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Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 3


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From the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle for several years little of striking interest occurred in the affairs of this country. The public at first was rejoiced at the return of peace; but the more it looked into the results of so costly a war the more it grew dissatisfied, and the complaints were loud and general that ministers had sacrificed the honour and interests of the nation. The opposition, however, was at so low an ebb, that little was heard of the public discontent in parliament; and Pitt, formerly so vociferous to denounce the war, now as boldly vindicated both it and the peace, and silenced all criticisms by his overbearing eloquence. The government still went on granting subsidies to the German princes, though the war was at an end. It was proposed to pay one hundred thousand pounds to the empress Maria Theresa. Pelham was opposed to it in private, and asked his brother Newcastle "What merit these princes have to us in making peace, any more than we to them? Have we not paid her imperial majesty seventy-five thousand pounds, and the Dutch twenty-five thousand pounds for regiments of horse that never stirred from their quarters, nor, to our certain knowledge, ever existed? The prince of Wolfenbuttel may be a very honest gentleman, but his being in a good or bad humour will not pay our debts." Yet the subsidies were voted, and Pelham himself advocated them in his place in the house. Another grant of ten thousand pounds, with better reason, was voted to Glasgow for repayment of the sums levied on that town by the rebels.

One of the most really important measures of 1749 was the foundation of the capital of Nova Scotia. The reduction of the army and navy in consequence of the peace threw into a condition of inaction and distress a great number both of soldiers, seamen, and officers. It was, therefore, resolved to grant in Nova Scotia fifty acres of freehold land to every settler, with ten acres more for every child taken out with them, besides a free passage and exemption from all taxes for ten years. Four thousand men with their families accepted the offer immediately, and sailed thither in a fleet under the command of colonel Cornwallis. They landed at the harbour of Chebuctow, and a town was founded and named in honour of the earl of Halifax, then president of the board of trade. During the first winter this infant capital consisted of three hundred wooden huts, surrounded by a palisade, but now a large and populous city. About the same time the English and Scotch began to settle on the Mosquito coast in the Gulf of Mexico. These indications of a colonising spirit gave great uneasiness to both France and Spain, who declared that such establishments were contrary to the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. France endeavoured to induce Spain to join in a new war against England, but found Ferdinand VI. of too pacific a disposition, and firmly maintained in this temper towards England by his queen, Barbara, a Portuguese.

The only remaining domestic measure of this year was a fresh clause added to the Mutiny Bill, which subjected all half-pay officers and soldiers to martial law. This was said to be instigated by the severe temper of Cumberland, and Pitt, who had been so eloquent for years against all such measures, now declared that martial law must be made more stringent and comprehensive, and the crown endowed with more authority over the army and navy. "The true liberty of England," he asserted, "depended on the moderation of the sovereign and the virtue of the army; that, without this virtue, the lords, the commons, and the people of England might intrench themselves behind parchment up to the teeth, yet the sword would find a passage to the vitals of the constitution." The clause passed with the additional one that all members of a court-martial should be bound by an oath not to disclose any of its proceedings, unless required to do so by an act of parliament. Poor admiral Byng, destined, ere long, to feel the edge of martial law, voted for it. The clause, though passed for the army, was thrown out when proposed for the navy, admiral Yernon and other naval members of parliament stoutly opposing it. Thus the strange anomaly was created, of one law for the courts- martial of the army, and another for the navy.

During the year 1750, the French continued to evince a hostile disposition. They laid claim to part of Nova Scotia, and refused to surrender the islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent, as they were bound to do by the treaty of Aix-la- Chapelle. They continued to stir up a bad feeling towards us both in Spain and Germany. The empress, much to her disgrace, after having received some millions of our money, and seen tens of thousands of British lives sacrificed for the defence of her territories, and even whilst still receiving one hundred thousand pounds a year, listened with eagerness to the suggestions of France, and co-operated with that country in endeavouring to influence Spain against us. Fortunately, the good disposition of the queen of Spain, and the able management of Mr. Keene, our ambassador, foiled all these efforts, and completed a commercial treaty with that country.

