OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (continued.) page 4

Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5 6 7 8 9

The king, who had no written answer to this abnormal address, remained silent, but offered the corporation the usual civility of kissing hands on their retirement. No sooner were they gone, however, than an order was issued through the medium of the lord chamberlain, that lord mayors in future would confine themselves to their written addresses. The court complained in high language of the loud and insolent tone in which Beckford had pronounced his startling speech, whilst Beckford himself protested to his friend, lord Chatham, who was supposed to have written the first outspoken address, that he had expressed himself with all duty and humility. Chatham warmly applauded Beckford's bold and unusual conduct, and his speech was wonderfully admired in the city. The corporation, offended at the king's language to them, were much inclined to omit the usual compliment of an address on the birth of the princess Elizabeth, which occurred on the 22nd of May; but Chatham strongly urged them to comply, both from loyalty and good policy, with the custom. The presentation of this address, however, was immediately followed by one to Chatham, for his patriotic conduct in parliament, which took place on the 1st of June.

This was the last public act of alderman Beckford. The agitation of his feelings at his daring breach of etiquette on the 23rd of May, is said to have hastened the breaking up of his health. On the 15th of June, Calcraft informed Chatham that he was dangerously ill, and on the 21st he died. Beck- ford's enormous wealth passed to his son, then a boy, and the god-son of Chatham, who lived to distinguish himself in a very different way to that of his father. He was the builder of the fantastic but princely Fonthill, the decorator of Ramalhao, and the writer of the strange eastern story, "Vathek," and other works; equally noted for his eccentricity and luxury.

Alderman Trecothick was appointed to supply Beckford's place during the remainder of the mayoralty - a man of nearly as democratic a character as Beckford himself, and, what was equally significant at this juncture, an American merchant. The corporation ordered the statue of Beckford to be placed in the Guildhall, and his words, addressed to the king on the 23rd of May, to be inscribed on the pedestal, which was done.

Beckford was soon followed to the grave by the marquis of Granby and George Grenville, who died in the autumn of this year. The latter did not live to see the result of that policy of taxation on the Americans which was begun with his stamp act, and, if we are to believe his last speech on that subject, the pernicious nature of which he was fast gathering a consciousness of. In the month of March previous to his death, he said, "Nothing could ever induce me to tax America again but the united consent of king, lords, and commons; and, supported by the united voice of the people of England, I will never lend my hand towards forging chains for America, lest, in so doing, I should forge them for myself."

During the recess of parliament, a dispute occurred with Spain regarding the Falkland Islands, which led to the very verge of war. These islands, situated in the South Atlantic, to the east of the Straits of Magellan, consist of two larger ones, called East and West Falkland, and eighty-eight smaller ones. The Western Falkland is much the largest, being nearly one hundred miles long by fifty wide. The two larger isles are divided by a channel called Falkland Sound. They were probably seen by Magellan, but Davis is deemed the discoverer of them in 1592, and they were further examined by sir Richard Hawkins in 1694. The French paid them a visit in 1710, and called them after their native port, St. Malo, "Isles Maloinnes." In 1764 the French, under Bougainville, made a settlement on them on Falkland Sound; but Spain putting in a claim that these isles were part of her South American territory, Choiseul, the French minister, abandoned the settlement, and the Spaniards changed its name from Port Louis to Port Soledad. The very next year, 1765, commodore Byron was sent to form a settlement on another of the islands, which he named Port Egmont, in honour of lord Egmont, first lord of the admiralty the islands are cold and miserable, and as we had no Australian settlements at that time for them to serve as a place of resort in distress to our traders returning by the Pacific, they appeared as useless a possession as could possibly be imagined, and were maintained at what appeared a most unprofitable charge.

Such were the distant islets to which, in 1769, Spain began to assert her claim, probably to provoke England to a war with the whole house of Bourbon again, which they imagined, from our quarrel with our North American colonies, and the assertions of the opposition regarding the inefficient condition of our navy, that we were not much disposed to enter upon. The governor of Port Soledad sent repeated messages to Captain Hunt, of the Tamar, stationed at Port Egmont, requiring the abandonment of the place. Captain Hunt replied by asserting the right of his Britannic majesty to the islands. When the notices were succeeded by threats, Captain Hunt sailed home to lay the matter before his government. He landed at Portsmouth in June, 1770, and made known the Spanish interference to the cabinet. Meantime, the Spaniards, taking advantage of Hunt's absence, had, about the time that he arrived in England, dispatched to the Falklands Buccarelli, the governor of Buenos Ayres, with five frigates and one thousand six hundred men. Having entered the port on pretence of wanting water, and finding the Tamar absent, and only two armed sloops there, and a mere handful of soldiers, Buccarelli landed his force, and, after the firing of a few shots for form's sake, the English surrendered, and were permitted to depart with all the honours of war. This departure, however, was delayed till Spain had time to convey the news to London in their own way. This was, that the Spanish court had taken no concern in this little affair, but that the governor of Buenos Ayres had thought proper to insist on the English quitting an island which rightfully belonged to Spain. This was the mode in which prince Masserano, the Spanish ambassador in London, communicated the matter to the English court. In the month of October, captain Maltby, of the Favourite, sloop of war, arrived with the real account of the matter and the little garrison.

