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Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 7


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Any one who knows anything of an ambitious nature, and still more of the nature of Pitt, as revealed to us in his correspondence, and who does not see in this language the wounded but not the retiring man, must be dull indeed. Pitt, in his great pride, was very fond of affecting indifference and holding back, so as to be urgently pressed to come forward again. These were the littlenesses of a great but impulsive and haughty nature; at the same time, we must do him the justice to say that, with all his tergiversations and truck- lings for the sake of office, in office he had displayed an immensely superior disinterestedness to any of his colleagues in that very low and unprincipled era. As paymaster of the forces, he refused to hold the floating balance, generally about a hundred thousand pounds, in his own hands, as was the practice then, and pocket the interest of it, but placed it in the Bank of England, and accounted for every farthing; neither would he, as was the custom, in paying over foreign subsidies, deduct the half per cent., as other paymasters had always done. He declared that the whole was granted, and he paid the whole.

At this time he married into the powerful Grenville family - a family which, from its flourishing branches, was styled "the Cousinhood," and which, Macaulay says, from that time to this, has had in it three first lords of the treasury, three secretaries of state, two keepers of the privy seal, and four lords of the admiralty - all sons or grandsons of the first countess Temple. Pitt married Helen Grenville, sister of earl Temple and of his friend, George Grenville; and this strengthening his connections he soon let Newcastle know that he was by no means in a retiring mood. He accepted the representation of one of Newcastle's boroughs, but he gave him some sharp rubs on returning to town; told him plainly that Fox ought to have been secretary of state; and when Newcastle asked his opinion on other subjects, he replied sarcastically that, as his grace seemed to think that he had not a capacity for such high matters, he desired to hear nothing about them. Nor did he long confine himself to mere private cuffs of that kind, but soon launched some perilous public shafts at the grasping but imbecile minister.

No sooner did Pitt meet with Fox in the house of commons, than he said aloud, "Sir Thomas Robinson lead us! Newcastle might as well send his jack-boot to lead us!" No sooner did the unfortunate Sir Thomas open his mouth, than Pitt fell with crushing sarcasm upon him; and Fox completed his confusion, by pretending to excuse him on account of his twenty years' absence abroad, and his consequent utter ignorance of all matters before the house. Soon after, Pitt made a most overwhelming speech, on the occasion of a petition against the return of a government candidate by bribery, and called on whigs of all sections to come forward and defend the liberties of the country, unless, he said, "you will degenerate into a little assembly, serving no other purpose than to register the arbitrary edicts of one too powerful subject!" This was a blow at Newcastle, which, coming from a colleague in office, made both him and his puppets in the commons, Legge and Robinson, tremble. Newcastle saw clearly that he must soon dismount Robinson from his dangerous altitude, and give the place to Fox.

The new parliament reassembled on the 14th of November, and the king in his speech, whilst pretending the differences which had arisen betwixt us, France, and Spain, were by no means serious, yet called for enlarged supplies to defend our American territories against the designs of these powers.

In fact, matters were becoming very serious in our American colonies; but the government withheld the real facts from the knowledge of the public, and it was not till the opening of parliament in March, 1755, that they candidly avowed that war was inevitable. The French and English were actually engaged in war both in the East Indies and in America. In the East Indies there was just now an apparent pause in hostilities, through an agreement betwixt the two companies; but in North America matters daily grew worse. There were, and had been ever since the peace, violent disputes as to the boundary-lines both of Nova Scotia - Or, as the French styled it, Acadia - and betwixt Canada and our colony of New England. The French, becoming more and more daring, commenced the erection of forts in the valley of the Ohio, to connect the settlements on the St. Lawrence with those on the Mississippi. They had already erected one called Duquesne, greatly to the indignation of the inhabitants of Pennsylvania and Virginia. In Nova Scotia major Lawrence, with one thousand men, defeated the French and their Indian allies; but, on the other hand, the French surprised and sacked Block's Town, on the Ohio, belonging to the Virginians, who sent forward major George Washington to attack Fort Duquesne. Washington, destined to acquire the greatest name in the New World, marched with four hundred man, but was surprised at a place called Little Meadow, and was glad to capitulate on condition of retiring with military honours.

