« ZurückWeiter »
to the board of trade, and asked specific instructions to regulate his conduct in resisting the French. The possession of the Ohio valley he foresaw would fall to the Americans, from their numbers and the gradual extension of their settlements, for whose security he recommended a barrier of western forts; and urged an alliance with the Miamis, to whom he offered to deliver presents in person.
The aged and undiscerning German prince who still sat on the British throne, methodically narrow, swayed by his mistress more than by his minister, meanly avaricious and spiritless, disliked to gather round him the ablest statesmen, and cared more for Hanover than for America. His ministers were intent only on keeping in power. “To be well together with Lady Yarmouth,” Pelham wrote, “is the best ground to stand on.” “If the good-will of the king's mistress shakes,” continued England's prime minister to its principal secretary of state, “we have no resource.” The whig aristocracy had held exclusive possession of the government for nearly forty years ; its authority was now culminating; and it had nothing better to offer the British people than an administration which openly spoke of seats in parliament as “a marketable commodity,” and governed the king by paying court to his vices.
The heir to the throne was a boy of fourteen, of whose education royalists and the more liberal aristocracy were disputing the charge. His birth occurred within less than ten months of that of his eldest sister; and his organization was marked by a nervous irritability, which increased with years. “He shows no disposition to any great excess,” said Dodington to his mother. “He is a very honest boy," answered the princess, who still wished him “more forward and less childish.” “The young people of quality,” she added, “ are so ill-educated and so very vicious that they frighten me;" and she secluded her son from their society. The prince, from his own serious nature, favored this retirement; when angry, he would hide his passion in the solitude of his chamber; and, as he grew up, his strict sobriety and fondness for domestic life were alike observable. He never loved study. “I am afraid," said his mother, “his preceptors teach him not much." "I do not much regard books,” rejoined her adviser, Dodington ; “but his royal highness should be informed of the general frame of this government and constitution, and the general course of business.” “I am of your opinion,” answered the princess. “I know nothing,” she added, “ of the Jacobitism attempted to be instilled into the child ; I cannot conceive what they mean;" for to a German princess the supremacy of regal authority seemed a tenet very proper to be inculcated. But Lord Harcourt, the governor, “complained strongly to the king that arbitrary principles were instilled into the prince;” and the Earl of Waldegrave, Harcourt's successor, “ found Prince George uncommonly full of princely prejudices, contracted in the nursery, and improved by the society of bed-chamber women and pages of the back stairs. A right system of education seemed impracticable.”
The communication of Dinwiddie, unheeded by the king, found the lords of trade bent on sustaining the extended limits of America. In the study of the western world, no one of them was so indefatigable as Charles Townshend. The
elaborate memorial on the limits of Acadia, delivered 1753. in Paris, by the English commissioners, in January,
1753, was entirely his work, and, though unsound in its foundation, won for him great praise for research and ability. He now joined his colleagues in advising the immediate occupation of the eastern bank of the Ohio.
Many proposals were “made for laying taxes on North America." The board of trade still urged “ a revenue with which to fix settled salaries on the northern governors, and defray the cost of Indian alliances.” “Persons of consequence,” we are told, “repeatedly, and without concealment, expressed undigested notions of raising revenues out of the colonies.” Some proposed to obtain them from the postoffice, a modification of the acts of trade, and a general stamp act for America. With Pelham's concurrence, the board of trade, on the eighth day of March, 1753, announced to the house of commons the want of a colonial revenue; as the first expedient, it was proposed to abolish the export duty in the British West Indies, from which no revenue accrued; and, with a slight discrimination in their favor, to substitute imposts on all West Indian produce brought into the northern colonies. This project was delayed only for the adjustment of its details.
Meantime, at Winchester, a hundred Indians of Ohio renewed to Virginia the proposal for an English fort on the Ohio, and promised aid in repelling the French. They repaired to Pennsylvania with the same message, and were met by evasions. The ministry, which had, from the first, endeavored to put upon America the expenses of Indian treaties and of colonial defence, continued to receive early and accurate intelligence from Dinwiddie. The king in council, swayed by the representations of the board, decided that the valley of the Ohio was in the western part of the colony of Virginia ; and that “the march of certain Europeans to erect a fort in parts” of his dominions was to be resisted; but the cabinet, with Holdernesse and Newcastle for its guides, took no effective measures to support the decree. It only instructed Virginia, by the whole or a part of its numerous militia, at the cost of the colony itself, to build forts on the Ohio; to keep the Indians in subjection; and to repel and drive out the French by force. France was defied and attacked, with no preparation beyond a secretary's letters and the king's instructions. A general but less explicit circular was also sent to every one of the colonies, vaguely requiring them to aid each other in repelling all encroachments of France on “the undoubted” territory of England.
This is the time chosen by the board of trade for the one last great effort to conduct the American administration by means of the prerogative. New York remained the scene of the experiment; and Sir Danvers Osborne, brother-in-law to the Earl of Halifax, having Thomas Pownall for his secretary, was commissioned as its governor, with instructions which were “ advised” by Halifax and Charles Townshend, and were confirmed by the king in council.
The new governor, just as he was embarking, was also charged to apply his thoughts very closely to Indian affairs ;” and hardly had he sailed, when, in September,
the lords of trade directed commissioners from the northern colonies to meet the next summer at Albany, and make a common treaty with the Six Nations.
During the voyage across the Atlantic, Osborne, 1753. already reeling with private grief, brooded despond
ingly over the task he had assumed. On the tenth of October, he took the oaths of office at New York; and the people, who welcomed him with acclamations, hooted his predecessor. “I expect the like treatment,” said he to Clinton, “before I leave the government.” On the same day, he was startled by an address from the city council, who declared they would not “brook any infringement of their inestimable liberties, civil and religious.” On the next, he communicated to the council his instructions, which required the assembly “to recede from all encroachments on the prerogative,” and “to consider, without delay, of a proper law for a permanent revenue, solid, definite, and without limitation.” All public money was to be applied by the governor's warrant, with the consent of council, and the assembly was never to be allowed to examine accounts. With a distressed countenance and a plaintive voice, he asked if these instructions would be obeyed. All agreed that the assembly never would comply. He sighed, turned about, reclined against the window-frame, and exclaimed : “ Then why am I come here?”
Being of morbid sensitiveness, honest, and scrupulous of his word, the unhappy man spent the night in arranging his private affairs, and towards morning hanged himself against the fence in the garden. His death left the government in the hands of James Delancey, a man of ability and great possessions. A native of New York, of Huguenot ancestry, he had won his way to political influence as the leader of opposition in the colonial assembly ; and Newcastle had endeavored to conciliate his neutrality by a commission as lieutenant-governor. He discerned and acknowledged that the custom of annual grants could never be surrendered. “ Dissolve us as often as you will,” said his old associates in opposition, “ we will never give it up.” But they consented that all disbursements of public money should require the
dy to defenas given to oth and their scept only for
warrant of the governor and council, except only for the payment of their own clerk and their agent in England. The instructions given to Osborne, Charles Townshend was ready to defend to the last ; but the younger Horace Walpole judged them “better calculated for the latitude of Mexico and for a Spanish tribunal, than for free, rich British settlements, in such opulence and haughtiness that suspicions had long been conceived of their meditating to throw off their dependence on the mother country.”
While Great Britain was thus marching toward the loss of her colonies, the Earl of Chesterfield wrote: “This I foresee in France, that, before the end of this century, the trade of both king and priest will not be half so good a one as it has been.” “In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in history, previous to great changes and revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.”