This treaty was signed on the 5th of October, 1750, and placed us at once on the same footing in commercial relations with Spain as the most favoured nations. We abandoned the remaining term of the Assiento, and obtained one hundred thousand pounds as compensation for the claims of the South Sea Company. The right of search, however, was passed over in silence, and we continued to cut logwood in Campeachy Bay, and to smuggle on the Spanish main, winked at by the Spanish authorities, but liable to interruption whenever jealousy or ill-will might be in the ascendant. In various directions our commerce grew and flourished at this time, and many injurious restrictions were removed, as from the whale fishery of Spitzbergen, the white herring and coast fisheries, the trade to the coast of Guinea, the import of iron from the American plantations, and of raw silk from China. Our manufactures also grew apace, spite of the internal jarrings of the ministry, and the deadness of parliament.

Parliament met on the 17th of January, 1751, and the king, in his speech, announced a treaty with Bavaria, in which, of course, Bavaria, to no benefit of England whatever, but probably some security to Hanover, was to be subsidised, and this was opposed by the prince of Wales's party, led by lord Egmont, Bubb Doddington, and Dr. Lee. But what excited the most sensation was the distribution through the Penny Post, and in the areas of both houses of parliament, of the papers called " Constitutional Queries." These were aimed at the duke of Cumberland, who, now by his defeats in Flanders, and his harsh and arbitrary conduct, was grown extremely odious to the nation. The Leicester House, or prince of Wales's party, was felt to be at the bottom of this rather than the Jacobites, and the libel was generally attributed to the pen of lord Egmont. Horace Walpole says the imputations entertained in the " Queries" were, that Cumberland had disgraced or dismissed old officers, men of family and property, to make way for slaves, boys, and beggars; that he had acquired an absolute power over the army, and was endeavouring, by a factious connection, to make himself master of the fleet; that he had shown in Scotland that an army might make itself superior to the law; that the omnipotence of a commander, joined with the faction, stupidity, and corruption of the times, might be able to stifle and baffle all regular proof of notorious acts of arbitrary power, and that the right of succession was in danger from him. In the lords, the duke of Marlborough, with much heat, moved that the "Queries" be burnt by the common hangman; and the same was done in the commons, but not without some severe strictures from Sir Francis Dashwood, lord Egmont, and colonel Littleton, who charged the duke with attempting to crush popular and municipal privileges in and about London by the soldiery.

On the heels of this debate came petitions from the electors of Westminster against the return of lord Trentham, the son of lord Gower. Lord Gower had abandoned the Jacobite party, and was consequently detested by it. They therefore violently opposed lord Trentham, and the opposition united with it because Trentham held office under the present ministry. The election had been hotly contested, and the scrutiny on the return had occupied five months of the preceding year. The house summoned to its bar one Crowle, a lawyer, the high bailiff, and Mr. Alexander Murray, a Scotch tory, and brother of lord Elibank. Crowle was accused of breach of the privilege of the house by calling its menaces a brutum fulmen, which compelled him to receive reprimand on his knees. Crowle, however, on rising, brushed his knees with his hands, and said audibly, "This is the dirtiest house I have ever been in." Mr. Murray was accused by the bailiff with threatening his life during the election; and Murray was voted into close confinement in Newgate, and that he should receive the judgment of the house on his knees. But Murray defied the house, declared he never kneeled except to God; he was innocent of that or any crime, and would not kneel to any mortal man or men. The house could make no impression on him, and it was recommended by different speakers to deprive him of access of his friends, and of pen, ink, and paper. Pitt urged still severer measures, but admiral Vernon, on the other hand, denounced the conduct of the house as most harsh, arbitrary, and contrary to Magna Charta. The feud grew furious, and Murray was thrust into Newgate, which was crammed with prisoners, was always a place of frightful filth, and had lately been visited by a malignant gaol fever. Gibson, a tory electioneering upholsterer, was sent there, too; but he soon became very humble, and was discharged; while Murray continued as firm as ever, and his friends complained that he was ill, and in reality suffering from the gaol distemper, and the house was obliged to allow him a doctor and a nurse, as well as the company of his sister. A committee was appointed to search for precedents in his case. Out of the house the severity was condemned, and another paper of "Queries" circulated, charging the commons with assuming a most tyrannic and unconstitutional power. Murray was advised to make submission to the house, but he declared he would sooner cut his own throat. It was then carried that he should be treated with greater rigour, and nobody but the doctor and nurse admitted to him. On the 2nd of April, however, when he had been two months in prison, it was carried, in a thin house, that he should be transferred to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms, on account of his bad health, and that his friends should be allowed to visit him. Murray refused to avail himself of this, or to come out of Newgate, but removed the case to the King's Bench by habeas corpus. The King's Bench confirmed the validity of the imprisonment, and Murray remained to the end of the session, when, as a matter of course, he was released. On the meeting of parliament again on the 20th of November, an order was issued to secure and confine him again, but he had taken the precaution to get across to the continent. The commons, in high dudgeon at his escape and defiance of them, voted a reward of five hundred pounds for his apprehension, and then turned their vengeance on the unfortunate printers and publishers of Murray's case as issued by him to the public, and commenced a prosecution of them; but the jury treated the matter as one of oppression by parliament, and found a verdict for the defendants.

