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often been in issue, antecedently to have calculated on so uniform a facility of disposition. But it would have been madness to expect that such a complaisance should be absolutely without limit. There are subjects upon which no man of common spirit or common conscience can tolerate to be made the tool of opinions not his own. There are compliances that leave behind them a remorse and a self-contempt for which ten times the greatness of an English Sovereign would be a miserable repayment. Such a subject was Catholic Emancipation. It would be idle labour to blow up again the embers of a controversy that is thoroughly forgotten. It is a subject on which there is no difference of opinion now. All are agreed that it was no breach of the Coronation Oath, and that whatever evil fruits it has in practice borne, far greater evils would have resulted from its being withheld. But, in the year 1800, the mass of English opinion was the other way. Enlightened men, like Mr. Pitt
, and Lord Castlereagh, and Mr. Canning, who saw beyond their age, recognised the fact that it must be granted, and that it would be granted under worse conditions if the grievance should be made the subject of systematic agitation. But neither the mass of the members of the Established Church, nor the majority of the two Houses, shared this view; and the King, who, though shrewd, was not far-seeing, held it in especial detestation. He had conceived the idea that it was a breach of his Coronation Oath. Such an interpretation of the Coronation Oath, though probably contrary to the intention of those who framed it,
was far from being untenable. Ancient oaths, framed with a regard to circumstances that have ceased to operate, are apt to ensnare tender consciences by their ambiguity. But whether the King was right or wrong in the interpretation of his oath, there is no doubt that he held it very sincerely, and that he was confirmed in it by the two highest authorities to whom he could appeal. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor took the strong Protestant view of the question. Whether Lord Loughborough's convictions on this point were purely disinterested, it is not worth while to discuss. The more his character and career are examined by successive historians, the more pitifully they show. But he contrived thoroughly to inoculate the King's mind with the scruples which he only simulated himself. The letters which passed between the King and Mr. Pitt, some of which are printed by Lord Stanhope for the first time leave no doubt upon the reader's mind of the entire sincerity
. of the King's convictions, and of the pain it caused him to carry them out. The style in which they are written is slovenly to the last degree; but the very haste and carelessness of their composition is in some sense an evidence that they were a
faithful and unvarnished picture of his thoughts. The language which he is recorded to have held in conversation about this time is equally decisive of his sincerity :
• Under such circumstances, and as if to tranquillize his mind, he roverted again and again to the religious obligation which he conceived to bind him. One morning-so his faithful equerry General Garth many years afterwards related-he desired his Coronation Oath to be once more read out to him, and then burst forth into some passionate exclamations : “Where is that power on earth to absolve me from the due observance of every sentence of that oath ? .... No-I had rather beg my bread from door to door throughout Europe than consent to any such measure ! ”
• Another day, at Windsor-this was on the 6th or 7th of the month -the King read his Coronation Oath to his family, asked them whether they understood it, and added : “If I violate it, I am no longer legal Sovereign of this country, but it falls to the House of Savoy."
. In the middle of February the King fell ill. His illness was at first no more than a feverish cold. On the 17th he saw Mr. Addington, and on the 18th he saw the Duke of Portland. With the latter he talked very calmly on the general aspect of state-affairs. myself,” said His Majesty, “ I am an old Whig; and I consider those statesmen who made barrier-treaties and conducted the ten last years of the Succession War the ablest we ever had.” The Duke only noticed as unusual that the King spoke in a loud tone of voice. But it is remarkable in this conversation that George the Third discerned, what since his time has become much more apparent, how, not by any sudden change, but by the gradual progress of events, the Whig party has drifted away from its first position in the reign of Queen Anne, and come round to occupy the original ground of its opponents.'vol. iii. pp. 292, 293.
It was inevitable that with such feelings he should have refused to entertain the propositions upon which Mr. Pitt and his Cabinet had agreed. As soon as his resolution was intimated to the Minister, the latter appears to have recognised the hopelessness of struggling against it, and resigned without even demanding a personal interview. The suddenness with which this step was taken at a moment when his power in Parliament was more unquestioned than ever, caused much surprise and some suspicion. The suspicion was without ground. The rumours which were current at the time to the effect that the Catholic claims had only afforded a colourable pretext for escaping from the humiliation of making a peace which had become inevitable, have been laid aside by general consent. The documents which have been published in later times, sufficiently dispose of the malignant insinuations with which Lord Auckland took occasion to repay the favour of his early patron. At least, if Pitt ever entertained
Vol. 111.–No. 222.
any such idea, he never breathed it to any human being. Nor were the colleagues who acted with him the most cordially upon this question, Lord Grenville and Lord Spencer, either conscious of any such manœuvre, or aware of any point in his conduct which would suggest the need of such an explanation. Fox's juggle,' and Lord Auckland's 'mystery,' were figments of their own distempered minds. With the exception of Lord Brougham, no modern authority of importance has adopted them. In truth the grounds of Pitt's conduct were so obvious that the mystery is rather that any party spirit can have mistaken them. Without passing an actual pledge, he had allowed it to be intimated to the Catholics of Ireland that the Ministry was favourable to them, and that it would be in a much better position for considering their claims when the Union with England had become law. On the strength of these assurances, which probably did not lose either in force or precision in the hands of the inferior agents of the Government, the Catholics gave the project their support. It is very clear that opposed as it was both by the secret treason of some, and the unconcealed self-interest of many, it never could have been carried if the Catholics had opposed it. Pitt felt himself bound to pay a fair price for value received. He did not think himself at liberty, after he had gained his object, to repudiate the understanding on which the votes that gained it were given. And when he found in the King's persistency an unexpected and insuperable obstacle, his only mode of fixing the responsibility where it really lay was to resign. A contrary view of political morality has been so often sanctioned within the last thirty years by distinguished statesmen of all parties, that Pitt's scruples upon the subject of breaking implied promises may appear Quixotic. But no one who applies to public affairs the morality of private life, will doubt that Pitt was in the right.
