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Reign of George III. (Continued) page 6


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But where, all this time, was the great commoner? Bargaining to be no longer the great commoner, but to mingle his well-won popular glories in the paltry, glow-worm splendour of a peerage! Pitt - who had conquered Canada, and laid the foundations of a vast empire in the East - had yet the poor and mistaken ambition to become a - lord! Such pitiable flaws there are in the greatest minds. As if there were any distinction in wearing the badge of the "Hospital of Incurables," as Lord Chesterfield happily designated the house of lords, in comparison with that by which his own time did, and posterity would, know him as the unrivalled orator, the successful statesman, and the all potent advocate of the principles of liberty and progress. The whole world was astonished when the fact came out that Pitt would accept no post in his own ministry but that of privy seal, which necessitated his removal to the peers. The king himself was astonished, but made no opposition. His colleagues were not only astonished, but confounded; for they calculated on having his abilities and influence in the house of commons. The peers were astonished and pleased; they desired that the great man should sink to a level with themselves. "It is a fall up stairs," said the witty Chesterfield, "which will do Pitt so much hurt that he will never be able to stand upon his legs again. It is not the first time," he added, "that great abilities have been duped by low cunning; but he is now, certainly, only earl of Chatham, and no longer Mr. Pitt, in any respect." The City, where he had been so immensely popular, was astonished and deeply disgusted. There had been lamps suspended on the Monument, and other preparations for illumination, in honour of his return to power. As soon as this news transpired, the lamps were taken down and the rejoicings countermanded. The people were astonished, and could scarcely believe their own ears. "This is a second Pulteney," they said, "after such a great career, dwindling into a lord." The shock and disappointment were so universal that Chesterfield once more observed, "There is one very bad sign for lord Chatham in his new dignity, which is, that all his enemies, without exception, rejoice at it, and all his friends are stupefied and dumb- foundered." Lord Macaulay, in our time, has endeavoured to vindicate what no one thought of doing in his own. He approves the step, because Pitt deserved a peerage. He deserved something far better, and had it before - the glory of his great deeds, and the affection of his country. He approves the step, because Pitt was old and infirm, and therefore unequal to the mighty labour of conducting thö business of government in the house of commons. Pitt was fifty-eight. He had the gout, it is true, but he could have availed himself of the health and strength of his colleagues to reduce the amount of parliamentary toil. Walpole, the same historian observes, took the same course; but Walpole was a man of far inferior genius to Pitt; he was, as Dr. Johnson truly observed, a minister given by the king to the people; but Pitt was a minister given by the people to the king; and, when Walpole retired to the house of lords, he retired altogether. An incurable himself, he went instinctively to his own place. Amongst the most remarkable events of the present year were, certainly, the departure of Pitt from the house of commons and the appearance of Edmund Burke there. He was private secretary to lord Rockingham, and member of parliament for Wendover.

Burke, a young Irishman, had received his education chiefly in the seminary of Richard Shackleton, a member of the Society of Friends, of Ballictore, in Ireland, and seems to have imbibed many of the principles of that society; hence his dedication of Iiis brilliant talents to the cause of temperate liberty and public morality, and to constitutional ideas of government. He had already distinguished himself by his "Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful," by many articles in periodical literature, and by editing the "Annual Register," but from this time he became one of the prominent figures of the age.

One of the earliest events of Chatham's administration was the return of Wilkes to solicit his favour. He had spent all his money in Paris, and, though still under the sentence of outlawry, the attempt of the Rockingham ministry to set aside general warrants had encouraged him to come over to London in May, and demand a pardon and a pension of one thousand five hundred pounds a-year on the Irish establishment. "If the ministers," he said, in his impudent way, "do not find employment for me, I am disposed to find employment for them." The Rockingham government were not quite weak enough to concede these terms, but they sent Burke to him, who persuaded him to accept three or four hundred pounds, and retire to Paris. No sooner, however, was Pitt in office than Wilkes again made his appearance. He applied to the duke of Grafton to intercede in his behalf with Pitt on the ground of the firm friendship of lord Temple for him, though Temple had now quarrelled with Pitt. Meeting with no encouragement, he wrote most abusive letters to both Pitt and Grafton, denouncing Chatham as the most proud, insolent, and overbearing of men, with a mind cankered with the lust of power and grandeur - a marble-hearted man, guilty of the basest ingratitude to his brother-in-law, lord Temple; formerly a seditious tribune of the people, insulting his sovereign, and now the abject, crouching deputy of the proud Scot - meaning Bute - whom he had once so despised and reviled. Having eased his mind by this discharge of bile, Wilkes once more retraced his steps to Paris.

