Reign of George I page 12
But king George, who did not think the English crown of any value unless it enabled him to play the despot and aggressor all around him in Germany, would listen to no such half measures. Sir John Norris was to remain all the winter in the Baltic, the czar was to be crushed. This lordly and obstinate temper of the king made Townshend forget the subtlety of the statesman, and he caused his secretary Poyntz to write the following uncourtier-like note to Stanhope: - "My lord perceives by a letter from M. Robethon, that the king is likely to insist on Sir John Norris's squadron being left to winter in the Baltic; and he commands me to acquaint you that it makes him lose all patience to see what ridiculous expedients they propose to his majesty for extricating themselves out of their present difficulties, as if the leaving you eight men-of-war to be frozen up six months would signify five grains towards giving a new turn to the affairs of the north." This billet was, as might have been expected, never forgiven Townshend, and he was soon made to feel the effects of it. Stanhope continued to write urging the king's views, the danger of allowing the czar to make himself the master of the Baltic, and suggesting that Cromwell had sent a fleet several times to that sea to protect trade, and check the northern potentates. But Townshend might have replied that Cromwell really knew what he was about, and supported Sweden both by ships and money against the aggressions of its neighbours, which the Hanoverian, in his small but grasping intellect, had alienated, and then found himself exposed to the natural consequence - the power of the czar. Fortunately, the czar was induced, by the combined remonstrances of Austria, Denmark, and Sir John Norris, to abandon his projects for the moment, at least in Germany, and to withdraw his troops from Mecklenburg.
The fear of the Russians being removed, the king was impatient to get the treaty with France ratified both by England and Holland. As there was some delay on the part of Holland, Stanhope proposed to comply with the king's desire, that the treaty should be signed without further waiting for the Dutch, but with the agreement on both sides that they should be admitted to sign as soon as they were ready. The abbé was to proceed to the Hague, and there sign the treaty in form with our plenipotentiaries at that place, lord Cadogan and Horace Walpole. But these ministers had repeatedly assured the States that England would never sign without them, and Horace Walpole now refused to consent to any such breach of faith. He declared he would rather starve, die, do anything than thus wound his honour and conscience; that he should regard it as declaring himself villain under his own hand. He declared he would rather lay his patent of reversion in the West Indies, or even his life, at his majesty's feet, than be guilty of such an action, and he begged leave to be allowed to return home. Townshend, for a moment, gave in to the proposition for not waiting for the Dutch, but immediately recalled that opinion; and he drew the powers of the plenipotentiaries for signing so loosely, that Dubois declined signing upon them. As we have said, the ratification did not take place till January 1717, and after great causes of difference had arisen betwixt Townshend and Stanhope. So greatly did Stanhope resent the difference of opinion in Townshend, that he offered his resignation to the king, who refused to accept it, being himself by this time much out of humour with both Townshend and Robert Walpole, the paymaster of the forces.
"Various causes, in fact, were operating to produce a great schism in the ministry of George I. Townshend, as we have seen, had very unguardedly expressed his disgust with the measures of the king at and concerning Hanover.
Walpole had equally offended by refusing to advance a sum demanded for the payment of certain German troops engaged by the king on the landing of the pretender in Scotland, which the king declared that Walpole had engaged to pay, and Walpole denied any knowledge of. As George I., however, could speak no English, and Walpole neither German nor French, mistakes between them were by no means wonderful, as they endeavoured to converse in a little bad Latin. These differences were rendered worse by the German favourite, Bothmar, and the king's mistresses. Townshend declared that Bothmar had every day some infamous project or other on foot to get money. One of these projects was to obtain a good share of the proceeds of the French lands in St. Christopher, ceded to England at the peace of Utrecht, and which Townshend did his best to prevent him getting. Madame von Schulemberg, now duchess of Kendal, had at this time, amongst her various transactions of the kind, undertaken, for a handsome bribe, to procure a peerage for Sir Richard Child, a tory member of the house of commons; and Townshend strongly advised the king against granting this request, as Child was a political opponent, and might in his elevation do much mischief. Whilst these creatures, therefore, were doing their best to undermine Walpole and Townshend, they found an equally formidable enemy in the earl of Sunderland, now privy seal.