It by no means follows that the King was in the wrong. Of the two, his grounds of action were the strongest : for while Pitt was only fulfilling an implied engagement, the King was keeping what he believed to be a solemn oath. Such has not, however, been the judgment which it has been fashionable with Liberal historians and critics to pronounce.
In fact their principal motive for sparing Pitt in respect to this transaction, appears to have been that they might be better able to turn the full force of their animosity upon the King. Fox's opinion of the scruple entertained by the King was, that “the mention of the Coronation Oath was one of the most impudent and disgusting pieces of hypocrisy he had seen.' * If he judged of
* Fox's Mem. and Corr., iji. 153.
the King's esteem for his oath by the esteem which he himself had shown in 1783 for his own most solemn asseverations, he could not well come to any other conclusion. If at any time of his life he had professed to take an important political step, out of a regard for his own previous promises, the proceeding would have been most justly designated by the vigorous epithets we have quoted. The fury with which his later followers have attacked the King's persistency on this occasion is less intelligible. One would have thought that that persistency was exacted by the most rudimentary principles of honour. His view of the bearing of his Coronation Oath might have been erroneous; but it was the belief of many persons far more gifted and far more cultivated than himself. It implies neither intellectual nor moral obliquity to entertain a belief which is the popular persuasion of the age. And, assuming that it really was his belief, it was not only natural that he should have acted up to it, but he would have been the most contemptible of men if he had disregarded it. For the sake of a worldly interest of no very pressing kind, he would have perjured himself of an oath sworn to in the most solemn manner, and relating to the most sacred subject. Not only no wise king, but no man who was fit to associate with gentlemen, would have done that which some writers inveigh against George III. for having refused. The Constitutional duties' of an English King are a matter of prudence, not of special obligation ; but, even if they had been imposed by law instead of by a vague and shifting custom, they could not have bound him to a perjury. Nor did the importance of the question in any way affect his duty. As it happened, his decision, though of great, was not of vital moment. It embarrassed the subsequent settlement of the Roman Catholic claims; but it produced at the time no consequences of importance. But, if it had been as momentous as it was trivial in its immediate results, it would have been far better for the fair fame of George III. in the eyes of posterity--to speak of no higher tribunal—that he should have forfeited his crown or his life in resisting Catholic claims, than that he should for expediency's sake have yielded what in his own belief he had sworn to refuse. And yet, if he had consciously forsworn himself, he would have been judged more kindly by many at least of his critics. It is a sad comment on the morality by which historians try the actions of great men, that Henry IV's abandonment of Protestantism, or Charles I.'s abandonment of Episcopacy, to serve the purpose of the moment, have not been visited with one tenth part of the invective that has followed George III.'s honest, though blind veneration for his oath.
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Though Pitt had rightly estimated the strength of the King's determination, he had not anticipated the depth of the King's attachment to himself. The struggle of parting with him for conscience' sake was too severe for a mind already shaken by insanity. Before the new Ministers could be installed, the old symptoms of 1778 returned. The attack was quite as severe; fortunately it was not quite as obstinate, , Addington's happy suggestion of the hop-pillow—which Lord Stanhope will not allow to have originated the soubriquet of the Doctor'-brought about an amendment before any steps had been taken for the appointment of a regency.
But it was a narrow escape, and the risk that had been run made a deep impression upon Pitt.
Pitt. As soon as the King was well enough to receive the message, Pitt sent him a promise, by Dr. Willis, that he would never during the King's lifetime renew the question of the Catholic claims. As soon as this had been done, it occurred to some of Pitt's subordinates, who were sharing his loss of office without sharing in any degree his credit for magnanimity, that as the cause of his resignation had disappeared, there was no reason why the resignation itself should not follow its example. Pitt did not view this process of reasoning with absolute disfavour. He would take no step himself ; but he did not conceal his willingness to resume office from his friends, or forbid them to mention it to others. But to Addington the idea did not seem quite so natural. He was not so much impressed with his own enormous inferiority to Pitt as Dundas and Pelham seem to have expected. Moreover, having been made to resign the Speakership by the representation that he alone could save the country from ruin in such a crisis, he was not inclined to fall between the two stools, or to become the victim of a lovers' quarrel between the King and Mr. Pitt. So he gave the strongest possible discouragement to Dundas's modest proposal. As soon as his reluctance was ascertained, Pitt interfered to rescue him from further pressure, and suppressed the murmurings of his own displaced friends with a strong hand.
Pitt's inconsistent conduct on this occasion has been very severely blamed. Even the calm and judicial mind of Sir G. C. Lewis refuses to acquit him. Why,' he asks, if he was so willing to remain in March, was he so resolved on resigning in February ; or why, if he was so resolved upon resigning in February, was he so willing to remain in March?' No doubt, if the intervening fact of the King's insanity be left out of sight, Pitt's conduct was marked by a levity worthy only of a coquette. But this fact, with all the contingent consequences that hung on it, entirely altered the state of facts upon which he had to form his judg