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Reign of George III. (Continued) page 3

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The next day three or four thousands of these poor men, with their ragged garbs and emaciated looks, marched off to Richmond to petition the king in person for redress. They found him gone to a review at Wimbledon, and they followed him there. The king evinced great compassion for them, and declared he would do all in his power to contribute to their relief. They returned in apparent satisfaction, but the next day assembled about Whitehall, carrying red and black flags, and denouncing the peers in furious language. They stopped several of their carriages as they went to the house, and demanded if they were for or against the bill. On seeing that of the duke of Bedford, they pursued it with yells, and dirt, and stones. One of the stones struck the duke, and that and the glass wounded him on the hand and the forehead.

Bedford learned that the mob was not contented with this display of their resentment. They returned on the evening of-the next Friday, May 7th, to attack his house on the north side of Bloomsbury-square, He therefore got together his friends and dependents to assist in its defence, and procured detachments of soldiers, both horse and foot. The incensed people appeared at the appointed time, and began to pull down the wall of his court. The riot act being read, the cavalry rushed out, and, striking right and left with the flat of their sabres, and riding resolutely amongst them, soon cleared the square. Whilst this was going on, however, another army of the rioters had attacked the house in the rear, and were marching up the garden when they were met, and encountered, and put to the route by another body of soldiers. The mobs were all dispersed without any loss of life, but with a great many injuries.

The duke and his friends continued their watch, under the protection of the military, all night, but no fresh attempt was made. The exasperated weavers had bent their way to the city, and demolished the windows of Carr, a fashionable mercer, who dealt largely in French silks; but they were prevented doing further mischief by the soldiers. For some days, indeed, the streets were thronged with military, and with the lowering and disappointed weavers. The City was also full of alarming reports of similar riots in Norwich, of gatherings in Essex and in Lancashire, and mutinies amongst the sailors at Portsmouth. The most prominent statesmen and members of parliament seriously were afraid of a rebellion. Two days after, when Horace Walpole paid a visit to Bedford House, he found soldiers still posted there, and all in alarm and confusion, and was himself hooted and pelted, when he turned into the court, by the mob. The duchess of Bedford declared that the mob had been set on by lord Bute, in revenge for the duke procuring the erasure of the princess's name from the regency bill; others were sure that Wilkes had a hand in it. The weavers were not appeased till a subscription was raised for their relief, and an association entered into by the silk mercers to countermand all their orders to the foreign manufacturers

All parties were decidedly of opinion that it was high time for the king to be rid of his present ministers. They had grossly insulted him in the regency bill; they had misrepresented his opinions and desires to parliament; and their incapacity was fast running the nation into fearful difficulties. Pitt was the man who could extricate king and people out of their dilemmas, if his enormous pride did not prevent him; and the king, having consulted his uncle, the old and fast-declining Cumberland, that prince, to whom age and infirmities seemed to have given a degree of wisdom, declared the offer of the ministry to Pitt to be the necessary step, and willingly undertook to make it. But he knew that Pitt would not even listen to the proposal without Temple; he dispatched a summons to Stowe for that nobleman, and himself, extremely infirm as he was, went to Hayes, to learn the will of the great commoner personally.

No sooner did this circumstance transpire, than there arose extreme public excitement and expectation. Edmund Burke, who was now fast rising into notice, in a letter, on the 18th of May, stated clearly how much lay in the power of Pitt. "Nothing but an intractable spirit in your friend Pitt can prevent a most admirable and lasting system of administration from being put together, and this crisis will show whether pride or patriotism be predominant in his character; for you may be assured he has it in his power to come into the service of his country upon any plan of politics he chooses to dictate, with great and honourable terms to himself and every friend he has in the world, and with such a strength of power as will be equal to anything but absolute despotism over king and kingdom. A few days will show whether he will take this part, or continue on his back at Hayes, talking fustian."

