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Reign of George III. (Continued.)


Bute Prime Minister - A Pension bestowed on Pitt, with a Peerage to his Wife - Dowry for the Queen - War with Spain declared - Prussian Subsidy discontinued - Death of the Czarina - Policy of the Czar Peter- Newcastle resigns - John Wilkes commences his Career - Fights with Lord Talbot - Birth of the Prince of Wales - Assassination of the Czar- Usurpation of the Throne by his Wife and Murderess, Catherine - War in Silesia - in Westphalia and Portugal - Cuba and the Philippine Islands taken by England - Preliminaries of Peace signed at Fontainebleau - Ministerial Changes - Pitt opposes the Peace - Its Conclusion - Peace of Hubertsburg betwixt Prussia and Austria - The Cider Tax - Great Unpopularity of Bute - He resigns-George Grenville Prime Minister - Fox created Baron Holland - Wilkes starts "The North Briton " - Committed to the Tower - Discharged - Retires to Paris - Popular Rejoicings at his Return - Overtures to Pitt - His Terms refused - Former Ministry restored - Accession of Duke of Bedford - 'Wilkes' "Essay on Woman" - Fights a Second Duel - Retires again to Paris - The Question of General Warrants - Grenville resolves to Tax our American Colonies.
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The Bute ministry was now in power, and determined on reversing the policy of Pitt - policy which had added so magnificently to the territory and glory of the country. Bubb Dodington congratulated Bute on being delivered from a most impracticable colleague, his majesty from a most imperious servant, and the country from a most dangerous minister. He intimated that Pitt had gone out because he saw that he could not carry on the war on its present footing, and had left his successors to bear the discredit of its failure. These were the talk of little men, incapable either of comprehending or following out the measures of a great one. Pitt was only impracticable, and imperious, and dangerous, because he was too vigorous and far-seeing to work in harness with pigmies, and must drag their dead weight along with him or retire. They were soon to be taught their own folly.

Bute had now to seek powerful connections to enable him to carry on. The commonplace man seeks to make up for his feebleness by associating with him, not men of merit, but men of aristocratic connection. For this reason he conferred the privy seal on the duke of Bedford, and the seal of secretary on the earl of Egremont, who had nothing remarkable about him but his earldom, and being the son of Sir William Wyndham, who had great talents, but had not transmitted them to his son. To break the force of popular indignation for the loss of Pitt from the helm - for the people knew who was the great man and successful minister well enough - the king was advised to confer some distinguished mark of favour on Pitt. He was offered the government of Canada as a sinecure, with five thousand pounds a year. Pitt was not the man to undertake a highly responsible office without discharging the duties, and he was next offered the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster; but he preferred a simple pension of three thousand pounds a-year, and that a title should be conferred on his wife. By this arrangement he was left in the house of commons, and in a position to continue his exertions for the country. Both these suggestions were complied with.

Much abuse was heaped on Pitt for the acceptance of a pension. "What!" cried Walpole, "to blast one's character for the sake of a paltry annuity and a long-necked peeress!" "Oh, that foolishest of great men!" exclaimed Gray, the poet. And Sir Francis Delaval said that Pitt was a fool; if he had gone into the City and asked for a subscription he might have had three hundred thousand pounds instead of three thousand pounds a year. But all these clever men talked beside the mark. Pitt was not a rich man; and, if any man ever deserved a reward from his country for his services, it was lie. The conquest of Canada alone was surely worth more than a pension of three thousand pounds a year for three lives - his own, his wife's, and that of his eldest son. It was not the City, but the country, which owed Pitt a mark of recognition of his services. It was not for him to go a-begging; but he had a great right, when his country offered him a small reward, to suggest what it should be. Pitt understood, if his accusers did not, that the mischief of conferring pensions is not in conferring them for real services, but for no services, or for real disservices, and another thing to give them where due. He accepted his pension as his due - a reward for the past, not a tongue-tier for the future; and he soon showed the government that he regarded his pension as given by the country, and not by the crown, which was only the medium.

Much also was made of the unpopularity which his acceptance of this reward had produced towards him. It was said that there was great indignation against him in the City, and Pitt himself was made to believe it; but the falsity of this was speedily demonstrated. The common council voted him an address of thanks for his public services, and instructed their representatives in parliament to press on government his line of politics. On the 9th of November - Lord Mayor's Day - when the royal family went in state to dine at Guildhall, the public attention was diverted from the king and the new queen to the simple chariot and pair in which Pitt and his brother-in-law, lord Temple, were following. The crowd left the royal coach to throng round the carriage of Pitt, with the most thundering acclamations, and numbers of the mob hung upon the wheels, hugged his coachman, and kissed his horses. The sight was wormwood to the court and his j enemies, and he now was blamed for making this parade of himself in presence of royalty. The parade was not made by Pitt; nothing could be more simple or unostentatious than his appearance; but the parade was in his renown, which overshadowed all mere splendours of rank, and reduced them to their proper but mortifying level.

