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Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 5


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With this excellent measure the session closed on the 26th of March; and George, taking with him, as usual, the duke of Newcastle, made his voyage to Hanover. There his time was employed in petty squabbles and petty interests, which it would have been difficult for a real English king to fix his attention upon. He was busy offering subsidies to almost every little prince in Germany. Bavaria, Saxony, Mayence, Cologne, the Palatinate, were all the scenes of his negotiations, though the English ministers had pledged themselves to the country that there should be no more of this disgraceful appropriation of English money for Hanoverian objects. Then there was a quarrel betwixt George and his nephew of Prussia about East Friesland. The king of Prussia threatened to defend his claims by force, and seized the revenues of certain mines in Silesia, mortgaged to English subjects by the emperor Charles YI. for a loan of two hundred and eighty thousand pounds. He justified this seizure on the plea that the English had seized some Prussian vessels during the last war. Frederick knew that the loan on the mines was advanced by English subjects, not by the government, and when that province was ceded to him he had guaranteed the security of this loan. But Frederick had no conscience where his interests were concerned. Fortunately, however, for the holders, Frederick soon saw that he might need the good offices of England, and he abandoned his demands, and paid the interest of the loan.

George was as near a breach with the Austrians. After all that this country had done for that court, our ambassador, lord Hyndford, had been treated with the grossest insolence; and George was compelled to assume a decided tone, and inform the emperor and empress that, unless they made the necessary amends, he would enter into an alliance with France and Prussia against them. He recalled lord Hyndford; but then, as his lordship took his leave, the emperor, who was much less arrogant than Maria Theresa, expressed to him his sense of the great obligations Austria lay under to England, and offered to meet the views of the king. In fact, the whole had arisen out of the negotiations with the palatinate, and the petty difficulties were rendered more petty and intricate by George seeking some private advantage of his own from the palatinate, which was kept secret from Newcastle, who carried on the main treaty. So deeply were the name and honour of England in this sordid reign implicated by its sovereign! George and the elector-palatine came to an understanding; but Austria would never become a party to the arrangement, and so it fell through.

George and his minister returned to England only to step into the atmosphere of fresh discords. The court of the princess of Wales was rent by disunions on the subject of the young prince's tutors. The princess had taken a great dislike to lord Harcourt and the bishop of Norwich. She complained that these two chief preceptors were generally away in the country, and therefore she could not see of what use they were to the prince. She consulted much with her late husband's adherent, Bubb Dodington, and asked him what was the good of stuffing the prince with logic and books? Dodington said, "Very little; it would be better for him to study men and the business of the world. For his part, he had got on very well without books; and the prince had best make friends of the friends of his late father" - which meant, be brought up to perpetuate the opposition to his grandfather.

On the other hand, the bishop and lord Harcourt complained of being treated with neglect and indignity - lord Harcourt of being left waiting in the hall at Kew amongst the servants. Both he and the bishop complained that Stone and Scott were treated with much greater respect by the princess than themselves, and that all the real business of education was confided to them. When the king arrived from Hanover on the 18th of November, they requested an audience to lay their complaints before him. George refused to entertain the subject himself, but deputed archbishop Potter and lord Hardwicke to hear them. They declined making these statements to any one but the king, tendered their resignations, and these were accepted.

But this compelled resignation only caused the feuds betwixt the different parties in the princess's household to rage more fiercely, and to draw the public attention to the subject. The bishop and lord Harcourt complained that the prince's education was grossly neglected, and that Stone and Scott were two avowed Jacobites, and were instilling the most pernicious and arbitrary principles into the heir-apparent. They declared that these Jacobite tutors had really been appointed through Bolingbroke, and had put into the prince's hands such books as Pere D'Orleans' "Revolution d'Angleterre," an ultra-absolutist work, written at the dictation of James II. to justify his despotic measures; and Perefixe's" History of Henry IV." Anonymous letters flew about the court, describing the education of the prince to be at once of the most defective and pernicious character. That which made the most excitement was one which was sent to general Hawley, amongst others, who hurried to the king with it. This, which Horace Walpole the younger afterwards acknowledged to be written by him, asserted the fact that works of the most mischievous character, inculcating the most tyrannic principles, had been put into the prince's hands by his tutors; that the education of the prince concerned the whole nation; and that to this defective and despotic education the country owed the miseries which had been inflicted upon it by Charles I. and II., and James II.; that the people, therefore, saw with the greatest alarm the prince of Wales in the hands of tutors who were the friends and disciples of the late lord Bolingbroke; and still more so, as a nobleman of unblemished character, and a prelate of most distinguished virtue, had resigned their charge over the prince, because their remonstrances against these mischievous inculcations had been treated with contempt. It was observed that Murray, the solicitor-general, afterwards lord Mansfield, a man of a most decided Jacobite family, had advised the dismissal of these patriotic and eminent men, and had the real management of the prince's household.

