing no careful and impartial analysis of facts for his apology. As it is, I have to record, how unsuccessfully he labored to diminish the aristocratic ascendency in England; to perpetuate colonial liberty; to rescue India from the misrule of commercial cupidity; how, as he rose to guide the destinies of a great people in the career of freedom, along the unknown future, he appeared

Like one who had been led astray

Through the Heaven's high pathless way.

Farming, grazing, haymaking, and all the charms of rural life in Somersetshire could not obliterate [19] from his mind the memory of days of activity, when,

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
as he directed against the Bourbons the treasure and the hearts of the united empire, his life was the life of the British people, his will was their will, his uncompromising haughtiness was but the image of their pride, and his presumptuous daring the only adequate expression of their self-reliance. His eager imagination bore him back to the public world, though to him it was become a riddle, which not even the wisest interpreter could solve.9

While he was in this tumult of emotions, a letter was brought from the King's own hand, reminding him that his last words in the House of Commons had been a declaration of freedom from party ties,10 and inviting him to form an independent Ministry.11 The feeble invalid, whose infirmities inflamed his constitutional hopefulness, bounded at the summons of his sovereign, and flew, as he expressed it, ‘on wings of expedition, to lay at the King's feet the poor but sincere offering of the remnant of his life, body, heart and mind.’12

He arrived in London on Friday, the eleventh of July, by no means well;13 but his feverishness only bewildered his judgment and increased his self-confidence. On Saturday he was barely able to have a short interview with the King, and obtain consent to take the actual Administration as the groundwork of his own;14 even though Newcastle and Rockingham [20] should retire.15 True to his affections, he next invited

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
Temple, the beloved brother of his wife, the head of her family, and their common benefactor, to become the First Lord of the Treasury. But Temple, who had connected himself with Grenville16 and the party of Bedford, refused to unite with the friends of Rockingham; and, having told the King, ‘he would not go into the Ministry like a child, to come out like a fool,’17 he returned to Stowe, repeating this speech to the world, dictating a scurrilous pamphlet against his brother-in-law, and enjoying the notoriety of having been solicited to take office and been found impracticable.

The discussion with Temple and its issue, still further aggravated the malady of Pitt. He was too ill, on the eighteenth, to see the King, or even the Duke of Grafton, and yet, passing between all the factions of the aristocracy, he proceeded to form a Ministry. Grafton, to whom, on Saturday, he offered the Treasury, was one who did not see far before him, and was always making mistakes. His judgment was often in error; though his candor remained unimpaired. Without consultation, he went directly to Charles Townshend, by whose assiduous court and rare abilities he had been ‘captivated;’ and found him ‘eager to give up the Paymaster's place for the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer;’ which must have seemed to him ‘the readiest road to the upper seat.’ When informed of this proposal, Pitt, who [21] better understood Townshend's character, said every

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
thing to dissuade Grafton from taking such a man as his second; warning him of the many unexpected disappointments which he was preparing. But ‘I was weak enough, very unwisely, to persist in my desire,’ Grafton afterwards wrote, more anxious to manifest the integrity of his intentions, than to conceal the consequences of his advice. Pitt loved to oblige those in whom he confided, and at last gave way, though much against his inclination, as well as his opinion; insisting, however, that Townshend was not to be called to the Cabinet.18 On learning this exclusion, Townshend hesitated; but, finally, on the twenty-sixth, pleading ‘the express commands’ of the King, he acquiesced. ‘I sacrifice,’ said he, ‘with cheerfulness and from principle, all that men usually pursue.’ Affecting to trust that this merit would be acknowledged by posterity, he pledged himself, in every measure of business and every act of life, to cultivate Pitt's confidence and esteem; and, to Grafton he said, ‘My plan is a plan of union with your Grace; words are useless; God prosper our joint labors, and may our mutual trust, affection, and friendship grow from every act of our lives.’19 Thus he professed himself a devotee to Pitt and Grafton, being sure to do his utmost to thwart the one, and to supersede the other.

The lead in the House of Commons was assigned to Conway, as one of the Secretaries of State; the care of America to the Earl of Shelburne, notwithstanding he suffered under the King's extreme dislike.20 The seals of the highest judicial office were

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
confided to Camden, who had called taxing America, by Act of Parliament, a robbery. The former Chancellor became President of the Council; while the Prime Minister's own infirmities, which should have forbidden him to take office at all, made him reserve for himself the quiet custody of the Privy Seal Taken as a whole, the Cabinet—of which the Members were Pitt, Camden, Grafton, Conway, Shelburne, and the now inactive Northington—was the most liberal that had been composed in England. ‘If ever a Cabinet,’ wrote a sagacious observer,21 ‘can hope for the rare privilege of unanimity, it is this, in which Pitt will see none but persons whose imagination he has subjugated, whose premature advancement is due to his choice, whose expectations of permanent fortune rest on him alone.’