Ministers were not only compelled to witness the acknowledged glory of their rival - they were compelled to pursue the policy which he had so successfully inaugurated. With all the determination of lord Bute and his colleagues to make a speedy peace, they found it impossible. The Family Compact betwixt France and Spain was already signed; and in various quarters of the world Pitt's plans were so far in progress that they must go on. In east and west, his plans for the conquest of Havanna, of the Philippine Isles, and for other objects, were not to be abruptly abandoned; and ministers were compelled to carry out his objects, in many particulars, spite of themselves.

The new parliament met on the 3rd of November. George Grenville, the brother of lord Temple, now treasurer of the navy, was the person who had been designed by his party for the speakership, and for which he was well qualified by his habits. He had of late deserted Pitt, his brother-in-law, and become an active supporter of Bute. Bute calculated on him to take the lead, as ministerial member, in the commons, and Sir John Cust, the member for Grantham, was elected speaker in his stead. The king's speech was framed on the old basis of Pitt's policy; it declared that the war should be vigorously prosecuted, and praised the king of Prussia, as our able and magnanimous ally; at the same time that there was the utmost secret aversion to the war, and a settled determination to abandon Frederick. Pitt showed, by the tempered freedom of his remarks, that He was not likely to be at all fettered in the expression of his opinions by his pension. On the other hand, the most ungenerous attacks were made on him, especially by Colonel Barre, a young Irishman of talent, who had solicited from und been refused favours by Pitt, and now poured out on him his vengeful bile. He had only sate two days in the house, when he denounced Pitt as a profligate minister, deserving the execration of mankind; and declared that he had too long been allowed to tear out the bowels of his mother country. Pitt passed the worthless onslaught without notice.

The first topic of the royal speech called on the commons to settle the dowry of the queen. The precedent of queen Caroline was adopted, and a hundred thousand pounds a year settled on Charlotte, in case of her surviving the king. When George went to the house of lords to give the royal assent to the act, which was passed accordingly, he brought the queen with him, who sate in a chair at his right hand, and characteristically expressed her thanks by rising and bowing to the king. Royalty could not admit that the handsome settlement came from the nation, but from the king; and therefore the thanks were not given to parliament, but to the crown.

And now the unpleasant truth was forced on the attention of ministers, that the war which Pitt declared to be inevitable was so, and that he had recommended the only wise measure. The country was now destined to pay the penalty of their folly and stupidity, in rejecting Pitt's proposal to declare war against Spain at once, and strip her of the means of offence, her treasure ships. Lord Bristol, our ambassador at Madrid, announced to lord Bute, in a despatch of the 2nd of November, that these ships had arrived, and that all the wealth which Spain expected from her American colonies for the next year was safe at home. And he had to add that with this, Wall, the minister, had thrown off the mask, and had assumed the most haughty and insolent language towards this country. This was a confession on the part of lord Bristol that he had suffered Wall to throw dust in his eyes till his object was accomplished, and it made patent the fact that Pitt had been too sagacious to be deceived; but that the new ministers, whilst insulting Pitt and forcing him to resign, had been themselves completely duped. Spain now, in the most peremptory terms, demanded redress for all her grievances; and, before the year had closed, the Bute cabinet was compelled to recall lord Bristol from Madrid, and to order Fuentes, the Spanish ambassador in London, to quit the kingdom.

