The Age of George III

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Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham and his Contemporaries

Edinburgh Review July 1852

[110] Art. VI.—Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham and his Contemporaries, with Original Letters and Documents, now first published by George Thomas, Earl Of Albemarle. Two Volumes. London: 1852.

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Assuredly the lines of David Hume and his contemporaries were, as regarded the composition of their works, 'set in pleasant places.' A few folios and quartos, like Echard's and Salmon's, backed by the Cabbala, Rushworth's and Birch's Collections of State Papers, were their stock in trade. Manuscripts they seldom consulted: publishers' announcements of 'original letters' they had little reason to dread. Other men toiled and they spun, and the public applauded their graceful narratives as full and authentic accounts of English or Scottish events. Even the critics of their day, although neither unwilling to wound, nor afraid to strike, seldom possessed the means of knowing more than the historians themselves. The secret of cabinet and party intrigues slumbered, for the most part, in family chests, and the fashion of printing private letters was not as yet greatly in vogue.

But these Saturnian days have passed away. Not only are [111] State Papers more accessible, and even the secrets of the Calendar of 'the Baga de Secretis' brought to light, but the publication of family papers and journals has proved to the historian the breaking up of great deeps. We have still superficial narratives and partial chroniclers. But the penalties upon misrepresentation are now much heavier, and also far easier to enforce. The dead seem at the present day to be yet speaking in their letters; the owners of these treasures regard themselves generally as trustees of them for the public; one by one fragments of the past are disinterred; counter-depositions are being perpetually handed in; and the Mahons and Macaulays of our age sit like Minos and Rhadamanthus in perpetual assize, and are embarrassed by the very opulence of their materials.

Of the contemporary documents which now enable us to explore the maze of royal and party intrigues at the commencement and during the first twenty years of George III.'s reign, none are upon the whole more instructive than the Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham. The materials are solid, and the workmanship is generally good. We do not indeed assign to the noble editor at all a high place in the guild of bookmakers. With half his resources, and with very inferior talents for narrative, many writers would have forgotten their editorial functions altogether, and buried the letters under a mound of commentary. Lord Albemarle, however, has discharged his subsidiary labours more piously. Where his documents were sufficiently explicit, he is silent; where they need illustration, his comments are brief and pithy. Samuel Johnson, when he reported the debates for Cave's Magazine, took care, as he tells us, not to let 'the Whig dogs' have the best of the argument; and the descendant and representative of the 'true blue' house of Keppel occasionally recollects a family feud or tradition in his account of the Grenville and Bedford Whigs. But this is not more than might naturally be expected from so zealous a disciple of the Rockingham school, writing under the conviction that Burke's most efficient patron, and Fox's chosen model in all but eloquence, had hitherto been treated unfairly by even Whig historians, and had recently been strangely undervalued by no less an authority than Lord Mahon.

The period embraced in the volumes before us extends from the accession of George III., in 1760, to the decease of Lord Rockingham in 1782. The staple of the work consists of the papers of that estimable statesman, now in the possession of his nephew and successor, the present Earl Fitzwilliam; of letters contributed by the editor himself; and of others furnished by [112] the Duke of Richmond, the Earl of Hardwicke, and the Rev. Charles Lee, great nephew of Lord Rockingham's friend, Attorney-general Lee. Lord Rockingham's own letters it is scarcely possible in one sense to commend too highly. They do not indeed display any particular graces of epistolary composition. They aim at neither eloquence nor wit. But, like their author, they are honest, earnest, and dignified. Written often in haste, often under the joint pressure of business and sickness, they are never feeble. Addressed to persons of the most dissimilar characters — to the king, to colleagues, to opponents, to stanch friends, to hollow supporters — they are never coloured by a wish to please or beguile. The tone of his correspondents is much more diversified. The Duke of Newcastle's letters are querulous; the elder Pitt's are tumid and oracular; Sir George Savile conveys sagacious counsels in a rough cordial garb; Burke writes fervently, —. pressus et instans sibi, — and his Majesty like a shrewd and wary attorney. There is indeed much epistolary physiognomy in these memoirs. No statesman of his age possessed more loyal friends than Lord Rockingham, and his letters show that he merited their devotion to him. Lord Albemarle has discharged his editorial functions so generally well that we are sometimes disposed to regret that he did not become the biographer of Lord Rockingham. Under a more regular form it would have been easy to render the principal figure of his group more central and conspicuous. What, however, the nature of his work in some measure debarred the editor from doing, we shall attempt briefly to do, and place Lord Rockingham himself prominently before our readers, in the light of the acknowledged chief and eponymus of the most sound, if not the most brilliant section of the Whig party during the latter half of the last century.

On the female side Lord Rockingham was descended from one who would have felt small sympathy with his principles, even if he had not deemed him a fitting subject for examination, before the Star Chamber. Edward Watson, second Baron Rockingham, married Lady Anne Wentworth, eldest daughter of Charles the First's able and unprincipled Deputy of Ireland, the Earl of Strafford. By this marriage there were two sons, Lewis, who succeeded to the Barony, and Thomas, who took his mother's name of Wentworth. The son of the latter, also Thomas Wentworth, was created Baron Malton, Viscount Higham, and Earl of Malton, and his honours came so thick and rapidly upon him that Sir Robert Walpole remarked, 'I suppose we shall soon see our friend Malton in opposition, for he has had no promotion in the peerage for the last fortnight.' [113] But his promotion did not stop with an earl's coronet. His uncle Lewis dying without issue, the Earl of Malton became Baron, and, on the 19th of April, 1746, Marquis of Rockingham. His youngest, and as it proved, sole surviving son, was Charles Watson Wentworth, second Marquis of Rockingham, the subject of the present Memoirs.

He was born on the 19th of March, 1730. He probably inherited a feeble constitution; for his health, in manhood at least, was infirm, and his four elder brothers had died in childhood. 'Of his green and sallet days,' so often marked by the shadows of the future character, Lord Albemarle records nothing. But he was an ardent lover of field sports, and from the soubriquet which he acquired in his own family, 'Monkey Charles,' it may be inferred that he was somewhat of 'a Pickle.' The ' Memoirs' contain one escapade of 'Monkey Charles,' which has a serious aspect, and might have had grave consequences. In December, 1745, he was passing the Christmas holidays at Wentworth. At that moment there can scarcely have been more than one topic of conversation in hall or cottage throughout all the Ridings of Yorkshire. For not more than a fortnight before the 'breaking up' at Eton, the Pretender had been quartered at Derby with an army of strange garb and yet stranger speech. A hundred years before a Scottish army had in like manner crossed the Border to set the heir of the Stuarts upon the British throne. Bad as the roads were, and slowly as news circulated in 1745, it must have been known by the end of December in every hamlet in Yorkshire, that on the sixth of that month, — the long remembered Black Friday, — the shops in London had been shut, and the streets of London thronged with horsemen and carriages hurrying southward, and the royal yachts moored at Tower Quay ready to sail for Hanover at a moment's warning. By the end of December indeed the Highlanders had disappeared from Cheshire and Lancashire: but the alarm which their presence had caused did not immediately subside. In no family circle can we imagine greater joy to have prevailed at their retreat than in that which was then burning the yule-log at Wentworth House. Upon no member of that circle were the feelings of the crisis more deeply impressed than upon the youthful heir of the Barony of Rockingham. One morning he was missing from the breakfast table. He had ridden forth early with a trusty groom. Night came on, and neither the groom nor his young master had returned. The next day it was discovered that Lord Higham and his attendant had been seen riding rapidly in a northerly direction. Soon a letter arrived from the truant himself, dated 'Carlisle,' the [114] headquarters of the Duke of Cumberland. This letter has been lost: but it was succeeded by a second to the Countess of Malton which deserves to be ranked among characteristic epistles. Its tone is any thing but apologetic. It betrays no feeling in the writer of having done any thing adventurous. It expresses indeed pious regret for anxiety occasioned, but it soberly alleges 'the desire of serving his king and country as  much as lay in his power,' as the sole motive for the liberty the youthful patriot had taken. The incident would well have ushered in a more striking career than followed.

In 1750, Lord Higham, or, as he had since become, the Earl of Malton, succeeded his father as Marquis of Rockingham. Soon after he came of age, he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire, and a Lord of the Bedchamber to George II. In 1760, he received the order of the Garter. His birth, his connexions, his large estates, and his political principles marked out the second Marquis of Rockingham as a leading Whig magnate of the time. But he was destined to a yet more conspicuous part than merely ranking high inter Pelopidas. From the fifth year of the reign of George III. his biography falls into the great stream of history.