Pitt showed himself disposed to accept office, on condition that general warrants should be declared illegal; the officers dismissed on account of their votes be restored; and an alliance with protestant powers, and especially with Prussia, should be formed, to counterbalance the family compact betwixt France and Spain. This was asking a great deal; but Pitt demanded more in the particulars of appointments, namely, that Pratt, who had opposed the court so decidedly as regarded Wilkes and general warrants, should be lord chancellor, and he opposed the court desire that the duke of Northumberland should be at the head of the treasury. Northumberland was a Mr. Smithson, who had married the heir of the Percies, and received the title, but was a man of no particular talent. Pitt, moreover, designed the treasury for Temple. But, when Temple arrived, he refused to take office at all. He pleaded a delicacy that must for ever remain a secret. In fact, Temple had taken so prominent, and almost violent, a part against the court, in the matter of Wilkes, and in voting wholly against the regency bill, that he knew very well that he should only be tolerated in the cabinet on account of Pitt; and, with a pride equal or superior to Pitt's, he was not disposed to accept office under such circumstances. Still more, he was just now making a reconciliation with his brother, Grenville, and was averse to throw him overboard. So far from joining Pitt, he was on the verge of another breach with him.

Pitt, disconcerted by this repulse, with a weakness to be deplored in so great a man, refused to accept the offer to form a ministry at all. He took leave of Temple with a quotation from Virgil, meaning, "Brother, you have ruined us all." Such are the weak places in great minds. Whilst the fate of his country and her colonies depended on his resolute and wise action, he suffered a mere private feeling to influence him, and defeat the consideration of the momentous public interests. Such weaknesses are scarcely simple weaknesses - they amount to crimes against duty and humanity.

Cumberland and the king behaved in this dilemma far more worthily than Pitt and his wrong-headed brother. They endeavoured to make fresh arrangements, and the treasury was offered to lord Lyttleton; but he did not venture to accept it. There was a general dread of undertaking the administration with Pitt standing aloof, and the present powerful whig houses in violent opposition. The unfortunate king was obliged to submit, and retain his present incompetent ministers. These incompetent ministers, on their part, now believing themselves indispensable, became at once proportionally assuming, and even insolent, in their demands. Grenville and Bedford put several direct demands to the king as the conditions even of their condescending to serve him: that he would promise to have no further communications with lord Bute, nor to allow him the slightest share in his councils; that he would dismiss Bute's brother, Mr. Mackenzie, from the office of privy seal of Scotland, and from the management of Scottish affairs; that he would dismiss lord Holland from being paymaster of the forces, and appoint lord Granby commander-in-chief.

Mr. Mackenzie had a promise of his office for life from the king, and Mackenzie was an amiable man, his only objection being that of being Bute's brother; and, to make Granby commander-in-chief, was to remove and disparage Cumberland. The king, after some demur, submitted to all these conditions, except the appointment of lord Granby, and escaped that only by Granby himself declining the post. George submitted, because he could not help it, to these imperious conditions; but he inly resented them, and did not avoid showing it by his coldness towards both Bedford and Grenville. He invited the duke of Devonshire to court - a youth of only seventeen - and received him cordially, as the son of an old friend. At this, the haughty Bedford took fire, and read the king a severe lecture before leaving town for Woburn. He complained of the king showing kindness to the enemies of the administration; and demanded, in a manner, perhaps, never used by any subject in this country since Henry of Lancaster spoke in similar assumption to Richard II., whether the king had kept his promise not to consult lord Bute.

George had much difficulty in restraining his indignation, but he kept it down, and only bowed the duke silently out of his presence. No sooner had he departed than he flew to Cumberland, and declared he would bear this no longer. Again overtures were made to Pitt, again Pitt expressed himself willing to take office, but again declined, because Temple still refused. The weakness and folly of this conduct are inconceivable, as Pitt could have formed a powerful ministry without this froward brother-in-law. But, instead of this, he pettishly exclaimed, "This is an amputation! All is over with me, and by a fatality I did not expect." And he at once, like a spoiled child, set off to his new place, Burton Pynsent, in Somersetshire, to bury his chagrin in solitude. What an unequal creature is a proud but crotchety man of genius, capable of conquering the world, but not of conquering his own petulance - strong enough to uphold states, but believing himself unable to do the smallest tiling without some miserable reed to lean on!