Sunderland was a man of a blunt and fiery temper, concealed under a cold exterior. Queen Anne and his own father-in-law, Marlborough, used to complain of his excessive rudeness, and Anne, in 1710, dismissed him from his post of secretary of state, but offered him a retiring pension of three thousand pounds a year This Sunderland refused, observing that if he could not have the honour of serving his country, he would not plunder it. Notwithstanding this, and his being much lauded by certain parties for his honesty and independence, there were charges of embezzlement against him when in office that have never been cleared up to satisfaction. One thing is certain, that he was an able and a proud man. When George came to the throne, he, as well as his father-in-law, was deeply mortified in being placed beneath Townshend in the administration. He had solicited, through Bothmar, the honour of being placed at the head of the administration, but that honour was conceded to lord Townshend, and he was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland. He accepted the office with an ill grace, and never went over to discharge its duties. On the death of lord Wharton, however, he exchanged that post for the privy seal and a seat in the cabinet. But, for the two first years of the reign of George, he did not find himself making way in the royal confidence, and he took little part in the administration, and less in defending its measures in the house of lords. He attached himself, moreover, to the seceders from the great whig party, especially to lord Cadogan, Hampden, and Lechmere, and was prepared to assist in thö overthrow of the cabinet to which he still belonged.
But as he saw, during the king's absence, the decline of Townshend in the royal favour, a new desire seemed to spring in his mind to win the confidence of the king, and there can be little doubt but that it was suggested by the possibility of superseding the man whom he had always, since the accession of the house of Hanover, regarded as his rival. In July he procured permission from the king to go to Aix-la-Chapelle to drink the waters; and Walpole at this moment was awäre of his real design - that of getting to Hanover, and setting himself right with the king. In a letter on the 30th of that month to Stanhope, at Hanover, he says - "Lord Sunderland talks of leaving England in a fortnight, and, to be sure, will not be far from you. He seems very pressing to have instructions from us how to behave at Hanover. His professions for an entire reconciliation and a perfect union are as strong as words can express, and, you may be sure, are reciprocal; and when I consider that common interest should preserve sincerity amongst us, I am astonished to think there is reason to fear the contrary."
Accordingly Sunderland soon requested the royal permission to proceed from Aix to Hanover, and Stanhope seconded his request, which was granted. At Hanover, or rather, at the little court of Göhrde, where the king spent his summers, Sunderland used all diligence to win the good will of both the king and Stanhope, and the royal feelings towards Townshend and Walpole gave him peculiar facility in this respect. To such a pitch of confidence had Sunderland arrived, that on the 11th of November, when Stanhope had offered his resignation, which was not accepted, but, on the contrary, had been desired by the king to write to Townshend, expressing his displeasure at the delays of the French treaty, Sunderland also wrote a letter to Townshend, without, it is alleged, any authority from the king, in a tone of haughty rudeness, which appeared as if studied to offend.
Townshend wrote a clever and masterly reply to the king, stating satisfactory reasons for his conduct, but taking no notice of the letter of Sunderland. His explanations appeared to satisfy the king, and all ill will to be thus averted; but this was far from being the case. Before he received the king's letter and replied to it, Townshend dispatched Horace Walpole to Hanover, bearing letters in reply to a suggestion of his majesty's, that he was inclined to continue at Hanover through the winter, provided the state of affairs in England did not seem to necessitate his return earlier, and requesting Townshend to give him the matured opinion of the cabinet upon it. Accordingly, Townshend stated in full, in the dispatch by Horace Walpole, the views of the cabinet on the politics of the north, the payment of the public debts, the trial of lord Oxford, and a proposed act of indemnity. So far all was right; but then Townshend came upon tender ground. Whilst he did not press the return of the king, he advised, in case of his absence, the grant of a discretionary power to the prince of Wales to meet any difficulty or altered circumstances.