During this time, the speeches of Pitt had been flying all over America. At first, the feeling was that of tumultuous joy at the repeal of the odious stamp act. Addresses and thanks were voted to the king by all the assemblies. The next was that of repugnance to the declaratory act. The high-flown declarations of the supreme sovereignty of England over the colonies, even in the mouth of their great champion, Pitt, did not digest well. The republicans had learned a lesson by the folly of Grenville and the hasty concession of Rockingham. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York, with much reluctance, they were induced to issue orders for compensation to those who had suffered from the rioters, and the instructions to chastise the insurgents were quietly passed over. Fresh resolutions were entered into to endeavour to do without British manufactures. There arose, in many places, murmurs against a new clause in the mutiny act, by which the colonies were bound to furnish to the king's troops salt, vinegar, and other articles.' In New York the assembly set the clause actually at defiance; and the soldiers and the people grew, in consequence, hostile to each other. The soldiers were insulted by the mob, and they returned the insult, till it came to blows and bloodshed. It was plain that, though the stamp act was repealed, the leaven of disaffection was yet in the American mind, and would surely produce its consequences.

The first care of Chatham was to strengthen as much as possible his position. At this time the great aristocratic houses exercised a control over the throne, and over all movements of government, much akin to that which the great feudal barons exercised before the wars of the Roses and the bold hands of the Tudors pulled them down. It was not now by arms, but landed and borough influence, that the aristocracy swayed and hampered the machine of state. Those houses especially which had sprung up at the reformation, and had been enriched by Henry VIII. and Edward VI. with the spoils of the church, as the Russells, the Seymours, the Grays, &c., had now grown on this property of the country, so recklessly bestowed by the Tudors, and others on country property bestowed by the Stuarts on their bastards, as overbearing as even the Nevilles and Bolingbrokes had been. Especially such of them as had assisted at the Revolution of 1688, and had claimed ever since almost a monopoly of power and favour, the so-called great whig houses, demanded, as a right, to be at the head of affairs, and tacitly dictated to the monarch whom he should and should not employ. The Bedford family, the old duke of Newcastle, the Edgecumbes, and the Grenvilles, all possessed more or less of what was called parliamentary influence, that is, property in boroughs, and therefore of power to send up members to parliament in such numbers as to sway the decisions of the commons. The king was groaning under this aristocratic despotism, and seeking by all means to break it up; and Chatham, whose proud soul rebelled against it when it rebelled against him, was now denouncing this overbearing whig oligarchy, and exerting himself to counteract it. Nothing, in truth, could break it up but the advancing intelligence of the community at large. It was not till sixty-six years afterwards that it received its first blow by the Reform Bill, and has yet to receive many other blows ere it be extinct. But Pitt dared to war against it, and roused to his own cost its resentment. To maintain himself for the moment against it, he was obliged to increase it in other directions. The present head of the house of Percy was a Mr. Smithson, who had married the heiress of the Hotspurs. He was only an earl, and was ambitious of being a duke. In return, he promised to take office and throw in his influence. The influence was the real matter; there was nothing pre-eminent in the abilities of the man. Chatham solicited the king to create Smithson a duke; but George had promised to make a duke of lord Cardigan, who had married the heiress of the duke of Montague, and could not do one without the other. He was obliged to do both.

