Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

use of that country as one of the chief sources of profit and plunder for the ministry and their friends. “Ever since I knew the world," wrote Lady Mary in August, 1759, “ Irish patents have been hung out to sale like the laced and embroidered coats in Monmouth-street and bought up by the same sort of people.” “The profusion of the late Viceroys to gain votes," says Walpole in 1773, "and the drain of specie to England, was so extreme that necessary cash did not remain to carry on government”: a tax of 2s. in the £ on absentee landlords was proposed. But the great English lords who had property in Ireland and the City of London were alarmed, and the Dublin Parliament threw out the proposal.

On this ultimatum the King tries again, through the Duke of Cumberland, to form a ministry through Pitt; but Pitt will not act without Temple, and Temple, turning to his brother, George Grenville, absolutely refuses. “I fear," writes Charles Townshend on July 3, " the King's health suffers from his sense of the situation.” Probably the King's health later was greatly due to the strain at this time. He lived for days in seclusion, and even abstained from the Sacrament. On July 10 Grenville was dismissed, and Rockingham, whose one object was to make a Whig administration, came in.

As each faction supplanted the other, they arranged the shift by providing the retiring official with a pension or a title or both. Their use of the revenues of the country to fill their own pockets is too large a subject for any one volume. Walpole (Vol. II., pp. 137–46) gives particulars of the bargains made on a change of ministry. You can ask yourself if it was likely that even the best of the Americans would permit themselves without any safeguards to be taxed by such a crowd.

When Charles Townshend after much vacillation" and tears" became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1766, Lord Northington, the Lord Chancellor, sold his office for the President's place, augmented by £5,000 a year, with the contingency of £2,000 a year if he should quit the place of President, and for the reversion of the Hanaper for three lives. While Chancellor he had given a great sinecure to a trustee for his three daughters. When in 1767 the negotiations with the Bedford faction were completed, it was said to have cost the Government from £9,000 to £15,000 a year. Walpole speaks of Sir Lawrence Dundas, the rich commissary who commanded the votes of nine members. He had acquired £800,000 in less than four years of the Seven Years' War, and now, in 1768, demanded a peerage on that ground.

Sometimes, as Burke expressed it, persons had a single office divided between them, who had never spoken to each other in their lives until they found themselves, they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle bed (Rockingham Papers, i, 258). Walpole complains of Bute because he says: "my place of Usher to the Exchequer was granted in reversion to Samuel Martin, and my place of Collector of Customs in the Customs House held by my brother, but the far greater share of which had been bequeathed to me by my father for my brother's life was also granted in reversion to Jenkinson. The Favourite (Bute) thus excluded me from the possibility of obtaining the continuance of that place to myself in case of my brother's death.” Sir Robert Walpole held it for his own life and for the lives of his two eldest sons, with power of bequeathing it for their lives to any child he pleased.

Boroughs were publicly advertised for sale in the newspapers. There were a set of attorneys who rode the country and sold and bought seats openly. The Corporation of Oxford sold the city to the Duke of Marlborough in 1768. In Cumberland the election cost £100,000, in Northampton £70,000. Under date 1770 Walpole writes : “ Lord Granby has just accepted a very considerable obligation from the ministers (the Grafton Government). At the end of the last session they and their creatures in the House of Commons had most unjustly voted him the borough of Bramber, so legally the property of Sir Henry Gough that he had been offered £40,000 for it.” At this time, says he, “election petitions were heard and decided solely by favour or party in the House of Commons. Nor was this accident, but constant and universal (iv, 74).”

But when the Whigs lost power, they used every weapon to attack Lord North and the King's Government, and they proposed to take away votes from officers of the revenue and other persons who might support the party in power. George Grenville brought in a most salutary Bill that election petitions should be tried by a Select Committee, which remained law until 1868, when they were transferred to Judges of the High Court.

One chief weapon used throughout against the King and his supporters was the mob, especially the London mob, headed by the Corporation of London. Insults to the King and Queen and his mother, and the ministers Bute and North, and personal attacks were set on foot and encouraged by the Whig factions. In the absence of any force of police the only protection against the mob in any case of riot was to call out the Guards, who would appear when the house had been looted and burnt, the coaches wrecked, the persons insulted and assaulted ; such action was a very serious one which had to be resorted to on occasion. In 1763, for instance, on the weavers' riots, the King ordered the Duke of Cumberland to command the troops as Captain General. In 1768, when some 700 merchants of the city set out to carry an address of loyalty to the King, they were most grossly ill-used by the mob, who tried to break into the courtyard of St. James's. The King kept his head, and showed great courage. On this occasion the Wilkes' mob attacked houses, destroyed coaches, insulted people who refused to cheer, and distributed handbills among the soldiers telling them not to fire and promising them higher pay. A body of sailors coming with a petition met and dispersed them. At the poll at Brentford there was a general engagement between the two mobs. The apostles of liberty and free election "knocked down several that presented themselves to vote, seized the books of the poll, and drove away the sheriffs." Chatham supported Wilkes, and expressed the wish that if his views were not followed "may discord prevail for ever.”