This called forth at once George's jealousy of his son, and roused all his suspicions. Horace, hearing the king express his intention of returning to England, and to open the parliament in person, considered the dispatch of which he was the bearer of little consequence, and thought no more of it. The king did not forget it for a moment. Walpole was soon, however, forced to observe the unfriendly feeling in the minds both of the king and of Stanhope towards lord Townshend in regard to the management of the French treaty, and he did his best to remove it by expressing the strongest conviction of the thoroughly honourable conduct of both Townshend and Walpole through the whole. His zealous words appeared to have had their full effect. Stanhope declared his suspicions removed, and then came the full explanations of Townshend in his letter to the king, and it appeared to heal all the sore feeling. Walpole, therefore, returned home with the full conviction that everything was restored to a footing of harmony and confidence. There was only one thing which left a lingering trace of uneasiness, and that was an ever-returning rumour of Townshend and Walpole having entered into cabals for transferring some part of the king's authority to the prince of Wales, and that they were accustomed to associate with the prince's adherents, especially the duke of Argyll. Horace Walpole, however, felt satisfied that the king's arrival in England would effectually dissipate this. He was grievously mistaken.
The king's ears were sensitively alive to all accounts of his son's proceedings, and he had plenty of people in England to communicate such news to him, amongst the rest, his creature Bothmar. The prince, on his part, does not seem to have taken much pains to prevent statements to his prejudice. Being more open and cheerful than his father, and having the advantage of knowing something of the language, he was much more popular than the king. He took evident pains to conciliate the English. He made a short tour through Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire, and conferred various acts of grace, such as dispensing with passports betwixt Dover and Calais. The discontented whigs and Jacobites seized on the greater affability and pleasantness of the prince to draw unfavourable contrasts between him and his father. They represented the prince as more English, and more disposed to unite all parties. The Jacobites went so far as to present most loyal addresses to him, not with the view of expressing a real attachment to the prince, but to show the king to disadvantage, and in this they were imitated by the discontented whigs. Had the prince been most guarded and exemplary in his conduct, he could not possibly have escaped giving offence, for the feeling which haunts most kings of their successors was excessive in George, and the evident desire of the prince to obtain a personal influence with the people was poison to the jealous parent. The prince, besides associating with Argyll, Lechmere, Hampden, and other discontented whigs, made himself agreeable to the tories, and displayed an evident desire to open the parliament in person. The ministers, Townshend and Walpole, thought it their duty, left as they were to conduct the government under the prince, to endeavour, by their frank and courteous behaviour, to draw him as much as possible from the influence of Argyll and that party. But this only aggravated the jealousy of the king. The recommendation of Towmshend in his dispatch by Horace Walpole, to confer a discretionary power on the prince, put the climax to his resentment. He suppressed it, however, sufficiently to allow Walpole to depart in a false security, and waited further details by the next post. This, which arrived about the middle of December, seemed to cause his anger to burst all bounds, and he vowed that he would dismiss Townshend at once from his service.
Stanhope appears to have done his best to break Townshend's fall. He represented to the king the high character of that minister, his real services, and the injustice and impolicy of disgracing him; that he might remove him to another office, and thus answer every purpose. He could take the chief direction of affairs out of his hands, even while appearing to promote him. He therefore advised lord Townshend should, without a word of dismissal or disapprobation, be offered the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, instead of that of secretary of state, and to this the king consented. Accordingly Stanhope was directed to write to Townshend, and also to secretary Methuen, and he did so on the 14th of December, conveying in most courteous terms the king's desire that he should accept the lord-lieutenancy, and that without a syllable of discontent on the part of his majesty. To Robert Walpole, however, by the same post, he more fully opened his mind. He assured him that if he could have a little private talk with him, he could make him sensible how desirable it was that lord Townshend should accept the post offered; how sincerely he had endeavoured to serve him in recommending him to do so; that the king was made more uneasy than he (Stanhope) cared to say, and that through communications which came neither through the hands of himself nor Sunderland; that he was very jealous of the prince's intimacy with Argyll and his brother, the earl of Isla; that he hoped the king's presence in London would dispel these jealousies; that ill offices had been done not only to Townshend at Hanover, but to him (Walpole), and that he and Sunderland had exerted themselves sincerely to remove them; that if Townshend accepted the lord-lieutenancy the council would remain just as it was, except with the addition of the duke of Kingston as privy seal; but if Townshend should decline, and he, Robert Walpole, should quit his employment, the king had determined to make Sunderland secretary of state, and he, Stanhope, chancellor of the exchequer. He concluded by urging Walpole to do his utmost to induce Townshend to accept the lord-lieutenancy.
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