Whilst this undignified war of privilege was waging, the prince of Wales died. He had been in indifferent health for some time, and had injured his constitution by dissipated habits. He was forty-four years of age, of a weak character, which had led him into excesses, and the consequences of these were made worse by great negligence of his health. The same weakness of character had made him very much the tool of political faction, and placed him in an unnatural opposition to his father. His immediate illness was brought on by sleeping in a cold, damp room at Carlton House, in the evening after a walk in Kew Gardens, and this when he was but just recovering from a pleurisy. Little as the prince had to recommend him, yet he was free from the penurious mean- ness of his father, and the brutal, overbearing temper of his brother. He was fond of the company of men of talent, and patronised literature. The people, when they heard of his death, assembled in crowds in the street, crying, "Oh, that it was but his brother! Oh, that it was but the Butcher!"

The king expressed some concern for his son's death; but Cumberland observed sneeringly, " It is a great blow to the country, but I hope it will recover it in time." George sent a message of condolence to the princess of Wales, and the next day wrote to her, assuring her that everything should be done for herself and children that she could desire. She had eight children, and was not far from her confinement with her ninth. The princess, as she had conducted herself towards the prince with the utmost affection, notwithstanding his numerous infidelities, so she would not quit the corpse till it had been inanimate four hours, and then was borne away to bed at six o'clock in the morning. Yet she rose again at eight, and, sending for Dr. Lee, proceeded to destroy all such of the prince's papers as might compromise any of his friends. Whilst her husband lived she submitted to his views of things, and thus avoided any schisms and breaehes in his party; but she now determined to submit entirely to the Will of the king, who, on his part, was so agreeably surprised with this conduct, that he treated her with particular kindness. "The king and she," says Walpole, " both took their parts at once - she of flinging herself entirely into his hands, and studying nothing but his pleasure, yet winding what interest she got with him to the advantage of her own and the prince's friends; the king, of acting the tender grandfather, which he, who had never acted a tender father, grew so pleased with representing, that he soon became it in earnest."

The heir-apparent, the princess's eldest son, George, was created prince of Wales; fifty thousand pounds was settled on the princess dowager; Leicester House was assigned for the residence of herself and family; and the new household appointed according to her wishes. Lord Harcourt, the grandson of the chancellor, was appointed the prince's governor; Dr. Hayter, bishop of Norwich, his preceptor; Mr. Stone, sub-governor; and Mr. Scott, sub-preceptor. The prince, afterwards George III., who was now twelve years of age, had been so neglected that he could scarcely read. The choice of the sub-preceptor, Scott, in whose hands the prince's education was principally left, was a singularly unfortunate one. This man had been recommended to the prince Frederick by Bolingbroke, as ever insidious, plotting, and unprincipled. Scott himself was a Jacobite and tory, and hence no wonder at the arbitrary and obstinate temper which his pupil evinced on his coming to the throne.

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Pictures for Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 3

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