Of the friends of Rockingham, Lord John Cavendish set the example of refusing to serve under Grafton; but he insisted to Conway that acts of civility would satisfy the heads of his party. At this suggestion, Pitt, on the twenty-seventh of July, went to pay Rockingham a visit of respect; and had passed the threshold,22 when the young chief of the great whig families, refusing to receive him, turned the venerable [23] man of the people from his door. But he was never

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
afterwards able to resume office, except with the friends of the Minister he now insulted; and his followers never gained continuing power, till, after many vacillations and many coalitions with other branches of the aristocracy, they gave up something of their exclusiveness, and, in an alliance with the people, renounced their worn out policy, to advocate reform.

The Old Whig party which, in 1746, deserted the public service only to force their restoration on their own terms, which eleven years later kept England, in time of war, in a state of anarchy for ten weeks till their demands could be satisfactorily compromised, had, in 1765, owed office to the King's favor, and now fell powerless, when left to themselves. The Administration of Rockingham brought Cumberland into the Cabinet; took their law from Mansfield; restored Lord George Germain to public life; and would willingly have coalesced with Bedford. Yet a spirit of humanity ruled their intentions and pervaded their measures; while their most pernicious errors sprung from their attempt at a compromise with the principles of their predecessors. They confirmed the rights of persons by condemning general warrants, and adhered to those friends of liberty who had run hazards in its cause. They abstained from some of the worst methods of corruption usual to their party in its earlier days; they sold no employments, and obtained no reversions. Opposed by placemen and pensioners, they had support in the increasing confidence and good will of the nation. Still they had entered the Cabinet in violation of their essential doctrine, at the wish of the King, superseding [24] men who were dismissed only for maintaining Privi-

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
lege against Prerogative; and if they mitigated taxation in America by repealing the Stamp Act, they boasted of having improved the revenue raised there from trade,23 renewed the unconstitutional method of making parliamentary Requisitions on colonial Assemblies, and in the Declaratory Act introduced into the statute book the worst law that ever found a place there, tyrannical in principle, false in fact, and impossible in practice.

The incapacity of Pitt's new Administration was apparent from its first day, when he announced to his astonished and disheartened colleagues his purpose of placing himself as the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords. During the past year such an elevation in rank had often been suggested as his due, and would have been no more than a moderate distinction for merit far inferior to his own. Besides, he was too much ‘shattered’ to lead the Commons; and if the King should grow weary of his counsels, he might wish secure dignity for his age.24 But in ceasing to be the Great Commoner, he veiled his superiority; and made a confession of the utter ruin of his health. ‘My friend,’ said Frederic of Prussia on hearing of it, ‘has harmed himself by accepting a Peerage.’25 ‘It argues,’ said the King of Poland, ‘a senselessness to glory to forfeit the name of Pitt for any title.’26 ‘The strength of the Administration,’ thought all his colleagues, ‘lay in his remaining with the Commons.’ ‘There was but one voice among us,’ said Grafton, [25] ‘nor indeed throughout the Kingdom.’27 The lion

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. July.
had left the forest, where he roamed as the undisputed monarch, and of himself had walked into a cage. His popularity vanished, and with it the terror of his name. He was but an English Earl and the shadow of a Prime Minister; he no longer repreented the enthusiastic nationality of the British people. He had, moreover, offended the head of every faction, whose assistance he yet required; Camden, his Chancellor, had not the qualities of a great statesman, and wanted fidelity; Grafton, on whom he leaned, was indolent and easily misled; Conway, one of his Secretaries of State, always vacillated; Shelburne, his firm, able, and sincere friend, was, from the first, regarded at court with dislike; and the King himself agreed with him in nothing but the wish to humble the aristocracy.

