Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

the consequence of the present system of government; that he thought himself obliged, as well in conscience as in wisdom, to desire an immediate dismissal from his employment; that he had no connexion with any of the members of the Opposition, which he thought as wicked as the Administration is weak; that nothing can afford the least hope but a coalition, and he is afraid that even that remedy may be too late ; that he feels the greatest gratitude for the many marks of royal goodness which he has received, but that he does not think it the duty of a faithful servant to endeavour to preserve a system which must end in the ruin of his Majesty and of the country. He is determined never again to take office, but to support Government in his private capacity. Lord North thinks that Lord Gower's resignation at the present moment must be the ruin of Administration. In Lord North's arguments with Lord Gower, Lord North owns that he had certainly one disadvantage, which is that he holds in his heart, and has held for these three years, just the same opinion with Lord Gower.' (Vol. i. p. 245.) :

In commenting on this remarkable declaration, Lord Holland and Mr. Allen · lament Lord North’s weakness, but enter into

the chivalrous feelings of Lord North, which induced him, in *opposition to his better judgment, not to abandon a master

who expressed for him such confidence, affection, and regard.” From this opinion Lord John Russell dissents, and supports his dissent by the following just and discriminating remarks:

• The King held that the acknowledgment of the independence of America 'would place this country in a state of inferiority, and be tantamount to its ruin as a great and powerful state. Lord Chatham had held an opinion very similar to this. Lord Shelburne, following his leader, said in the House of Lords, that when America became independent, the sun of England would set. The sovereign was only blameable for the obstinacy with which he clung to an opinion entertained by some of the most sagacious and eminent of his subjects. Lord North's position was different; he was disposed to conciliate America, had sent commissioners for that purpose, and was quite ready to consent to peace. For three years he had been of opinion that his own ministry was feeble, and would effect no good purpose. Why, then, did he remain ? To carry into effect the personal wishes of the sovereign, which he preferred to the welfare of the

State. This may be Toryism ; but it is not patriotic, still less is it constitutional, conduct.' (Vol. i. p. 247.) i

As the war proceeded, and its failures accumulated; moreover, as the ability with which its management was attacked by the Opposition, and the weakness with which it was defended by Ministers, became more conspicuous, a change in public opinion was gradually produced, which began to be felt in the votes of the House of Commons. The first decided symptom of this change was the result of the famous motion of Dunning -- That the influence of the Crown has increased, is * increasing, and ought to be diminished'- which, after a hot debate, was carried, on the 6th of April, 1780, by 233 to 215 votes. In the mean time, the pretensions of the Opposition, and their indisposition to such a compromise as they had recently been willing to accept, naturally increased. In writing to his friend Fitzpatrick, in September, 1781, Mr. Fox says:- The • more I think of the whole of the business, the more I feel ' averse to coming in upon any terms, unless on those of parlia'mentary condemnation of what is past.'. Nothing of this sort was hinted at in the negotiation, through Mr. Fred. Montague, in the summer of the previous year. A few days before the fall of Lord North's Ministry, Fox used language in the House of Commons which showed that he kept no measures with the Court. In the debate on General Conway's motion for peace with America, on February 22. 1782, Welbore Ellis, the new American Secretary, made an unmeaning speech, which disclosed no decided views. “Jenkinson,' says Horace Walpole,

was less oracular, and Charles Fox accordingly applied a much • harsher comment on him, as one who was the mouth of the oracle, of which Ellis was only the statue; but as if Fox had embraced all the notions that had been held about oracles (to 'which indeed he did not even allude), he mentioned the infernal spirit that really ruled and had nearly ruined the country.' But notwithstanding the increasing confidence of the Opposition, the King persisted, as long as he could keep a Ministry together, in refusing his consent to the independence of the revolted colonies. Thus even on the 26th of December, 1781, he is careful to impress on Lord North that there is no change • in his sentiments on the essential point, namely, the getting ' a peace at the expense of a separation from America, which no

difficulties can get him to consent to.' Even when the overthrow of Lord North's Ministry, by adverse votes of the House of Commons, was imminent, the King still held to his intention of excluding the Opposition from power. Certain it is,' says Walpole, nothing could exceed the aversion of the King, not 'to parting with his minister, but to accepting one by force. • All his arts, - little ones, indeed, — were employed to avoid

that humiliation; and though he succeeded in the only artifice ' in which he ever had succeeded — so wing division, yet he not

only avoided no mortification, but laid a foundation for receiving much greater. He even talked of returning to Hanover, and directions were given to prepare the royal yacht for his transport to the Continent. This intenti.on seems to have been in

VOL. XCIX. NO. CCI.

his mind when, on the 17th of March, three days before Lord North's resignation, he addressed to his Prime Minister the following mysterious words:-I am resolved not to throw 'myself into the hands of Opposition, at all events, and shall certainly, if things go as they seem to tend, know what my

conscience as well as honour dictates, as the only way left 'for me.

