Abbildungen der Seite




JUNE-JULY, 1765.

WHILE America was giving force to its resistance by union, divisions that could not be healed planted confusion in the councils of its oppressors. We left the J166. king quivering with wounded pride at the affront from his ministers; but, far from giving way, he thwarted their suggestions about appointments to office, frowned on those whom they promoted, and publicly showed regard to his friends whom they displaced.

Grenville, in apparently confident security, continued his schemes of colonial revenue, and by the fourteenth of June represented to the king " that the Canadians were subject to taxation by virtue of his prerogative.” But the Duke of Bedford had already filled the palace with more rankling cares. On the twelfth of June, being resolved once more on an explanation, the plain-spoken man recapitulated to his sovereign what had passed between him and his ministers on their resuming their functions, when he had promised them his countenance and support. “Has this promise,” he demanded, “ been kept ? On the contrary, are not almost all our bitter enemies countenanced in public ? Has not the Earl of Bute, as the favorite, interfered, at least indirectly, in public councils, with the utmost hazard to himself and risk to the king's quiet and the safety of the public? I hope your majesty will be pleased to give your countenance to your ministers, and for the future let your support and your authority go together; or else that you will give your authority where you are pleased to give your favor.”

1765. June

The king, who was resolved to interpret the discourse of Bedford as a resignation, though the colleagues of the duke were by no means disposed to push matters so far as to provoke their dismissal, again appealed to Cumberland, and

through him summoned Pitt to an audience. On the 19. nineteenth, in an interview which continued for three

hours, Pitt declared himself against the measures that had been adopted to restrain the American colonies from trade with the Spanish islands, and against the taxation of the colonies by act of parliament, which nothing but extreme illness had prevented him from opposing in the house of commons, and of which his mind foreboded the

fatal consequences. The discussion was renewed on June 22. the twenty-second, when, having obtained satisfac

tion as to measures and as to men, he entered most heartily upon the work of forming an administration. On receiving the news by an express from Pitt, Temple privately communicated its substance to Grenville, and with a predetermined mind repaired on Monday to Pitt at Hayes. The two statesmen were at variance on no important measure except the stamp act. On that there arose an irreconcilable antagonism of opinion, which was to divide them for the rest of their lives. Temple refused to take office. Pitt was alike surprised, wounded, and embarrassed. Lord Temple was his brother-in-law ; had, in the time of his retiring from the office of paymaster, helped him with his purse ; had twice gone into a ministry with him ; and twice faithfully retired with him. The long discussion that ensued deeply affected both; but Temple inflexibly resisted Pitt's judgment and most earnest remonstrance; he would not consent to supplant the brother whose present measures he applauded, and with whom he had just been reconciled. Pitt felt himself disabled by this refusal ; as they parted, he said pathetically, in the words of a Roman poet : “You, brother, bring ruin on me and on yourself, and on the people and the peers and your country.”

After the interview, Temple appeared “under great agitation ;” and was still “ nervous and trembling" when, on the twenty-second, he went in to the king, and declined

“entering his service in any office.” “I am afraid,” he added, — and it was the king himself who repeated the remark, —“I foresee more misfortunes in your majesty's reign than in any former period of history.” Deserted in this wise by the connection in whom he had trusted, Pitt repaired to the king, who accepted his excuses, and “parted from him very civilly.” Thus passed what seemed to him the most difficult and painful crisis of his life. “ All is now over with me,” said he, despondingly, “and by a fatality I did not expect;” with grief and disappointment in his heart, he retired into Somersetshire.

“Let us see,” said the ministers, “ if the Duke of Cumberland will be desperate enough to form an administration without Pitt and Temple.” Northington assured them that they might remain in office, if they chose. The most wary gave in their adhesion ; even Charles Yorke went to Grenville and declared his support, and Gilbert Elliott did the like. “Our cause is in your hands," said the Bedfords to Grenville, “and you will do it justice.” This was the moment of his greatest pride and political importance; he was at the head of the treasury; he had defeated his sovereign's efforts to change the ministry; he was looked up to and owned by the Bedfords as their savior and protector. His ambition, his vanity, and his self-will were gratified.