At the time of Chatham's taking office, Choiseul,

the greatest minister of France since Richelieu,28 having assigned the care of the navy to his brother, had resumed that of Foreign Affairs. He knew the gigantic schemes of colonial conquests which Pitt had formerly harbored; and weighed the probabilities29 of an attempt to realize them by a new war against France and Spain. The agent whom he had sent in 1764 on a tour of observation through the British colonies, was just returned, and reported30 how they abounded in corn, cattle, flax, and iron; in trees fit for masts; in pine timber, lighter than oak, easily wrought, not liable to split, and incorruptible; how [26] the inhabitants, already numerous, and doubling their
Chap. XXVI.} 1766. Aug.
numbers every twenty years, were opulent, warlike, and conscious of their strength; how they followed the sea, especially at the north, and engaged in great fisheries; how they built annually one hundred and fifty vessels to sell in Europe and the West Indies, at the rate of seven pounds sterling the ton; and how they longed to throw off the restraints imposed on their navigation. New-York stood at the confluence of two rivers, of which the East was the shelter to merchant vessels; but its roadstead was also a vast harbor where a navy could ride at anchor. The large town of Philadelphia had rope-walks and busy ship-yards; manufactures of all sorts, especially of leather and of iron. In the province to which it belonged, the Presbyterians outnumbered the peaceful Quakers; and Germans, weary of subordination to England and unwilling to serve under English officers against France, openly declared that Pennsylvania would one day be called Little Germany. In all New England there were no citadels, from the people's fear of their being used to compel submission to Acts of Parliament infringing colonial privileges. The garrison at Boston was in the service of the Colony. The British troops were so widely scattered in little detachments, as to be of no account. ‘England,’ reasoned the observer, ‘must foresee a Revolution, and has hastened its epoch by emancipating the Colonies from the fear of France in Canada.’31

Simultaneously with the reception of these accounts, Choiseul was reading in the Gazette of Leyden the Answer lately made by the Assembly of Massachusetts [27] to its Governor, and learned with astonish-

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. Aug.
ment that colonies which were supposed to have no liberties but by inference, spoke boldly and firmly of rights and a Constitution.32 In this manner, time was bringing him some assuagement of his former deep humiliation.

Could Chatham have regained his health, he would have mastered all difficulties, or fallen with dignity. Jealous of the Bourbon courts, he, too, thought of the possibility of war, and urged the improvement of the harbor of Pensacola, which, it was said, could be made to admit vessels of the heaviest burden, shelter at least forty ships of the line, and hold in check all the commerce of Vera Cruz.33

The rival statesmen, with eyes fixed on America,

were, all the while, competing for European alliances. No sooner had Chatham entered on the ministry, than he rushed with headlong confidence into the plan of a great Northern League to balance the power of the Bourbons; and hastily invited Frederic of Prussia and Catherine of Russia to connect themselves intimately with England. But, at all courts, his accepting a Peerage robbed him of his lustre; and Frederic, disliking George the Third, retaining the rankling memory of having been deserted in 1763, doubting the fixedness of any Ministry in England, put the invitation aside. Choiseul was as superior in diplomacy, as his opponent had been in war; and with steady purpose and consummate skill, was establishing such relations with every power of Europe, that, in the event of new hostilities respecting America, France would have Spain for its partner, and no enemy but England. [28]

Chatham grew sick at heart, as well as decrepit.

Chap. XXVI.} 1766. Sept.
To be happy he needed the consciousness of standing well with his fellow-men. But he whose voice had been a clarion to the Protestant world no longer enjoyed popularity at home, or influence abroad, or the trusting affection of the Colonies. Cheering sympathy could scarcely have wrought the miracle of his restoration; but now the sense of his loneliness on his return to power, crushed his vigor of will. He who had been most imperative in command knew not how to resolve. Once, at Grafton's earnest solicitation, Charles Townshend was permitted to attend a consultation on European alliances.34 The next day Chatham, with the cheerful consent of the King,35 retreated to Bath; but its springs had no healing for him. He desired to control France by a northern union; and stood before Europe without one power as an ally. He loved to give the law to the Cabinet; and was just admitting into it a restless intriguer, who would not fear to traverse his policy. He gloried in the unbounded confidence of his sovereign; and the King wanted nothing of him but ‘his name.’36 He longed for the love of the people of England; and he had left their body for an Earldom. He would have humbled the aristocracy; and ‘the nobility’ not only ‘hated him’37 with vindictive arrogance, but retained strength to overwhelm him, whenever he should lose the favor of the Court.

Yet the cause of liberty was advancing, though

Chatham had gone astray. Philosophy spread the knowledge of the laws of nature. The Empress of [29] Russia with her own hand minuted an edict for uni-
Chap. XXVI.} 1766. Oct.
versal tolerance. ‘Can you tell me,’ writes Voltaire38 exultingly to D'Alembert, ‘what will come within thirty years of the revolution which is taking effect in the minds of men from Naples to Moscow? I, who am too old to hope to see any thing, commend to you the age which is forming.’ But though so far stricken in years, Voltaire shall himself witness and applaud the greatest step in this progress; shall see insurgent colonies become a Republic, and welcome before Paris and the Academy of France a runaway apprentice as its envoy to the most polished Court of Europe.

