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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10


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The new administration arranged itself as follows: - The duke of Portland, first lord of the treasury; lord North, home secretary; Fox, secretary for foreign affairs; the earl of Carlisle, privy seal; lord John Cavendish, again chancellor of the exchequer; admiral lord Keppel, the head of the admiralty again; lord Stormont, president of the council; the great stumbling block, Thurlow, removed from the woolsack, and the great seal put into commission in the hands of lord Loughborough, Mr. Justice Ashhurst, and baron Hotham; lord Mansfield, old as he was, accepted for a time the speakership of the house of lords; lord Townshend became master-general of the ordnance; colonel Fitzpatrick, secretary at war, Burke again paymaster of the forces, with his brother Richard as secretary to the treasury in conjunction with Sheridan, who was as eloquent and clever as he was poor; Charles Townshend was treasurer of the navy; lord Sandwich, almost as poor as Sheridan, was put into the easy and lucrative rangership of the parks; his son, lord Hinchinbrook, had the buckhounds; the earl of Jersey was made captain of the band of pensioners; lord North's son and Mr. St. John, under-secretaries of state; Wallace and Lee again became attorney and solicitors' general; the earl of Northington was appointed lord- lieutenant of Ireland; and Mr. William Wyndham, secretary of Ireland.

Such was this strange and medley association, well deserving Burke's own description of a former administration, as of a strange assemblage of creatures, " all pigging together in one truckle-bed." Those who formed exclusively the cabinet were Portland, North, Fox, Cavendish, Carlisle, Keppel, and Stormont, so that the great whigs had taken care again to shut out Burke, who was only a man of genius. Such an incongruous company could not long hold together. The king did not conceal his indignation at seeing Fox in office; the whole court openly expressed its loathing of the anomalous union; the country had no confidence in it; Fox felt that he had seriously wounded his popularity by his sudden and violent change; and the whole arrangement boded its own speedy dissolution.

Ministers were very soon called on to undergo the strictures from the opposition of which they themselves had been so liberal when in that position. They had to propose a loan of twelve million pounds, and to impose a stamp duty on receipts. It was curious to hear ministers eloquently defending these measures as most necessary, and the stamp duty as an excellent mode of taxation, and the late inflictors of these charges attacking them with all the former fury of those now in office.

On the 7th of May Pitt moved a series of resolutions as the basis of a bill for reform of parliament. The main features of this scheme were those of taking measures against bribery and corruption; the disfranchisement of boroughs when a majority of the electors was proved corrupt; and the addition of a hundred new members to the house of commons, nearly all of them from the counties, except an additional member or two from the metropolis. It was evident that Pitt was fast drifting towards conservatism. His county members would have greatly strengthened the landed interest, and he now avowed himself, like his father, wholly opposed to the disfranchisement of the rotten boroughs as a class. His lopped and curtailed scheme, however, was rejected by two hundred and ninety-three votes against one hundred and forty-nine.

The new administration now exerted itself to introduce some articles for the regulation of commercial intercourse with the United States of America. Instead of Mr. Oswald and Mr. Fitzherbert, the agents of lord Shelburne, the duke of Manchester and Mr. David Hartley were sent to Paris to discuss these points with the American commissioners. Fox expressed himself desirous of giving as much facility to trade betwixt the two countries as the principles of the navigation act allowed; but the English envoys found the American commissioners as uncomplying on this head as on all others, and they therefore abandoned the negotiation, leaving the treaty for the definitive peace with the United States to be merely a transcript of the provisional articles. Still, lord Sheffield in the house of lords, and other persons in the commons, urged all possible concessions, and a bill was accordingly brought in and passed, repealing the restraining act, removing other obstacles, and vesting in the crown a power to make future regulations.

The unhappy condition of the American royalists was also brought under the notice of parliament. A general and well-founded impression prevailed that neither congress nor the assemblies of the separate states would pay much attention to the earnest recommendations of the English commissioners in the treaty on behalf of these sufferers. It was confidently felt that the only hope of the royalists lay, not in any relentings of their countrymen, but in the generosity of Great Britain. John Adams, during the negotiations, declared that, if he could have his way with them, "he would fine, imprison, or hang all who had been inimical to the cause, without favour or affection." The American commissioners made no secret of the futility of the very recommendations for merciful treatment which the English were insisting on in the treaty. Nay, the Americans were greatly exasperated that they were bound by the treaty to pay old debts to British merchants, " which," says Hildreth, " they had fondly hoped the war had wiped out for ever. Against this article of the preliminary treaty the assembly of Virginia and the council of Pennsylvania made warm remonstrances. Maryland and Virginia had especially confiscated British debts, and a considerable amount of them had been paid into the treasuries of those states in the depreciated paper."

The royalists soon found all the fears of the British commissioners on their behalf realised. "In consequence," adds Hildreth, " of laws still in force against them, several thousand Americans found it necessary to abandon their country. A considerable portion of these exiles belonged to the wealthier classes; they had been officials, merchants, large landowners, conspicuous members of the colonial aristocracy. Those from the north settled principally in Nova Scotia or Canada - provinces the politics of which they and their descendants continued to control till quite recently. Those from the south found refuge in the Bahamas and other British West India Islands. Still objects of great popular odium, these loyalists had little to expect from the stipulated recommendations in their favour. Some of the states, whose territory had been longest and most recently occupied, were even inclined to enact new confiscations." Such an act New York did pass, authorising the owners of real estates to recover rents and damages from all such persons as had used their buildings by British authority during the war, and following it up by disfranchising all who had held any British commission, civil or military, or had been concerned in fitting out privateers.