At this crisis, when an able diplomatist at Paris might have saved a great war, the earl of Albemarle, who never had been an able or attentive ambassador, but a mere man of pleasure, died; and though George II. was so well aware of the gathering storm that he sent a message to the house of commons, announcing the necessity for increased forces, and, consequently, increased supplies, nothing could induce him to forego his usual summer journey to Hanover. The commons readily voted a million and a half, but made an energetic protest against the king quitting the country under the circumstances. Besides the state of affairs in France and Spain, those of Ireland were very disturbed. The duke of Dorset, the lord lieutenant, was recalled, and lord Harrington sent in his place to endeavour to restore order. Lord Poulett, therefore, made a decided motion against the journey of the king, but it was overruled, and the infatuated king set out in April, attended by lord Holderness.

The day before George embarked, admiral Boscawen set sail, with eleven ships of the line and two regiments of soldiers, to intercept the French fleet, which had sailed from Rochefort and Brest to carry reinforcements to the Canadians. Boscawen was to attack and destroy the French, if possible. Boscawen came up with the French fleet on the banks of Newfoundland, but a thick fog hid them from each other. Captain Howe, afterwards lord Howe, and captain Andrews, however, descried and captured two of the French men of war, containing eight thousand pounds in money, and many officers and engineers; but the rest of the fleet, under admiral Bois de la Motte, warned by the firing, got safe into the harbour of Louisburg.

On the arrival of this news the French court complained bitterly of the violation of the peace, to which the court of St. James's replied that the French had too prominently set the example, and the ambassadors on both sides were recalled - an equivalent to a declaration of war, though none on either side yet followed. We had soon a severe reverse instead of a victory to record. General Braddock had been dispatched against Fort Duquesne, and had reached Little Meadows, the scene of Washington's defeat in the preceding summer. Braddock was a general of the Hawley school, brave enough, but, like him, brutal and careless. His soldiers hated him for his severity. The Indians resented so much the haughtiness with which he treated them, that they had most of them deserted him, and, as was the fatal habit of English commanders then and long afterwards, he had the utmost contempt for what were called "provincials," that is, colonists, supposing that all sense and knowledge existed in England, and that the English, just arrived, knew more about America than natives who had spent their lives in it. He therefore marched on into the woods, utterly despising all warnings against the Indians in alliance with the French. At Little Meadows he found it necessary, from the nature of the woods and the want of roads, to leave behind all his heavy baggage, and part of his troops to guard it, and he proceeded with only one thousand two hundred men, and ten pieces of artillery. On the 9th of July, having arrived within ten miles of Fort Duquesne, he still neglected to send out scouts or videttes, and thus rashly entering the mouth of a deep, woody defile, he found himself assaulted by a murderous fire in front and on both flanks. His enemies were Indians, assisted by a few French, who, accustomed to that mode of fighting, aimed from the thickets and behind trees, and picked off his officers, whom they recognised by their dress, without themselves being visible. Without attempting to draw out of the ambush, and advance with proper precautions, Braddock rushed deeper into it, and displayed a desperate but useless courage. Now was the time for his Indians to have encountered his enemies in their own mode of battle, had his pride not driven them away. After having three horses killed under him, in the vain endeavour to come at his foes, he was shot, and his troops retreated in all haste, leaving behind them their artillery and seven hundred of their comrades on the ground. Their retreat was protected by the "provincial" George Washington, whose advice had been unheeded, or the slaughter would have been greater. In other quarters our success was not much greater. Colonel Monckton defeated a body of French and Indians, and took the fort of Beau-sejour, on the frontiers of Nova Scotia; but Sir William Johnson, after putting to the route some French and Indians near Lake St. George, failed to take the fort of Crown Point; and general Shirley was equally unsuccessful against another fort at Niagara. The colonists constructed boats, and commenced a war against the French and their savage allies amongst the vast lakes lying betwixt them and Canada; but, on the other hand, the Indians employed by the French Canadians made frightful incursions into the western boundaries of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and committed horrible outrages, continuing them through the winter, when the troops were gone into winter quarters.

The news of Braddock's defeat, reaching London whilst the king was still absent, caused a great panic and want of decision. Sir Edward Hawke had been dispatched with a fleet of eighteen sail in July, to intercept the return of the French fleet from Canada; and now admiral Byng, in October, was sent out with twenty-six more, but both failed in their object. Our privateer cruisers had done more execution in the West Indies. They had nearly annihilated the trade of the French in those islands, and, according to Smollett, captured, before the end of the year, three hundred French vessels, and brought into the English ports eight thousand French seamen.

As the French now made vigorous preparations for war, George II., as usual, instead of feeling any fears for the English commerce or shores, began to tremble for his precious little electorate of Hanover, and put out all his energies to accomplish fresh alliances, of course at the cost of fresh subsidies to be paid by England. Hesse Cassel, the empress of Russia, and even his old enemy, Frederick of Prussia, were applied to, and engaged, by promises of English money, in defence of Hanover. George was especially afraid of Frederick, who was bound by no ties where his interest was at stake, and who, if not retained at a high rate, might fall on Hanover as he had done on Silesia. In gaining Frederick, however, George lost his old ally, Austria, which, forgetting all past obligations, immediately made alliance with France.