Great pains were taken to discover the author of this letter, but in vain. Dr. Johnson, bishop of Gloucester, was recommended by the princess as chief preceptor; but finally Dr. Thomas, bishop of Peterborough, was chosen, and lord Waldegrave as governor. There had been a difficulty in getting anybody to accept the office, and it was soon seen that the caution was not groundless.

The year 1753 opened by lord Ravensworth, who, having received one of Walpole's anonymous letters, hastened up to town to inform ministers that the bishop of Gloucester, whom the princess had been anxious to have appointed, as preceptor, was a rank Jacobite, and that he had the strongest evidence of Stone, the prince's tutor, and Murray, the solicitor-general and adviser of the princess, being the same. He and the dean of Durham were heard before the privy council, where they produced one Fawcett, an attorney, who swore that he, Stone, and Murray, the solicitor-general, then young men and very poor, used to meet at one Vernon's, a rich mercer, twenty years ago, and drink the health’s of the chevalier and lord Dunbar - that is, Murray, the young pretender's secretary. Fawcett, however, refused to sign his depositions, and Stone and Murray swore that they were false; whereupon the charge was dismissed as groundless and scandalous. But the matter was not allowed to rest here. The duke of Bedford moved in the house of lords, on the 22nd of March, for the production of the papers relating to Stone and Murray, and a fierce debate ensued, without any conclusion being arrived at.

Waldegrave, who was a most honourable, amiable, and accomplished man, descended from James II. by Arabella Churchill, sister of the duke of Marlborough, soon found his post a most trying one. Though the princess of Wales had outwardly professed to throw herself entirely into the hands of the king, all the old feuds and prejudices of her late husband were kept up by her and her friends. Waldegrave was hated by the princess, because she considered he was placed by the king as a spy over her; and he had no influence over the prince whatever, for he regarded him from his mother's point of view, and gave him no confidence. Though the bishop of Peterborough, Stone, and Scott were able men, their learning and counsels were equally thrown away. The prince was cold and indolent, equally averse to books and to any active amusements. He received all his ideas and his prejudices from the conversation of the bedchamber- women and pages of the back stairs. With any one else he scarcely ever conversed, and had no associates of his own age; his brother Edward was the sole exception. His mother kept him carefully away from the young aristocracy, because, she said, they were so badly educated and so vicious. The immorality oi the children of the nobles was at that time shocking enough; but the mother's care, it was suspected, was rather to keep George under her own tutelage than out of harm's way. In fact, his education continued of the most defective kind, and he turned out in after years a cold piece of respectable morality, but destitute of the information which became his royal position, and filled with narrow and obstinate prejudices, which produced the most fatal consequences to the nation. Lord Waldegrave, after George came to the throne, used to make great allowances for him on these grounds. Meantime, his own situation was most irksome. Without any means of influencing the prince for good, he was condemned to listen to all the vituperations of Leicester House against the king, to whom he was greatly attached. The princess complained that the king robbed her and her family by not granting them the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall, but putting the money in his own pocket, and not paying her late husband's debts, which, at the same time, she described as very trifling - namely, only seventy thousand pounds owing abroad, ninety thousand pounds to his tradesmen and servants, and some other similarly small items. Lord Waldegrave continued to exert himself to mitigate these bitter feelings and to introduce a better state of things by making the most favourable representations of the king to the princess, and of her and the prince to the king, He was doomed, however, very soon to find all his endeavours rendered abortive by the rapidly advancing favour with the princess of John Stuart, earl of Bute. Bute was a handsome man, solemn and slow in his manners, extremely proud and sensitive, but of no depth of talent. The late prince Frederick used to say, u Bute is a fine, showy fellow, and would make an excellent ambassador at a court where there is nothing to do." In private life he had hitherto borne a blameless character, being married to a daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and leading a quiet life at Caen Wood, on a rather narrow income, with his large family. Suddenly, however, he was observed to have seized on the favour of the princess of Wales to such a degree as produced the utmost scandal. He became everything in her establishment, and we shall hereafter find him occupying a prominent place in the government of her son.

