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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10

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Spain was allowed to retain Minorca and both the Floridas, but she agreed to restore Providence and the Bahamas. The latter, however, had already been retaken by us. She granted to England the right of cutting logwood in Honduras, but without the privilege of erecting forts or stock-houses, which rendered the concession worthless, for it had always been found that without these it was impossible to carry on the trade.

With the Dutch a truce was made on the basis of mutual restoration, except as concerned the town of Negapatam, which Holland ceded. The preliminaries, however, were not settled till nearly eight months afterwards.

No allusion was made to the armed neutrality.

It was not to be wondered at that when, on the 24th of January, the preliminaries of peace were laid on the tables of the two houses, there should be a violent denunciation of the large concessions made by ministers. Spain had obtained better terms than in any treaty since that of St. Quintin. She had obtained the most desirable island of Minorca, with the finest port on the Mediterranean. She had got the Floridas, and had given up scarcely anything, whilst, had the English, now freed from the dead weight of America, pursued the war against her, she must soon have lost most of her valuable insular colonies. France had given up more, but she retained very important territories which she had lost, and especially her settlements of Pondicherry, Chandernagore, &c., in the East Indies; but America had conceded nothing, and yet had been allowed to determine her own frontier, and to share the benefits of the fishing all round our own transatlantic coasts.

A new and surprising phenomenon was discovered in the attacks upon ministers for these concessions: Fox and North were in coalition! Fox, who so lately had declared North and his colleagues men " void of every principle of honour and honesty," and who would consent, should he ever make terms with them, to be called " the most infamous of mankind," now as warmly declared, that he had ever found lord North - this man void of honour and honesty - a man always " open and sincere as a friend, honourable and manly as an enemy, above practising subterfuges, tricks, and stratagems." Such is the value of the most solemn party protestations! Lord North, on his side, repaid the compliments of Fox, growing enthusiastic on the genius, eloquence, and generous nature of that statesman. " While I admire the vast extent of his understanding," exclaimed North, " I can rely on the goodness of his heart." The commons, on both sides of the house, were equally edified by the touching spectacle of this sudden attachment, and with the combined momentum with which the now loving foes came down on the existing ministry. Forgetting that Fox and Burke had a hundred times threatened North with the block for continuing the war, the whole coalition now, with one fell swoop, tore away every vestige of credit from this so long-demanded peace.

Lord John Cavendish truly represented that France and Spain were on the verge of ruin; that Holland was in an exhausted and helpless condition; and that as for America, it was in the very gulf of destitution, the people refusing to pay the taxes ordered by congress for the continuance of the war. And it was to such defeated and demolished enemies that ministers had conceded almost everything they had asked. Lord North turned more particularly to the concessions made to the French in the East Indies. It was in that quarter, he said, that he looked for a consolidated and expanding empire, calculated to recompense us, and more than recompense us, for the loss of America. From that splendid continent we had completely driven the French, and the soundest policy dictated their continued firm exclusion from it. Yet here had ministers most fatally re-admitted them, to renew their old plots and alliances against us, by which they would to a certainty continue to harass, thwart, and weaken us, till we once more went through the ruinous and sanguinary process of expulsion. He was equally severe on the surrender of Minorca and the Floridas to Spain, and the admission of the unconceding, anconciliating Americans to our own proper fishing grounds. Fox called on ministers to produce the treaty which he had sketched a few months before, and to see what very different terms he had demanded, and would have exacted. That the sense of the house went with these sentiments was shown by both the amendments of the coalition being carried by a majority of sixteen.

Pitt defended the treaty, drawing the most dismal picture that he could of our own exhaustion; but lord John Cavendish moved another resolution strongly condemning the terms of the treaty, but consenting that the peace now made should remain inviolate. This was also carried, by a majority of seventeen, being two hundred and seven votes against one hundred and ninety.

This majority of the coalition compelled lord Shelburne to resign; but the rest of the administration remained in their places, in the hope that Pitt would now take the premiership. In fact, the king, on the 24th of February, sent for Pitt and proposed this to him; but Pitt was too sensible of the impossibility of maintaining himself against the present combination of parties. The next day Dundas moved and carried an adjournment for three days, to give time for the arrangement of a new cabinet. Pitt continued to persist in declining to take the premiership, and on the 2nd or 3rd of March the king sent for lord North. His proposal was, that North should resume the management of affairs; but North insisted on bringing in his new friends, and to that the king objected. Matters remained in this impracticable condition till the 12th, when the king sent for North and proposed that the duke of Portland should be asked to form an administration; but this did not at all advance matters, for Portland was equally determined with North to maintain the coalition, and the king was resolved to have nothing to do with Fox, whilst Fox was equally determined not to admit the king's friend, lord Stormont, to any cabinet of which he was a member.

On the 24th of March Coke, of Norfolk, moved an address to his majesty, praying his attention to the damage to public affairs resulting from the distracted state of the government. This was carried almost unanimously; and the king, in reply, assured the house that his most anxious endeavours were bent on removing the difficulties of the situation. On the 31st lord Surrey moved a still stronger address, but this was rendered unnecessary by the announcement that Pitt had resigned, and that the king was prepared to submit to the terms of the coalition. The king, with deep and inward groans, submitted himself once more to the slavery of the great whig houses, and, as some small recompense, the coalition admitted lord Stormont to a place in the cabinet.

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."

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