The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter XXXVI: To His Grace the Duke of Grafton: 14 February 1770.

[134] Duke of GraftonMY LORD

If I were personally your enemy, I might pity and forgive you. You have every claim to compassion that can arise from misery and distress. The condition you are reduced to, would disarm a private enemy of his resentment, and leave no consolation to the most vindictive spirit, but that such an object as you are would disgrace the dignity of revenge. But, in the relation you have borne to this country, you have no title to indulgence; and if I had followed the dictates of my own opinion, I never should have allowed you the respite of a moment. In your public character, you have injured every subject of the empire; and though an individual is not authorized to forgive the injuries done to society, he is called upon to assert his separate share in the public resentment. I submitted, however, to the judgment of men, more moderate, perhaps more candid, than myself. For my own part, I do not pretend to understand those prudent forms of decorum, those gentle rules of discretion, which some men endeavour to unite with the conduct of the greatest and most hazardous affairs. Engaged in the defence of an honourable cause, I would take a decisive part. I should scorn to provide for a future retreat, or to keep terms with a man who preserves no measures with the public. Neither the abject submission of deserting his [135] post in the hour of danger, nor even the* sacred shield of cowardice, should protect him. I would pursue him through life, and try the last exertion of my abilities to preserve the perishable infamy of his name, and make it immortal.

What then, my Lord? Is this the event of all the sacrifices you have made to Lord Bute's patronage, and to your own unfortunate ambition? Was it for this you abandoned your earliest friendships, the warmest connexions of your youth, and all those honourable engagements, by which you once solicited, and might have acquired, the esteem of your country? Have you secured no recompence for such a waste of honour? Unhappy man! what party will receive the common deserter of all parties? Without a client to flatter, without a friend to console you, and with only one companion from the honest House of Bloomsbury, you must now retire into a dreadful solitude. At the most active period of life, you must quit the busy scene, and conceal yourself from the world, if you would hope to save the wretched remains of a ruined reputation. The vices operate like age, bring on disease before its time, and in the prime of youth leave the character broken and exhausted.

Yet your conduct has been mysterious, as well as contemptible. Where is now that firmness, or obstinacy, so long boasted of by your friends, and acknowledged by your enemies? We were taught to expect that you would not leave the ruin of this country to be completed by other hands, but were determined either to gain a decisive victory over the constitution, or to perish bravely, at least behind the last dyke of the prerogative. You knew the danger, and might have been provided for it. You took sufficient time to prepare for a meeting with your parliament, to confirm the mercenary fidelity of your dependents, and to suggest to your Sovereign a language suited to his dignity at least, if not to his benevolence and wisdom. Yet, while the whole kingdom was agitated with anxious expectation upon one great point, you meanly evaded the question, and, instead of the explicit firmness

* Sacro tremuere timore. Every coward pretends to be planet-struck.

[136] and decision of a King , gave us nothing but the misery of a ruined* grazier, and the whining piety of a Methodist. We had reason to expect, that notice would have been taken of the petitions which the King had received from the English nation; and although I can conceive some personal motives for not yielding to them, I can find none, in common prudence or decency, for treating them with contempt. Be assured, my Lord, the English people will not tamely submit to this unworthy treatment. They had a right to be heard; and their petitions, if not granted, deserved to be considered. Whatever be the real views and doctrine of a court, the Sovereign should be taught to preserve some forms of attention to his subjects; and, if he will not redress their grievances, not to make them a topic of jest and mockery among lords and ladies of the bed-chamber. Injuries may be atoned for and forgiven; but insults admit of no compensation. They degrade the mind in its own esteem, and force it to recover its level by revenge. This neglect of the petitions was, however, a part of your original plan of government; nor will any consequences it has produced, account for your deserting your Sovereign, in the midst of that distress, in which you and your † new friends have involved him. One would think, my Lord, you might have taken this spirited resolution before you had dissolved the last of those early connexions, which once, even in your own opinion, did honour to your youth; before you had obliged Lord Granby to quit a service he was attached to; before you had discarded one chancellor, and killed another. To what an abject condition have you laboured to reduce the best of Princes, when the unhappy man, who yields at last to such personal instance and solicitation, as never can be fairly employed against a subject, feels himself degraded by his compliance, and is unable to survive the disgraceful honours which his gracious Sovereign had compelled him to accept! He was a man of spirit, for he had a quick sense of shame, and death has redeemed his character. I know your Grace too well to appeal to your feelings upon this

* There was something wonderfully pathetic in the mention of the horned cattle.
†The Bedford party.