A few years ago it was scarcely possible to obtain from books alone either clear or consistent accounts of the earlier periods of this reign. Neither Aikin, Belsham, nor Adolphus solved, or indeed had it in their power to solve satisfactorily, the Whig or Tory problems which they had respectively proposed. It was unsafe to put trust in Walpole: it was impossible to credit Wraxall: and Madame D'Arblay's memoirs did not, we confess, create in us any remarkable desire to know more of the Penates of Windsor. We believe that there is an opinion current in many quarters that the reputation of George III. will 'improve with keeping.' The Rockingham memoirs do not favour that expectation; neither do they materially sanction a still more flattering opinion that he was felicior Augusta, melior Trajano, — a kind of patriarch sovereign, who ruled his tribe paternally, and whose virtues it is ungrateful, if not impious to deny. On the other hand, it was difficult to account for the frequently pitiful spectacle presented by that monarch and his advisers in the period between his accession and the close of the first war with America. The North papers have been suspiciously destroyed; but with the Bedford, Chatham, and Rockingham correspondence before us, and the Grenville in course of publication, — and we should rejoice if the archives at Luton were similarly exposed to view, — we are in a position to estimate fairly the claims of the King and of his ostensible or secret counsellors to the praise or the blame [115] hitherto accorded. The veil has been gradually drawn up. We are become, and with the advantage of distance, spectators of the passions and intrigues which, whether in the Royal Closet, or in the conciliabula of Hayes, Stowe, and Richmond, broke up the 'Whig connexion,' reanimated the Tory party, committed the Crown and Legislature to direct collision on grave political questions with an able and profligate adventurer, paralysed the genius of Chatham, barbed the arrow of Junius, and severed from Great Britain the fairest portion of her colonial empire.

The first twenty years of George the Third's reign resemble in their historical features those level passages which the great masters of harmony introduce into their works to usher in more effectively some sublime crescendo or catastrophe. It was an age generally barren in great events and heroic characters; hut it was also an age teeming in no ordinary measure with the germs of both material and intellectual development. In the year 1760 the curtain had dropped for ever upon the crimes and the woes of the Stuarts. The warlike ardour which Pitt had kindled by his eloquence, and guided with singular energy and fortune, was dying down. France, indeed, had been humbled, and in the orator's phrase, ' brought to her knees;' but the English nation was beginning to count the cost of bonfires and artillery-salvos, and banners hung up in St. Paul's and oxen roasted in market-places. The country at large was generally prosperous; but it was also greatly in debt. Apathy had succeeded to turbulence in the political world. The course of parliamentary debate ran as smoothly for the most part as the discussions of a parish vestry. The Tory opposition, either sullenly acquiesced in their Hanoverian king and his Whig counsellors, or gradually amalgamated with their former opponents, and accepted subordinate offices under a government which their grandfathers had denounced as contrary both to divine and human law. The Whig phalanx no longer presented that compact and serried front which had seated and kept the House of Brunswick on the throne, and had compelled its princes to accept ministers from the hands of the nation, and to take the Act of Settlement as a guide to their feet and a lamp to their paths. On the surface of parties there was indeed a great calm; but in the heart of the Cabinet, and in the disposition of the youthful sovereign, were the elements of a storm, which for the ensuing twenty years disturbed both the Monarch and the Legislature.

It soon became obvious that a new Pharaoh had succeeded. The speech which the King made to his Council was not previously submitted to the Cabinet. The Duke of Newcastle stood aghast [116] at such royal independence: and Pitt was naturally, if not justly, offended at certain phrases which seemed to reflect upon the warlike policy of the late reign. It was also equally apparent that the responsible advisers were not the real counsellors of the Crown: that the royal ear was preoccupied by the suggestions of Lord Bute, and that the Princess Dowager had instilled into her then docile son the maxims of Bolingbroke rather than those of Somers or Walpole. The doctrines sketched in the 'Craftsman' and the Patriot King' had passed from Leicester House to St. James's Palace. The objects and tactics of the new system are thus concisely stated by Lord Albemarle:—

'The primary object of the Leicester House system was to break up the powerful Whig confederacy which had been, with little intermission, in power since the Revolution, and without any interval since the accession of the House of Brunswick. Strong in family connexion and popular sympathy, the Whigs had seated and retained that dynasty on the throne, and their motive in upholding a foreign rather than a native line of princes was, that they might the more effectually protect the liberties of the people against the encroachments of the Crown. But since the Whigs, collectively, were too powerful and too popular a body to be summarily dismissed, the leading men were to be removed, one by one, from the Cabinet and the Household. They would thus be expelled from office without the benefit of popular feeling in their behalf, and would enter Opposition as a corps distrustful of one another, and disunited among themselves. Had the designs of the Court been confined to the adoption of a less liberal school of policy, the new scheme would not have differed from an ordinary intrigue for the removal of opponents and the acquisition of office. But the royal junto had a deeper and more unconstitutional purpose in view. They wished virtually to supersede both the old Whig and Tory parties, and to create a third party, which might form a permanent barrier against the attempt of any future Cabinet to act independently of the royal will. The old method of ruling by favourites was to be revived under a new form. In the place of an individual minister, a Buckingham or a Strafford, whom popular odium might easily displace, or an Abigail Masham, whom a responsible minister might purchase or disregard, a cabinet or household of favourites was to be placed around the sovereign, in numbers sufficient to divide and weaken popular hatred, and with influence enough to command a certain measure of political support. A confederacy of renegades from every political section of the State was accordingly formed, which was afterwards known by the appellation of "King's Friends." The members of this new association abjured all party distinction, and professed to regard the pleasure of the Sovereign as the sole source and condition of power. Although holding many of the offices under the Crown, they acted irrespectively of the King's constitutional advisers: and voted with or against Ministers according to the expressed or supposed predilections of their royal master.

[117]  George III., like Charles I, inherited from his predecessor a war with France, and a quarrel with Spain. The Whig Ministry was divided in itself about the prosecution of the war. Pitt, und his brother-in-law, Lord Temple, were belligerent; the rest of the Cabinet inclined to peace. Through this breach of official continuity, Lord Bute made his first approaches. He began by cajoling Newcastle with assurances that he was more acceptable to the King than his eloquent and popular colleague. The Duke was summoned to Carlton House some hours before the great commoner, and His Majesty adroitly affected great regard for his person, and significantly hinted that the favourite was his good friend. Pitt accordingly had grounds for suspecting that Newcastle had been the first to see and approve of the Royal Speech, in which the war was mentioned with some disparagement. He succeeded indeed in giving to the Speech a more martial tone; but here were good foundations laid for jealousies and schisms between partners never very cordially disposed to each other.

The rent speedily grew wider. The peace party in the Cabinet could do nothing but appoint negotiators, whose intercession was nullified by Pitt's despatching 'two days before the bearer of the French olive-branch arrived in town,' an armament against Belleisle. Newcastle protested against saddling the nation with fresh loans and taxes, and talked with no bated breath of the uncivil usage he met with 'from Pitt and his bloodhounds.' In a letter written on the l5th of August, 1761, he describes his rival's conduct 'as bad, as unjust, as hostile, and as impracticable as ever came even from him.' On the 5th of October, Pitt resigned office, and his example was followed two days afterwards by Lord Temple. The Cabinet generally was opposed to an immediate declaration of hostilities with Spain, and Pitt 'would no longer remain in a situation which made him responsible for measures he was no longer able to guide.'

The Whig Cabinet had rested upon three main pillars— family connexion, borough influence, and Pitt's eloquence. Its popular element was now removed: it remained to sever and discard the others. Newcastle was the next victim. There were limits even to his endurance, and a series of slights and .affronts at length drove him to resign. On the retirement of .his great rival and colleague, indeed, he had hoped to regain his former pre-eminence. But he had only exchanged an impracticable partner for an absolute master, as Lord Bute immediately assumed the entire management of affairs. His almost hysterical joy at Pitt's resignation was speedily followed by equally hysterical distress. Lord Talbot, who, as a 'king's friend,' [118] probably knew what was likely to happen, considerately advised his Grace 'not to die for joy on the Monday, nor for fear on the Tuesday.' Bute bullied, the Court thwarted. His Majesty was 'barely civil' to the dowager Secretary: his advice was disregarded, his patronage, once so efficient, could not now procure a tide-waiter's place; and on the royal visit to the city on the 9th of November 1761, the mob greeted him with cries of 'no Newcastle salmon.' In the following May, he tendered his resignation with some dignity, since he declined a pension, and refused to be coaxed either by the King or the favourite into promising them his support.

The leaders of the Whig Cabinet were now dismissed. But so long as a Whig household remained about the Royal person, Lord Bute's triumph was neither complete nor sufficiently proclaimed. It was not then, indeed, the fashion to regard the Cabinet and Household as politically connected with each other: and the ties of party appear to have been, to modern notions at least, exceedingly lax and undefined. The Duke of Devonshire, whom the Leicester House faction denominated the 'Prince of the Whigs,' was Lord Chamberlain. He intimated to His Majesty shortly after Newcastle's retirement, his willingness to remain in office, but declined assisting at councils which were conducted on principles he could no longer approve. This divided allegiance was highly displeasing both to the King and the favourite, and the staff of office was torn rather than taken from him. The Duke's brother, Lord George, on the same day gave up his place of Comptroller of the Household, and was treated 'in the closet,' with equal contumely. Immediately after these changes, Lord Rockingham resigned his post of Lord of the Bedchamber, not, however, without a grave and temperate remonstrance to the youthful monarch upon the unusual and dangerous tendency of the counsels which now prevailed. But George III. was as incapable of following, as Lord Bute was of giving, wholesome advice. Both trod in the paths of Charles and Buckingham, with more adroitness but with less excuse.