This matter settled, Chatham condescended to coax the haughty duke of Bedford, whom he met at Bath, to join him. He explained that the measures he meant to pursue were such as he knew the duke approved. Having heard him, Bedford replied, proudly, "They are my measures, and I will support them, in or out of office." It was understood that he would receive overtures from Chatham, and, under these circumstances, parliament met on the 11th of November.

Previous to this, however, Chatham had taken several decisive measures, and sketched out a scheme of both foreign and domestic policy, which marked how far above the intellectual grasp of most of his cotemporaries was that of his mind. He determined, if possible, to form an alliance of European states against the family compact of the Bourbons, in France and Spain; to reform the government of Ireland, which greatly needed it, and that of India. It would have been well had his health allowed him to carry through these great plans. They might have saved this country much crime and bloodshed.

His first measure was to establish the Great Northern Alliance. He had obtained information of designs on the part of France and Spain to make a descent on our southern coast, and burn the dockyards of Portsmouth and Plymouth. By papers found at his decease it was made manifest, by reports to the French government which had fallen into his hands, that at this time, and for two years afterwards, that government had officers in disguise making accurate surveys of our southern coasts, and of the towns and country considerably inland, for this purpose. Before quitting office, in 1761, he had planned this alliance, and he now made endeavours, but in vain, to induce Frederick of Prussia to come into such an alliance. Frederick was too sore from the treatment he had met with from the cabinet of lord Bute to listen to any proposals from England. Still, this would not have prevented Chatham prosecuting the object of the alliance with Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Germany, and Holland, had he remained long enough in office. His name carried the utmost weight all over the continent. His indomitable vigour, and his victorious arms, had been witnessed with wonder. In Paris, Horace Walpole found the news of his return to office produced a panic not to be described. The very mention of his name struck a silence into the most boastful or insolent companies.

His enemies of his own house were not so easily intimidated, for we have it on divine authority, that there are no enemies so bitter as those of your own house. The summer had been an unprecedentedly rainy one. The crops had failed, and, in consequence of the scarcity and dearness of corn, there had been riots, especially in the western counties. The enraged people had burned down the ricks and barns of the farmers who were hoarding their corn for higher prices. Chatham instantly, that is, on the 10th of September, issued a proclamation against "forestallers and regraters." As the riots still increased, on the 24th he caused an order in council to be issued, laying an embargo on corn, and prohibiting the sailing of vessels already laden with wheat for foreign markets, the failure of crops being as great on the continent as in England. He had been advised not to venture on so bold a measure without calling together parliament; but he would not hear of it, lest it should look like timidity of counsel.

It was a daring stretch of prerogative, and did not pass without severe censure. Foremost amongst those who assailed him was his brother-in-law, lord Temple, who was furious at the idea of Pitt presuming to carry on without him. He attacked him in fierce pamphlets, which were seconded by the diatribes of his friend Wilkes, who styled Chatham the first comedian of the age. Parliament opened only to transfer the war to its benches. Chatham, in his first speech in the peers, burst out upon the overbearing spirit of family connection, and declared, in the midst of them, that he would set his face against the proudest connections in the land. Lord Temple and the duke of Richmond led the attack on the order in council, declaring it a most scandalous stretch of the prerogative, and that an act of indemnity alone could protect the ministers who had advanced it. Richmond said he trusted that the nobility would not be browbeaten by an insolent minister.

Chatham defended the measure: he quoted Locke in justification of such measures for the prevention of internal calamity and tumult; and he defended it further by the fact, that to have called together parliament would have brought noblemen and gentlemen from their own neighbourhood, just when they were most needful there to maintain order. Lord Camden, the present chancellor, and lord Northington, the late one, stoutly supported him, Camden saying that it was a measure so moderate and beneficial, that a Junius Brutus might have trusted it to a Nero. Unfortunately, he added that, at worst, it was only "a forty days' tyranny" - a phrase which excited the utmost clamour, and was long remembered against him.

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Benjamin Franklin
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William Pitt
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The Princess Amelia
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Riots at Boston
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Lord Clive
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John Wilkes
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Wilkes triumphal entry into the city
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Town and Harbour of Boston
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Faneuil hall
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British troops entering Boston
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