The session of 1753 was distinguished by two remarkable acts of parliament. The one was for the naturalisation of the Jews, the other for the prevention of clandestine marriages. The persecutions of the Jews had in every age of Christianity been one of the worst exhibitions of human cruelty. That religion which of all others preaches up the forgiveness of injuries and the returning of good for evil, had been preached in vain to the professed disciples of Christ. The Jews, as the rejectors and murderers of the Messiah, had been regarded with horror, and pursued with the most terrible vengeance through successive centuries and through every so-called Christian land, regardless of the words of the Saviour himself praying for their forgiveness, on the ground that they had not known what they were doing. Since the reformation this furor against them had somewhat abated in Holland and England; if they were not respected, they were, at least, tolerated. Cromwell, with that breadth of mind which distinguished him above his cotemporaries, had combated the prejudices of the clergy and the merchants against them, showing that, as it was declared by the prophets and apostles that the Jews were hereafter to be admitted to the church, it became us to endeavour to prepare them for that period, by encouraging them to settle where they would see the truth preached and practised, and not to leave them amongst false teachers, papists, and idolaters. He had permitted them to build a synagogue in London, and to live and trade amongst us.

In the reign of queen Anne the Jews had offered lord Godolphin half a million to obtain permission for them to purchase the town of Brentford, where they might establish themselves and trade, and they represented that they should bring into the circulation more than twenty millions of money; lord Godolphin dared not, however, brave the prejudices of the time. Pelham now ventured on this hazardous experiment. The bill was introduced into the lords, and passed it with singular ease, scarcely exciting an objection from the whole bench of bishops; and lord Lyttleton declaring "he who hated another man for not being a Christian was not a Christian himself." But in the commons it raised a fierce debate. On the 7th of May, on the second reading, it was assailed by loud assertions that to admit the Jews to such privileges was to dishonour the Christian faith; that it would deluge the kingdom with usurers, brokers, and beggars; that the Jews would buy up the advowsons, and thus destroy the church; that it was flying directly in the face of God and of prophecy, which had declared that they should be scattered over the face of the earth, without any country or fixed abode. Pelham: ridiculed the fears about the church, showing that, by their own rigid tenets, the Jews could neither enter our church nor marry our women, and could therefore never touch our religion, or amalgamate with us as a people; that as to civil offices, unless they took the sacrament, they could not even be excisemen or custom-house officers. The bill passed by a majority of ninety-five to sixteen; but the storm was only wafted from the parliament to the public. Out of doors the members of parliament, and especially the bishops, were pursued with the fiercest rancour and insult. Members of the commons were threatened by their constituents with the loss of their seats for voting in favour of this bill; and one of them, Mr. Sydenham, of Exeter, defended himself by declaring that he was no Jew, but travelled on Sundays like a Christian. The common people pursued the members and the bishops in the streets, crying, "No Jews! No Jews I No wooden shoes!" - as if Jews and Frenchmen were synonymous. It was declared in newspapers and pamphlets that the present bishops were the only ones since the time of Christ who would have sanctioned so anti-Christian a measure - an assertion with a great deal too much truth in it. The bishop of Norwich, on going through his diocese for the purpose of confirmation, was insulted by boys crying after him to stop and circumcise them, and by finding a paper on one of the church doors, announcing that he would confirm the Jews one day and the Christians the next! In short, such was the popular fury, that the duke of Newcastle was glad to bring in a bill for the repeal of his act of naturalisation on the very first day of the next session, which passed rapidly through both houses.

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Pictures for Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 5

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