Irony is seldom the growth of royal minds. It is too closely allied, on the one hand, to earnest feelings, and, on the other, to a subtle intellect to be native there. But if George III. have any claim to that quality, it rests upon the opening sentence of his Address to the Privy Council on assuming the kingly office. 'Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton, and the peculiar happiness of my life will ever consist in promoting the welfare of a people whose loyalty and warm affection I consider as the greatest and most permanent security [119]  of my throne.' Taken in connexion with their proper context, the political history of the succeeding twenty years, these words may be read with a sigh or a smile, like the nolo episcopari of Laud or Phillpott. The youthful King did not indeed overestimate the advantages of his position; but he knew not how to turn them to the best account. His title to the crown was undisputed except by a few sullen Jacobite squires and a few Oxford divines. His person was manly, his demeanour was agreeable and gracious, his morals were free from the reproach of fashionable vices, and he had not been mixed up directly in any of the squabbles which for two generations had rendered the royal house so unedifying a spectacle to all tolerably accordant fathers and sons. The English people is generous and confiding, and was prepared to greet its new sovereign with all the warmth of a new passion, and with more than the indulgence naturally extended to a young and untried prince.

He was, however, at the outset as much deserving of pity as of blame. His 'common mind' was formed by his 'education.' His antipathies had been sedulously nurtured, his discernment purposely blinded by those who had charge of him. His mother, a factious and turbulent woman, derived her notions of the duties of a king from the precepts of her Tory circle, and the practice of a German court. From his boyhood she had ever whispered into his ear, 'George, be king;' such a king, namely, as Britain had not seen since 1687, — a king who aspired to control his responsible advisers, and to tamper, since it was impossible to dispense, with Parliament. Of his tutors, those who, like Lord Waldegrave or Mr. Stone, might have imparted wholesome instructions, were scarcely allowed access to him, while the lessons really inculcated into the royal pupil were the doctrines of Bolingbroke, commented upon by a tuft-hunting bishop and a vain and superficial Scotch nobleman. From Harcourt, Bishop of Norwich, he learned little of religion beyond its formalities and a hatred of dissent; and Lord Bute carefully trained him to be an absolute prince, in order that the favourite himself might in due time become a more absolute prime minister. Now this was worshipful society, and the effects of such communications were speedily apparent. The young sovereign was by disposition decorous and methodical, a dutiful son, a constant husband, and a kind, if not a discreet parent. He was diligent in business, and not without shrewd insights into character. His fondness for field sports and agriculture qualified him for a first-rate country gentleman. As Master of the Hunt, or even as chairman of the Berkshire Quarter Sessions, he would have made a popular figure. But [120] he never imbibed from his tutors, nor, perhaps, could he imbibe from them, a single lofty aspiration, or a single sentiment, befitting his position. The Princess Dowager lived immured with factious partisans or scandalous ladies-in-waiting. Lord Bute dabbled in the arts, and excelled in private theatricals. But he had neither official nor worldly experience. He was as frivolous as Carr, and as supercilious as Villiers. The young Augustus had been trained by a foolish Livia and a faltering Sejanus.

Nor was the great Whig party itself at the time by any means blameless. In the pages of the 'Rockingham Memoirs' we trace its gradual return to the pure doctrines of Somers and Halifax, but we behold it at first in a divided and degenerate condition. With regard to party ab extra, it slumbered in the lap of security. The eloquence of Pitt had awed opposition, the borough influence and bureaucratic arts of Newcastle had slackened the tone and impaired the energies of Parliament. But as regarded the party itself within, 'fears and jealousies had cast a scurf’ over its vitality. By its own imperfect cohesion it met the gathering opposition to it half way. Pitt and Newcastle had never been sincerely in accord. As early as 1756 a negotiation had broken off on Pitt's refusal to come into office, if the Duke of Newcastle were to continue in the Ministry. (Grenville Correspondence, vol. i. p. 436.) Both were jealous of the Bedford section, and that section in its turn kept sullenly aloof from the main body of the connexion. For the general purification of the whole body a series of disasters and mortifications was perhaps needed, and Wilkes, Junius, and the American War sifted and winnowed effectually the chaff from the wheat.

On the Duke of Newcastle's resignation Lord Bute became First Lord of the Treasury, Mr. Grenville Secretary of State, and Sir Francis Dashwood Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the eyes of contemporaries the latter appointment was singularly unhappy, for Sir Francis was at once eccentric, immoral, and incapable. It was not, however, the most infelicitous in the end, for both Dashwood and Lord Bute were officially short-lived, and the burden of misgovernment lay for several years on the shoulders of Grenville alone. To him, at least to him principally, must be ascribed the unseemly collision with Wilkes, the calamitous breach with the colonies, and the feuds, jealousies, and follies of parties and statesmen, which caused the earlier period of George III.'s reign to resemble, as the North Briton shrewdly remarked at the time, some weak and miserable epoch in Byzantine annals. In the following sketch of the 'Grenville brothers' Lord Albemarle has, perhaps, scarcely awarded [121] sufficient credit to the elder of the two for some warmth of feeling to his kindred, and for a still greater generosity in pecuniary matters. In other respects the portraiture is sufficiently exact, and is traced with that precision which generally distinguishes our author's pencil: —

No two monarchs were probably ever more pestered by their advisers than George the Second and his successor by Lord Temple and George Grenville. Nor were their Majesties the only victims. There was scarcely a contemporary statesman who had not been bullied or bored by this ruthless pair of brothers. Both indeed were tormentors of the first order. Yet their connexions rendered them indispensable; their talents, their knowledge of the world and of parliamentary forms made them serviceable; and their profession of Whig principles gave them a kind of reputation for liberal sentiments.

Richard, Earl Temple, the elder brother, had good business-habits and much industry, and was by no means an inefficient speaker. His huge ungainly figure procured for him the nickname of "Squire Gawkey." The qualities of his mind were indeed as loosely put together as his limbs. With much ambition, his own wayward caprice or masterless pride constantly marred his plans of self- aggrandisement. He was frequently asking favours of George the Second. That monarch accounted himself at least a Turenne in war; yet his Privy Seal gracefully insinuated that His Majesty had no more spirit than Admiral Byng, whose death-warrant he had just signed.

One of Temple's grand schemes was to establish a triumvirate government *, to be composed of himself, his brother George, and his brother-in-law, Pitt — three men whose opinions were as opposite as the antipodes, and who were almost always at personal variance with each other. Temple, indeed, appears to have had no fixed principles of action. He adopted the cause of prerogative against the Americans, and the side of Wilkes against the prerogative. Mischief

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* Mr. G. Grenville, in 1762, drew up a formal narrative of their family quarrels. He attributes them to Pitt; the friendship and political intercourse with whom, he says, 'have proved so fatal to the peace and happiness of our family,' and by forwarding whose marriage with his sister, he describes himself as 'having brought into the family an enemy and not a friend.' Afterwards, on Pitt's neglecting to secure for him the office of Paymaster, he adds, 'My two brothers were privy to all that had passed on this occasion; to them I expressed my surprise and dissatisfaction at a behaviour so contrary not only to the friendship and alliance subsisting between us, but to the engagements of honour and good faith. I cannot say that either of them interested themselves at all in this complaint, or took any other part than to use their utmost endeavours to persuade me to acquiesce in it.' ( Grenville Correspondence, vol. i. p. 422.) Divide et impera was not difficult for the monarch here.

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[122] appears to have been the main incentive of his actions: nevertheless he preferred being a backer rather than a principal. He was Wilkes's prime instigator in his wicked pranks against the King and the Court. He was likewise Chatham's evil genius: and occasionally led his brother-in-law to commit imprudences into which a school-boy would hardly have fallen. He was indeed the cause of half the errors and inconsistencies committed by that statesman. The result of his political life was that Lord Temple, after thirty years' factious meddling in public affairs, died distrusted and avoided by the associates of his earlier days.

George Grenville was greatly superior to his brother in talents. Pitt considered him to be the best parliament man in the House. Formal, punctual, and exact he undoubtedly was. But his pride and pertinacity were as obstructive, as his regularity was conducive, to progress in affairs. Ingratitude was one of his besetting sins. Whatever may have been Lord Bute's demerits, he at least was Grenville's benefactor. Whatever may have been Pitt's profusion in war, Grenville long supported his martial measures. Yet he was among the very first to turn against Bute, and to upbraid Pitt for his extravagance.

