Imatges de pÓgina
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tunate issue. There was always room for this: because, as a curtain constantly hides the process by which official measures are formed, the respective shares of the King and Ministers are a subject open to whispers and conjectures, and are usually moulded by each party according to their views and prepossessions. He is openly charged with a passion for war. This accusation really appears to us somewhat too bold. What are the facts? George III. came to the throne in the midst of the most splendid and glorious war ever waged by Britain. He came at the age when mankind are most liable to be smitten with the love of military glory. How did he act? From the moment of accession, all his aims were pacific. He sacrificed his minister, in hopes of avoiding an extension of the theatre of hostilities; and he finally made an entire sacrifice of his popularity, by concluding peace sooner, and on worse terms, than the nation fondly expected. What proof could be more decisive of a peculiar reluctance to engage in war? After this, supposing him to have favoured the American contest, (which we shall speak to presently,) can any one suppose him to have driven so valuable a part of his empire into rebellion, and hazarded its loss, rather than not have war in some shape or other? With regard to the revolutionary conflict, supposing it true that it was promoted by the King's personal influence, it was surely a cause which interested, too strongly, all the feelings of royalty, to render it necessary to infer any abstract love of war. But, in fact, we find nothing but bare assertion as to any peculiar interference of the King upon this occasion. Mr Pitt, assuredly, was never suspected of any want of zeal in keeping down the growth of French power, and effecting its humiliation. The standing

charge of his enemies is that of rash and imprudent zeal to effect this object; and we never heard it once alleged that it was a system forced upon him, and into which he reluctantly entered. Mr Addington, (Lord Sidmouth,) well known to be a favourite minister of the King, came in on a peace-making basis, and made peace. It has been said, that the King expressed surprise when he heard of the signature of the peace of Amiens; but it is admitted, that he immediately expressed his wish that it might be lasting. With regard to the renewal of the war in 1803, no interference of the King was ever heard of; and the arrogant demands of Buonaparte-the conflict between the periodical presses of France and England-and the ferment it excited in the nation, are quite sufficient to render any further solution superfluous.

George III. was much and long charged with favouritism. The guides of his political judgment were said to be, not his ostensible ministers, but private individuals, whose opinions he preferred. The cry of " an influence behind the throne, greater than the throne itself," was re-echoed from Burke to Belsham, and continued to be a standing topic of declamation. We need not assemble facts relative to this charge, since it is entirely given up, even by the severest critics, who now universally admit, that he never had any such private adviser. The charge at present is, that he never paid due regard to any advice, public or private; that his object, from the first, was to be his own minister, and to have his own will in every thing. We are told, that the first lesson instilled into him by his mother, the Dowager Princess of Wales, was, "George, be King;" and that this precept was never forgotten. We are not disinclined to admit, that, under

some exaggeration, there may be some truth in this statement; and that the King really had somewhat of a determined will. It is already admitted, that the machine of a limited monarchy works more conveniently when the King quietly leaves the chief direction of affairs to his responsible advisers. But however convenient this may be, would it tend to exalt our opinion of the individual so acting? Would there not be something ignavum in one who contentedly suffered himself to be kept as a state pageant, like the infant Lama of Thibet, mechanically to perform a round of outward ceremonies; and who should willingly view, as an unconcerned spectator, the manner in which his kingdom was administered. That a King, by forming plans, and seeking their accomplishment, should act somewhat as a disturbing force in the revolutions of the political wheel, is an evil which human nature obliges us to expect, in counterpoise of the benefits derived from the regal branch of the constitution. But it would be difficult to adduce instances in which this natural desire to exercise his own will refused to bend to the constitutional barriers which rose against it. No former King of the Hanover dynasty, or since the Revolution, was ever controlled, on so many occasions, by the interference of Parliament; yet though sometimes touched in the very tenderest part, he yielded on almost every occasion, with a tolerable grace. There is, indeed, the striking exception of Mr Pitt's first accession to the Ministry. He certainly was maintained there, for a short time, against a Par liamentary majority; but the circumstances were so peculiar, that even Mr Nichols, a zealous whig, and severe critic on the King, applauds his conduct on the occasion. In the peculiar case, where a coalition of fac

tions, equally odious to King and people, has obtained a majority in Parliament, it can scarcely be called an unconstitutional stretch of power to make an appeal to the electors, by the dissolution of that assembly. Indeed we cannot help, by the way, remarking, that the long adherence of the King to a minister of such a lofty, uncompromising, and almost imperious character as Pitt, seems incompatible with that violent and headstrong determination, of which so much has been said. It is understood that they had quarrels; but on these critical occasions, the King, if we mistake not, was usually obliged to yield. The only measure which was certainly and avowedly his own, and in support of which he shewed his determination to brave every consequence, was one to which he considered himself bound by a religious obligation. Even on this point, however, he had to contend with his Ministers only, and not with Parliament. Nay, the opinion, enlightened or not, of a majority of the nation, was here in his favour.