On the 4th of January, 1762, declaration of war was issued against Spain. Thus the nation was engaged in the very war which Pitt declared to be unavoidable; but with this difference, through the rejection of his advice, that we had to fight Spain with her treasury full instead of empty, and of her means of war being transferred to us. But such lessons are lost on inferior minds. Neither king nor ministers, seeing the wisdom of Pitt's policy and the folly of their own, were prevented from committing another such absurdity. They abandoned Frederick of Prussia at his greatest need. They refused to vote his usual subsidy. Bute contended that the true policy of this country was to keep clear of continental quarrels - a grand truth, which we have again and again insisted upon in this History - but he did not see that, being deep in such a quarrel, and our ally contending against gigantic odds, it was equally base and dishonourable to abandon him in such circumstances. Engagements may be properly avoided, which, when made, cannot be abruptly torn asunder without disgraceful and even criminal conduct. The consequences of this blind and ungenerous policy were as pregnant with future evil to this country as it was petty in itself. Prussia, indignant at our breach of faith, at our shameful desertion of her in her utmost extremity, refused to assist us when our own colonies of America rebelled against us, and France lent her ready aid to avenge the deprivation of Canada. Then, as we had left Prussia to stand alone, we were left to stand alone, instead of having a stanch, because a grateful, friend in the Prussian king and people. By this same execrable proceeding - for we not only abandoned Frederick, but made overtures to Austria, with which he was engaged in a mortal struggle - we thus threw him into the arms and close alliance of Russia, and were, by this, the indirect means of that guilty confederation by which Poland was afterwards rent in pieces by these powers. "Seldom, indeed," justly observes lord Mahon, "has any minister, with so short a tenure of power, been the cause of so great evils. Within a year and a half he had lost the king his popularity, and the kingdom its allies."

One of those allies, Frederick of Prussia, found himself as suddenly furnished with a new friend as he had been abandoned by England. On the 5th of January, 1762, died the czarina Elizabeth. She was succeeded by her nephew, the duke of Holstein, under the title of Peter III. Peter was an enthusiastic admirer of the Prussian king; he was extravagant and incessant in his praises of him. He accepted the commission of a colonel in the Prussian service, wore its uniform, and was bent on clothing his own troops in it. It was clear that he was not quite sane, for he immediately recalled the Russian army which was acting against Frederick, hastened to make peace with him, and offered to restore all that had been won from him in the war, even to Prussia Proper, which the Russians had possession of. His example was eagerly seized upon by Sweden, which was tired of the war. Both Russia and Sweden signed treaties of peace with Frederick in May, and Peter went further: he dispatched an army into Silesia, where it had so lately been fighting against him, to fight against Austria.

Elated by this extraordinary turn of affairs, the Prussian ambassador renewed his applications for money, urging that, now Russia had joined Frederick, it would be easy to subdue Austria and terminate the war. This was an opportunity for Bute to retrace with credit his steps; but he argued, on the contrary, that, having the aid of Russia, Frederick did not want that of England; and is even accused of endeavouring to persuade Russia to continue its hostilities against Prussia; and thus he totally alienated a power which might have hereafter rendered us essential service, without gaining a single point.

A fresh extension of the war, instead of a contraction of it, soon developed itself. We were bound by ancient treaties to assist Portugal in any hostile crisis, and that country was now called upon by France and Spain to renounce our alliance and declare against us. Large bodies of troops were marched to its frontiers to add weight to these demands, but the king of Portugal most honourably refused to break with his old allies, whatever might happen to him. War was instantly declared against him by both Spain and France; troops were marched to invade his territories and unite them to Spain; and king Joseph sent an urgent appeal to London for succour. On the 11th of May the king sent down a royal message to the house of commons, recommending them to take measures for the assistance of Portugal. A vote of a million pounds for that purpose was proposed and carried, but not without opposition from lord George Sackville, who complained of the wonderful expenditure which had taken place in the German wars, and denounced this as excessive. Pitt started up to defend himself against any charge of corruption in the appropriation of the money whilst he was in office, opening his hand, shaking his fingers, and crying, "They are clean! none of it sticks to them!" He reminded them that, had they taken his advice, this Spanish war could hardly have existed; but, he continued, undauntedly, "You who are for continental measures, I am with you; you who are for assisting the king of Portugal, I am with you; and you who are for putting an end to the war, I am with you also; in short, I am the only man to be found that is with you all!"

The session was growing to a close, and no vote for the king of Prussia's subsidy was brought forward. The duke of Newcastle, man of mediocre merit as he was, saw further than Bute into the disgraceful nature of thus abandoning a powerful ally at an extremity, as well as the impolicy of converting such a man into a mortal enemy; and, finding all remonstrances vain, resigned. Bute was glad to be rid of him; and Newcastle, finding both his remonstrance and resignation taken very coolly, had the meanness to seek to regain a situation in the cabinet, but without effect, and threw himself into the opposition.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.)

Great seal of England
Great seal of England >>>>
Queen Charlotte
Queen Charlotte >>>>
Catherine II
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Storming the fortress of Moro
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View in the Island of Cuba
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Monument erected to the memory of the sufferers in the Black Hole, Calcutta
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Medal struck in commemoration of the battle of Plassy
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Threatened arrest of Wilkes
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Duel between Wilkes and Martin
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North Briton
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