Unlike as were the brothers in personal appearance, there was much similarity in the conformation of their minds. Their common characteristics were pride, want of tact, and jealousy of all around them. Each lost office by the violence of his temper, and the haughtiness of each rendered a return to power impracticable. Each of them was revengeful; each vented his vindictive feelings in pamphlets. Each possessed a stream of words, which, in all places and on all occasions, flowed from him in omne volubilis ævum. Like Temple, too, George Grenville regarded the King as the proper butt of his tedious harangues, and, at times, of his angry invective. "When he has wearied me for two hours," said George the Third, exhausted after one of these inflictions, "he looks at his watch to see if he may not tire me for an hour more.

The 'Grenville Correspondence,' and especially the 'Diary,' afford us glimpses into the royal closet about this time which fully confirm Lord Albemarle's account of this at once unpopular and uncourtly Ministry. From these sources we learn that Lord Mansfield informed His Majesty that Chief Justice Pratt was a more scandalous judge than Jeffries himself; — that Grenville was wont to talk of Pitt, Pratt, and Wilkes as the extreme section of the Opposition; — that the King himself would not inquire about the health of the Duke of Cumberland, who had recently been struck by apoplexy, lest he should be supposed to have a regard for him. Grenville, we are told, on the same authority, complained of backstair influence, and the Queen's ladies of honour lamented that Lord Bute's handsome form was married to such a ' fluctuating mind.' The position of the King, indeed, had become most infelicitous. His victory [123] was more bitter and humiliating than defeat. He had exchanged his grandfather's strict counsellors for imperious masters, or for friends and favourites who brought him into contempt. He reaped early the fruits of division. Lord Bute, after a vain attempt to lure Pitt and Newcastle back again to the posts whence he had driven them, himself suddenly quitted the helm. He had not found office a bed of roses, and he had stuffed the royal pillow with thorns. No acclamations greeted the King when he appeared in public; in private he was still more unhappy; his Ministers upbraided him with inconsistency, if not with treachery; his friends were undisciplined and indiscreet; and a sovereign who had ascended the throne the most popular of his race became, in the short space of five years, nearly as unacceptable to the nation at large as Edward II. to his barons, or as Charles I., after the imposition of ship-money, to the freeholders of Buckinghamshire.

On the decease of the Duke of Devonshire, in 1764, the headship of the Whig party was by general consent assigned to the Marquis of Rockingham. There were many reasons for this selection, there were some against it. Lord Rockingham was a safe, but not an effective party leader. He was timid, scrupulous, and ineloquent. He was not a favourite with the people; he rarely addressed Parliament. A nervous susceptibility— the result of infirm health.—made him, on all ordinary occasions, appear feeble and unequal to his prominent position. He could not, like Pitt, arouse or control the passions of an audience; still less could he, like Newcastle, tempt or tamper with the jealousy or cupidity of individuals. His relations to the King were unfortunate. He inspired the royal mind with neither awe nor affection. The King believed Lord Rockingham to be infirm of purpose, because he was often hesitating in manner. Lord Rockingham long deluded himself with the notion that the King would be himself ingenuous, if he could once be separated from his evil advisers. They respectively misunderstood each other, but the subject's delusion was the more brief. On the other hand, the reasons for placing Lord Rockingham at the head of the Whig party were many and valid. He possessed a calm intrepid mind, and a clear understanding; he was a purist in principle, in an age of almost universal corruption. His theory of government was severely constitutional, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left from the original doctrines of the Act of Settlement. His bearing and predilections were, indeed, aristocratical, but they would have adorned ' the most high and palmy state' of Venice or Rome.

[124] The ' Chatham Correspondence' is by no means a readable book, yet there are passages in it to which it is pleasant to turn. They are the letters in which Pitt drops for the time his generally stiff and stilted language, and writes with the genuine simplicity of a husband or father. If Lord Rockingham did not possess 'troops of friends,' he was at least remarkably fortunate in the attachments which he inspired and retained. To have been a common centre of attraction and affection to such men as Sir George Savile, Attorney-General Lee, Burke, and Fox implies no ordinary worth in the object of those sentiments. The fidelity of his adherents was independent of the ties of faction or interest. To the Whigs, during the greater portion of George III.'s reign, faith to their leaders was a virtual resignation of emoluments and honours. Pitt and his brothers-in- law, we have seen, were frequently at variance. The Duke of Bedford was neither happy nor discriminating in his friendships. 'His relations,' Lord Albemarle remarks, 'were Tories, and his companions profligates; and the prejudices and excesses of his own circle re-acted upon his own estimation in the world.' The 'Rockingham Whigs' alone, amid all the party divisions of the age, presented the agreeable spectacle of a band of statesmen united in principles, and mutually respecting one another for private as well as public virtues. This, indeed, was the secret of their strength in opposition—for the eloquence even of Burke would not alone have cemented it,—and of their success in power, as far as they were permitted to succeed. They had warm feelings; they had legitimate aims; they could indulge in the luxury of self-respect, — a luxury which no other section of either Whigs or Tories could then decently claim, — and in their common affection for their chief they enjoyed a peculiar and inestimable privilege as public men. Nor, although thwarted by many who should have supported them, assailed by a powerful opposition, betrayed and undermined by the King and his friends, were the Rockingham Whigs unsuccessful as a Cabinet. By no one Ministry between the epoch of the Revolution and that of the Reform Bill were so many immunities gained for the people, or, strictly speaking, so many breaches repaired in the Constitution, as by that which Charles Townsend contemptuously called the ' Lute-string Administration.' The character of the leader was reflected in that of his followers. A brilliant staff gradually formed itself around the most constitutional minister of the age, and Burke's genius was matured and Fox's eloquence was disciplined in the congenial society of Keppel, Portland, Montagu, and Cavendish.

[125] Had Lord Rockingham, indeed, conferred no other boon on his party than his early recognition of Burke's genius, he would have deserved well both of his adherents and his country. We are not insensible to the imperfections of this great man. We deplore the prejudices which latterly dimmed his intellectual vision, and the heat and haste which severed him from the friends and colleagues of his better days. But, after every abatement has been made, it is impossible to deny to Burke the praise of having contributed, both by his speeches and his writings, beyond any man of his time, to the reconstruction and elevation of Whig principles, or, rather, of those principles which, from the year 1640 to the present time, have progressively secured or extended the liberties of the English nation. And this he effected, not so much by parliamentary eloquence — for as a debater he was far inferior to Fox—as by his constant appeal to broad and general principles in politics, by his applying the universal laws of philosophy to the partial truths of the question and the hour. There have been few such striking successions in the realm of eloquence as the contemporaneous rise and decline of Burke and Chatham. Marcus Cicero had listened to the fervent declamations of Sulpicius and Cotta, and to the last orations of Crassus and Antonius; and ancient men may have kindled the boyish ardour of Demosthenes, by reciting, as they watched the exercises of the Athenian youth in the gymnasia, portions of the harangues of Pericles. But neither the Attic nor the Roman orator actually met their great precursors in the arena of debate, while Burke, both on the Treasury and Opposition Benches, was a frequent auditor of the old man eloquent, who had carried dismay into the heart of Walpole, and ' fulmined' by the side of Pulteney and Carteret. Their respective powers were, indeed, as dissimilar as the fashion of their garments or the character of their eloquence. 'Chatham,' as Lord Albemarle remarks, 'was at once the Cicero and the Roscius of his age, a great orator, and a consummate actor.’ His gestures, his tones, his crutch, and the flannels which swathed his limbs, were, as he employed them, so many stage properties. He neither dealt nor delighted in general maxims, or far-reaching principles. His 'burning words' involved no recondite truths; he has bequeathed little or nothing to the 'practique or theorique' of politics. His mission was to confute or convince, to rouse or to soothe the passions of the moment. He was a burning and a shining light for the hour, but not, like Burke, a perpetual beacon for all ages. Chatham's speeches would have been applauded by the 'men of Athens;' [126] Burke's discourses would have furnished new meditations to Bacon and Macchiavelli.*

The name of William Pitt occurs frequently in the 'Rockingham Memoirs,' but rather as a nominis umbra, than as that of the Great Commoner who, in the preceding reign, had raised his country from almost unexampled depression to rarely surpassed glory. To minds of a certain order prosperity is more dangerous than adversity.

'For some by Fortune's favours are undone;
They bore the wind who cannot bear the sun,
But melt, and into baser metal run.

Had Pitt either died or quitted the political helm at the

* Burke's correspondence shows how deeply his mind, (however vehement, yet at once more philosophical and more practical,) had been estranged by the unaccountable eccentricities of Lord Chatham. He somewhere describes him, as lying on his back talking fustian. Two letters, published by Lord Albemarle, throw some light on their differences. The first was written to Lord Rockingham in Christmas week, 1774.