We have now to consider George III. in his private capacity; and here it is allowed, on all hands, that he shone conspicuous. From those vices which are almost inseparable from, and by the world considered venial in, the possessors of exalted rank and unbounded wealth, he was so wholly exempt, that it would be difficult to find a course of domestic life equally meritorious in the most private indi vidual. All the efforts of the royal pair were directed to the support of religious and moral principle throughout the wide sphere of their influence. The effect of this disposition was likely to be the greater, since it was not accompanied with any recluse or forbidding austerity. It was peculiarly important in periods such as we have

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witnessed, when manners, among the higher ranks, tended towards general dissoluteness, that every thing within the precincts of the court should be kept thus perfectly pure. The King's dutiful affection for a partner possessed rather of solid than engaging qualities, and his strict attention to the education of a numerous progeny, were equally exemplary. At eight in the morning he regularly attended divine service in the royal chapel, when the solemnity of his deportment, and the fervour of his responses, were particularly observed. Yet amid these strong impressions of religion, joined to particular attachment to the Church of England, he was always a friend to toleration. He cordially concurred in the numerous mitigations which took place during his reign of the penal statutes against dissenters, with out excepting Roman Catholics. He extended a full pardon to a priest of this persuasion who had been condemned, on an obsolete law, for the saying of mass. His ultimate resist ance to the full extension of political privileges of this body, is allowed on all hands to have been founded on the most conscientious scruple..

The King's understanding has been a subject of doubt and criticism. It is now generally allowed to have been respectable. He thoroughly under stood public business, and paid constant and unremitting attention to it. At Windsor, his usual residence, papers and communications relative to matters of state, were transmitted to him by Ministers early in the morning. He rose at six, and usually dispatched the greater part of them before breakfast. When any thing occurred in the course of the day, an express was sent out, to which he paid immediate attention. Nothing submitted to him was passed over in a hasty or indifferent manner. Every paper examined by him contained

marginal notes, marked by reflection and strong sense. Those who were in the habit of conversing with him on business, declared, that his manner then bore no marks of that frivolity which sometimes prevailed in his ordinary discourse. He spoke with dig nity and fluency; and shewed himself completely master of every subject which came under consideration.

George III. has not been distintinguished either as literary, or a patron of literature. In letters from his mother, the Princess Dowager, preserved in the Diary of Bubb Doddington, he is said to be an honest boy, but not apparently to learn much from his tutors. He grew up, accordingly, with little knowledge of Latin, and less of Greek; though he spoke with fluency several modern languages. Notwithstanding the distinguished exceptions of Johnson and Beattie, the eminent authors who illustrated his reign, depended chiefly for patronage on public favour. Yet there were several important respects in which the King shewed his value for knowledge. He collected, singly, the most extensive library that perhaps ever was accumulated by any one individual. Several gentlemen were continually employed, both at home and abroad, in procuring for him the most valuable works. One of these informed the present writer, that he had instructions to procure only useful books, and editions of sterling value, to the exclusion of those which had only rarity to recommend them. The King's favourite studies were theology, history, and voyages and travels. These accordingly were the branches in which the library was richest. The collection of maps and charts was also particularly extensive. We have been assured, on the above authority, that there was not a better geographer in his dominions than the King himself. He is said, however,

to have been fond of learning the contents of books rather by the information of persons employed to read them for the purpose, than by reading them himself. A still more useful zeal was displayed in promoting the diffusion of knowledge among the lowest class of his subjects. The speech is recorded of him, that he hoped the day might come, in which every poor child in his dominions might be able to read its Bible. He took under his immediate patronage the plan of facilitating instruction invented by Lancaster; and it is remarkable, that he always continued this patronage, even after the Church of England had transferred theirs exclusively to the system of Bell. The liberal patronage of their Majesties was also extended to the establishment of Sunday Schools, for the religious education of the poor.