[137] event; but there is another heart, not yet, I hope, quite callous to the touch of humanity, to which it ought to be a dreadful lesson for ever*.

Now, my Lord, let us consider the situation to which you have conducted, and in which you have thought it advisable to abandon, your Royal Master. Whenever the people have complained, and nothing better could be said in defence of the measures of government, it has been the fashion to answer ns, though not very fairly, with an appeal to the private virtues of your Sovereign: "Has he not, to relieve the people, surrendered a considerable part of his revenue? Has he not made the judges independent, by fixing them in their places for life?" My Lord, we acknowledge the gracious principle which gave birth to these concessions, and have nothing to regret, but that it has never been adhered to. At the end of seven years, we are loaded with a debt of above five hundred thousand pounds upon the civil list; and now we see the Chancellor of Great Britain tyrannically forced out of his office, not for want of abilities, not for want of integrity, or of attention to his duty, but for delivering his honest opinion in parliament, upon the greatest constitutional question that has arisen since the revolution. We care not to whose private virtues you appeal. The theory of such a government is falsehood and mockery; the practice is oppression. You have laboured then (though, I confess, to no purpose) to rob your Master of the only plausible answer that ever was given in defence of his government of the opinion which the people had conceived of his personal honour and integrity. The Duke of Bedford was more moderate than your Grace: he only forced his Master to violate a solemn promise made to an individual †; but you, my Lord, have successfully extended your advice to every political, every moral engagement, that could bind either the magistrate or the man. The condition of a King is often miserable ; but it required your Grace's abilities to make it contemptible. You will say, perhaps,

* The most secret particular of this detestable transaction shall in due time be given to the public. The people shall know what kind of man they have to deal with.
† Mr. Stuart M'Kenzie.

[138] that the faithful servants, in whose hands you have left him, are able to retrieve his honour, and to support his government. You have publicly declared, even since your resignation, that you approved of their measures, and admired their conduct, particularly that of the Earl of Sandwich. What a pity it is, that, with all this appearance, you should think it necessary to separate yourself from such amiable companions! You forget, my Lord, that while you are lavish in the praise of men whom you desert, you are publicly opposing your conduct to your opinions, and depriving yourself of the only plausible pretence you had for leaving your Sovereign overwhelmed with distress. I call it plausible; for, in truth, there is no reason whatsoever, less than the frowns of your Master, that could justify a man of spirit for abandoning his post at a moment so critical and important. It is in vain to evade the question: if you will not speak out, the public have a right to judge from appearances. We are authorised to conclude, that you either differed from your colleagues, whose measures you still affect to defend, or that you thought the administration of the King's affairs no longer tenable. You are at liberty to choose between the hypocrite and the coward. Your best friends are in doubt which way they shall incline. Your country unites the characters, and gives you credit for them both. For my own part, I see nothing inconsistent in your conduct. You began with betraying the People; you conclude with betraying the King.

In your treatment of particular persons, you have preserved the uniformity of your character. Even Mr. Bradshaw declares, that no man was ever so ill used as himself. As to the provision * you have made for his family,

* A pension of £1500 per annum, insured upon the four one-half per cents. (he was too cunning to trust to Irish security) for the lives of himself and his sons. This gentleman, who, a very few years ago, was contractor for forage, and afterwards exalted to a petty post in the war office, thought it necessary (as soon as he was appointed Secretary to the Treasury) to take that great house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in which the Earl of Northington had resided, while he was Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. As to the pension, Lord North very solemnly assured the House of Commons, that no pension was ever so well deserved as Mr. Bradshaw's.
N. B. Lord Camden and Sir Jeffery Amherst are not near so well provided for: and Sir Edward Hawke, who saved the state, retires with two thousand pounds a year on the Irish establishment, from which he, in fact, receives less than Mr. .Bradshaw's pension.