'One cannot help feeling for the unhappy situation in which we stand from our unhappy divisions. Lord Chatham shows a disposition to come near you, but with those resources (?), which he never fails to have as long as he thinks that the closet door stands ajar to receive him. The least peep into that closet intoxicates him, and will to the end of his life. However, as he is and must be looked to by those that are within and those that are without, it would not be amiss to find out how he proposes to act, and, if possible, to fall in with him in Parliament (on the subject of America), though you may never come to an understanding with him in other politics.' (Vol. ii. p. 260.)

The other letter is a memorandum in Burke's own hand, and dated July 13, 1792, on the back of an old letter from Chatham to Lord Rockingham, in which Burke's 'Thoughts on the Present Discontents,' though it had undergone the scrutiny of the leaders of the party before it went to press, is slightingly noticed, as having done much hurt to the cause.

' Looking over poor Lord Rockingham's papers, I find this letter from a man wholly unlike him. It concerns my pamphlet (The Cause of the Discontents). I remember to have seen this knavish letter at the time. The pamphlet is itself, by anticipation, an answer to that grand artificer of fraud. He would not like it. It is pleasant to hear him talk of the great extensive public, who never conversed but with a parcel of low toad eaters. Alas! alas! how different the real from the ostensible public man! Must all this theatrical stuffing and raised heels be necessary for the character of a great man? Edmund Burke. Oh! but this does not derogate from his great splendid side. God forbid! E. B.'

[127]  decease of George II., he would have shone in English annals with almost the ideal splendour of one of Plutarch's heroes. He had, indeed, committed great faults, for he had cherished in his countrymen a passion for war, and a recklessness of economy. But his faults were those of an ardent temperament, and he had compensated for them by essential services to the people who so loved and honoured him, and whose reputation he held in his heart of hearts. He had made England renowned abroad, and enterprising, if not prosperous, at home. His eloquence had vanquished the reluctance of the King, and lulled the fury of parties. In an age of signal corruption he had exhibited perfect cleanness of hands. He had poured into the national mind streams of ennobling thoughts, and the fear of him and the dread of him had penetrated the hearts of foreign cabinets and kings. But from the commencement, and with few intervals of a better mood, nearly to the close of the period now under reviewal, Pitt appears, although not altogether fallen from his high estate, yet comparatively weak, irresolute, factious, and self-seeking. The great Whig connexion, which he had mainly reorganised after Walpole's retirement, was, through his caprice or obstinacy principally, again broken up. In the cabinet he was jealous, imperious, and ineffective, in the royal closet servile, and in opposition a hazardous and impracticable pilot. Little remained of his earlier greatness beyond integrity, uncertain flashes of eloquence, and his genuine and touching domestic virtues. To Pitt's lofty mind the policy of the King's friends was repulsive and degrading; the conduct of his brothers-in-law was a perpetual mortification. He protested against the prosecution of Wilkes; he deplored their doctrines of parliamentary absolutism, and he abominated their demeanour to the American colonies. Both publicly and privately he lamented the selfish intrigues of the Bedford section of the Whigs, and extolled the integrity and the intentions of Lord Rockingham and his followers. Yet, by sowing or fostering divisions among the Whigs generally, he directly forwarded the intrigues of the King's friends; he lent himself to the plots of his brothers-in-law; he enabled the Bedford party to supplant for a while the Rockingham party, and he undermined or thwarted the counsels of the only political section in Great Britain which, by his own admission, was both able and honest enough to conduct the affairs of the nation. History affords few sadder or more memorable examples of a great mind surviving its proper energies, and marring with envious clouds the evening of a brilliant noon. His place in. the [128] Walhalla of Statesmen should have been between the images of Oxenstiern and De Witt. But the pedestal is uninscribed. Manly consistency was wanting.

In 1765 the Grenville Administration could go on no longer. The crazy union with the Bedford party did not succeed. They had failed in cajoling Newcastle, and in conciliating Pitt. They had become intolerable to the King. They had irritated Lord Bute; and had denied place and countenance to the King's friends. They had embroiled England with her American Colonies. Their quarrel with Wilkes had made the name of Privilege obnoxious to the people at large: so that their persons were not safe in London, the yells of an infuriated mob greeted them in the streets, and paving-stones were flung into their carriage windows. Grub Street and the caricaturists grew fat upon the unpopularity of George Grenville. On the 6th of May the King began to make indirect overtures to the Whig leaders: on the 18th he announced to his Secretary of State that he purposed a change of administration. The vacant Premiership was offered at first to Pitt, but Lord Temple would not allow him to accept it on any practicable terms — and afterwards to Lord Lyttelton, but he would not desert the Pitt and Temple section. At length, after much heart-burning and recrimination between the King and his nominal advisers, the leaders of the Whigs met at Newcastle House on the 30th of June; and it was decided, by a majority of twelve to six, that a new Ministry should be formed, over which the Marquis of Rockingham was unanimously chosen to preside. Conway led the House of Commons, and was Secretary of State with the Duke of Grafton for his colleague. The Duke of Newcastle was Privy Seal, and Dowdeswell, Chancellor of the Exchequer. All these and others are, more or less, 'known to fame.' Not so one of the most estimable men of the time and of the party, whose portraiture we shall therefore borrow from Lord Albemarle's gallery.

'The Premier's friend, Sir George Savile, was invited to take part in the Rockingham Administration. But with his habitual delicacy and candour he declined the offer, alleging that, as an independent member of Parliament, he could better assert his privileges and serve his friends. Faction has spared the name of Savile: contemporaries are unanimous in representing him as in the highest degree generous, benevolent, disinterested, and unostentatious—high commendations in an age when mere negative virtues were rare, and statesmen, imitated the maxims rather than the practice of Sir Robert Walpole. In person Savile was somewhat above the middle size; his figure was slender, his complexion adust, his constitution delicate; his address was easy and almost bordering upon negligence. As an orator he possessed great facility of utterance, and was simple even to austerity [129] in the choice of Ins words. In debate he was clear, sensible, and persuasive. A peculiar radiance spread over his features whenever philanthropy was the theme of his discourse. Indeed, the general. belief in the honesty and benevolence of his intentions produced such an impression in favour of his arguments, that "Truth came mended from his tongue." His habits of thinking were very original. "He had a head," Walpole remarks, "as acutely argumentative as if it had been made by a German logician for a model." He was also a shrewd observer of contemporary statesmen. He predicted early the future greatness of Charles Fox. When that statesman was scarcely a man, he praised him for his readiness in finding out blots — his celerity in hitting the bird's-eye of an argument, and his general talents for opposition. "Hence," said Savile, "others may have more stock, but Fox has more ready money about him than any of his party."

' Toleration in matters of religion is a doctrine of comparatively recent growth. It was imperfectly understood by the Whigs of the last century, who combined the ideas of Protestantism and the Hanoverian succession. It was utterly unknown to their opponents, who recognised the Church of England as the sole Church of Christ. But Savile was an honourable exception to both these extremes. He advocated the claims of the Roman Catholics, and his advocacy exposed him to the fury of the Church and King Mobs of the year '80; and yet even while his house was assailed and frequent attempts were made to set it on fire, he spoke of the incendiaries with compassion, and ascribed the zeal of the multitude rather to their ignorance than to their evil passions,— rather to their being led by blind guides than to the spontaneous aberration of their own feelings.'

The Cabinet which embodies a section only of a party labours under the twofold disadvantage of direct opposition and 'half-faced fellowship.' But this was by no means the only or the most serious difficulty which awaited the Rockingham Ministry. Its chief was both ineloquent and constitutionally timid in debate. It had some tolerable speakers, like Conway, but no consummate orator—for Burke had not a seat in the Cabinet. It suffered, ere it was many weeks old, a fatal blow in the death of the Duke of Cumberland, who had some influence with the Bedford party, and who could at times remonstrate successfully with his royal nephew. Pitt and Temple were discontented and supercilious allies: they tolerated Lord Rockingham as Mrs. Candour tolerated her female friends, hinting at their supposed foibles and liberally expressing their own dislikes. Lord Bute stalked moodily in the background: he was the spectre at every ministerial banquet, and his whispers were supposed, not without grave reasons for the belief, still to reach the royal ear. In scattering unfavourable rumours the ' King's friends' were as [130] active and adroit as Fame herself: while in the Household there was more than one ally who infinitely preferred Plato to truth —the King's understood pleasure to the King's public professions. But the most formidable antagonist of the Rockingham Ministry was the King himself. The Gazette which announced that His Majesty had been pleased to appoint Charles Watson Wentworth, &c. &c., his First Lord of the Treasury, assumed an almost poetic licence of fiction. It was read with a smile by all who knew — and there were few who did not know — how distasteful that appointment was to the King. From his youth upwards he had been trained in distrust of the Whigs as a body; he was now compelled to throw open his closet to the very zealots of the Whig sanhedrim. He had been taught to believe himself the heir of peculiar prerogatives, and he was surrounded by men who saw in him only the Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth. He had mounted the throne with a fixed intention to burst the bonds and cast away the cords of the Whig connexion, and its Heads of Houses were once more in his Council-chamber and beside his table and his bed. He felt like a gamester who had lost his stake, or like a refractory ward who has been suddenly removed from the indulgences of home to the unpalatable discipline of school. Nor was his mortification softened by the character of his new Premier. He had not even the satisfaction of a decent discontent. Newcastle he might despise — and he would not have been singular in his contempt. Grenville he had some excuse for hating, for the ex-secretary had been systematically rough with his sovereign. Lord Holland's great abilities were tarnished by at least equal corruption; and the subservience of Pitt evaporated the moment he quitted the closet. But Lord Rockingham was provokingly invulnerable. He was courteous and honest: he was respectful and firm. He used great plainness of speech, and he was inaccessible to fear or favour. He was no proficient in the arts in which His Majesty excelled. His yea was yea, and his nay was nay. For the first time in his life probably George the Third was confronted with a minister who set candidly before him his proper functions, his official duties, the time's abuse and its remedies, and who met his vision of a Patriot King by the waking reality of a Constitutional Monarch. Had Lord Rockingham found a willing auditor in His Majesty, the world would probably have wanted one at least of Junius's Letters. But though 'far exceeding' all other statesmen in the art of drawing 'together ' without the seduction of self-interest the concurrence and co- ' operation of various dispositions and abilities of men, whom he [131] 'assimilated to his character and associated in his labours,' he failed altogether in his intercourse with his sovereign.