Foiled in these attempts to engage Pitt, and equally foiled in an endeavour to engage some of the heads of the leading whig houses, who would enter no administration without Pitt, a heterogeneous cabinet was at length cobbled up, through the management of the old duke of Newcastle, who was hankering after office. The marquis of Rockingham was put forward as first lord of the treasury and premier. Grafton and Conway were to be secretaries of state; and the latter, so lately dismissed with ignominy from the army, was to lead the commons. The earl of Northington was made chancellor, the old duke of Newcastle privy seal; another old and almost superannuated nobleman, lord Winchelsea, president of the council. Charles Townshend retained his post of paymaster of the forces. Such materials, it was clear, could never long hold together. "It is a mere lute-string administration," said Townshend himself; "it is pretty summer wear, but it will never stand the winter!"

As for the head of it, lord Rockingham, he was an honourable man, of no pretensions to political talent, but renowned for a large estate. He was about five-and-thirty years of age; horse-racing his great passion and pursuit - a mere plebeian Watson on the father's side, but, on the mother's, descended from the great house of Wentworth, and inheriting its honours. He had been a lord of the bedchamber; and when George III. was told that the whigs proposed to make him prime minister, he said, in astonishment, "I thought I had not two men in my bedchamber of less parts than lord Rockingham!" The best of lord Rockingham was that he was of very honourable principles - the worst, that he was so indolent that he never could be roused to do anything; and when any one expressed his surprise at "such a poor, dumb creature," as lord Gower styled him being made prime minister, his supporters replied, as sufficient answer, "He is one of the greatest landowners in England!" The ablest man in the set was general Conway, a man of fascinating manners and upright mind.

To conciliate Pitt, the new administration recommended that chief-justice Pratt, his great friend, should be raised to the peerage, which was immediately done, as lord Camden; and his confidential solicitor, Mr. Nuthall, was made solicitor to the treasury. These concessions, as it soon appeared, had not the slightest effect on the recluse of Burton Pynsent. Though refusing to take office himself, he was prepared to hurl his lightnings on those who did, and especially growled at the folly of admitting the poor old whimpering duke of Newcastle to a place in the cabinet.

At this period it would puzzle the reader to distinguish the difference betwixt whigs and tories. The tories were no longer Jacobites, all were equally attached to the present dynasty, and the distinguishing marks of conservatism and of a moderate liberalism were no longer to be found. There was little difference discernible in the political principles of whigs and tories; there were no uniform acts or political doctrines by which the two great sections of politicians openly held, except that the whigs declared that they still venerated the principles of the revolution, and the tories said nothing about them. The chief distinctions were those of being in or out of office; and the so-called whigs were split into a number of parties, as hostile to each other as whigs and tories had formerly been. In only two things did they really accord - in the adhesion to the great whig houses of Russell, Cavendish, "Wentworth, and Grenville, and in the love of office. There was also an indistinct and mysterious party called the king's friends, to whom almost all were averse. At the head of these was Bute, who was still imagined, even by Burke, and Bedford, and Grenville, to sway secretly the king's counsels. Yet the king declared, on the word of a gentleman, that he had now utterly cut off all communication betwixt him and his former favourite, and when George said such things seriously, there might be full reliance on him. He was honest in intention, however much led astray by bad counsellors, and dogged in his error when once committed to it. It would appear that the king's aunt, the princess Amelia, about this time, made an attempt to introduce Bute again to the king; that she invited the king to dine with her at Gunnersbury, near Brentford; and, when there, took him into the garden, saying there was no one there but an old friend of his. This old friend, the king soon perceived, was Bute, who was walking in a neighbouring alley. On seeing him the king turned back, and told the old lady that, if she ever attempted such a thing again, it would be the last time she would see him at her house. The story is told differently by different authorities, but, in the main, is probably true. George appears, at this period, to be endeavouring to act the best for the country, but to be hoplessly trammelled by party faction.

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