Lord North's resignation, involving the dissolution of his Ministry, and the pacification with America, took place on the 20th of March, 1782. The following lively account of the scene which passed that night in the House of Commons is left by Lord Holland :

* I have heard my uncle Fitzpatrick give a very diverting account of the scene that passed in the House of Commons on the day of Lord North's resignation, which happened to be a remarkable cold day, with a fall of snow. A motion of Lord Surrey's, for the dismissal of Ministers, stood for that day, and the Whigs were anxious that it should come on before the resignation of Lord North was officially announced, that his removal from office might be more manifestly and formally the act of the House of Commons. He and Lord Surrey rose at the same instant; after much clamour, disorder, and some insignificant speeches on order, Mr. Fox, with great quickness and address, moved, as the most regular method of extricating the House from its embarrassment, “ That Lord Surrey be now heard." But Lord North, with yet more admirable presence of mind, mixed with pleasantry, rose immediately and said, “I rise to speak to that “motion ;” and, as his reason for opposing it, stated his resignation and the dissolution of the Ministry. The House, satisfied, became impatient, and after some ineffectual efforts of speakers on both sides to procure a hearing, an adjournment took place. Snow was falling, and the night tremendous. All the members' carriages were dismissed, and Mrs. Bennet's room at the door was crowded. But Lord North's carriage was waiting. He put into it one or two of his friends, whom he had invited to go home with him, and turning to the crowd, chiefly composed of his bitter enemies, in the midst of their triumph, exclaimed, in this hour of defeat and supposed mortification, with admirable good humour and pleasantry, “I have my “ carriage. You see, gentlemen, the advantage of being in the “ secret. Good night.” (Vol. i. p. 295.)*

The history of the formation of the new Ministry is not a little remarkable, and clearly explains its internal feebleness and speedy extinction. The King began by applying, through the Chancellor Thurlow, to Lord Rockingham, as leader of the principal section of the Whig's, in order to learn the terms upon

* The same story is told in Wraxall's Historical Memoirs,' vol. ii. p. 607., ed. 1836.

which he would undertake to form an administration.* These were, in substance, the independence of America, and measures for diminishing the influence of the Crown. Unwilling to capitulate on these terms, the King next made an attempt to induce Lord Gower to undertake the formation of a government; but without success. In his letter authorising this application, he declared that he could never submit to a total change without

abandoning his principles and honour, which he would never . do.' The King then sent for Lord Shelburne, and asked him to form a government; he declined the offer, and advised the King to prefer Lord Rockinghamt: a fact which he did not then disclose, but which he stated in the House of Lords after Lord Rockingham's death f, and which was also mentioned at the same time by the King to Mr. Fox.S In the first interview nothing was arranged, but three days afterwards the King sent again for Lord Shelburne, who returned, bringing an offer of the Treasury to Lord Rockingham, and full powers to treat, both as to men and measures; he himself was to be a Secretary of State. Lord Rockingham at first hesitated as to the propriety of accepting an offer made in so indirect and mistrustful a manner; but upon consultation with Mr. Fox and other friends, he decided (perhaps unwisely (l) not to reject it. He accom

* The particulars of this negotiation through Lord Thurlow, are given in Lord Albemarle's Memoirs of Lord Rockingham,' vol. ii.

† Lord Mahon, vol. vi. p. 397., gives the following extract from the Duke of Grafton's Memoirs respecting the failure of the negotiation with the Opposition in 1779, already mentioned :- This cir

cumstance cemented the Opposition into a more solid body, and * furnished the means, that Lord Camden and I improved, by per

suading Lord Shelburne not to contest with Lord Rockingham the "Treasury, in case a new administration was to be formed. Lord

Shelburne yielded the point with a better grace than I had expected.'

| July 10. 1782.

& Memorials of Fox, vol. i. p. 436. Bishop Watson, in the anecdotes of his Life, says:-Lord Rockingham told me that Lord • Shelburne had behaved very honourably to him in not accepting the · Treasury, which the King had offered to him in preference to Lord * Rockingham.' (P. 93. 4to.)

| After the resignation of the Shelburne Administration, the King applied to Lord North, who declined to undertake the formation of a Ministry himself, and advised the King to apply to the Duke of Portland. "Lord North,' says H. Walpole, proposed to the King to see

the Duke of Portland himself; but that the King refused, and told . Lord North to desire the Duke to send him his arrangement in ' writing. This was as positively refused by the Duke, who sent panied his acceptance, however, with a list of the Cabinet, in which he was himself First Lord of the Treasury, and Mr. Fox and Lord Shelburne the Secretaries of State. The office of Chancellor was alone left open. On the same evening a large meeting of members of the House of Commons was held at the house of Mr. T. Townshend, to which this list was submitted. The list, having been approved by this meeting, was sent to Lord Shelburne, who agreed to the arrangement, and communicated the names to the King. Lord Shelburne had a long interview with the King on the following day, and then went to Mr. Fox to inform him that the proposals were substantially adopted. At this interview Mr. Fox told Lord Shelburne that he perceived this Administration was to consist of two parts, — one belonging to the King, the other to the public. Lord Thurlow continued as Chancellor, and Mr. Dunning, created Lord Ashburton, was added to the Cabinet, upon the suggestion of Lord Shelburne, without previous communication with Lord Rockingham.

to the pressure of a parliamentary majority, and abandoned his intention of retiring to Hanover, yet bowed his neck under the yoke of Opposition with visible reluctance. He refused to see

by giving his chief apparent confidence to another member of the Cabinet, he laid the foundation of discord and distrust in the Government from its very commencement. The seed thus carefully sown began soon to germinate. Even as early as the 28th of April — about a month after the formation of the Government- Mr. Fox writes as follows to Fitzpatrick:

• Shelburne shows himself more and more every day; is ridiculously jealous of my encroaching on his department, and wishes very much to encroach upon mine. He hardly liked my having a letter from Grattan, or my having written one to Lord Charlemont.* He affects the Minister more and more every day, and is, I believe, perfectly confident that the King intends to make him so. Provided we can stay in long enough to have given a good stout blow to the in

* word that if his Majesty condescended to employ him, it would be ' necessary for him to see his Majesty.' (Mem. of Fox, vol. ii. p. 49.) It ended by the King seeing the Duke of Portland, and his becoming Prime Minister. The above account is confirmed by Lord Grenville's relation of his interview with the King, who showed him the correspondence with Lord North and the Duke of Portland. (Buckingham Papers, vol. i. p. 213.)

* As Lord Shelburne was Home Secretary, the Irish business was

« AnteriorContinuar »