The royal sufferings were not, however, very protracted. The first Rockingham Administration just survived one anniversary: but it remained in office long enough to pass some essential measures, and to attract the notice of the country in general to this section of the Whig phalanx. Sixteen years later it was called again to the helm in a darker hour, when it had become impossible to re-adjust the state-vessel without sacrificing a third of its cargo.

The new Ministry began their voyage with a dark cloud on the western horizon. George Grenville had bequeathed to them all the consequences of his project for drawing a revenue from America by means of a duty upon stamps. The storm had burst across the Atlantic before the first meeting of Parliament in the year 1766. On hearing that it had received the royal assent, the townsmen of New York reprinted the Stamp Act and hawked it about the streets as 'England's folly and America's ruin.' At Philadelphia the guns were spiked. At Boston the flags of the vessels in harbour were hoisted half- mast high, while muffled bells tolled a funeral knell. The spirit of Pym and St. John seemed to have migrated into the American Houses of Assembly: and in the Virginian Congress Patrick Henry vented his indignation in terms in which truth and treason struggled for the mastery. In the Speech from the Throne, on the 17th of December, 1765, a decent veil was thrown over these dismal tidings. His Majesty announced to both Houses that he had called them together sooner than usual in consequence 'of matters of importance which had lately ' occurred in some of his colonies in America.'

We shall not, however, repeat an oft-told tale — and one too which has recently been once again narrated by so accomplished a writer as Mr. Bancroft. Every tiro in history knows that the first Rockingham Administration repealed the Stamp Act, and that the King never forgave them for thus delaying a few years longer the dismemberment of the British Empire. With the documents before us which Lord Albemarle has brought to light, it will be more interesting to trace the causes which constantly enfeebled and finally undermined the Cabinet formed in the autumn of 1765.

It was not likely that the Rockingham Administration would last long. It was equally improbable that its parliamentary course would run smooth. It was not sustained by eloquence. Its chief was firm, but not strenuous. The hour demanded an Achilles rather than a Nestor, and Lord Rockingham could [132] seldom be relied on to give vigour to debate. The public generally had not recovered from the apathy which, during the last five years of the preceding reign, had numbed its political ardour; it had not yet learned by experience to distrust its youthful sovereign; nor did it yet discriminate between the relative merits either of the Whig leaders or of their several sections. Pitt's coldness, and Temple's busy and acrid host of pamphleteers, equally damaged the Rockingham Cabinet. But the King himself was, as we have already observed, their chief antagonist. He could not be expected to regard with an eye of favour Ministers to whom his embarrassments alone had compelled him to resort. Indeed, of the various political connexions of the time no one was so distasteful to the Sovereign as that to which he had now consigned the government. 'They were,' as Lord Albemarle remarks, 'at once too wealthy, too indifferent to office, too much actuated by public principles, too closely bound together by party ties, to yield to the King, or to suit the views of a Court that required Ministers to be, not the public servants of the State, but the private domestics of the Sovereign.' In allusion to the Rockingham party, His Majesty had indeed two years previously declared that 'he would never suffer those Ministers of the late reign, who had attempted to enslave him, to come into his service while he held the sceptre.' He accordingly regarded, as both his acts and demeanour plainly proved, his new Cabinet as a mere temporary refuge from the Grenvilles. Lord Rockingham and his followers were civil to His Majesty. That was some relief: and in the meanwhile they might be divided, undermined, and, at some lucky moment, ousted.

These at least are the conclusions which we draw from the documents published for the first time by Lord Albemarle. The repeal of the Stamp Act was the principal business of the Session, and it was as 'bitter as coloquintida' to the royal palate, or as the signature of the Petition of Right had been to Charles I. .So early in the Session as the 3rd of January, the Earl of Hardwicke wrote to his brother, Charles Yorke, 'The King's family and household are divided. I wish His Majesty himself is not neuter.’ And he adds, 'Lord B. will overturn every Ministry who does not court him.' The neutrality of the King may be inferred from the following 'three papers in the King's handwriting,' and from the accompanying anecdote reported, although not quite correctly in all the details, by Walpole and Belsham.

  1. That Lord Rockingham was on Friday (February 8. 1766) [133] allowed by His Majesty to say, that His Majesty was for the repeal. The conversation having only been for that or enforcing.
  2. Lord Rockingham's question was, whether he was for enforcing the Stamp Act, or for the repeal. The King was clear, that repeal was preferable to enforcing, and permitted Lord Rockingham to declare that as his opinion.
  3. Lord Rockingham, I desire you would tell Lord Strange that I am now, and have been heretofore, for modification: but that when many were for enforcing, I was then for a repeal of the Stamp Act.

From these memoranda it would seem as if the Minister had determined not to quit the royal presence until he had secured 'the word of a King.' But only ten days after these notes were penned, 'Lord Strange, one of the placemen who opposed the repeal of the Stamp Act, having occasion to go into the King, on some affair of his office, the Duchy of Lancaster, the King said he heard it was reported in the world that he (the King) was for the repeal of that Act. Lord Strange replied, that idea did not only prevail, but that His Majesty's Ministers did all that lay in their power to encourage that belief; and that their great majority (on the 7th February) had been entirely owing to their having made use of His Majesty's name. Lord Strange no sooner left the closet than he made full use of the authority he had received, and trumpeted all over the town the conversation he had had with the King.'

If this be not sufficient evidence of insincerity on the King's part — and it would be easy to multiply examples from the volumes before us — we know not how to define duplicity 'in high places.'  Unfortunately for the nation His Majesty was not alone in his political obliquity. The moral code of the Bedford party was deplorably lax: Rigby and Sandwich were statesmen worthy of the school of the .Regent Orleans and the Cardinal Dubois; and among the 'King's friends,' Talbot, Boscawen, Strange, and Dyson, were the Rosencrantzes, Osrics, and Guildensterns of the English Court. We extract Lord Albemarle's graphic sketch of the last-named of these worthies:—

Among the most active opponents of the repeal of the Stamp Act was Mr. Jeremiah Dyson, member for Great Yarmouth, and one of the Lords of Trade. He was one of those parasitical persons who serve governments a little and disgrace them much. He was by birth a tailor, by education a Dissenter, and, from interest or vanity, in his earlier years, a republican. But he was not a person whose conscience at any time stood in the way of preferment, and his republicanism speedily yielded to more profitable investments in politics. He was a quick shrewd man, with a cool head and a prompt tongue, and an atrabilious temperament, that made him impatient of repose [134] and obscurity. He entered Parliament with a character for holding anti-monarchical opinions, although he was at the time "secretly sold to Lord Bute."  For sometime he was supposed to be a stanch supporter of George Grenville, but when the Grenvillian horizon became overcast, Jeremiah tacked to windward. Shortly after this desertion, having assumed a bag instead of a tye-wig, Lord Gower aptly remarked, "It was because no tie would hold him."  Whatever party he espoused, Dyson's habits of business, skill in parliamentary forms, specious demeanour and general courtesy, rendered him a serviceable adjunct; nor, though he possessed neither fancy nor eloquence, was he by any means contemptible as a speaker and pamphleteer. But the best of his good gifts was his accommodating conscience. He was a ready-made "king's friend," even before he attracted the royal notice. George the Third was not a King John, nor was Dyson a Hubert. But he was not the less an apt instrument in the hands of a sovereign who sought to govern a kingdom as an attorney manages an election, by the influence of partisans and the division of opponents. He had risen rapidly in the favour of Lord Bute. For several years he was principal clerk in the House of Commons. He became afterwards First Secretary of the Treasury, and eventually Cofferer of the Household. In 1766 Lord Bute's royal pupil became political sponsor for Jeremiah's good behaviour as a member of the Rockingham Ministry. Reluctantly did the Premier accept his services; much he laboured to cashier him. But the King knew his worth too well. His Majesty preferred getting rid of Lord Rockingham to dismissing Jeremiah.'