Meantime Choiseul dismissed from the Council of his King all former theories about America, alike in policy and war;39 and looked more nearly into the condition of the British colonies, that his new system might rest on the surest ground.

1 Thos. Hutchinson, jr., to Thos. Hutchinson, July, 1766.

2 Durand to Choiseul, 27 June, 1766.

3 Hardwicke's Memorial.

4 Paper in the Lansdowne House Manuscripts endorsed, ‘Relative to the present State of Quebec, 17 May, 1767.’

5 Additional Instructions to the Governor of Quebec, of 24 Feb. 1766. Dr. Adam Mabane to General Murray, 26 August, 1766.

6 Duke of Richmond's Journal, in Albemarle, i. 358.

7 Duke of Richmond's Journal, in Albemarle, i. 351.

8 Rockingham to C. Yorke, 4 July, 1766, in Albemarle, i. 357.

9 Pitt to Countess Stanhope, 20 June, 1766. In Mahon's History of England, v. Appendix, VII. 4

10 Rigby to Bedford, 24 April, 1766. Bedford Correspondence, III. 333.

11 The King to Pitt, 7 July, 1766. Chatham Correspondence, II. 436. Northington to Pitt, 7 July, 1766. Chat. Cor. II. 435.

12 Pitt, in Chat. Corr. II. 435.

13 Pitt to Lady Chatham, 12 July, 1766. Chat. Corr. II. 439.

14 That Pitt stated this on Saturday the 12th appears from the King's secret note of the 15th July.

15 Camden to Thomas Walpole, 13 July, and 19 July, 1766. In Campbell's Chancellors, v. 257, 258.

16 Geo. Grenville to Bedford, 15 July, 1766, in Bedford Corr. III. 340.

17 Inquiry into the Conduct of a late Right Honorable Commoner, Durand, to Due de Choiseul, 3 Juillet, 1766. Temple to Lady Chatham, Chat. Corr. II. 469.

18 Grafton's Autobiography.

19 Townshend to Grafton, 25 July, 1766, in Grafton's Autobiography; and C. Townshend to Pitt, 26 July, 1766. Chatham Corr. II. 464, 465.

20 Walpole's [22] George the Third, II. 349.

21 Durand to Choiseul, 30 July, 1766. Referring not to Chatham's Ministry, but to the modifications which Grafton afterwards made in it by a junction with the Bedfords, Chesterfield called the Cabinet a piece of ‘Mosaic.’ Burke appropriated the metaphor, and applied it wrongfully; yet in rhetoric so splendid, that every one is inclined to forget historic exactness, and quote his brilliant epigrams. Chatham's Ministry was at first less of a Mosaic than Rockingham's, and very much less of a Mosaic than the Opposition, of which Burke was now to form a part.

22 Pitt to the Duke of Grafton, Sunday, 27 July, 1766, in Grafton, 135. Walpole, II. 356. Albemarle's Rockingham, II. 4. Rockingham to Pitt, and Rockingham to Conway.

23 Edmund Burke's Short Account of a late Short Administration.

24 De Guerchy to Choiseul, 19 Dec. 1766.

25 Andrew Mitchell to Chatham, 17 Sept. 1766; Chat. Corr. III. 70.

26 Charles Lee to King of Poland, 1 Dec. 1766; Lee's Life, 187.

27 Grafton's Autobiography.

28 Chatham in Walpole, IV. 279.

29 Choiseul to Durand, 24 August, 1766.

30 Durand to Choiseul, 3, 7, and 24 Aug. 1766; Choiseul to Durand, 15 Sept. 1766.

31 Report of Pontleroy, the French Emissary, made through Durand to Choiseul, Aug. 1766.

32 Durand to Choiseul, 27 Aug. 1766.

33 Durand to Choiseul, 23 Aug. 1766.

34 Grafton's Autobiography.

35 King to Chatham, 25 Sept. 1766; Chat. Corr. III. 75.

36 Letter of the King to Lord North.

37 Bollan to Hutchinson, 25 Sept. 1766.

38 Voltaire to D'Alembert, 15 Oct. 1766.

39 Choiseul to Durand, 15 Sept. 1766.

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