The king had been complaining in strong terms of the little business done, and especially of “the neglect of the colonies and new conquests;” and the indefatigable Grenville applied himself earnestly to American measures. Bishops were to be engrafted on a plan which he favored for an ecclesiastical establishment in Canada. On the fourth of July, he proposed a reform in the courts of admiralty; in the following days, he, with Lord North, settled the emoluments of the officers charged with carrying into execution the American stamp act; made an enumeration of the several districts for inspection ; provided for supplying vacant places among the stamp distributors; and on the ninth, his last day in office, consulted about removing incidental objections to the measure, in which he gloried as his own.


Meantime, Cumberland had succeeded in forming an administration out of the remnants of the old whig aristocracy and their successors; and, on the tenth, Grenville was sum

moned to St. James's to surrender the seals of his office. 17h “I beseech your majesty,” he said, “ as you value your

own safety, not to suffer any one to advise you to separate or draw the line between your British and American dominions. Your colonies are the richest jewel of your crown. If any man should venture to defeat the regulations laid down for the colonies, by a slackness in the execution, I shall look upon him as a criminal and the betrayer of his country.”

The conditions on which the new ministry came into power were agreed upon at the house of the Duke of Newcastle, and did not extend beyond the disposal of offices. They introduced no projects of reform; they gave no pledges in behalf of liberty, except such as might be found in the traditions of their party and their own personal characters. The old Duke of Newcastle was the type of the administration, though he took only the post of privy seal, with the patronage of the church. The law adviser of its choice, as attorney-general, was Charles Yorke, whose opinions coincided with those of Mansfield. Its mediator with the king was the Duke of Cumberland, who had a seat in the cabinet as its protector.

The post of head of the treasury was assigned to the Marquis of Rockingham. He was an inexperienced man of five-and-thirty, possessing no great natural abilities, of a feeble constitution, and a nervous timidity which made him almost incapable of speaking in public; acquainted with race-courses, and the pedigree of horses; unskilled in the finances of his country, and never before proposed for high office. But he had clear and sagacious sense and good feel. ing, unshaken fortitude, integrity, kindness of nature, and an honest and hearty attachment to moderated liberty. His virtues were his arts, and they were his talents also. Had he been untitled and less opulent, he never would have been heard of; but, being high in rank, of vast wealth, and generous without wastefulness, he was selected, at the moment



when the power of the oligarchy was passing its culmination, to lead its more liberal branch ; and such was his own ambition of being first in place, such his sin, July. cerity, such his fidelity to his political connections, that from this time till the day of his death he remained their standard-bearer.

His deficiencies in knowledge and in rhetoric, the minister compensated by selecting as his secretary and intimate friend Edmund Burke, who had recently left the service of one of the opposite party, and renounced a pension bestowed by Halifax. It was characteristic of that period for a man like Rockingham to hold for life a retainer like Edmund Burke; and never did a true-hearted, kindly, and generous patron find one more faithful. He brought to his employer, and gave up to his party, all that he had : boundless stores of knowledge, especially respecting the colonies ; wit, philosophy, imagination, gorgeous eloquence, unwearied industry, mastery of the English tongue; and, as some think, the most accomplished intellect which the nation had produced for centuries. His ambition was fervid, yet content with the applause of the aristocracy. His political training had brought him in contact with the board of trade, and afterwards with the government of Ireland, the country of his birth. His writings are a brilliant picture of the British constitution, as it existed in the best days of the eighteenth century; and his genius threw lustre over the decline of the party which he served. No man had a better heart, or more thoroughly hated oppression; but he possessed neither experience in affairs, nor tranquil judgment, nor the rule over his own spirit: so that his genius, under the impulse of bewildering passions, wrought much evil to his country and to Europe, even while he rendered noble service to the cause of commercial freedom, to Ireland, and to America.

The seals of the northern department of state were conferred on the Duke of Grafton, a young man of respectable abilities, yet impaired by fondness for pleasure, à ready speaker, honest and upright, naturally inclining to the liberal side. He had little sagacity, but he meant well; and, in after years, preferred himself to record and to ex

« ZurückWeiter »