The excitement, both at court and in the country, was far beyond the then apparent value of the islands; but there had been an insult to the English flag, and both government and opposition demanded expiation. Lord North displayed a bold and determined tone on the occasion. Orders were sent over to the British ambassador, at Madrid, to demand an instant disavowal of Buccarelli's act, and instant measures were taken for war, in case of refusal. Ships were refitted, their commanders named; stores were put on board, and orders for pressing men, according to the custom of the time, were issued. But in London these preparations met with resistance from the opposition spirit of the corporation. Wilkes and his confederates then declared that press warrants were as gross an invasion of the liberty of the people as general warrants. Alderman Trecothick was not of the opinion of Wilkes, but his term of office just now expired, and Brass Crosby, who became lord mayor, joined the Wilkes party. The corporation, which had generally found Chatham ready to support them in their opposition to the court, now applied to him for his advice. But Chatham, in all cases where the honour of the country was at stake, forgot his opposition, and returned them an answer which startled them. " The city," he said, " respectable as it is, deems of itself as I do not, if they imagine themselves exempt from question." And no sooner did parliament meet, on the 13th of November, than he advised in his speech in the peers, that the refractory aldermen should be called to the bar of the house and reprimanded. That had an instant effect: the corporation submitted, and signed the warrants. The warrants, indeed, would never have been required, but the sailors remembered too well how shamefully they had been cheated of their prize-money at the taking of Havanna.

Chatham, at the same time, managed to maintain his popularity in the city, and to strengthen the opposition in matters where the war was not concerned, by recommending sergeant Glynn, Wilkes's friend, to the recordership, instead of Sir James Eyre, who had greatly offended the city by declining to go up with alderman Beckford with the address to the king. Chatham also recommended that the freedom of the city should be given to Dunning, who, when solicitor-general, had defended the right to petition and remonstrate, and through Calcraft, alderman Sawbridge, and sheriff Townshend, he still commanded a paramount influence in the city.

In opening parliament, the king made the Falkland Islands the prominent topic of his speech, and called upon parliament for their advice and assistance. The opposition complained of remissness in the ministers in not having prepared ships earlier to avenge the insult. On the 20th of November the duke of Richmond moved for the production of all papers regarding this transaction, and Chatham supported the motion in a vehement speech. The debate became extremely hot, but the motion was rejected, and a similar one in the commons on the same day.

So loud were the voices of the opposition on the neglect by the ministry of all the naval and military conditions of i offence and defence, of the neglected state of our foreign outposts, Gibraltar, Minorca, Jamaica, &c., that lord Gower moved that all strangers be removed from the house of lords.

Chatham hotly opposed this: the utmost noise and confusion ensued, amid which the motion was carried. The same day a similar motion was made in the commons, to clear it of peers and all, but was negatived, as was a motion by Dunning to search the journals of the lords, to see what was done on the days that they catch with closed doors. The people were excessively indignant at the attempt to deprive them of the publication of the debates in parliament, and Chatham and the opposition fomented this feeling as much as possible, On the 15th of December lord George Sackville, now lord George Germaine, moved for a conference with the lords on this head, but without effect, though supported by Dunning, Burke, Barre, lord George Cavendish, &c. He then moved that all sons of peers, king's sergeants, masters in chancery, &c., who were members, should be summoned to attend their places every day at two o'clock, to assist in carrying bills to the lords. Lord George declared that this was for the honour of the nation, whereupon governor Johnstone said, he wondered why lord George should trouble himself so much about the honour of the nation, when he had been so remarkably negligent of his own - alluding to lord George's dismissal from the army, for his conduct at the battle of Minden. This led to a duel, in which nobody was hurt. At this very time, lord George, as well as Wedderburn and others of the opposition, were in treaty with lord North to go over to him. On the 19th lord Sandwich came into the ministry in place of lord Weymouth, who resigned the seals of secretary of state. Lord North, in issuing his budget, announced that we should require nine thousand additional seamen; three millions of money if we remained at peace, and nine millions if we went to war, so that the land-tax must still remain at two shillings in the pound.