On the 18th of March, 1766, the repeal of the Stamp Act received the royal assent. It had been the subject of warm and acrimonious debates both in the Lords and Commons; but the issue of those debates was ' an event,' in the language of Burke, ' which caused more universal joy throughout the British dominions than perhaps any other that can be remembered.' The repeal was celebrated with more than ordinary civic magnificence at Drapers' Hall, on the 23d of April; and the chronicles of the day duly record that nine Dukes were among the guests. On the previous day Lord Rockingham and his friends had inflicted another wound on the policy of George Grenville. They moved, in the House of Commons, a series of resolutions, declaring the illegality of general warrants. Their ministerial hours, they well knew, were numbered, and they devoted the remainder of their brief political existence to repair the breaches which their predecessors had made in the constitution. Grenville, indeed, outbid them, for popularity's sake, by moving to bring in a Bill, substituting immediate abolition; and Pitt, with strange inconsistency, 'being in an angry mood,' seconded Grenville's motion. Under the circumstances, he could scarcely have more effectually displayed his hostility.

[135] These resolutions were Lord Rockingham's last official act of any importance. Weak within, beleaguered without, and undermined on all sides by the royal sappers and miners, the first Rockingham Administration was, by this time, in extremities. Ominous conferences had taken place between the King's confidential friend, Lord Northington, and Mr. Pitt's confidential friends, Lord Camden and the Duke of Grafton. After a visit to Hayes, the Duke of Grafton took occasion to remark, in the House of Lords, that the Government wanted 'authority, dignity, and extension,' and significantly added, that ‘if Mr. Pitt would give his assistance, he should with pleasure take up the spade, and dig in the trenches.' He followed up this hint by resigning on the 14th of May his seals as Secretary of State. They were declined by Lord Hardwicke, and accepted by the Duke of Richmond. Other desertions followed: the Chancellor resigned in dudgeon; and after a vain attempt to form a coalition with the Bedfords, Mr. Pitt was sent for by the King, and Lord Rockingham tendered his resignation.

His retirement was not without its consolations. We pass over the valediction which Burke pronounced upon the Rockingham Ministry, because it is probably familiar to most of our readers. But the voice of the orator was not the only one raised in grateful acclamation. Before Lord Rockingham set out from London to his seat in Yorkshire, a deputation from the London merchants connected with the North American trade waited upon him with an Address, in which they expressed their sense of the essential benefits conferred by himself and his late colleagues upon the civil and commercial interests of these kingdoms. With adroit, yet just delicacy, the address stated that, 'his Lordship being no longer in a public station, his admirers were exempt even from the suspicion of flattery.' On his entry into York, he was attended by nearly two hundred gentlemen; and on the next day an address was presented to him by the magistrates and merchants of Leeds. The example was followed by the towns of York, Halifax, Kingston, Hull, and Wakefield; and the ' Memoirs' abundantly prove that he received, at this time, frequent and full approbation from some of the noblest and wisest men in the nation. Lord Chatham's peerage ' looked dim and pale' beside these popular honours of the retired Minister.

We do not propose to enter minutely upon the unsettled and disastrous interval between the first and second Rockingham Administrations. In that period of sixteen years (1766—1782) the dissensions with America were fanned into an inextinguishable blaze by the alternate violence and apathy of the Government. Of these Lord Rockingham and his friends were guiltless. 'On the occasion of the address in 1766, which pledged both Houses to stand by His Majesty at the hazard of their lives and properties, Lord Rockingham declared in the Lords that he would hazard neither life nor fortune in such a cause.' The quarrel with Wilkes burst forth with renewed fury, and was prosecuted with equal virulence by those who assailed and by those who defended him. A Saturninus or Glaucia was once more evoked by the lawless folly of a senate and its chief magistrate. Lord Chatham accepted and resigned office with equal petulancy, and afforded one more example to the historian of the wide difference between a great orator and a great statesman. Amid the dislocation of parties and the shameless intrigues of their leaders; the pen of Junius revelled in its bitter triumphs over the faults or the foibles of his contemporaries; and we must resort to the era of the Cabal for a parallel to the melancholy selfishness which successively disgraced the cabinets of Chatham, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North. The King had indeed attained one of his darling objects—he had effectually sown divisions in the heart of the Whig connexion. But his victory had been dearly bought: it had rendered him nearly friendless, and very unpopular — it had made him the butt of withering invectives; and, finally, it deprived him of millions of his subjects. Uneasy lay the head that wore the now shattered crown; and we could afford him our compassion, had he not wooed disfavour and squandered all the advantages which his youth, his station, and his descent and decorous morals placed within his grasp.

Death in this interim was busy with the Whig leaders: Beckford, George Grenville, and Lord Granby, quitted for ever the fever and the fret of politics; and the 'well-graced actor,' Chatham, received his final 'plaudit' upon an august stage, and surrounded by associations far transcending the pomp and prodigality of theatres. His ancient rival and colleague, Newcastle, also was at rest. Nothing, perhaps, in life, ' became him like the leaving of it.' 'He met his death,' says Lord Albemarle, 'with cheerfulness and resignation.' The plotting Macchiavellian Earl Temple had retired, after George Grenville's decease, to his stately gardens at Stowe.

Amid so many deaths and frequent desertions, however, the Whig party, in the year 1774, received into its ranks one who was shortly to become its most illustrious champion. Charles James Fox had taken his seat for Midhurst in 1768. He was then scarcely twenty years of age. He soon distinguished himself for his hearty, though somewhat insubordinate zeal in [137] support of the Tory questions then in vogue. He was vehement in favour of Lutterell's admission into Parliament, and as strenuously opposed to the ' Nullum Tempus' Bill. The first symptom of his conversion was his joining with the Whigs in their opposition to the Boston Port Bill in 1774; and it appears by a letter from the Duke of Portland in these volumes, that he had been in communication with Lord Rockingham the preceding year. The career of the great logician of the House of Commons does not fall within the compass of the Rockingham Memoirs; but we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of extracting the following touching reminiscence of Fox, as he appeared in the sere and yellow leaf of his life's autumn. Lord Albemarle, was with a younger brother, a visitor at St. Anne's Hill in the spring of 1806; not long before that attack of illness which a few months later consigned the great statesman to the tomb.

' Mr. Fox, although in excellent health, was even then unable to walk, and was always wheeled about in a chair; indeed I never saw him except in a sitting posture. The dark black hair of the eyebrows, cheeks, and head, which in the early caricatures obtained for him the designation of "Niger," had given place to a silver white. His dress was a light grey single-breasted coat, with large white metal buttons, a thick woollen waistcoat, drab kerseymere breeches, dark worsted stockings, and shoes coming up to the ankles. His first appearance in a morning was at the children's one o'clock dinner, and that meal was no sooner despatched than the Prime Minister and his youthful guests would adjourn to the lawn before the house, and devote the remainder of the evening to trap-ball, Mr. Fox having always the innings, and we boys the bowling and fagging out. My father has often mentioned to his children the boyish eagerness and delight with which Fox used to enter into the games.'

The conduct of Lord Rockingham towards the new Ministry was a return of good for evil. Personally indeed, he felt and expressed some indignation at the coldness and affronts he had met with from their hands. But his anger went no further. For while he urged his friends in general to remain united among themselves, and to wait patiently for better days, he desired such of his followers as the new Premier had not dismissed to continue at their posts. Saunders, Meredith, and Keppel accordingly remained at the Admiralty Board: the Duke of Portland was still Lord Chamberlain; the Earl of Scarborough, Cofferer; the Earl of Besborough, one of the joint Paymasters General; and Lord Monson, Chief Justice in Eyre. In this, as in so many other respects, his moderation exhibited a striking contrast to the conduct of Pitt in 1765. Through Pitt's instigations, the Rockinghams had been then deprived of the support of Earl Shelburne; and when Sir Fletcher Norton was [138] dismissed from the Attorney-Generalship, as a bitter and uncompromising foe of the Rockinghams, Pitt ungenerously intimated to Sir Fletcher that 'he was not turned out by his advice, and that were he Minister, he should be glad of the assistance of such abilities.'