Among the useful objects to which the attention of the King was earnestly directed, agriculture was prominent. Indeed the occupations of a practical farmer were pursued by him as a favourite amusement, without any regard to the ridicule at tempted to be thrown by certain wits on this humble recreation. Anxious to instil the same taste into his offspring, he assigned to each of the young princes a spot of ground, which they sowed and reaped with their own hands. His Majesty justly understood the functions of a royal farmer, in endeavouring, by example and experiment, to improve the processes by which the art was conducted. He prided himself particularly on his stock, and in improving the quality of British wool by the importation of the finest Merino breeds. There are preserved three letters, sent by the King to the Annals of Agriculture, under the signature of Ralph Robinson. They relate to the methods employed by Mr Duckett,

an improving farmer in his neighbourhood, and are written in a plain," perspicuous, not very inelegant style. Such an example could not but go far in effacing the ignoble ideas which half a century ago were barbarously attached to this most useful pursuit ; and in rendering the taste, as it has since become, general among great proprietors.-Another useful pursuit was still more effectively promoted by royal influence. The voyages of discovery, particularly those of Cook, which gave a lustre to the reign of his Majesty, originated chiefly in the personal interest taken by himself in these spirited undertakings.

It has already been observed, that the King's strict principle, and his aversion to dissolute pleasures, were not attended with any forbidding austerity. He possessed even a lively taste for most liberal and elegant amusements. He took particular pleasure in music; and occasionally performed himself on the piano-forte. Handel was his favourite composer; and German music was generally preferred to the Italian. The sister art of painting was largely indebted to his patronage for the flourishing state to which it has now reached. Reynolds and West, its two greatest ornaments, both experienced his favour; and it was to the ample employment afforded to the latter in the royal palaces, that he was enabled to rise to the highest place in his art. Their Majesties were also fond of dramatic entertainments, and frequently honoured the two national theatres with their presence.

The King, in several particulars, displayed a magnanimity which seems to belong only to a great mind. His personal courage was fully proved on occasion of two frantic attempts made upon his life. The first was by Margaret Nicholson, who attempted to stab him as he alighted from his car

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riage at St James's; the other by Hatfield, who fired a pistol at his head from the pit of Drury-Lane Theatre. The composure displayed on this last occasion was very remarkable. He not only witnessed the representation with perfect tranquillity, but took his accustomed doze of a few minutes between the play and the farce. In the outrageous attack made by the mob on his way to Parliament in 1795, the King appeared the most unmoved of all his train; and he delivered his opening speech with, if possible, more than usual distinctness and correctness. Striking magnanimity was also displayed in his feelings and conduct towards the remnants of the unfortunate house of Stuart. The particulars are too well known to need repetition. No monarch was ever exposed, in an equal degree, to the shafts of personal satire. The invective of Wilkes, and the ridicule of Wolcot, continued for years unremittingly directed against his person. To all these attacks the King remained proof to a degree which reflects uncommon credit upon him. He could even despise the last, though the most trying of all to the usual frailty of human nature. His Majesty prohibited all prosecution of Wolcot, although the indecorous nature of many of his sallies would have afforded probably a successful ground for it.

It is recorded, in one of his morning walks through Windsor, he happened to enter a bookseller's shop, and began to read. The master, who was not so early, hastened in, and was in no small dismay when he found his Majesty employed upon Paine's Rights of Man; and, particularly, that he had opened the book at the place where he himself was described as unfit to perform the office of a parish constable. The King, however, in

tently read on; and the bookseller remained in agony, till his visitor, coming to a pause, laid down the book, and began to enter into conversation with his accustomed good humour; nor were the bookseller's fears of any future visitation in consequence, ever realized.

George III. was in his youth accounted handsome. He was in stature above the middle size-his countenance florid-his eyes blue-his hair so light as to approach the colour of white-his manner, frank, open, and gracious, pleased the English, who had been accustomed to German reserve and stateliness in his two immediate predecessors. With those who surrounded or were introduced to him, he entered readily into familiar conversation. He had even the art of persuading them, that they were the exclusive objects of his attention. At the same time, his manners are represented as somewhat deficient in grace and dignity. He spoke hurriedly, putting numerous questions, often twice or thrice repeated, and without always waiting for an answer. In his hours of relaxation, he delighted in a species of broad humour, and indulged in boisterous laughter at his own jokes, which were not always marked by the most poignant wit. Hence was derived to superficial spectators an unfavourable impression of his understanding; the injustice of which was perceived by those who saw him in his serious moments, and his hours of business. A great exaggeration, however, was probably made on both sides, when he was described as having the ablest mind and the awkwardest manner in the British dominions. On the whole, we may confidently pronounce, that the British sceptre has been swayed by only a few greater Kings; by none more dis

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