In 1770 the House of Commons fell out with the printers for printing the debates, and ordered the Mayor and Aldermen, who had come with a low mob who assaulted members and wrecked carriages, to be sent to the Tower. The King on March 17th wrote to Lord North: “You know well how averse I am to meddling with the printers, but now there is no retreating. The honour of the Commons must be supported.” On their part, Lord Rockingham, with a train of Lords and Commons in sixteen coaches, went in procession to visit the Mayor in the Tower. This Mayor, Crosby, says Walpole, “was originally a low attorney and had married his master's widow, and afterwards the widow of a carcass butcher. With their fortunes he trafficked in seamen's tickets, a mean and disreputable kind of usury.'

iv. George III. and the Whig Historians.—Though I do not as a rule regard as of any value personal characters drawn at a long distance of time by writers from contemporary gossip, whether twelfth-century monk or eighteenth-century memoir

writer, I would pause for a moment to consider the personality of this young king. This is not done with any intention of

connecting him with good or evil results of his day, which depended for the most part on causes affecting equally all the contemporary rulers. I do so because George III. has been subject, in an extravagant degree, to a continuous stream of abuse from Whig writers throughout the nineteenth century and to-day, having its source in no facts, abuse which is sometimes deliberate falsehood, written for political purposes, more often the idle repetition through the centuries of the gossip collected by triflers who corresponded to some of our tea-table diarists of to-day.

As an example, speaking of the most read, the most entertaining to read, and, in some respects, the most instructive and reliable of these sources of Whig history, an author whom I have frequently quoted, a good critic writes : “Fifty small intriguers, Mr. Horace Walpole amongst the busiest, carried tales from one party to another, inflamed animosities, betrayed confidences, assailed or thwarted the king as their fancy or interest suggested."

Horace Walpole was, by inheritance, of the old Whig principles of his father; he would appear to have had good judgment of men, and a sense of political proportion, and he was not blind to the evils of the Whig factions. But his bias is against the kingship; he admits that he is inclined to be a republican; and after the King has refused to recognize his niece, that admirable woman Lady Waldegrave, who was unfortunately the illegitimate daughter of a French milliner, as a proper person to be Duchess of Gloucester, his pen is as vitriolic against the King as that of Giraldus Cambrensis against Henry II.

If these mis-statements were part of the dead stock of history they would not be worth noticing. But inedited repetition has resulted in a tradition being set up which, owing to the subsequent insanity of the King, has been incorporated into our school and other histories, creating, as it seems to me, such a distortion of facts that it is worth while to devote a few lines to the young man on whom his enemies, beaten in the political field, have to a great extent succeeded, by inventing history, in imposing responsibility for the difficulties of his time.

Whatever may have been the defects in the character of Prince Frederick, who has been steadily written down by the Whigs, the training of George III. does the greatest credit to him and to Princess Augusta, and to the Earls of Waldegrave and Bute. The Princess would appear to have been a sensible, honourable and charitable woman and an excellent mother. Left with eight children and enceinte of a ninth, she brought them up in evil times as far as possible away from evil; when she died in 1772 her generosity to her kinsfolk and to the poor left her so little that Walpole suggests that she had given it all to Bute.

The education of a young prince, heir to a throne, must always be a matter of extreme difficulty, especially in times when political passions ran high, a difficulty augmented in this case by the hatred shown by George II. for his son, and the resulting rival Courts of St. James's and Leicester House. George was apparently of the same mould as other boys; “good but indolent” was the character given of him. At the end of 1752 Lord Waldegrave, a great personal friend of the old King, was appointed to be his governor; he was also made Lord Warden of the Stanneries. He continued in this position with satisfaction for three years, so that, as he tells you in his memoirs (published in 1831), “I thought myself almost a favourite.” Then, in the disputes which arose between Leicester House, the Prince's establishment, which included the party of Pitt and his friends, and at St. James's the King, the Duke of Cumberland, and the great Whig nobles, Lord Waldegrave very naturally allied himself with his old personal friend the King, to whom he was so much indebted. Joining in the objection to the appointment of Bute as Groom of the Stole, he retired with a reversion, which fell in in two months, to the post of Teller of the Exchequer, which, as he writes, “would make me perfectly easy for the remainder of my life."

« AnteriorContinua »