[139] he was entitled to it by the house he lives in. The successor of one Chancellor might well pretend to be the rival of another. It is the breach of private friendship which touches Mr. Bradshaw and, to say the truth, when a man of his rank and abilities had taken so active a part in your affairs, he ought not to have been let down at last with a miserable pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year. Colonel Luttrell, Mr. Onslow, and Governor Burgoyne, were equally engaged with you, and have rather more reason to complain than Mr. Bradshaw. These are men, my Lord, whose friendship you should have adhered to on the same principle on which you deserted Lord Rockingham, Lord Chatham, Lord Camden, and the Duke of Portland. We can easily account for your violating your engagements with men of honour; but why should you betray your natural connexions? Why separate yourself from Lord Sandwich, Lord Gower, and Mr. Rigby; or leave the three worthy gentlemen above-mentioned to shift for themselves? With all the fashionable indulgence of the times, this country does not abound in characters like theirs; and you may find it a very difficult matter to recruit the black catalogue of your friends.

The recollection of the royal patent you sold to Mr. Hine, obliges me to say a word in defence of a man, whom you have taken the most dishonourable means to injure. I do not refer to the sham prosecution which you affected to carry on against him. On that ground, I doubt not, he is prepared to meet you with tenfold recrimination, and set you at defiance. The injury you had done him affects his moral character. You knew that the offer to purchase the reversion of a place, which has heretofore been sold under a decree of the Court of Chancery, however imprudent in his situation, would no way tend to cover him with that sort of guilt which you wished to fix upon him in the eyes of the world. You laboured then, by every species of false suggestion, and even by publishing counterfeit letters, to have it understood, [140] that he had proposed terms of accommodation to you, and had offered to abandon his principles, his party, and his friends. You consulted your own breast for a character of consummate treachery, and gave it to the public for that of Mr. Vaughan. I think myself obliged to do this justice to an injured man, because I was deceived by the appearances thrown out by your Grace, and have frequently spoken of his conduct with indignation. If he really be, what I think him, honest, though mistaken, he will be happy in recovering his reputation, though at the expence of his understanding. Here I see the matter is likely to rest. Your Grace is afraid to carry on the prosecution. Mr. Hine keeps quiet possession of his purchase; and Governor Burgoyne, relieved from the apprehension of refunding the money, sits, down, for the remainder of his life, infamous and contented.

I believe, my Lord, I may now take my leave of you for ever. You are no longer that resolute Minister, who had spirit to support the most violent measures; who compensated for the want of good and great qualities, by a brave determination (which some people admired and relied on) to maintain himself without them. The reputation of obstinacy and perseverance might have supplied the place of all the absent virtues. You have now added the last negative to your character, and meanly confessed that you are destitute of the common spirit of a man. Retire, then, my Lord, and hide your blushes from the world; for, with such a load of shame, even black may change its colour. A mind, such as yours, in the solitary hours of domestic enjoyment, may still find topics of consolation. You may find it in the memory of violated friendship; in the afflictions of an accomplished Prince, whom you have disgraced and deserted; and in the agitations of a great country, driven, by your counsels, to the brink of destruction.

The palm of ministerial firmness is now transferred to Lord North. He tells us so himself, and with the plenitude of the ore rotundo *; and I am ready enough to believe, that, while he can keep his place, he will not easily

* This eloquent person has got as far as the discipline of Demosthenes. He constantly speaks with pebbles in his mouth, to improve his articulation.

[141] be persuaded to resign it. Your Grace was the firm Minister of yesterday; Lord North is the firm Minister of to-day. Tomorrow, perhaps, his Majesty, in his wisdom, may give us a rival for you both. You are too well acquainted with the temper of your late allies, to think it possible that Lord North should be permitted to govern this country. If we may believe common fame, they have shewn him their superiority already. His Majesty is, indeed, too gracious to insult his subjects, by choosing his first Minister from among the domestics of the Duke of Bedford; that would have been too gross an outrage to the three kingdoms. Their purpose, however, is equally answered, by pushing forward this unhappy figure, and forcing it to bear the odium of measures, which they in reality direct. Without immediately appearing to govern, they possess the power, and distribute the emoluments, of government, as they think proper. They still adhere to the spirit of that calculation, which made Mr. Luttrell representative of Middlesex. Far from regretting your retreat, they assure us, very gravely, that it increases the real strength of the Ministry. According to this way of reasoning, they will probably grow stronger and more flourishing, every hour they exist: for I think there is hardly a day passes in which some one or other of his Majesty's servants does not leave them to improve by the loss of his assistance. But, alas! their countenances speak a different language. When the members drop off, the main body cannot be insensible of its approaching dissolution. Even the violence of their proceedings is a signal of despair. Like broken tenants, who have had warning to quit the premises, they curse their landlord, destroy the fixtures, throw every thing into confusion, and care not what mischief they do to the estate.


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