The royalists thus driven from their country and their property, applied to Great Britain for indemnification, and there they found a treatment as liberal as that from their own countrymen had been unrelenting. Commissioners were appointed to investigate their claims; and there was awarded to them altogether, from first to last, upwards of twelve millions sterling. The American historian just quoted says: - " The refugees had clamoured loudly at the delay of payment and the curtailment of their claims; but no defeated faction ever fared so well. The Penn and Calvert families came in for a handsome share of this parliamentary allowance."

During this session of parliament, on the 17th of June, a petition was presented by the Society of Friends for the total abolition of the slave trade. It was received with smiles, as the romantic demand of amiable enthusiasts; but it proved to be the commencement of the greatest and most perseveringly-prosecuted agitation in the cause of humanity. In a short time, Clarkson and Wilberforce were working it with heart and soul; the enthusiasm spread and deepened, and became national, and did not terminate until it had not only destroyed that accursed trade in men, but had liberated every negro slave in the British dominions.

On the 23rd of June, the king sent down a message to the commons, recommending them to take into consideration a separate establishment for the prince of Wales, who had arrived at the age of twenty-one. This young man, whose whole career proved to be one of reckless extravagance and dissipation, was already notorious for his debauched habits, and for his fast accumulating debts. He was a great companion of Fox, and the gambling roues amongst whom that great orator but spendthrift man was accustomed to spend his time and money, and therefore, as a pet of this coalition ministry, the duke of Portland proposed to grant him one hundred thousand pounds a-year! The king, alarmed at the torrent of extravagance and vice which such an income was certain to produce in the prince's career, declared that he could not consent to burthen his people, and encourage the prince's habits of expense, by such an allowance. He therefore requested that the grant should amount only to fifty thousand pounds a-year, paid out of the civil list, and fifty thousand pounds as an outfit from parliamentary funds. The ministers were compelled to limit themselves to this, though the saving was merely nominal, for the debts on the civil list were again fast accumulating, and the prince was of a character which would not hesitate to apply to parliament to wipe off his debts, as well as his father's, when they became troublesome to him. Resenting, however, the restraint attempted to be put upon him by his father, the prince the more closely connected himself with Fox and his party, and the country was again scandalised by the repetition of the scenes enacted when Frederick, prince of Wales, father of George III., was the opponent of his own father, George II., and the associate of his opponents. Such, indeed, had been the family divisions in every reign, since the Hanoverian succession.

On the 16th of July parliament was prorogued, and Pitt and Wilberforce, then inseparable friends, went over to Paris, with Mr. Elliot, for an introduction to the French court, and to improve their French. Whilst they were in that capital, the preliminary treaty with Holland was signed there on the 2nd of September, and on the next day, the 3rd - Oliver Cromwell's great day - the definitive treaty was also signed betwixt England, France, Spain, and America. John Adams was soon after named the first American ambassador at London; but he did not present himself for an audience at court till the 1st of June of the following year. Being then presented by lord Carmarthen to the king, he thus addressed his late sovereign: - " I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow-citizens in having the distinguished honour to be the first to stand in your majesty's presence in a diplomatic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your majesty's royal benevolence."

"Sir," replied king George, " I wish you to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the separation; but, the separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I now say, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power."

Adams, in his letter to secretary Jay, said, " The king was indeed much affected, and I confess I was not less so." Jay himself, who had written some of the most fiery proclamations and appeals against both the king and England, in which he had designated George as a bloody and brutal tyrant, when, a year or two later, he was introduced to him, became equally changed in his feelings and opinions towards him and this country; but Jefferson never seemed capable of divesting himself of his revolutionary animus against both England, the English, or the monarch, who was naturally benevolent, but was more easily misled by thoše about him than recalled to the right track when once out of it.

The regathering of parliament, on the 11th of November, was distinguished by two circumstances of very unequal interest. The prince of Wales, having arrived at his majority, took his seat as duke of Cornwall, as it was well known, intending to vote for a great measure which Fox was introducing regarding India. We shall now almost immediately enter on the narration of the important events which had been transpiring in India during the American war. It is sufficient here to observe that these were of a nature to give the most serious concern and alarm to all well-wishers of the country, and of the unfortunate natives of that magnificent peninsula. Fox's measure for the reform and restraint of the East India Company was comprehended in two bills, the first proposing to vest the affairs of the company in the hands of sixteen directors, seven of them to be appointed by parliament, and afterwards sanctioned by the crown, and nine of them to be elected by the holders of stock. These were to remain in office four years; the seven parliament nominees to be invested with the management of the territorial possessions and revenues of the company; the nine additional to conduct the commercial affairs of the company under the seven chief directors; and both classes of directors to be subject to removal at the option of the king, on an address for the purpose from either house of parliament. The second bill related principally to the powers to be vested in the governor-general and council, and their treatment of the natives.

The bills were highly necessary, and, on the whole, well calculated to nip in the bud those enormous and evergrowing abuses of India and its hundred millions of people which, in our own time, have compelled government to take them out of the hands of a mere trading company, whose only object was to coin as much money as possible out of them. But it required no great sagacity to see that the means of defeat lay on the very surface of these bills. Those whose sordid interests were attacked by them, had only to point to the fact that parliament, and not the crown, was to be the governing party under these bills, in order to defeat them at once. This was quickly done through a most ready agent. Thurlow had been removed by the present ministry from the woolsack, where he had remained as a gross anomaly, and a steady opponent of all the measures of his colleagues; and it required only a hint from the India House, and he was at the ear of the king. The fact of his being frequently closeted with the king on this subject seems to have been well known at the time. Nothing was easier than for Thurlow to inspire George III. with a deep jealousy of the measure, as aiming at putting the whole government of India into the hands of parliament and of ministers - and the effect was soon seen.

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