When the subsidy to Hesse Cassel was sent home to receive the signatures of the cabinet, it was found to amount to an annual payment by England of one hundred and fifty thousand crowns, besides eighty crowns to every horseman, and thirty crowns to every foot soldier, when they were really called out to service. That to Russia was immensely greater; then came in prospective that to Prussia, to Saxony, to Bavaria, &c. These latter states had been feed all through the peace for doing nothing, and now demanded vastly higher terms. Such were the eternal demands of Hanover on this devoted England, without affording it a single benefit in return, except it were the pleasure of maintaining a very indifferent sort of king. Yet when the Hessian treaty was laid on the council table by the compliant Newcastle, ministers signed it without reading it, as a matter of course. Pitt and Fox, however, protested against it; and when the treasury warrants for carrying the treaty into execution were sent down to Legge, the chancellor of the exchequer, he refused to sign them.

This was a thunderstroke to Newcastle - Legge, who had been so pliant, thus to rebel. Newcastle, in his consternation, hastened to Pitt, imploring him to use his influence with Legge, and promising him the seals as secretary, engaging to remove all prejudice from the king's mind. But not only Pitt, but the public, had been long asking whether, in these critical times, everything was to be sacrificed for the sake of this old, grasping jobber at the treasury? whether Newcastle was to endanger the whole nation by keeping out of office all men of talent? Pitt stood firm: no offers, no temptations could move him. He told Newcastle that his system of carrying on business in the house of commons would not do; there must be able men as secretary and chancellor of the exchequer at least in the house, who should have free access to the crown; that subsidies were not the way to defend the nation, and he would hear nothing of the Russian subsidy. Newcastle, finding Pitt unmanageable, flew to Fox, who accepted the seals, on condition of having proper powers conceded to him, and agreed to support the treaties, against which he had been equally as violent as Pitt, having just before said to Dodington, "I am surprised you are not against all subsidies." Robinson was consoled with a pension of two thousand pounds a year, and the post of master of the wardrobe.

The king had returned from Hanover, and Fox was not to receive the seals till two days after the meeting of parliament, so that he might keep his place and support the address. By his accession to office he changed the violence of the opposition of the duke of Bedford, and brought the support of the Russells to the ministry. This strength, however, did not prevent the certainty of a break-up of the cabinet. Pitt was now arrayed against his former colleagues. Fox had been made one of the commissioners of regency on the king going to Hanover, and, through him, Cumberland had been appointed one too, but Pitt had been left out. In fact, it was the great object of Newcastle to make a breach betwixt these two formidable men; but so discordant were the elements of the cabinet, that Chesterfield, on hearing of these last changes, said, "Newcastle has turned everybody else out, and now he has turned out himself." Pitt and his brothers-in-law, the Grenvilles, now openly frequented Leicester House, and supported the party of the princess of Wales, who was more exasperated than ever at Cumberland having been in the regency. She threw off all her assumed submission to the king. George had given her fresh cause of jealousy during his Hanover sojourn. The duchess of Brunswick had paid him a visit with her two daughters and George, as it, no doubt, was hoped, had immediately been so charmed with the beauty and spirit of the elder one, that he immediately conceived the idea of marrying her to his grandson and heir. This was soon conveyed to the princess, who was fostering a similar design of marrying her son to one of her own relations, the Saxe-Gotha family. She therefore took instant alarm, and foreseeing, from young George's domestic turn, that he would soon grow attached to an agreeable wife, she was well assured that, if he had one chosen by the king, her influence over him would be gone for ever. She therefore represented the connection with the family of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel as the most fatal that could be; that the duchess was the most intriguing, meddling, satirical, and sarcastic person in the world, and would create mischief wherever she came. The young princess, says lord Waldegrave, who was still the prince's governor, was equally maligned, most cruelly misrepresented; and George, only in his eighteenth year, was taught to regard her with the utmost aversion. He was ready to believe anything that his mother, Bute, and Dodington told him, and he came to have a most fixed repugnance to the very name of the young princess of Wolfenbuttel. Pitt, lord Temple - his brother-in-law - and the rest of the Grenvilles, were most flatteringly received at Leicester House, so that they might oppose their whole weight to the scheme.

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Pictures for Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 7

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Arrest of the young pretender in Paris
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