Things, however, seemed tending strongly towards war. Our charge d'affaires at Madrid, in absence of the ambassador, was Mr. Harris, the son of the author of " Hermes." He was but a youth of four-and-twenty, but already displayed much of the talent which raised him to the title of Malmesbury. He wrote home that the king of Spain and some of his ministers were averse to the idea of war, and unprepared for it; but that others were influenced by Choiseul, the French premier, and demanded a vigorous attack on England. Under the circumstances Harris was recalled.

But the king of France did not partake the feeling of Choiseul. He wrote to the king of Spain about this time, " My minister wishes for war, but I do not!" In fact, changes had taken place in the court of France which were about to precipitate Choiseul from his long-enjoyed favour. Madame de Pompadour was dead, and the king had become deeply enamoured of Madame du Barry, now called, from her extreme beauty, Madame l'Ange, but who, in her old age, so miserably perished on the scaffold, in the Place de la Concorde. Choiseul was impolitic enough to despise lier influence, and treated her with undisguised hauteur. He soon felt the consequence in an order from the king to resign his office and retire to his estate at Chanteloupe, in Touraine. The shock to the insolent minister, who had so long ruled absolutely in the French court, was the more unlooked for, because he thought himself now all the more

safe from having secured the marriage of the king's heir, his eldest grandson, with the Austrian archduchess, Marie Antoinette, now in the blaze of beauty, but also doomed to" fall by the guillotine. Choiseul was succeeded by the triumvirate d'Aiguillon, as foreign minister; Terray, as minister of finance; and Maupeou, as minister of jurisprudence; but all subject to the supreme influence of madame da Barry. Louis XV. thenceforth became a cipher.

The spirit of Choiseul having departed from the French administration, and the king having so unequivocally expressed his intention not to go to war, the Spanish court hastened to lower its tone and offer conciliatory terms. In December they had proposed, through prince de Masserano, to disavow the expedition of Buccarelli, if the English court would disown the menaces of captain Hunt. This was promptly refused, and orders were sent to Mr. Harris to quit the capital of Spain. He set out in January, 1771, bat was speedily recalled; the expedition of Buccarelli was disavowed; the settlement of Port Egmont was conceded, whilst the main question as to the right of either party to the Falklands at large was left to future discussion. So little value, however, did this country attach to the Falkland Isles, that it abandoned them voluntarily two years afterwards. For many years they were forsaken by both nations; but in 1826 the republic of Buenos Ayres adopted them as a penal colony, and in 1833 the English finally took possession of them.

Whilst these events had been progressing, the ministry had entered into a combat with the great unknown political essayist, Junius. Junius had advanced from sir William Draper to the duke of Grafton, and from the duke of Grafton to the king in his sweeping philippics. In his letter of April 3rd, 1770, though addressed ostensibly to the printer of the " Public Advertiser," he directly apostrophised the king, and in that letter, and the following, of May 28th, he was extremely severe on the conduct of the king in sanctioning the prosecution of Wilkes - for sacrificing the affections of his people merely to surround himself with such creatures as "North, Barrington, Weymouth, Gower, Ellis, Onslow, Rigby, Jerry Dyson, and Sandwich," whose names he declared to be a satire upon all government. In the letter of May 28th he drew the following daring portrait of the king and a picture of the unconstitutional use made of such a character by the ministry: - " A faultless, insipid equality in his character, is neither capable of virtue nor vice in the extreme; but it secures his submission to those persons whom he has been accustomed to respect, and makes him a dangerous instrument of their ambition. Secluded from the world, attached from his infancy to one set of persons and one set of ideas, he can neither open his heart to new connections nor his mind to better information. A character of this sort is the fittest soil to produce that obstinate bigotry in politics and religion which begins with meritorious sacrifice of understanding, and finally conducts the monarch and the martyr to the block. At any other period, I doubt not, the scandalous disorders which have been introduced into the government of all the dependencies of the empire would have roused the attention of the public. The odious abuse and prostitution of the prerogative at home; the unconstitutional employment of the military;

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5 6 7 8 9

Pictures for Reign of George III. (continued.) page 4

Tumult in the House of Lords
Tumult in the House of Lords >>>>
Tea riot at Boston
Tea riot at Boston >>>>
Lord Mayor Beckford
Lord Mayor Beckford >>>>
Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox >>>>
The castle of Cronborg
The castle of Cronborg >>>>
Arrest of Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark
Arrest of Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark >>>>
Burning of the Gaspee Schooner
Burning of the Gaspee Schooner >>>>
Imperial throne of Russia
Imperial throne of Russia >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About