In 1767, there seemed to be a fair prospect of Lord Rockingham's return to the Treasury, strengthened by the adhesion of the Bedford party. After a year's experience, the Duke of Grafton began to doubt whether, by exchanging Lord Rockingham for Lord Chatham, the Government had really acquired ' authority, dignity, and extension.' His Grace tendered his resignation, and the King directly empowered him to make overtures to Lord Rockingham. But the Duke of Bedford thought that the coalition would be incomplete and unstable without Mr. Grenville, and the King declared that ' he would ' rather see the devil in his closet.' Meanwhile, the Duke of Grafton became reconciled to keeping the Treasury, and His Majesty exulted both in retaining a minister so pliant, and in excluding the Rockinghams. Steps were therefore taken to render the treaty abortive, and to make it appear that Lord Rockingham was the cause of the failure. In this disingenuous plot, the King possessed no more cordial ally than Horace Walpole. The dilettante archaeologist inscribed a copy of Charles's death-warrant with the words Magna Charta; but the son of the great Whig premier was in practice, if not at heart, a thorough-paced ' King's friend.' It was intolerable to him that a Whig cabinet should nourish without a Walpole at its head.

The Ministry, however, was not strengthened by these tergiversations. The constitutional party,—an appellation which the Whigs began once more to deserve — was gradually awakening to its errors, was casting off its divisions and its supineness, and purifying itself from its more corrupt and embarrassing adherents. It was indeed slowly wise; it had yet much to learn and to forget; and it needed thirteen years' longer probation to regenerate it. Its restoration was forwarded by many concurrent causes. In 1768 Lord Chatham resigned, and after two years of ministerial inefficiency, carried with him into opposition remnants only of his former vigour. Agitation, now that Lord Rockingham's conciliatory policy was abandoned, once again raised its head in America; while, at home, the city of London and the county of York led the way in arousing in the English nation its dormant jealousy of the Crown. Public meetings were held in several counties; petitions against the Government were numerously and eagerly signed: the tone of [139] the public prints became more spirited; the country gentlemen recovered from their long apathy; and the towns and especially the sea-ports, whose prosperity was immediately affected by the discontents of the colonies, adopted a bolder and more menacing attitude. Before the close of 1769 the popular element had assumed a new form. Public meetings led to political combinations of a more permanent character. A Society for supporting the Bill of Rights' and 'a Constitutional Society' were forthwith established. 'You are not alone,' wrote Cowper to his friend Unwin, about this time, 'in thinking that you see a resemblance between the reign of His present Majesty and that of Charles I.'

Lord North, in 1770, succeeded the Duke of Grafton as premier. His government was much threatened, but really long-lived. Its moments were often counted, its dissolution was often foretold; but it lingered for nearly twelve years in despite of its unpopularity at home, and latterly, its overwhelming disasters abroad. Its tenacity of official life was in some measure owing to the personal character of its chief. The vis inertia of Lord North was invincible: his good humour, his ready wit, even his somnolence, blunted the darts of opposition. The thunders of Burke, the invectives of Junius, the angry addresses of county meetings, pamphlets, caricatures, and threats of impeachment, were regarded by him with the serene negligence which the Epicureans of old ascribed to the dwellers on Olympus. Lord North, too, had the sagacity to reduce Wilkes to insignificance by dropping the prosecution of him, and to soothe the City of London by non-interference with electoral privileges.

It must be admitted also that the war with America was at first popular with the country. 'The merchants,' writes Burke, in 1775, 'begin to snuff the cadaverous haut gout of lucrative war: the freighting business never was so lively, on account of the prodigious taking up for transport service ; great orders for provisions of all kinds, new clothing for the troops, put life into the woollen manufactures.' The country gentlemen were deluded by the ministerial assurance that American taxation would relieve them of part of the land-tax, and the great body of the people were pleased at the prospect of transferring a portion of their burdens to other shoulders. For a time fortune seemed to befriend the royal cause.

The British troops forced the passage of the Brandywine, entered Philadelphia in triumph, and drove the Americans from Lake Champlain. But as soon as Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga, in 1777, had encouraged the Court of Versailles to espouse openly the cause which it had long secretly supported, the war with America [140] became the object of general alarm and abhorrence. It approached our own shores at a time when, owing to the mismanagement of those in power, no officer of distinction would undertake the command of the Channel fleet. Keppel had resigned; and his example was immediately followed by Sir Robert Harland, Sir John Lindsay, and other eminent naval commanders. The fleet was accordingly entrusted to Sir Charles Hardy, whose infirmities unfitted him for the post. In June, 1779, Lord North announced to the House of Commons that the Spanish ambassador had demanded his passports. In the following month the combined fleets of France and Spain entered the Channel. It was rumoured that Gibraltar was blockaded. It was certain that Paul Jones had burnt the shipping at Whitehaven, and towed away the Serapis at the stern of the Ranger. The fact that Lord Sandwich was at the head of the Board of Admiralty did not help to reconcile the English nation to these disgraces. He was already in the worst possible odour as the sharer, and afterwards as the betrayer, of Wilkes's orgies. He was generally believed to have sent Keppel to sea with unsound vessels, and he was now denounced as the cause of Kempenfelt's failure off Brest Harbour. The North Cabinet had provoked an inglorious war: it had burdened the country with fresh taxes in prosecution of it; every wind wafted the tidings of disasters, and every coffee house and public meeting resounded with denunciations of the incompetency of Ministers, and the obstinacy of the King,

At length in 1782, after vainly endeavouring to engage with Lord Shelburne, with Lord Gower, with any one, rather than with the leader and the party of whose honest and wise counsels he had already had experience, the King was compelled to break up the administration of his ' friends,' and recall Lord Rockingham, on his own terms, to the helm of government.

Twice, notwithstanding his pertinacious efforts to fulfil to the letter the maternal precept of 'George be King,' His Majesty had been compelled to have recourse to the same remedy — the intervention of the Rockingham party. The remedy, unpalatable as ever, was adopted with but little better grace, the second time, by the royal patient. But neither His Majesty himself, nor his adherents, abandoned their former tactics. The court-party affected to deplore political combinations. They displayed a sudden zeal for the Constitution, and endeavoured to enlist on their side the fears and prejudices of the people. The promoters of the county-petitions were compared by them to the Irish Volunteers, to the Protestant Association, and the American Congress. Burke, Savile, and Rockingham, they [141] denominated the supporters of the Act of Declaration 'on this side of the water.' The Ministers were represented as themselves hostile to the prerogative, and they were branded as Republicans. The King was described as a prisoner in their hands: they were styled the Regency ; and a caricature of the day represented George III. as surrounded by Shelburne, Richmond, Keppel, and Fox, who are putting fetters on his feet and ankles. The King omitted no opportunity of manifesting his aversion for his new servants, or of displaying his impatience under the weight of these ministerial chains.

The royal patience was not put to a very long trial. The health of Lord Rockingham, always feeble, was now irretrievably shattered. He had become Premier, for the second time, on the 27th of March, 1782: he died on the first of the following July. But in that brief period he tranquillised Ireland, and introduced into Parliament 'an effectual plan for economy in all the branches of public expenditure.' Particular measures, however, were less important to his country, and his party, than the example he set to the one of constitutional principles, and to the other of political integrity. From this period the great Whig connexion resumed the position which it held sixty years earlier under its great leaders Halifax and Lord Somers. Dark and troublous times indeed were ahead; on the one hand revolution, on the other prodigal and protracted wars. That it was enabled at the close 'of half-a-century to reassume the helm of government, and to extend the civil and political freedom of millions of the human race, was, in no mean degree, due to its regeneration by the Rockingham Whigs.

On the summit of a well-wooded acclivity in Wentworth Park, there stands a. mausoleum erected by the late Earl Fitzwilliam to the memory of his illustrious uncle. Under the centre of the dome there is a full-length effigy of the second Marquis of Rockingham, surrounded by marble busts of the eight men who most especially shared his labours and his friendship. The names of Portland, Montagu, Lee, and Cavendish have descended into the silence which awaits the majority of the human race. The memory of Keppel is prolonged in many affectionate records; while the fame of Fox and Burke is a national possession.

It would be unjust both to Lord Rockingham and Burke to conclude the present notice with any other words than with those which Burke composed for the inscription on the statue of his friend.

A man worthy to be held in remembrance, because he did not live for himself. His abilities, industry, and influence were employed without interruption [142]  to the last hour of his life, to give stability to the liberties of his country, security to its landed property, increase to its commerce, independence to its public councils, and concord to its empire. These were his ends. For the attainment of these ends, his policy consisted in sincerity, fidelity, directness, and constancy. His virtues were his arts. In Opposition he respected the principles of Government; in Administration he provided for the liberties of the people. He employed his moments of power in realising every thing which he had proposed in a popular situation—the distinguishing mark of his public conduct. Reserved in profession, sure in performance, he laid the foundation of a solid confidence … Let his successors, who daily behold this monument, consider, that it was not built to entertain the eye but to instruct the mind. Let them reflect that their conduct will make it their glory or their reproach. Let them feel that similarity of manners, not proximity of blood, gives them an interest in this statue.

Remember; resemble; persevere.

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